Ezra doesn't mean to get them separated.
It's just that they're on Lothal. His home planet, even if he can barely remember it. The Force hums through it, hums through him at the mere sight of it.
He told Kanan this the moment their transport came out of hyperspace.
("Can't you feel it?" he'd asked, practically vibrating out of his chair. Lothal was all muted yellows, greens, and blues outside the transport's window.
Kanan had let him do some research on the holonet on the way over. He helped Ezra read through some of the more difficult parts. While a lot of the planet's facts were just Imperial propaganda, the material did talk a lot about Lothal's rich history as a farming planet. He imagined the long plains of grass long before he'd actually gotten to see them up close.
"Feel what?" Kanan replied, obviously tired from their trip and his last job with a crew stationed on Takodana. He rubbed at his forehead lightly before turning his head towards Ezra.
"It's so—!” Ezra shook his head, unable to find the words to truly describe the way the planet seemed to be affecting him aside from his usual excitement at arriving at a new destination after being planet-side so long. He grabbed onto Kanan's arm, jumping in his seat. He whispered "The Force, it’s—!"
“Hey," Kanan snapped to attention at that, shushing Ezra and tightly gripping his shoulder. "Ezra, we have talked about this."
"But Caleb,“ Ezra stuttered, correcting himself at Kanan's frown and pinched expression. "Kanan, I can feel it! I'm not even trying, just like we promised. None of that outside of meditation, I swear! It's so strong here that I don't have to.”
Kanan sighed, loosening his grip on Ezra into more of a comforting gesture. "Ezra, I know it's hard, but you have to ignore it. Even when it's strong. We have to get used to living without it.”
That had been the abrupt end to their discussion.)
So Ezra kept feeling the Force’s constant presence rolling around in his mind and then ignored it in turn. He had been listening to Kanan for two years now. Kanan kept them alive by abandoning their old ways.
However, the Force really had nothing to do with them getting separated.
Kanan had warned Ezra to stay close to him in the marketplace like always. Ezra was still young, he said, and he had to stick close to Kanan and try not to look too many people in the eye. They had to melt into the crowd.
It's just—doing that is what gets them separated in the first place.
One minute they're at a stall negotiating prices on blaster parts and the next thing Ezra knows, Kanan's voice is gone and Ezra is standing at the stall all by himself. Kanan has disappeared into the crowd somewhere and Ezra has no high vantage point from which to see him.
He tries to ask the Devaronian working the stall, but the male simply barks something at him about not having credits and shoves him away from the stall.
He tries to use the Force, hoping he'll feel Kanan's angry spark at the use of their connection on the other end, but it's instead this...unintelligible cloud of emotion, all smacking into him at once and making it hard to focus on much of anything at all. He’s been practicing meditation to strengthen his shields and close himself away from the Force, but letting even a small gap open seems to have unleashed a floodgate he can’t control.
He has to find Kanan. He wants the Force to be quiet. He wants to go home, no, the Temple is burned to the ground. He wants his parents. He wants to feel safe again. He wants his friends from the crèche. He wants Caleb's soft laugh and anxious hair adjustments.
He feels himself hit something hard before he actually realizes that in his haste to escape the marketplace, he's tripped and fallen into a quieter section of town.
Yes, his palms and knees are a little skinned now, but he'll just take a minute to find his feet, calm down, and he'll find Kanan—
"Citizen, identify yourself." The voice is heavily modulated. So much that at first Ezra thinks it must be some grumpy Ilthorian wanting him to get away from their building.
The unmistakable clanking of white armored feet accompanied by similarly armored heads holding blaster rifles tells him differently.
He stumbles trying to right himself, landing firmly on his butt in the middle of the dusty street. The stormtroopers look so much like the clones that helped wipe out the Jedi. All they're missing is the colorful, more stylized armor.
Ezra freezes at the thought.
They can't know, he's nobody, there's no way for them to know, he needs to find Kanan, he needs to warn Kanan to run away and not look back—
"I repeat: identify yourself."
“I—I, um.“ Ezra feels himself sliding on the ground, tiny pebbles and dirt further embedding into his scratched palms. The wall of the nearby building is rough, pulling against his back and the collar of his shirt from how hard he's pushing himself up against it to back away from the stormtroopers.
The troopers only seem to loom larger above him, stepping closer. "If you do not identify yourself, we will be forced to arrest you on grounds of suspicious activity."
"Ezra," he whimpers, wondering if what felt like a shout in his head was merely a whisper to the soldiers in front of him. Just in case, he holds up his hands and repeats himself. "Ezra Jarrus.”
(He remembers saying that name to himself in the mirror every morning for weeks. Reciting it to Caleb—Kanan now—every day as he left to work at another garbage hole-in-wall bar in the evening, until the consonants and vowels felt meaningless on his tongue.
What's your name?
Who am I?
Good. Sign your name for me, please.
Ezra Jarrus. Scribbled in Aurebesh, written despite Ezra having just started to learn how to write Ezra Bridger in the crèche.
The next part takes more practice. It takes so much effort not to start with a different first character.
Over and over again until he knows those names better than any other Basic words.
Caleb is now Kanan, his father.
Everything has changed with them.
Nothing really has.
Who are you?
"Scandocs, kid. Now.”
The two stormtroopers watch him curl into himself in silence. He begs in his head. Don't find out. Don't already know. I can't let them know. I have nothing to hide.
Ezra Bridger has everything to hide.
The Force tugs around him like a security blanket, like the cloak still in Ezra's bag, hidden from Kanan and there when he misses the Temple so much it physically pains him. He wraps it around himself at night and tries to remember: Master Billaba’s smile, Master Plo’s kind words and how he remembered every child and clone trooper’s name, the nameless tea Caleb gave him once when he had a bad dream and didn’t know where else to go.
It's here if he needs it. He can protect himself. He will protect himself. Any closer and he'll push them away and run. Ezra and Kanan will just run away like they always do. Some new planet, some new name, some new job to keep them afloat and not eating garbage on the streets like years before. He'll protect them just like Kanan always has.
"Alright, no more games," the other trooper grumbles, his steps coming even closer.
He'll defend himself, Ezra thinks. But he's not supposed to use the Force, he knows.
The trooper grabs his arm, and Ezra realizes that he's crying, then, because the armored hand is blurry. He's supposed to know how to control his emotions, but there's no amount of meditation to quell the hurricane swirling around inside him right now. He hears himself scream when the trooper tries to pull him to his feet.
It's only Kanan that stops him from slamming the stormtrooper into the wall behind him.
"Ezra!" Kanan shouts, breathless but severe, suddenly all Ezra can sense in the Force above anything else. Better than the Force itself.
He's pulled away from the tight grip of the trooper straight into Kanan's arms. He says it without even thinking, more of a wail than an actual word. “Dad!”
Ezra buries his face as deep into Kanan’s neck as he can. He can feel himself shaking, not just from fear, but the sheer unchecked strength that he’d been so close to releasing on the stormtroopers out of that fear.
They would have had to run again. Ezra is so tired of running all the time. What had he been thinking, exposing his force abilities like that? “I’m s—sorry,” he cries, guilt ebbing out in waves and tangling with the fear.
Kanan shakes his head back and forth, running a hand against Ezra’s back. When he replies, Ezra somehow knows that Kanan knows exactly what he’s apologizing for. “I know. You’re upset. It’s okay. You’re okay.”
Ezra feels Kanan’s body shift, and when he dares to look up, the first stormtrooper is inspecting their falsified scandocs. The trooper who grabbed him is staring right at Ezra behind his helmet. Transfixed and feeling a little braver with Kanan by his side, Ezra misses the first part of whatever Kanan is saying because he’s too busy staring back.
“We just got separated in the marketplace. My son was upset. He didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”
The stormtrooper with the scandocs scoffs. “Yeah, that’s what they all say.”
Kanan bristles, his muscles tightening under Ezra’s hands. “He’s a child.”
“Watch your tone.” The staring trooper points his weapon, making Ezra flinch unconsciously. Kanan turns his body to cover more of Ezra, but stays steady.
The scandocs are thrown at Kanan’s feet, the stormtrooper that once held them now turning and walking away. “Move along. We have more important things to do today than babysit children.”
“May the Empire reign,” Kanan grumbles sarcastically, pocketing their papers. He’s still on his knees on the ground, but he pushes Ezra slightly away to inspect him more fully. “Are you okay?”
Ezra shrugs, wiping his eyes and nose on his jacket sleeve. Kanan takes his hands and inspects his scrapes for any large debris before seemingly determining Ezra to be physically okay. Then Kanan brings him back in for another hug with a long sigh. “You scared the hell out of me, kid.”
“M’sorry,” Ezra replies, trying to fight the instinct to chew at his thumbnail anxiously. “I won’t even think about using the Force again, I swear.”
“Ezra, that’s not—“ Kanan shakes his head, cupping Ezra’s face between his hands. “I didn’t know where you were, and all I could feel in the Force was how terrified you were. That’s what scared me. I don’t care about you almost using the Force to protect yourself.”
“But you said—!“ Kanan’s look brooks no argument. Once again, he’s decided they’ve reached the end of the discussion.
“Come on,” Kanan says, this time taking his hand gently as they walk back in the direction of the busier part of Capital City. “We should probably get something to bandage those hands with.”
“I, um,” Ezra stops them from moving, clutching Kanan’s hand a little tighter. “I’m sorry that I…that I called you Dad, before. I’m not a baby, I know you’re not…not really my…“
Kanan lets out a breath of a laugh through his nose, letting go of Ezra’s hand to run his fingers through Ezra’s hair. “Ezra, you are my responsibility, and not just on a piece of forged flimsi. I’m here to be whatever you need me to be.”
“So you wouldn’t mind?” Ezra tries to temper the excitement out of his voice at the prospect. “I—If I called you that, I mean? Sometimes?”
Kanan shrugs. “Like I said, whatever you need. As long as you want to.” He grabs onto Ezra’s hand again, the firm grip telling Ezra that he’s determined not to let Ezra out of his sight any time in the near future.