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The Last Poem of Jedha

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There is a myth about the Temple of Kyber.

The story goes that a man named Shaz, who lost his entire family in tragic circumstances, was on a pilgrimage through the desert when he passed near the caves. Now, these caves were famous for the crystals buried in their depths, and they had once been considered neutral ground among the tribes; however, the area had since been taken over by thieves and murderers who sought to claim the riches of the caves as their own, and no one dared travel near them.

The story goes that Shaz set up his tent a few miles from the cave one night and that the gods spoke to him in a dream, telling him that he was to rise up and become the cave's protector. In the morning, Shaz climbed the rocks and declared himself to be the guardian of the caves. Anyone who wanted to claim but a single one of the crystals inside would have to defeat him in combat.

Many men tried, but the gods were on the side of Shaz, and though he sustained many injuries, he never failed to defeat anyone who challenged him.

After some years, his fame spread far and wide, and many of the men who had once fought him were so impacted by his humble faith and his strength of character that they bound themselves to him, forming the order of the guardians.

There is another part to the story which is not as famous as the first.

Some say that Shaz was not alone when he went on his pilgrimage; he was accompanied by a poet, Taike, a man from Shaz's village who had also lost everyone he loved in a plague. The stories say that Shaz and Taike were true companions, and one never took a step but that the other one followed in his shadow. They say when Shaz became the guardian of the temple, Taike began an epic chronicling all of their struggles and adventures. It is said that every word he put down was blessed by the gods themselves, and soon he grew so famous that students of the written word flocked to his side to learn from him.

As the years passed the academy grew, and eventually a city grew around it. That city was the light of its planet, the center of art and music and literature beyond even the reaches of the solar system, the holy city of a thousand poets.

That is the story of Jedha.

Of course, technology and capitalism change the world in the ensuing millennium, and by the time Binal Rook, a mechanic from the fourth district, and Sara Aldani, a poet from the third, move in together in the third month of Sara's pregnancy, poets aren't as revered-nor as remotely well-paid-as they were in the days of old.

Still, it's a livable profession, if you're not too lofty to take the occasional dull commission. The name of the Academy of Jedha still holds a certain esteem, and Jedha remains one of the few developed cities where writing paper and calligraphy pens are used as they have been for a thousand years. Sara and Binal, of course, aren't thinking of a thousand years of tradition when they start their family—first a girl, then a boy, but as soon as the children start talking the stories spread all around the neighborhoods of the third district.

The Rook children, everybody says, are destined to be the greatest poets of their generation.

 

Bodhi flies them off of Scarif, but he doesn't remember much of it afterwards.

The beach is a jumble of short breaths and blaster shots, of Kaytoo swearing and Baze huffing past him with Chirrut hanging off his shoulder, of Jyn striding through the knee-deep spray, straight-backed with a blaster at the ready in one hand and the precious discs in the other.

Bodhi guards the ship and somehow doesn't die. There is a moment when he thinks he will: a trooper, in the periphery of his sight, cocks his arm to throw a grenade into the ship. Bodhi brings his arm up and fires on instinct, but his hand shakes and his eyes burn with blood from a cut on his forehead that drips into them, and he knows he won't be fast enough and thinks, I'm sorry, sister.

And then the man slumps forward, and Bodhi just barely hears Baze's distinctive laugh before a stray shot catches him in the shoulder and knocks him back into his ship.

It's not as bad an injury as it could be, Bodhi thinks, and he's so pumped up with adrenaline that he sits up after ten or twenty seconds and shakes the dizziness off.

And then it's over. Bodhi grabs his blaster and staggers to his feet and fires off a couple shots at some troopers in the distance, and then-quiet, and he scrambles for the pilot's chair. Jyn jogs into the ship, Cassian's arm over her shoulders, and directly after them Baze and Chirrut and Kaytoo and far too few of the soldiers he flew onto the planet toss themselves into the ship and yell at him to go.

Bodhi goes, the wound in his shoulder pulling uncomfortably when he pushes down the throttle.

 

There is very little talking on the flight back. Chirrut and Baze snipe back and forth a little, and one of the soldiers groans in pain, and halfway through the trip Cassian topples off the bench onto the hard metal floor, unconscious, but otherwise there is no speaking. Jyn sits very still with the case of discs clutched white knuckled in her grip. She lets it go when Cassian falls, but holds it in between her knees even as she clambers down onto the floor beside him and tucks her jacket under his head.

Bodhi's head doesn't feel entirely right, still, but the words in his mind go mostly in order, and he can close his eyes in the quiet of space without thinking of the cold, slimy grip on his wrists and his neck and his temples.

The quiet black ink of space gives way to a boisterous tarmac.

Bodhi can't hear the cheering through the walls of the ship, but he sees pilots running across the tarmac and hugging each other through the window.

He's radioed ahead for medics, and sure enough there are nurses and doctors and stretchers waiting when he lowers the ramp.

The hubbub, with the people in the hangar, crowds up to the cargo bay, but the noise doesn't cut through the empty air where more than twenty men stood four hours ago and don't stand now.

Jyn stands, resolutely, and holds the precious case out to the woman from the meeting-the one in white. Bodhi can't remember her name.

"Thank you, Jyn Erso," the woman says.

Jyn nods and turns back to Cassian. Her eyes sweep over Chirrut and Baze and Kaytoo and Bodhi and the other men in the cabin, and there's gratitude and loss and exhaustion and so much else in them that Bodhi turns away, fiddles with some buttons on his console and pretends he's checking on the status of the ship.

So. This is what victory feels like.

Cassian and the wounded soldier are seen to first, of course. Jyn walks behind them as they are wheeled away. Then Chirrut goes, loaded up on a stretcher with Baze following, Chirrut's staff cradled in his arms like it's made of blown glass. The other soldiers-the three who look bruised and bloodied but are capable of making it to the infirmary on their own power, nod their heads in Bodhi's direction before they leave. Bodhi nods back and then, before anyone else can notice him, ducks down in the chair so his hair doesn't peek out over the headrest.

His fingers tremble as he goes through his post flight checklist, and he feels cold all over and unsteady in his head. He waits until the noise outside dies down entirely before he eases off the seat and stretches. He's forgotten about the blaster wound, but the burn in his arm roars back to life when he reaches for his goggles, and he has just a moment to realize he's going to need a doctor before his vision starts to gray.

He takes two steps and crumples. His forehead smacks against the edge of the console as he goes down, and blood splashes out like water from one of those fountains on Coruscant. He tastes it in his mouth and in his nose and can't swallow it down.

He tells himself he'll rest for a moment and get back up, but he's so tired and everything's so hazy that he doesn't remember to follow through.

 

Bodhi's sister is six years old when he is born. By the time she is eight, he has figured out how to talk and proceeds to do so at an alarming rate.

"Mama," is her constant complaint. "Bodhi is being irritating again."

He is, too. No one can say otherwise. He idolizes her-probably from the hours she spends, reading him stories and poetry she writes at school-and whenever she's at home he toddles after her with his blanket in one hand and his stuffed bear in the other, and talks. And talks. And talks.

Oh, how Bodhi talks.

When he's a year old, he learns how to say “Yes?” When he is two, he learns to say “No?” When he is three, his sister starts teaching him how things are supposed to be done, and he learns how to say "You're not doing it right,” along with other synonymous phrases.

No one is spared from receiving his wisdom. When his father takes a day off from work and and lets his apprentice work on a speeder engine, Bodhi sits cross-legged on his father's desk like a hawk and waits for the apprentice to unravel under the pressure. “You're not doing it right,” he says accusingly when the apprentice sprays the main coil down with oil rather than degreaser.

When the butcher's hand slips and he slices off part of his sleeve and just barely misses his artery, Bodhi, who goes with his sister to the shop every week to buy strips of dried ochol to snack on, gravely informs the sixty-year-old that he'd better be careful or he'll hurt himself.

When one of his mother's students proudly performs one of his poems at the annual recital, Bodhi, having lost two of his front teeth the previous afternoon while eating ott, sniffs, raises his chin, and lisps quite quietly—for Bodhi—that "A hata is supposed to have seven syllables in its opening line, not five."

Bodhi is, by all objective measures, an intensely irritating child, and it's only those wide, innocent eyes that keep him from being murdered by most of the citizens of the Third District.

His sister is quieter in public and has a better sense of other people's feelings, but is none the less scathing when her opinion is called for. When Kal Borda starves his dog to make it vicious in case of thieves, she writes a seven-page shinaat excoriating him and nails it to the Rook's front door after their parents go to the market on Saturday morning. She then stands by her front door with Bodhi's shirt collar in one hand so he doesn't wander off and a tinny copper bell in the other, and she has Bodhi hand a copy of the poem to every person that stops by to gawk. It is painstakingly printed on cheap paper she bought herself with her purse money, and she's helpfully written Kal Borda's address in the top right corner.

Tuesday morning, Kal Borda ties the dog to the lightpost outside their house with a note begging her to stop sending people to his house tied to its collar. She accordingly writes a conciliatory leim and posts it outside her door, and she and Bodhi name the dog Hana after the famous holoshow heroine. They take it out for walks every evening after school and feed it so many scraps that it soon weighs more than Bodhi.

In the evenings, Bodhi and his sister sit on cushions in front of the house-cooler in the front room and spend an hour working on their writing workbooks, creating stories and poems and oddball jokes that hinge on words with double meaning.

Bodhi's very talented, according to his mother and his teachers, but he has a tendency to focus on perfection to the detriment of his creativity, and he has the same problem that his mother's struggled with her entire life--that when they read and write the words, the characters do not always remain in their appropriate order. It makes things difficult for him, as it does for his mother, particularly as so much Jedhan verse hinges on making a point with words that look similar on the page. He works at it, though, and checks every line four times over like his mother taught him (three with a dictionary and one to make sure), and by the time he is six he is two levels ahead of the rest of his class in his literature studies, and just about the same in mathematics.

His sister, on the other hand, is a genius. When she is eleven, she grows so bored with the curriculum of the lower levels that she skips school one afternoon, on Bodhi's half-day, and takes him with her to the Academy in the center of Jedha. She buys him an iced copol to keep him quiet and walks straight up to the office of Alif Hitan, the Master Poet of the Academy himself, a young genius in his own right. She speaks with him for twenty minutes, Bodhi slurping his copol at her side, and that evening she tells her parents that 'Uncle Alif' has decided to let her enter the Academy four years early, on a trial basis, and will let her work off the tuition in commissions for the families of the board of governors.

Uncle Alif becomes a fixture at the Friday evening supper table in a matter of weeks. Bodhi's sister blooms like a flower under this new tutelage, and Uncle Alif even says that Bodhi can join the Academy at thirteen, if he keeps up his studies.

They are poet children in the city of poets, and their future shines brighter than the evening star.

And then, when Bodhi is seven, Chancellor Palpatine declares himself Galactic Emperor.

 

He jerks awake when they start to stitch closed the cut on his forehead. He remembers where he is, he thinks later, maybe, but there's a doctor leaning over him--a man with gloves on his fingers and his fingers on Bodhi's head, so close that Bodhi gets a whiff of the familiar smell of strawberry-flavored stims on the man's breath--and, well. Bodhi does not like doctors very much.

"It's all right," the doctor says a few minutes later, when his nose stops bleeding. "I've had far worse reactions, Captain Rook, and that's just when I try asking someone out for dinner."

Bodhi's supposed to laugh, he knows, but there was a monster in his head and his shoulder's in pieces and Jedha, his city, is rubble and dust.

He throws up on himself instead.

“Not a captain,” he says when he finishes.

I'm just a pilot, he wants to say, but everything starts going dark again and he doesn't. He's just a pilot, and Jedha is dead, and victory feels like a hole in his heart.

 

The day the Empire comes to Jedha stays bright and clear in Bodhi's memory until the day he dies.

His mother doesn't wake him up before seven, even though it's a school morning, and when he finally stumbles out of bed, she and his father are kneeling on the floor in the living room, holding hands in front of the holostreamer.

"Son, don't break your neck," his father snaps, a force of habit, when Bodhi clambers down the stairs.

“Mama?” Bodhi asks.

His mother shakes her head. Her lips are thin, and even though it's after ten o'clock, she hasn't even braided her hair.

There's noise outside, a lot of it, and Bodhi looks out the window to see people running back and forth, speeders cutting through the street without waiting at the stoplight. He looks out for a few minutes, mesmerized, and then he sees his sister turn the corner at the far end of the block.

He'll go meet her, he thinks.

He's out of the house before his parents look up from the streamer, halfway down the street by the time his father runs out of the house, yelling at him to come back.

He doesn't see the speeder that clips the side of Kal Borda's house and spins out of control straight at him; he hears his father scream, feels his sister slam into him and push him out of the way, hears her grunt when it hits.

When he looks up again, his sister is lying, bleeding, on the street in front of the butcher shop, and her left leg lies several feet away.

 

Jyn's in a chair by his bed when he wakes up again. She's got a fat lower lip and a bandage on her neck that disappears under the collar of a brand new shirt. Bodhi's pretty sure the bars on the sleeves mean 'Sergeant'.

"You.” She crosses her arms over her chest and fixes him with a hard stare. "You should have told us you were hurt. You could have been injured-you could have died. We wouldn't have left you alone if we'd known. That's not how teams work.”

"Sorry," he says. It comes out garbled, and his throat burns like he's swallowed glass.

His head, on the other hand, feels like something dug into it with a blowtorch and left jagged edges poking out haphazardly.

Jyn's eyes soften, and she slumps in her chair. "Don't talk," she says. "They said you inhaled hot air from one of the explosions, and your throat's going to be sore for a few days.”

He lifts his head up from the pillow and doesn't see anybody else, and--no. No. Baze, at least, was on his feet, and Kaytoo. They must just be somewhere else. "Where--how?”

How's everyone, he thinks. Are they alive, he thinks. The words jumble on the way to his tongue, though, and it's so much effort to open his mouth and speak to begin with he's not sure it's worth it.

Jyn sighs and presses him back down with a soft palm to the top of his head. "They're fine. Cassian took a blaster shot to the side and broke a few ribs, and Chirrut just missed getting hit by a grenade. They're both in surgery right now, but they're going to be okay. Only thing we have to worry about is getting caught in the crossfire when Baze tries to kill Chirrut."

Bodhi laughs and immediately regrets it.

"Sorry," Jyn says with a grimace. She grabs a cup of finely shaved ice from his nightstand and holds it to his lips. She shrugs. “I'm serious, though. You should've heard him when they brought you in. You didn't--Chirrut and Cassian weren't doing great, and you looked terrible.”

Her hand trembles, just a little.

Team, his brain supplies. Be her team. No--that's not the right word. He's so tired, and there was something--something in his head, and he's not sure everything went back the right way when it left.

I am the pilot, and they are my team.

(“Kindess and love,” his sister says, “Are the two most important things in the galaxy.”)

I am the pilot, and they are my team, and she is my friend.

"Thanks," he says once his throat doesn't feel as raw. It's not the word he means to pull out when he starts looking for one, but he thinks it does the job.

Jyn smiles, tight and thin. She takes a breath. "I thought we were going to die.”

"Me too," he says, and the quiet after he says it feels unbearably wide.

 

His sister spends eight weeks in bed, healing from her wounds and waiting for their parents to put together the money for a proper prosthesis. Uncle Alif and his wife, Lila, insist on putting up half the money despite their new baby. They ask the Rooks not to tell her so she doesn't feel indebted. They don't ask Bodhi, though-mostly because they probably have no idea Bodhi's listening outside the door when they come to visit-and Bodhi has absolutely no qualms about letting his sister know.

His sister takes feeling indebted about as well as his parents do, so of course the first thing she do

es the next time Uncle Alif visits is ask him how she can ever repay him.

"Don't stop writing," he says. "Whatever happens. Don't ever stop telling the truth."

After he leaves, she asks her mother for a proper calligraphy pen and forty sheets of paper.

“Forty,” she tells Bodhi, "Is precisely the right amount of paper for a naav. Twenty lines per sheet, each of them as close to perfect the first time you write them as you can get them. You have to think a lot about them before you set them down."

The first three lines, of course, are the biggest hurdle. The naav is known as the death poem, but only the first three lines have anything to do with death. The first line is the name of the person who died. The second, seven syllables long, states where it happened. The third, arguably the most important line of the entire poem, tells how they died. The rest of the poem is divided into two sections, speaking about the person's life and of what example they set to everyone around them.

Bodhi's sister leaves the first line blank.

The naav takes her five weeks to write, every character painstakingly composed in her mind. She checks each line religiously before handing the sheets to Bodhi to proofread them as he does, like his mother-four times over, three with a dictionary and one to make sure. Only when it's perfect does she let Bodhi stack the papers and show them to their mother and father and Uncle Alif.

It is the only poem of hers that is ever published anonymously, but everyone on Jedha knows who wrote it. Everyone on Jedha sees it, too, taped to walls and windows and lightposts, popping up morning and night though it gets ripped down within minutes. A few of the commanders who come down from the ship up at the temple ask some questions, but they never get sufficient answers. When no further poems from the mysterious author appear, eventually the questions stop.

The poems that follow, of course, are more circumspect, with liberal use of metaphor that only someone raised on Jedhan verse would see through. She never mentions the Empire or the troopers or the ship that sits over the temple, and there is never anything in any one of her lines that the Empire could possibly take as a threat.

But everyone on Jedha understands.

 

The Alliance, Bodhi quickly comes to realize, is a very different sort of military than that of the Empire, even if some of its leaders are every bit as shortsighted and bullheaded as Krennic.

The infirmary itself is a microcosm. It's small and cramped and, though Bodhi's sure it's sterile enough, there's a curious lack of cohesion in its setup. The beds, for example: on Eadu, when you walk into the infirmary you're faced with a row of identical, stainless steel frames bolted to the walls and floors with matching cots and matching white sheets and matching hard pillows. Here on Yavin IV, Bodhi wakes up covered to his shoulders with a colorful patchwork quilt that smells of lilac, and when the curtains to his left are pulled open he sees Cassian lying on a stretcher with a bright red frame with several mismatched green blankets piled up on top of him.

The doctors, also, are different, so Bodhi notices that they all treat him with a little more distance than they do the others. He's not sure if this is because he's an Imperial (was an Imperial. Was.) or because he broke somebody's nose, but he's just fine with it either way. They let Jyn and Baze visit several times a day, anyway, and they don't tell the other ones that stop by--two of the soldiers and one of the X-Wing pilots from Scarif--that he's faking sleep when they stop by.

For that, Bodhi is grateful.

Baze, the first time Bodhi sees him after Chirrut wakes up, doesn't look particularly upset. He's polishing a very large knife, but Bodhi imagines that must be force of habit more than out of any intent to intimidate anyone. He doesn't talk a lot; says hello, says that Chirrut is doing well and expected to be discharged in a week, says the Council's coming up with plans to take out the Death Star within a day or two. He spends the rest of the time sitting next to the Bodhi's bed in silence, occasionally glancing over at the bed nearby where Cassian's still sleeping off the anesthesia. Bodhi doesn't mind the silence, and at least Baze doesn't expect him to talk.

He stays for fifteen minutes, until Bodhi yawns. He says he'll come back later, and does, though the next time he's not polishing any knives.

He does have three blasters in pieces on the table next to Bodhi's head, though, and an oiling rag beside them. The nurses and the doctors give Bodhi's bed a nice, wide berth while he is there.

Kaytoo doesn't visit, exactly, but he lumbers into the infirmary every six hours and updates Bodhi and Cassian on their vital signs if they're awake.

Mon Mothma stops by, for a few minutes. She sidles up to Bodhi's bed one time when Jyn's helping him eat some soup.

(Bodhi still doesn't remember her name; he has to ask Jyn for it after the senator leaves, and gets a curious look for his troubles. At least this time his memory holds on to it.)

"There's a place for you here with us," Mon Mothma says. "The Alliance could use more pilots like you, and we'll be happy to have you join us if you'd like to stay."

Bodhi nods but doesn't give her an answer either way. She doesn't seem to mind.

Jyn, pointedly, doesn't mention Mothma's question, just goes back to helping him hold the spoon, but Cassian, who's apparently woken up since the last time Jyn checked in on him, has no such compunctions. He tosses an empty cup at the curtains separating their beds and waits until Jyn opens them.

"You should stay," he says in a voice that's considerably too chipper for a man recovering from as many internal injuries as he is. He waves a thumbs up with his left hand but drops it quickly, groans, turns pale, and curls up into a ball. Jyn has to call the doctors to get him painkillers or a sedative before he hurts himself.

“You idiot,” Jyn says. She smooths Cassian's hair back from his forehead in a way she doesn't touch anyone else, and Cassian holds her hand and looks up at her with wide, tired eyes until the sedatives knock him out again.

I am the pilot, and they are my team.

Bodhi shrugs when Jyn comes back to pick up his bowl and continues not to ask him any questions.

"Maybe I can stay a while," he says.

Jedha his home is rubble and dust, and the Empire will hunt him anywhere else that he goes. But he can be of use here, if he stays, and can start to fix what he can of the harm that he's helped to create, and Jyn looks happy to hear it, so he keeps those parts to himself.

 

One day, when Bodhi is thirteen and his sister nineteen, a squadron of Imperial ships flies into the city shortly after dawn.

They're eating breakfast with their parents, already dressed--Bodhi in the uniform of the first-year Academy students, his sister in the loose black robes of a professor--when Uncle Alif runs into the kitchen through the side door without knocking.

“It's the Empire," he says. "The rebels assassinated one of the commanders stationed at the temple last night, so today they've come to conscript every child between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one.”

In the end, it's his sister's leg that saves her. The commander who comes for them takes one look at the jumbled mess of metal and wires that peeks out from under her robes and tells her she won't be wanted.

Bodhi, of course, is in perfect health, but they give him a chance to say goodbye to his family before they send him to the ships. His mother cries, his father kisses him on the forehead, and Uncle Alif gives a hard, tight hug, but his sister leans her head over his shoulder and whispers in his ear.

"Kindness and love are the two most important things in the galaxy," she says. "Don't ever let them take that from you.”

When he looks back as they hustle him down the street, he sees her through the window, marching, straight-backed, up to their rooms on the second floor. He knows without needing it said that tomorrow there will be a poem nailed to every door in Jedha.

 

The first days in the infirmary stretch in to nights and eventually stretch back in to days again. There's some sort of problem with the plans to attack the Death Star, and all the doctors and nurses walk around with pinched faces and unfortunate bedside manners. It makes Bodhi twitchy, whenever they come around. He tries not to show it, but sometimes when one of them checks his shoulder he catches Cassian looking over at him with a pensive expression.

Jyn doesn't want to tell him what's going on-on the doctor's orders, he's pretty sure, but she finally gives in when he tells her it's making him worry.

"They can't find the Death Star." She speaks in a hushed voice, and Bodhi wonders if it isn't just the doctors that don't want him to know. "Nobody's seen it since Jedha, and the Council is worried that the Emperor's going to use it to make an example within a few days. And there's a princess missing."

"Princess?" Bodhi asks. There's a quick flash of memory--his sister, showing him which squeaky steps to skip when they sneaked downstairs in the morning to watch the show about Alanna, the daring space princess, before their parents woke up. It's just a shadow of a memory, something that got pulled out of its proper place in Saw Gererra's cave, but Jyn mistakes his grimace for a look of pain, and she fusses over him for several minutes before she continues.

"Some senator's daughter. Organa. She was looking for a Jedi Knight in hiding when her ship disappeared. It was an important mission, apparently, and everybody's worried she's been captured.”

A doctor comes in then, and tells Jyn that Chirrut is asking after her, if she has a moment. Bodhi waves her off and tells her to give Baze and Chirrut a hello from him.

It's quiet when she leaves. Cassian's asleep, still, and nobody else stops by to visit. Bodhi settles back and rests his hand on his stomach and focuses on the ache in his shoulder when he twitches instead of the slimy, squirmy grip of his nine-year-old sister's sweaty fingers on his, and eventually the aching tightness in his chest eases far enough that he can breathe without the air catching in his throat.

The day stretches back into night again, eventually.

 

Bodhi doesn't realize, at the time, the threat inherent in dangling your conscripted recruits' families in front of them for two weeks a year, but all the students at the Training Academy get sent home for a vacation every summer. They have tracking chips placed in their arms until they graduate, and anyone who tries to make a run for it is branded a deserter and shot on sight, but otherwise they spend the time entirely free from Imperial supervision.

Bodhi's second year at the Training Academy, when he is fifteen, he gets into a fight the week before vacation is supposed to start. It's not his fault, but that is, as always, irrelevant. When order in the ranks is broken, it does not matter who is responsible for the break, only that the order be restored and such behavior strongly discouraged in the future. Bodhi barely sleeps for three days straight, worrying that they'll keep him at the academy as punishment. They do let him go when it comes to it, though not without a word of warning, of course, and a reminder that's meant to stay with him the fortnight so the lesson doesn't fade too quickly.

When he gets home, he finds his sister's married since his last visit, to Uncle Alif's oldest nephew, Dalid. They still live with Bodhi's parents--Dalid doesn't mention anything, but Bodhi's sure it's because Bodhi is gone. They've added a third story to the house, though, so at least Bodhi doesn't have to sleep in the same room as them when he visits.

Bodhi knows Dalid, a little, from family suppers and functions at the Academy, and he seems like a nice enough man. His sister's head over heels in love with him, though she's not effusive about it. Bodhi sees some poetry on her desk when he goes to borrow a calligraphy pen: a hata, in his sister's hand, titled 'To the one who halves my grief.' He feels so relieved she found someone that it doesn't leave space in his heart for bitterness.

Bodhi doesn't think that anybody notices the way he winces when he leans down to pet Hana and sits with his back straight as a lightpost all evening, but after he retires to his room for the night Dalid slips in with a knock and shuts the door behind him. He has a jar of salve in his hand.

“Show me your back," he says.

Bodhi starts to protest, but Dalid crosses his arms and stands with his back against the door and doesn't budge.

"If I'm married to your sister," he says. "That means you're my little brother now too, and I've always been able to tell when my brothers are being stupid. So please don't try lying again."

Bodhi's hands tighten into fists on the hem of his shirt, but eventually he takes it off.

Dalid doesn't say anything when he sees the red, blistered lines that stretch across Bodhi's back, but he has Bodhi lie down on his stomach while he treats it and fluffs Bodhi's pillows an unnecessary amount.

"It's nothing," Bodhi says. "Honestly, I barely ever get into trouble."

Dalid huffs and grabs a generous dollop of salve, carefully brushes it across the edges of the first line. "Don't they have doctors on that khaletidn planet?"

Bodhi sucks in a breath and grips his pillow case. Dalid's being as gentle as possible, but the correction rods are calibrated to inflict a certain amount of damage, and sometimes the blisters burst just from rubbing up against clothing.

Hands, no matter how gentle, are a special kind of torture.

"The doctors fix you if you get hurt, but they say that if you feel the damage you'll be more careful the next time."

Dalid doesn't make him talk about it any more after that, but the next morning at breakfast Bodhi's sister puts her hands up to his temples and draws his head down to rest on her shoulder for a long, long time.

 

Four days after they fly into Scarif, Bodhi spends a good chunk of the afternoon pretending to be asleep. The curtain between his bed and Cassian's is open. Jyn is sitting at Cassian's side and reading to him, and Cassian is staring up at her with a naked, rapt adoration that makes Bodhi's chest hurt.

He's just started dozing off in earnest when the sirens all over the base suddenly burst into life.

Jyn and Cassian share a startled look, and Jyn runs off, Alliance-issued boots squeaking on the clean floor.

She doesn't come back for hours.

She's grinning when she does, loose-limbed and free in a way he's never seen her before.

"They've destroyed the Death Star.” She stands between their beds so they can both hear her. "Princess Leia was being held captive on it, but she escaped with some pilots near Alderaan, and they called in for help. The Empire was going to target the planet, but the X-Wing fighters stopped them, and one of the pilots who was with the princess blew it up in a stolen TIE fighter.”

It's like a weight rolls off of Bodhi's shoulders as he slumps back into his bed, but he doesn't feel light like he expected. He barely hears Cassian ask after casualties or Jyn list the names of the X-Wing pilots.

The weight off of his shoulders, he thinks, only rolled as far down as his chest before it settled.

 

“I'm sorry about your sister," Cassian says quietly that evening when they're the only two awake in the infirmary.

Bodhi finds the air in the infirmary, suddenly, cold and dry and far too dense to breathe.

"She was my contact on Jedha for seven years.” Cassian pauses for a moment; Bodhi can't tell if the man's genuinely sad or if he's just searching for the right words to say. "She was a brave woman. Kind. She was a professor, right?"

"Yes," Bodhi says. If he says anything else, he knows, he won't be able to stop, so instead he brings his covers up and turns onto his side, away from Cassian's bunk. “Thank you.”

Cassian's breath evens out again some twenty minutes later.

Bodhi dreams of the monster, that night, wakes up thinking he can feel it curled, still, around his head. In his dreams, it steals every one of his memories of Jedha before it suffocates him.

 

He graduates from the Training Academy when he is seventeen, the same year he would have graduated from the Academy in Jedha. He's to serve the Empire for fifteen years, after which he'll be set free to do as he likes.

His sister's still pretending, then, that her poetry is anything but thinly-disguised sedition. Bodhi doesn't try to tell her to stop; he knows better. His sister will continue to write angry shinaat and nail them to her front door every week and publish a naav every year on the anniversary of the Imperial takeover of Jedha, no matter what he says.

So Bodhi satisfies himself with telling her to be as careful as she can.

Dalid claps him on the shoulder. "You take care of yourself first, little brother," he

says. "We'll be here waiting for you when you finish your service."

Three years later, Dalid is arrested for smuggling supplies to some of the rebels that live in the hills outside of Jedha and sentenced to twenty years in the labor camp on Idil-4.

 

He's set free from the infirmary with a bacta patch on his still-sore shoulder and seven stitches running along the edge of his hairline. The doctors give him some new pills for the pain and warn him that he might feel disoriented for a while, but he feels fine, if tired, when he leaves.

The Alliance must trust him; they give him a room-a room all to himself, with a bunk and a desk and two changes of clothes, and tell him he's to be off duty for four more days. Bodhi pulls off the infirmary pajamas and pulls on pants and a shirt and sits on the bed and smooths the warm, rough blanket under his palm.

A little time later, there's a knock on his door. Bodhi stands to answer, and Jyn tumbles inside before he moves a step.

“I heard you were up,” she says with a smile. “They're letting Chirrut out this afternoon, so we're having drinks in his room. Cassian said there's iced copol as good as the one on--as good as any he's ever tried.”

Bodhi swallows. He sits back down. "I'm-”

The infirmary pajamas he changed out of, he notices out of the corner of his eye, are still crumpled on the floor beside the bed.

That's wrong. Orderliness and organization are the bedrocks for any military operation, and he doubts that such a fundamental fact is different anywhere, even in the Alliance.

He picks them up and folds them, sets them on his pillow, and that's strange, too. The shaft of light that hit the edge of it when he first sat down is gone.

He can't remember if the time went by.

"Bodhi," Jyn says, and there's a warm touch on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he says. He's tired, he realizes. His eyelids feel heavy, and he's not sure how much longer he can keep them open. "I just."

"Do you need a doctor?"

Bodhi shakes his head.

He doesn't like doctors very much.

He can't remember why.

"I'm fine," he says. “They said I'd be disoriented. With the medication.”

Jyn watches him for a moment, eyes sharp, and then she coaxes him down onto the bed, helps him take off his shoes and settles the blanket over his shoulders.

"We'll bring you something to eat later," she says, and she's heading off--she's almost gone--before Bodhi remembers that he had a question he never spoke out loud.

"Did Saw keep a monster in the cave?" he asks.

Jyn freezes.

He thinks she turns around, but the question of how long he could keep his eyelids open for answers itself, and he misses whatever she says.

 

When Bodhi wakes up again, there's a scream in his mouth and a plate of sandwiches on his desk. He swallows the scream and reaches for the plate without getting off the bed.

It almost surprises him, when he sees his arm stretch out for it, not to see the monster's limbs curled around it.

But of course the memory was just a dream.

There's paper underneath the plate, some high-quality loose leaf sheets, and a pen that rolls off the side of the desk at the movement. He's surprised at the anachronism and wonders if they don't trust him with a data pad for his report.

The confusion and disorientation are gone, at least, when he sits up, but the medications leave him with a sour stomach and a buzzing emptiness in his head. He sets the thought of his report aside and focuses on eating instead.

Alliance food, unsurprisingly, doesn't have any considerable advantages over Imperial. The sandwiches are plain Gorta bread with a thin fish paste spread on the slices. They're not terrible and they don't stick in his throat, which is all that Bodhi can say about them.

They do their job, though. By the time he swallows the last bite down, Bodhi's stomach feels settled, and his head still feels funny, but he keeps his balance when he swings his legs out of bed and stands.

He sets the empty plate on the edge of the desk and starts to count the number of sheets they've given him, out of force of habit. It's a good amount; the weight of them feels familiar in his hands.

It isn't until he's counted precisely forty sheets that he remembers that Baze and Chirrut came from Jedha, too, and Cassian was familiar with the planet.

He rolls up the papers and sticks them in a drawer with the calligraphy pen and goes back to bed.

 

When he is twenty-one, he goes home to find that the Empire has shut down the Academy in Jedha, and also that Dalid has stopped answering his sister's messages. No one will tell her if he is dead or injured, and she's exhausted all her resources trying to get any piece of information that she can. Bodhi offers to help, but his sister shakes her head.

"They'll kill you if you aren't careful," she says. "Or add more years to your service, and Mother and Father will need you here in Jedha in case anything happens to me.”

That worries Bodhi like nothing else, and he corners her that evening and stays up late into the night, pressing her, asking her if she has anything to do with the rebels she's involved in anything that could send her to a prison camp or worse.

"Writing what you do is one thing," he says, "when you have plausible deniability. But fighting with the rebels is dangerous.”

She tells him that everything is perfectly fine and she's not involved with anything like that, but she won't look him in the eye when she says it. She turns the subject, eventually, to the poetry and literature classes she and Uncle Alif are teaching out of Uncle Alif's home. Bodhi goes to bed, if anything, more worried than before he asked.

 

When he is twenty-three, the week before his scheduled time off on Jedha, he's assigned to transport a group of prisoners and guards to a prison camp in the Harloff System. He doesn't interact with any of the prisoners, barely sees where they're kept down in the hold, but after he's landed, when everybody is lining up to disembark, one of the guards asks him a question and calls him by his name.

“Rook?” one of the prisoners asks, a man with tired brown eyes and sandy hair whose head jerks up at the name.

The prisoner's eyes widen when he takes in Bodhi's face--the thin, straight nose and wide brown eyes he shares with his sister--and Bodhi knows a look of recognition when he sees it.

His sister, he realizes with a sinking in his gut, isn't just acquainted with the rebels; she is one.

The prisoner, at least, quickly recovers and sniffs. "I've seen rooks kept in cages before, but never so happily as you.”

The guard in front of the prisoner jerks the chain that binds his hands and tosses Bodhi an eye-roll, and the prisoner fixes his eyes on the floor of the cargo bay and doesn't look up again.

Bodhi goes back home again the next week, though for a day he wavers and almost goes to Corellia instead. He spoils Hana and proofreads his sister's latest shinaat and beats his parents at sabacc, and he never asks his sister about the rebels again.

 

The second day after he's released from the infirmary, Bodhi wanders through the hangar, eyeing all the ships. (Jyn tells him he'll be assigned one once he's ready for duty. She and Cassian ask about his experience with TIE fighters and look disappointed when he says he's only ever flown cargo.

The Training Academy, he explains, had no patience for recruits like him, who had difficulties spelling and needed extra time to double-check their answers on typed exams, and he had never even been considered as a fighter pilot.

"I've heard of that sort of thing before," Cassian says. "Doesn't have anything to do with flying, and you're damn good at that. We'll have Wedge put you through your paces and see how you do with an X-Wing. He started out a cargo pilot in the Empire too, you know."

Bodhi's heard, by this point, more than a little bit about Captain Wedge Antilles and the X-Wing squad, who helped Skywalker and Solo take out the Death Star. They have, to hear the stories, rescued from the jaws of death what must be a quarter of the people stationed on the base at one time or another.

It all sounds so big and heroic he's half convinced someone's just repeating stories they heard on a bad holoshow, but Cassian and Jyn look so excited for him that he'd never dream of disagreeing with them.

"I can try," he says.)

His first run at a flight simulation isn't scheduled for another couple of days, though; it's just that his room feels so empty that he can almost hear the forty sheets of paper rustling in his desk drawer. He can't stand it, so he figures it's as good a day as any to learn his way around the base.

The base hangar is positively tiny, compared to some of the one's he's docked the Empire's ships in, and there's a tiny part of him that wonders how long, even with the Death Star gone, it is before the Alliance is wiped out.

He ignores that part, though, squashes it away in the dark recesses of his mind and focuses on the ships he passes. The Death Star was just the first pebble in a landslide. It's what Jyn and Cassian believe, and they know the rebellion far better than he.

Finally, at the far edge of the hangar, he spots a familiar ship. The hull of it's still a mess, nicked and dented from blaster shots and shrapnel, but the plating over the engine's been taken off, and there's a man in a jumpsuit working on it.

Correction, Bodhi realizes: there's a man in a jumpsuit wrecking it. The idiot's spraying down the coolant hose instead of the air hose, and if he does that long enough the whole thing's going to catch on fire the next time someone takes it up.

"Hey! You're doing that-" Bodhi doesn't realize he's running until he swings his arm too hard and stops short at the burn--oh, the gods, it burns--that spreads over his shoulder.

The man in the jumpsuit looks up and jogs over with a look of concern on his face. He looks vaguely familiar, but Bodhi can't place him.

"Hey there, buddy, you all right?" He grabs Bodhi's right elbow without waiting for an answer and leads him over to sit on some of the plating. "You need a doctor? Painkillers?"

Bodhi shakes his head and breathes through the pain until it ebbs. "'M okay," he manages after a second. He jerks his head at the ship. "You got a problem with your ship, though. The hoses-"

He trails off as he takes a good look at it up close. Huh. Someone retrofitted the ship with a J2SL engine model at some point, and the air hose and the coolant hose ended up backwards. "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were spraying down the coolant hose."

The man's face breaks into a grin, and Bodhi has to consciously remind himself that he isn't in the Empire anymore.

"Yeah, this girl's got her secrets. I'm the only one that doesn't mind working on her. You know engines?"

Bodhi nods, hesitantly. "I'm a cargo pilot, and my dad was a mechanic. I could strip a speeder engine by the time I was five."

The man's grin, which Bodhi thought impossible, widens. "Mind giving me a hand? I'm Wedge, by the way. Wedge Antilles."

By the time they finish servicing the engine, Bodhi's got a standing invitation to the X-Wing Squadron's weekly sabacc game, with an offer for Wedge to stand in for him on betting until he starts getting paid.

 

There aren't a lot of upsides to being forced to work for the Empire, but Bodhi, when he considers his situation, thinks he got the easy end of the stick compared to fighter pilots. Oh, short-haul cargo flights sound considerably less stressful than they are in reality, and the near constant state of exhaustion that most cargo pilots operate in is its own special kind of torture, but the profession has one saving grace: hours upon hours alone in a ship with no one keeping an eye on you. Trainees, on the rare occasion they're sent out without an instructor, always fly in pairs, and at the Academy you never know who's a friend and who's a snitch.

Full-fledged pilots, however, though they're kept to a strict schedule and subject to having their cargo searched for contraband without notice, are otherwise left to their own devices on flights, as long as they complete all their duties. They're not allowed to sleep--and the gods help any man who dozes off and misses a comm from one of his commanding officers--but generally a blind eye is turned to small violations of the uniform code that don't compromise the pilot's readiness.

Some pilots use the free time to catch up on holoshows from their home planets; others read dirty holomags. Bodhi, the first few months, uses the opportunity to teach himself how to hide cards up his sleeve and perfect his skills at card counting.

His family, of course, has other plans for him. The first time he visits after graduation, they have a special dinner, his mother and father and sister and Uncle Alif and his family too. They serve Bodhi's favorite foods and buy iced copol from the vendor who sells it from the cart outside what used to be the Academy. At the end of it, when Bodhi is sleepy from food and more than a little drink, his mother hands him a data pad with the chip already inserted.

"It's from all of us," she says.

When Bodhi turns it on and scrolls through, at first glance all the files look like classic literature. There are some famous titles, certainly, from a wide range of planets, but nothing that he couldn't pick up at any of a dozen shops on worlds he regularly visits.

His sister bursts into laughter when she sees his face.

"Dimwit," she says. “Has it been long enough you've forgotten Sweets Day?”

It has been a long time; long enough that it takes Bodhi a few seconds after his sister's hint to figure it out. Sweets Day is a peculiarly ironic Jedhan holiday, marked by the exchanging of binta, an intensely bitter plant native to Jedha, between lovers.

In modern times, binta fell out of favor and was replaced with data chips containing personally written poems. Of course, overprotective parents being overprotective parents the galaxy over, encrypting the files soon grew into a tradition in its own right. Traditionally, the person receiving poetry is given a key, and entering that key alone displays any secret files hidden on the chip.

The key for this chip, his father tells him, is abhive. It is High Jedhan, and, roughly translated, means 'One who is loved.'

On the chip, painstakingly annotated by his sister, his mother, and his uncle, are all the texts Bodhi would've studied his first two years at the Academy, along with an abbreviated schedule of assignments.

“We thought squeezing two years' worth of study into one would be plenty, even cutting out the physics and mathematics courses,” Uncle Alif says. “But we'll have the next two ready when you visit next year, and when you finish those we can start your Master Classes and really take our time with those.”

So Bodhi Rook, in stolen moments on his cargo ship, on quiet nights in his quarters in Eadu, completes a degree in cultural studies with concentrations in poetry and history, and, when he is twenty-four, earns the title of Master Rook with a dissertation on the symbolism of the historical anachronisms in the works of Shofe Kandu, a sixth-century monk from the temple.

There's no more Academy, but his parents make him a graduation feast, and Uncle Alif says the traditional hofar.

 

Days bleed into nights bleed into days bleed into weeks. Bodhi completes the X-Wing simulation and, to his surprise, doesn't do terribly.

"Not bad," Wedge says with a smile and a clap on the back. "You'll need some more practice coordinating your firing before you can go up, but we'll have you in an X-Wing before the month is out."

They do, too, though only on practice runs and mock battles with the other pilots. It's not that they don't trust him, Wedge tells him very earnestly, just that they need to make sure he's used to flying in battle conditions.

He does fly several missions for the Alliance as a cargo pilot. He's all nerves, the first time, even though it's a quick, easy run, shuttling Senator Organa and several members of the Alliance to and from Alderaan.

He's not afraid, exactly; his hands shake like they did when he was flying to Scarif, and when he makes it back to the base and shuffles into his room to clean up and grab some sleep, he doesn't feel relieved.

He just feels tired, and the forty sheets of paper in his desk drawer crowd against his mind when he tries to rest.

He skips sleep that evening, visits Jyn instead and stays up till the early morning beating her and Cassian at cards until they get tired of losing.

When he does sleep the next night, he dreams of a wall of rocks rising out of the floor of his quarters and swallowing him whole.

He wonders if it hurt, when his family died.

 

Bodhi is twenty-three the first time he is assigned to Eadu. It's a short mission, in and out to drop off some time-sensitive scientific supplies, and the whole trip's not supposed to take more than fourteen hours.

Bodhi's tired, though, exhausted from a very busy week transporting rations and supplies to a base that had its food stores set on fire by rebels, and the officer who meets his ship on Eadu insists on checking every piece of equipment before Bodhi leaves, in case something's amiss. Orders from the chief scientist, apparently.

The receiving officer says it's not necessary for him to be there while the equipment's checked, though, and he gives Bodhi directions to the mess before he digs into the first crate. It's the middle of the night and the place is almost deserted, save for two officers sitting at the very far end and talking in hushed voices over empty plates. Bodhi serves himself some tea and sits down on a bench with the wall to his side, so he can lean against it a little.

He falls asleep in under ten minutes.

The next thing he knows, a very young-looking ensign is shaking him awake and telling Bodhi to follow him.

Bodhi curses himself under his breath in every language he knows and straightens his uniform as best he can. A cargo pilot is supposed to be alert and awake for however long the Empire needs him to, and he'll be lucky if he gets off with two weeks' worth of double shifts.

The ensign, however, leads him to an empty room in the sleeping quarters.

"With the compliments of Director Erso,” he says. "He said to inform you that someone will wake you in seven hours, and that he's sent word to your base explaining that he required your help relocating the cargo, hence your delay."

The ensign leaves before Bodhi gets a chance to shake off his bewilderment and say thank you. For a minute, he thinks it must be some sort of test, but his exhaustion overrides his instincts, and he kicks off his boots and crawls into the bed.

It's the best sleep he gets for weeks. When he returns to his base, his commander tells him he must've really impressed someone; Director Erso's personally requested that Bodhi be assigned as Eadu's chief cargo pilot.

 

Baze, for reasons known only to himself and possibly Chirrut, decides that Bodhi is woefully unprepared to face any more life and death situations without some instruction in hand-to-hand combat, and takes it on himself to remedy the situation.

Bodhi, of course, receives absolutely no warning of Baze's plans. He's walking back to his quarters one day after a grueling eight hours in one of the flight simulators when Baze's hand clamps down on his shoulder.

"Join me for a snack?" Baze asks disarmingly.

Bodhi's tired, but he doesn't think he'll be able to fall asleep for a while yet, so he nods his assent and follows Baze.

When he asks why they stop at the gym, Baze shrugs his shoulders and settles into a fighting stance.

"The first rule of combat," he says, "is to expect the unexpected, and always be prepared for lies and trickery. Now, attack me."

Bodhi gapes in confusion for maybe ten seconds. This is apparently five seconds too long for Baze, so he takes the intiative and attacks Bodhi instead.

“Always,” Baze repeats when Bodhi picks himself up from the floor with a pained moan, “be prepared.”

A quarter through the lesson, when Baze has him pinned to the floor with his legs clamped firmly around Bodhi's arms and stomach and his forearms just this side of too tight around Bodhi's neck, Bodhi manages to stammer that he did, actually, have some classes in basic hand-to-hand at the Training Academy.

Baze huffs. "And how long ago was that?"

Bodhi makes a despairing noise.

"Thought so," Baze says, and tightens his legs.

The lesson ends when Bodhi's legs give out and he flops onto his stomach on the mats.

Baze gives him an assessing look and frowns. "This is going to take more work than I anticipated, but in your state I don't think it's wise that I teach you tomorrow."

Bodhi sighs in relief.

"I'll have Cassian do it instead. He can teach you how to break a basic hold. We'll pick back up again this weekend, after your test flight.”

It's not so much the thought of what Cassian, the Alliance's best assassin, will put him through as it is the knowledge that Baze has actually checked his schedule and planned ahead--presumably for all of Bodhi's foreseeable future--that makes Bodhi groan and drop his head so his cheek smacks into the cushy mat with a sweat-wet splat.

That, at least, is pathetic enough that Baze finally takes pity on him.

"Come along, little brother." Baze reaches down and literally heaves him upright like Bodhi weighs as much as a shrieking mouse. "Off to the showers, and then let's see about actually getting you something to eat."

 

He likes working from Eadu. He has other missions, occasionally, and sometimes is gone for weeks at a time, but he's there often enough that it grows familiar. He doesn't interact too much with the higher-ranked officers or scientists, although he meets Director Erso once or twice, but the lower officers, and even some of the newer scientists, are, if not friendly, at least not openly cold or hostile, and there are always a few he can count on for a game of cards when they have a free evening. No one ever talks about the work they're doing on Eadu, but Bodhi gathers, from stray comments and conversations overheard in the mess, that it's some sort of weapon.

When he's twenty-five, he flies some cargo to Jedha and spends an afternoon visiting his family. They can message each other, now that he's graduated, but they don't put anything in the messages that they wouldn't like the entire Empire to read. You never can be too safe.

It isn't until he's back home, then, that he finds out Uncle Alif and both of his children have moved in with his parents. Their home's been seized by an Imperial commander to quarter troops, along with all the other buildings on the main street near the Academy. The Academy itself has been turned into the Empire's headquarters for the entire planet. Uncle Alif's wife doesn't make it. Lila, the former Dean of Sculpture at the Academy, is on the run from the Empire, having murdered four troopers who were attempting to jail one of her former students for seditious speech.

By all accounts, she killed them with her bare hands. Uncle Alif's eyes gleam with pride when he tells Bodhi that part in particular.

In lieu of the Academy, those professors who are daring enough have set up a rotating system of classes running out of their own homes. Weekday mornings at the Rook house are reserved for lectures, with mattresses and tables being pushed up against the walls and Bodhi's mother, sister, and uncle each taking charge of a class.

The afternoons are dedicated to literature workshops, with the more advanced students given guidance on their own projects.

Bodhi arrives at the house just before the afternoon students, and his sister makes him change into some of his father's clothing and take part. He looks over one student's hata, stops another from employing a ridiculously overused metaphor as the basis for a love song, and drinks iced copol in the living room with his family after the students leave and his father comes home from the shop.

It's what his life would've been like if the Empire had never come to Jedha, and for one perfect afternoon Bodhi gets to slip off his Imperial insignia and live it.

When he gets back to Eadu, one of the men he plays sabacc with, Jaljen, meets him in the mess at supper with a huge smile and a look of relief on his face. When Bodhi asks him what happened, Jaljen looks carefully around to make sure no one's listening before he answers. “Krennic paid us an inspection while you were gone, and it turns out we're ahead of schedule. One more year and she'll be fully operational."

Bodhi takes a drink and, when nothing else is forthcoming, asks, “What will?”

Jaljen laughs. "The Death Star, of course. One more year and we'll be able to obliterate entire planets, and we'll take out the rebels at will."

 

Sometimes Bodhi can go for days without thinking of the monster in Saw Gererra's cave. Bor Gullet, Jyn called it when she cornered him with Cassian and tried to make him talk about it. He has nightmares, of course, and he thinks sometimes that when he wakes up from them his mind feels raw in a way that it didn't used to before. It's not so noticeable, though, once he wakes up and drinks some tea and has his morning lesson with Baze, and much of the time it's easy to pretend that nothing ever happened.

Some days, though. Some days he'll be talking to someone, telling Cassian of the first time he crashed a ship or chatting with Jyn about the best planets to visit on vacation, and he'll reach for a word or phrase or a memory and discover that where its place used to be in his mind there now is nothing.

There was a monster in his head, once, and it ripped apart his mind without discrimination, and some things settled back where they were supposed to go and some things didn't, and some things went missing entirely and he doesn't know if they'll ever come back.

He tells Wedge, of course, in case it ever impacts his flying, and Wedge promises to keep an eye on him and take him off the team if there's ever any reason to worry. Chirrut sits him down one time, on a particularly bad day, and gives him a speech about who you are in your heart being so much more important than who you are in your mind, and sometimes Bodhi can almost bring himself to believe it.

But every night he goes to sleep with his head two feet away from forty sheets of paper and a calligraphy pen lying untouched in his desk drawer, and everybody's words fall away into the dark and leave his mind bare and jagged and lonely.

And that, Bodhi knows, has absolutely nothing to do with any monsters in his head.

 

The science base on Eadu sits isolated among the jagged peaks, and if you stand on one of the balconies at night and look over the edge it's so dark that you can't even see the ground.

Bodhi knows, though, that the balcony to the far left of the shuttle bay overlooks a steep cliff, with no slopes or ledges to break it for hundreds of feet. Furthermore, the shuttle bay is usually abandoned at this time of night, and the balcony's exposed enough that the wind usually keeps anyone from coming on it at the best of times.

He sneaks out onto it at three in the morning, six hours after Jaljen greets him. Before he goes, he grabs the bottle of Jedhan seyit he keeps hidden in the pilot's dash on his ship and slips the data chips containing his dissertation and some rough drafts of his sister's most recent poetry into his pocket.

He opens up the seyit and takes a sip. The alcohol warms his throat and makes his empty stomach ache, and he shuts his eyes and thinks of home.

He can't--won't--take part in this. It's just cargo flights, science equipment and rations, and if he is not there to do it it won't be any problem to assign someone else who will, and that's what he's been comforting himself with all these years since he graduated. If he doesn't fly the prisoners to a labor camp, someone else will; if he doesn't transport the shipment of weapons to the soldiers taking over a new planet, someone else will. He's an insignificant cog in the finely tuned workings of the Empire, but if he serves his years of conscription quietly, in six more years he'll get to go home to Jedha and never see another jailed rebel or another crate full of blasters again.

This, though. This he'll have no part in. Even he can't justify it.

There's just one little problem: the only way to refuse an order from your commanding officer is not to be there when it's given, and if Bodhi runs away they'll take it out on his family as an example to all the other conscripts.

And he'll die before he lets anybody hurt his family.

He takes another drink of seyit, holds it in his mouth, and tosses the bottle over the guardrail. The glass gleams in the darkness for a few moments before the inky black swallows it up, and it's ages before he hears what he thinks might be a distant noise of shattering glass on the rocks below.

I love you, he thinks, swallowing the seyit and holding in his head a picture of his family as last he saw them-sitting around the table drinking iced copol and laughing at one of Uncle Alif's jokes.

The bottom rung of the guardrail holds steady under his foot, and he grips the top bar in his hands and readies himself to lunge over.

And the door that leads out from the shuttle bay slides open.

Bodhi shuts his eyes and holds his breath. There's a good chance that whomever it is will turn around and leave. Imperial pilots who want to die are at best a liability and at worst a giant mountain of paperwork, and Bodhi is willing to bet that a full seventy-five percent of the people stationed on Eadu will happily leave him to it rather than deal with the headache. Even if it's one of the other fifteen percent, Bodhi's pretty sure that he can fling himself off before they reach him, if they try. He'd rather be alone, but beggars can't be choosers.

The figure by the doors neither leaves nor makes a move towards him, however.

"The ground just here,” Galen Erso says, “is a very long way down. If I may offer an alternative?"

 

There's a lunch one morning, with the X-Wing Squadron, to celebrate Bodhi's first successful mission with them.

Lunch is fantastic. There's plenty of food, including dessert, and after it they play two rounds of sabacc, and Bodhi wins Han Solo's copy of The Adventures of Takifa in holo- and he does it fair and square, no matter what Solo says.

Wedge walks him to the gym afterwards so Bodhi can meet up with Baze for another lesson. Bodhi can't bring himself to care how sore he'll be that evening, it's such a good day. Wedge's company doesn't hurt, either; Bodhi's not as close to him as he is to Jyn or Cassian or Chirrut or Baze, but Wedge is comfortable to be around in a way that a lot of the other Alliance soldiers aren't. He doesn't act like Bodhi's special because of his background. He doesn't expect great feats of heroism or betrayal every time Bodhi takes a ship out of dock, and he likes talking about his life before the Alliance about as much as Bodhi does-which is to say, they tend to stick to subjects like the results of the last flight drill and how badly Luke Skywalker's going to lose at Xin-do the next time the princess challenges him to a match.

Today, Wedge spends most of the walk acting out Princess Leia and Captain Solo's latest argument, complete with a pitch-perfect impression of the way the princess calls him 'Flyboy.' “You could stick them in an airlock and they wouldn't stop fighting on their way out.”

"Yeah," Bodhi agrees, and pauses. Something budges at his memory--another shadow, falling back into place from wherever Bor Gullet tossed it--except this time it's good. And it's not something special, he thinks; this one he can share. "My mother used to say the same thing about me and my sister when we were little. She said if someone swapped us for a pair of shrieking mice, she wouldn't be able to tell the difference if they answered to Bodhi and--"

Bodhi and--

Bodhi breaks off. Jerks back. This one he can share, except he can't--he can't--

He stumbles. Wedge's mouth twists, and his lips curl, and he says something and reaches out to him, but Bodhi twists away and staggers off. His city is dead and his family is gone and, two months after Saw Gererra's monster bores into his mind and breaks it to pieces, Bodhi realizes that he has absolutely no idea what his sister's name was.

He stumbles through the halls, back in the direction of his rooms, and he can't breathe. He pulls at the collar of his shirt and his vest but they still feel tight--too tight--and he leans against the nearest wall and rests his head in his hands.

It took his sister. There was a monster in his head, and it took his sister's name, and why is he even here, he should be dead. It should have been him instead of his sister. She was so, so much to everyone she ever met and he's just a stupid, useless pilot who can't even--

"Bodhi?"

Bodhi looks up and-oh. It's his team. There's Chirrut and Baze, looking wary, and Jyn and Kaytoo taking up points a few feet down the hall, looking very menacing and bristling like porcupines and telling anyone who passes by there's nothing to look at, move along now--and Bodhi wants to asks what, what they're looking at--but there's Cassian, coming close, barefoot, hair dripping, shirt wet like he ran out of the shower mid-soak and didn't stop to towel off.

"Bodhi?" Cassian asks again. He has his hands out in front of him, palms out like he's trying not to look menacing. "What's wrong?"

Bodhi stumbles up straight and looks around. He's in the hallway that leads to the infirmary, the big one that's always busy, but Rogue One's alone.

His fingers feel numb.

"Sorry," he says.

"Kindness and love are the two most important things in the galaxy," she says.

She was the best person he ever knew and every trace of her is gone now, and he can't even remember her name.

"It's all right," Chirrut says.

Bodhi swallows. He tugs at the collar of his shirt again and realizes he's ripped out all three right-side buttons so it's gaping loosely over his undershirt, and the collar's nowhere near his neck.

“I forgot,” he says. He swallows again but his throat is dry. It's so cold, suddenly. “I can't--I can't remember. I can't remember her--”

He tries to remember, but all he can think of is the tendrils in his head, squirming, slimy, cold, wet, tearing, rending, digging through his memories and it's too much--he can't, he can't--so he turns around and smashes his head against the wall, and it's not gone, it's still there, so he rears back and smashes into it again, hard as he can, and then--

There's yelling. Lots of noise. A body--soft and warm and human--tackling him, twisting so it takes the hit when they fall, pinning Bodhi's arms to his side. Cassian.

"Kriff--I don't know, he just--”

“Got him? Keep him down.”

“Get a doctor--”

That, finally pierces through the panic.

"No doctor." Bodhi fists his fingers in his hair. Don't let them see, he thinks. Don't let them know you're weak. "No doctors. Please."

It's hard, saying it, brings him back in mind to the Training Academy, to the rows and rows of matching cots, and then his mind is gone again, a bleeding, open, wounded mess (and it should have been her instead of him, she would've remembered, she would have remembered, and everyone he loves is dead), and he rocks forward and a noise, loud and broken and undignified, rips its way out of his chest.

Cassian's body shifts under his. He moves away, and then someone bigger and stronger takes his place.

"It's all right, little brother," Baze says. His arms curl around Bodhi easily, bring Bodhi up against him so Bodhi's head rests on his shoulder. Bodhi brings his knees up to his chest and moans.

Chirrut is there, too. His hands drop gently on top of Bodhi's, coax Bodhi's fingers to let go their death grip on his hair. Bodhi's scalp is bleeding, near his hairline, almost the same place he got stitches after Scarif. The blood feels hot on his skin, and the taste of it's familiar when it drips over the bump of his lips.

"There we go," Chirrut says, his fingers gently probing the broken skin. Then his voice slips back into a rhythmic tempo, a soft, soothing chant. It's different than his usual mantra, but it takes a while for Bodhi to make it out. It's loud in Bodhi's head, a long, unsteady roar like the noise that the wall of rocks made when it swept over his city.

"It's all right, little brother," Baze says again.

A couple feet away, Cassian and Jyn and Kaytoo speak in hushed tones. Someone mentions a bacta pack, but the word 'doctor' doesn't cross anybody's lips, and some of Bodhi's panic ebbs away.

It's like the world flips back into focus, little by little. Bodhi notices the fabric of his vest first, rough underneath his fingertips, and the dull, throbbing way his head aches as Chirrut's fingers dance over it in time with his chant.

"You are with us," Chirrut is saying, “and we are with you. You are with us, and we are with you. You are with us, and we are with you.”

Bodhi turns his face into Baze's chest and sobs.

 

They don't make him go to see a doctor, even though it's obvious he's given himself a concussion. Once he calms down, they take him to Chirrut and Baze's quarters. Bodhi's head spins when he stands, and his knees refuse to hold him, so Baze and Cassian each duck under one of his arms and help him move. The hallways are empty, for all it's the middle of the day, and the few people they run into take one look at Jyn's face and skitter away.

Jyn disappears for a while, and when she pops back up she's holding a bacta patch and some bandages. She hands the patch and bandages to Baze and makes it a point to tell Cassian that she noted them down in the storage sheet so that no one will get in trouble.

She and Cassian and Kaytoo stick around for a little bit to make sure Bodhi's okay, but Chirrut shoos them out eventually with a few hushed words.

Bodhi's actually aware of this, vaguely, in the periphery of his consciousness. Baze sits him down on the edge of his and Chirrut's bed and brings a chair in front of him. Bodhi expects him to slip the bacta patch on and call it a day, but Baze takes a long, long look at him and hums under his breath.

"It's stopped bleeding for now," he says.

Bodhi doesn't respond, but Baze nods as if satisfied and heads to the fresher. When he comes back, he's holding a damp black rag.

"Hold still," he mutters. He reaches up, softly, and runs the rag over Bodhi's cheeks and nose. He sets his other hand on the side of Bodhi's head, steadies Bodhi as he very gently wipes away the blood and tears and mucus.

Bodhi grabs the bedspread in his fingers and twists it. His chest hurts when he breathes.

Chirrut, who's sat down in the other chair, nearer the door, and started polishing his staff, looks up and tosses him a smile. "It's all right," he says. "There is nothing to be ashamed of in here.”

Kindness and love, his sister said, are the two most important things in the galaxy. She was right, of course, as usual, but Bodhi fidgets at the blanket under his fingers and wonders why she never told him it could make you ache like this to be the target of them.

Baze is gentle about it, but he isn't slow, and it's only a matter of minutes before he sets the last bandage into place on Bodhi's forehead.

"There you go," he says. His voice is pitched even lower than usual, a buzzing rumble that reminds Bodhi of the speeder engines his father used to work on. “All fixed.”

Bodhi nods and immediately regrets it as nausea roils in his stomach.

“Thanks,” he mutters. He takes a deep breath, and it helps, a little. He takes another and shifts his weight forward, readying himself to stand.

“No,” Baze says.

“Stay on that bed,” Chirrut says from his corner, “or Baze will make you, and you won't like it.”

Bodhi looks at Baze.

Baze raises an eyebrow.

Bodhi settles back onto the bed and carefully shifts so his legs are crossed.

Chirrut smiles beatifically before he sets aside his staff. He says something quietly in a dialect that Bodhi's not familiar with. Baze nods his head and, without another word, the two exchange seats.

Baze takes a knife out of his boot and a whetstone out of his pocket and sets to work. Chirrut, for his part, leans forward with his elbows on his knees and looks very earnest.

"If a cactus grows in the desert, you can cut off a branch," he says. "Left alone, it will die. But sometimes, if you plant it in a jar of soil in just the right conditions, it can grow roots again and flourish.”

Bodhi squints. His head hurts, and he's worried that if he moves too much he might tip over and fall. "I don't follow."

"He's calling you a cactus," Baze pipes up from his chair.

Chirrut's mouth twists. "It's a metaphor, Baze."

"Oh." Baze draws the edge of his knife across the stone with a snickt. "Who's being prickly now?"

"What's important," Chirrut says, "is that you're not alone, Bodhi Rook." He squeezes one of Bodhi's hands in his and stands. "Now, you need rest. Come on."

He coaxes Bodhi to slip off his shoes and lie down. Bodhi protests--he can't take their bed, and he'll be fine in his own room-but Baze makes a disapproving noise and stands.

Chirrut smiles brightly. "Sorry, but if you're going to smash your head open, you're going to be subjected to Baze's head injury protocol.”

He doesn't sound particularly sorry.

It's a moot point anyway. Bodhi is no sooner lying on his side, head on a pillow, than his eyes drift shut of their own accord, and it takes a monumental effort to open them again.

"Sleep, little brother," Baze says. The mattress on Bodhi's other side of the bed dips, and he feels something cold press down on his forehead. It stings.

"Easy," Chirrut mutters.

"Sorry," Bodhi says. He yawns and shuts his eyes again, but a stray thought hits him as he starts to drift off. "How'm I supposed to write her naav if I can't remember her name?”

How can he write her death poem if he doesn't even know how she died?

I'm so sorry, he thinks, and darkness comes for him with the roar of a wave of rocks a thousand feet high.

 

When Bodhi is twenty-six, he sends his sister a coded message.

Get in touch with your rebels. Galen Erso has a gift for them. I'll meet you in Jedha on the 24th.

 

"Do you feel sick?"

Bodhi blinks and sees Baze bending over him. "Uh.”

He doesn't remember where he is right away, and the size of the bed he's lying on throws him off.

Right. Wedge. The hallway. His head.

His sister.

"I said," Baze murmurs. "Do you feel sick? Do you need a bucket to throw up in?"

Bodhi takes a moment to orient himself and take stock. The light streaming in through the window puts the time a little before midday. His head aches like a bolevalt stomped on it, he seriously needs to piss, and his mouth tastes like something died in it, but the nausea, at least, is at a manageable level.

"I'm good," he says. He sits up. "Fresher?"

Baze helps Bodhi stand up and follows half a step behind him all the way to the fresher, but he doesn't insist on going in with him or leaving the door open, for which Bodhi is grateful. He's waiting just outside the door when Bodhi comes back out, though, and he tilts his head and eyes Bodhi up and down.

"You feel up for some lunch?” he asks.

Bodhi shrugs. He's not hungry, but he gets the impression that Baze won't take no for an answer.

Baze nods and gestures towards the door. "Come along then, little cactus."

He laughs at Bodhi's look, and chuckles all the way to the mess as if he's made a very clever joke.

 

Baze must have commed Chirrut while Bodhi was in the fresher, because when they reach the mess Chirrut, Jyn, and Cassian are sitting at their normal spots at one of the tables, waiting for them.

Bodhi usually sits next to Cassian or Jyn, but Baze herds him onto the bench next to Chirrut and sits on Bodhi's other side, effectively pinning him in. Someone's already laid out trays for both of them. Bodhi would be irritated if he weren't still so tired.

He picks up his fork and spears some boiled vegetables, but he feels Cassian's and Jyn's eyes on him and his mouth dries. He pushes the vegetables around his plate and covers them in sweet sauce.

"Eat.” Baze nudges him with his shoulder. "Trust me. You're going to need it."

On Bodhi's other side, Chirrut snorts.

"You don't need to make it sound so grueling." Chirrut dips some bread in his glass of milk and chews it. "I'm not going to beat the poor boy with my staff."

Jyn rolls her eyes and reaches across the table to set her hand over Bodhi's, which has dropped the fork and moved on to worrying the edge of his plate. "Chirrut's going to teach you how to meditate."

"He's going to teach all of us," Cassian says. He smiles. "It sounds interesting."

It absolutely does not sound interesting. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, given the state of his mind and the fact that meditation tends to involve long stretches of examining it, but Bodhi grabs his fork up again and doesn't protest.

Maybe, he thinks, it's worth a shot.

They sit at the table with him until he finishes every last bite of food on his plate.

 

The night he leaves Eadu, Galen calls him into his office, ostensibly to give him orders.

He shakes Bodhi's hand, instead, and wishes him good luck.

"If any of those gods of yours are real," he says. "I'm sure this far outweighs any harm you've done in service to the Empire."

Bodhi bites his lip. "Thank you for the opportunity."

He wonders what Galen's daughter will be like, as he leaves. In another life, Galen must have been as good a father as he is a man.

 

Days slip into nights and back into days, and again and again and again.

Chirrut sets up meditation for an hour every evening before bed. Bodhi's kind of a mess the first few times, and a couple of them end badly, but Jyn holds his hand and Cassian sits close enough that he can reach out and rub Bodhi's back if he starts to panic. Eventually the tense, raw jumble of worry and nerves gives way to peace and stillness, and the roar in his head quiets so that he can rarely ever hear it.

Baze, also, picks up his lessons again as soon as Bodhi is well enough to make it through one. He never comes out and says that Bodhi is doing well, but he stops remarking that Bodhi is doing badly. Bodhi takes it as a sign of massive progress.

A couple of weeks after Bodhi's little incident, he fights in his first battle with the X-Wing Squadron and takes down a TIE fighter that was targeting Hobbie. Wedge tells him he did a great job and hauls him into a bear hug as soon as he's back on the ground. Bodhi makes the walk back to his quarters to shower on feet as light as clouds.

When he steps into his room and closes the door behind him, though, he sees something on his desk.

It's a book, a proper paper and ink one from Jedha, a slim pink volume with green writing on the front cover.

Bodhi knows what it is before he's close enough to read the characters. He remembers this one; it was published when he was nine, long before the Empire took him, the year his sister graduated from the Academy.

The Last Journey of Shaz and Other Poems, reads the title, and underneath it, in fine, delicate script, Sahinta Rook.

Bodhi drops his helmet by his desk and sits.

 

He never makes it to the square to meet Sahinta. Saw's rebels shoot his ship down and take him in before he can even comm her to let her know he's reached Jedha.

He wonders, after Scarif, about her last moments--if she was trying to find out what happened to him, if she was at home or in the square or with one of her students, if she saw it coming or if she went out like a candle, extinguished in the blink of a single breath.

Eleven weeks after Jedha dies, Bodhi Rook finally realizes how completely and utterly irrelevant any of that is to how she died.

Kindness and love are the two most important things in the galaxy, she said. And that was true, and she was right, but that wasn't all of it.

Don't ever let them take that from you.

 

He sets the book aside and pulls the pen and the forty sheets of paper out of the drawer.

The first three lines in a naav, of course, are arguably the most important; so called the death poem, they are the only lines in it out of eight hundred that actually address the subject's death. The first line is the subject's name, the second the location, and the third, and only the third, concerns the death.

Bodhi sounds them out to himself before he dips his pen in ink, and he takes care to mark each character cleanly.

Sahinta

In the city of poets

Her head unbowed

He stops, checks each line four times (three with a dictionary and once to make sure), and sets his pen down to compose the next.