Deep down inside Ezra always sort of knew he couldn't run forever.
As long as hard as he could- most definitely- but not forever because, with his luck, getting caught was inevitable. That didn't mean he was going to make it easy for anyone and the large swollen nose the pissed off cop was now sporting in the next room over was testimony to that.
They busted him stealing- one of the only ways Ezra was positive he wouldn't go down for. Roaming the streets, sure. Loitering to stay warm and dry, probably. Stealing, no because he's been stealing stuff since he was seven and it was one of the only things he felt confident in.
The world, apparently, disagreed.
He managed to get three blocks away from the 24/7 convenient store before he saw the lights. Red, blue and the signal of trouble. And, like the idiot he was, he started running which only made him look infinitely more suspicious and- as he learned the hard way- police cars were quick.
He was quickly cornered and when the cop tried manhandling him into the backseat Ezra's elbow just so happened to smash into the cop's face and most likely broke his nose in the process. Something Ezra was capable of feeling a tiny bit guilty for if it wasn't for the fact that the cop was a complete jerk. Douchebag really. And the only reason Ezra was still there.
They- being the incredibly over-paranoid cops- forced him into this room after stealing his fingerprints and handcuffed him to the table so he wouldn't go anywhere without their permission. And the fact that Ezra's been stuck in this room for longer than five hours was starting to make him go more than a little crazy.
He wasn't claustrophobic- not even slightly- but he was an orphan, a street rat that didn't linger in one place longer than necessary. It was how he survived and this place had lost its appeal five hours ago. Not to mention his fingers were still grimy with the ink they used when they fingerprinted him and he really had to use the bathroom.
Finally- what felt like an eternity later- the door opened and Officer Swollen Nose walked in sporting a nasty black eye and even nastier glare. Ezra couldn't stop himself fast enough before a cocky smirk graced his lips and he hadn't even had enough time to prepare before his entire face was suddenly smashed against the wooden table.
"You think you're funny you little piece of street trash?" the officer challenged and Ezra still hadn't built enough internal defenses to stop that comment from stinging slightly.
That didn't stop him from saying something equal parts of sass and stupid.
"Actually I think I'm adorable and you're a joke of a cop so I don't need to tell you anything. Besides, you can't legally keep me here without a lawyer so…"
His face was promptly re-smashed against the table's surface, effectively cutting off his next sentence, which was probably for the best. Insulting police officers was definitely a new territory of stupid Ezra never thought he'd venture into. Then again he didn't think stealing would bring him down either so he supposed the world was just full of surprises.
By the time he managed to straighten back up, shaking away the stars clouding his vision, a thick folder was slammed in front of him and he didn't have to read the label to know whose it is. That didn't stop his eyes from glossing over the boldly typed name tab "EZRA BRIDGER."
He was so screwed.
Glancing back up at the cop only seemed to reinforce that thought as the officer's face now held only malice intent.
7 years ago after his parents were murdered Ezra ran away from the foster system. It wasn't because he'd been trying for the delinquent lifestyle back then but because it was at a very young age he realized the world was evil and police are useless. All police- including dark, mean and ugly still grinning like a shark.
Ezra steeled his expression, stubbornly refusing to give this guy any more pleasure in knowing he had him cornered, before he demanded in a voice made of ice and would've made Jack Frost shiver, "What's this?"
"This," the officer explained slow and deliberately as he shoved the folder closer to him, "is the file of the tragic life of Ezra Bridger. You, kid. And let me tell you, running away when you were 7 wasn't your smartest moves."
Perhaps not but there hasn't been a day yet that Ezra's felt even the slightest bit guilty over it. People were cruel and the only one a person can depend on is them self. Sucks but that's just life and Ezra's made his peace with it a long time ago.
But now, undoubtedly, Officer Jerk-Wad is going to ship him to the nearest foster home and enforce that he stay there or the next time he gets caught he'll spend his time behind bars. That is, if he got caught again.
The officer bent over and dramatically opened the file, revealing the mug shot they took of him when they brought him in hours earlier. His natural raven hair was a mess and matted and look like it hadn't been cleaned in a while which, he supposed, it hadn't. And even to him he looked unnaturally skinny and sickly and it didn't take a genius to figure out he was a homeless orphan. A kid living on the streets because they had nowhere else to go. Unwanted, unloved and unknown.
"Poor little Ezra Bridger," the officer continued to mock slowly, deliberately, and Ezra had to fight the stinging in the corner of his eyes when he caught a glimpse of the picture of his parents bodies, "Witnessing the murder of his parents. I can't imagine the horror that came with that."
Only his voice sounded a lot closer to mockery than sympathetic and Ezra felt his hands curl into fists as anger threatened to overwhelm him. He wished he could break free to blacken his other eye and perhaps break his nose again.
"Get to the point," Ezra ground out instead, tired of whatever game this joke of a cop wanted to play with him and- frankly- generally just tired. After all it was getting closer to the wee hours of the morning and Ezra just wanted to curl up and pretend the world can't affect him.
After all, it certainly didn't care for him for if it did then his parents wouldn't be dead and he'd be as innocent and young as any 14-year-old boy could be.
"You're in a load of trouble," the cop finished after a long pause as his hand unconsciously slammed the file on the table shut.
Ezra met his gaze unflinchingly and it was at that moment the door was thrown open and a woman dressed in a blue skirt and blazer strolled in, heels clicking on the tiled floor.
Blue eyes colder than Antarctica narrowed in on the officer as she demanded, "Who are you and what do you think you're doing?"
The cop, obviously flabbergasted, started floundering mouth slightly opened to respond before the woman held up a hand and replied equally as harsh, "It doesn't matter who you are. What do you think you're doing to a minor no less?"
The cop must have managed to regain some of his composure as he straightened and snapped, "What's it to you lady?"
The woman in turn straightened up impossibly more as she replied in a tone as bitter and destructive as frostbite, "I am with the Child Protective Services and if you'd hurt one hair on his hair then I'll bring the entire government on your sorry excuse for a carcass."
Harsh, for certain, but effective and entertaining. Ezra even had to stifle a laugh because the last thing he wanted was for the attention to return back to him.
The cop continued to imitate a fish out of water as the woman rolled her eyes again stepping further in the room and closer to them. To Ezra.
He shrunk back against his chair, wishing he had the ability to disappear forever because the last thing he wanted to be doing was go with this woman to who-knows-what-type of foster home. Foster parents.
"He's bleeding," the woman spoke cutting gaze turning back towards the man as she demanded, "Unlock his cuffs before you do anything else stupid."
The cop obeyed and Ezra immediately tucked his arms close to his body, rubbing the sore red marks they left behind. His gaze narrowed on him before her before turning away completely.
"Don't be afraid child," the woman commanded in a voice that resembled more drill sergeant than maternal and Ezra just wanted to shrink away forever, "We're leaving now."
And that was how Ezra found himself standing in front of a small white house with a plain wooden door and doormat that simply read "GHOST" and if he hadn't been so tired he would've acknowledged the sour twist in his gut as something more than hunger pains. He was so exhausted, however, he just wanted the door to open so he could get some sleep. And by his tired calculations, he's been awake for close to 26 hours now.
The woman knocked on the door once it was obvious Ezra was only going to stare tiredly at it and when it opened he was slightly surprised to see a tall dark skinned man still grinning at something behind him. Once he turned to face them, however, his expression changed. Turned more pensive and considerate.
"Hera Syndulla?" the woman asked suspiciously and the man just pursed thin lips as he shook his head.
"No," he denied like it was obvious (it kind of was, Ezra's exhausted brain supplied unhelpfully) before he continued, "I'm Kanan Jarrus. The co-owner of this home."
"Right," the woman drawled before thrusting the clipboard she'd been holding at him and demanded, "Either you or Miss Syndulla need to sign off on him then."
The 'him' was accompanied by a tilt of the head in Ezra's general direction and understanding seemed to flash in Kanan's gaze.
"Hera!" he called over his shoulder and a woman a little shorter than Kanan suddenly appeared at his side, warm green eyes taking in Ezra's every exhausted feature.
"He's bleeding," the motherly looking woman- Hera- pointed out with a tight frown as she bent over to gather his face in gentle hands bending his head up slightly so she could get a better look.
"They were inflicted before I got there," the CPS woman dismissed simply forcing the clipboard back in their general direction; Hera was the one who took it.
"Can you show the kid to his new room Love? Perhaps stitch him up before his wound becomes infected," the woman asked in a tone that left no room for arguing.
Kanan must have recognized it also because he nodded and led Ezra into the house which was just as plain as the outside. The walls were a light caramel color and the only thing on the wall was a huge mirror located so the first thing you saw when you entered was your reflection. Underneath the mirror was a mini table with a basket filled with junk.
"What's this?" Ezra asked before his brain could've told him that it was a stupid bad idea; at the same time he reached inside and came out with a cheap looking ring threaded on a piece of fishing line.
It looked useless and cheap and no one in their right mind would buy it but Kanan's blue-green eyes widened in panic and his next movements seemed slightly desperate.
"Don't touch that," he snapped snatching the object from Ezra's grasp, leaving the youth blinking in shock.
"Sorry?" Ezra asked confused as he stared up at Kanan's expressions carefully.
Kanan was cradling the necklace, holding it like it was the most delicate thing in the world, as he stared down at it with a guarded expression. Ezra still saw the pain in his eyes though, the pain that instantly faded after Kanan took a deep breath and set the necklace back in the basket.
"Rule number one: don't touch anything in here," Kanan informed still staring in the basket and all the useless junk it held.
Ezra glanced back at it, confused because it looked to be filled with trash. The ring-necklace. A pocketbook. A small journal. An empty box of markers. Trash. All of it.
"Why?" Ezra demanded reaching for something else, "It's all useless anyways."
This time Kanan struck his hand before he could touch anything and his eyes were burning when he turned back towards him; Ezra couldn't help but shrink away in fearful submission.
"If it's useless than don't touch," Kanan spoke carefully and in a way where it was obvious that he was holding back his temper.
"Alright," Ezra agreed bowing his head, "I won't touch."
Not that he had wanted to anyways. He was just curious as to why these people had a basket of trash.
Kanan let out another deep breath and the next time he spoke it was calmer and more controlled, "Come on. I'll show you to your new room."
Silently, Ezra followed him up the stairs and they stopped at the first door on the left. Kanan started speaking again but Ezra tuned him out once the door was opened revealing a room pigs would turn in disgust at.
"You've got to be kidding," Ezra choked holding his nose with his hand, "This place reeks."
Kanan frowned again but more as a disappointed father as he reassured, "I'll get Zeb to straighten up once he gets home."
"Zeb?" Ezra demanded incredulously, "What kind of name is Zeb?"
Which was the wrong thing to say because Kanan was frowning at him again and something in the frown twisted something deep inside him. Striking Ezra in the core and hurting him more than he ever thought possible.
"It's his name and if you want to keep your life then you won't bring it up again," Kanan warned, undertone of a threat evident; although something else inside Ezra told him it wouldn't be Kanan that'd punish him.
Ezra swallowed, nodding in understanding, as he quickly stepped past the man and in the room. It wasn't much better closer- most of the covers having been thrown off the bed where a box of half-eaten pizza had replaced them. Scattered on the floor were various types of dirty clothing and Ezra had to resist the urge to gag.
"You can sleep over there," Kanan spoke pointing to a bare mattress on top of a cheap metal bedframe that was probably one screw away from breaking, but Ezra was quickly learning not to back talk this man and just nodded going over to set his backpack on it. That was probably the only reason he saw it.
"Who's Luminara Unduli?" Ezra asked narrowing his eyes at the piece of tape on the frame's leg.
"No one," Kanan replied a little too quickly as he stepped past him to rip the tape off refusing to make eye contact as he crumpled it up in a ball and sighed, "I'll go get you some sheets."
Ezra nodded but didn't think Kanan saw. Then he was left alone in a room too messy to hold anything worth stealing much less anything valuable.
He sighed again, knees wobbling in exhaustion and he sank down on the mattress as his vision threatened to black out. Even prior to his most recent all-nighter he hasn't been getting much sleep- one or two hours a night- and it was like everything had caught up with him at once.
He isn't sure how long it took Kanan but when the man finally returned it was to him drifting off on a naked mattress.
"Kid you need to get up if you want me to put the sheets on for you," Kanan sighed and Ezra grumbled under his breath as he forced himself off the mattress.
It didn't take very long and soon Ezra was curling up on the mattress, dead to the world.
He awoke to someone glaring at him.
Rolling over on his side, he blinked bleary eyes open only to catch sight of a tall broad imposing figure hovering over his bed. Arms thicker than Ezra's thigh were crossed over each other as the man continued to glare at him and if looks could kill then Ezra would be dead a million times over.
Ezra let out an undignified yell as he jumped back and away from the figure, hitting a wall and landed on the ground with a dull thud. The man didn't even flinch, just continued glaring as Ezra rubbed his head with one hand and used the other to support himself as he sat up.
"What do you think you're doing?" Ezra demanded as embarrassment filled him and the man just let out a snort that resembled a bull readying for an attack.
"I can ask you the same thing," the man grunted, dark beard making him look even more imposing and threatening then he already did.
"I was trying to sleep," Ezra replied completely irritated at this guy now, "What were you doing?"
"Wondering what you were doing in my room," the man shot back and all the pieces filtered together and blue eyes widened in shock as realization struck.
"You're Zeb?" Ezra demanded unable to keep the incredulous tone from his voice.
The man straightened slightly, eyes narrowing into slits that could cut through metal, as he repeated in a threatening growl, "Who are you?"
"Ezra," Ezra informed stomping on the fear this man gave him as he quickly added, "Your new roommate."
Then Zeb was moving and it was equally parts terrifying and amazing that someone so large could be so quick.
His arms uncrossed and he leaned across the bed so they were nose to nose as the large man snarled, "I don't need a roommate."
"Too bad," Ezra spoke before he could consider his words too carefully, "because you're stuck with me until either Kanan or Hera tell me otherwise."
At least the names seemed to jolt some sense in the large brute.
Green eyes blinked in shock as some tension ebbed away from Zeb's broad shoulders causing him to slump backwards slightly as he pondered out loud, "Kanan and Hera gave you this room?"
"Kanan did," Ezra replied still unsure blue eyes narrowed distrustfully.
Zeb sighed, bowing his head as his arms seemed to quiver slightly. He looked about one second from snapping completely and it left Ezra feeling uneasy and slightly sick.
Ezra wasn't really a people person and he didn't do well when people started invading his space on a good day, but the past week he's had was awful and this man looked capable of breaking him in half. Lucky for him, though, Zeb must hold Kanan's decisions to some sort of degree as he backed off.
"Sorry. If Kanan gave you this room then it must be for good reason," he decided and Ezra watched perplexed.
It wasn't every day he got to see a hulk of a man back off because of another man's word. A man that appeared much slimmer and less threatening yet now that Ezra was thinking about it, it made sense. After all, Kanan appeared older and was probably the father of the house and what he said Zeb had to follow.
The door opened and a female several years older than Ezra strolled in holding some sort of tablet and hadn't appeared to notice either one of them.
"Hey Zeb, I need some help with-" she glanced up, caught sight of Ezra and frowned as she asked, "Who's your new friend?"
"Ezra Bridger," Ezra quickly introduced rising to his feet and sticking out an awkward hand in introduction; she didn't take it.
Instead she glanced over at Zeb for clarification and the large man grunted again before muttering briefly, "We're not friends, Sabine."
"Oh right," she replied unconvinced before violet eyes landed on the bed and they widened considerably as she asked, "Is he a new resident?"
Zeb didn't reply and Ezra figured he shouldn't have to explain himself to these people. After all, if they didn't want him then that was fine. He didn't want to be around them either but until he can figure out a way of escaping without landing him in prison then they were all stuck with each other.
"Have fun chatting," he grumbled suddenly moving past both of them and out the door; it hadn't even shut all the way before their voices floated out to him.
"He acts as bratty as he looks."
"Come on Zeb. He's just a kid…"
Ezra cringed at the word, hating how everyone seemed to just view him as soon burden of a kid. Useless and unworthy of their time and, deep down inside, Ezra knew these people were going to get rid of him at the first chance they had. They all do and he'd be back struggling to survive.
He had been so focused on his thoughts that he had missed Hera until he collided with her in the hall. They both stumbled back but Hera recovered quicker and reached out to steady him. Ezra shoved her away.
"I'm fine," Ezra grumbled looking away from those compassionate green eyes as he continued, "Sorry. I wasn't paying attention."
"Want to talk about it?" Hera prodded gently and Ezra shook his head.
She blinked in shock before warm understanding seemed to blossom over her face as she reassured, "Well I'll always be here if you ever decide differently."
"I won't," Ezra snapped a little too quickly as he went to shoulder past her; her hand on his shoulder forced him to a stop.
"Ezra," she tried but Ezra shrugged her off.
"I told you already. I'm fine," Ezra replied before going down the stairs where his stomach grumbled, reminding him just how hungry he was.
The kitchen, like everything in this house apparently, was small and plain and so simple it was useless, but Ezra easily found some bread that he could munch on before something moved behind him. Curious, he spun only to be surprised by the German Shepherd baring its teeth at him suspiciously.
"Whoa. Nice doggy," Ezra tried raising both hands up in surrender, slice of bread forgotten as he tried to figure a way to escape from the dog's distrustful gaze.
The dog's eyes just narrowed further as it hunched back, posed for attack. At the same time, Kanan strolled in the kitchen and Ezra probably would've laughed at the comical way his eyes grew if his situation hadn't been so dire.
"No Chopper!" Kanan snapped and the dog seemed to relax slightly as it turned its glare towards Kanan as the man snapped, "Bad boy. You should know better."
The dog relaxed then, grunting like it couldn't believe what it was hearing but Ezra was just thankful it no longer looked ready to rip his throat out. He could've done without the part amused part sympathetic look Kanan suddenly gave him though.
"You alright kid?" he asked, mouth twitching in the beginning stages of a smile.
Ezra crossed his arms and puffed out his chest as he huffed, "I'm fine."
As if on cue, his stomach grumbled loudly in protest reminding everyone in the room the reason Ezra ever entered this room to begin with. Ezra, not wanting to draw any more attention to himself then he already had, wrapped his arms over his stomach and prayed Kanan hadn't heard.
Of course, his prayers went unanswered.
He raised a triangular eyebrow as he asked mirthfully, "You hungry?"
There really was no sense of lying now so Ezra just nodded, dropping his gaze to the ground and- not for the first time since arriving- wished he could just rob these people blind and leave without a trace. They just so happened to own nothing of any value and Ezra wasn't allowed to leave. Not yet, anyways.
He sat at the kitchen table, watching with careful blue eyes as Kanan moved gracefully through the kitchen- pulling out plates and peanut butter and grape jelly and soon Ezra was eating his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich in over 7 years.
And they were as delicious as he remembered.
"Whoa. Slow down. Don't want to make yourself sick," Kanan chided as he gently eased the sandwich from his mouth and set a large glass of milk in front of him.
Ezra didn't reply. Just gave him a strange look as he slowed down and soon all the food was gone and Ezra felt better than he had in a long time.
"Thank you," he muttered as he rose from his seat to go back to his room.
Zeb and Sabine were gone but Ezra found he didn't mind all that much. He just went over to his bed and laid out on his stomach, hugging the pillow close. He hadn't even been here a whole day yet he felt comfortable. Safe and that was dangerous, he knew. Besides he really shouldn't get too comfy considering he wasn't planning on staying.
Yet something about these people (or, at least, Hera and Kanan) felt different. Good.
"Don't be stupid Ezra," he chided to himself softly as blue eyes clenched shut, "They're no different than any of the others and once they see you as a burden then back on the streets you go."