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There was a theory among the Jedi of old: that every choice we make creates a new universe; that these universes are numberless and beyond human comprehension.

 

This theory was popular among young Jedi. Older Jedi liked it less -- mainly because discussion of it almost always ended up with some variation of:

 

“So if this is true, there’s some universe where I’m your master? Where I get to tell you what to do?”

 

“Yes, Anakin. And there is also one where you are funny.”

 

Master Yoda did not believe in this multi-universe theory: “One world, there is. One choice, we get.”

 

Anyway, it is a lovely sort of theory in that it is practically impossible to test, and many people are fond of it for that reason, and others like it for another reason, something far more serious.

 

For example: in another world, they lived. All of them.

 

But not this one.

 

(Sorry.)



--




Bodhi opens his eyes.

 

The plans the plans where --

 

“You’re dead.”

 

He’s in a desert. Two suns slink towards the horizon; stars glitter behind a veil of milky cloud; the sky, where it shows, is palest indigo.

 

“I’m --”

 

“Dead. Take as long as you need to adjust.”

 

“The -- the others --”

 

“Also dead,” says the man. He’s sitting cross legged in the sand. A scar bisects his face; his eyes gleam yellow. He’s handsome, in a feral sort of way. Still: not what Bodhi hoped to be greeted by when he passed into the great beyond.

 

“Where are my friends?”

 

“Gone elsewhere. I’m sorry.”

 

He’s dead. He shouldn’t feel pain or fear anymore; he shouldn’t be alone; but he does, and he is, and a yawning pit opens in his stomach and tears lurch into his eyes. “So -- I’m on my own? They -- where are they? I --” and they are gone, Jyn and Cassian and Galen and K and Chirrut and Baze, all dead, they are gone, and they have left him here, in this endless desert, he is alone. The immensity of it swallows him up and he cannot breathe, it feels like when he came off the stims, crushing isolation and shaking hands and cold sweats and --

 

-- except that it doesn’t matter if he can’t breathe.

 

Because he’s dead.

 

He beats his fists on the sand. It is soft as silk, nothing like any sand in life.

 

“If it helps,” the man says, “I’m dead as well.”

 

“That -- that does not help at all. Who are you?”

 

“My name’s Anakin Skywalker,” the man says.

 

A pause.

 

“Anakin Skywalker,” he says again.

 

“Yeah,” Bodhi says, eyeing him dubiously. “Nice to meet you. I’m Bodhi Rook.”

 

“I know that. Don’t you know who I am?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“They made films about me! Loads of them!”

 

“--still never heard of you. Sorry?”

 

That ,” and Anakin sighs, smiles somewhat ruefully. “That isn’t too bad, I suppose.”

 

“So what now? I just hang out with you for all eternity? Why you?”

 

“Time works differently here. You’ve actually been dead for decades.”

 

What?”

 

“Sorry,” Anakin says. He doesn’t look sorry. He looks bored. He stands, sand cascading in a silver tide from the folds of his robes.  “Takes some adjusting.” He frowns. “Never? Not one film?”

 

“Empire censorship,” Bodhi offers. “Didn’t get lots of old films. Um -- not saying you are -- “

 

“I am not . Not by some standards. But not as young as you. No -- not as young as you.”

 

“What do I do here? I -- I thought that the dead -- well, I thought that was it. Dead, than nothing.”

 

Anakin snorts. “Nah. You become part of the Force. Well. Some do. I should imagine that’s where your friends went. Did they die at peace?”

 

And, all at once, Bodhi knows how they died: the knowledge is dropped straight into his brain like a rock into a pond.

 

“Yes,” he says. Tears spill down his face. Jyn, Cassian: embracing as the lethal light surged toward them, heat and thunder, inescapable and bright. They had died very quickly. Skin cooked to a crisp. Blackened bones turning to ash, then swept away. They had died victorious and in love. They had died knowing that the mission was successful. They had died full to the brim with hope.

 

( still died though hope didn’t keep them alive didn’t -- )

 

And Chirrut, guarded by the Force just long enough  to pull a lever. The Force is with me and I am one with the Force -- and the Force had taken him, blaster-shot neat as you please -- and Baze, watching the man he love die -- but --

 

-- the Force is with you and I am one with the Force --

 

-- he had charged forwards, knowing that Chirrut waited for him, wherever they were they were together always always --

 

K, vision fluttering to nothing, knowing that his mission was fulfilled --

 

“Do droids have souls?”

 

“I think so,” Anakin says, “when they have been cared for, and cared in return -- the Force does not care about little things like a body of metal, or a mind of durasteel -- only whether or not your heart is your own, your thoughts are your own.”

 

“Do you always speak in riddles?”

 

“I take after my old master.”

 

“Master? You were a slave?”

 

“Well -- yes -- but -- “ Flustered, Anakin shakes his robes out, clearing the last of the sand. “Sort of. But Master was what I called my teacher.”

 

“Only slaves called anyone master,” Bodhi says gently, “where I came from, at least.”

 

“And what scumbucket world is that?” Anakin’s eyes narrow. The air around him crackles. Bodhi is dead : he shouldn’t be afraid. And yet he is, because -- in much the same way he knew how his friends died (sudden, chilly, is this a quirk of death or) -- he knows that this man can still hurt him and, dead or not, there are some risks it is not worth taking.

Still. He died facing down the Empire. He is a rebel, a hero , and he has faced more frightening foes than a stranger in the desert. And he says, “Don’t be a prick. Jedha. I came from Jedha,” with his chin tilted up, staring Anakin ‘Why Haven’t You Heard of Me’ Skywalker straight in the lightning-yellow eyes.

 

“Huh. We always come from deserts.”

 

“We -- “

 

“Oh, don’t mind about that,” Anakin says airily. “They’re gone. I can’t sense them. Trust me when I say that wherever thy are, they’re at peace.”

 

Inexplicably, Bodhi does trust him. His friends are safe. His friends are at peace. That’s the most important thing -- he’s not, and that’s vexing, but he’d rather it were him in some strange desert with an enigmatic arsehole. The others, well. They deserve rest.

 

“You're worried about them more than you,” says Anakin, “you -- you’re more concerned with your friends than you are concerned with yourself. Of course you came from the desert. Of course you care about them more. Of course .”

 

“I don’t -- can you read my mind?”

 

“Of course. I’m a ghost. I’m fucking magical,” says Anakin, wiggling his fingers in the universal gesture of oooo spooky . One of his hands is bright metal, winking in the sun.  

 

“And I don’t understand, why does it matter that I came from the desert -- “

 

“Coincidence. Maybe. There’s a girl. And a boy. And another boy, but he’s pretty much a write-off. Force-sensitive,” he adds at Bodhi’s baffled expression, “Jedi children who don’t call themselves Jedi.”

 

“They’re extinct --”

 

“No. They’re not.”

 

“Are you saying -- that -- that I’m --”

 

“Nope.”

 

“I don’t understand -- “

 

“The Force, in all its wisdom, is nowhere near done with you. Bit like me. I died with a job still to do. And you’ve got a job as well.”

 

“What is it?” Bodhi asks, helplessly.

 

Anakin shrugs. “No idea. That’s down to you to find out,” he says, and just like that he’s gone, leaving no indication that he’d ever been there.

 

The sand around him is an endless susurration, the suns hung in the air like two paper cut-outs, the stars glitter; Bodhi Rook is, once again, alone.



--



“Fucking Skywalker ,” Bodhi says, aiming a kick at the crest of the ninety-fifth dune he has climbed thus far. He doesn’t know it, but kicking sand and cursing the name of Skywalker is an ancient and proud tradition; one that commenced years before his birth, when the great Obi Wan decided that the best thing he could possibly do was to take on a frighteningly powerful child as his apprentice.

 

“It’s down to you,” Bodhi says. He’s cried and he’s screamed, he’s prayed and begged, and the sky is still that pale violet and the clouds are still a milky haze and the suns have not moved and no one, not one person, has come to explain to him what in the name of the most holy of fucks he is expected to do. He isn’t thirsty, or tired, or hungry -- spoiler alert: it is because he is dead, and dead people don’t need water or sleep or food -- but that, somehow, makes it all worse, because without any of his body’s internal rhythms he has no means to track time. He doesn’t even have a heartbeat.

 

All he can do is walk, and remember, and cry, and rage a bit, then walk some more.

 

After the one hundred and fifth dune, he looks back. It all looks the same. For all he knows, he’s on some celestial treadmill -- or a slow-spinning disc.

 

He sits down on the strange, silky sand and presses his face into his hands.

 

What was it that Chirrut said?

 

The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force --

 

The sand starts to whisper. Bodhi opens his eyes. First trickles, then rivulets: flowing down from the dune where he sits, into -- a hole? Yes: a hole, barely larger than his palm, but drinking in all the sand that runs into it.  

The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force --

 

-- and the trickle became a river, and the entire dune is on the move. Bodhi stands in a flurry, and the sand pours over his feet, warm as milk. The hole has become a great, gaping pit. Inside is darkness, and the faint glimmer of distant stars.

 

The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.

 

Jump .

 

And, again: that certain, sure knowledge.

 

He has to jump.

 

The sand gets faster, climbing higher; it seems the entire desert is surging through this one space.

 

Bodhi closes his eyes, and leaps. As he does so he thinks Anakin is this what you meant -- Skywalker you --





--




“Bastard!”

 

“Leia -- “

 

“No, he is! Was,” and Force above, why can’t she get the tenses right. “Bastard,” she says again, “he told me that the last copy was gone -- that was after our -- our last big fight, before, before the New Temple burned, before -- “ Leia gnaws her lower lip, hisses in a breath, calms herself down -- she’s better at that now than ever. She’s had a lot of practice. “Before everything,” she says, teeth clamped together, “before everything went to hell, we had a fight, a really big one. I threw a glass of water at him. Missed his head, smacked into my holopad. Ruined it. It was the only copy of our wedding dance video, because I kept meaning to back it up and I kept forgetting to. And he told me that there wasn’t another one. And it was here, it was here.”

 

She runs her fingers over the Falcon’s control pane. Tears fracture her vision. Her heart feels huge and heavy, sitting at the base of her throat.

 

The holo plays on a loop. She’s in his arms, her hair loose, wearing a white dress tha spangles with ten thousand tiny diamonds, worked into the stitching; it looks like constellations glittering from behind a veil of cloud.

 

He’s smiling down at her. Neither of them know that they’re being filmed.

 

“He loved me so much. Force above, I loved him so much. Luke. I loved him so much, I loved him so much.”

 

And she was pregnant then. Too soon to show, but early enough to know, the Force whispering in her ears: unto you a son shall be born. And Han saying that Chewbacca was a fine name, and her taking the length of chain she had kept (the chain that had killed Jabba, when she was so young, oh how powerful she had felt as he had shuddered and died beneath her) and getting it forged into two rings and getting onto one knee and telling Han smuggler you’ll make an honest woman of me .

 

And later. And later.

 

Ben: a sickly child, screaming all night, quieted most by his father who cradled him close and sang old Corellian drinking songs in his sleep-rough voice. When he was older, he refused to sleep alone, weeping and screaming that strange things waited for him in the shadows. Other children who wouldn’t play with him more than once, because children can smell when there is something wrong with someone, because no child wanted to play with the boy who lashed out with the Force when he didn’t get his way --

 

He’d met Poe once. Only once. He’d wanted Poe’s toy X-Wing. Poe hadn’t given it to him. Ben had broken the toy and Poe’s nose, in that order.

 

When you have a child so strong with the Force , Luke had said, it’s like an open sore in the world -- they can’t help but draw dark things to them . Snoke being one of the dark things, of course, and had Snoke been there since the start? Had he? Or was it Ben’s darkness that pulled Snoke in, had the two fed on each other, had they --

 

One thing she will always regret: not sending him away sooner. Maybe more training would have helped. Maybe. But, at the time, she had loathed the idea of sending him to her brother, to the Academy, she had thought that love was enough --

 

She had been so young.

 

And now she is not, and now she watches the holovid and marvels at her naivete. With love, you can do anything.

 

Now she knows differently.

 

In another universe, maybe she would have sent Ben away sooner, maybe that would have helped; maybe in another universe he died in the womb and she had other children, children who did not step forwards into the darkness. Maybe. Maybe.

 

But there is no other universe: only this one.

 

And in this one, Leia Organa leans against her brother and cries.



--




“Um,” Bodhi ventures. “Um, I’m not sure what I’m doing here and I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know. Um.”

 

Tree branches break the grey sky up into shards, rain drips down -- it goes straight through him because, spoiler , he’s dead -- and everything is verdant green.

 

He had fallen into the sand, and -- without any sensation of landing, as it were -- wound up here, in the forest, surrounded by wet and mud and the heady scent of vegetation.

 

( we all come from deserts --)

 

( you have a mission)

 

(a boy, a girl, another boy, he’s pretty much a write-off -- )

 

He had walked, following a path spiralling this way and that between trees, before realising that he could just walk through the trees; and so he had done that , counting trees instead of dunes in an attempt to mark the time. And after two hundred and fifty trees he is here, in front of a woman, dressed in the finest clothes he has ever seen: a navy gown pinched in dramatically at the waist -- how can she breathe he thinks and then, on the tail of that, she doesn’t need to she’s almost certainly dead -- and flaring out to her feet, covered by a diaphanous overskirt of palest silver, and winking with diamonds. She looks like she’s wearing the night sky.

 

“Hello,” the woman says, sounding faintly baffled. “You -- I don’t believe we’ve met?”

 

“Um, no. My name’s --” he wants to bow, he wants very much to bow, this is the sort of woman you bow to. And so he does. Being dead is no excuse for poor manners. He executes his most formal Imperial bow, and when he straightens up she’s grinning.

 

“My name is Bodhi Rook, rebel pilot. At your service ma’am.”

 

“And my name is Padme Amidala. How lovely to meet you.”

 

“Um,” says Bodhi. “Awkward question, but are you -- “

 

“Dead? Yes.”

 

“Ah.” Then, because he’s not sure what counts as appropriate small talk anymore: “How -- “

 

“Childbirth,” she says, crisply, “and the Force.”

 

“Um -- “

 

“--and my husband, come to think of it, but mainly the Force.”

 

“Ah. I was blown up.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I don’t think it was the Force. Or your husband. Or -- I’m sorry,” and he leans against the nearest tree, wondering how it was that he could swan through them with no trouble but lean against tem as well. Oh, the mysteries of life and death. “I died forty years ago, or longer, but it feels like less than a day. My friends are all gone and some ridiculous twat of a Jedi -- I think he’s a Jedi -- keeps telling me that I’m here because I have a Mission, only he won’t tell me what it is.”

 

“Ah. This Jedi -- was he cryptic for no good reason?”

 

“Yes!”

 

“Spoke in riddles?”

 

“Yes! Self-centred prat, completely full of himself --”

 

“But somehow incredibly handsome?”

 

“My Force, yes --”

 

Padme laughs. She has the most wonderful laugh -- like twinkling silver bells.

 

“I haven’t heard from Obi Wan in years,” she muses, smiling.

 

“Um” says Bodhi. “It wasn’t him actually. It was a man called Anakin.”

 

And just like that, the smile withers and dies at the corners of her mouth. Her hand goes to her throat, and under the dark fall of hair Bodhi sees bruises, bold indigo, dark red, like storm-clouds.

 

( my husband --)

 

(the Force -- )

And it all comes together, the words, the wounds, the sense of nameless dread he had felt when he mentioned slaves, the sense that even in death there are things you should fear, there are things that can harm you.

 

“Ah,” says Padme. “If he says you have a mission, then you have your mission.” She gnaws her lower lip, frets at the diamonds on her dress. “I wish you well, Bodhi. I really do.”

 

“I thought death would be peaceful,” Bodhi says.

 

“The Force has its ways, and death isn’t always the end, especially when you are one of its favoured sons.”

 

With that, she vanishes. Bodhi shouts, “Padme! Padme!” but there is no answer, only the drip drip of the rain.




--



Fifty trees later, and Bodhi stops. The rain spatters into broad silver puddles, and the soil is so knotted with roots that he doubts any man has passed this way for ten thousand generations.

 

He tips his head back. It’s uncanny -- or wishful thinking on his part, maybe -- but the sky, the blue-grey cloud, is the exact colour of Chirrut’s eyes.

 

I am one with the Force and --

 

“You always told us to trust in the Force,” Bodhi says. “And I don’t, not really. I trusted you. I trusted -- Cassian, and Baze -- I trusted my friends. And -- you’d probably say that they were part of the Force, that everything they did was because of the Force. I don’t understand. I wish you were here.”

 

He steps past another three trees, running his fingers over the damp bark.

 

“Galen? Are you there?”

 

The silence is resounding.

 

“I suppose you died knowing that everything was right. That you had done your duty.”

 

He had met Galen when he was eighteen, fresh out the Academy, bright-eyed with promise and thrumming with patriotism and hooked on stims, like all bright young things the Academy churned out, because that was what the Empire did.

 

There were no shields on TIE fighters.

 

Bright young things hungry for glory were ten for a half-credit, and human life mattered less than scrap metal, and taking stims until your blood fizzed was as much a part of being an imperial pilot as learning to live with the knowledge that you were expendable, a cog in the machine -- less than a cog. The spoke in a cog. An atom in a spoke. And some could live with that, shunt the knowledge to the back of their minds, lose themselves in the vastness of the universe, let their responsibility spin away into the dark: yes atrocities are committed but they are not my fault, they are the results of orders given, I was just following orders .

 

Sometimes, when nights were long and restless, Bodhi had wondered where that line had stopped: one said I was following orders and the one who ordered them said the same, and the one who ordered them said the same, all the way up to the Emperor himself.

 

I was following orders, doing as I was told, and that was the freedom of the Empire: freedom from guilt, from responsibility. Not freedom to .

 

It’s a key difference.

 

Another tree passes, and this one is older than the rest, broader; but all the trees are different, in their own way, if you only stop and look.

 

In those long restless nights, kept awake when he got the dosage for the stims wrong, he had stared at the ceiling and wondered where the line stopped, where the line was drawn, and then he met Galen and realised that the line could be drawn in his own head. And he did. And it was terrifying because it was the end of that sort of freedom, that I was following orders freedom and the start of something else, something new; the difference between flying in a simulator and flying for real, tumbling down canyons and through asteroid fields, the wild reaches of space.

 

He drew the line. He tucked the stims under his tongue and, bit by bit, his thoughts became his own. And the nights were longer and more restless, but full of purpose, and he knew this: that his choices were his own, that a cog in the machine is no life to live, and that there was an alternative.

 

He’d almost died again and again, and he had escaped each time and was that because he was

 

( what was it Padme had said, a favoured son of the Force?)

 

lucky or it was because he had been saved for some higher purpose?

 

Next tree, the next, and all philosophical ramblings aside --

 

-- maybe it didn’t matter.

 

The Force is with me and I am one with the Force . Chirrut’s gone. But Bodhi still hears him, in the echo of his memories.

 

The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.

 

The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.

 

The Force is with me and I am one with the --

 

Huh. Look at that.

 

It’s a military base.

 

The Force is with me and I am one with the Force and the Force, it seems, is looking out for me. For once.



--



Poe wakes up, and flies, and gathers information, and flies, and eats, and flies, and drinks, and every evening for an hour he’ll go and sit by Finn’s bedside and listen to the beep of the machines, and he’ll sit there in the sterile white while Med Droids whir past and sometimes the General is there and sometimes Rey is and sometimes they make conversation.

 

Life does not stop. Life never stops, time never stops, and the hours, days, weeks tick by and Poe does not sit by the bedside and mourn, because the revolution continues and the Resistance grows and life never stops. Rey leaves to fetch Luke Skywalker and Finn does not wake; they operate on his spine, inserting bionic implants and he does not wake; the Resistance moves base, leaving tainted, haunted D’Qar; Rey returns, the Last Jedi in tow, and Finn does not wake; Poe flies mission after mission, learning that the First Order are regrouping, shaken but not ended entirely and Finn does not wake.

 

It has been five weeks, five days.

 

Poe’s been visiting Finn’s comatose body for longer than he ever knew the boy when he was

 

( alive)

 

awake and he has his routine down now: bring his food, a book, read to Finn about the history of the rebellion. Stories of Cassian, Jyn, Bodhi, Rogue One, Luke Skywalker: stories of heroes, of victory against hopeless odds. Today, Rey and Luke have vanished to some jungle moon nearby, in order to meditate and commune with the Force, whatever the hell they do.

 

(“People have recovered from worse,” he said.

 

“The Resistance’s military tech is painfully subpar,” Threepio said.

 

“Shut up,” Rey snapped. “He’s alive. I can feel him. He’s alive.”)

 

“...and Jyn, Jyn was the only daughter of Galen Erso --”



--



Bodhi’s used to neat, imperial efficiency. This camp is the opposite. It is ramshackle and wild, like some plant uprooted and smacked down, left to fend for itself: buildings, like branches in the canopy, tangled among each other, growing into each other, hallways giving way to bunkers, bunkers blossoming into runways, every surface bearing signs of construction, the smell of wet paint and freshly-cut wood everywhere -- and how he can smell when he cannot breathe is anyone’s guess -- and it is everything he did not grow up with and everything he wanted.

 

Because he’s dead now and part of the Force ( The Force is with me and I am one with the Force) and the Force here is bright and wild and livid with emotion, with fire and fury and the boldness of victory and the headiness of loss.

 

The air fizzes. It’s electric, maddening, and he is exactly where he should be.

 

It makes a nice change: for the Force to put someone where they should be.

 

And that’s the difference between him and Chirrut: Chirrut who was -- was, tenses are a bastard -- adamant that all is as the Force wills it, and thus all is as it should be. But: if Jyn had been someone else, someone softer; if Cassian had been a good man, not drenched in blood from his rebellion ( every freedom comes with a price ) then maybe they would have been happy. Maybe they would have lived. Maybe, in another universe, somewhere --

 

But not this one.

 

In this one, they died.

 

(Sorry.)

 

Bodhi passes an X-Wing hanger bedecked with tinsel and glittery cut-out stars, and a droid wearing what seems to be a small red hat. “It’s Solstice,” a pilot explains, stringing up a small model of a being in green with a vacuous grin so cheery that it must be off its face on stims.

 

“Don’t know if you’ve noticed,” says her companion.“But this planet doesn’t really have a winter. It’s got two seasons: wet and wetter.”

 

“Like your mum,” the pilot retorts.

 

“Shut it, Pava.”

 

“Make me, Snap. Besides, just because your piece of shit home planet didn’t do Solstice -- “

 

“We did Life Day,” says Snap, “a proper rebellion holiday, with a tradition of dignified acts of remembrance, not -- not, whatever the fuck this is.” He pokes the being in green.

 

“It’s an elf, you twat. You hang up images of them looking happy so their friends are tricked into thinking that this is a house to leave gifts and joy in and not one where you eat the children and frame the adults for their disappearance -- “

 

“Force -- that’s, uh. That’s fucked up.”

 

“Yeah, Dandoran does not fuck around. Did I tell you about the Yule Cat?”

 

“No…”

 

“Well, if you don’t have new clothes come Solstice Eve the Yule Cat comes along and eats you up.” She pokes his stomach. “You know, you shouldn’t get any new clothes. That way, once it finishes with you it won’t have room for the rest of us.”

 

“Fuck off, Pava,” he says again, but Bodhi can sense the camaraderie between them, the warmth. He thinks of Jyn, Cassian, the bickering: his heart aches .

 

He’s dead.

 

He shouldn’t feel pain this isn’t fair and --

 

“Yo Dameron, do you do Solstice?”

 

“Do I look like a filthy heathen? I do Life Day, like a good Force-fearing pilot.”

The new arrival, ducking under the wing of his craft, is handsome with amazing hair and star-bright eyes and really really nice teeth, all of which he’s showing off in the most glorious shit-eating grin Bodhi has ever seen, and was his hair mentioned? If not, it really should be: glossy and rich and dark, falling over his left eye in a delightful little quirk just begging to be tenderly brushed aside --

 

Ahem.

 

Bodhi has a little bit of a crush, just a little, and it isn’t just the fact that this man is -- objectively speaking, of course -- very, very good looking. There’s something magnetic about him.

 

“Can you see me?” Bodhi says. “Are you Force-sensitive, is that it, are you the boy that Anakin was going on about?”

 

Dameron blinks, twitches his head a little, not turning towards Bodhi but signalling that he’s heard something.

 

Bodhi shouts: “Hey! Handsome!” and this time Dameron turns, looks in his general direction, a crease forming between his eyes.

 

“Huh,” he says, then turns back to his fellow pilots.

 

“No -- no, come on, look at me you -- LOOK AT ME --”

 

“Doesn’t feel much like Life Day,” says Dameron. His lips thin. The air of camaraderie and warmth is swamped by an icy swoosh of grief. The crackle and spark of the Force is at once muted, and Bodhi’s world loses colour: it seems faded, washed out like an old holofilm, and he knows this is it.

 

(What is?)

 

(Not entirely sure. But this is it.)

 

(a girl and a boy)

 

“Finn still --”

 

“Yeah.”

“Med Droids say that he’s -- he’s still alive.”

 

“Maybe it would be best if -- “ Pava starts to say. Snap skewers her with a thorny look; for a moment they stare at each other; then she ploughs on. “No, I’m going to say it. I’m going to. We’ve been tip-toeing around it because no one wants to be the one to say it but -- Poe, there’s no chance that he’s going to wake up. That machine is keeping his heart going but his brain stopped responding to stimuli weeks ago, and all the bionics in the world isn’t going to make it work again. He’s gone. Whatever made him Finn is gone. There’s a machine keeping his heart beating, and another keeping his lungs going, and -- don’t you dare look at me like that, don’t you dare --”

 

Because Dameron’s eyes are wet and his skin has lost its colour and he is shaking. His hands curl into fists. He’s seconds from punching her.

 

Then all the strength goes from him. He slumps against the X-Wing; a small orange droid whirs around the corner, nudges at his legs. Friend-Finn , it bips. Friend-Finn will be ok, he has to he has to --

 

“I took my mother off life-support,” says Pava, gently. “You know that. She was gone. She was long gone. It was just meat there, meat and bone. And we can keep him on the machines at the moment, because we’re all grieving, because Rey is insistent that there’s something there still -- but.” She blinks rapidly, swallowing back tears of her own. “Poe, we’re at war. We don’t have much medical tech. One day, we’ll need that life support for something else.”

 

Bodhi steps back, not wanting to watch as Poe Dameron crumples into his friend’s arms, weeping with the intensity of one vomiting on all fours.



--



“They say that his brain’s stopped working,” Padme says. She’s wearing a gauzy white dress, because apparently the afterlife has an unlimited wardrobe, and sits at the end of the hospital bed. The machines around them whir and beep, and Bodhi sees what Pava meant about med-tech: this stuff was just about in date when he was in the Empire, and that was -- what? -- forty years ago?

 

“Has it?”

 

“The Force has not given me the privilege to know it,” she says. “But I come anyway. He was a Stormtrooper, you know.”

 

“I thought they were all clones.”

 

“Not in the First Order. They take children and train them up to be perfect killing machines.”

 

“What’s the First Order?”

 

“The Empire ended, but something else rose. It’s the way of the universe.” Padme tries to take Finn’s hand. Her fingers slide right through his skin; her lovely face crumples in pain. “I stayed for my children,” she says, seconds before he musters up the courage to ask, “to shield them from their father, and his wrath. He’s a different man now. A better man. He’s seeking redemption. But he took my babies from me, and my Republic, and he won’t have forgiveness from me, not now and not ever.”

 

“Tell me about him,” says Bodhi. “Tell me about Finn --”

 

“Who the hell are you?”

 

There’s a girl in the doorway, a staff in her hand and fire in her eyes. The Force around them ignites, starry and burning; the colours get brighter, almost too bright to bear, and the girl, the girl in the door is the source of it, the girl with the skin full of light and oh how she burns . “You can see me?”

 

“Of course I can see you! You too!” she uses the staff to point at Padme, who is clearly as astonished as Bodhi.

 

“You -- oh ,” Padme breathes. “It’s you. You . Oh my darling, my darling lost girl -- “

 

“Who are you?” the girl demands. She shows her teeth and Bodhi is reminded, once more, that even in death there are things to fear.

 

“My name is Padme,” Padme says, curtseying low, low, low until her dress puddles around her in a pool of glitter. “I’m honoured to meet you.”

 

“Um -- I’m Bodhi,” says Bodhi. He clips his heels, inclines his head, because if Padme is bowing so low he feels he should do so as well. “Who’re you?”

 

“Rey. I’m Rey. I’ve heard of you -- both of you -- you’re, you’re Luke’s mother. And you -- “ she turns to Bodhi. Her face splits into a smile and the Force somehow gets even brighter , luminous with joy. “You’re Bodhi Rook. You’re -- “ and she lowers the staff, fusses with her hair; it’s in a braid over her temples like a crown, and she tucks strands back into place and wait is she blushing, she is actually blushing , this creature of light and power and storm and fury, she is blushing like a girl in spring. “I’ve heard the stories about you,” she says.

 

“Good stories, I hope?” says Bodhi, straightening up.

 

“You’re the imperial pilot who stole the Death Star plans. You saved the Resistance! All good stories! Of course! But you’re -- you died.”

 

“Yes. We’re ghosts.”

 

“I guessed. I’ve seen them before. Not here, but there were ghosts in Jakku.”

 

Bodhi wants to say how can you be in awe of me how brightly you shine how bright you are . Bodhi wants to say how can you be nervous the universe bends around you . Bodhi wants to say you are chosen you are chosen you are chosen .

 

Padme reaches over, takes his hand, and says -- without speaking a word, oh the joys of being dead -- telling someone that they are chosen and special and burning-bright is not a good way to raise a saviour. Believe me.

 

She says, “I will bid you goodbye, darling Rey, dearest Bodhi. You will see me again, I am sure, but for now I will leave you.”

 

With that, she fades away.

 

“I have a mission,” Bodhi says, because Rey’s looking at him like she wants an explanation, like he’s some kind of authority, and he’s still choking back the urge to fall to his knees before her and say you are chosen.

 

The Force has chosen her, maybe, but it has also chosen him and so Bodhi says, “I think I know what my mission is . Can -- can you tell me about him?” Bodhi says, gesturing to Finn.

 

Rey does. She tells him how he fled into the wilds of space, having stolen a Resistance pilot and a TIE fighter. She tells him how Finn’s heart accounts for ninety per cent of his body weight and is big enough to hold the world. She tells him how Finn was raised by a complex designed to strip children of their humanity and teach them to kill and how it never extinguished the spark of hope in him, how he never stopped caring, how he never let the cruel world quell the softness in him.

 

Bodhi says, “I’m bringing him back. I promise,” and the golden girl, the bright-burning chosen one of the Force, nods, wide-eyed and shaking.

 

She believes in him.

 

And with that, he leans over Finn and kisses him, eyes closed and thinking -- like a prayer, like the tide, sure and steady -- the Force is with me and I am one with the Force, the Force is with me and I am one with the Force, the Force is with me and I am one with the Force.

 

The image in his mind is this: Baze pressing his lips to Chirrut’s, again and again, in the late nights and early mornings, when they thought no one could see. Their devotion to each other. Like Galen’s devotion to Jyn, Jyn and Cassian’s devotion to each other, and love isn’t enough, it isn’t, because you need to have that line as well, that line in your head that says this is who I choose to be and you need both and he knows that now. And he has both, and Finn has both, and tenses are important because Finn is not yet dead and Bodhi is not yet gone -- love and the line -- and the Force has plans for them yet. More than that, more than the Force: both have people who depend on them, who need them, who await their return.

 

He kisses Finn, and opens his eyes to a desert, two suns and a pale indigo sky.

 

Finn’s slumped on a sand dune, staring up at the stars. His neck craned back, his arms pillowed behind his head: he looks entirely too at ease for Bodhi’s taste, this boy who has the universe -- at least, a corner of it -- in turmoil.

 

“Hey!”

 

Finn snaps to his feet. His hand goes to his hip, seeking a blaster that isn’t there: it’s the reflex of a soldier, and Bodhi thinks oh yes born a Stormtrooper.

 

“Who’re you?”

 

“My name’s Bodhi Rook. I’ve come to take you back.”

 

“Bodhi Rook -- the Rebellion pilot?” Excitement spreads over Finn’s face like sunrise. “I’ve heard all about you! You’re amazing! You fought the Empire, you stole the Death Star plans, you’re the reason that the Rebellion could destroy the Death Star, you -- I used to think that it was me, that it was only me, that I…” His voice cracks.

 

“I’ve heard about you too,” Bodhi says, gently, because he recognises that expression: lost and frightened and flailing, and very far from home. He’s seen it before: on his own face, staring at the mirror, thinking freedom to and freedom from and how his parents will be shot if they do not disown him, and praying that his mother had the wit to say he is no son of mine and knowing that his father would say that without a flicker of hesitation. Traitor. No son of mine. “What you did you hear about me?”

 

“I thought it was just me,” Finn says. “I thought that it was just me who left because I thought it was wrong, I thought that the Resistance would shun me because I used to be a defector, but they didn’t, how could they? Because they remembered you. They remembered you. Anyway, Poe’s told me the stories -- well,” and his smile slides right off his face, “well, he read me the stories. I’m -- “

 

“In a coma. I know.”

 

“I want to get back. I -- I don’t know how, I can hear them, I can hear Poe crying for me, and I can’t get back to them -- to him -- “

 

“A friend of mine told me that you must trust in the Force,” says Bodhi. He’s not sure if he’s picking up on the feelings of Rey or Poe (or both) -- he’s always been keenly aware of the feelings of others but a side-effect of death seems to be a new and all-consuming empathy --  but he looks at Finn and sees the most beautiful boy in the world, the bravest warrior, the kindest man. He offers his hands. Finn hesitates for a moment, then takes them.

 

Bodhi closes his eyes. The Force is with me, he thinks, and I am one with the Force.

 

And perhaps Chirrut is not as gone as Anakin says, because Bodhi swears that he hears I told you so little one before they are pulled, down through the sand, past limitless stars, falling and falling and --

 

( send a defector to get a defector he hears, and he’s almost certain that it’s Cassian, low and growling and amused and --)

 

( there is a ninety two per cent chance that he will succeed)

(I have faith in him I believe in him my father spoke so highly of him)

 

(we are here for you child we are here for you --)




--



Finn opens his eyes.



--



That isn’t the end of it. Of course it isn’t.

 

“It is time for you to continue on your -- “

 

“Sod off, Anakin,” says Bodhi, accidentally adhering to another great tradition (that of telling Anakin Skywalker where to shove it; somewhere Obi Wan is doing what can only be described as a dance of celebration.) “They need me. I’m staying. I’m staying right here .”

 

“Your mission is done.”

 

Bodhi thinks of long restless nights coming off stims, thinking of lines, and where lines can be drawn, of responsibility and how freedom from life doesn’t exactly eradicate your freedom to choose. He thinks of Padme, watching over her children -- why do you think that Darth Vader did not find them? -- and he thinks that, somewhere, there is a boy with a red lightsabre and a grudge, and he will want to finish off the job. Somewhere there is another pilot -- or a Stormtrooper -- staring up at the ceiling in a long restless night, frightened and convinced they are alone in their doubts.

 

Somewhere, someone will be thinking this isn’t right and I won’t let the cruel world squash down my kindness and somewhere someone is thinking I will do my job but I will undermine them, I will.

 

The Force’s Chosen Ones are few and far between, but those who choose to be heroes could outnumber the stars. Bodhi will not leave them. 

 

Rey and Anakin and Luke and Leia are bright-burning in the Force; but it is the people like Bodhi and Finn who will change the course of history, and there is only one universe, and in this one they died; but that isn’t the end.

 

“I’m staying here,” he says again.

 

He has a duty.

 

He is a soldier.

 

And there is a war singing through these stars.

 

 

--

 

Rogue One's mission isn't finished yet. 

 

As long as there are rebels in need of hope, brought on wings of fire and snatched from the teeth of evil, Bodhi Rook will be there to provide it.