The boy sits alone at the bar. He’s dressed nicely: a purple-blue shirt that sparkles in the low light; elasti-leather trousers, shiny and black, tight enough to reveal the swell of well-developed muscles beneath; boots that are a little worn and out of style but gleaming with polish. Kanan puts him around eighteen. A bit young for him, perhaps, but he exudes the kind of cocksure confidence that makes him seem older than his years.
Kanan had been ready to pay his tab and leave, maybe try his luck with that cute blond on the way out, when the boy had walked in, sat down at the bar, and ordered a drink and a light meal. Kanan hadn’t been able to take his eyes off him ever since, and now, with three additional shots under his belt, he might just be drunk enough to attempt a pick-up.
He waits until the boy finishes his plate of cocktail shrimp before sliding onto the empty barstool beside him. He gets a whiff of cologne—or some kind of fragrance. It smells like flowers and fruit and wine and clean skin, a hint of shellfish. Reminds Kanan of a tropical shoreline, waves in the moonlight. White satin, cool blue. It’s magnificent, like nothing he has ever smelled before. He takes a deep breath and tries to act normal. He opens his mouth to speak but doesn’t get the chance.
“You’ve been watching me for a while.”
For a moment Kanan panics. Then he gives up and laughs. He’s probably too drunk to score anyway. Might as well strike up a conversation.
“Guess I’m not as stealthy as I think.”
The boy turns to him with a small smile, and Kanan’s chuckle smothers in his throat.
From a distance the boy was cute. Up close he is extremely handsome. Astonishingly so. His dark hair has a blue tint to it. His skin is copper, unblemished, his eyes large and framed by thick eyelashes. His irises match his shirt almost perfectly. They shine like jewels as they track up and down Kanan’s body.
“I’m Ezra,” he says. His voice is a light baritone with a watered-down Outer Rim accent. He holds out his hand. Kanan clasps it and they shake. His grip is firm but not competitive. The skin on the back of his hand is as soft as silk.
Kanan grins stupidly. “Ezra. Hi. Wow, that’s a beautiful name.”
“Do you have a name? Or should I just call you Mr Goatee?”
“Huh? Oh.” Kanan laughs and strokes his bearded chin as if he forgot about the facial hair he’s had since he was nineteen. “Yeah, sorry. I’m Kanan and I might be a little drunk.”
Ezra’s smile widens. “Well, Kanan Little-Drunk, what do you do for a living?”
“Sm—freighter pilot. I—cargo carrier. Yes. All purpose.”
The sparkle seems to fade from Ezra’s eyes. “Mm.” He nods, turns back to his drink and stirs it. Ice clinks in his glass around a wash of bright green liquid. Several pieces of colorful fruit are impaled on the cocktail stick.
Kanan feels the connection fading fast. He has only one more shot to impress the boy.
“Independent transporter, actually,” he reiterates. “Private. I’m an owner-operator. Self-employed.” Well, it’s partly the truth.
Ezra turns back to him, eyes wide, interest renewed. “You have a ship?”
Kanan smiles. “Yeah. Sweet old cutter with plenty of mods and retrofits. Wanted something big but fast.”
Ezra turns to face Kanan head on and plucks a piece of fruit from the stick. “Hm, I don’t really care about speed. Size has always interested me more.” He pops the fruit into his mouth and leans forward, puts his hand on Kanan’s knee.
Hope ripples through Kanan’s entire body. His heart springs to life and a goofy, love-struck blush spreads over his cheeks.
“Tell me more about your… ship,” Ezra says.
Kanan licks his lips. “I, uh, well, it’s. Uh. It’s nothing really special. I mean, it’s a good ship. Comfortable. Old enough to have that classic quality to it, that reliability and sturdiness—”
“I’m all about reliability.” Ezra’s hand moves up Kanan’s thigh.
Kanan gulps and feels heat flare up his chest and throat. “It’s definitely a reliable ship. Solid. Always delivers.”
“Hm, nice. What kind of thrust does it have?”
Kanan is pretty sure they’re not talking about starships anymore.
“Two Class-4 sublights, one Class-3 hyperdrive, and two auxiliary ion thrusters.”
Ezra blinks, and for a moment it seems that he’s genuinely interested. “Wow, really? Damn. You weren’t kidding when you said fast.”
“Yeah, it’s got some get-up-and-go.”
“What about fuel capacity? I don’t want a ship that’ll leave me stranded halfway to the finish line.” Ezra wags his eyebrows and the coy banter resumes.
“Massive fuel tank. With reserves. He may be an older model, but his stamina never fails.”
Ezra’s gaze drops, and his voice falls to a quiet murmur. “What about safety? I gotta ask. These days you can never be too sure, especially with older models. They’ve been around the galaxy a few times.”
Kanan is touched by the boy’s vulnerable tone. He gently grasps the hand on his thigh.
“He’s a safe vessel. Regular tests and diagnostics. Cockpit clean. I, uh, use seat covers with every passenger, no exception.”
Ezra looks up through his eyelashes and smiles warmly. “Sounds like a really nice ship. Responsible, safe.” He tucks a lock of hair behind his ear. He has cute ears, Kanan sees. “You got a co-pilot?”
“Not yet. Maybe someday. It’d be nice to have someone to share the journey with.”
Surprise gleams in Ezra’s bright blue eyes. “Wow, so you never, uh… no little droids or anything?”
Kanan chuckles and ducks his head. “No, no droids.”
Ezra slides to the edge of his seat. Kanan gets another whiff of his cologne. Their knees bump together.
“Listen, I don’t usually fly with people I don’t know all that well, but… I have a good feeling about you.”
Kanan puts his hand to his chest as if he’s making an oath. “I would be honored to have you aboard, Ezra.” He may be drunk, but he does mean it.
The boy beams. He signals to the bartender and pays his tab, then surprises Kanan by paying his tab as well.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says.
Ezra shrugs. “Consider it my fuel expense.”
“Come on, you’re not that heavy.”
“So make it up to me. Buy me breakfast in the morning or something.”
Kanan’s heart skips a beat. He hasn’t bought breakfast for anyone in seven years. No one ever stayed long enough. And the thought of waking up beside this gorgeous young man and seeing his smiling face in the morning light, maybe making love in the shower before they go out and grab some waffles and sit across from one another and drink steaming cups of caf and tell each other a little bit more about themselves… it’s a nice fantasy. But that’s all it is. One night is all Kanan has ever had to offer. It’s all he can offer, given his past. It’s a shame. He wouldn’t mind waking up beside Ezra every day for the rest of his life.
Kriff, he only just met the boy. He doesn’t know anything about him. Why the hell does he fall in love so fast? It isn’t doing his heart any good.
Ezra stands up and takes Kanan by the hand, pulling him off his stool. “Come on,” he says with a seductive grin. “I can’t wait to ride your ship.”
Kanan smiles like a fool and allows Ezra to lead him out the door.
Tonight must be his lucky night.
By the time they make it to the garage and climb up the Stalwart’s loading ramp, Ezra is rubbing against Kanan like a tooka in heat. Kanan barely manages to get the door shut before Ezra grabs him by the head and kisses him. Instinct takes over at that point; Kanan puts his arms around Ezra’s waist—so small, oh this is going to be so much fun—and begins to walk him backward toward his cabin.
Ezra falls onto Kanan’s bunk and Kanan tumbles on top of him. They spend several minutes kissing and exploring, feeling each other’s bodies, slowly working buttons and straps loose. Ezra doesn’t even break the kiss to take his shirt off; he just leans up, slips the silky material from his arms, and tosses it into the covers. Kanan wishes he had made his bed that morning, but Ezra doesn’t seem to mind, so it’s all good.
When he sits up to remove his belt and holster, Ezra whines and pulls him back down. “I’ll get that for you,” he says, and he guides him back to his lips.
Kanan surrenders easily. He’s harder than duracrete and trying to remember if the lube is in his cabin or if he left it in the refresher. And where the hell the condoms are. Meanwhile Ezra is rhythmically rolling his pelvis against Kanan’s erection while his nimble fingers undo the buckles on his belt. Kanan pauses mid-kiss to get a good look at Ezra’s face: full lips parted, cheeks flushed, eyes dark—so beautiful, painfully beautiful, how did he ever manage to pick up someone this good-looking and young and sweet? It’s a kriffing miracle.
He cups Ezra’s head and kisses him again, slower, deeper, with appreciation. Stars, it almost hurts how much he—
Warning suddenly flashes inside him. He registers a familiar clicking sound, then the cold muzzle of his blaster presses snugly under his chin. He breaks the kiss and leans back slowly. The boy’s face is no longer sweet and sultry. His mouth is twisted into a frown, eyes narrowed and full of loathing.
“Keep your hands where I can see them.”
Kanan gulps and slowly raises his hands. “Look, I don’t mind a little excitement in the bedroom, but this might be a bit too kinky for my tas—”
The muzzle presses harder into his throat and he coughs.
“Shut up,” Ezra says.
“Don’t say okay, just shut up.”
“Yes, okay. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, you—never mind. Get up. Slowly. Against the wall.”
“Bulkhead. Walls are for buildings. On ships we call them b—”
A blast scorches the metal a few centimeters from Kanan’s head. He snaps his mouth shut.
Ezra glowers. “Say another word and it won’t be the kriffing bulkhead that gets shot next.”
Kanan nods several times, lips pressed together tightly.
“Sit down. Hands on your head.”
Kanan sits and latches his hands behind his head.
Ezra crawls up from the bunk and keeps the blaster trained on Kanan while he searches for his shirt. His movements are hurried, shaky. Kanan observes and analyzes.
“I really hate to do this, you know,” Ezra says. “You seem like a nice guy. I mean, aside from being a lying smuggler and a complete idiot.”
Kanan smiles and shakes his head, lifts his shoulder in a shrug that says “no hard feelings”.
Ezra locates his shirt and swaps the blaster from hand to hand to slip his arms in the sleeves. He leaves it hanging open. Kanan’s eyes can’t help but wander down his bare chest and lean stomach.
“Look me in the eye, sleemo.”
Kanan’s gaze snaps obediently upward. Ezra’s face is red with either anger or humiliation. Kanan takes a calm breath and exhales. He can sense the boy’s fear. He’s terrified. Never done this kind of thing before. And there’s something else. Something he’s trying to get away from. Or someone.
“I don’t wanna kill you, but I will if it’ll get me the kriff off this planet.” He motions with the blaster. “To the cockpit. Now. Try anything funny and I’ll blow your nuts off.”
Kanan quirks his face into an expression reflecting pure insanity. He crawls up and makes his way to the cockpit with Ezra following closely, blaster pointed at his back. He takes a seat, unlocks the ignition, and starts the engines.
Ezra sits down beside him, keeping the blaster pointed at Kanan’s head. Something catches Kanan’s eye: a mark, no, a tattoo on the boy’s wrist, just above the heel of his hand. It had been invisible with his shirt cuffs fastened, but now he can see it. And he recognizes it.
“You’re an Imperial catamite,” Kanan says. The blaster muzzle is suddenly digging into his temple. “Ow.”
“I told you to shut up.”
“I don’t blame you for running.”
“Say one more word and I swear to—”
The blaster suddenly rips from Ezra’s hand and goes flying out of the cockpit by an unseen force. He gasps and stares at Kanan, who is slowly and carefully lifting off.
“Y’know, I really shouldn’t be flying considering how many drinks I’ve had,” he says conversationally, punching buttons and flicking switches as if nothing has happened, “but I think I can get us off without too much trouble. Off the planet, I mean. Don’t think you’re really in the mood to get off with me anymore, huh?” He chuckles.
Ezra clings to his seat with white-knuckled hands and looks at Kanan as if he’s completely crazy.
The Stalwart rises into the night sky and begins to climb into space, Kanan blinking and squinting out the viewport.
“Where to, Ezra? That is your name, right?”
The boy in the co-pilot’s seat nods. “Y-yeah.”
“It’s beautiful. Don’t think I’ve ever met any Ezras before.”
Ezra appears on the verge of mental collapse. He points numbly in the direction of the missing blaster. “How did you… was that the Force? Are you a Jedi?”
“Me? Hell no. I’m a lying smuggler who’s a complete idiot and a sleemo.”
Ezra stares. After a moment he suddenly seems to remember his shirt is hanging open. He hastily folds it closed. “You know, the Empire will kill you for helping me.”
“The Empire has been trying to kill me for half of my life. They haven’t got me yet.”
The ship soars above the clouds and enters the upper atmosphere. An awkward silence falls.
“All you had to do was tell me you wanted out,” Kanan says softly. “You didn’t have to pretend to be interested in me. I know about the Imperial Juvenile Detention program. It’s sick, the way they brand those kids and turn them into…”
Ezra sits in the seat, arms wrapped securely around himself.
Kanan turns the controller and the ship banks gently to the left. “You know, I’ve really been needing a co-pilot. Someone to help me with some of these big shipments.”
Ezra shakes his head. “I don’t know anything about shipping. I don’t even know how to fly.”
“It’s easy. I can teach you. If an idiot like me can do it, you’ll have no problem.”
Ezra hunches in his seat and drops his head into his hands.
Kanan glances over at him. “You okay? You gonna be sick?”
“I’m sorry.” His voice is muffled. “About calling you an idiot. And for…”
“Hey, it’s okay. I don’t blame you. If it were me, I’d be doing the same thing. Clawing to get outta here. I get it. You don’t have to apologize for anything.”
Ezra lifts his head. His eyes are wet, the liner he was wearing around his eyes smeared.
Kanan gives him a sympathetic smile. “Why don’t we start this over?” He extends his hand. “Hi, I’m Kanan Jarrus.”
Ezra hiccups and freezes. Then he slowly reaches out to grasp Kanan’s hand. “I’m Ezra Bridger.”
“Nice to meet you, Ezra Bridger. Now, where to?”
“Anywhere?” he asks timidly.
“Sure. I’ve got some time between jobs. Plenty of fuel. Enough credits to take care of us both, at least for a little while.”
Ezra chews his lip. “Lothal?”
“Lothal? Sure, I can do Lothal.” Kanan begins to type the coordinates into the navicomputer. “You got family there?”
“Not anymore. But it’s…”
“Used to be. I don’t have a home anymore.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
They meet each other’s eyes and share a melancholy smile.
Kanan pulls the lever and they disappear into hyperspace.