He stood at the front entrance of his house and stared, his heart a quivering lump in his throat. Boots crunched over the rubble and broken glass as Kanan Jarrus came to stand beside his Padawan. They both gazed in silence.
The front door was missing, as was most of the face of the house. Only the lintel, a charred and broken arch, and the lower part of the front exterior wall remained. The glass in the big picture window was shattered to oblivion, leaving only jagged shards around the frame. The living room beyond was a gutted, blackened rib cage—the carcass of a beloved pet, rich with memory, slaughtered, skinned, and left to rot. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed: lacerated pipes, twisted rebar, frazzled wires dangling from the sheetrock like the roots of pulled teeth. Chunks of duracrete littered the interior. The rooms were all but indistinguishable; everything was reduced to rubble. Partial remnants of the upper floors clung to whatever walls still stood. The roof was gone, and the late afternoon sunlight poured down between the surrounding buildings to paint the ruins of the Bridger house gold, either in mockery or reverence.
“They burned it to the ground,” Ezra said, his voice clotted with grief.
Instinctively Kanan stepped closer and rested a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I guess the Empire wanted to send us a message.” He felt Ezra tense under his touch.
“But my vision led me back here to Lothal,” he insisted, trembling. “If my parents aren’t here, where are they? What happened to them?”
“Slow down,” Kanan soothed. “The Force is trying to tell you something. Listen to it.”
Ezra turned to face him, his dark blue eyes round and watery. They said blue was a cold color, but there was nothing cold about Ezra. He was too alive, too kinetic, practically glowing in the golden light that surrounded him. Everything about him, within and without, was warm and remarkably beautiful, even in turmoil like he was now. Kanan inhaled when their eyes met, suddenly aware that Ezra had cast off his shields and now stood naked before him, his sore heart exposed for anyone strong in the Force to see.
“That’s just it,” he croaked. “I can’t hear anything. There’s so much noise in my head, I can’t—rrgh, I can’t concentrate. Everything is just—it’s just so far away and I can’t feel—”
Acting once more on instinct, Kanan pulled Ezra into a gentle embrace. Ezra grabbed hold of him and dug in like a tick, pressing his face into the rough green sweater.
“It’s okay,” Kanan said. “Your emotions are clouding your connection to the Force. You need to calm yourself, find your center.”
“I—I don’t know if I can right now.”
Kanan sighed. He was afraid of this happening, almost could have predicted it: Ezra, high on hope, running off half-cocked and wholly led by his heart, slamming into a Force block the minute they hit a snag in their investigation. But he could hardly blame him; the boy barely had two years of training under his belt, and not the best quality training, if Kanan were completely honest with himself. He gave Ezra a reassuring squeeze before stepping back.
“I think you’ve had enough for today,” he said. “You’ve been running full bore since 0400. You need to rest.” He craned his head for a look around. “Only problem is where. Your tower isn’t exactly safe anymore.”
Ezra turned his wet eyes toward his house. “There’s always the bunker. Not much they could damage in there that wasn’t already smashed up.”
“Bunker it is, then.”
It took a few tugs to open the hatch, even using the Force, and considerably less time to discover that the secret underground compartment was uninhabitable. A pipe had burst and partially flooded the room with half a meter of black water. It must have happened some time ago because the water was dank. A film of oil and mold floated on its surface. The smell was atrocious.
Grimacing, Kanan dropped the hatch and fanned the air in front of his face. “So much for that idea. Got a Plan B?”
Ezra was standing in the middle of his ruined living room, staring up at the second storey—what remained of it. He pointed to a corner where a portion of the floor was still intact. “There. That’s—that was my room.”
Kanan eyed it warily. “You sure you wanna try it? It might fall out from under—”
But Ezra was already scaling the remains of the staircase, his mind made up. No point in arguing about it now. With a sigh, Kanan dutifully climbed after him.
The floor proved stable enough. Situated between the corner of two walls and one of the three remaining foundation posts, the triangular platform was large enough to accommodate both of them stretched out to full length. Kanan swept the glass and rubble over the floor’s raw edge and laid out their bedrolls side by side. It wasn’t too cold this time of year in Capital City, and they would be comfortable with the light blankets they’d packed.
Settling in, Kanan pulled a canteen and two protein bars from his pack. “You want the chocolate or the jogan berry?” he asked, reading the labels. “I think the jogan is sweeter than the chocolate, to be honest.”
When there was no response, he looked up and saw Ezra standing at what was left of his bedroom window, gazing out at the city. The sun had sunk below the horizon, and the twin moons were already visible in the darkening sky. One by one the stars were twinkling into existence. The breeze danced through Ezra’s hair and filled his light brown jacket, causing it to gently billow.
He looked like he belonged at the prow of a ship, Kanan thought. The seafaring kind.
“My bed used to sit in this corner,” Ezra said, not moving from his position. “I would lay on my side and watch the moons until I fell asleep. The light came right through this window and turned everything blue. Folks used to say that people who slept in moonlight became magical.”
“I guess there was some truth to that, huh?” Kanan joked.
Keeping one hand on the sill, Ezra turned to face him. “Do you remember Empire Day?”
Kanan’s smile fell. He hadn’t had to say which Empire Day—Kanan knew. Ezra’s fifteenth birthday, the last time they had visited the Bridger home. When they had found Tseebo hiding in the bunker, stolen an Imperial troop transport, and gotten themselves chased off the planet by a pack of TIEs.
It was also the day, while hiding inside the abandoned base at Fort Anaxes, that Ezra had connected with more than just the fyrnocks.
“Yeah,” Kanan said, swallowing. “I remember.”
Ezra moved away from the window and sat on his makeshift bed. “Do you remember what you told me then?” he asked, gazing intently at Kanan.
“I told you a lot of things that day.”
“You know what I’m talking about. What you told me after—after what happened.”
Turning his head slightly, Kanan shut his eyes and took a slow breath inward, calling upon the Force to regulate his emotions. “I told you to wait,” he answered.
“And I did.” Ezra scooted closer. “My heart hasn’t changed, and neither has my mind. I love you, Kanan. Still. And I”—his voice cracked. He gently laid his hand over his Master’s—“I really need you right now.”
Kanan looked down at his lap, on his thigh, where Ezra’s green and yellow glove lay on his fingerless gray one. Over a year ago already. In the timespan of an impatient teenager, that was practically a decade. He’d done what Kanan had asked. He had waited. They’d buried their feelings, and the awkward experience along with it, and gone on with their lives as master and apprentice. Time had passed, and Kanan became certain that Ezra had forgotten all about it. A large part of him had been relieved. Another part of him, a secret part, wished otherwise.
He lifted his head and met Ezra’s eyes. Reaching out, he cupped the smooth young cheek and caressed the twin scars with his thumb. Soft hair brushed the back of his fingers. Ezra closed his eyes and leaned into the touch with a grateful sigh, nuzzling.
Full lips, long eyelashes, willing and needy. Excitement stirred inside Kanan. His body wanted. His heart wanted. But the voice in his head, becoming fainter with each passing second, protested even as it was suffocated. “You’re too young. I—we shouldn’t.”
“I’m sixteen now. I’m a man.”
And according to Lothal’s statutes, as well as the laws of nearly three quarters of the galaxy, Ezra was indeed an adult. Able to drink alcohol and vote, get married, carry a blaster, pilot speeders and starcraft by himself. But Kanan looked at Ezra’s face, at his smooth skin and bare chin, the baby-fine hairs on his upper lip, and could not bring himself to call this a man. Not yet. Kanan’s libido, on the other hand, didn’t care; his trousers were becoming smaller by the second, the voice of reason now barely a whisper. He licked his dry lips and tried to control his breathing. “You’re not ready for this.”
Ezra rose up on his knees, now a full head higher than Kanan—bold, confident, certain. “Yes, I am.” He placed his hand on Kanan’s shoulder. Before Kanan could utter another word, Ezra closed the gap between their bodies and brought their mouths together.
A wiser man would have broken the kiss. A better man would have gently rejected the advances, but Kanan was neither of those. Once the initial shock had passed, desire flooded through him, a warm spring that poured from his heart and coated every nerve in syrupy darkness. It pooled between his legs and made him throb, hardened his flesh. The judgment centers of his brain dimmed. He opened his mouth and gave Ezra what he needed, pressing into the small, smooth lips, sliding his tongue between them. Ezra opened for him, surrendering completely, and Kanan swallowed the soft moan he was given.
It was just as good as the first time. Perhaps even better, having aged a full year in the casks of their hearts, a strong, bold liquor that they now greedily drank from one another’s mouths. The taste was intoxicating, the aroma familiar and heady. Kanan wrapped his arm around Ezra’s tiny waist and pulled him into his lap, hugging him close. Ezra peeled off his gloves and wriggled out of his jacket, never breaking the kiss. He pulled the zipper of his jumpsuit down to mid-chest, then Kanan’s hands interrupted him.
“Slow down,” Kanan said. “Let me do this for you. I want to.”
Breathing shakily, Ezra allowed Kanan to unzip his jumpsuit all the way to the crotch. He pulled Ezra into another kiss, slipped his hands inside the suit, and massaged the warm chest beneath the thin white tank top. He worked his way upward, to Ezra’s shoulders, peeling the jumpsuit off his upper half.
Suddenly there was a clink, followed by a heavy thunk and a feeling of weightlessness on Kanan’s right shoulder. He broke away for a moment and discovered that Ezra, with his skilled pickpocket’s hands, had unfastened the strap of his pauldron. The scarred piece of armor had slid free and now lay on the floor beside his thigh.
He always forgot how good Ezra was at that.
Warm fingers on his jaw turned his head. Ezra leaned in to kiss him again, snaking both arms around his shoulders. Kanan responded, and repaid the affection with all the fire and fervor in his heart.
Soon his sweater and undershirt were tossed aside, his boots shucked off with them, and Ezra had eagerly stripped off his tank. Their mouths wandered over newly-bared skin to sample the taste of neck, clavicle, jaw. Ezra paused to remove his boots and wriggle out of the bottom half of his jumpsuit like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Kanan stared, his ravenous eyes devouring the sight of Ezra’s nakedness: his beautiful penis sprouting from its nest of adolescent pubic hair, his slim thighs, his smooth belly with its little button of a navel, his muscular chest and dark nipples, tight and pebbly in the cool evening air.
He had only removed one of his socks before Kanan was scooping him back into his lap, hands greedily exploring everything that had been revealed. He reached down between his legs and fished his long, lean cock out of his pants and positioned it against Ezra’s. He cupped his hand around both of their members, squeezing, massaging, coaxing out their vim until his palm was wet and Ezra’s face had gone pink-red.
“Do you want to?” Kanan asked, his voice husky and deep. He kissed the tender spot below Ezra’s ear.
“Yeah,” Ezra panted.
Reaching to his left, Kanan unsnapped one of the utility pouches on his discarded belt and fished around with two fingers until he found a condom. He tore the wrapper open with his teeth and rolled it on one-handed while Ezra watched, fascinated. Kanan wondered if this was his first time, then struck the thought from his mind. It didn’t matter. First or fiftieth, the only important thing was helping his Padawan.
He grasped himself and instructed Ezra to lift up a few centimeters. He found the tight little dimple with his middle finger and guided his cock there, pressing the condom’s oily tip against it.
“Sit,” he said in a gravelly voice. “Slowly.”
Ezra lowered himself. His body opened for Kanan, spreading like a hungry mouth, and slid down over the slick, bulbous head. “Haaa,” he sighed.
“That’s it,” Kanan whispered, resting his forehead against Ezra’s. He placed his hands on the boy’s narrow hips and guided him downward, feeling through the Force for any hesitance or pain. None came, not even when Ezra was fully planted in his lap, squeezing Kanan from root to tip.
“Are you okay?” Kanan asked.
Flushed and breathing heavily through his mouth, Ezra nodded.
“Connect with me,” he said. “Follow my rhythm. Feel it.” And then he began to move.
Like all things, it didn’t take Ezra long to catch on. With his hands braced on Kanan’s broad shoulders, he rose and sank with the motions of his Master’s hips. He sighed every time he seated himself, his eyes glazing over with pleasure. His cock, stubby and thick, bobbed against Kanan’s hairy belly. There wasn’t much room for Kanan to maneuver, sitting on his backside and holding Ezra in his lap like this, but it was a good beginner’s position. Ezra acclimated to Kanan’s girth and length while maintaining control. Kanan took the boy in his hand and began to stroke his thumb up and down the underside of his glans.
Cooing with delight, Ezra began to move faster. Kanan’s heart rate picked up speed as the feeling of Ezra gliding on and off of him sent him into a deeper state of bliss. Ezra’s cock wept, bead after bead of pre-ejaculate dribbling onto Kanan’s thumb and lubricating its motions against his frenulum. Kanan made sure to stimulate the rest of the crown, trailing his forefinger back and forth across the sensitive flange while his thumb continued its vertical stroking. Sweat collected in the crook of Kanan’s elbow and the small of Ezra’s back. The air between them was superheated, their bodies ignited with passion as they chased completion together.
Panting for air, Ezra rose all the way up on his knees and then began to bounce rapidly, fucking himself on just the end of Kanan’s cock. “Yes,” he chanted under his breath. “Yes, yes, yes.” His hair fluttered with his movements, and looking at him, Kanan was consumed with flaming greed.
Mine, he thought dizzily. All mine. My Padawan. My protégé. My son—
His heart hiccuped at the filthiness of his thoughts. It was disgusting. Vile. So wrong—and it revved him to a sexual high he hadn’t felt in years. He hugged Ezra closer, the muscles in his arm bulging, and captured one of his taut brown nipples in a kiss.
“Oh, God.” Ezra threw his head back and thrust his hips jerkily back and forth, up and down, all finesse abandoned. “Harder. Harder.”
Kanan gathered the tender nub between his teeth and bit down, sucking and pulling. Ezra swore, euphoria bursting through the Force like a shower of stars. He clenched around Kanan, his tight ribbon of muscle popping on and off the flared ridge of Kanan’s cockhead like an elastic band, and that was when Kanan lost it.
The Force inside him exploded like an unstable star. With a terrifying grimace on his face, he squeezed Ezra in a crushing embrace, sank his teeth into the boy’s breast, and began to pound as hard as he could.
Ezra’s cries echoed in the twilight ruins. He folded his arms around Kanan’s head and buried his hands in his hair, bucking, shivering, squirting line after creamy white line onto Kanan’s stomach.
When it was over, Kanan unlatched his mouth from Ezra’s chest, dazed, and stared at the deep purple imprints around his nipple. He lifted his face. “Oh, Ezra, I’m sor—”
He was cut off by Ezra’s mouth. They parted after a few seconds and stared at one another, trying to catch their breath.
“Thank you,” Ezra whispered, and bumped the tip of his nose against Kanan’s.
“You’re welcome,” Kanan answered stupidly.
Ezra climbed off of him. Kanan’s member slid out with a wet pop, and Ezra began to pull his clothes back on, head down, eyes averted.
Studying him in the awkward silence, Kanan tried to shake the feeling that he’d only been a means to an end, a way of processing grief and frustration. Stars knew he’d done enough of the same when he was younger, fucking away his pain, his anger, his loneliness. Drinking anything and everything if it made him forget the past. That was no way for a Jedi to live, he thought. Not anymore.
He touched Ezra’s shoulder. “Hey. You okay?”
Ezra nodded. “Yeah. Fine.” His voice cracked on the last word.
Kanan narrowed his eyes. “You sure?”
The mouth tightened.
“Ezra, look at me.”
When those cobalt blue eyes turned to him, they were ready to spill over. Kanan’s heart lodged in his throat. “Honey,” he uttered, and opened his arms.
Ezra’s face crumpled. He fell against Kanan’s chest with a sob. Kanan cradled his head in one broad hand, fingers idly sifting through his hair, and wished he could take back everything that had happened in the last fifteen minutes. It hadn’t helped his Padawan, and it hadn’t helped him.
“I’m sorry, Ezra. I’m so sorry.” His own tears spilled hot and thick down his cheeks and disappeared into dark hair. “Please forgive me.”
“Shut up,” Ezra snuffled. “I love you.”
“I know.” Kanan sighed and rested his chin on the top of Ezra’s head, and found himself staring directly at the moons. They were round and ivory white, almost full, casting their light down through the shattered window and onto the spot where a little boy’s bed had once stood. They’d been up there for a millennia, watching, two silent witnesses to all the little crises and joys and injustices the people of Lothal had lived. A cycle of construction and destruction, life and death, over and over. Not very long ago, just a blink in celestial lifespans, there had been a boy who’d watched them back.
Kanan sniffed, blinked his eyes clear, and gently eased Ezra off of him. He swept a hand through the boy’s hair, holding it out of his eyes. “C’mon, let’s get cleaned up.”
They did as best as they could with the little packet of personal cleaning wipes Kanan had brought, and they proved enough. Wordlessly they pulled their clothes and shoes back on, checked their weapons, snapped holsters and belts into place again. Such was the life of an insurgent; one never knew when one might have to make a run for it in the middle of the night.
They ate their protein bars while listening to the comm chatter on Ezra’s portable receiver, shared a few swallows of water from the canteen, and finally lay down to sleep. The night noises of the city were the same as on any other planet: landspeeders humming down streets, pets barking, a distant siren every now and then. Urban lullabies.
After a little while, Ezra rolled over and slipped his arm around Kanan’s waist, snuggling tightly against his back. That tight feeling returned in Kanan’s throat; he swallowed it down and clasped Ezra’s hand.
He stared at the moons until he fell asleep.
The next day, Ezra spotted a white Loth-cat in the marketplace and bolted after it. Kanan followed on his heels.
Whatever awaited them, it was theirs to face together.
Chapter Endnotes: The title and theme for this work comes from the song Damaged by Assemblage 23, which I highly recommend.