A/N: ... so uh... hi guys? omg I'm sooo sorry for sort of abandoning this, I swear I didn't intend to but after I had written a thousand words I got caught up in medical research and star wars canon and prosthetics and just tons of research and then I never really picked it back up so... yeah. I decided to finally call it, it's fiction so it doesn't need to make total sense. This final chapter is three times the length of the others to make up for the huge break. This arc turned to be more Kanan, Ezra, and Hera-centric than I intended. I love Sabine and Zeb, don't get me wrong, but whenever I tried adding them in it ended up feeling forced and it messed with the pacing and narrative and I ended up just leaving them out. If I ever write anything else for this verse, I'll be sure to feature them.
I also went back and made some minor changes to the previous chapters. Nothing too big, but you might want to go back and re-read them for a refresher anyways.
Rated T for: Mild language, minor blood, injury description, and sensitive themes.
I hope you enjoy! Comments and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated! - Aqua
Part III - Mend
When the firefight starts, Kanan's ready.
His lightsaber hums with energy in his grip, cutting through the air. His movements are fluid, confident; as natural and effortless as breathing. Years of training take over, and he doesn't have to think; just react.
Blaster bolts rain through the smoke, tiny dashes of red that streak by at breakneck speed, but Kanan's faster. He catches them on his blade, ricocheting the shots back to their senders. Some hit, some miss. He can't see, but he can feel it.
He's in his element; where others see only chaos and confusion, Kanan finds familiarity. His breathing is controlled, his heartbeat steady, the whispers of a long-gone master echoing in his ears. Everything is automatic; he doesn't even think twice before splicing one of the blasts off to the side.
Out of the corner of his eye, something enters his field of vision, and white hot pain strikes the base of his skull, warning, screaming, 'wrong, wrong, wrong!' He registers it too late; a flash of orange, a mop of dark hair, and wide blue eyes.
Kanan turns in time to see the shot connect. It hits hard, throwing Ezra to the ground where he stays, steam curling up from his motionless body.
Everything else stops, and the seconds it takes Kanan to run to him stretch on forever, as if he's moving in slow motion, his ears ringing.
"Ezra?" He finally reaches him, and his heart misses a beat. Ezra is perfectly still, his face slack and pale. He can't even tell if he's breathing. "Ezra, wake up," Kanan pleads, pressing his fingers against the boy's thin wrist.
There; a thready pulse, sporadic in its beats. Ezra takes a shallow breath; he's alive-
"You're gonna be fine, don't quit on me now, kid." Kanan's voice shakes as he gathers Ezra in his arms and flips him onto his back. His breathing hitches at the sight of the wound; a deep gouge in his stomach, his flesh a mottled mass of red.
"Oh no, no no no!" Kanan presses his hands over the wound, flinching when Ezra cries out in pain. Blood quickly stains his hands, thick and warm. "Specter Two, I need pick-up now!"
There's no response; the comm is dead static.
Ezra gasps; his body seizes, his blue eyes wild and far away. He's going into shock.
"Ezra, look at me." Kanan reaches through the force, shuddering at the cold he finds. "St- stay with me." He can feel Ezra's life force ebbing away, alarmingly fast, and panic grips him. "Ezra!"
"Ka- anan..?" Ezra manages to focus on him, weak but alive.
"Ezra?" Kanan could cry with relief. "It's gonna be okay, Ezra, you're going to be okay-"
"What did y- you do..?"
Kanan's blood turns to ice. "I- I didn't-"
"You... y- you did this... to me..?" Ezra's voice is small and broken, his eyes filled with confusion and hurt. A wet cough rips from his throat as he struggles to breathe, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth. "Wh- why..?"
"No, please, I didn't mean to!" Kanan says desperately. "Ezra, stay with me, please!"
Ezra stares at him, a tear streaking down his scarred cheek. "How.. could you?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Kanan cries. "Ezra, please, don't go."
Ezra stares up at him, his face stricken with betrayal. A shudder runs through him, and Ezra's eyes grow unfocused, the light in them dimming as the air leaves his lungs in a shaky exhale. The life leaves him quickly, and he hangs limply in Kanan's arms, his head lolling.
Kanan forgets how to breathe. He stares for a moment, uncomprehending, before the pain crashes into him like a wall.
Grief erupts in his chest; he cradles Ezra's lifeless body and screams.
Kanan wakes up violently, jolting in his chair; he bites back the shout rising in his throat, just barely managing to contain it.
Looking around wildly, it takes him a second to realize where he is. It's been over a week since the accident- he's in the med bay, sitting by Ezra's hospital bed. The boy is fast asleep, curled up safely in the covers. It's night, and everything's still and quiet; his eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness. He inhales sharply through gritted teeth, his heart pounding.
He's safe. Ezra's safe.
Kanan swears under his breath and runs his trembling hands through his hair, his eyes stinging. He hasn't had a dream like that in a long time.
He clenches his hands into fists, remembering Ezra's blood on his hands, the smell of burnt flesh. It was so vivid… watching the light leave his eyes, feeling his life slip away... Kanan's stomach churns at the memory of it. If he'd hadn't cut himself off from the force days ago, he'd worry it was a vision.
There's a sudden low rumble, and Kanan jumps as Chopper rolls around the corner of the bed. The droid shines a beam up at Kanan, the blinking red light on his monitor glaring at him accusingly like a solitary eye, before he takes in Kanan's expression. The flashlight quickly dims, and Chopper warbles inquisitively.
"Nothing, just a bad dream," Kanan whispers hoarsely. "Don't worry about it, Chop."
Chopper gives a low trill, sounding doubtful.
"I mean it, really." Kanan rubs at his eyes. "I'm fine, I'll go back to sleep."
Chopper seems to stare at him for a moment before relenting, giving him one last reproachful beep before rattling back over to his spot at the foot of Ezra's bed.
Kanan lets out a slow breath, his eyes shutting. His heart is still pounding, and every nerve is on edge, adrenaline itching beneath his skin. The sheer panic and terror from his dream has passed, replaced by cold, heavy dread that sinks into his bones.
His mind is made up; he has to tell Ezra. And soon.
Kanan doesn't go back to sleep that night.
How can he? His body is still riding the aftermath of his dream, shaky with apprehension. Every time he closes his eyes he sees him; Ezra, bloody and pale and broken, deadweight in his arms. It's not an image Kanan's likely to forget any time soon.
His mind is racing nonstop. How should he tell Ezra? What will he think of Kanan once he knows?
Ezra gave up everything to come with Kanan and the Ghost. He left behind the life he knew, and the only home he'd ever had, to risk uncertainty and danger to follow the teachings of an order on the brink of extinction, making himself one of the most targeted individuals in the galaxy. To fight tyranny and oppression and try to make the universe a better place because it was the right thing to do.
How can Kanan ever hope to make it up to him? It was an inexcusable and unforgivable mistake. All he can do is stay by his side, and hope that Ezra will trust him again someday.
'But do you deserve his trust?' a treacherous part of him whispers. 'You're the one person who's supposed to always be there for him, to protect him, and look what happened.'
Beside him, Ezra stirs, and Kanan banishes his thoughts to the back of his mind. No time to worry about them now.
"Mmm, hey Kanan," the teen mumbles groggily, blinking the sleep from his eyes. "G'morning…"
"Mornin', kid. How'd you sleep?" Kanan pretends to be reading something off of a datapad so he doesn't have to meet Ezra's eyes.
"Good," Ezra yawns, stretching his arms over his head. "What about you? You… you look like you didn't sleep at all." His voice has sobered by the end of his sentence, and Kanan feels his gaze on him.
"I'm fine." He looks up from the datapad and smiles weakly. "You hungry? Chopper, go get him some food from the cafeteria."
The astromech beeps his acknowledgement and rattles out of the room.
Ezra raises an eyebrow. "Okay, Kanan, what's up?"
"Nothing!" Kanan busies himself with the datapad, stowing it in the bedside table. He leans forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and interlocking his fingers. "Just… I need to tell you something."
"Okay..?" Ezra tilts his head, his dark bangs falling into his eyes.
"And… I just want you to know that it might change the way you feel about me. And that's okay." At the end of it all, the last thing Kanan wants is Ezra to feel any guilt or responsibility for what happened, or how he feels about it. He's not going to pull that Jedi banthashit of 'moving beyond emotions and rejoicing in the force,' or however the kriff it goes.
Ezra looks put off. "Kanan, you're kinda freaking me out."
"Sorry." Kanan smiles weakly. His heartrate is a tad too fast to be comfortable. He inhales slowly, bracing himself, and opens his mouth-
"Ezra? Kanan? Can I come in?"
Kanan doesn't know whether to curse her timing or be grateful. Ezra glances at the door, and back to him, a question in his expression.
"Later," Kanan promises, ignoring the cold dread that sits in his stomach. He turns to the door. "Yeah, come in," he calls.
The door slides open with a whoosh, and Ahsoka enters, followed by a stooping, teal-skinned Duros man, his blaring red eyes staring about him in something akin to wonder. He wears a crisp white jumpsuit and long, thick gloves stained with grease and oil. There's a pair of goggles pushed back on his broad forehead, equipped with an odd assortment of magnifying lenses and scopes, and one of the medic's datapads tucked under his arm.
"This is Suntod Zhellom." Ahsoka introduces him with a sweep of her arm. "He's a doctor and an expert in cybernetics, and has experience with paralysis. I'm confident he's the man for the job."
Ezra's smile is forced. "Great…"
"It's nice to meet you, Dr. Zhellom." Kanan shoots Ezra a look and steps forward, arm extended. "We really appreciate you coming out here."
"It's no trouble." Dr. Zhellom takes his hand and shakes it enthusiastically. "I have a great deal of admiration for the rebellion. It's my pleasure to help anyway I can."
Kanan's starting to feel a lot more at ease. "I'm glad to hear it. My name's Kanan, and this is Ezra." He gestures to his padawan, watching mistrustfully from his bed.
"Hey," Ezra says weakly.
"Hello, Ezra." The doctor inclines his head, smiling politely.
Ahsoka clears her throat. "Well, I guess I'll leave you to it. Let me know if you need anything." She gives Ezra an encouraging smile before excusing herself.
The door slides shut with a sense of finality, and all of a sudden it's too quiet, too static- Ezra's leaning away from the doctor, shoulders hunched with tension, like he's expecting an attack- and Kanan speaks up before the silence grows uncomfortable.
"So, uh, why don't you take a seat? I'm sure your journey was tiring, we're pretty far from Duro."
"Of course." Dr. Zhellom pulls a chair up to the side of the bed. "But really, it was no trouble. I do so love space travel, and it's not often I get to venture off world." His expression sobers somewhat. "You know how it is, with the Empire's new regulations."
"Right…" Kanan rubs the back of his neck, glancing at Ezra. He's watching the doctor with trepidation, and Kanan doesn't need the force to sense his unease. "So how did you end up specializing in prosthetics?" he asks, hoping to break the ice.
Dr. Zhellom smiles kindly. "The same way most of us get into the business." He lays his left forearm on the bedrail and slips the fingers of his other hand underneath his glove, tugging it off in one fluid motion. Shiny metal fingers wave up at them, the inner workings of the prosthetic whirring softly.
Kanan raises his eyebrows, and he hears Ezra inhale.
"What happened?" he asks. At Kanan's look, Ezra flushes. "I mean, if you don't mind me asking?" he adds uncertainly.
The Duros looks amused. "That's quite alright. It was a childhood accident." Dr. Zhellom flexes his mechanical hand before pulling his glove back on. "Losing my arm only made me want to improve. It drove me to learn everything I could about cybernetics and organic medicine. I built my first fully-functioning replacement at twelve, though I've gone through dozens of others since then. Always updating," he says fondly. "And now, I can use my skills to help others who need it."
Kanan's aware of Ezra beside him, listening intently. "Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience, then," he notes. "I hope you can help us."
"Yes, well, let's see what I can do." Dr. Zhellom scrolls through his datapad. "Thoracic paraplegia… looks like a complete laceration in the T-10 vertebrae, yes?"
"Uhm…" Ezra blinks. "Yes?"
Dr. Zhellom nods briskly. "Now then, it's all fairly simple. We can attach cybernetic enhancements to your legs very easily, but since we are dealing with paralysis and not amputation or otherwise dismemberment, we'd have to insert a wireless chip in your spinal cord just above the point of laceration. This will receive the electrical impulses your brain sends when it wants to prompt movement, and then send those messages to the enhancements."
"Woah, really?" Ezra's eyebrows shoot up. "That's insane!"
"Yes, quite so," Dr. Zhellom says, amused. "The whole process will be immediate and thoughtless, as easy as moving your own limbs." He spreads his hands. "However, it can be very tiring; anything more than walking will be a challenge, and I'd recommend a wheelchair for longer distances. But, for the most part, you will be able to lead a relatively normal life."
Ezra chews his lip. It's not enough, not what he was hoping for, Kanan can tell.
"Well, what if we... what if I didn't have legs?" he ventures carefully.
Kanan bites back his immediate objection and holds his breath.
"That... would, admittedly, simplify the process." Dr. Zhellom rubs his chin. "Replacements would move much more efficiently without having to interact with-"
"Would I be able to move faster? Y'know, running, jumping... fighting..?"
He gives Ezra a long, curious look. "Yes. Most amputees find that artificial replacements work just as well, or even better than, organic limbs. Generally, we attach the replacement with a synth-net neural interface, but since you are paralyzed we'd still have to insert the chip instead. That shouldn't be a problem; you'd still have complete control, but unlike other cases there would be no sensation. We'd... we'd have to amputate your legs."
"I know." Ezra bites his lip.
"Okay then," Dr. Zhellom says gently. "I know of several facilities that can perform the operation-"
"Wait! Can- can it be you?" Ezra says hesitantly, his cheeks flushing. "I mean- can you do this kind of thing?"
"Certainly," Dr. Zhellom says. "I can speak with Ms. Tano to find a planet with low Imperial influence. And getting into a facility shouldn't be hard- it's not uncommon for patients to bring in outside help for specialized procedures such as this."
Ezra nods slowly. "Okay… good." There's a nervous tremor in his voice. "Thank you."
"Think nothing of it, my friend." The Duros rises from his seat. "Now, I'll go find Ms. Tano so we can go ahead and get started."
"Thanks again," Ezra says, with a small smile.
Dr. Zhellom returns the smile and waves to them before departing. Kanan waits until the door closes behind him to speak.
"Ezra, you're not seriously considering-"
"I am." In that moment, Ezra looks much older than his fifteen years. "Kanan, think about it, this is the best chance I have. It's the only way things can return to normal."
"But you can't just-"
"Why not? They're not doing me any good like this, and they're just getting in the way." Ezra's eyes darken, his voice edged with bitterness.
Kanan pauses, sensing his padawan's turmoil. "Ezra, this is a big decision," he says carefully. "I'm not going to pretend I know what's best for you, but I'd like you to take some time to think it over before making a final decision. And if you're absolutely sure that this is what you want, then we'll support you."
"It is," Ezra insists quickly.
Kanan frowns. "Ezra… I'm glad you seem to know what you want, but I want to make sure it's for the right reasons. This... this isn't just because you want to feel useful to the rebellion, is it? Or to us? Because no matter what you decide, we're always going to accept you." His voice grows softer. "You know that, right?"
This time, Ezra thinks for a moment before answering. "Yeah… yeah, I know that," he says quietly, his hands fidgeting. "And… maybe in another life, I'd be okay with this. Just having the enhancements and living a normal life. But… this is what I want." Ezra looks up at him, his blue eyes full of conviction. "This is the life I want to live; fighting with the rebellion, following the path of the Jedi, standing up for those who can't-"
At Kanan's wince he pauses, his mouth pulling up in a half-smile. "Okay, poor choice of words. But this is what I want. This is who I want to be. And this is the best chance I've got of making that happen." A familiar, confident grin makes its way across Ezra's face. "Of course, if I had to, I bet I could learn how to kick butt in a wheelchair. But since I actually have the choice to make it easier, shouldn't I take it?"
His voice is earnest, and self-assurance radiates off of him. Kanan lets his eyes shut for a moment and sorts through his thoughts and feelings, searching himself for any doubt in Ezra's decision.
There is none. Something is humming at the back of his mind, yes, yes, this is right, and honestly, Ezra never needed his permission anyways.
"Okay." He opens his eyes. "I'll let Commander Sato know your decision, and we can start arranging everything."
Ezra's eyes light up. "Really? Great! When do you think we can get started? Can we do it soon? I'm sick of staying in the med bay, it's so boring! What do you think my new legs will look like? I've seen some really weird prosthetics on the black market- hey!" He sits up suddenly, as if a thought had just come to him. "Do you think they could make me taller?"
Kanan laughs, and the last of the tension drips from his shoulders. "Well, I don't know. First we have to talk over the procedure with Dr. Zhellom and figure out what exactly we're looking at, and then we have to find a planet that's low on the Empire's radar and can provide the type of facility we'll need. Then we have to arrange transportation and figure out some type of long-term boarding on planet, since I doubt the Ghost will be a good place to recover. And of course, all this has to go through Commander Sato's protocols."
Ezra groans. "But that's gonna take so long…"
"Well, then I better go get started." Kanan takes this as his excuse to leave, rising from his chair. "You get some rest, okay? I have a feeling the whole process is going to be tiring."
"O-kay," Ezra drawls, flopping back against his pillows. "But in the meantime, could you at least send someone else up to play dejarik with me? Chopper cheats."
That makes Kanan chuckle. "Sure."
At the doorway, Kanan hesitates. Ezra seems to have all but forgotten about their conversation earlier. A small voice in the back Kanan's mind whispers, 'you should tell him now. The longer you wait the worse it will get.'
But at the same time…
"Something wrong, Kanan?" Ezra asks, oblivious.
He's in higher spirits than he's ever been since the accident. He's already looking to the future, upbeat and positive and hopeful. Kanan doesn't want to ruin it just yet. He'll let Ezra enjoy this as long as he can.
Kanan summons a convincing grin. "Just thinking about how Sabine's going to kick your butt at dejarik," he taunts.
Ezra barks out a laugh. "I'd like to see her try!"
The door slides shut behind him, cutting off any more of Ezra's challenging remarks, and Kanan can finally fall apart.
Later, Kanan finds himself aimlessly wandering the huge rebel command ship.
He tries to track down Sabine and make good on his promise, but he finds Hera instead; at the end of the hallway, deep in conversation with Commander Sato. Neither party looks happy, and as he makes his way down the hall he can hear the displeasure in their voices.
"-implore you to reconsider," Commander Sato is saying.
"Thanks, but I've made up my mind." Hera's lekku are twitching in irritation. Kanan can tell this is a subject she's quickly growing tired of. "I'm sure you can find someone else who's more than qualified for it."
"Very well." Commander Sato dips his head. "If you change your mind-"
"I'll let you know." Hera smiles thinly.
As Kanan grows closer, Commander Sato notices his approach and narrows his eyes. Kanan can't quite get a reading on his feelings towards him. It changes from time to time, but recently it's an odd mix of distaste, begrudging respect, sympathy, and the slightest hint of wariness. He nods at Kanan in greeting, his face betraying nothing but polite regard.
"Commander." Kanan tilts his head in acknowledgement, one hand casually winding around Hera's waist.
Commander Sato holds his gaze for a moment before turning back to Hera. "Well, if you have nothing more to say on the matter then I'll take my leave. I have to attend to my duties." There's the smallest edge of accusation in his words, so slim and brief it might as well have been imagined.
"As do I," Hera replies evenly.
Commander Sato turns on his heel and retreats down the hallway, and Hera finally turns to Kanan, smiling at him with no small amount of relief.
"Hey, love," she says affectionately. "How are you?"
"Good, good." Kanan waits until the commander is out of earshot before fixing Hera with an inquisitive look. "So what was that about?"
Hera glances back at Commander Sato's retreating figure. "Oh, that. Commander Sato was just trying to convince me to stay. You know, because I'm Phoenix leader. Or, I was."
Kanan blinks, and the realization hits him. "Oh, kriff Hera, I never even asked you-"
"It's fine," she insists, waving a hand dismissively. "It was always my intention to stay with Ezra and-"
"No, I- I just assumed that you'd… I shouldn't have done that," Kanan sighs, dragging a hand down his face. "Of course you have other duties. I shouldn't expect you to just-"
"If you think for one second that my duties here are more important to me than my crew's well-being, then you don't know me as well as you think you do." Hera's voice is stern; not in anger, but conviction. "Of course I was going to come with you. It was never a question. I'll bet Sabine and Zeb feel the same."
"But it's not the same," Kanan protests, unwilling to forgive himself so easily. "For as long as I've known you, this has always what you'd wanted to do. When we met, I really couldn't care less about doing good, much less stopping the Empire. I was content to scratch out whatever living I could, always looking for my next paycheck. You know I never believed in the cause; that was you. You helped others not because it benefitted you, but because it was the right thing to do. You started that change in me, helped me get back on the right path. And now that you're here, finally doing what you wanted to all along, I expected you to just drop everything and follow me without even asking you." He shakes his head. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, Kanan," Hera sighs, looking touched. "As much as I love being a captain in the rebellion, and fighting the good fight and all that, at the end of the day my crew will always take priority. Ezra's going to need all of us, and I couldn't imagine my life without him. Without you, and Sabine and Zeb. Yes, the rebellion can make great use of my skills, but my place is on the Ghost. It always will be." She reaches up to gently cradle his face. "Okay?"
Kanan breathes out a small smile. "Alright."
"Good." Hera's hands come down to rest on his shoulders. "And remember, Ezra is the one who inspired you to follow the path of the Jedi again. So it's all come full circle."
At the mention of the Jedi, Kanan feels his mood sour. If he hadn't taken up the mantle of Jedi again, he never would've hurt Ezra. Who was he kidding? He'd never be a real Jedi. What kind of Jedi hurt his own padawan? A real Jedi master would've been able to see it coming and prevent it.
"Kanan?" Hera asks, her voice laced with concern. "Is something wrong?"
"Yeah, no, I just…" He hesitates. "If I hadn't decided to try and be a Jedi again, this never would've happened to Ezra."
"Kanan, what do you…" Hera's teal eyes widen in realization. "You- you've been cutting yourself off from the force since it happened, haven't you? You haven't even meditated-"
"What good would that do?" Kanan snaps. "The force didn't save Ezra. It sure as hell isn't going to fix this. What good is it if I can't even protect the people I-" He breaks off, anger churning in his stomach, and turns to go. "Forget it."
Hera catches his arm. "Kanan, I want to understand. Please, help me understand."
Kanan struggles briefly with his conflicting emotions. 'Tell her!' part of him screams. 'They all deserve to know! They need to see who you really are!'
That terrifies him. He doesn't want to lose them; to go back to being alone and cast out with no one to care about except himself. But if that's his punishment, then… he'll have to take it.
Kanan licks his lips. Breathes in, breathes out. Big inhale.
"I was the reason Ezra got hurt."
Hera blinks at him. Her brows knit together. "You- what? I don't-"
"The blaster bolt that severed Ezra's spine was reflected off my lightsaber. I'm the reason it hit him." Kanan swallows back a hoarse, desperate laugh, his eyes stinging. "I paralyzed my own padawan."
Saying the words out loud for the first time brings a fresh wave of grief crashing down on him. His breathing hitches, and it's like it's happening again, the scene replaying before his eyes. He relives it, watching Ezra's limp form plummet towards the ground.
He sees it all again- what would've happened if he hadn't caught Ezra; what happened when he did.
"It shouldn't have happened." Kanan's shaking. His voice sounds far away, even to his own ears, and slightly distorted, as if he's speaking through a comm. Behind his eyes, he watches Ezra fall again and again, his small figure lying still and broken in a pool of bright red blood. "Hera, I could've killed him."
Kanan jolts, coming back to himself abruptly. He blinks at the change in surroundings; at some point, Hera had moved them to a secluded alcove, away from prying eyes.
Her fingers are loosely curled around his wrists, where his pulse jumps beneath his skin. Her eyes are wide and searching, creased with worry and no small amount of alarm.
"Kanan," Hera breathes again, tightening her grip on his wrists. "Are you with me, love?"
"Y- yeah," Kanan grits out, a violent shudder running through his body. "I- I just- it's all my fault, he could be dead and it would've been my fault, I…" He takes a shaky, rasping breath. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, Kanan…" Hera wraps him in a hug, her head tucked beneath his chin in a familiar embrace. "I didn't know. You've been holding all this in- I should've seen you weren't okay."
It takes a second for Kanan's arms to respond, moving slowly to wind around her. He holds her close. "It's okay. You couldn't have known. Not your fault." Seeing Hera so distressed makes Kanan even more upset with himself. "I'm sorry."
Hera pulls away to study his face. "Does Ezra know?" she asks quietly.
"No." Kanan can feel his face burn with shame. "You're the only one I've told."
Hera's silent for a moment. "For what it's worth, I think you should tell him," she says gently. "You need to move past this- for both your benefit and his."
"I know." Kanan swallows. "I always meant to tell him, I just… what am I going to do if he wants nothing to do with me? What if he hates me?" He hates how much of a coward he's being, but he can't help it.
Hera makes a noncommittal noise. "Well, for starters, I don't think Ezra could ever hate you. He might be angry, or upset with you, but I seriously doubt he'd ever hate you. And it was an accident- Ezra's a smart boy, he knows you'd never do anything to hurt him. And he's tougher than he seems." Her expression turns pensive. "Sometimes, we all tend to underestimate him because he's so young. But first and foremost, he's a survivor. He wouldn't have made it on the streets if he wasn't."
They all have that in common; children who were forced to grow up too fast.
"You're right," Kanan sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. "Of course you're right. I'll tell him. I can't put it off any more." He leans forward and presses a kiss to Hera's forehead. "Thank you. For understanding."
Hera smiles and reaches up to give him a real kiss. "You'll get through it," she murmurs softly.
Kanan knows there's a chance this could all end badly, but Hera's love and acceptance has given him the courage to try and make things right.
Kanan stands in front of the door to Ezra's room.
A hundred scenarios run through his mind. There's no telling how Ezra will react- anger, rejection, loathing… he'd deserve all of it. A small voice is urging him to turn back now, to wait just a little longer to admit what he did, but Kanan's listened to it for the last time. He forces himself to swipe the door open and step into the room.
No turning back.
Ezra looks up at him in surprise. "Oh, hey Kanan! Didn't expect to see you so soon. What's up?"
"Ezra, we need to talk." Kanan's voice is heavy, dripping with severity.
"Uh, sure... about what?" Ezra tries to sound casual, but Kanan doesn't miss the flash of anxiety in his padawan's eyes.
"About what happened that day." Kanan cuts straight to the point before he loses his nerve. "The day you got hurt."
Kanan doesn't need the force to see the immediate discomfort that comes over Ezra. He glances away to avoid Kanan's eyes, swallowing. "I already know what happened," he says stiffly, unease coming off him in waves. "I wasn't watching my surroundings, I let my guard down, and one of them must've-"
"No," Kanan says. "The bolt that hit you? It was me; a stray shot deflected off my lightsaber."
Ezra chews on his lip. Several emotions fight for dominance on his face; doubt, hesitation, anguish… but shock is markedly absent. "You- you don't know that. It could've been anyone-"
"It was me," Kanan interrupts, because he knows, and at this point he's certain Ezra does too. "We both felt it."
There's a long pause before Ezra finally meets his gaze, wary. "So?"
"So?" Kanan's stunned. "Wh- what do you mean?"
"So what? It- it doesn't matter how it happened, it was an accident, and-" Ezra takes a deep breath, wrapping his arms around himself. "And I know that. I don't blame you, Kanan."
Kanan stares at him. "But- Ezra, it's my fault you were hurt! Because of me, you can't walk."
Ezra flinches. "I know that," he insists.
"Then why aren't you- I don't understand how-"
"What's there to understand?" Ezra demands. "I know what happened, and I don't hold it against you- what's wrong with that? What do you want me to do, huh? Get angry? Say that I hate you? Is that what you want, Kanan?" His voice rises steadily until he's almost shouting, and the force crackles with emotion, churning through the air like electricity.
"It's what I deserve!" Kanan shouts back. "It was my responsibility to keep you safe- I should've protected you! But instead, I'm the one who hurt you. I-" His voice breaks without warning, his eyes stinging. "I failed you," he whispers.
Ezra blinks, taken aback. He opens his mouth to speak, closes it, swallows hard- the shock pierces his very core, Kanan can feel it, and he has no idea how to react.
Kanan sighs heavily, burying his face in his hands. "Sometimes, I wish I had never picked you up on Lothal. You would've been better off if you'd never met me."
Ezra rears back, eyes wide. "What? Kanan, that's crazy! Look, I'll admit it's been hard, harder than I expected. But I'll take firefights and storm troopers and Inquisitors any day over going back to that life."
Kanan looks up in surprise, and Ezra sighs.
"Back on Lothal," he begins quietly, "I was nothing. Just another lifeform scraping by to survive- and for what?" Ezra shakes his head and gives a small, dry laugh. "There was no purpose to my life. The Empire hurt me, hurt everyone, and there was nothing I could do! I was helpless to stop them, to make a difference. Do you know how badly I wished I could do something? I would've given anything for the chance to fight back! And now… now I'm here. I'm doing what I always wanted to do, what I was always meant to do."
Ezra pauses, smiling fondly, and Kanan is suddenly reminded of Hera. He really has taken after her.
"I have no regrets, Kanan," Ezra continues. "I chose this life, and I'm not gonna let this stop me." He meets Kanan's gaze evenly. "I didn't think you would either."
Kanan lets out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "Ezra, I… I had no idea."
"Heh, well… now you know." Ezra's expression is suddenly shy, perhaps slightly embarrassed by how much he ending up sharing. "Did you really think I regretted meeting you?" he asks uncertainly.
"I wouldn't blame you if you did," Kanan says simply. Now that the air is cleared between them, he feels an odd sort of calm come over him. The severity of it all seems far away.
"Well, I don't!" Ezra insists hurriedly. "In case that wasn't obvious."
"Well, I'm still sorry about what happened," Kanan replies. "In case that wasn't obvious."
"I think you've made that pretty clear," Ezra says with a grin. "Besides, I'm sure you can get back in my good graces by doing some favors for me." He taps his chin in mock concentration. "Hmm, okay, how about… you have to be my personal attendant and do whatever I ask until the surgery!"
"I already do that…" Kanan objects, smiling despite himself.
"Tut tut! No complaining!" Ezra admonishes. "Now, fluff my pillows! Swab the floors! Run down to the mess and fetch me the finest, freshest juice on the ship!" He claps twice. "Hurry along now!"
Ezra's antics break the last of the tension between them, and Kanan laughs, ruffling the teen's scruffy hair. "How about I fetch us some dinner and play a few rounds of dejarik? I might even let you win again."
"Also good," Ezra amends graciously. "Though, I totally got you that one time," he adds.
"We'll see." Kanan grins, heading for the door.
"Hey, Kanan?" The last of Ezra's dramatic façade has fallen away, leaving nothing but quiet, honest sincerity. "Thank you. For everything."
The unexpected concession fills Kanan with warmth. "I'm the one who should be thanking you," he says softly. "I'll be back in a few."
"I'll be here," Ezra replies good-naturedly.
The door slides shut, and for the first time in almost a week Kanan reaches out to the force. His return is hesitant and almost sheepish, like a wayward tooka pup who strayed too far from home. He lowers his walls and releases the last of his anger at the force, and his return is accepted immediately and without question, easing him back into the peace and contentment he finds there.
Though he may not be entirely ready to forgive himself for what happened to Ezra, he's ready to move forward as a child of the living force.
And if his padawan can so readily forgive him, then maybe Kanan's not as forgone as he thought.
A/N: And that brings us to the end of this story! I may end up writing more oneshots to fit this verse, based on your response and feedback, but I am certain it will never be a long, multi-chaptered story. I already have a few ideas for things I'd like to write, and like I said earlier I'd be sure to bring in Zeb and Sabine if I did end up doing it.
And I would be sure to cover Ezra's surgery and recovery, and explain how I designed his prosthetic. I almost added an epilogue featuring Ezra post-surgery, but I felt it brought an abrupt and out of place halt to the storyline I had been setting up. This arc was always about Kanan dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and how his and Ezra's relationship changed because of it. Future installments would be more focused on Ezra's personal journey, possibly even from his POV.
So, let me know if you liked this and want to see more! I'm aware it's been a while so my original audience might have dwindled, but if there's a big enough call for it I would be happy to add on. Thanks for reading! - Aqua