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Long Ride Ahead

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Bodhi is eleven, and the girl who grabs his arm and pulls him into a crevice in a wall in the Middle District plaza is eight. She has bright, steady eyes and too-big front teeth, and she whispers, “I’m Jyn. Don’t make a sound. Imperials are coming.”

Imperials are not , and Bodhi is too old for hiding games. He opens his mouth to say so, but the girl glares, somehow conveying both affected urgency and total authority. Bodhi shuts his mouth. And then he covers it with his hand, because outside the crevice, in the plaza, his sister has just realized he’s not with her.

“Bodhi? Bodhi!”

Jyn’s hand tightens around Bodhi’s arm. His sister walks right past them. It’s dusty in the broken wall, but the stones soaked up the afternoon sun and there is warmth at his back.

“Bodhi!” Her footsteps quicken. “Sirs, have you seen a little boy? Black hair, brown eyes, about this tall?” Which is to say, half the little boys in Jedha.

Something taps the wall nearby. Jyn draws a deep, silent breath, and gestures at her puffed cheeks. Bodhi copies her.

“Not to worry, little sister,” says a deep voice. “We know where he is.”

Jyn shuts her eyes tight, and Bodhi takes this opportunity to disobey orders and poke his head out. There are no Imperials of course, just his sister in the company of two Guardians wearing red and black. One has skin as dark as Bodhi’s, and the other is more compactly built, and almost as pale as Jyn. Both have shorn hair.

Bodhi steps lightly out of the crevice and into their path. “Here I am.”

His sister lets out a breath, and then levels an accusing finger at him. “You brat. You’re too old for that business. Wait until I tell Aba--”

“It wasn’t my idea,” Bodhi protests, even as the smaller of the two men crouches by the crack where Jyn is still hiding.

The Guardian grips his metal-capped stick, pokes it gently into the crack. “It’s safe,” he calls.

He spoiled it,” Jyn says.

“That’s the risk you take when you bring others into your games,” says the Guardian. He puts one hand into the crevice, and Jyn comes out holding it, and for a moment Bodhi is pinned between her glare and his sister’s.

But his sister, at least, softens when she sees Jyn. “You made a friend?” she says to Bodhi, and he makes a face at her. “Is she from the orphanage?” The bigger Guardian inclines his head.

“I was brought there when Imperials shot my mother,” Jyn announces.

Bodhi and his sister exchange a glance. “I see,” his sister says carefully. “We were on our way home for tea and fringi. I’m sure my mother would be very grateful to you for finding Bodhi. Would you join us?”

“I wasn’t lost,” Bodhi protests. His sister elbows him.

The smaller Guardian tilts his head. “We ought to--”

“We accept,” says the bigger one, smiling broadly. At his partner’s stare (a sightless one, Bodhi notices now), he shrugs. “I love fringi.”

On their way out of the Middle District, Jyn keeps pace with Bodhi even though his legs are much longer. “I know the best hiding spots in the city,” Jyn boasts. “And I can stay hidden for hours without a peep of noise. Chirrut always finds me, though. Except for the time he sat on me.”

“That counted,” says the smaller Guardian.

“I hide a lot in the orphanage too, and no one can find me there. It drives all the other Guardians mad, except Chirrut and Baze. They take me out in the city most afternoons so I won’t cause trouble at the temple. Chirrut’s going to teach me to slow my heartbeat and breathing, and then even he won’t be able to find me.”

“Not true,” Chirrut sing-songs.

Bodhi wants to ask which part of all that was not true, but what comes out instead is, “How do you hide so well if you never stop talking?”

The bigger Guardian snorts.

Bodhi’s sister rounds on him. “She is our guest. Don’t be a disgrace.”

After a sullen pause, Bodhi nods.

Jyn does stop talking eventually, when Bodhi’s ami presses a little flat cake into her hands and sends her and Bodhi to the front stoop. Before she splits it, Jyn examines it in the setting sun, the play of light across the glazed surface, the orange dusting of ground veru. She smells it with her eyes closed, and then breaks it in two and offers half to Bodhi.

His ami makes good fringi, good enough that Bodhi usually hates sharing it, but as he watches Jyn’s face he doesn’t so much mind sharing with someone who really appreciates it.

She leans back against the doorframe when she’s eaten her half and licked her fingers. A weaver passes in the street, rugs rolled up on his back after a day in the marketplace. Above them the stars are coming out. It’s cold, but the fringi’s warmth lingers.

“My mother believed in the Force,” Jyn says after a while. “That’s why I’m in the temple orphanage.”

“Do you believe in it?” Bodhi asks her. It’s a poll he’s been surreptitiously conducting for a few months now, to gauge just how holy this city really is, and how much adolescent rebelliousness may be tolerated in the future.

She has something in her hand--the pendant on her necklace, it looks like. “Probably,” she says.

Bodhi understands her perfectly. Childlike faith is nothing more than repeating, with perfect conviction, what you’ve been told is true. After that comes a stage of being at peace with the possibility that it isn’t true, and after that comes Bodhi’s stage, where the idea of it not being true is objectively not okay because it shakes the foundations of his entire moral system and he has to start over with the inherent value of sentient life.

He’s not sure what comes after that stage. Maybe joining the Guardians.

There’s a deep laugh from inside the house, and Chirrut emerges first, taps the side of Jyn’s shoe with his stick. “Oh dear, was that you?” he says as Jyn huffs at him.

The bigger Guardian--Baze--comes out after him. “Okay, little sister,” he says, squatting in front of the stoop.

Jyn climbs onto his back and he stands with a grunt. “See you tomorrow, Bodhi,” Jyn calls as she moves down the twilit street.

“Tomorrow?” he calls after her, but she’s halfway down the block and she probably takes it for confirmation.

The next afternoon his sister answers the door and Jyn is there, as promised. Chirrut and Baze wait beyond her. “Can Bodhi come out and play?”

His sister meets his bewildered gaze, and smiles serenely. “Absolutely.”