They spend two weeks in the Alliance infirmary on Yavin 4.
Chirrut wakes at the end of the fourth day, and the medical attendants aren't quick enough to stop him from stumbling out of his cot and nearly collapsing against the bed beside his, where Baze lies still and silent. Tubes and sensor pads mark his arms, his chest; an oxygen mask obscures half of his face. Chirrut runs stiff, newly-healed fingers along Baze’s brow, across the bristle of his shaved head—and stars, he’ll be cross about that when he wakes—down the tender crags of new scars, until they settle against the slow, solid thud of his pulse. He breathes out and drops to his knees at the bedside to pray.
The medics hesitate, uncertain, but after a few moments of breathless chanting, Chirrut falls silent. He finds Baze’s hand, presses a kiss into his palm, then braces himself against the bed to rise. Spell broken, the medics leap forward and gather him under each trembling arm, easing him back to his bed. Chirrut lies down and closes his eyes and releases a long breath, releases his anguish and his fear. He picks out the steady beep of Baze’s heart monitor and lets the sound fill his mind until the low murmur of activity in the medbay falls away.
All is as the Force wills it.
Baze wakes two days later, and the first thing he sees after his eyes clear is an unfamiliar healer leaning over him. Her uniform is crisp, her hands steady as she checks his wounds, adjusts the lines running to his arms. She meets his eyes, and he sees her mouth moving as she says something to him, but Baze doesn’t hear the words.
Chirrut is dead, he thinks, and nearly chokes as the sucking emptiness in his chest tightens his throat. He closes his eyes. Chirrut is dead.
The healer’s voice echoes in the roaring fog that fills his ears. “Sir? Can you hear me?”
The soft sound cuts through his consciousness, and Baze drags his eyes open, begins to struggle to sit up even as firm hands press him back down. He manages to turn his head and the sight that greets him floods him with a dizzying rush of relief. Chirrut, bandaged and bruised and wholly alive. Chirrut, sitting up in the bed next to him, standing to cross the distance between them even before Baze can lift his hand to reach for him. Their hands tangle and Chirrut kneels beside him, gently presses Baze’s hand to his chest. A choked sob rises in Baze’s throat and he clutches weakly at the thin robe Chirrut wears.
“Chirrut,” he rasps. It’s all he can manage.
Chirrut squeezes his hand and reaches up to stroke gently along his brow, mindful of the mask that continues to help him breathe through scorched lungs.
“Shh,” he murmurs. “I am here. We’re safe.”
His body aches powerfully, down to his bones, and his mind struggles to remember, to make sense. Baze takes in the bandages wrapped around Chirrut’s arm, the pink scars that cover half of his face, and remembers sand and fire and blood.
“You’re hurt,” he croaks.
A thin, gentle smile crosses Chirrut lips. “I’m healing,” he says. “So are you.”
Darkness creeps at the edges of Baze’s vision, and he fights it. Chirrut needs him. Chirrut is hurt. Their ship is a heap of melting slag. Their squad is scattered, picked off, dying in the sand and the sun, and they have to find the switch—
Chirrut leans over him, taking Baze’s face between his hands. He presses their foreheads together, and Baze closes his eyes, lets the force of Chirrut’s presence anchor him. The tension drains out of him, and Chirrut hums as his body sinks fully into the thin mattress.
“Rest, love,” Chirrut whispers. Baze feels the kiss against his brow like the touch of a cool breeze. “Rest. I’ll be here when you wake.”
They spend the next five days in the infirmary. Chirrut’s bandages are removed, his side and shoulder sore but nearly healed. His staff leans against the wall next to his bed, having been miraculously recovered in the chaos of their retreat from Scarif. A small token of mercy from the Force, Chirrut says. Baze can see the blast scarring that mars the staff’s twisted wood, a complement to the burn scars that are still faintly visible along the left side of Chirrut’s face.
Baze remains confined to his bed as the wounds to his chest slowly knit and his own burns are bathed in bacta. Someone locates a small stool, and Chirrut spends much of his days sitting at his side, whiling him with chatter and easing him with meditation in turns. Baze tires easily, they both do, and the long afternoons often find Chirrut climbing into Baze’s cot and curling loosely along his side to doze. The medics frown at that, but one look from Baze is all it takes to quell their fruitless protests.
News of their companions reaches them slowly. Jyn and Cassian, having succeeded in their mission to acquire the Death Star plans, have already departed Yavin 4—Cassian, to join the Rebel forces in scouting a new base and preparing for all-out war, and Jyn to parts unknown. Chirrut doesn’t imagine that they’ll see her again, doesn’t imagine that anyone will find her unless she wishes to be found, and he offers up a prayer for her safety and her spirit.
Bodhi is elsewhere on the base, recovering from injuries of his own. No one will tell them anything beyond that, which sparks Baze’s ire.
They are all sons of Jedha; they have no kin left but each other.
Alderaan is destroyed the same day they are released. They sit on the bed in the sparse quarters assigned to them, clinging to each other, grief welling between them and spilling over. Chirrut sits in the cradle between Baze’s legs, and Baze wraps his arms around him, willing himself to feel nothing but the steady thud of his heart.
Then the Death Star turns its eye on Yavin, and there is no time to run, no chance of escape, no hope remaining but for the wild bravery of pilots flying into the face of certain death.
They wait. They pray, together as they haven’t in so many years. Chirrut’s voice breaks as Baze’s deep, rumbling tones pour through him like water. He presses his hands to Baze’s chest, his face, mapping the decades of memories etched into his skin, secrets only he can know. Baze’s hands, large and rough and infinitely tender, are caught up in the front of Chirrut’s tunic, as if by the strength of his grip alone he can keep them here, keep them safe, together and whole. Let the whole galaxy be nothing but the space between them, in this moment, forever.
Screams rise suddenly and echo through the halls of the temple. Rebel soldiers thunder past their door, shouting and calling out to each other. Chirrut’s prayers die on his lips, and he raises his hands to cup Baze’s face and draw him close, until their foreheads rest against each other. Baze stares into Chirrut’s face, unwilling to look away, and he tries to empty his mind of everything but the feel of Chirrut against him. Blood rushes in his ears, like the indescribable sound of rending stone when the Holy City rose and blotted out the sun.
Then the shouting outside turns to whoops and cries, laughter ringing high and clear. Chirrut’s breath stutters in his chest.
“We did it!” Baze hears, over and over. He stares numbly into Chirrut’s pale eyes. “We did it! We did it!”
Chirrut’s trembling fingers brush across his lips, find his mouth hanging open. Baze’s breath comes tense and fast, gasps driven out of him by adrenaline and fear suddenly drowned by an all-encompassing relief. A laugh bubbles up from within him, unbidden, disbelieving. Chirrut grins, laughs, tears gathering on his lashes.
Baze wraps his arms around him in a crushing hug. Chirrut clutches tightly at his back, and Baze feels him shaking, feels the rapid beat of his heart. A sob tears from Baze’s chest. Chirrut clings tighter, cups the back of his head, and Baze, helpless to stop it, weeps against his shoulder.
Time passes—how much, Baze couldn’t say—and they lie against each other on the narrow bed, entwined in a gentle embrace. Chirrut’s hands trace up and down his back, soothing and hypnotic. The shouts outside their door have gone quiet, broken only occasionally as groups of revelers pass through the barracks.
Someone knocks frantically on their door, and Chirrut pulls out of his arms before Baze can stop him. He palms open the door to reveal Bodhi, wild-eyed and pale, and Chirrut draws him inside without a word, draws the shaking man into his arms. Bodhi returns the embrace as best he can with one arm in a brace strapped to his chest. His eyes meet Baze’s over Chirrut’s shoulder.
Bodhi, the pilot. Bodhi, the Imperial. Bodhi, the boy of Jedha whose courage saved countless lives.
Chirrut is whispering something to him in Jedhan, and Bodhi closes his eyes and nods. Scars too deep for bacta to erase carve across his face, from his hairline down along his neck, disappearing into the collar of his shirt. Sitting with his bare feet planted on the cold stone floor, Baze watches them and wonders how long it has been since anyone spoke to Bodhi in his native tongue.
“Go. Join the celebrations,” Chirrut tells him, drawing back and resting one hand lightly on his cheek. Bodhi looks imploringly between the two of them.
“You should come,” he says. “You were part of this too.”
“Celebration is for the young,” Baze says roughly. “Let the old men rest.”
Bodhi smiles at him, small and cautious. He looks to Chirrut, who nods and nudges him gently toward the door. The door hisses shut behind him, and they are alone once more.
Chirrut crosses the room until he reaches Baze, moving to stand between his open knees. He traces his fingers across the crown of his head, down his cheeks, cups his ears with a small grin, settles his hands on broad shoulders. Baze leans into his touch with a long sigh and presses his face into the warmth of Chirrut’s stomach. The thick, utilitarian fabric of the Alliance uniform feels wrong against his cheek, but this close his scent fills Baze’s senses, hidden under the lingering smell of soap and medicine. He wraps his arms around Chirrut’s waist and leans backward, pulling until Chirrut, laughing softly, plants his knees on the bed on either side of his hips and sinks into his lap. The metal bedframe squeaks as they settle.
A hand under his chin draws him up until his lips meet Chirrut’s in a kiss, long and easy and familiar. Chirrut winds his arms around his neck, bringing them closer, and a small ember of want glows in Baze’s chest. He shifts, turns, lets Chirrut push and maneuver them until he’s flat on his back with Chirrut lying against his chest and pressing kisses to the underside of his jaw.
The overhead lights are still on, casting their small room in a stark, glaring glow. Baze aches suddenly, in a way he hasn’t in years, for the room they shared in the temple, for the narrow window with it’s thick curtain, left open in the day to let in the light and the breeze and covered at night to keep out the chill. Chirrut had hung a chime from that window, and in the mornings it would wake them with its quiet music. He aches for the stone walls, hewn over centuries from the red cliffs of their little moon, the thin cushion laid out on the sleeping alcove that could barely fit the both of them.
Dust and ash and a crater, a great gaping wound that no amount of time or distance will close. Nothing else remains. Every hidden corner of the temple they had snuck off to for a stolen moment of youthful, enraptured intimacy. Every vendor in the market who had pushed an extra portion into his hands and asked only for a prayer in return. The scrawny flowering tree whose dropped petals Chirrut had loved to hold and rub between his fingers. The open courtyard where they’d said their vows, and the winding steps of the lower quarters, and his mother’s grave. Nothing of the Holy City left to linger, not even the dust in his hair or the dirt under his nails.
But Chirrut is here, and, Force save him, Baze is here too. And Bodhi, who is too young to have known Jedha as it once was, and Jyn, somewhere, with a piece of kyber bound close to her heart. They have lived, and the planet killer has been struck from the sky, and Baze’s grief can find some measure of grim relief at that.
Chirrut’s palm slides from where it rests over his heart to stroke across his beard and the turned-down edge of his lips. “Come back,” he whispers. “Come back to me.”
Baze draws in a deep breath and closes his eyes and lets the memories slide away. He presses a kiss to the pads of Chirrut’s fingers where they rest against his lips, then wraps his arms around Chirrut’s shoulders to hold him firm against his chest. Chirrut wriggles for a moment in his grasp, and Baze lets him go long enough for him to sit up and ease the tunic over his head, mindful of the lingering tenderness of his injuries. He tugs insistently at the hem of Baze’s shirt until he sits up with a grunt and raises his arms, letting Chirrut strip him down to his smalls.
Chirrut rises and feels along the wall until he reaches the door panel and flips the switch for the lights. The darkness is absolute in their windowless room, save for the sliver of light from under the door, and Baze blinks to allow his eyes to adjust.
He catches Chirrut’s hand as he makes his way back to the bed and pulls him down next to him. Chirrut fishes at the end of the bed and locates the thin blanket, shaking it out and settling it over them. He curls against Baze’s side with a sigh, his arm settled along Baze’s middle and one leg slung across his thigh.
“Rest, old man,” Chirrut murmurs, stretching up and placing a light kiss against Baze’s cheek. “There will be time enough to worry in the morning.”
Sleep comes to them slow and heavy as syrup. They breathe in tandem, letting their defences fall away, warm and safe and clean and healed. For several long minutes, Chirrut’s fingers stroke lightly against the skin under his palm, slowing and then going still as sleep rises up to claim him, like the lapping waves of a great ocean. Baze cups his hand over Chirrut’s where it rests against his stomach and stares at the stone ceiling until his eyes refuse to stay open. He slides easily, gently into a sleep that is deep and dark and dreamless.
The title is taken from a line in the second stanza of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems / You shall possess the good of the earth and sun (there are millions of suns left).
It's one of my faves, and I loved the idea of Baze and Chirrut having millions of suns left to spend together.
Okay so when I said I’d update every other week on Monday, what I really meant was every week on Sunday. Because a) life’s too short to wait two weeks between updates, and b) Sundays are easier for posting than Mondays. Enjoy!
The Rebels are leaving Yavin 4. The destruction of the Death Star has bought them some time, but the hammer of the Empire will soon fall, heavy and merciless. The Rebels begin to break down their base with military efficiency, and Baze and Chirrut, at loose ends, stay out of the way.
The question of what to do next hangs between them. Long and weary years have passed since the fall of the temple, since the scattered destruction of the devoted, but they had stayed on Jedha because neither could bear to leave. So many nights Baze spent lying awake, watching Chirrut sleep and barely suppressing the urge to wake him, to gather their belongings and make for the first ship that would take them somewhere, anywhere else. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He could not ask Chirrut to abandon the charge of Guardianship that he still clung to. He could not force himself to let this final piece of the man he used to be die along with the rest of him.
And so they had stayed, until the choice was taken from them. Then Chirrut had followed the call of Jyn’s bright, flaring destiny, and Baze, as had always been their way, had followed Chirrut.
Since his days as an acolyte, Baze has always had the patience of a stone. After spending most of his life at Chirrut’s side, he has learned to wait, to be the rooted tree while Chirrut searches through the eddies of the Force for an answer, a path. And so he waits.
They have no future set before them. They owe no debt to the Alliance, and their loyalties belong to none but each other. Wherever they go, they will go together; to Baze, little else matters.
The choice presents itself at the door of their quarters one evening soon after the Alliance’s victory. They are sharing their dinner away from the jostle and noise of the mess hall, sitting cross-legged on the bed with their knees bumping, when the buzzer on their door sounds.
Baze grunts, setting his bowl aside on the bed and rising to admit their visitor. He expects Bodhi—the young man has taken to seeking them out at odd hours—but is surprised to find Mon Mothma gazing at him in serene expectation.
“Master Malbus,” she says, “and Master Îmwe. I apologize for disturbing you, but I wished to speak with you both.”
He glances back at Chirrut, who has also set aside his dinner and sits with his hands folded in his lap, head titled to listen. Baze steps aside and gestures for her to enter. He takes up a post to the side of the narrow bed, crossing his arms and leaning back against the stone wall.
There is nowhere else in the cramped room besides the bed to sit, and so she stands, folding her hands and straightening her shoulders. “I didn’t have the chance to say when you arrived,” she says. “You have my deepest sympathies for the immeasurable loss of your home and your people. The Empire’s atrocities will not be forgotten. You have my word.”
A tightness rises in Baze’s throat, cuts out his voice, and he pushes down against the rage that flares hot in his chest. Platitudes and promises and the word of a politician—all more than meaningless in the face of Imperial ruthlessness.
In the absence of his response, Chirrut says, “Thank you.”
“Come to recruit us?” Baze asks, uninterested in meandering to the purpose of this visit. He does not for a moment believe the leader of the Rebellion has come to their quarters just to pay her respects to the last relics of a dead order.
Mon Mothma shakes her head. “I imagine you have both been considering your paths going forward,” she says. “I only wished to make you aware of all your options.”
Baze eyes her warily. “What sort of options?”
She spreads her hands. “The Alliance is in your debt,” she says. “Whatever you wish, if it is in our power to grant it. We would, of course, welcome your continued aid. Or we can provide you with a ship, or put you in contact with a safe planet for resettlement.”
Not to recruit them, then—to be rid of them. He glances at Chirrut, who twitches an eyebrow and tilts his head. Baze takes a breath to reply, but Chirrut speaks first.
“Resettlement?” he asks.
“Yes,” she nods. “The Alliance has established contact with some worlds outside of Imperial control. Over the years, it has at times been necessary to retire our operatives to these safe havens, to protect their lives and our secrets.” She glances between the two of them. “You would be provided with new documents, a new home. A clean start beyond the Empire’s reach.”
Baze snorts. “And how long do you imagine these worlds will stay beyond the Empire’s reach, if they’re harboring rebels and war criminals?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell the future, Master Malbus,” she says, smiling softly. “The planets that agree to help us do so at great risk, but theirs is the best sanctuary we can provide.”
Sanctuary. A word that had once evoked the great spires of the Temple of the Kyber, that had carried the force of law in NiJedha, now as empty and broken as the promises of revolution. The Empire had demonstrated their readiness to silence opposition by any means necessary. What corner of the galaxy could hope to remain a sanctuary against such poison?
In the silence that hangs thick in the room, Chirrut rests his hands on his knees, straightens his spine. He directs his sightless gaze at Mon Mothma, a well-practiced gesture Baze knows many find eerie and intimidating.
“Your offer is generous, and we thank you for it,” Chirrut says evenly. “May we have time to consider?” Baze frowns.
“Of course,” she says, smoothing her hands down her robes. “We expect to fully evacuate the base in the next week, but these quarters are yours so long as you are here. Please don’t hesitate to come to me directly for whatever you may require.”
She takes her leave, and before Baze can open his mouth, Chirrut raises a hand.
“Come with me,” he says, picking up his staff from where it rests by the door.
He leads them through the labyrinthine twists of the temple’s interior, passing through converted halls piled with supplies and equipment. They skirt the busiest centers of the base—the mess hall, the living quarters, the ever-bustling hangar bays—keeping to empty passages and near-deserted corridors. Chirrut leads them with confidence, his staff tapping and sweeping ahead of him.
They mount a narrow flight of stairs and emerge onto one of the temple’s upper tiers. The jungle pours out beyond them, misty and shrouded in the distance.
Chirrut steps carefully to the edge of the open platform and sits, his legs dangling. He pats the stone next to him and Baze settles with a grunt at his side. His cannon was lost on Scarif (or confiscated in the aftermath—he has yet to confirm which) and he feels lopsided without it, far too exposed in the tunic and pants provided by the Alliance.
Chirrut sits in silent contemplation for several moments, his face turned out toward the deep and ancient forest. A warm breeze, humid and fragrant, stirs across Baze’s shaved head. He rubs at the prickly fuzz, feeling out the edges of new scars along his scalp.
“We cannot refuse their help,” Chirrut says finally. “We have given aid to those in need in the past. Now we must accept that aid for ourselves.”
Baze grunts in acknowledgement. He’s not so prideful that he can’t see the foolishness in refusing the Rebels’ help. Much as his gut is insisting that they sneak away with the fastest ship they can find and hope the Alliance has the good grace to forget their faces. “I don’t know that I trust them.”
Chirrut’s lips twist in a bitter smile. “We are not overwhelmed with options.”
“We could take a ship, go somewhere. We have money.”
“Enough to keep us on our feet for a while.” Baze had made sure of that. Scraping what few credits he could manage into an offworld account, with enough stashed away for passage on a ship, for a roof over their heads. Enough to keep them alive should the worst come to pass.
Even after so many years under their oppression, he had underestimated the Empire’s ability to surpass all of his previous understanding of worst.
Slowly, Chirrut shakes his head. “And then what?” he asks. “I will not have you return to blood work to keep food in our bellies. Not when other choices are open to us.”
“Then you would rather we stay with the Rebels?”
His shoulders bow slightly as his sighs, and Baze can see the weight that seems to settle against his back, the tired turn of his mouth. “We are not soldiers, Baze,” he says after a moment. “This cause is just. And their will is true. But I do not believe that their path belongs to us.”
Anger and guilt stir in Baze’s chest. “What of the cause of Jedha?”
Chirrut reaches over and finds his hand. His palm is rough against Baze’s, his grip tight. “We will carry the cause of Jedha with us for the rest of our days,” he says, and his words thrum with a fierce, quiet urgency. “But if we allow ourselves to be guided by vengeance, there will be nothing left of us at the end of this fight. I don’t—”
His voice falters and he pauses, searching for the words. Baze squeezes the hand that rests in his, rubs his thumb across Chirrut’s knuckles, waiting.
He takes a steadying breath. “We followed Jyn to Scarif with no expectation of returning,” he says. “We followed that call willingly, and the Force chose to preserve us. But if we continue, this war will claim our lives. I am certain of it.”
Baze remembers the night they spent before the mission to Scarif. The way Chirrut had filled the tight, stricken air between them with prayer, quick and steady but edged with a franticness, a fear that tore at Baze’s already raw heart. A stone of certainty sat heavily in his gut, that this would be their last night. That wherever Chirrut’s feet were guiding them, they would be met with the end of their path. Baze had barely slept, barely let Chirrut out of his arms all night, building a mountain of strength around his heart to carry him through whatever was to come.
He cups Chirrut’s hand between his palms. A whole world, a whole lifetime between his hands. “You know I will follow you,” he says. “Wherever you go.”
Chirrut leans into him, resting his head briefly against Baze’s shoulder. “I know, my love. I will never doubt that.”
“Then what does the Force call you to do?”
He laughs, false and hollow and echoing with a pain that Baze aches to ease. “I don’t know that I can hear the Force over the call of my own heart.”
Even before his faith had crumbled, Chirrut’s heart had always meant far more to Baze than any will of the Force. So much has changed—everything has changed—but that devotion has always been the brightest star to guide his feet. “Your heart, then,” he murmurs. “What would your heart have us do?”
They pass a long moment in silence. There is a tightness in Chirrut’s face, a sorrow that marks his brow. Chirrut reaches for him, and the tips of his fingers trace gently along the line of Baze’s lips.
“My heart would have your smile again,” he says, taking in a strained breath. “And your laugh, and the lightening of your spirit. You have carried so much for so long.” He shakes his head helplessly. “I don’t know that I am strong enough to turn away from the chance to see you unburdened. And I do not… I do not believe the Force would give us this chance, only to demand that we refuse it.”
His hand comes to rest softly against the new, tender skin of Baze’s cheek. A tremor threads through his voice. “I have said goodbye to you once already, and I cannot—”
His words catch and his eyes shut tight, and Baze’s heart cracks open to see tears slip down his cheek.
“Chirrut.” All other words have fled him. He leans until their foreheads meet, turns to catch Chirrut’s lips in a chaste kiss, swallowing his quiet sigh.
When they draw apart, Chirrut whispers, soft and close, “What do you want, Baze? In your heart. What would you have us do?”
Baze’s breath leaves him in a long, shaken exhale. He leans into the palm that rests, so familiar, against his cheek. He stares into the face of the man he has sworn himself to, beyond their order, beyond their prayers and koans, beyond the fabric of the universe itself, and feels a deep weariness threaten to drag him under. So many desperate years they spent fighting to protect their home, their people, the sacred history of their temple. The Empire stole their lives away one day of suffering at a time. And now—what was left? What did they have left to give?
Everything gone, except this.
Baze covers Chirrut’s hand with his own, presses a reverent kiss into his palm, speaks from the deepest part of himself.
“I would have you safe and at peace again.” His voice is steady and low. “I would give you a home again. I would build you a home with my bare hands, if I had the chance. I would see you grow old with me. Older,” he amends, and Chirrut laughs on a soft, shaking breath.
The sun is beginning to set, the low clouds colored in pale pink and orange. Baze gazes out over the treetops gilded in gold and winds an arm around Chirrut’s waist, drawing him close. Chirrut leans heavily against him, and Baze takes his weight gladly. He has always taken this as his greatest, dearest responsibility, to be the solid pillar on which Chirrut could rest. Chirrut bore the weight of all of Jedha’s great miseries, carrying the faith and the flame while Baze stood as a bulwark against vicious winds, his feet sunk firmly into the sand and hardened clay. What a gift, to help carry his troubles. To share in his joys and his pains.
What he wouldn’t give, to see those burdens lifted.
He turns and presses a kiss to Chirrut’s temple, lingering in the simple pleasure of having him close. “You will always be my center,” Baze tells him quietly. “If we are being given this chance to find some measure of peace, after all we have endured… it is more than I would have imagined possible.”
“It is more than we deserve.” The emptiness of Chirrut’s voice pricks at his heart.
“We did nothing to deserve any of this. All we can do, all we have done, for years now, is try to survive it.”
A long silence overtakes them, and to Baze it feels as if they are standing on the edge of something. An open precipice, a long drop to an unknowable future. If this is what lives in Chirrut’s heart, then he needs no more convincing. And he knows Chirrut is right—even if they took a ship and struck out on their own, where would they go? Baze’s contacts beyond Jedha are not the welcoming sort, and their credits will only go so far. The galaxy has become an unkind place for the lost and the abandoned, if it was ever kind to begin with.
Whatever resettlement might entail, whatever end-of-the-galaxy planet they want to send them off to, the Rebels are offering to help them. It’s such a simple rarity that Baze can barely unbend far enough to see it for what it is: hope. A new start.
Chirrut stirs beside him, and as Baze watches, the pall begins to lift from his eyes. He tips his face back, catching the fading rays of sunlight as they trip down the dark, staggered stone.
“They might send us somewhere awful,” he remarks.
Baze ponders this. “They might. But nothing says we have to stay.”
Chirrut hums. “The Force is not finished with us,” he says. A declaration. A vow.
A smile quirks at the corner of Baze’s lips. “No,” he sighs, “I wouldn’t expect so.”
He goes on, leaning to bump his shoulder against Baze’s. “But we are not young men anymore. And we would be fools to decline an opportunity for a somewhat less… troubled middle age.”
Baze snorts. “A green pasture, then? To while away our remaining years?”
Chirrut smiles softly at the notion. “Doesn’t sound so bad.”
No. Not so bad at all.
“Then we go,” Baze says, and his voice echoes with finality, like the lingering peals of temple bells at dusk.
Something like relief ghosts across Chirrut’s face, and he closes his eyes. He bows his head and holds Baze’s hand in a tight grip. “We go.”
The Rebels are sending them to a planet called Byga. Small, inconsequential, largely isolated in a far-flung and sparsely-populated edge of the Mid-Rim. Far off the well-established hyperspace routes and lacking in any particular value to outside forces—no political gain, no strategic advantages, no natural resources tempting enough to entice the Empire through the long distance of empty space to claim them.
There will be no record of their time with the Alliance. No one who knew of the two Guardians still making trouble in NiJedha would have survived the Death Star’s destruction, and only a select few of the Rebellion know that they escaped the moon, that they were part of the raiding party on Scarif. Fewer still will know what is to become of them in the aftermath. By all official accounts, they will simply be another pair of refugees, two of the many pouring out from the wounds left by the Empire.
Once they relay their decision to Mon Mothma, the gears of the Alliance turn quickly. They will spend one more day on Yavin 4, allowing them a small window of time to arrange their affairs before the Rebels ferry them onwards the following morning.
The afternoon before their departure finds them wandering the halls of the rapidly-emptying base. Baze is attempting to sniff out a blaster to take with them, with little to show for his efforts—the majority of the Alliance’s supplies, including its armaments, have already been moved to the new base. But he isn’t about to journey halfway across the galaxy without a gun in his hand. Not with the Empire cracking down on any whisper of insurrection, lashing out like a wounded animal.
The call echoes down the long, empty hallway, and they turn to find Bodhi jogging up to them. His injured arm is out of the sling but still secured in a brace, and his gait reveals only the slightest hesitation of a limp.
“I’ve been looking for you,” he says, slightly out of breath. “I heard you were leaving.”
Chirrut wraps two hands around his staff and leans his weight against it. “Our path lies elsewhere,” he replies, offering Bodhi a small smile. “But we would not have left without saying goodbye.”
“And you, Bodhi Rook?” Baze crosses his arms and scrutinizes the young man before them. “What will you do, now that you are free of the Empire?”
“Fly for the Rebels,” he says at once, standing a little taller. “If they'll let me. But if not… whatever they need. I owe them my life.”
He looks between them. “That's why I wanted to find you, actually. I’ve not been cleared to join a squadron yet, but if you need a pilot… I’d like to take you wherever they’re sending you. If they haven’t already assigned someone, that is. I just. I’d like to do this for you.” He lifts his chin, and Baze sees a flash of pride cross his face. “It'd be my honor.”
Baze wants to laugh at the idea of the two of them being worthy of anyone’s honor, but he holds himself back and settles his hand heavily on Bodhi’s shoulder. “We could ask for none better.”
Bodhi’s face warms with a smile. “Good. Excellent. I’ll go talk to the crew and get everything settled. They’ve probably already assigned you a ship. Probably won’t be anything fancy—there aren’t many ships left to choose from, what with all the battles and the fleet moving to the new base. Tomorrow morning, yes? ”
Baze nods and says, “Tomorrow morning.”
As Bodhi departs in the direction of the command stations, Baze turns to see a shadow pass across Chirrut’s eyes. “What is it?” he asks.
Chirrut shakes his head with a small sigh. “I worry for him,” he says, quiet. “He has a good heart. Too good for all of this.”
Baze reaches out to thumb gently at his cheek. “I would tell him to come with us, if I thought for a moment he would listen.”
That brings out a smile, and Chirrut rests his hand on Baze’s wrist, giving him a quick squeeze. “He is stubborn and brave. Like someone else I know.”
“Stubborn and foolhardy,” Baze corrects. “Like someone I know.”
Chirrut tilts his face up, grinning now, and Baze indulges in the urge to lean down and plant a kiss on his lips, comfortable in privacy of the deserted corridor.
“Come,” he says, pulling away leading them further down the hall. “There must surely be a blaster somewhere on this base that no one will miss.”
That evening, a runner comes to their room with a datapad and a set of fabricated scandocs. If their ship is stopped before they reach Byga, they will need identification convincing enough to fool Imperial checks. If they are lucky (if the Force is with them), no one will be looking for them; if the Empire has their faces on record, no amount of documentation will save them, no matter how authentic.
The datapad contains a brief on Byga, reporting on the history of the planet and its people in dizzying detail. Baze scans the information, relating to Chirrut anything of note. No contact with Imperial forces. Neutrality during the Clone Wars, and no formalized allegiance to the Republic. A mostly human population and a pacifist government that had managed, by the grace of distance and a judicious commitment to isolation, to remain one step removed from intergalactic entanglements.
Baze cannot, in their present circumstances, conjure in his mind what it would be like to live in such a place. Even before it became a focal point of Imperial interests, Jedha had always, across the millennia, been intertwined in the movements of the wider galaxy. Set apart, to be sure, but always thick with seekers from a thousand distant worlds.
Jedha had seen more than its fair share of strife, always a little too poor, a little too rough. Its people were carved from rock, so their stories told, cleaved from the red stone and forever bound to it. When the Empire came and disrupted that fragile balance, the Holy City had spiralled out into a chaos that could not be overcome. After surviving nearly two decades under Imperial occupation and watching their home burnt to ashes before his eyes, Baze can hardly conceive of living in a world absent of those scars.
All he is concerned with is the distance from Imperial territories. If they are to leave this fight behind, let them put as many stars between them and the Empire as possible.
They pack their few belongings. The handful of trinkets that had been in the pockets of Baze’s flight suit when they had fled Jedha—a battered commlink, a small carved token in the shape of a coiled snake, a handful of the bronze knots that had still passed for currency in Jedha’s underground circles. Chirrut’s red sash, scorched and torn along one side, folded and tucked carefully in the bottom of his satchel. Clothes provided by the Alliance, serviceable and nondescript.
Chirrut’s starbird pendant rests against his chest, tucked under his grey tunic, and it makes something turn over in Baze’s stomach, to see him out of his Guardian robes. He had thought, on Jedha, that the Empire had stolen from them everything that mattered—their home, their family, their purpose. Yet even after tearing the ground out from beneath their feet, the Empire still finds these small pieces of their lives to chip off and turn to dust.
Dawn breaks across Yavin 4 with a heavy fog, shrouding the temple and softening the forest beyond. Baze and Chirrut wake early and prepare for their departure in a contemplative silence, moving around each other in their cramped room with practiced ease. They share a ration pack filled with nuts and dried fruit between them, then gather their things, slinging their packs over their shoulders and making their way to the hangar bay to meet Bodhi at the ship.
The halls of the base are silent and filled with shadow. They encounter no one as they wind through the temple, and the dark stone walls seem to creep ever closer as they walk. To Baze it feels as if they’re being watched, as if the temple is waking and reclaiming itself, something deep and dark stirring from within to push out the remnants of the intruders. Chirrut seems to feel it as well, drawing nearer as they move silently through the long corridors, their footsteps barely a whisper.
They step out into the fresh air of the hangar, and the humidity meets them in a wave. Baze takes in a deep breath and shakes off the gloom, glad to be out in the open air again. The sun is only just beginning to peak over the horizon, painting the fog in streaks of gold and green.
He spots Bodhi across the hangar, moving around a small, beat-up starship, and nudges Chirrut in his direction. As they approach he calls out, “Are you sure that thing will fly, pilot?”
Bodhi looks up from scrutinizing one of the dented outer panels with a grimace. “Here’s hoping,” he says, running his hand along the panel. “The flight crew told me this one is going to be decommissioned for parts once they move it to the new base. They said we could take it on one last ride.” He pats the hull. “It won’t be as quick of a journey as we might like, but it should get us there in one piece.”
“Have faith, Bodhi,” Chirrut says, reaching out to rest his palm against the hull. “The Force is with us.”
Bodhi and Baze share a look, and Baze rolls his eyes. Chirrut nudges him in the side with a sharp elbow. “I saw that.”
Bodhi smiles at them, then his eyes widen as they catch on something behind them. Baze turns to see Mon Mothma, resplendent as ever in her white robes, crossing the hangar toward them.
“Good morning,” she calls. “I trust the ship meets with your approval?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Bodhi says, straightening his spine. The smile she offers him is reserved, poised, but threaded through with warmth.
Mon Mothma turns to Chirrut and Baze. “I wanted to see you off,” she says, “and to again express the Alliance’s gratitude for your part in extracting the plans. Your sacrifices are far greater than anything we could ever hope to repay.”
Chirrut bows low, and Baze follows a moment later.
“May the Force be with you,” Chirrut says. “And all who follow you.”
Her eyes soften, and Baze can see, in that moment, a small glimpse at the weight that bears down on her, all the many lives she carries. She bows. “And with you.” Her voice is touched with a resounding sadness. “Go in peace, Master Guardians. I hope we will meet again.”
Chirrut hums and leans against his staff. “As the Force wills it.”
Mon Mothma inclines her head to Bodhi, who responds with a jerking nod, then turns and departs, disappearing once again into the halls of the temple.
They stand a moment, the only sound filling the morning air the echoing calls of the wild creatures in the jungle. Chirrut gives his staff two firm taps on the stone beneath their feet.
“No sense in delaying,” he says.
This seems to rouse Bodhi from his thoughts, and he gives himself a shake. “Right,” he says. “This way. Let’s get out of here.”
The ship’s interior is old, dated in a way that Baze finds oddly comforting. The lights flicker to life as they board, revealing two rows of flight seats, the upholstery faded and tatty. One narrow corridor leads to the cockpit, while another leads farther into the ship. Bodhi gestures as he moves toward the cockpit.
“Galley and fresher down that way,” he says, “with three cabins. I put my things in the one at the end of the hall. Come back up once you stow your packs and we’ll be ready to go.”
Baze leads them down the hall, pointing out the fresher to Chirrut as they pass. He opens the door to the first cabin, pleased to find a pair of well-equipped bunks that look worn but comfortable. They store their gear in the compartments set into the walls, then return to the front of the ship to join Bodhi in the cockpit.
Bodhi sits in the pilot’s seat, flipping switches and speaking into the headset to request clearance, smooth and confident once more behind the yoke of a starship, in spite of the hindered movement of his injured arm. A voice returns on the speakers, granting their request and wishing them a safe journey. Satisfied, Bodhi pulls off the headset and settles his hands on the controls.
He glances back at them and offers a sheepish smile. “You probably ought to strap in. The stabilizers on this thing aren’t exactly the latest model. This won’t be the smoothest take off I’ve ever executed.”
Not needing to be told twice, Baze and Chirrut find their flight seats and buckle themselves in, giving the straps a firm tug.
A nervous energy flutters in Baze’s stomach as they wait for Bodhi to run through the final checks. The upheaval of the past weeks rushes up on him, reminding him that not even a standard month has passed since they had woken up on the morning of the Holy City’s final day. It feels strangely as if he’s going home, as if he’s been offworld for a job and has booked passage back to Jedha, back to Chirrut and their small, familiar rooms. Back to the city he’ll never see again.
Chirrut, ever attuned to the silent shifts of Baze’s mood, taps him twice on the knee with two fingers. Baze nudges his foot in return, letting out a slow breath and settling back in the seat, willing the tension out of his shoulders.
“Ready?” Bodhi calls from the cockpit.
Baze looks to Chirrut, whose face has tightened a bit as the engines begin to whine in preparation. He had confessed a dislike for spaceflight, on the few occasions he’d been off Jedha, and Baze doesn’t imagine their tumultuous journeys over the past few weeks have helped to settle that discomfort.
“Ready?” he asks, quiet, only for Chirrut’s ears.
Chirrut takes a breath and closes his eyes, and Baze sees his thinned lips relax into a small smile. He nods, and Baze calls out, “Let’s go, pilot!”
The engines ignite with a reluctant groan, and Baze’s stomach drops a bit as they begin to rise. He can see through the narrow viewports as they rise through Yavin’s towering trees, until they clear the canopy and the view fills with open sky. The ship shudders and cants at an alarming angle as they move through the upper atmosphere, and Chirrut winces, sitting rigid in the flight seat. Baze reaches over to take his hand. Chirrut grips him with a grateful intensity and quietly takes up his chanting prayer.
The ship steadies as they leave the atmosphere, then the long, whining hum of the hyperdrive fills the cabin, the floor vibrating under their feet. Baze feels the tell-tale lurch as they make the jump, and then the movement of the ship eases. The light of passing stars streaks across the viewport.
Beside him, Chirrut lets out a gusty sigh. He gives Baze’s hand a squeeze then releases it with a pat of thanks. They unbuckle from the flight seats and Baze stands, glancing through the open door to the cockpit where Bodhi sits at the controls. The viewport at the front of the ship is a swirling mass of light.
No turning back now. The thought pricks at the back of Baze’s mind, an insistent itch that still struggles to accept that they can’t go home, that there is no ‘back’ to turn to. There is only forward, into a vast and unknowable future.
They are unmoored, and yet not. Lost, and yet not. Their world has collapsed down into the space of two of them standing beside each other, and yet it’s enough. As it always has been, as it always will be.
“When you married me,” Chirrut says, reaching out a hand for Baze to help him up, “did you ever imagine we would end up somewhere like this?”
Baze snorts. “I have done a great many things I never imagined doing, Chirrut.” He takes his hand and levers him out of the flight seat. “But knowing you as I do, I gave up trying to guess what foolish misadventures you would lead us on many years ago.”
Chirrut hums and lingers close, resting a hand on Baze’s chest. “It has always been my aim to make your life more interesting.”
This brings out a bark of laughter, and Chirrut’s eyes crinkle in satisfaction. “Well, you have certainly always managed that,” Baze says.
“And I thank the Force for it every day.” Baze’s heart beats under his palm, steady and strong. Chirrut lifts his face and doesn’t have to wait long for the small kiss that Baze brushes against his temple.
I keep forgetting to mention but I'm on tumblr at mysterybees.tumblr.com!
The journey to Byga will take most of three days, according to Bodhi, if the ship is able to maintain its speed. Stealth is the priority, and so he plots a course that will weave past Imperial checkpoints and allow them to reach their destination without attracting attention. He sets the ship’s chronos to Bygan time, shifting them from mid-morning to early afternoon, and settles into the cockpit to monitor their progress and ensure no vital pieces of their slightly-less-than-space-worthy vessel fall off along the way.
Nothing about space flight appeals to Chirrut—not the cramped quarters, or the recycled air, or the strange, disorienting movements of the ship combined with the ever-present hum of the engines. He roams the ship from end to end, exploring, opening doors and compartments, running his hand along the bulkhead. Baze, far more accustomed to the long stretches of boredom that accompany space travel, settles into a corner and lets Chirrut wind out his energy prowling around their small ship. There is little else to do, he knows, but to wait and rest, and he would like to draw Chirrut over to sit and keep company with him. But Chirrut needs to find his bearings more than he needs Baze’s fussing, and so he lets it be.
They skip lunch in deference to the time change, so that by the time evening comes their stomachs are beginning to growl. The ship’s galley is tiny but serviceable, and Baze breaks open a few ration packs and heats up their contents. It’s good food, he notes, better than he would have expected to stock a quasi-military vessel: sealed packs of fruit, soft rolls, an unfamiliar mash that wafts an appealing, savory scent through the galley. Bodhi wanders in from the cockpit, drawn by the smell of the food, and sits across from Chirrut at the table that folds out from the wall. Baze sets out their meals and squeezes onto the bench next to Chirrut. Hunger awakened, they all tuck into the simple fare with relish.
“It’s a shame we don’t have anything fresh on hand,” Chirrut says to Bodhi. “Baze is an excellent cook.”
“Which is lucky,” Baze adds, tearing off a piece of his roll, “because if I were not we surely would have starved to death by now.”
Chirrut waves him off. “I cook fine.”
“Tell that to the three iron pots you mangled on the few occasions you were given kitchen duties.”
“Those pots were in poor condition. I tested their durability and they failed to pass muster.”
Baze turns to Bodhi. “They were at least a century old and had survived all manner of trials, before meeting their untimely end under Chirrut’s hands.”
“Such nonsense you’re telling him.”
“Are you denying it? We had to leave the windows open for days to get the smell out. Toza and the Masters wouldn’t let you go near the kitchens for nearly a month.”
“And a terrible inconvenience that was,” Chirrut sighs, “seeing as I only asked for kitchen duties in the first place to spend a bit more time with the temple’s most admired baker.”
Baze’s cheeks heat very slightly and he bumps his shoulder into Chirrut’s with a low grumble. Chirrut sways into him with a grin, patting his thigh before returning to his meal. Bodhi covers his smile with a large bite out of his serving of fruit.
“Did you grow up in the city, Bodhi?” Chirrut asks. “Perhaps you enjoyed some of Baze’s sweet breads during the welcoming days.”
The Temple of the Whills held welcoming days several times a year, inviting the citizens and pilgrims of NiJedha to move freely through the temple and enjoy the hospitality of the monks, who spent the days serving meals and offering blessings and prayers. Swallowing, Bodhi nods and says, “When I was little, I did. My mother moved us out of the city a few years after the occupation started. Too dangerous, she said. Too many people getting desperate. But we got stuck out in one of the villages in the southern provinces.”
He looks down, picking at his food. “Mum got sick and… we didn’t have enough money to get back to the city, or to get a healer out to the village. Not with medicine as scarce as it was.”
Baze gazes steadily at him from across the table, and Bodhi shifts under his silent scrutiny, his grip tightening around his fork. “She, uh. She died about a year after that. A few months after I turned sixteen.”
The air in the ship seems to tighten. The silence that rises up between them echoes with loss, immeasurable and constant and numbing in its enormity. So many Jedhans had carried stories like Bodhi’s, and Baze is yanked back into the years that had followed their expulsion from the temple, all their fruitless efforts to provide what little help they could to their wasting city. Grief sits beside them at the table, an unwanted guest, and the moment of uncomplicated remembrance slips away.
Chirrut rests a hand in the center of the table, palm open in invitation. “I am sorry, Bodhi.”
Baze watches the hesitation cross Bodhi’s face. Then he reaches out and sets his hand in Chirrut’s. “Thank you.”
Chirrut gives his hand a small squeeze and then releases him.
They pass the rest of their meal quietly, trading occasional comments between them and allowing the sorrow to dissipate. Tension slowly eases out of Bodhi’s shoulders as the conversation meanders, so that by the time they’ve finished eating he appears, if not at ease, at least less on edge.
Soon after, Baze and Chirrut retire to their cabin while Bodhi slips away to the cockpit. Chirrut goes first to the fresher, and Baze takes the opportunity to unpack their things and take stock of the cabin, compact but cozy. He pulls out the small blaster pistol he managed to acquire and stows it in the recessed alcove above the bunk—it would be next to useless in any true firefight, but it’s better than nothing at all.
When Baze returns from his turn in the refresher, he finds Chirrut sitting cross-legged on one of the bunks, his eyes closed and his palms resting lightly on his knees. He’s changed into his sleep clothes, and Baze follows suit, quietly, giving Chirrut space and a small degree of privacy to finish his evening meditations. He puts away his clothes and tucks his boots under the bunk, then flicks off the main light, leaving only a small personal light above one bunk to illuminate the cabin in a faint orange glow.
Baze stretches out on the bed with a sigh, more tired than he would have expected after a shortened day spent cooped up on a starship. From across the narrow space between the bunks, he hears Chirrut take in a deep breath. Baze watches as he stretches, reaching up with his laced hands and then rotating his shoulders and rolling his neck in a slow circle. The movements are measured, careful, without the full range of motion Chirrut is accustomed to, and Baze wonders how much of it is the result of his injuries and how much is the simple creep of age.
As if hearing the thought, Chirrut climbs nimbly off the bed and stretches high in the space between the bunks before bending and wrapping his hands around his ankles. When he straightens with a little sigh of satisfaction, Baze asks, “Feel better?”
“Yes.” Chirrut plucks the pillow off the second bunk and drops it on the bed in the direction of Baze’s voice, landing it half over his face. Snorting, Baze pushes the pillow off and then shifts back against the wall, making room. Chirrut pulls the blanket back and slips into the bed, wriggling down until he’s tucked up even with Baze. In the low light of the cabin his face is cast in deep shadow, sharpening the angles of his features.
It’s a tight fit on the narrow bunk, but Baze rests a hand heavily on Chirrut’s waist and caresses up his side, feeling the nobbly pilling of the old blanket under his palm. He lifts the starbird pendant from where it rests against Chirrut’s chest and runs his thumb along the edge. The pendant is heavy and smooth, warmed by his skin. “The Rebels have taken the starbird as their symbol. Did I tell you?”
Chirrut hums. “No, you didn’t.”
“The pilots mark their helmets with them. They stitch them onto their uniforms.”
Chirrut closes his eyes, tilts his head back with a smile. “The Force is with them.”
Baze makes a face that Chirrut cannot see, but his displeasure is easy to feel. “They had better hope so. They will need more than the Force and one farmer boy to bring an end to the Empire.”
They hadn't had the opportunity to meet Luke Skywalker. Not before he was rushed off the base, smuggled away before the Empire could retaliate and bring a swift and violent end to this sudden reemergence of the Jedi. Rumors had swirled around the base of a second Jedi, an old Master of the temple on Coruscant. They claimed he was killed, struck down by Vader during the rescue mission.
It was not the first time, in the years since the purge, that they had known of a surviving Jedi extinguished by the Empire. The loss was less of a shock and more a deep, time-wearied resignation.
Chirrut prods him in the stomach. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
He draws in a deep breath. “I am wondering where this boy came from. I am wondering who has been teaching him, and what he knows.”
“He is powerful,” Chirrut says. “And he carries the hopes of the galaxy on his shoulders. He will need guidance. He will need to learn our histories, and learn to understand the call of the Force.”
“I don’t know how much time he’s going to have for philosophy,” Baze says, grim. “He’ll be be too busy fighting the Rebellion’s war for them.”
“He will need guidance,” Chirrut maintains. “And we might be two of the only beings left in the galaxy to give it to him. Whenever he is ready to seek it.”
“You might be, you mean. He won’t have much use for me.”
Chirrut shakes his head, the old argument bubbling up again. “You and I learned from the same Masters. We studied and trained and devoted ourselves to the same teachings.” His tone sharpens. “That history lives in me, and it lives in you too, Baze Malbus. And it will take both of us to preserve it.”
Too close to sleep to be drawn into a snipe, Baze lets the comment rest. He finds Chirrut’s hand and laces their fingers. “Perhaps you are right,” he concedes. “After all, you never were very good at reciting the precepts.”
Chirrut clucks his tongue, a smile twitching at the corner of his lips. “You were a distracting influence. That’s hardly my fault.”
“Of course. My mistake.”
“And perhaps we’re not the last,” Chirrut goes on. “Others left Jedha long before we did—Rya, and Lucan, and Master Lo. Perhaps we will find them.”
In spite of himself, Baze huffs a laugh. “I will never understand how you do that.”
“We are half a galaxy away from Jedha,” he continues. “We have no idea who of the temple might still be alive, and if any Guardians have survived, they could be anywhere in the wide galaxy. And yet you say, ‘Perhaps we will find them.’”
“Perhaps we will,” Chirrut insists.
He lifts Chirrut’s hand and presses a kiss to the back of it. “In a thousand years, I could not find the faith that you carry so easily.”
Chirrut’s face softens, and he leans forward to return the kiss, gentle against Baze’s lips. “Not so easy,” he sighs. “Not without you beside me.”
The disagreement fades as quickly as it appeared, and a comfortable silence unspools between them. Baze settles deeper into the blankets, closing his eyes as Chirrut draws closer, their hands loosely tangled between them. He’s drifting, beginning to fade, when Chirrut speaks.
“Tell me about this house you’re going to build for me,” he murmurs, stroking idly along Baze’s fingers.
“You said you would build me a house, when we were on Yavin. Tell me about it.”
Baze lips quirk. He shifts onto his back and pulls Chirrut flush against him, settling their joined hands on his stomach. With his free hand, he reaches up to flip the switch for the light above them. The cabin falls into a comfortable, enveloping darkness.
“Well,” he begins, “as you know, I am a master craftsman.”
“Mm. I’ve heard that about you.”
“So it will be a big house. Not too big, we don’t want you getting lost.” Chirrut flicks his hand. “But big enough. With lots of windows. A nice big kitchen. And a room for us to spar, so we don’t get fat in our idleness.”
In the darkness, Baze can just see the flash of Chirrut’s teeth as he grins. “Will we have a big bed, to go in our big house?”
“Oh, certainly. There will be a whole room with a bed that goes from one wall to the next. Piled up with the softest blankets we can find, to satisfy your indecent decadency.”
Chirrut hums with sly intent. “You are the only indecent thing I need in my bed.”
Baze lets out a snorting laugh, and Chirrut grins against his shoulder. “Is that so?”
“It is.” He lifts their joined hands and ticks off on Baze’s fingers. “A big bed, a big kitchen, lots of windows. I’d like us to have a garden, too. Somewhere for you to grow things. I know how you miss it.”
“I do,” he admits quietly. Tending the Temple gardens, coaxing life out of the cold, packed soil of their little moon, had been one of his greatest joys in their former life. It’s an older wound, long scarred over, and the pang that accompanies the memory is not as sharp as it once was.
“Are there oceans on Byga?”
Baze tries to recall the images of the planet from the datafiles the Rebels gave them. “I think so.”
“We should visit them. I want to put my feet in an ocean,” Chirrut sighs, and his breath tickles against Baze’s neck. “And sit on a beach where no one is shooting at us.”
Baze chuckles. “It would be a nice change of pace.”
Levering himself up on one elbow, Chirrut leans over Baze and kisses him, long and sweet. He leans back for a breath and then kisses him again, dots small kisses at the corner of his mouth, on the crest of his cheek, across his brow. “I love you.”
Baze takes his face in both hands to catch his mouth again, and Chirrut melts against him, a pleasing weight against his chest. “I love you too.” His voice is a low rumble that Chirrut can feel down to the ends of his toes.
They settle against each other once more, and Baze closes his eyes to soak in the simple feeling of Chirrut, warm at his side and softened by sleep. This is familiar—as far away from all that was once familiar as they have ever been, this, their joined hands, the untroubled quiet, makes it easier to set aside the worry and be present in this moment. Baze thinks of that, focuses on the man beside him, and lets the rest fall away.
Chirrut stirs awake only a few hours after they fall asleep. The lack of sound and stimulus on board the ship disrupts his sense of time, and he lies awake for nearly an hour, listening to the even pace of Baze’s breathing and willing it to draw him back into sleep.
The slight rasp of a snore tickles past his ear, and Chirrut’s lips twitch in a smile. Baze has never been much of a snorer, but he’s finding that that’s beginning to change as he ages. It’s not enough to wake him, but sometimes, on a night like this one when he’s awake and Baze is in a deep sleep, he’ll curl up close and listen to the quiet rumble. It’s a strange thing to find so charming, he supposes, but he’s grateful for every little change that marks the passing of their years together.
Giving up on falling back asleep, Chirrut eases himself out from under the arm that rests along his waist. Baze shifts, heavy and loose-limbed, but he sleeps on, more than accustomed to Chirrut’s often-restless presence in their bed. He leaves behind his staff, of little use in the ship’s narrow corridors, and slips out of the cabin.
The ship is quiet with a midnight hush, but Chirrut slowly makes his way to the cockpit, following a little nudge in the back of his mind. He keeps one hand trailing along the bulkhead, moving carefully through the galley, past the row of flight seats, and stopping at the closed door to the cockpit. He gives two quiet knocks to announce his presence before feeling along the wall to find the access panel.
“Oh,” Bodhi says as the door slides open, and Chirrut smiles in greeting. “Hi. I thought you were asleep.”
“Sleep and I have never been the best of bedfellows,” Chirrut says. “Do you mind if I join you for a bit?”
“Oh, uh, no, of course not. Just, um. The copilot’s seat is just in front of you, about four steps.”
“Thank you.” He puts out a hand and finds the seat, turning it slighting in Bodhi’s direction. “I had thought you would be asleep as well.”
“Couldn’t sleep either. Too much. Buzzing around up here.” Bodhi hesitates over his words, and the worn leather of the pilot’s seat creaks as he shifts. “Actually, I was thinking about. After you were talking about the welcoming days at the temple… the Dwashan festival is coming up. In a couple weeks.”
Chirrut hadn’t realized. The passage of time has seemed distant and distorted since their flight from Jedha, at once racing past in a whirl of chaos and slowing, stretching into a disorienting series of indistinguishable days. Jedha was home to dozens of festivals and ritual celebrations, some native to the moon and others carried in by its many pilgrims and seekers. Dwashan came every summer, after the rainy season passed and left their moon, for a brief time, blooming and bright. It had been nearly two decades since the colorful flags of the festival were raised over the city’s crowded central thoroughfare.
“Did you ever perform in the demonstrations?” Bodhi asks. “I thought maybe I remembered you, but… everything is still a little. Twisted up.”
“I did, several years,” Chirrut says, smiling faintly. Dwashan had drawn together many of the Holy City’s larger temples, with the Guardians of the Whills offering a demonstration of their finest warriors in the city square.
He remembers moving as one with his brothers and sisters of the temple. He remembers the calls and cheers of the admiring crowd. He remembers feeling Baze’s eyes on him, hearing his joyful laugh as Chirrut leapt higher, spun faster.
He shakes his head to dispel the memory. “I am surprised you would remember that. You must have been very young when the festival was last held.”
“I was. But my birthday always fell during the festival week. When I was a kid, it felt like the whole thing was for me.” He gives a rueful laugh. “Mum always said the whole city wanted to help us celebrate. We never had much, so that… it meant a lot to me.”
“That’s quite a blessing, to be born during Dwashan. Your family must have been proud.”
“I think they were. Mum always told me they were, anyway. We didn’t see much of them after we moved to the provinces. And after Mum died and I… enlisted, well. They didn’t want anything to do with me.”
Bodhi takes a shaking breath. “I keep—” he starts, and then stops again, the words caught up somewhere in the tangle of his thoughts. Chirrut waits, lets him dig up the courage he needs to continue.
“It hits me at the strangest moments,” he says, quietly, halting. “That as far as I know, all of them are dead. The last I knew, they were all living in the city. They would have been there that day.”
Bodhi takes a breath that rattles at the edges, then goes on in a rush. “And it hits me, and… it hurts, and I’m sad and angry, but it feels like. Like I’m not sad enough. Like this is all happening to someone else, and I’m just watching it all play out. And I want to feel sad, I want to mourn for them like they deserve, but I just feel. Empty.”
And Chirrut thinks of Baze. And the hollow, terrible silence that had consumed him after the final sacking of the temple, after they had burned the bodies of the last, fallen Guardians. And the weeks and weeks that had passed with barely a word, as Baze tried to bury himself down into Jedha’s cold and unyielding stone. And how Chirrut, aching and sick with fear, had filled the silence with prayer, building it up layer upon layer, trying to build a ladder for Baze to climb back out with.
And he had climbed out, in the end, but not with prayer. Baze built his ladder out of armour and rage and a relentless will to survive, to keep the two of them alive. And Chirrut prayed still, for the open heart that he could still feel beating in Baze’s chest.
“Grief comes to us all in different ways,” he says, low and gentle. He tilts his head in Bodhi’s direction. “But you will stand in their memory, and your mother’s memory, and be a testament to them.”
Bodhi is silent a long moment. “I’m going to try to be.”
“That is what matters most. And Baze and I are with you, and you will find companions with the Rebellion. Lean on us, and on them.” He reaches out and finds Bodhi’s arm, gives him a firm squeeze. “You are not alone.”
Silence falls between them, and Chirrut is content to sit, closing his eyes and resting his head against the back of the seat. The Force moves around Bodhi in a slow and hesitant whirl, bright in places and thick, murky in others. There is a darkness that waits at the edges, insidious and eager for an opportunity to slip through and choke out the light with distrust, anger, vengeance. But Bodhi is stronger than that, Chirrut thinks, though he does not yet realize it. He is young yet, and in growth and healing there is no substitute for time.
Even now, the darkness is dissipating, fading like a fog in sunlight as Bodhi’s pain and confusion ebbs. The eddies of the Force clear and smooth around him, and Chirrut is grateful for the opportunity to sit with him, speak with him, give him this small outlet for his troubles.
Yes, time, and a purpose, and friends to share himself with. Bodhi will find his way.
“Do you mind if I ask,” Bodhi hedges, and Chirrut quirks a brow to show he’s listening, “how long have you and Baze known each other?”
Warmth blooms over Chirrut’s face as he smiles. “Oh my, quite a long time now. For most of our lives. He came to the temple a few years after I did, and it wasn’t long before we were inseparable.” He casts a conspiratorial look in Bodhi’s direction. “That is, after he forgave me for getting him into trouble with the Masters in his first week—I convinced him to climb the outer wall with me.”
Bodhi laughs, and he wishes Baze were here to roll his eyes and grumble with embarrassed affection as Chirrut spins tales about the two of them.
“The Masters could see what was between us,” he says. “Far sooner than we did ourselves, Force save us. We were married when we took our vows as Guardians, and that was… well, I imagine you weren’t yet born, by at least a year or two.”
“I didn’t think monks could get married,” Bodhi says, and Chirrut can hear the smile, the soft tease in his voice.
Chirrut grins crookedly. “The Whills were never so strict as people liked to imagine. Baze and I were the only married pair in the temple during our time there, but generations of Guardians in the past knew many like us.”
Then Chirrut angles his head slightly. “Speaking of which.” Moments later, the door to the cockpit opens with a hiss.
“There you are.”
“Here I am,” Chirrut says, turning his head to smile at Baze as he steps up behind him and rests a warm palm along the nape of his neck.
“Bothering our pilot?”
“Escaping your snoring. How is a man to sleep when you put up such a racket?”
Baze sighs, put upon and so endearingly familiar that it makes Chirrut’s heart leap. Baze draws him away with a gentle press to his shoulder and says, “Come. Let the boy fly the ship.”
He levels a stern look in Bodhi’s direction. “Or better yet,” he says, “come and sleep yourself. We would rather you didn’t fly us into any moons because you couldn’t see straight.”
Bodhi smiles. “I’ll be back in a bit. We’re about to move off the hyperlane, I just want to keep an eye on the navigation.”
As Chirrut rises, he reaches out to squeeze Bodhi’s shoulder. “Thank you for allowing an old man to trouble you, Bodhi. Remember what I said.”
He feels the shift of Bodhi’s nod. “I will.”
They leave, the door to the cockpit hissing shut behind them, and Chirrut places a hand on Baze’s arm to stop him. He reaches up to cup Baze’s sleep-warm face between his hands, runs his thumbs over his cheeks, feels the edge of the scar near his eye and the prickle of his shorn hair under his fingers. He closes his eyes and remembers.
A young man stands in Chirrut’s memory, tall and proud, newly swathed in the red sash of Guardianship, his heart beating with faith and his eyes spilling over with love. Strong hands, gentle hands, holding firm to his own, vowing his protection, his service, his unwavering dedication. Vowing this to the temple, and to the people of Jedha, and to the Whills, and to Chirrut. The tree in the courtyard was in bloom, dropping delicate petals and filling the air with a heady scent that Chirrut swears he would recognize, even now, in the midst of a sea of blossoms.
The robes are gone. The temple is gone. The tree is gone. But here is Baze.
Baze rests a hand on Chirrut’s wrist, lightly, asking without words.
Chirrut shakes his head, laughing a bit at his own wistful wanderings. “Nothing,” he says, and then nudges Baze forward again, back to the cabin and back to bed.
The remainder of their voyage passes quietly. Bodhi spends most of the long, monotonous hours in the cockpit, monitoring the ship’s sensors and keeping a keen eye out for any sign of Imperial ships. They’ve moved off the heavily-travelled hyperspace lanes into a deeper and less dense region of the Mid Rim. One small ship skirting through the edges of charted space shouldn’t attract any notice, but Bodhi knows it only takes one moment of bad luck to bring their journey to an abrupt end.
The afternoon of the second day finds Baze and Chirrut sitting across from each other at the table in the galley. The guts of Chirrut’s echo-box are spread out over the table for Baze to carefully catalog and clean, a small toolkit at his elbow. The damage from the battle is less severe than he had feared, but the sensors are jogged, some of the circuitry is fried, and the outer casing is scored with blaster fire. With a little ingenuity, he might be able to get it somewhat functional again.
Chirrut focuses on the small sounds of Baze at work, the little mutters and clattering of tools, in the hopes of keeping his fingers from drumming absently on the table. Stillness of mind and body had been hard-won in his younger days, the result of many hours spent in meditation and many more spent working himself to exhaustion on the sparring mats. But even now, that slow-winding coil of energy occasionally catches up to him. Baze taps easily into a great well of stillness, content to sit for hours in study or to busy his hands with steady work. For Chirrut, it has always been a matter of overwhelming his senses, drowning out the static crackling under his skin to reach a calm center. It was a lucky thing that Baze was so readily engrossed, or Chirrut would have driven him mad years ago.
Some time later, Baze gives a small sigh of frustration.
“We’ll need to find a new sensor,” he says. “The circuitry is simple enough, but it won’t do you much good if the sensor won’t calibrate.”
Chirrut reaches out to heft the half-assembled echo-box in his hand. “I’m sure we will find something useful once we reach Byga. In the meantime, you’ll have to tolerate being my eyes a little while longer.”
He doesn’t laugh or rise to the bait of a joke, as Chirrut would have expected. Instead Baze is quiet a moment, tinkering with the part in his hands.
“Perhaps on Byga we could find you something new,” Baze says in a tone of affected nonchalance. “Something that has all of its original parts, at least.”
Baze has never been a particularly good bluff, and Chirrut hears through the offhand tone to the cautious bud of hope underneath. They know little about this world that is to become their new home, but it’s difficult to suppress the small hook of wary optimism that digs in under his breastbone.
They have spent nearly half their lives living in the center of a disputed territory, and the Empire’s occupation had disrupted every small facet of life on an already hard-pressed world. Water was scarce; food was scarce; medicine was scarce. Fuel was rationed, and equipment soon became worn and outdated. It was easy to forget that a planet like Byga could still exist, spinning peacefully on its axis and far from the deprivation and suffering of war.
Perhaps they will find Chirrut a new echo-box, or a newer, more modern piece of assistive equipment. Perhaps Baze will leave their home without plates of armour and a blaster at the ready. Perhaps they will meet friends and neighbors whose families are intact, whose children will have a future.
It’s a lot to hope for. And Chirrut, for his part, would rather trust in the Force than dwell in possibilities.
“I think I would miss it,” he says lightly, returning the echo-box to Baze. “I’ve grown rather fond of that buzzing sound it makes every time I get too close to something with a transmitter.”
Baze does let out snort at that, and Chirrut’s lips twitch in a small smile. “Well, if we do find something new, I’m sure you will manage to break it quick enough that we could replicate that effect, if it’s so important to you.”
Chirrut hums placidly, stretching out his legs and knocking their feet together under the table.
In the early afternoon of the third day, Bodhi brings them out of hyperspace. Baze and Chirrut hover behind him in the cockpit, and as the streaking stars settle Baze peers over his shoulder and out the viewport.
Byga hangs suspended in the absolute blackness of space, a perfect gemstone of blue and green and white. Chirrut’s hand finds Baze’s arm and he urges, “Tell me.”
“Blue,” Baze says, his eyes fixed on the planet looming closer in their viewport. From the corner of his eye he sees Bodhi, hands steady on the controls, glance over at them and smile. “And green, but not so green as Yavin.”
There’s a teasing quirk to Chirrut’s brow. “Oceans?”
Baze huffs a laugh, leaning closer briefly to press their shoulders together. “Yes,” he says. “Plenty of oceans.”
As Bodhi guides them into orbit, the comms crackle to life, bringing a tinny voice into the cockpit requesting landing credentials. Bodhi feeds the information provided by the Alliance into the transmitter, and a moment later the voice welcomes them to Byga and directs them to their landing sector.
A small clench of worry he hadn’t realized was there releases in Baze’s chest. Chirrut gives his arm a squeeze.
They were told upon their departure from Yavin 4 that they would be met in the spaceport when they arrived. Few other details were provided to protect the Alliance’s contacts on Byga, but whoever they’re meeting will know they were associated with the Rebellion and will, Baze assumes, take them onward—to where, he doesn’t know. Baze attempts to tamp down his unease at placing so much trust in the hands of so many strangers.
At Bodhi’s warning, they move back into the passenger compartment and buckle themselves into the flight seats. The ship rattles as they move through the atmosphere, until the small viewports along the hull are obscured by clouds. Baze feels the tilt of the ship as Bodhi directs them toward their destination, and he resists the temptation to lean against the harness to catch a glimpse through the viewport in the cockpit; they’ll be on the ground soon enough. Beside him, Chirrut has his eyes closed and his head tilted back against the seat, a picture of peace and patience, though Baze can see the tightness in his hands where he grips the straps on his harness.
There is a sudden bump, followed by a series of hissing valves and creaking joints as the ship settles in a firm landing.
As Chirrut slowly unbuckles himself, Baze steps around him to fetch their things from the cabin. Everything has been repacked in their satchels—with the exception of the blaster. The brief provided by the Alliance had included a note that civilians on Byga were not permitted to carry blast weapons. If they are searched when they arrive, Baze can’t imagine that finding an illegal weapon in their possession would do much to endear them to their hosts. He turns it over in his hands for a long moment before returning to the front of the ship.
Chirrut is waiting for him, staff in hand, and accepts the pack Baze passes to him. Silently, Chirrut reaches out and rests a hand lightly on Baze’s wrist, touches a finger to the edge of the blaster. Baze grunts, a small acknowledgement, and Chirrut nods, letting his hand slip away.
Bodhi steps out of the cockpit and looks between them, suddenly full of a fidgeting nervousness. “Ready?” he asks.
“Almost.” Baze steps forward and holds the blaster pistol out to him. Bodhi’s brow furrows.
“Don’t you want to…?” he says, but Baze shakes his head.
“We can’t bring it with us. And you will need it more.”
Slowly, Bodhi reaches out to accept the weapon. He hefts it in his hands for a moment, then looks up at Baze with doubtful eyes. “I’m not much of a shot.”
Baze reaches for the blaster and guides Bodhi’s fingers. “Safety. Trigger. Power.” He rests a hand on Bodhi’s shoulder and leans close. “Never point it at anything you are not prepared to shoot.”
He nods, solemn, taking the blaster in a cautious grip and then hooking it onto his belt. “Thank you.”
When Bodhi lowers the boarding ramp, Baze squints into the dazzling sunlight that fills the ship. Fresh, cool air rushes into the compartment, and as his eyes adjust he takes in the sleepy spaceport around them, the blue skies overhead dotted with wisps of clouds. Theirs is one of the only ships on the landing pad, and as they step out he can see that the spaceport is nearly empty. Chirrut steps off the ramp beside him, his staff held out loosely in front of him. On the far end of the landing pad, he spots a tall, broad-shouldered human woman in a loose-fitted dress, walking with purpose in their direction and carrying a leather case in her hands.
Bodhi stands halfway up the ramp, looking on with hesitation, and a pang beats through Baze’s heart to see him there, looking a bit lost and entirely too young. They’d had so little time to come to know this young man of Jedha, so little time to pass the memories between them and lighten the burden of grief that sits heavily on all of their shoulders. And now, Baze fears, war will take Bodhi into its maw and reforge him into something harder, something unrecognizable. A man without his quiet smile, without the warmth in his eyes.
Now, those eyes look past them with a small frown creasing his brow.
“That must be your contact,” Bodhi says. “I should go. They told me not to stay too long.”
Chirrut turns in his direction, beckoning him forward and passing his staff to Baze. Bodhi steps down the ramp to stand in front him, and Chirrut reaches out, finding his shoulders and then taking Bodhi’s face between his hands.
“You are brave and good, Bodhi Rook,” he says sternly. “And in one year’s time, you will return here and visit us, and we will celebrate Dwashan.”
Bodhi’s face crumples slightly, and he presses his lips together. “Okay,” he whispers.
With a decisive nod, Chirrut draws him close into a hug and holds him there for a long, heavy moment. Bodhi’s arms come around Chirrut’s back, and his hands clutch at his tunic.
Baze moves forward as they part and Chirrut silently takes back his staff, freeing Baze’s hands to wrap Bodhi up his arms. He feels the tremor in his slight frame and holds him tight, willing him all the strength and courage that he will need to survive whatever is to come. He pulls away and rests a hand on Bodhi’s shoulder, meeting his eyes.
“Fight hard,” he says, his voice rough. “And be safe.”
There is a center of steel in Bodhi’s gaze. “I will.”
They step back to the edge of the platform as Bodhi returns to the ship, raising the ramp behind him. The engines ignite, the ship rises, and Baze watches until it disappears into the atmosphere. Chirrut’s hand is a steady weight on his shoulder.
Finally, Baze turns his gaze away from the empty skies and sees the woman waiting a polite distance from them on the platform. Her expression is level and impassive, and she comes forward as he meets her eyes.
“Your documents, please,” she says in lightly accented Basic.
There is a beat of hesitation, and then Baze pulls their scandocs out of a pouch in his bag and passes them to her. She scans them onto a datapad and then nods and returns them to Baze.
“My name is Taresh,” she says, tucking away the datapad. “I am a representative of the resettlement office.”
Chirrut steps forward. “We are grateful for the generosity your people show in welcoming us to your world. We know the risks you take, in times such as these.”
Her gaze is even, but Baze senses a small thread of disquiet. She gestures for them to follow her. “Come,” she says. “We will speak on the way.”
She leads them through the spaceport to a speeder waiting outside. Baze takes in their surroundings with a wary eye, but the spaceport is quiet, and the beings they pass along the way don’t glance twice at them. Chirrut keeps one hand on his elbow, though the port is far from crowded. The size of the structure suggests that it was once busy with comings and goings, but Baze suspects that many of the people of Byga have not had cause to venture off their peaceful world for some time.
They settle themselves in the back of the speeder, and Taresh turns toward them. “I apologize for being abrupt, but it is better if we do not speak in the open. We have managed to stay clear of the Empire for so long due in part to an overabundance of caution. Byga has welcomed many immigrants and refugees since the Clone Wars began, but the fear of reprisal should the Empire discover we have been providing them with aid is very real.”
“We weren’t with the rebels, exactly,” Baze says. “Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. More or less.”
She smiles at him. “A more common story than you might imagine. Officially, you are both registered with our government as political refugees.” Reaching into her case, she pulls out a packet of flimsis and passes them to Baze. “Everything is explained in these documents.”
He takes the sheaf and flips through the first few pages as Taresh turns and starts the speeder, moving them into a meandering line of traffic. The packet is hefty and thorough, containing everything from maps of the city and a succinct language guide to a lengthy explanation of their rights and entitlements as refugees under the care of the Bygan government. It’s more than he has the capacity to comprehend at the moment, and Baze sets it aside in favor of staring out the window of the speeder as they enter the city proper.
They are in the city of Yakorra, Taresh explains, moderately sized with a significant non-Bygan population, situated a few hours from the coast of one of Byga’s large oceans. She guides them through wide boulevards thronged with speeders and pedestrians, past towering structures and wide parks and bustling markets. It’s an overwhelming display, busy and bright, an orderly chaos. They skirt through the city too quickly for Baze to describe, but Taresh keeps up a steady narration, pointing out landmarks and neighborhoods as they pass.
Baze expects her to take them to a government office of some kind, where their credentials will be further scrutinized. He’s prepared for some sort of questioning, like what had greeted them when they had arrived at the base on Yavin 4, soaked through from Eadu’s rains and tired beyond all reckoning.
Instead, she takes them home.
The skyscrapers and busy streets of the city give way to a sprawling residential district, and Taresh swings the speeder down a long road packed tightly with squat houses. The houses are nearly identical, save for the personal touches of their occupants, and they sit up against each other to form two long, unbroken lines on either side of the street. It’s an unsettling uniformity, Baze finds, in comparison to the crooked alleyways and mismatched homes of the Holy City, carved from the mesa and stacked one on top of another.
The speeder slows and then stops at the curb. Taresh smiles at them over her shoulder and gestures. “This one is yours.”
The houses are set a few steps up from the street level, and they follow as Taresh climbs the stairs and unlocks the door. She steps aside to let them enter, and Baze nearly stops dead in the doorway.
The lights are off, but a wide window at the front of the house lets in plenty of daylight, reflecting off of dark wood floors that stretch from the entrance through an arched doorway on the far side of the sitting room. Through the archway Baze can see the edges of the kitchen, with a small table surrounded by four wooden chairs sitting in one corner. A hallway splits off from the living area, and light pours in from a glass-panelled door that opens out off the kitchen, leading outside.
There is nothing especially grand about the house, but it’s beautiful. Spacious. Simple and comfortable. Jarringly, disorientingly normal. Baze stares dumbly around the room as Chirrut sets aside his staff and places one hand on the wall nearest the door, slowly walking the perimeter.
Baze turns to Taresh. “This is ours?”
She smiles softly, her dark eyes crinkling. “Yes.”
Never a man of many words, Baze is struck by a complete loss of what to say. Gratitude feels inadequate, an incomplete expression of the rush of emotion that’s suddenly putting a stopper in his throat. He feels his heart pounding in his ears, as if he’s been running a great distance, and the air around him feels tight and thin. Everything is tinged with a sense of surreality, artificial and dreamlike, and it feels as if he shouldn’t touch anything, for fear of disturbing the illusion. As if he were to blink, it would all disappear in an instant, and they would find themselves returned to their cramped, dusty room in NiJedha.
They’ve been plucked out of one life and dropped, unceremoniously, into another, and the reality won’t quite set in. This is ours.
Baze startles at the feel of Chirrut’s hand coming to rest on his back; he hadn’t heard him approach. Chirrut’s face is smoothed into a serene and dispassionate mask, and Baze envies his calm. A question is traced lightly into his shoulder by Chirrut’s nimble fingers, and Baze grunts a quiet reassurance that is mostly sincere.
Taresh speaks into the silence that fills the room, gesturing around the space. “The resettlement office will assist with your rent for the first year of occupancy, and at the end of that year you will have the option to continue to rent the house or move elsewhere. In consideration to your circumstances, we have provided some furnishings for your comfort, as well as some housewares—kitchen utensils and the like.”
Baze only nods, unable to push past the tightness in his chest. Taresh doesn’t appear bothered by his silence, for which he is grateful. She goes on, “There is a box in the kitchen that has some food and necessities, but you will want to go to the market soon. The market district is near here, just a few minutes on the rail lines.”
Chirrut, forever and always picking up the thread when Baze can’t manage, says, a smile in his voice, “I hope you will forgive us for being a little dumbstruck. This is…” he trails, just a touch, undercutting the lightness of his tone, “an unexpected generosity.”
She shakes her head, raising a placating hand and offering a kind smile. “Please, do not trouble yourselves. I expect this has been an overwhelming time for both of you.”
She offers to walk them around the house, to sit down and answer their questions, but Chirrut demurs, to Baze’s relief—all he wants, at the moment, is some space to get their bearings, a few moments of privacy with Chirrut. Taresh begins to gather her things and move toward the door.
“I will check in with you in a few days, and you should expect regular visits in the coming weeks,” she says. “I will be your primary contact in the resettlement office, so if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact me.”
Pausing at the threshold, the open door letting in a light breeze and the distant sounds of the neighborhood, Taresh looks between them. Baze meets her eyes, works to convey some small measure of the press of emotions moving inside him. “We know it will not erase the suffering you have experienced,” she says, gentle and quiet, “but it is our sincere hope that you will find comfort here.”
The words sit thick on Baze’s tongue, and so Chirrut says, for both of them, “Thank you. We are grateful.”
She nods, smiles, and takes her leave. The door closes behind her with a decisive click, and they are alone.
For a moment, Baze is rooted where he stands in the center of the room. Chirrut steps into his line of sight, his hand trailing across Baze’s shoulders to rest over his heart.
“Well?” Chirrut asks quietly, a touch of dazed wonder in his voice. His words carry strangely, bouncing off the floors and the bare walls. “What does it look like?”
Baze hardly knows where to begin. They’re still wearing their packs, and so he stalls a moment, reaching out to ease the straps from Chirrut’s shoulders. Beside them is a low table, paired with a sofa that’s pushed against the wall, and he sets down Chirrut’s pack before shrugging off his own. Knowing all too well the nuanced tones of Baze’s silences, Chirrut waits.
“It’s clean,” he says once he’s gathered himself. “Like it was scrubbed down before we came here.”
“That's good.” Chirrut is smiling faintly, patient in a way he only ever is with Baze. “What else?”
“It’s not new, but it’s not very old. From the outside it looks the same as all the other houses around us.”
“Are there lots of windows?”
A choked laugh breaks free from the tightness in Baze’s chest as he remembers their nighttime speculations on the ship—silly, wistful imaginings, suddenly present in reality. “Some. One here, by the front door, and there’s a glass door through the kitchen to a yard of some sort.”
Chirrut hums in approval. “And the kitchen? Is it big enough?”
“I imagine it’s more than a hotplate and a rusted sink, which is more than enough to satisfy me.” He looks around. “The floors are polished wood, and the walls are painted dark green. Like… like we’ve been swallowed by a tree.”
Chirrut lets out a short laugh, a little watery at the edges. It eases the tension sitting across his shoulders to see Chirrut’s smile, the happy and tender look on his face. Baze pulls him close in his arms, leaning into him and resting his cheek against Chirrut’s soft hair. Chirrut winds his arms around Baze’s waist and they stand a moment, swaying against each other.
“I couldn’t do this without you,” Baze murmurs, his heart so full that the words will barely come.
“Oh, my love,” Chirrut sighs. He draws back, cupping Baze’s face in one hand and pressing a kiss, warm and soft, against his cheek. “And where would I be without you, hmm?”
Baze doesn’t have an answer to that, doesn’t want to spare a thought for what their lives would be without the other at their sides. He leans into the hand on his cheek. He shakes his head, and Chirrut understands. Chirrut smiles at him and slides his hand down to squeeze Baze’s arm.
“Now, what are we standing here for?” he says. “Let’s look around.”
They move through to the kitchen, and Baze is pleased to find a stovetop, an oven, wide counters and dark wood cabinets. As promised, there is a box waiting for them on the kitchen table, filled with packages of food, soap, cleaning supplies—not dissimilar to the parcels they had once delivered to families in need in the city. A window above the sink lets in more light, and he crosses to the back door, peering out to the small fenced-in strip of grass beyond. The fence affords some privacy, though it’s low enough that Baze can see across to their neighbors’ houses, small trees and an occasional clothes line peeking up over the even row of fences.
Chirrut makes his way down the hall to the bedroom while Baze lingers in the kitchen. He stands at the sink, and as he smoothes his hands over the countertops, an image comes to him. One of long, lazy afternoons, of rising bread and steaming tea and the smell of food. Of Chirrut crowding into his space while he cooks, attempting to distract him enough to sneak a taste. The image is so familiar, so thick with memory, but instead of the low simmer of anger and loss that usually accompanies such thoughts, Baze is caught by a swell of promise rising in his chest.
From the bedroom, he hears Chirrut’s laugh. “Baze! Come see!”
When he walks into the bedroom it’s to find Chirrut sprawled across a large, bare bed, his legs dangling off the edge and his arms stretched wide.
“Not quite wall-to-wall,” Chirrut says with a grin, “but big enough, do you think?”
It might be the biggest bed he’s ever seen. Not that the beds they’ve shared over the years would be much to compare to—monasteries aren’t exactly known for their creature comforts, and their room in the city had barely had space enough for their two bedrolls laid out beside one another. But this bed is wide and plush, the thick mattress resting on a wooden platform, and seeing Chirrut laid out on it is more than a little inspiring.
Chirrut raises a hand in his direction. “Come closer so I can see if you’re blushing.”
Obligingly, Baze leans down on one hand and tilts his cheek into Chirrut’s waiting palm, the mattress sinking pleasantly under his weight. He spots a pile of bedding neatly folded at one end.
“Mm, not quite.” Chirrut tucks his fingers into the collar of Baze’s shirt, tugging him down. “What could we do to change that, I wonder?”
Baze allows himself to be led, flopping down on the bed beside him. “You’re ridiculous,” he grouses.
Chirrut takes his face between his hands. “I am filled up with love for you,” he declares, and then grins. “Ah! There it is.”
Leaning forward, Baze grumbles against Chirrut’s smiling lips. “Hush.”
One hand slides down to curve along the nape of his neck as Chirrut draws him closer, deepening the kiss and sucking gently on his bottom lip. A honeyed sweetness slips down Baze’s spine and warms him from within. When they pull away for a breath, Baze tucks his face down against Chirrut’s neck to press a small kiss at the join of his shoulder, and Chirrut’s quiet sigh settles over them like a blanket.
“Stay here with me for a moment,” Chirrut says softly.
He’ll certainly find no hardship in that. Baze shifts them until they’re pressed up from their chests to their knees. Their feet tangle where they hang off the edge of the mattress.
“This is not what I expected,” he confesses into the quiet space between them.
Chirrut hums and traces a finger down his cheek. “What did you expect?”
“I don’t know. Not this. Not a house like this.”
An expression of self-satisfied mischief crosses Chirrut’s face, and Baze sighs. “Don’t say it.”
“The Force provides.”
Baze’s eyes trace over the features of Chirrut’s face, relaxed and open in a way he hasn’t seen in so many years, and finds that he can’t deny it. Instead of answering, he catches Chirrut’s hand and presses a long, sighing kiss into his palm.
The smile on Chirrut’s face softens. He cups the back of Baze’s head and guides him closer to lay a kiss on his brow—a blessing, a benediction.
His Baze. So serious. So heavy with the weight of all their cares on his shoulders. Chirrut had meant what he’d said, sitting next to Baze on the steppe of that ancient temple: he would gladly spend the rest of his days coaxing out the light of Baze’s spirit, unwinding him from the tangle of fear and despair that had so often sought to shroud him.
This is the task set before him, and he accepts it with a joyful heart. This is where it will begin for them, again.
Baze cooks them a meal.
The contents of the box left on the kitchen table are limited but more than enough to work with. He finds a sack of flour, packages of dehydrated noodles and sealed ready-meals, a selection of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables in jars and cans that he scrutinizes before setting aside the ones that look most appealing. Chirrut follows him as he unpacks the box, moving them to the pantry in a careful arrangement. In the cabinets, they find a few odds and ends—pans, a cutting board, a mismatched assortment of utensils. Baze digs out a small metal pot, examines the stove, and then sets to work.
Chirrut unlatches the back door and wanders outside, leaving it open behind him. A cool breeze moves through the kitchen, and Baze breathes it in, attempting to fill his lungs with the fresh air and clear away the lingering sense of… of what, he’s not quite sure. Unease. Bewilderment. A strange mix of happiness and disorientation that sits heavy in his stomach. He directs his focus to the task of preparing their dinner, keeping his hands busy and hoping it will help settle his frayed nerves.
But when he switches on the faucet, the water rushes out cool and clear, and Baze stares for a moment, transfixed.
The ferocious pace of the Empire’s kyber mining had left many scars, not the least of which was the damage to the moon’s decaying water systems. The filters and purifiers simply couldn’t keep up, and over time, as with everything on Jedha, the situation deteriorated. The polluted reservoirs hadn’t run clean in years, pouring out murky water that itched and stank and spread sickness through the city.
The memories rise like ghosts at the back of his mind. He remembers boiling their water before cooking with it, before cleaning with it, before bathing with it. Opening the faucets and letting them run, wasteful but necessary to clear the pipes of the foul residue that built up so quickly. The children who fell ill, poisoned and helpless as their desperate families begged neighbors for any small ration of clean water to help heal them.
Baze shakes himself and angles the pot under the flow of the tap. When he shuts it off, the silence that fills the kitchen feels like stuffed cotton in his ears. The water heats on the stove, bubbles slowly rising to the surface, and Baze stares into the pot, unable to shake the coil of rage that hooks its claws into his chest.
How many of their people had wasted away for want of something so simple? Something they now had access to with barely a second thought? All of this—the house, the food, the abundance that’s given so freely—why them? Why were they permitted this reprieve? Was this the mercy of the Force, to save the two of them when countless beings across the galaxy were trapped in the same spiral of despair that had consumed their world?
As he reaches out to slide a handful of dry noodles into the pot, Baze realizes his hands are shaking. He flexes them, breathing deeply, trying to ease the cords that seem to tighten around his lungs. It’s anger, and something else. Sorrow, and something else. Grief, still, always. And gratitude. A strange, guilty gratitude that has tears suddenly burning in his eyes. To bear witness to so much pain, so much loss, only to find themselves whole and safe and provided for, is more than he can begin to grasp.
From behind him, Baze hears Chirrut come in from outside. He keeps his back turned, willing his breathing to return to normal.
“I think there’s some sort of garden bed out there,” Chirrut chirps, high and pleased, and the bands tighten around Baze’s chest. “You’ll have to take a look. It felt overgrown, but we could clear it and plant something there.”
Baze can’t speak. If he speaks, Chirrut will know, immediately, the churn of emotion that is dredging up the muck in his soul. He just wants to let Chirrut be happy, for just a moment. To let him think about gardens and kitchens and soft beds and nothing else.
Chirrut steps up behind him. “What are you making?”
Silence, incriminating in its heaviness, but Baze can’t seem to unstick his tongue.
His jaw aches from the effort of clenching it, trapping the tightness in his throat firmly behind his teeth. It doesn’t matter; Chirrut doesn’t have to see to know. He moves closer, his steps light and silent, and Baze resists the urge to shudder away, to curl his shoulders like an animal waiting for a blow.
“Baze.” Two hands rest on his shoulders, a soft pressure, feather-light, but it’s more than enough to crack the brittle facade. Tears threaten to spill over, and he dashes at them quickly.
“I’m sorry,” he rasps.
Chirrut sighs, rests his head between his shoulders. “Don’t,” he says softly. “Please, don’t.” He coaxes Baze to turn and pulls him close. In Chirrut’s arms, the tension gradually bleeds away, the rushing sound in his ears quiets, until Baze can lift his arms and gather Chirrut against him. They lean against each other for the space of several long, slow breaths, the only sound in the kitchen the quiet bubble of the boiling water.
“There will be many days like this,” Chirrut murmurs close to his ear. “For a long time, I think. Shame has no place between us.”
Baze bites back another apology, instead manages, “I love you.”
A hum, a smile, pleased as ever by the simple declaration. Chirrut leans away and cups his hands around the nape of Baze’s neck. He asks, gentle, “What was it?”
“The water.” He can feel the steam rising against his back.
Chirrut’s hands are steady and warm against his skin. He nods slowly, understanding without explanation. His thumbs stroke the tight muscles of his neck in a slow rhythm, and Baze sways forward until their foreheads meet.
“We will make good use of it,” Chirrut whispers in the space between them. Baze nods.
Evening falls as they finish their meal, burning orange across the sky and then fading into starry darkness. Baze glances out the front window and sees, all down the street, the glowing windows of their neighbors’ houses as families return home and settle in for the night. It’s early yet, but the strain of the day has taken its toll; it feels as if a lifetime has passed since they said goodbye to Bodhi in the spaceport. By unspoken agreement, Baze and Chirrut clean up the kitchen and make their way to the bedroom, ready to put this overwrought day behind them.
They find a set of toiletries in the box—bottles of soap, new teeth cleaners and the like. The refresher off the bedroom is small but well-equipped, including a shower with a narrow bathtub. Chirrut makes an exclamation when his foot thumps against it with a hollow thud.
“Big enough for both of us?” he asks, leaning over the edge to reach the far wall.
Baze snorts. “Not hardly. Unless you enjoy bathing with your knees around your ears.”
While Chirrut takes his turn in the shower, Baze shakes out the sheets and blankets and makes up the bed, tossing the two pillows to the head and smoothing out the heavy duvet. Besides the bed, the room is bare, boasting only a narrow closet in one corner. He pulls the datapad out of his pack and sets it on the floor next to the bed as a makeshift chrono, then unpacks the rest of their belongings. In his head, he begins to form a list of the things they will need most immediately—food, clothing, replacement parts for Chirrut’s echo-box—as well as things that would make their new home more comfortable. A rug for the wood floors, perhaps. A kettle for tea.
Chirrut emerges from the fresher flushed and damp and dressed in his sleep clothes. A bright, clean scent follows him into the bedroom, and Baze leans down to brush a kiss against his temple.
“You smell nice,” Baze mumbles, his lips against the towel-dried fluff of Chirrut’s hair. Chirrut smirks and rests a hand against his chest, pushing at him lightly.
“Go clean yourself up so I can say the same.”
Baze slips into the fresher and switches on the shower, turning the temperature up nearly hotter than he can stand. Steam pours out of the cubicle as he steps inside, and the heat of the water stings pleasantly against his skin. He lets his head hang, lets the water work against the muscles of his back. The soap provided for them smells fresh and floral, and Baze scrubs himself down thoroughly, washing away the staleness left over from several days spent aboard a starship with an ill-functioning sonic.
He shuts off the water and steps out of the shower. The small fresher is filled with fragrant steam, the mirror fogged over, and he uses a washcloth to wipe away the condensation. An unfamiliar man stares back at him, a strange blending of his younger and older selves. His beard needs trimming, and his hair is shorter than it's been since his days as an acolyte, cut close by the healers who had rushed to save his life. A new scar starts at his forehead and arcs across his scalp to behind his ear, a parting gift from the piece of shrapnel that nearly took off his head. On another man he imagines it might look fierce, but in Baze’s eyes it just makes him look ragged, defeated.
He runs his hand over the bristle. He’ll let it grow again. If for no other reason than that Chirrut has always seemed pleased by his long hair, forever running his fingers through it and winding it into braids.
Chirrut has already claimed his side of the bed when he returns to the bedroom, leaving Baze the side nearest the window. He’s settled down into the blankets, eyes closed and hands folded serenely over his middle, but he stirs as Baze approaches, sitting up with the blankets pooling in his lap. He looks young like that, dwarfed by the wide bed, scrubbed clean and soft around the eyes. Tired, Baze can see, by the line of his shoulders and the set of his brow, but he smiles as Baze comes closer.
“I think you’re wrong,” he remarks while Baze pulls his sleep shirt over his head. “I think we would both fit in that tub.”
The wood floors creak underfoot as Baze flips off the light and climbs into bed. The sheets are cool as he slips under the blanket, and he shifts around until he’s on his side, facing Chirrut. “I think,” he says, “that you are overestimating the appeal of sharing a bath not meant for two people.”
Chirrut huffs and lies down again, reaching for him as he edges into the center of the bed. “Don’t stay all the way over there,” he complains, pulling his pillow over next to Baze’s and settling down snug against him. “I’ll lose track of you and roll right off the edge of this thing.”
Baze smiles in the darkness. “I’m not sure I would be able to sleep without you wound around me like a vine.”
At that Chirrut grins, reaching out with both arms to wrap tight around Baze’s middle, and Baze gives an exaggerated wheeze in his grasp. He rolls to the side in an attempt to escape, then rolls in the other direction, directly on top of Chirrut, who squawks in indignation. He lets go and pushes him away, but Baze drops his weight, settling on Chirrut’s chest with an oof.
He folds his hands on Chirrut’s chest and props his chin on them. Chirrut’s hands wander over his shoulders, up and over the crown of his head, before wrapping around his wrists and squeezing gently.
Quietly, Chirrut says, “You’re feeling better.”
Baze hums, turning his head to drop a kiss on Chirrut’s knuckles. “Having something to eat helped.”
A small smile crosses Chirrut’s face. “A good meal, a hot bath, and a warm bed,” he says. “We could hardly ask for greater luxury.”
Force knows it’s far more than they’ve had in a long, long time, Baze thinks. He lets the thought rest, knowing it must be on Chirrut’s mind as well. He doesn’t want to dwell right now. He just wants to sleep.
Levering himself up, Baze finds Chirrut’s mouth in the dark and kisses him, then shifts off of him and onto his back. Under the blankets, Chirrut’s hand slips into his and squeezes, gentle and warm. Baze closes his eyes. He breathes out and lets his body relax.
Yet for all their exhaustion and the overwhelming course of the day, sleep evades them both.
At least an hour passes, and Baze lies on his back, staring up at the ceiling. His eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and he runs his gaze idly around the bare walls, the mostly-empty closet. The bedroom feels unsettlingly sterile, too large and too empty. It almost feels as if they’re floating in the middle of a vast, lifeless ocean, as if Baze can’t quite find the edges of their bed in the dark. But Chirrut is curled against his side, tucked down under the heavy blankets with his breath tickling the side of his neck, and that, at least, is a familiar anchor.
Chirrut rolls away suddenly, flops over onto his back with his arms spread out. He inhales a deep breath and then sighs expansively.
“You would think a bed this comfortable would be easier to sleep in,” he says.
A chuckle bubbles up at his dramatics. Baze rolls over to catch him again, wrapping an arm around his middle to drag him closer, and Chirrut allows himself to be reeled in with an insincere grumble.
“Perhaps that’s the problem,” Baze muses. “We could try sleeping on the floor, see if it doesn’t feel more like home.”
“Can you reach the window?”
Baze cranes his neck. The window is just to the left of the bed, just out of reach of his outstretched hand. “Almost.”
“Will you open it? It’s too quiet in here.”
With a grunt, Baze heaves himself out of bed and crosses to the window. He raises the shade and then pushes it open, taking in a deep breath of the fresh air. Night sounds fill the bedroom, the chirping and humming of insects blending with the soft rustle of swaying trees. The temperature has dropped enough that there is a chill on the breeze, and Byga’s moon is high and bright and full. He returns to the bed, pulling the blanket high over their shoulders. Chirrut rolls up against him, warm along his side.
“Do you remember,” Chirrut murmurs against his shoulder, “when we spent a few days hiking in the wastes?”
“And it was so cold at night that we nearly lost a couple of toes? Yes, I remember.”
Chirrut tsks and smacks him lightly on the chest. “So dramatic.”
“If you hadn’t insisted we make the journey in the middle of winter…”
A hand snakes under his sleepshirt and presses against the soft paunch of his belly. “Maybe I just wanted the chance to share our body heat.”
Baze snorts a laugh. “Chirrut, we were sharing a bed by then. You didn’t have to march us into a frozen desert for an excuse to sleep under the same blanket.”
Chirrut hums, noncommittal. “This feels like it did then,” he says. “When we were in the wastes. Like we were the only two people in the galaxy.” He voice grows distant, wistful. “Just us and the stars.”
Baze remembers it well. It was meant to be a spiritual journey, a minor rite of passage for senior acolytes, striking out from the base of the mesa and crossing the great expanse of empty desert on foot. An opportunity to open one’s self up to the whisper of the Force, free of distraction and stripped down to the simplest means of existence. In truth, what Baze remembers best from that time is Chirrut: his bright and challenging grin, his tireless feet, his determination to go farther and faster than any acolytes had previously managed. They had been courting for over a year at that point (properly courting, as opposed to the warm flirtation that had always thrummed between them) and it was so easy, so natural to fall into step beside each other, to guide each other's feet. They had shared a tent, wrapping themselves up in furs and thermal blankets to keep the chill at bay, and Baze remembers the soft light of dawn breaking across the desert and turning Chirrut’s skin a deep, glowing gold.
And he remembers the stars. Sitting outside their tent at night, huddled under the same blanket, unable to look away from the great, unending blanket of stars above them. Able to see, as they couldn't in the city, the long arms of the distant galaxy, striking and sparkling across the empty night sky. How Chirrut had stared, and stared, and stared, until Baze had thought his eyes would turn to stardust.
Through the open window, an occasional breeze stirs across the bedroom, carrying with it the smell of wood and grass and the city beyond. So different from the sharp winds of the Jedhan desert, the shrieking blusters that would whip across the open sands, that ate away at the great fallen statues until everything was returned to dust. This world is gentler, Baze thinks, and though he sees the foolishness of such a thought he finds that here, bundled under the blankets with Chirrut beside him, it’s easy to imagine. Easy to let everything else slip away in the darkness.
Baze shifts onto his side and feels himself relaxing, his eyes growing heavy. Chirrut was right; it was too quiet with the window closed.
The winds sigh, the house is silent, and Baze watches the play of moonlight across Chirrut’s face until sleep slips up and takes them both.
Baze wakes on the first morning to a face full of sunlight. Their bedroom is filled with the full light of late morning, and Baze squints and blinks away the fog of a heavy sleep. The open window lets in the faint sounds of day, chirping birds in the trees and the distant shouts of playing children. He rubs the heels of his hands into his eyes and stretches, feeling as if he’s slept for a hundred years and woken up on a strange, reborn world.
Beside him, Chirrut sleeps on, tucked close on his side and nearly lost under the duvet. Baze listens to his quiet breathing and settles back into the blankets with a sigh. He closes his eyes again; he doesn’t sleep, but dozes in the sunlight, managing, for a short while, to think of nothing at all.
Some time later, Chirrut breathes deep and shifts, slowly stretching under the blanket. Baze turns onto his side and reaches for him, running a hand up his arm with a rumbling, “Good morning.”
A slow smile spreads across Chirrut’s lips. “Mmm, morning,” he murmurs, eyes still closed and words blurred with lingering sleep. “How did you sleep?”
“Like a stone. I don’t think either of us moved an inch all night.”
“‘S good.” Under the blanket, their bare feet nudge against each other. “What time is it?”
Baze leans over the edge of the bed to check the time on the datapad. He snorts. “Nearly noon.”
Chirrut lets out a quiet laugh. “We needed the rest.”
Baze hums his agreement.
“What’s it like outside?” Chirrut asks, rolling onto his back and stretching his arms until they knock into the wall behind him. His cheek is lined with pillow marks and his hair is mussed, and for a moment Baze is distracted from the question.
“Bright,” he says. “Sunny.”
Relaxing back into the pillow with a sigh, Chirrut folds his hands behind his head. “Such a poet, my husband.”
“Well, I can’t see much from here. If you’d like a little more color, we will have to get out of this bed.”
Chirrut hums. “Not a terribly tempting offer, truth be told.”
Baze chuckles. “It is a nice bed.”
“It’s a very nice bed.”
He edges closer to rest a palm comfortably on Chirrut’s stomach, slipping under his rucked up shirt to feel his smooth, sleep-warmed skin. The room smells of fresh linens and a warm breeze, and here in the sunlight the heavy, fraught atmosphere of the previous day has eased. With daylight pouring in through the window and Chirrut radiating contentment beside him, Baze feels tethered to the ground again, and less like they’ve been cut loose and pushed out into the abyss.
“I’ve been thinking about what we need,” he says, rubbing in a slow circle with his thumb. “We should make a list and visit the market today. Taresh said it was close.”
“Mm, shopping. Your favorite.”
He grumbles a bit, and Chirrut smiles to himself. Even before the occupation had turned the streets volatile, Baze hadn’t cared much for the crowds and the noise of the Holy City’s busiest market squares, preferring the relative peace of the smaller, older neighborhoods. He had been a favorite among the merchants there, always terribly respectful and kind, asking after families and bringing loaves and sweet rolls to share from the temple’s large ovens. The bustle had never bothered Chirrut as it had bothered Baze—he had spent much of his early youth snaking through the press of people, picking pockets and sneaking meals off of unguarded fruit stands—but he had happily joined him on his sojourns into the quieter twists of the old city. Far away from the tourists, the shouting vendors, the parading worshipers, tucking themselves away in small cafés and warming their hands over mugs of spiced caf.
Under his hand, Baze feels Chirrut’s stomach growl. Chirrut laughs and gives his fingers a little squeeze. “Food first, I think.”
“For that, you will have to get out of bed.”
Chirrut sighs. “Only because you refuse to bring me breakfast in bed, as any good husband would.”
“Yes, I mistreat you terribly.” He pats Chirrut lightly on the stomach and then rolls over to hoist himself up. The wood floors are cool under Baze’s feet, and he stretches, groaning a bit as his muscles loosen. From the bed, Chirrut makes an appreciative sound.
“I may not be able to see that, but imagination is a powerful thing.”
Baze shakes his head, reaching out to yank the edge of the blanket back. “Up, you wretch,” he says over Chirrut’s laughing yelp. “Come help me make breakfast before the sun sets again.”
The market is packed.
Food stalls and crafters line the open square, spilling over with their wares as shoppers move in a steady stream between them, inspecting the goods, haggling with the vendors, laughing and arguing with their companions. Some of the merchants edge into the crowd, calling out to passersby and inviting them to sample their offerings, while others sit back in the shade of their booths, lazily waving fans and chatting with their neighbors as service droids tend to passing customers. In the center of the square, a handful of musicians warble and strum on stringed instruments, and others sell trinkets from blankets laid out on the wide flagstones. Shops surround the marketplace and line the adjacent streets—clothiers, cafés, shops full of jewelry and gadgets and all manner of knickknacks.
It’s a lively, noisy spectacle, and it’s driving a throbbing headache into the back of Baze’s eyes.
He leads them on a weaving path, trying to move with the flow of people as they slowly make their way around the square. Chirrut keeps one hand on his elbow, his staff tucked close in front of him. The afternoon sun is bright and a touch too warm for Baze’s temperament; he can feel a trickle of sweat itching against the thick fabric of his shirt.
They had set out in the early afternoon, Chirrut with his staff in hand and Baze with one of their packs on his back to carry their purchases home. Baze led them to the end of their long street and rounded the corner, pointing them in the direction of the nearest stop for the light rails that stretch through the city and out to the residential districts. Chirrut kept a half step behind, his staff moving in precise arcs in front of him and his brow set with focus.
Excepting their limited time at the base on Yavin 4, it has been years since Chirrut has navigated through an entirely unfamiliar environment. When his vision had begun to deteriorate, he’d set out on a dogged campaign to relearn the streets of his city, beginning at the temple and moving outward in ever-widening circles. He had refused to allow Baze to come with him, snapping at him on the occasions when Baze had snuck out and shadowed him on his treks. It tore at him to leave Chirrut without guidance or protection, but Baze had soon stopped trying to follow him; Chirrut needed to do this in his own way.
But here, the streets aren’t known to him. He isn’t relearning the squares and alleyways he spent his entire life winding through. He will have to rely far more on his senses, and on Baze, to find his footing. Baze has known Chirrut far too long to doubt his ability to overcome whatever challenges block his path, but he also knows well his husband’s stubborn pride, and how fiercely he guards his independence. In this larger, busier city, it will take time before he can move with his former confidence, and Baze fears he will chafe against the restriction.
It certainly isn’t helping matters that Baze can hardly keep his bearings himself. The crowd is so thick that they’re pushed along with the movement of the people around them, swamped in a cacophony of voices and smells and jostling elbows. Chirrut keeps close to the wake Baze makes in the crowd and appreciates, not for the first time, the way his stern expression and broad frame provide them with a little extra breathing room.
They stand out in a way that makes Baze uncomfortable, and he tracks the wandering eyes of the people who look in their direction. Their uniform clothes contrast with the loose, flowing layers the Bygans appear to favor. The crowd is dotted with non-human species, some Baze recognizes and others he doesn’t, but humans and humanoids make up the majority, with most carrying a slightly darker complexion than either of them. Add to this Baze’s scarred face and Chirrut’s pale eyes and staff, and it is obvious they are drawing some degree of attention. It doesn’t appear to be malicious in nature, rather an idle curiosity at the sight of offworlders, but it sets Baze’s teeth on edge nonetheless.
Baze wishes, suddenly, for the weight of his armour settled across his shoulders, for the heft of a blaster in his hand. He pushes against the impulse. He doesn’t need armour here; there is no one who would raise a blaster against them, and if anyone did, Chirrut would have them on their back faster than Baze could blink. He lets out a long, slow breath, rolling his shoulders a bit to ease the tension. Chirrut’s hand tightens fractionally around his arm.
They skim past the meat vendors, past the alarmingly robust smells from the cheesemongers, past booths selling fine oils and honey and cut flowers. Baze eases them out of the stream of people to make a few purchases: a wrapped loaf of bread, a sack of rice, a handful of root vegetables that look familiar enough. The labels and prices are marked in Bygan, but most of the vendors speak at least a few words of Basic, and he manages to fumble his way through the transactions by relying heavily on hand gestures.
Chirrut keeps close to his side, his fingers hooked onto the strap of Baze’s pack to prevent them from getting separated as Baze picks through the stalls. He casts his focus outward, allowing Baze’s slow movements to lead them forward as he works to form an impression of the square, the lines of booths, the relaxed chatter of the people around them. It’s a trying task not aided by the distracting hustle of the crowd, the constant movement of too many bodies making it difficult to keep oriented. The smells stand out the most—produce and meat, rows of fragrant spices, something frying nearby in hot oil, all coming together to form a little knot of nausea in the pit of his stomach.
As they begin to move away from a booth stacked high with ripened fruits, someone beside them turns quickly without looking and knocks hard into Chirrut’s back. Chirrut stumbles, nearly losing his footing, and throws out a hand to catch himself against Baze’s shoulder. Baze whips around to steady him, biting back a snarl and sending a dark glare in the direction of the young man who shoved him.
His eyes are wide, and he stutters something in Bygan that Baze hopes is an apology for his carelessness. The young man begins to reach out to Chirrut to ensure he isn’t hurt, and Chirrut takes a careful half step away, raising a hand and offering a stiff smile and a gesture of reassurance.
The young man fades back into the crowd that now moves around them like a river around a stone. Chirrut stands still, both hands wrapped tight around his staff, and Baze sees the pinch in his brow, the firm crease of his mouth. He waits, turned slightly to deflect the shifting crowd away from Chirrut, giving him space to regroup and taking a moment for himself to steady his breathing, driving down the irrational burst of rage and frustration that simmers in his chest.
“Baze,” Chirrut says, pitching his voice to carry over the noise, “do we have what we need?”
Baze hears the question he isn’t asking. Casting his gaze around in an evaluating sweep, he notes again the long glances from the people around them, the wary eyes of the vendors, and all at once feels glaringly out of place. The lightness from the morning has evaporated entirely, leaving behind a bitter, homesick aftertaste that has Baze wondering what, by all the stars, they were thinking when they came to this planet.
On any other day, Chirrut would tease him for melodrama. But by the look on his face, Baze imagines that his and Chirrut’s thoughts are running down the same path.
“We have plenty,” he says. “Let’s go back.”
The rail carriage is nearly full when it pulls up to the platform, but they manage to squeeze in, pressed up tight against the other passengers. Baze guides Chirrut’s hand to an overhead bar and hangs on as they jolt into motion. The close quarters combined with the babble of voices ratchets up the intensity of his headache, and he closes his eyes a moment, leaning his head against his extended arm. Beside him, Chirrut’s head is tucked down, listening intently, Baze knows, and counting the stops as they speed through the city.
An age seems to pass before they arrive on their doorstep, and the silence inside the house is a welcome greeting. Baze takes a moment to lean against the door, rubbing his hands down his face and sighing long and low. Wordlessly, Chirrut nudges him to the side and slips the pack off his back, carrying it into the kitchen to unpack their purchases. The pantry doors close with a quiet snap, and he watches as Chirrut opens the back door and steps outside.
Baze gives himself exactly one minute to lean against the door, letting the quiet seep into his bones and ease the tension behind his eyes. Then he pushes off with a huff and follows Chirrut out into the yard.
The line of Chirrut’s back is stiff and straight as he sits cross-legged at the edge of the porch. Baze sits down next to him, settling with a grunt and stretching his legs out into the thick grass. Chirrut’s eyes are closed, his face smoothed into serenity, but Baze knows better than to think he’s meditating. A long, brooding silence sits heavily between them, until finally, Baze sighs.
“It will get easier,” he says.
“I know.” Chirrut’s voice is flat, toneless, and Baze shakes his head.
“I know you know. I’m saying that for me.”
A shadow of a smile crosses Chirrut’s lips, softening the sharp set of his mouth. “Oh?” He turns slightly in Baze’s direction, his head askance. “Did you not enjoy yourself?”
“You know very well I did not,” he grouses. “Much as I know my suffering entertains you, perhaps next time we can visit the market when less than half the city is out?”
Chirrut huffs a laugh, and Baze claims a silent victory. “Did you at least buy us anything good?”
Baze scoffs. “Nothing worth all of that. I could barely even reach the food stalls. And most of it looked strange anyway.”
“I know,” Chirrut says, making a face. “It all smelled… strong.”
He hums in agreement. For all that he knows Chirrut to be an adventurous eater (at times a little too adventurous for Baze’s tastes), the mix of so many unfamiliar foods would be overpowering to anyone.
“I did find some sort of fruit that looks like an onosh,” he says. “Might not taste anything like it, but it looks right.”
That wins him a real smile, warm with memories of sharing a ripened onosh between them on long, loping walks through the city. “We can try it for breakfast tomorrow.”
“Assuming we actually wake in time for breakfast.”
Chirrut laughs. He sighs out, letting his shoulders slump and leaning to the side, nudging into Baze. Baze takes it as the invitation it’s intended to be and wraps an arm around Chirrut’s shoulders, drawing him close. He presses a kiss against his temple, closing his eyes and breathing him in. The warmth of the sun glows from his dark hair.
You expect too much of yourself, Baze wants to say. Give yourself time. Give both of us time.
He keeps the thoughts to himself. Chirrut doesn’t need them, not right now. He remembers his whispered words from the day before: There will be many days like this.
It will take time. But it will get easier.
Chirrut insists that they return to the market the next day. He gets them out of bed just after dawn, much to Baze’s grumbling displeasure, and throws open the window to let in the fresh air.
“It will be better today,” he says with conviction. “The Force is with us.”
“Oh, well in that case.” Baze yawns and catches the fresh shirt that Chirrut tosses to him from the closet. “Can the Force at least wait until I’ve had a shower?”
“Only if we eat our breakfast on the way.”
The sun is pale on the horizon as Chirrut pushes them out the front door and into the crisp morning air. Baze snags a piece of fruit from the pantry as they leave, and they share it between them as they walk—it tastes nothing like an onosh, they discover, but the sharp, sweet flavor wakes Baze’s senses. As they make their way to the rail stop, Chirrut steps forward to lead, swinging his staff in a wide arc and reminding himself of landmarks.
Baze hangs back a step, offering an occasional observation. “Ours is the ninth house on this street,” he says. “There’s a tree planted in the walkway two doors before ours, and it’s the—” he glances behind them, “—third tree, if you’re coming from the top of the street.”
Chirrut nods. “We should hang some sort of marker on our door,” he remarks. “I would prefer not to meet our neighbors by mistaking their house for ours.”
When they arrive at the market square, they find that Chirrut’s intuition was correct—the market is far quieter this morning, still busy but lacking the chaotic crush of the previous afternoon. A steady stream of people move among the shops, some wandering in an aimless pattern, others stopping only for a moment, picking up a bite to eat or a cup of caf before moving on with their busy days. Some of the food vendors are shuttered in deference to the early hour, but from the edge of the square Baze catches the heavy aroma of a nearby bakery. Chirrut turns them unerringly in its direction.
“Did the Force have anything in particular it wanted to look for?” Baze asks, amused. “Or did we only come up here to satisfy your sweet tooth?”
“One does not have to exist to the exclusion of the other,” Chirrut replies archly. “And a full stomach is the simplest path to a clearer mind.”
“Is that what you told the Masters when they caught you sneaking rolls during a fast?”
Chirrut only grins, and it’s the sharp, impish grin that had, in their younger days, always spelled trouble for Baze.
They purchase a sweet, sticky bun, still warm from the oven, and tear off pieces as they meander through the square. With fewer people around, it’s easier to see the offerings laid out across the booths, and Baze scans them idly as they pass. The produce stalls are intermixed with handicrafts, tables filled with jewelry and leather works and polished wood carvings that gleam in the morning sunlight. They pass a booth filled with bolts of fabric in a dizzying array of colors and patterns, and another with a display of delicate glass pieces cut like jewels, strung up and reflecting rainbows onto the stone walkway.
Baze has never cared much for finery, preferring the simple and the practical over the ornamental. NiJedha had once been full of such things, trinkets and baubles of all sorts to tempt the faithful and the faithless alike. The city’s community of artisans had vanished quickly under the force of occupation, leaving behind mostly cheap imitations sold by desperate swindlers.
But Chirrut has always had a certain taste for simple luxuries, forever drawn to sweet-smelling oils and soft, finely spun fabrics. Never out of greed or a desire for material wealth, but rather, he said, as an opportunity to partake of the great variance of life that was the purest expression of the Force. Baze was always quick to tease him for that particular stretch of philosophy.
Still, Baze stops a moment to run his hand over a thick woven quilt, careful to keep their slightly messy breakfast held aside.
“Did you have something in mind to look for?” he asks, taking a final bite of the bun and offering the rest to Chirrut. “We still need to find a part for your echo-box, but I doubt we’ll find something like that here.”
Chirrut licks a drip of syrup off his thumb. “No,” he says. “But we’ll drive each other mad staying cooped up in that house all day.” His words are light, but his tone sharpens at the edges. “This is to be our home now, Baze. And I would have us come to know it better.”
Leaping in feet-first, as ever. “It is only the second day,” Baze reminds him. “No need to walk the whole planet before the sun is even up.”
“And we aren’t. But I think we can manage a morning stroll through the market.” He slips his hand around Baze’s arm, tugging him around a corner. “Let’s go this way.”
They turn the corner off the main square and down an alleyway dotted with small shops and market stalls. Baze lets Chirrut lead them where he will, occasionally pressing his arm to alert him to an obstacle in a silent communication so old and familiar that he barely realizes he’s doing it.
At the end of the street, they come upon a booth filled with neat rows of glass jars arranged across two long, narrow tables. As they step closer, Baze realizes that the jars are all full of tea leaves, at least two dozen varieties. He pulls up short in front of the booth, and Chirrut stops beside him.
“What is it?”
In answer, Baze lifts the lid to one of the jars, wafting it in Chirrut’s direction. A frown creases his brow, quickly shifting to a broad grin. He laughs, catching Baze’s hand to pull the lid forward for another sniff.
“Stars,” he sighs. “How long has it been since we had a cup of tea that actually tasted like something?”
“Something other than old treebark, you mean?”
Chirrut hums a laugh. He puts out a hand and slowly runs it over the row of jars, lifting another lid at random and breathing in the smoky smell.
The merchant calls out to them in Bygan from behind her booth, smiling with her brows raised in question. Baze turns to her, a bit embarrassed to have been caught handling the merchandise without permission.
“Can we—?” He gestures along the tables with the lid in his hand.
“Yes, yes!” she laughs, shooing them along. “Please, yes.”
He can’t read the labels on the jars, so Baze starts at one end while Chirrut starts at the other, lifting the lids one by one and evaluating the different blends. Baze quickly realizes he’s started in the herbal teas, the light, floral scents tickling his nose, and he makes a face.
“Chirrut,” he calls. “Yours are over here.”
Chirrut comes up next to him and lifts a lid. “Oh, much better,” he says with a sigh. “For a moment I was afraid this planet only had black tea and we would be forced to leave.” He waves a hand toward the other end of the booth. “You’ll find your bitter sludge on that side.”
In the end, they pick out four flavors between them, two herbal blends for Chirrut and two rich, spicy black teas for Baze. A handful of metal teapots hang off of hooks along the top of the booth, and Baze picks one out and slips it down into his pack along with the sacks of tea.
“You see?” Chirrut says as the continue down the street, tucking his hand serenely into the crook of Baze’s elbow. “The Force is with us.”
“The Force is peddling in tea leaves now?”
“Perhaps. Is the movement of the Force ever truly known to us? Can we ever hope to discern its will? The agents it employs to manifest itself in our lives?”
Baze sighs with feeling. “You ask a simple question.”
Chirrut grins toothily. “Is that not the beginning of all enlightenment?”
“It is certainly the beginning of all of my headaches.”
Chirrut laughs, so light and loud that Baze can’t stop the crooked grin that spreads across his face. Chirrut’s hand is warm on his arm, and the kettle clatters a bit where it’s nestled in his pack.
When they return home, Baze prepares them a light lunch that’s complemented by two mugs of hot, fragrant tea. They sit at the small kitchen table, and Baze heaves a great sigh as he leans back in his seat and stretches his legs out in front of him. Sunlight pours in through the window and casts bright beams across the room, across Chirrut’s face as he closes his eyes and lifts the steaming mug to his lips.
Under the table, Chirrut nudges his feet. “Stop it.”
“Staring at me with that soppy look on your face.”
He couldn’t, even if he wanted to. “I’m not even looking at you.”
The mug is warm where he cradles it against his stomach. It seeps into his hands, down into his chest, until Baze is warmed throughout.
It’s a gradual unwinding, a slow, cautious relaxing of their guard.
They take the rail line out to the different regions of the city, frequenting the bustling corners of the market district and slowly exploring the streets that wind between the towering skyscrapers. They fill their home slowly, piece-by-piece—fresh spices in the pantry, a chime to hang outside the kitchen window, a small lamp for their bedroom.
They go searching one day for clothes to replace the ones the Alliance provided and succeed in finding a clothier selling an assortment of pants and shirts in simple, lightweight linen. Chirrut runs his hands across the different selections until he finds ones that meet with his approval, and Baze chooses the colors—warm brown and cream and black, for the most part, as well as a few tunics in deep reds and blues.
It’s a relief to set aside the Rebel uniforms for something more closely resembling normal. They begin to feel more like themselves, though Baze can admit, in the quiet of his own heart, that he doesn’t know what that means anymore. He wonders, as they share a meal across the kitchen table, as they curl up beside each other in bed, how many times their lives can be recreated, how many different selves they have left inside of them.
He asks Taresh, when she visits at the end of the first week, if she has any news of the rebellion. The look she directs at him is at once hard and filled with sympathy. No, she says. No news. There will be no news. She asks them not to seek the information out, not to make contact with anyone inside the Alliance.
Outside this tiny, crystalline globe that they’ve found themselves in, the galaxy spins on, tearing itself to pieces with no thought of who suffers and dies in the process. It’s like living in a dream, bottled up in a glass jar while the outside world remains muffled and silent. And it’s so easy, so frighteningly easy, to forget. To sink down into the comfort of their budding happiness, only to be drawn up again at every small, strange reminder of what they’ve left behind.
That’s their penance, Baze thinks. That’s as it should be. Grief and happiness, tangled together, clinging to the space inside their hearts.
One afternoon, they come across a small, dusty shop selling all manner of candles and incense and scented oils. Chirrut spends the better part of an hour there, chatting with the proprietor and sampling the different scents until his head begins to spin.
Baze is examining an array of lotions and massage oils and attempting to be discreet about it when Chirrut appears beside him. Silently, he lifts a glass bottle toward his face, and Baze bends down obligingly to sniff at it.
The rush of memory nearly staggers him. Incense, sharp and pure and burning in the censers that hang at the front of the central hall. The heady smoke rising and curling into the weak sunlight that spills from the upper windows. The slow, sonorous chants, merging into one voice that Baze can feel echoing in the soles of his feet.
It smells of the temple. It smells like home.
He takes in a shaking breath, blinking against the burn in his eyes and lifting a hand to catch Chirrut’s wrist in a gentle squeeze. He doesn’t say a word, but Chirrut nods, leaning close for a moment to press his hand against Baze’s chest.
They purchase a small vial of the oil, as well as a pair of candles that smell of warm, sweet cinnamon. Grief and happiness.
It’s late in the evening. The mess from their dinner has been cleaned and put away, and Baze putters around the house, checking the doors and flicking off lights until only the soft glow from lamp in their bedroom remains.
Across the room, Chirrut is laid out on top of the blankets, his hands folded behind his head as he listens to the familiar sounds of Baze nesting in for the night. It’s taken some time, but as the days pass the house has begun to feel more like theirs, and less like the home of a stranger. He turns his face into the pillows and hums happily. “The bed is beginning to smell like us.”
Baze chuckles as he climbs into bed, settling comfortably along Chirrut’s side and propping himself up on one elbow. “I can wash the sheets tomorrow, if you’d like.”
“No,” he laughs, reaching out to run his hand down Baze’s bare arm. “It’s nice. I like it.”
Baze catches Chirrut’s wandering hand and holds it close against his chest. He leans down, their joined hands pressed between them, and places a lingering kiss on his lips. Fingertips cup his jaw, trace across his brow and down his neck to his shoulders, and Chirrut smiles at the feel of him, relaxed and untroubled. One kiss blurs into another as they open for each other, Chirrut catching Baze’s lip between his teeth in that way he knows will send his heart racing.
Something shifts. The heat banked low in his belly flares, and Baze moves closer, slipping a hand around Chirrut’s waist and then lower, sliding under his sleep shirt to stroke at smooth skin. A soft, pleased sound hums against his lips. Chirrut shivers and winds his arms around his shoulders, slowly unraveling as their kisses deepen, as Baze’s hands roam under his shirt. The atmosphere thickens, and Baze’s head begins to swim at the enticing press of Chirrut’s skin, the slide of his hands and his tongue rich and intoxicating.
They haven’t come together like this since Jedha, since Eadu and Scarif and the chaotic upheaval that followed. Intimacy of that sort has felt distant, a touch out of reach as their minds and bodies mend, a part of their lives before that hasn’t quite made its way into their present. But tonight, in the quiet of their bedroom with this new world gone dark around them, everything within Baze is crying out yes and now. Chirrut is light in his arms, so full of light, and all he wants is to drink of him until the sun blushes on the horizon.
Baze pulls away a fraction, and their panting breaths mingle in the space between them. He nudges his nose against Chirrut’s, dropping a light kiss at the corner of his mouth: a question. Chirrut nods at once and sighs out, closing the distance and capturing Baze’s lips hungrily. A groan slips out from low in Baze’s throat; he pulls back again, and Chirrut gives a small whine, reaching for him.
“Hold on,” he pants, leaning back. “Sit up.”
He does, and Baze grabs the hem of Chirrut’s sleep shirt and tugs it up and off, revealing his golden skin. They fall together again, hands and mouths gone eager and desperate, and the feel of Chirrut’s bare skin sparks a sharp pleasure that settles at the base of his spine. Shifting and rolling, Baze gets Chirrut onto his back again, pressing him down into the pillows. His legs part for him, and it drives a throb of heat through Baze’s core as he settles between them, rocking against him in a slow grind. Chirrut cups his face between his hands and drags him back into a kiss, soft and open-mouthed and so sweet that it sends heat racing through his blood. Need leaps in his chest, and he can’t seem to get close enough, drunk on the taste of Chirrut’s moans and gentle sighs.
After several long, hazy minutes, Chirrut breaks away with a small gasp; Baze, undeterred, moves down his neck with a trail of warm, sucking kisses. Chirrut arches against him and tries to catch his breath as Baze makes his way down Chirrut’s chest, slow and reverent. The urgency eases, slows, and Chirrut pants softly above him while Baze applies his lips and teeth to the base of his throat.
He runs his hands over the bristle of Baze’s hair and scratches gently against his scalp with his fingernails. A shiver runs down Baze’s spine, and Chirrut hums thoughtfully.
“Much as I miss your hair, it’s quite something to feel it this short again.” His voice has gone low, a touch hoarse. He grins and rubs his fingers from the crown of Baze’s forehead down to cup the back of his neck. “Makes me think of having you like this in our much younger days.”
Baze huffs a laugh against Chirrut’s collarbone. “It’s growing back far greyer than it was before,” he says. “I have you to thank for that, no doubt.”
“I’m sure you look very distinguished.”
“Well, you can say that.” He comes up on one elbow, leaning over Chirrut and touching a finger to his temple. “You’ve only got a bit of grey here, and a touch of it throughout. People are going to think I’m your grandfather, at this rate.”
Chirrut snorts. “That’s your disposition, love, not your hair. You’ve been at least fifty years old since we were teenagers.”
A pinch to his side, a yelp that sharpens into a moan as Baze leans down again to worry and suck at his nipple, one hand moving to tease at the other. Chirrut runs his hands across his hair over and over again, until his fingers buzz with the feel of it, impossibly soft and fine under his palms. The pleasure pools hot in his groin, and he rolls his hips to press against the growing hardness between Baze’s legs.
Two hands reach to grope at Chirrut’s hips, tight and bruising at the fingertips. Baze pulls back and hooks his fingers in the waistband of Chirrut’s sleep pants, tugging hastily until Chirrut lifts his hips off the bed and helps wriggle out of the last of his clothes. Baze follows suit, pushing their rumpled clothes to the end of the bed.
He settles back on his heels between Chirrut’s open thighs, brought up short by the sight of him, the feel of all his warm skin spread out in front of him. He strokes his hands down Chirrut’s chest, framing his ribs and feeling where he’s only just beginning to soften with age. Scarring from Scarif, faintly pink, etches down his side. Baze traces his fingers across the marks, wishing he could erase them, erase their memory, with his touch; Chirrut covers his hand and draws it up to rest over the strong beat of his heart.
A blotchy flush runs down his neck and across his chest, and Baze bows against him, kissing lightly down his sternum and then moving lower. He sucks a mark onto his abdomen, shifts until he’s flat on his stomach between Chirrut’s legs, kissing and mouthing at the crease where his thigh meets his hip. Chirrut legs fall open wider to accommodate him, a long breath slipping from his lips as he pushes himself further down the mattress and settles more comfortably into the mess of blankets.
Baze brushes the rasp of his beard over the base of Chirrut’s erection, reveling in his little jump. He gets his shoulders under Chirrut’s thighs, letting his legs rest open against him and bringing his mouth down to breathe heavy and hot across his length. Unhurriedly, he licks and mouths until there’s an edge of a moan at the end of Chirrut’s breaths, until he feels the tension in the long line of his legs. The taste of him sits heavy on his tongue, and Baze leans up to take him fully into his mouth.
“Baze,” Chirrut sighs, reaching out to cup the back of Baze’s head, to rub at the nape of his neck. “Oh, Baze. My Baze.”
It doesn’t take long. Chirrut’s breath grows harsh and gasping, hips restless as he tries to push toward the wet heat of Baze’s mouth. Baze holds him still, his hands laced over his stomach and pressing him into the sheets. When he glances up, it’s to see Chirrut with his head thrown back, his mouth open and his back bowed in an arch. Baze feels the tremble in his abdomen and keeps a steady pace until Chirrut’s hand tightens on his neck, a gasp wrenching from his chest as he crests and comes. He closes his eyes and swallows him down, gentling his motions until he lets Chirrut’s spent cock slip from his lips.
His head is buzzing. He rests his cheek against the inside of Chirrut’s splayed thigh, breathing in the thick scent of him, pressing small kisses into his skin.
“Come here,” Chirrut whispers as he catches his breath. He rubs at Baze’s shoulder, gently urging him forward. “Come up here, please.”
Arousal sits heavy in his limbs, makes him clumsy as he crawls up the bed and falls into Chirrut’s open arms. Chirrut pulls him close, wrapping an arm around his waist and sliding a leg between his thighs, up against the hard line of his cock. Baze groans and thrusts weakly against him, strung out and dizzy with want. A hand comes between them and strokes him, tight and fast and perfect, so perfect, and Baze hitches his hips closer, pushing into the friction.
Chirrut captures his mouth, sucking at his lips and letting Baze pant against him. He tries to kiss back but can’t quite seem to manage it, shuddering and biting back a groan as Chirrut’s hand tightens around him.
“You don’t have to be quiet,” Chirrut murmurs against his lips, swallowing Baze’s helpless little moan. “Let me hear you.”
A groan rumbles out from deep in his chest as the pleasure tightens, sharpens, and he spills between them. All the tension drains out of him in one exhausting whoosh, and Chirrut gathers him close, wrapping up his shuddering limbs and letting his breathing ease as he slowly spirals back into himself.
“I love you,” Chirrut breathes, so soft that Bazes barely hears it, feels it whisper across his lips. Baze closes that small distance between them and kisses him, pouring out every ounce of the tenderness that’s welled up inside him.
Then he yawns against Chirrut’s mouth, struggling in vain to contain it. Chirrut laughs softly, presses a kiss to his cheek, to the end of his nose, before rolling onto his back and drawing Baze to rest his head on his chest.
“Now I’ll definitely have to wash the sheets,” Baze mumbles against him. He feels the echo of Chirrut’s laughter under his cheek. Chirrut shifts him up slightly, patting around the bed to find a piece of discarded clothing to clean them up with. They settle back together, and Baze feels all of his limbs turn leaden, too heavy to even think about moving.
“Is the lamp still on?” Chirrut asks, voice soft and heavy with sleep.
Baze opens one eye to glare at the lamp, still casting a cheerful light across the bedroom. He groans and pushes himself up over Chirrut, smothering him into the sheets to reach the bedside table and switch off the offending light. Chirrut sputters a laugh, muffled into the pillows.
Darkness smoothes over them. Chirrut tugs him back into place against his chest, and Baze feels the blanket settle over his shoulders, feels Chirrut’s hands stroking slowly, hypnotically up and down his back. He drifts, and sleep comes over him without his realizing, his thoughts emptied out of all but the steady beat of Chirrut’s heart under his ear.
Life begins to shape into something like a routine.
The merchants in the market begin to know their faces, calling out a greeting as they pass or waving them over to tempt them with a particularly good batch of lojin berries. They meet a few of the small families who live on their street, and Chirrut is in his element, his good humor and inviting smiles matched by their neighbors’ sincere words of welcome. Baze, too accustomed to standing guard in the company of strangers, slowly begins to uncurl, warmed and amused to see Chirrut extending his charms once more.
In the evenings, Baze cooks while Chirrut does his best to get underfoot, and more often than not they carry their dinner out onto the porch, talking and leaning against each other until the air cools and the sun goes down. On some nights, Chirrut steps into the grass and moves through the slow rhythms of his practice forms, allowing his body to stretch and relax. The tunics he wears open down his chest in a deep vee, and Baze leans back on his elbows to appreciate the sight of him, balanced and graceful and silhouetted in twilight.
“We should do something with this,” Chirrut comments one evening, scuffing his foot in the dirt of the empty garden bed that runs along one side of their fence. “The days have been getting warmer. We’ll miss the planting season.”
Baze frowns in consideration, looking over the bed with a critical eye. A patch of bare, packed dirt, sprouted here and there with weeds and wide enough to accommodate a good assortment, if he plans it out correctly. They would need to clear the weeds, turn the soil, prepare the small plot for planting. They don’t have any tools, but they wouldn’t need much; Baze is more than accustomed to relying on the simple, traditional practices preferred in the temple gardens. A good shovel, a rake, a trowel. A pair of sturdy gloves and a watering can.
It would be hard work. Good work. He likes the thought of growing something for themselves, of getting his hands into the dirt of this world and drawing up life, simple and nourishing.
Chirrut, for his part, returns to the old habits that have defined his days for as long as Baze has known him. He meets each morning with meditation, waking early and slipping outside to sit in the slow, grey dawn, often before Baze has even begun to stir.
Most mornings, Baze throws off the sheets and rises soon after him, setting a pot of tea to brewing and opening the back door a crack to let the smell wind its way to Chirrut’s nose. Occasionally, he’ll sleep late enough that Chirrut finishes his meditations before he’s fully awake, still burrowed down into the warm comfort of their bed. Chirrut takes a special delight in crawling in beside him, reaching out and tucking his chilled hands against the skin of Baze’s stomach. Baze has enough self control not to shove him off the bed when he does that, but it’s a near thing.
One morning finds Baze waking earlier than usual, early enough that when he stretches out an arm to feel the rumpled sheets beside him, they still hold the ghost of Chirrut’s warmth. He plods out to the kitchen, stretching the stiffness out of his limbs and blinking away the haze of sleep. The sun has barely begun to rise, and the faint glow of dawn creeps in slowly through the windows.
As he reaches to fill the kettle with water, something compels him to stop. He glances out the kitchen window at Chirrut, still in his sleep clothes, sitting alone on the worn wood of the porch.
There’s a prod, a push, a shift in the air that beckons him forward. He fights it for the space of a minute, staring hard at the straight line of Chirrut’s back, then follows the nudge until it carries him outside.
A rush of cool, moist air greets him when he slides open the door. The grass is coated with a heavy dew, and Baze draws in a deep breath; the air smells of trees, soil, growing things. Nothing at all like Jedha, so crisp and dry in the mornings that it would steal the breath from his lungs.
Chirrut’s head twitches toward him slightly, and Baze settles next to him, crossing his ankles and resting his forearms on his knees. He looks out over the narrow strip of their yard, warming in the growing sunlight. Beside him, Chirrut’s breaths come slow and steady, barely a whisper in the silence that surrounds them. Birdsong, distant and quiet, filters down from the trees.
Without allowing himself a moment to hesitate or think better of it, Baze crosses his legs, straightening his spine and letting his shoulders drop. He breathes in deep, and lets it out in an even hush. He cups his hands in his lap. He closes his eyes.
It would be impossible to count the number of hours he and Chirrut have spent in this exact pose across the years. Far more than he likes to think about, these days. Early each morning and each night, sometimes alone and sometimes in communion with the rest of the temple. Meditation and contemplation and prayer: the core of their lives as Guardians, as essential as the honing of their physical skills or the study of their ancient texts. He threw aside all of these practices when he threw aside his Guardian robes, no matter how comforting, how sacred they had once been to him. No matter how deeply it had hurt Chirrut. They were hot coals in his hands, thorns in his feet that he had to be rid of, to keep his sanity. To keep himself from drowning in the siege that had swallowed up their world.
But now, Baze sits. He breathes. The old patterns are right there waiting for him, easy to reach for in the cool quiet of the morning. He doesn’t push. He doesn’t seek. He only breathes, and lets his breath fill him, and lets his thoughts fall away. Just as he had been taught to do when he was little more than a boy.
When he opens his eyes again, the sun is higher on the horizon. Chirrut slowly stirs beside him, flexing his hands and letting his posture relax. Baze blinks in the light and lets his mind settle back into his body, his limbs feeling a little too heavy. He unwinds his legs and plants his hands behind him on the porch, groaning and twisting his back to pop it. Chirrut snickers.
“We could try sitting up against a wall,” he says. “If it would be easier on your old bones.”
“If we sat up against a wall, I would fall asleep,” Baze grumbles as he stretches his arms over his head and then flops onto his back. Laughing, Chirrut leans over him and reaches out to slide a hand into his hair, just long enough now to tickle between his fingers.
“Thank you for joining me,” he says quietly. “How do you feel?”
Baze takes a moment to consider. He folds his hands behind his head, looking up into Chirrut’s face, expectant and carefully neutral above him. “Fine. Good.” A bit strange, if he’s being honest. “It was… easier than I would have expected.”
The smile Chirrut gives him would shame the stars. “Good.” He leans the rest of the way and kisses him, lips warm against the morning air.
Then he gives Baze a light smack on the chest and sits up. “Now, go and make us breakfast.”
Summer arrives with a warm flush, turning the days long and balmy. A little too warm for two native Jedhans who are more accustomed to the bite of cold winds than the lazy heat that’s descended over the city, but they’re adjusting. Baze takes to wandering around the house shirtless with a distracting frequency, and most nights they sleep with the bedroom window open, wrapped up in a sheet with the comforter pushed down to the end of the bed.
In the flourishing summer heat, the booths at the market begin to overflow with color, row upon row of vibrant flowers and herbs ready for planting. Baze eyes the sacks of soil and mulch, the carefully cultivated bulbs and small, delicate seedlings, and his thoughts return to the empty garden bed.
He turns the idea over and over in his head, roaming the market and examining the offerings with a keen, quiet eye. He spends an afternoon dampening the soil in the bed and rubbing it between his hands, assessing—far heavier than what he’s used to, far richer, far less sand. It smells good, and Chirrut laughs at him as he brings it up to his face to sniff.
“If I catch you taking a bite of that, you’re not allowed to kiss me for the rest of the day.”
“But that’s the best way to tell if it’s any good,” Baze teases, lifting his handful up to Chirrut’s nose. Chirrut bends down, breathing deep.
“Smells like dirt.”
“Bah,” he scoffs. He takes another whiff. “You don’t know.”
Chirrut bumps his hip against Baze’s shoulder where he kneels in the grass. “Is it good dirt, at least?”
Baze lets it trickle between his fingers, looks over the small plot as he sits back on his heels. “It is.”
Chirrut, to his credit, keeps quiet as Baze ponders. Baze has always done things in his own time, and as much as his husband’s careful deliberations can send him twisting with impatience, he knows better than to push. Privately, Chirrut is relieved that he’s found something to occupy his mind and busy his hands. Idleness has never sat well on Baze, and it sets him at ease to watch him become so engrossed in this undertaking.
One bright and busy afternoon at the market, Baze finds himself pouring over a large tray full of seed packets, a few in each hand with more spread out on the wide table in front of him. He’s been haunting this booth for the last several days, and Lu-Fel, the older human woman who owns it, sits back in the shade of her awning, paying him no mind. Her eyes are closed against the sunlight that shines between the clouds, her feet propped up on a stool, and a small fan buzzes behind her, sitting precariously on top of a stack of produce crates and stirring the muggy air.
The stall is piled up with potted seedlings and early summer produce, and the variety is overwhelming—flowers bursting with color, small punnets of fruits and vegetables and fragrant herbs set out in rows. They’ve both gradually come to know a few words in Bygan, enough for Baze to recognize some of the seeds he’s holding, but the rest he can only guess at from the small images printed on the packets.
Chirrut has wandered farther down the line of booths, following his nose to a row of stalls brimming with flowers, ranging from small, scrubby shrubs to huge, exotic blooms. Baze looks up as the sound of his laughter pipes high above the noisy square. He watches a moment as Chirrut says something to the vendor, a young Zabrak they’ve spoken to occasionally, and then bends down, leaning against his staff, smiling and sniffing at the blossoms.
Baze looks down at the seeds in his hands, then sorts through the segmented tray until he finds a few packets stamped with flowers.
“If you stand there holding those seeds much longer,” Lu-Fel calls out to him, “they’re going to start sprouting in your hands.”
He glances up to find Lu-Fel peering down her nose at him. Her long grey hair is pulled back into its customary bun, but a few pieces have come loose in the humidity, forming a silver halo around her face. Baze straightens a bit under her scrutiny; Lu-Fel always has a way of looking at him that makes him feel like an acolyte with his robes tied wrong. Chirrut adores her, of course.
A small smile crinkles the corners of her eyes. “You’ll need to make a decision before the seasons turn,” she says.
Without waiting for Baze to respond, she sits forward in her creaking chair and plucks the packets out of his hands, rifling through them. “Not these,” she says, tossing a few aside. “Too delicate. Do you want something pretty or something you can eat?”
He glances back at Chirrut, slowly winding his way through the stalls, running careful hands over the sprouts and seedlings. His fingers find the soft petals of another flower, and he pauses again, leaning down to take in its scent.
“Both,” Baze says.
“Good.” Lu-Fel leans over the table, tapping a finger in front of him. “Never do too much of the same thing. It’s boring.”
She sorts through the seeds with efficient fingers, setting a few aside and pulling out a few more, muttering all the while about temperatures and proper watering. Baze watches in an attentive silence and answers her curt questions about the light in their garden, how much space they have, what types of plant he’s cared for in the past. In the end, she sets out four packets in front of him, then turns and picks out a few plants from her trays.
“Better to start these from sprouts than seeds,” she says, offering up the small leafy plants for his approval. He nods, and she points down the way. “You go to Taf over there for soil. He’ll set you up right, none of that garbage filler some of the others will try to sneak by you. In two weeks, you come back here and tell me how many of these you’ve killed, and we’ll go from there.”
Baze passes over his credit chip, and a light hand rests on his back as Chirrut sneaks up beside him. “Hello, Lu-Fel,” he says, pointing a sunny smile in her direction. “Has he finally settled on something?”
“He’d better have,” she snorts, leaning back in her chair again and closing her eyes. “He keeps scaring away the other customers, frowning at those seeds like they did him wrong.”
Baze gives her a look, stone-faced, and Lu-Fel grins at him without opening her eyes.
Early the next morning, before the sun rises too high and the heat becomes uncomfortable, Baze stands in the yard, his arms folded over his chest as he assesses the plot of dirt. Their supplies are stacked up neatly to one side, well out of the path to the porch where Chirrut lounges, his bare feet in the grass and a mug of tea warm between his hands.
Baze kneels in front of the garden bed, pondering. Chirrut takes a slurp of his tea and cocks his head to listen.
“Are you planning on actually planting anything?” he calls after several long minutes of silence. “Or are you communing with the dirt again?”
Baze glances over at him. “Are you planning on helping me with this?” he replies, tossing him a pair of gloves that Chirrut snatches out of the air. “Or would you prefer just to heckle me all morning?”
Grinning, Chirrut sets aside his mug and crosses the yard to him. “I see no reason why I couldn’t manage both.” He kneels next to Baze in the grass and reaches out to find the wooden edging that runs the length of the bed. “What can I do?”
Baze pulls on his own pair of gloves. “First, the weeds.”
Chirrut grins again and spreads out both hands, running them over the small sprouted weeds that cover the bed. He begins to pluck them from the ground, gathering them in handfuls and then tossing them to the side. They make quick work of it, stretching up the bed to get at the taller weeds along the fence, and soon the worst are cleared away.
Baze picks up the shovel and starts at one corner of the bed, turning the soil and breaking up the remainders of the rooted weeds. He splits a sack of compost, dark and fertile, and spreads it in an even layer. Chirrut follows behind him as he works it in with a rake, filling the watering can from the spigot at the back of the house and pouring it out in a steady shower.
By mid-morning, the bed is transformed, the soil soft and damp and even. The air warms as the sun rises toward noon, and Baze works steadily, gently loosening the roots of the small plants and settling them in the ground in neat rows. Chirrut keeps the watering can filled at his side, and Baze digs out furrows in the soil, tipping the packets of seeds into his hands. He spreads them evenly and then covers them, careful not to bury them too deep.
Baze sighs out as he pats the soil down over the last of the seeds, something reverent and fond pushing inside his chest. He sits back on his heels and surveys his work, ignoring the ache in his knees from being on the ground too long.
Chirrut comes up behind him, wraps his arms around his shoulders and across his chest. He leans down to kiss his cheek, then wrinkles his nose. “You need a shower.”
Baze chuckles and leans into his embrace. He pulls a cloth from his pocket to wipe the dirt from his hands, then reaches up to wrap a hand around Chirrut’s wrist. “What? You don’t like the smell of sweat and compost?”
“Well, it’s not as if I haven’t smelled it before,” Chirrut says, grinning, remembering Baze as a young man, kneeling in the temple gardens with dirt up to his elbows, tending to the shrubs and vines that grew, hardy and stubborn, in Jedha’s unforgiving climate. Chirrut gives him a squeeze, dropping a kiss on the top of his head. “I suppose I could get used to it.”
Then he moves to stand in front of Baze, reaching for his hands and tugging him to his feet. “Come,” he says with finality. “We’ll see which of us right about the size of the shower.”
The yard is a mess of tools and weeds and empty bags, but Baze ignores it for the time being, laughing light and easy and letting Chirrut tow him into the house.
The morning sun is high. The air is warm. Chirrut settles cross-legged at the end of the porch, tilting his face into the sunlight and slowly stretching the stiffness out of his shoulders. Baze moves around him, his steps quiet, filling the watering can and checking the soil in the garden.
This pattern has become familiar over the course of the last week. When he finishes, Baze will sit down beside him, brushing the dirt from his hands, stretching his legs out into the grass. On some mornings, Baze simply sits, a still and silent presence at his side; on others, he joins him in meditation, and the peace that settles in his spirit glows out like a beacon in the Force. Chirrut hopes, as he begins to slow his breathing, that this will be one of those mornings.
From across the yard, he hears Baze’s quick intake of breath.
“Chirrut,” he calls in a hushed tone of excitement. “Come here.”
Chirrut unfolds his legs and crosses to him, the grass cool and damp under his feet. He reaches out a hand to find Baze’s shoulder where he sits crouched in front of the garden bed. Baze gently takes his hand as he kneels, guiding him forward until his fingers brush against the tiny, tender leaves of the first sprouted seeds.
His eyes widen, and he grins. “Which is it?” he asks, matching the quiet pitch of Baze’s words, as if in fear of waking the little plants. The thought widens the smile on his face, and he leans forward, carefully setting one hand in the soft loam of the soil to search for more sprouts. He finds a few, barely poking through to spread their leaves in the sunlight.
“The borro roots,” Baze says, leaning in close beside him. “Lu-Fel said they were quick to sprout, but I didn’t think they would be this quick.”
Chirrut reaches out with his senses and finds the barely-there pulse of life glowing from the plants with a soft radiance. “They were eager to meet you,” he says, tracing one delicate leaf with the tip of his finger. “They knew how well they were being cared for and did not want to make you wait.”
Baze laughs, soft and pleased, and Chirrut is helpless against the wellspring of affection that rises in him. He sits back on his heels and cups Baze’s face in two hands, smearing dirt onto his cheeks and pulling him close for a kiss. Laughter tickles against his lips and an arm wraps around his waist, so warm and solid that it sends heat racing down Chirrut’s spine. He chases as Baze begins to lean back, lets the kiss melt into something slower, deeper, catching the quickening of Baze’s breath.
He could do this forever. Sit here with Baze in the hazy light of morning, dew soaking the knees of his sleep pants, trading sighs and kisses until his head is spinning with it. Baze is warm under his hands, flushed up with an easy joy, and suddenly Chirrut is hungry for him, blooming open as readily as the flowers Baze tends so faithfully. He moves his hands to Baze’s shoulders and presses, nearly topples him over as he shifts closer, leaning against his chest. Catching himself on his hands, Baze sputters a laugh, turning his head to break the kiss even as Chirrut lifts a hand to his cheek to draw him back.
“Chirrut, wait,” he laughs, getting his hands on Chirrut’s hips to keep him from climbing directly into his lap. “This isn’t exactly the place.”
There’s a pant in his voice, an undertone of embarrassed mirth that has a smile tugging at the edge of Chirrut’s lips. “Baze Malbus,” he says, leveling a look in his direction, mockingly stern, “are you afraid someone might catch us necking in our own garden?”
He huffs, and Chirrut grins, scritching his fingers through Baze’s beard and feeling the fingers on his hips tighten in return. He leans in to sneak another kiss on the corner of Baze’s mouth, which Baze accepts with a small, soft hum before nudging him up.
“Go and meditate,” he says, swatting at him on the hip. “Some of us have things to do.”
The linger in his touch betrays him, and Chirrut, satisfied, stands and turns away on a quick, prim movement. “Fine,” he sighs over his shoulder. “Let me know when you’ve finished playing in the dirt.”
He settles back in his place on the porch, crossing his legs and relaxing his shoulders and listening with half an ear as Baze takes up the watering can. He lets his mind ease, his thoughts slow, until all of his awareness is centered on the quiet sounds of Baze moving through his chores, the small, absent mutter of his voice as he pours out his attentions on their garden, soaked up and returned to him in the form of budding flowers and the first bright, sprouted seedlings.
The garden flourishes under Baze’s care, and it isn’t long before the small planted herbs grow tall enough to clip from. He begins using the first of the harvest in their meals, and Chirrut praises them effusively, grinning at the pride Baze buries under a thick layer of grumbling. Lu-Fel checks in with him with the air of an exacting schoolteacher, and Baze takes ready advantage of her expertise, bringing her small cuttings and listening attentively to her advice. The climate is so different here that he may as well be a novice—he frets like a new parent over the summer heat, and Chirrut teases him for checking the dampness of the soil perhaps a little too obsessively. Often, Baze catches himself marveling at how eager this planet is to grow, running a hand over the dark soil and feeling the tickle of lush grass under his feet.
Byga in the summer, they discover, is prone to long, soaking rains. Where the rain on Jedha had been sudden and fierce, skies cracking open and pouring out in one heavy drench, Byga’s rains are slower, gentler, filling the whole day with a soft drizzle.
When it rains like this, Chirrut opens up the windows of their small home, filling every corner with fresh, cool breezes that carry in the smell of earth and wood. He plants himself on the floor of the kitchen, the back door opened wide, letting the mist and the moody roll of distant thunder fill his senses. Baze grouses that he could at least lay out some towels to keep the rain off their floors, but Chirrut only laughs, eyes closed and face tilted up to catch the shift in the winds.
Baze slouches in one corner of the sofa in the living room, datapad in hand, idly flipping between weather reports and a news readout, wondering if he’ll need to construct some sort of cover for the more delicate sprouts if the summer showers turn more substantial. He’s left the lights off, and the house is painted with shadows in the grey afternoon. From the corner of his eye he can see Chirrut in the kitchen, seated on the floor in the same position he’s been in for the past hour or so.
They’ve spent the day doing nothing, more or less, waking early and then staying in bed well into the morning, lazy and indulgent in a way that would have set Baze’s ears to burning, in his younger days. There’s a loaf of bread cooling in the kitchen, missing the hunk they had sliced off and shared with a spoonful of honey that melted into the still-warm crumb. He’ll put a soup together for dinner, Baze muses, something hearty for the cooler, drizzly evening, something they can dip a bit more of the bread into before wrapping it.
From across the room, he hears the creak of the floorboards and glances up to find Chirrut crossing to him. He’s barely deigned to get dressed today, wearing only a sleeveless shirt and a loose pair of pants that stop just below the knee. His feet are bare and sure as he navigates with familiar ease around the low table in the living room, reaching out a hand to find Baze’s head, his shoulder, then dropping down beside him on the couch with a sigh.
Without a word, Chirrut leans his weight heavily against him, pushing with a gentle insistence against Baze’s shoulder. Baze grunts and lifts his arms, shifting until he’s reclined along the length of the sofa with Chirrut settled against his chest and stretched out between his open legs. He rests his free hand on Chirrut’s shoulder, runs it down his arm and finds his skin cool and damp. Sighing, he rubs briskly and mutters, “Catch your death, sitting in the rain like that.”
Chirrut hums, low and content, and Baze feels it against his chest. He wedges an arm down between Baze’s side and the back cushion, curling his hand along his ribs. “What are you reading?” he asks. His voice is soft and distant, and Baze smiles to himself at the familiar tone: Chirrut, in the wake of a deep meditation, slowly coming back to himself.
“How to set up a cover in the garden,” he says. “News. Nothing interesting.”
“Mmm,” Chirrut hums again, stretched like a drip of honey. “Read to me?”
Baze brushes an absent kiss on the top of his head, notes the tickle where his dark hair is getting a bit long. “All right.”
He reads of nothing in particular. He reads until he feels Chirrut go heavy and slack against him, until his breathing is slow and even. Quietly, carefully, he sets the datapad aside and slouches down until his head rests against the arm of the sofa. He snags his fingers on the quilt laid across the back of the sofa and drags it down, tucking it around Chirrut’s shoulders and settling a hand in the curve at the small of his back. He closes his eyes, and drifts, and dozes.
He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knows Chirrut is shifting against his chest, pressing small kisses to the base of his throat. They’ve slid further down the sofa, with one of Baze’s legs hanging off the edge and the quilt trailing to the floor. The rain outside has slowed, and through the open window Baze can hear the steady drip of the drains. The house is a bit darker now, late afternoon slowly bleeding into early evening, and Baze gives Chirrut a little nudge so he can get up to start dinner.
Chirrut sits up easily, enviably easily, Baze thinks, as he winces and stretches the stiff muscles in his back. Chirrut reaches out and scratches his nails across Baze’s shoulders and down his back, with just enough pressure to curl his spine and draw out a pleased growl. Smiling, soft-eyed and muzzy, Chirrut leans over to aim a kiss against his cheek, landing it on his ear. He laughs softly then gets to his feet, offering his hands to help hoist Baze off of the low couch. Baze takes his hands and rises with a groan.
Soft steps follow him into the kitchen. Arms wrap around his waist as he pulls a pot from the cabinet, the length of Chirrut’s body warm against his back. Baze huffs a laugh as they shuffle like that between the pantry and the cooler, Chirrut stepping on his heels.
“You’ll need to let go of me if you want dinner,” he says, patting the hands on his stomach.
“Nonsense.” Chirrut hooks his chin over Baze’s shoulder and leans their cheeks together. “I’m helping.”
Baze chuckles as he begins to chop up the small pile of vegetables, pausing a moment to pick up a chunk and tap it on the back of Chirrut’s hand. He takes it and pops it into his mouth, crunching in Baze’s ear.
The kitchen is quiet but for the steady movement of the knife and the soft patter of the last lingering raindrops. Soon they’ll be able to use the vegetables out of their own garden, Baze thinks, tipping the chopped pieces into the pot and reaching for a few spices from the cabinet. Soon they’ll have more herbs than they’ll know what to do with, enough to share, enough to dry and store.
He fills the pot with stock and secures the lid. Chirrut abandons him for a moment, wandering into the living room and returning with the datapad in hand. He fiddles with it while Baze tidies the mess, and makes a small sound of triumph as music begins to play, something light and mellow, a soft crooning in a language Baze doesn’t recognize. Chirrut sets the datapad on the kitchen table and takes up his place against Baze’s back, locking his hands around his middle. Setting them into an easy sway, he asks, muffled against Baze’s shoulder, “How long will that take to cook?”
“Half an hour.” Baze sets aside the cloth he used to wipe down the counter and covers Chirrut’s hands. “Maybe a bit more.”
Chirrut stretches up to nose behind his ear, and Baze can feel his lips form into a smile. “Perfect.”
The soup simmers, and the rich smell fills the house as they sway in time to their own rhythm, even as the music changes. Outside, the rain falls, and the garden grows.
Some days are easy, and some days are not. In the deepest hour of night, Baze jolts awake.
There is no light in the bedroom. The usual glow of Byga’s low-hanging moon is obscured behind thick clouds, and Baze blinks, letting his eyes adjust and his heartbeat settle, straining his ears to trace the source of whatever woke him. A low, tight groan cuts through the silence. Baze sits up in alarm.
Beside him, Chirrut twists weakly in the bed sheets. His brow is furrowed, his jaw clenched tight as he pants short, harsh breaths. His face shines with sweat, and he twitches, wincing away from whatever pain colors his dreams.
“Chirrut,” Baze says, pitching his voice low and steady. He hesitates a moment, then reaches over and grasps him firmly by the shoulder. “Chirrut, wake up.”
With a thick gasp, Chirrut comes awake, his eyes flying open as he sucks in a deep breath. A naked expression of terror crosses his face, and he pants, shivers, reaches out for the hand on his shoulder and clutches tight to Baze’s wrist. He swallows and struggles to sit up, shoving away the blankets tangled around his waist, and Baze leans back even as his stomach clenches with concern, gives him space to breathe. He rests a hand in the center of his back as Chirrut covers his face with trembling hands.
“We’re safe,” Baze murmurs. He rubs along his back in a slow circle. Chirrut’s heart pounds under his palm. “I’m here. Only a dream.”
His hand keeps its steady rhythm as Chirrut breathes, as he fights to find the ground under his feet again. The frantic beat of his heart begins to slow, and Baze asks softly, “The same?”
Chirrut nods. His hands fall into his lap, and in the darkness of the bedroom Baze can just make out the tired lines around his eyes, the miserable set of his mouth. “It’s been a few weeks since the last,” he says, voice flat. “I had thought it was passing.”
Baze cups the crest of his shoulder and presses, gently drawing him into the circle of his arms. The tension in his frame slowly bleeds away, and soon he is slumped into Baze’s side, pressing his face into his neck.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” Chirrut begins to mumble, but Baze shushes him. A fine shiver runs through him, and Baze holds him tighter, rubs warmth into his clammy skin. They let the minutes tick by, still and silent and breathing together, until Chirrut moves away, shrugs out of Baze’s arms with a stiff motion.
“I need air,” he says, and doesn’t wait for Baze’s reply before rising on unsteady feet and fleeing the bedroom.
Baze sighs out, long and heavy; his shoulders drop into a defeated hunch. The sheets are pooled in his lap, and he runs a hand through his hair, staring at nothing and waiting, listening. Distantly he hears the click of the stove, the quiet rush of water filling the kettle.
This, too, is becoming routine, along with all the rest—dreams filled with smoke and ash and choking dust, wraiths of memory that manifest in moments of stillness, circling overhead like carrion birds. It started soon after Scarif, while they were still recovering in the medward on Yavin 4. Chirrut had managed to conceal the nightmares for a time, always too good at hiding away what he doesn’t want Baze to see, but it wasn’t long before Baze was startled awake, stumbling out of his cot at the sound of Chirrut’s strangled shout, barely awake enough to realize what was going on. Baze had coaxed him to sit up, pressed a cup of water in his hands, glared at the medics who came running at the commotion.
“It’s always the same,” Chirrut had said after a long silence, in a whisper that Baze could barely hear. “The sound of stone tearing out of the ground. And then the dust rises up and begins to choke us, and it’s so thick that I can’t find you. Sometimes—” He stopped, and Baze could hear the thick click of his swallow. “Sometimes there’s screaming. I can’t even tell who it is anymore, it’s just…”
Some nights are worse than others. Some nights, Baze manages to ease Chirrut awake just enough, just before the nightmare has a chance to drag him away. Some mornings, he wakes to an empty bed, and he finds Chirrut curled in the corner of the couch or sitting at the kitchen table, face shuttered, dark smudges under his eyes.
Every part of Baze wishes he could lift this pain from Chirrut’s heart. To tuck it into the cup of his palms and put it somewhere else, put it inside himself if he has to, or bury it deep in the dirt and let it lie there, cold and silent, until it seeps away and can’t hurt them anymore.
They are healing. The ache is softening, slowly, in pieces. Time is the truest healer, he knows this, but it’s a difficult thing to remember when his husband is flinching and shuddering away from the torrent of memories he’s forced to relive, over and over.
When he climbs out of bed, he finds Chirrut in the kitchen, standing at the stove with his arms wrapped tightly around himself while curls of steam rise from a brewing mug of tea. He waits at the threshold, but Chirrut doesn’t turn, doesn’t acknowledge him. He’s so still that Baze wonders for a brief moment if he realizes that he’s there.
Even as the thought filters through his mind, Chirrut reaches for the kettle and fills a second mug, setting it at his side on the countertop. The stiff curve of Chirrut’s shoulders softens, just barely, as Baze steps into the kitchen and moves silently to his side. This close, the scent of the tea drifts to Baze’s nose—a floral blend that had been recommended to them by Isa, the young woman who owns the tea stand, for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Baze wishes, as he takes in a slow breath of the steam, that it were that simple.
Chirrut holds himself in an unnatural stillness, as if trying to keep from jostling a wound, and Baze wraps one arm around his waist, lightly, giving him space to move away if he doesn’t want to be touched. Only when Chirrut closes his eyes and leans his head against Baze’s shoulder does he move closer, tucking Chirrut into his side and wrapping his arm more fully around him.
“I’m tired of this,” Chirrut says, a quiet, weary confession that twists in Baze’s gut. A feeling of uselessness rises in his chest, and he turns away from it, away from the guilt that won’t help either of them. It hurts to see Chirrut hurting so, hurts more to know that there’s nothing more that he can do beyond what he’s doing now: offer his comfort, his shelter, a ready ear if Chirrut wants to talk.
He says, simply, “I know.”
Chirrut sighs and turns to press his face into the hollow of Baze’s throat; Baze folds him into his arms, letting Chirrut rest his weight against him. Sweat has soaked, clammy and stale, into the collar of his sleep shirt, and all Baze wants is to unwind him gently from his clothes, put him in a hot shower and then wrap him up in thick towels, bundle him back into their bed until morning comes. Instead, he slips one hand under his collar and presses his thumb into the knots at the base of Chirrut’s neck.
Silence stretches out between them; the tightness in Chirrut’s shoulders slowly slips away. He relaxes a fraction, so subtle that Baze would hardly notice if he weren’t waiting for it. He smoothes a hand down Chirrut’s back, tracing his spine.
“You need a haircut,” Baze murmurs, his nose set against the crown of Chirrut’s head. He feels the small quake of his laugh.
“Maybe I’ll grow it out, hm?” Chirrut’s words are soft against his chest. “Then we can both look like wild animals.”
Baze scoffs, and Chirrut snickers quietly, and the darkness abates, just a bit.
“Do you want something to eat?”
A sigh brushes against Baze’s collar. Chirrut lays a small kiss on his shoulder and says, “No, love, I’m fine.”
Leaning back a bit, Baze picks up Chirrut’s mug and puts it in his hands. “Then drink your tea,” he says, “and we’ll go back to bed.” He waits for Chirrut to take a slow sip before reaching for his own.
They lean against each other until the tea is gone, until the tension in Chirrut’s brow has smoothed, until he’s beginning to droop into Baze’s side. Baze eases the empty mug from his hand and sets it aside before pressing at his elbow to prod him toward the bedroom. The window is open, and the night breeze has carried away the choked scent of fear and pain, leaving behind only fresh air and their soft, heavy blankets. Chirrut climbs into bed, and Baze climbs in beside him, curling close, setting a hand on his side, weighing him in the present.
There’s no moonlight, but Baze doesn’t need it, knowing with perfect intimacy the curve of Chirrut’s cheek as he sighs out, the darkness of his lashes as he closes his eyes.
Time passes, as it must.
Baze’s hair grows to an unruly, irritating length, too short to tie back but just long enough to get in his eyes while he’s working in the garden, to frizz and tangle while he sleeps. It looks a bit ridiculous, he knows, but Chirrut is all smiles at the feel of it, spending long, quiet evenings threading it between his fingers until Baze, with his head in Chirrut’s lap, is nearly in a trance.
It takes a bit of searching, but they manage to find a replacement for Chirrut’s damaged echo-box, a slightly different model that Chirrut fusses and complains over until he gets it set the way he likes and adjusts to the changes. When he sets out into the city on his own for the first time, Baze spends the few hours that he’s gone kneading out his anxiety into ball of bread dough, working away the knot of worry that twists around his heart. It’s less a fear that Chirrut won’t manage—stars know he can handle himself—and more a slightly panicked, irrational paranoia, a reflex born of years spent watching their backs at every turn and doing his best to drag Chirrut away from whatever mischief he inevitably finds himself in. It’s not an impulse he can put down so easily, and considering how many times it’s saved their lives, he’s not sure he’s ready to just yet.
But everything is fine, of course it is, and Chirrut clatters back into the house carrying their dinner in his hands, the little glow of satisfaction in his cheeks sending a pang of guilt into Baze’s gut. He takes the package from Chirrut and leans down to kiss him, bristly and quick. Chirrut hums, swaying against him for a moment, accepting and brushing aside the small note of apology that accompanies the gesture. Apology for what, Baze scarcely even knows. For worrying. For holding him back, perhaps, unconsciously, unintentionally. For allowing his own selfish fears to hamper them both. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last.
Summer rolls by in a lazy, muggy stroll, and the chaotic pace of the city seems to slow a little in deference to the heat. The midday sun is hot enough to leave both of them wilting and a touch irritable, and so they take to venturing into the city proper only in the early morning or in the evening, after the sun has begun to slip behind the horizon.
In amongst the skyscrapers and the constant buzz of speeders overhead, Yakorra is full of small pockets of tranquility, quiet neighborhoods and well-kept parks with fountains and hedgerows and strange, abstract sculptures that Baze enjoys describing to Chirrut in absurd terms, reveling in teasing out his ridiculous snorting laughter. They wind their way through the city’s farthest corners and often find themselves tucked into some small restaurant or another for an unhurried dinner, talking of nothing in particular, picking off of each other’s plates.
Some of the sharpness in Chirrut’s cheeks begins to soften, a quiet testament only Baze can see to the benefit of more regular meals than they’ve had in years.
Just as the first breath of autumn begins to spread over the city, Baze pulls the first of the vegetable harvest from the garden. Tubers unearthed and washed, bright orange hoijas, sun-ripened and heavy, snapped carefully from their stalks. He cuts away more of the herbs, gathering some into bundles that he hangs up to allow them to dry. The house is filled with the smell of them, mingling with the delicate scent of the blue blossoms Chirrut had plucked and set in a cup of water in the window sill—a humble bouquet if there ever was one, but Baze often finds him standing at the sink and running his fingers over the petals, silhouetted in the sunlight and so beautiful, still, always, that the breath catches in Baze’s chest.
On Jedha, a portion of the first harvest, however meager it may be in the face of the unforgiving desert, must be given away; that was simply the way of things. The yield from their garden is far more bountiful than they had any right to hope for, far more than they need, and it sparks an old, nostalgic sort of joy between them, to have enough to give, to share. Chirrut hefts the vegetables in his hands, setting a few aside for the two of them before handing the rest to Baze, who bundles them carefully into a sack.
The first batch goes to Lu-Fel, who scrutinizes the vegetables with a sharp, critical eye, humming and tutting over their various virtues and imperfections, before declaring them, “A respectable first showing, if a little scrawny.” There’s a teasing upturn to her lips, and Baze, feeling like an acolyte receiving the hard-won approval of a Master, has to suppress a grin as he bows his head in acknowledgement.
The rest they distribute among the handful of neighbors and merchants who have become familiar faces over the passing months—Isa, the tea-seller, and Hafessa, the clothier, and Morri, one of the better bakers on the square whose thin, spicy flatbreads Chirrut has taken a liking to. The women who live adjacent to them have just welcomed a new baby, whose crying is occasionally loud enough to carry through their walls. They bring them a handful of the borro roots, hearty and versatile, as well as a dozen sweet rolls Baze had baked the day before. Talla and Vey thank them with weary smiles, the baby wrapped up tight in Talla’s arms, a tuft of dark curls and one chubby fist escaping the blanket.
Over five standard months have passed since they left Jedha. Baze had realized it one night as he was falling asleep, the ever-present counter in the back of his mind chiming to remind him of the broadening gulf of time that separates them from the Holy City. Eventually, he knows, the steady tally will fade away, silenced by the inevitable march of days that numb, even if they don’t always heal. It took over a year for him to stop counting when the temple fell. He wonders, staring up at the ceiling and listening to the rhythm of Chirrut’s sleeping breaths, how long it will take this time.
There are scars still; there will always be scars. From Scarif, from Jedha and all its many sorrows. There’s an ache in Baze’s thigh that comes and goes, the ghost of the blaster bolt that tore through him as he raced across the sands. The explosion that nearly killed them left a ringing in one of Chirrut’s ears that occasionally drives a migraine into the back of his eyes. The nightmares persist, but with less frequency as time stretches on.
Information of the wider galaxy filters strangely through the channels of Byga’s holonet. The planet hangs just far enough out of the Empire’s reach that what news makes its way to them is largely regional, veiled accounts of run-ins with pirates and smugglers, skirmishes with Imperial forces who demonstrate an increasing willingness to meet any resistance with violence, even in the less volatile stretches of the galaxy. Whispers of all-out war and the ever-growing flame of the Rebellion circulate in the marketplace, and Baze and Chirrut both keep their ears open with a careful, studied disinterest.
Chirrut keeps his starbird tucked away, hidden under the folds of his clothes, warm against his skin.
The night is clear and warm and calm as Baze and Chirrut amble down one of Yakorra’s wide central boulevards. They weave with easy familiarity between the other pedestrians, Chirrut’s staff tapping out the rhythm of their steps on the stone walkway.
It’s been a good day. They spent it in a comfortable sort of quiet, both wrapped up in their own pursuits—Baze, frowning over the remaining handful of vegetables that refuse to ripen properly, and Chirrut, engrossed in a recorded book he’d pulled up on their datapad. They’d set out for a walk with a light dinner settling in their stomachs, wandering with no particular destination in mind.
Music drifts down the street, bright and infectious and growing louder as they approach the market square. When they round the corner, they find the streets transformed for a festival of some kind, busy with revelers and glowing with lanterns strung up between the alleyways. Flowers cascade from every corner of the square, woven together and winding from one end of the street to the next. The air is perfumed with their heady scent, blending with the smell of fried bread and roasted nuts. A group of people dance and clap in the center, children running and dancing in circles while the adults sing along with tipsy enthusiasm to the upbeat music, garlands of flowers looped around their necks.
Baze half expects Chirrut to drag him into the fray, to spin them into the dance like they had when the winter festival had arrived on Jedha, the drumbeat pounding heavy in their chests as they whirled and stomped and laughed with the rest of the city. Instead, he leads them on, skirting the edges of the boisterous crowds, swaying close with his hand tucked warm into Baze’s. Next time, perhaps.
Baze lets Chirrut lead them where he will, enough at ease to simply take in the sparkle of the lights against the darkened sky, the soft glow of Chirrut’s contentment. The booths lining the streets overflow with food and drink, and they share a few cups of sweet berry wine between them, just enough to fill them with a pleasant, buzzy warmth as they make their slow and winding way back to the rail stop, leaning into each other a little and letting the night air cool the flush in their cheeks.
The rail car is filled with festival goers, and a young couple, seeing Chirrut’s staff, begin to rise to offer their seats. Baze waves them off. He tucks them into a corner of the compartment and holds the overhead rail with one hand, placing his other lightly along Chirrut’s waist, drawing him to stand closer. Chirrut leans against him, his eyes closed, and he sways with the movement of the carriage as they speed through the city toward home.
Their front door barely closes behind them before Chirrut comes to him with eager hands and warm, smiling lips, made sweet by the wine. Baze’s arms go around his waist as they back each other, a little clumsily, into the bedroom. Chirrut bumps against the bed, and Baze tips him back onto it, laughing deep in his chest at the way Chirrut bounces on the mattress and reaches for him immediately, grinning and none-too gently tugging him down beside him.
They’re flush against each other, legs dangling gracelessly off the end of the bed, kissing the laughter from each other’s lips, and Chirrut can’t remember the last time they did this—got a little drunk and fell into bed together, careless and loose and a bit giddy. It fills him up to feel Baze like this, as comfortable and relaxed as Chirrut has ever known him, far away from the cares that weigh so heavily on his heart. It’s in Baze’s nature to try to carry everything all at once, to lift the burdens of the galaxy onto his own shoulders; Chirrut would never wish for him to be any other way. But they have the time now, the space and the security, to set those cares aside, just a for a little while.
An idea sparks in his mind, and Chirrut sits up, pressing a hand on Baze’s chest when he makes to follow.
“Stay there,” he says. He heaves himself off the bed, untangling Baze’s sneaking fingers from the hem of his shirt. Baze grumbles and sighs but flops back obediently.
Chirrut disappears into the fresher and returns a moment later with a small jar of lotion in his hands, which he sets down on the bed before crawling his way over to Baze. He finds Baze’s shoulders and then manhandles him until he’s all the way up the bed, propped up against the pillows. Baze chuckles, not at all helpfully, as Chirrut pries off both of their shoes and then gets his hands on Baze’s hips, pulling off his trousers with an efficient tug and tossing them off the end of the bed, leaving Baze in only his smalls and a loose tunic.
“Excuse you,” Baze says on a rumbling laugh.
Leaning on one hand, Chirrut angles down toward Baze and plants a kiss, a little off center, on his lips. “Lie down and hush,” he says, giving him a pat on the chest and sitting up.
Baze settles back against the pillows with a sigh. “Bossy.”
“Hush,” he says again. Sitting cross-legged at the end of the bed, Chirrut pulls one of Baze’s legs into his lap and unscrews the lid from the jar. “Hard work deserves its rewards. You’ve been laboring over that garden all summer, and your knees haven’t thanked you for it. Let me take care of you.”
Baze puts up a half-hearted objection, which Chirrut pointedly ignores. He scoops out a portion of thick cream from the jar and rubs it between his hands until it goes warm and silken, then sets to work on Baze’s leg, rubbing up and down his calf in long, firm strokes. All the breath rushes from Baze’s lungs in a long, humming sigh as he sinks back into the mattress. Chirrut smiles.
In no time at all, Chirrut’s hands work him into a boneless state, stretched out the length of the bed and barely awake as he massages away the aches that have settled in his legs, his feet. The bedroom falls into a hazy, dreamlike quiet, punctuated by an occasional low groan as the knots in Baze’s muscles loosen and fade away.
Chirrut’s eyes are closed as he lets all of his focus ground in the rhythms of Baze’s body, so utterly familiar to him that it may as well be his own. He shapes his hands over the thick muscles of his calf, the solid arch of his foot. These strong legs—they had walked the length of their city a thousand times over, carrying food and water and medicine, carrying the faith and the long history of their temple, carrying a weapon that had weighed against his broad back, weighed heavy on his soul. It had broken Chirrut’s heart, again and again, to watch all that Baze was and is be reduced to a weapon for other hands. The galaxy had fractured and changed around them, and so Baze had changed to match, contorted himself to fit a world that no longer had need of his patient and open heart, but rather his sharp eye, his steady hand, his hardened will.
If only the rest of the galaxy could see Baze as he is now, unraveled and sweet, soaking up all the care and affection Chirrut can pour out through his hands. How different things could have been, if Baze had never felt driven to shelter his heart, to build up stone walls around the parts of himself that are too easily bruised to leave exposed to the world. And yet even as he thinks it, there is a jealous, selfish part of him that’s glad that this side of Baze is his and his alone.
Chirrut taps Baze on the knee to encourage him to roll over so he can get at his other leg. He does so with a long, snuffling sigh, and Chirrut loves him so fiercely in that moment that there isn’t enough space in his heart to contain it all. He warms more of the lotion between his hands and then rubs them up and down Baze’s leg in a slow, smooth motion.
“Do you know what I was thinking, earlier today?” he asks.
It takes a moment, but Baze’s soft, inquisitive hum floats to him from the head of the bed. Chirrut grins to himself, pressing his knuckles into the arch of Baze’s foot and then rubbing to the ends of his toes.
“I was thinking that it feels like I’m falling in love with you again, like it’s the first time. Like I am meeting you for the first time.”
Baze’s voice is a slow rumble. “And how do you find me?”
“Well rested. Well fed. Less angry than I’ve felt you in many years.”
A long silence fills the room, and Chirrut waits, keeping a steady, gentle pressure on the leg in his lap.
“I’m still angry.” A strained, uneasy confession. ”It—wells up, at odd moments. Sometimes it feels as if… as if I’m trying to stop a flood with only my hands.”
“I know,” Chirrut says quietly. “I feel it too. That’s okay. That’s right.” He smooths down the length of Baze’s leg and wraps his hands warm around his ankle, letting both of them settle in the stillness of the moment. Then he smiles, shining a little light into the brooding melancholy churning in Baze’s spirit.
“But you are more than that,” he says as he resumes the steady movement of his hands. “So much more. You are honest. And you are brave. And you are generous, and loving, and kind. You are a good husband, and a good neighbor, and a very good gardener.”
He turns a mischievous smile in Baze’s direction. “And right this minute,” he says, “you are very, very sleepy.”
Baze has never held up well under that sort of frank praise, and so Chirrut isn’t surprised when a hand reaches out to grasp his wrist, tugging him down. He bends like a tree in a gale, cups Baze’s cheek in his hand, and Baze mutters against his lips, “You’re an old fool.”
“That’s probably true,” Chirrut whispers, grinning and leaning in for another kiss. And then another.
Baze’s hand slips heavy and warm along the nape of his neck. He sighs out and murmurs, “I love you.”
Chirrut smiles again, brushes the hair away from Baze’s forehead and lays a kiss there. “There’s no sweeter sound in all the galaxy.”
In the last few weeks of fading summer, before the heat gives way to the cooler autumn air, Baze tells Chirrut they’re going on a trip. A leisure trip, which is a foreign enough concept for both of them that it’s almost laughable.
He won’t say where. Chirrut pesters him about it for the better part of three days, but Baze is unswayed, deflecting his badgering with a steady and oft-repeated mantra of, “You’ll see when we get there.”
“I very much doubt that,” Chirrut retorts, and Baze snorts, but remains unmoved.
On the morning of their departure, Baze makes Chirrut wait in the bedroom while he packs. He nearly puts a chair under the door to keep him from sneaking out while Baze’s back is turned, but thinks better of it—almost certainly that would just irk Chirrut enough that he would climb out the window in retaliation, and Baze would prefer their neighbors continue to think of them as reasonably normal people.
“Baze, this is ridiculous.” Chirrut’s voice is muffled through the door. He’s been standing directly on the other side for the past twenty minutes, complaining at regular intervals, and Baze half expects him to begin pacing a path in the floor, like a loth-cat locked up in a too-small enclosure.
“For a blind man, you are irritatingly difficult to surprise,” he calls.
“Then I think you would agree that the solution to that problem is to not try to surprise me.”
“Consider it your due for all those times you snuck up on me when I was meditating in the spire.”
A petulant silence follows, and Baze has no trouble picturing the pinched scowl that is no doubt making an appearance on Chirrut’s face.
“You could at least tell me how long we’ll be gone.”
“Just for the day,” Baze says. “We’ll be back by tonight.”
That’s enough information to keep Chirrut quiet for half a minute, during which Baze sorts through their cooler and picks out a few pieces of fruit, then fills a bottle with water and screws the lid on tight.
“If we’ll only be gone for the day, then what are you even packing?”
“Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?”
Chirrut’s noise of exasperation carries down the hallway, and Baze smiles to himself, folding a light blanket and tucking it into the bottom of one of their packs. The rest of their supplies are spread out on the kitchen table, and Baze packs methodically, double-checking that they have everything they’ll need. He leaves the bag on the table and steps down the hallway, opening the bedroom door to reveal Chirrut’s contrary expression.
He begins to open his mouth, but Baze leans over and drops a quick kiss on his cheek, cutting off whatever peevish remark he was about to deliver. “Are you ready?”
Chirrut quirks an eyebrow and spreads his arms. “Am I?”
Baze considers him—loose, lightweight trousers, soft-soled shoes, a tunic with sleeves that fall to his elbows, breathable and comfortable. And an irritable look on his face, softened by the small smile twitching at the corner of his lips. “Yes,” he says, stepping aside. “Let’s go.”
Gathering their things, Baze ushers Chirrut out of the house and onto the front walkway, where he waits, hands folded over his staff, while Baze secures the door. A speeder waits at the curb, an older model with a fading blue finish, and Baze fishes the key card out of his pocket as they approach, pressing it to the lock. Chirrut frowns.
“Did you steal a speeder?” he asks, rapping a knuckle on the hull. “Are we setting out on a life of crime?”
“The speeder is Hafessa’s,” Baze says, putting their pack in the rear compartment and stepping around to open Chirrut’s door. “She agreed to let us borrow it for the day, so please try to refrain from putting a dent in it.”
“And does Hafessa know that you aren’t legally licensed to pilot a speeder?”
Baze frowns into a long pause. “It is possible that I didn’t mention that.”
“Then we are setting out on a life of crime.”
With a dignified sniff, Chirrut does as he’s told, folding gracefully into the passenger seat. He points a finger in Baze’s direction. “Technically, this means you’re kidnapping me, since I didn’t agree to this. I’m not your accomplice—”
Baze shuts the door on him.
Chirrut is already running his hands over the control panel when Baze climbs into the pilot’s seat. Fiddling with the climate control dials, he asks, “Do I at least get to know how long it will take to get to wherever it is we’re going?”
“Not long.” Baze bats his hand away and begins plugging their destination into the navigational system. “Two hours, give or take.”
Chirrut gives a considering, suspicious hum, settling back in the seat and tapping out an idle rhythm against his thigh. The speeder starts up with a quiet thrum, and Baze reaches over to take one of Chirrut’s hands, raising it to his lips.
“You’re going to enjoy this,” he says quietly, dropping one kiss, then another, on Chirrut’s knuckles. “Trust me.”
Sighing a bit, Chirrut squeezes Baze’s hand. “I do.” He turns his hand and twines their fingers. “You know I do.”
“Then hush yourself, for once in your life, and relax.”
Chirrut laughs. “Fine, fine.” He folds his hands neatly in his lap. “I place myself in your capable hands.”
“Thank you,” Baze replies, dry, returning his attention to the controls and turning the speeder away from the curb.
“Your capable, unlicensed hands.”
Baze winces. “Probably best not to mention that to Hafessa.”
The sky overhead is bright and clear, the sun radiant, the air warm. Baze navigates through the wide skylanes of Yakorra’s central thoroughfare, slipping through the busy stream of ships and pointing their speeder away from the city. The tall buildings and crowded streets slowly give way to long stretches of open land, interrupted here and there by a plot of houses or the edges of a small town.
Something inside Baze seems to loosen as they leave the city behind. He grew up in NiJedha, just as Chirrut had; he’s used to the noise and the press, the always-there chaos that comes with too many people in too small of a space. Even so, he used to relish spending time traveling through Jedha’s great deserts, making a trek to a distant trading outpost or visiting one of the sister temples in the southern provinces. Something in the expanse had always settled him, made it easier to breathe, offered him a kind of clarity that he had never quite found anywhere but the hushed halls of the temple.
It’s an ambling, unhurried journey. They chatter aimlessly, falling occasionally into an easy silence, companionable and undemanding. Chirrut lowers the windows a crack, letting in a rush of air that brings with it the smell of the thick forests that begin to rise around them. They breathe it in deep, into the bottom of their lungs, calm and fresh and full of light. Chirrut tips his head back against the seat and closes his eyes, tilts his face into the breeze with a small smile.
They haven’t seen much of this planet in the months since they arrived, and Baze can’t help but lean forward over the controls, gazing out the viewscreen to get a better look at the old, towering trees that stretch on for miles all around, so deep and dense that he can see nothing beyond. Flashes of sunlight burst through the canopy, dazzlingly bright, transforming the woods into something mystical, otherworldly.
As they near their destination, the air begins to change. Chirrut sits up straighter in his seat. Baze smiles to himself.
He turns the speeder onto a twisting path that tips gradually downhill. Chirrut has lowered the window the rest of the way down, and when Baze glances at him it’s to find him with his head tilted down, his face intent. The path narrows, and Baze navigates it carefully, trying to keep his focus on the controls while simultaneously peering out through the thinning trees.
Finally, sparkling in the distance, Baze catches his first glimpse of the ocean.
His breath catches a bit, and Chirrut twitches an ear in his direction. “Baze?”
Baze reaches over to catch his hand again. “Nearly there.”
Around one final bend, the path opens up, and the full expanse of the beach pours out before them. A long set of wooden steps winds down the gentle slope, through the patches of scraggly grasses and out into the sand. The sound of the waves forms into a quiet roar, and the smell of the salt hangs thick in the air.
The speeder has barely powered down before Chirrut opens his door, stepping out onto the slab of pavement that tapers into soft, white sand. He waits at the top of the hill while Baze fetches their bag, staff held out in a loose grip, his gaze fixed in the direction of the crashing waves. The stairs are rickety and uneven, worn away by the years of exposure, and Baze leads them down carefully, guiding Chirrut’s feet over the handful of loose, rotted-through steps.
At the bottom of the steps, Chirrut pauses a moment to kick off his shoes, hastily rolling up the legs of his trousers. He laughs, a little breathlessly, as he digs his toes down into the warm sand, giving Baze a moment to follow suit before seizing his hand and marching forward in the direction of the shore.
The beach is nearly empty, dotted here and there with people lounging on blankets and children playing in the surf. Baze finds a spot well out of range of the waves to leave their bag, and Chirrut stops just long enough to plant his staff firmly in the sand before pulling Baze onward.
They hit the water nearly at a jog, and the waves rush forward to meet them, submerging their feet and splashing up their legs. Chirrut stops abruptly, letting go of Baze’s hand, nearly stumbling from the pull as the water retreats again.
The waves churn around their legs, but Chirrut stands utterly still. His eyes are closed, his hands splayed loosely at his sides, feeling the subtle shift of the sea breeze. He breathes in deep, releasing the breath in a long, open-mouthed exhale. The winds catch at his clothes, ruffle through his hair, and he tilts his head back to soak up the sunlight, a slow, awestruck grin spreading across his face.
Gently, Baze bumps against his shoulder. “Told you.”
A laugh bursts forth, and Chirrut, a little overcome, turns to throw his arms around Baze’s neck, clutching him tight. Baze catches him easily and pulls him close, bracing in the sand as the waves push at their legs. Chirrut pulls away just far enough to cup his face between his hands and draw him down into a kiss, one that lingers, slow and syrupy in the summer sun. Baze closes his eyes and falls into it, tightening his hold around Chirrut’s waist.
When they part, Chirrut keeps Baze close, stroking his cheek with his thumb, sliding his hands down to rest against his chest. “Thank you,” he murmurs, a wealth of emotion in the depths of his voice, and Baze wraps him up tight again, anchoring him, swaying with the movement of the wind and the waves.
They pass a long moment standing at the edge of the beach, wrapped around each other, breathing deep. Then Chirrut grins, breaking the embrace to tug at Baze’s hands.
“Come on,” he urges, stepping deeper into the water, paying no mind to the waves soaking the rolled-up hem of his pants.
Baze plants his feet, halting his motion. “Hold on,” he says. “I brought swim shorts.”
Chirrut laughs, delighted. “Did you?”
“I did.” A last-minute addition from Hafessa, after wheedling out his plans when he had ducked into her clothing shop and asked to borrow her speeder. She had argued convincingly that they couldn’t visit the beach without the proper attire, though Baze had stood firm against the more garishly-patterned options she’d tried to foist on him.
Climbing back up the short incline of the beach, Baze fishes a pair of shorts out of their pack and hands it to Chirrut, who promptly begins to drop his trousers and smalls, heedless of the handful of fellow beachgoers up the way.
“Just—wait half a moment,” Baze chuckles, shaking out a towel and holding it up strategically around him. “No one on this beach wants to see that much of you.”
“No one but you,” Chirrut quips, grinning, as he skims out of his clothes and pulls on the swim shorts. They trade places for Baze to do the same, though Chirrut makes a point of dropping the towel teasingly lower, feigning innocence as Baze scrambles to keep covered. He gathers up their clothes and stuffs them into their bag before taking Baze’s hand and pulling him once more toward the surf.
The waves are strong, pushing against their steps, but Chirrut keeps up a steady pace, leading them deeper, one hand held tight to Baze’s and the other stretched out to keep his balance. The water is a bit cooler than Baze was expecting, and he hisses and sucks in his stomach as the waves wash up around their waists.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Chirrut laughs. “The spring in the lower chambers was colder than this.”
“I never liked that spring,” Baze grumbles as another wave washes by. “You liked that spring. I liked the hot spring off the practice rooms. The one that didn’t turn you into an icicle before you were halfway in.”
“That’s because you have always been far more decadent than anyone ever gave you credit for.” Baze sends a pointed splash in his direction, and Chirrut laughs again, stepping nimbly out of the way.
The water rises nearly to their chests, but Chirrut continues to wade forward until Baze gets an arm around him, drawing him to a stop.
“That’s far enough, I think.” They’re just deep enough for the waves to gently lift them off their feet. “Since neither of us can swim.”
“I can swim,” Chirrut says obstinately, yielding nonetheless to the tug of Baze’s hands.
“You can keep yourself upright in a pool of water that is about as deep as you are tall.” He wraps both arms around Chirrut’s waist, bobbing a bit in the push and pull. “That’s not swimming.”
Chirrut grins, leaning into his hold. “You’ll have to teach me, then, since you know so much about it.”
Baze chuckles. “Hold your breath.” He bends his knees, tipping them down under the waves for a moment before bringing them back up, sighing at the feel of the cool water against the sunlight.
He notices the bulge in Chirrut’s cheeks a moment too late. “Don’t—”
The spray of water hits him square in the face. Chirrut is splashing backwards out of his reach before he has a moment to recover, cackling all the while.
“Right,” he says, then wades closer and hooks an ankle around Chirrut’s leg, knocking him back into the surf with a firm push.
Chirrut pounces on him as he resurfaces, his laughter ringing out over the waves, carried off by the winds. He gets his arms around Baze’s shoulders, dropping his weight to try to drag him down, but Baze manages to duck out of his slippery grasp. He grabs Chirrut around the waist and behind the knees, hoisting him out of the water with a roar and tossing him as far as he’s able. Chirrut yelps as he goes under, and the resulting splash slaps Baze in the face.
Laughing, pushing the hair from his eyes, Baze wades over to where Chirrut has reemerged, grinning like a fool. Before he can retaliate, Baze swims up close and wraps his arms around his waist again, pulling him to his chest and leaning back in the water until they’re submerged to their collar bones. Chirrut’s arms circle his neck and bring him close for a kiss, trusting and eager and warm against the chill.
Chirrut makes a face as he pulls away. “Oceans taste bad.”
Snorting, Baze pushes off the bottom with both feet, propelling them backwards through the water in a slow, gentle arc. “Serves you right.”
That earns him another kiss, a loud, salty smack right against his lips, breaking into laughter when Baze grunts in annoyance.
The afternoon sun slips by as they drift in the current. They both make a valiant attempt at learning how to float—Baze can nearly manage it on his own, but Chirrut folds up as soon as Baze’s steadying hand leaves the small of his back, sinking down into the water with a sputtering laugh. They abandon the effort and spend a long while leaning into the rocking of the waves, held secure in each other’s arms.
By the time they’ve sufficiently worn themselves out, daylight is beginning to fade. They stumble out of the surf and make their way back toward their belongings, where Baze pulls out a pair of towels and the bundle of foodstuffs he had packed that morning. Spreading their towels out in the sand, they eat through the food quickly, stomachs growling after their exertions in the water, a pleasant tiredness settled into their limbs. They dry off quickly in the ocean breeze, with Baze’s hair forming into stiff, salty waves around his face.
The sun begins to set behind them, sending streaks of color through the clouds, slowly filtering the light into a deep, burnished orange. The wind off the water turns cooler, and Chirrut shivers a bit where he’s stretched out on the towel. Baze pulls the blanket out of their pack and nudges him up, wrapping it around their shoulders and tucking Chirrut close against his side. Chirrut turns his face, a little wind-chapped, into the curve of Baze’s neck, sighing out, settling his reassuring weight against him. The burning sky sets his skin, his hair, to glowing.
“Thank you,” he whispers, soft, nearly lost under the endless rush of the waves. Baze leans his cheek against his hair, eyes transfixed on the light vanishing in the distance.
They’re the only ones left on the beach; the only ones left in the whole galaxy, it feels like. Surrounded on all sides by the empty, sloping sands, Baze is reminded of Yavin, of sitting on the edge of the temple steppe and staring out into the great expanse of an uncertain future. He thinks of all that they had wished for each other, the whispered longings held between their hands: for peace, and safety, and a home to call their own. It seems impossible and strange that they should find it here, on this adopted world so very far away from all that they had once known, severed from the stone and the clay that had formed them.
They have lost so many days and nights to grief, given up years to the dark poison of despair. The rage and the fear remain, a hot ember lodged in the pit of their stomachs. Burning still, but not so brightly as it once did. They’ll leave a piece of it here, lost in the sand, swept up by the waves and sunk into the ocean.
They breathe together; their hearts beat together. A steady rhythm that thuds through them, all the way to the ground and out into the waves that wash against the shore.
The sky blazes red, and Baze closes his eyes against it. He turns to press a kiss to Chirrut’s temple, breathing in the smell of the salt in his hair, feeling the warmth of his skin against his lips. Warm, and whole, and safe, and alive.
A note of a smile colors Chirrut’s contented hum. He turns to press a kiss to the underside of Baze’s jaw, then reaches up to touch a hand to his cheek, guiding him down until their mouths meet. The taste of the sea lingers on his lips; it tastes of joy and sunlight, and it fills Baze up until there’s no room left inside him for anything else. He wraps his arms more securely around Chirrut’s shoulders, closing up the edges of the blanket until they’re cocooned in their own little pocket of warmth.
All around them, the world is quiet.
Thank you all so, so much for sticking with this story! We have just a short epilogue to follow. I hope you all enjoy it, as well as the new movie coming out this week! The Space Dads will live on in our hearts and our fics forever <3
Four years later.
The night sky blazes with color.
Fireworks flash against the stars, sporadic bursts that echo and boom across the city. Up and down their street, families sit out on their front steps to watch, to talk, to raise a glass in celebration. At the corner, a group of children shout and chase one another, glowing sparklers burning in their hands.
Sitting on the steps in front of their house, staring up into the dark and glittering expanse, Baze can’t seem to look away.
Chirrut sits behind him, one step up, his legs stretched out on either side and leaning forward to rest his weight along Baze’s back. His arms are wrapped securely around Baze’s shoulders and crossed over his chest, and he moves with the steady rise and fall of Baze’s breaths, his cheek resting against the crown of his head. His eyes are closed. He feels nothing, sees nothing, but the vibrancy of Baze’s presence in the Force, beaming out in a radiance that envelopes him in its warmth.
The evening air is crisp; Baze’s breath fogs and dissipates into the night. Chirrut has a heavy wrap draped over his shoulders, keeping out the mid-winter chill. Baze’s hair tickles where it brushes against Chirrut’s neck, wound into a long braid that trails down his back. Chirrut will unwind it tonight, as he does every night before they go to sleep, comb it out until it’s smooth and soft under his hands. Baze will sit still for him, as he always does, patient, grumbling now and then at how thoroughly greyed he’s become. Chirrut will laugh and tell him he looks as handsome as ever, and Baze will smile, never, ever tiring of the sound of Chirrut’s laughter.
It’s late already. They’ve been sitting out here for over an hour, well past nightfall, well after the time when they would usually be in bed. Neither makes a move to return inside, not yet ready to abandon the the festive mood, the catching joy that has descended over the city.
The Emperor is dead.
The news alert had blared across their datapad in the early afternoon, chirping insistently until Baze, in the midst of preparing a batch of spiced bread twists to sell at the market the next day, wiped the flour from his hands and opened the bulletin. He scanned the sparse text of the news brief and had to brace a hand against the countertop, his legs nearly giving out from under him.
The information was thin: the Emperor, killed in a battle with the Alliance. A second Death Star (and how Baze’s stomach had turned, they built another, after everything they just built another), now scattered ashes in the atmosphere. The Empire crippled, thrown into chaos, wounded and leaderless.
Everything stopped. His heart froze in his chest; his breath caught in his lungs. He stood with the datapad in his hand, staring with unseeing eyes at the stark text that scrolled across the screen, just staring, feeling the ground seem to shift under his feet.
Chirrut had been in the bedroom; Baze could hear him moving about, gathering his things together, about to catch the rails into town to take care of a few errands. He managed to unstick his throat enough to call for him, and it felt as if he was calling from the bottom of a deep well, echoing strangely in his ears. The sound of Chirrut’s steps came softly down the hall, and he stepped into the kitchen, a frown creasing his brow.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, and for a moment Baze’s mind went blank. He stared at Chirrut, standing in the middle of their kitchen, jarringly normal in his socked feet and a warm tunic. Standing there, unaware that the galaxy had just tilted on its axis.
Chirrut stepped closer. “Baze?” His face hardened, and he reached out to rest a hand on Baze’s chest. “What’s happened?”
There was too much clamouring in his heart—shock, and disbelief, and elation, and fear—to shape into words. But Baze took a breath, and then another, then lifted the datapad and began to read.
For a long moment, they both stood in a frozen suspension. Chirrut’s gaze was fixed at a point over Baze’s shoulder, and there was steel in the clenched line of his jaw, in the set of his shoulders. With a rigid movement, he put out a hand and found one of the kitchen chairs. He sat heavily and pressed a trembling hand over his mouth, shut his eyes tight.
The breath stuttered painfully in Baze’s lungs. The datapad clattered as he dropped it on the table and went to his knees in front of him. Chirrut folded toward him in the same moment that Baze reached for him, as he clasped a hand to the back of his neck and drew him to down to press Chirrut’s face into his shoulder, catching the sob that broke free of his chest. Chirrut clung to Baze’s shoulders, nearly sliding off the chair, breathing out harsh and gasping against his neck.
“We are one with the Force.” Chirrut’s fingers pressed with bruising strength. “The Force is with us. The Force is with us.” His words bled out into a Jedhan prayer, hoarse, whispered in the space between them held there like a promise, like a vow. Words that hadn’t fallen from his lips in years, spoken in a language taught to them by Masters long dead, older than any text could trace, heavy and well-worn. A nearly-forgotten fragment of history that counted the two of them as its last defenders. The last guardians.
Baze bent his head down to rest against Chirrut’s shoulder, squeezing his eyes shut against burning tears.
“They built another,” he whispered, forced past the lump in his throat. The thought stuck like a burr under his skin. “They built another one.”
Chirrut pulled away, and Baze’s heart seized to see the tears wet on his cheeks, gathered in his lashes. He cupped Baze’s face in his hands and said with a fierce urgency, “And the Rebels destroyed it again. It is done.”
Baze breathed out. His shoulders slumped. He turned his head to press a kiss into Chirrut’s palm, closed his eyes again and felt the light touch of Chirrut’s fingers as he brushed away the loose hair from around his face. He swayed forward, and Chirrut drew him close, bending low and enclosing Baze in his embrace.
It isn’t done. They both know this, underneath the tremulous relief that thuds through their hearts. The Empire is not a beast that will be put down easily. This is far from over.
Music from up the street draws Baze’s attention away from the skies; someone is plucking away at a stringed instrument, laughing as they miss a note, singing a few bars of something sweet and slow, too far away for Baze to hear the words. Chirrut hums along quietly near his ear, and Baze reaches up to cover the hands folded over his heart, running his thumb back and forth across Chirrut’s knuckles.
One house over, Talla and Vey stand in their doorway with their daughter held between them, pointing up at the shower of fireworks, grinning and laughing as she shouts with wonder. The lights shine in her eyes; the colors paint her cheeks in flashes of red and gold.
It sends an ache deep into Baze’s chest, to think of the galaxy this child might inherit: washed clean of the stain of the Empire, freed from the terror and misery that had marked every day of its reign. He thinks, too, of all the countless children across the galaxy who have never known a world such as this, who never lived to see such peace.
How many lives have been sacrificed, in this battle and the decades of struggle that preceded it? How many worlds left in ruins, how many cultures lost, how many voices silenced, snuffed out like so many candles? And how many more would suffer in the death throes as the Empire clings to the last tattered shreds of its power, brutal and without mercy?
Wasteful. Empty. Meaningless beyond all reckoning.
Baze lets out a long, shuddering breath, and Chirrut’s arms tighten around him. He lifts his face to press a kiss against Baze’s hair, then his temple, his cheek, the shell of one too-big ear. He buries his face into the curve of his neck, and one of Baze’s hands lifts to cup the back of his head, holding him there, keeping him close until the moment eases.
“Be here with me,” Chirrut whispers. I need you here with me.
Baze swallows back his mourning, leans into the cradle of Chirrut’s arms. “I am.”
This isn’t the time for such thoughts. Not right now, not tonight. Tonight is just for this: arms held tight, hearts beating slow, peace wrapped around them like a heavy cloak. Music, and laughter, and shining stars.
There will be time to count the toll. They will never stop counting. But right here, right now, there is time for joy.
Life will carry on. Tomorrow will dawn cold and grey, Byga’s weak winter sunlight caught behind a blanket of low clouds. They will leave for the market in the early morning and lay out a table with the other seasonal sellers: vegetables and dried herbs in the late summer, turning to fresh loaves and buns and sweets in the winter, until the first frost settles over the city. Chirrut will sit in their booth and heckle their regulars goodnaturedly while Baze makes the rounds, taking leftovers to a few families, making quiet inquiries to the handful of merchants with off-world connections, anyone who might have information to share. He’ll circle back to their booth with lunch in his hands, and they’ll split a sack of rolled kifesh while Chirrut catches him up on whatever gossip has passed his ears.
Later, once they’ve packed up their remaining goods and trundled home again, Chirrut will sit on the sofa, legs crossed and back straight, and speak for and hour or so into a voice recorder resting in his lap. He’ll conjure up stories of their lives in the temple, record lessons and proverbs and precepts, speak the names of every novice and Master he can recall. Everything he can draw out from his memory, every piece of their history he can think to set down, for whoever might come to follow.
He can’t rebuild the halls of the temple, can’t rewrite the manuscripts that were burned, can’t give rites to all who were lost. But he can do this much, and so he does.
On a good day, Baze will join him, interjecting his own recollections or just listening, letting Chirrut’s words wash over him. On a bad day, when his heart is wound tight and silent, he will retreat until Chirrut has finished, sitting in the garden or walking the long, even streets of their neighborhood until the tension in his hands subsides, twitching for the weight of a blaster he hasn’t carried in years.
The good days outnumber the bad, for both of them. They take solace in the good days and bring comfort to each other on the bad, and apologize with silent words on the days when even that is not enough.
They will wait for news. Wait to hear from Bodhi, whose messages have to pass through a complicated series of back channels before reaching them. He’s due to visit soon; fates willing, they will see more of him now, more than the yearly visit they had argued and pleaded with the Bygan government to allow.
(It had taken months of denials and appeals, circling round and round until, quite suddenly, they received an approval: a week-long visit, with a number of provisions and precautions in place to ensure the Empire would have no inkling that an active Rebel operative was touching down on an officially neutral planet. Baze had his suspicions about who might have interceded on their behalf, namely a certain former Senator and rebellion leader-at-large, but they weren’t about to question whatever had caused the reversal. The arrangements were made, and Bodhi arrived just a few weeks late of Dwashan, exhausted around the eyes but standing taller, steadier than they had last known him.)
At night, after the lights are off and the house has been put back to rights, they’ll stretch out together in bed, tucked up under the blankets, talking softly, idly, sharing thoughts and making plans. They’ve started putting a bit of money aside, in the hopes that in another year or so they’ll have enough to move to a different part of the city, somewhere with a little more space, a little more room to breathe. In the morning, if Baze is lucky, he’ll wake first, catching Chirrut cloaked in the soft silvered shadows of first light. He’ll keep still and quiet, soaking up the chance to take in this glimpse of Chirrut unguarded, entirely relaxed, wrapped up tight with his nose buried in the blankets to ward off the chill. His hair is a little greyer, the lines around his eyes a little deeper, and Baze will be grateful, so grateful, to be a witness to this slow creep of time, to know how much remains for them to discover together.
Then Chirrut will wake, and the day will begin again, and life will carry on. Days and days and days, stretching out to the horizon line.
The night is cold against his cheeks, but Chirrut’s arms are warm, and the strength in his embrace settles something old and familiar in the depths of Baze’s spirit. The fireworks are beginning to taper off; the street is nearly empty now, as their neighbors return to their homes, to their families. Chirrut doesn’t seem at all inclined to move, sighing out against Baze’s cheek and settling his weight more comfortably against the line of his back.
Baze smiles to himself and lets his eyes fall shut. They’ll stay a little longer.
They have plenty of time.
This is going up just a smidge early, because I realized that, by pure coincidence, the last chapter was scheduled to go up on the weekend of Rogue One’s release date. I couldn’t resist bumping it up a day to land on the official anniversary!
I just want to take a moment to extend my sincerest gratitude to everyone who has read, liked, shared, kudos’d, commented, bookmarked, etc. I really can’t even put into words how much this little fandom has meant to me over the past year, and what an absolute joy it’s been to write this story. You can find me on tumblr; feel free to come say hello!