“Open your eyes.” The voice was low and husky, heavily accented.
A ship’s engine, humming just on the edge of hearing. Metal clanking against metal a few years away. And… breathing, warm on his face. Close, then.
“Are you in there?”
The slap, when it came, was sharp and stinging, and Bodhi gasped as he opened his watering eyes.
The man leaning over him had a kind face, Bodhi noted with exhausted irony, brown eyes bracketed by worry lines and a sensitive mouth that looked like it didn’t smile much.
“He’s alright,” he said over his shoulder to someone out of sight. “I’m Cassian,” he said when he turned back. “I’m taking you to Naraka prison. I have food for you. I’m sorry to have hit you, but you need to eat. The warden told me you haven’t touched food in days.”
Bodhi closed his eyes again.
“You have to eat,” Cassian said again.
“If he won’t eat, do you wish me to hold him down while you force-feed him?” someone inquired.
Bodhi opened his eyes again to see a KX series droid looming behind Cassian’s shoulder.
“That won’t be necessary, Kaytoo,” Cassian said. “Prepare the ship for departure, please.” He turned back to Bodhi and attempted a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Even just a few bites would help.”
Bodhi turned his head away and Cassian sighed.
“I’ll be right back.”
The ship’s engines fired with a roar to full power and the hull vibrated as they lifted off the launch pad.
Bodhi’s wrists were bound, but his feet were free. He still wore the jumpsuit they’d issued him in the jail, torn at the shoulder from the scuffle the night before that had left the bruise on his cheek and cut above his eye.
“Who hit you?” Cassian was back, kneeling in front of him.
Bodhi rolled his head along the wall and fixed him with a look.
Cassian had the grace to flush, shifting his weight. “Who else hit you?”
Bodhi looked away, down the length of the cargo bay, and Cassian sighed.
“Did you take a vow of silence?” Cassian inquired. “Or has it all been said?”
Bodhi looked up at that, meeting Cassian’s eyes briefly before jerking his away again.
“Alright,” Cassian said. “You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to. Here.”
He produced a key and took the shackles off Bodhi’s wrists. Dropping them on the deck between Bodhi’s feet, Cassian rubbed his arms where the cuffs had pinched cruelly tight.
Bodhi hissed through his teeth as the circulation began to return in prickling waves.
“It’ll fade in a minute,” Cassian said. His voice was gentle. “Can you walk?”
Bodhi hesitated and finally nodded. He wavered as he eased himself to his feet, and elected to ignore Cassian’s hand on his elbow, gently directing him toward the door at the far end of the bay.
They stepped through into a narrow hall and Cassian opened the first of four doors on the left, ushering Bodhi inside and pointing to the bed in the corner.
“Go ahead and lie down while I put in the coordinates for our jump,” Cassian said. “And then I will come back and perhaps we will revisit the topic of you eating.”
When Cassian returned, Bodhi was pretending to be asleep, on his side facing the wall.
Cassian huffed a quiet laugh. “That’s not going to work.” He sat on the edge of the bed and touched Bodhi’s knee. “The trip will take about a week. You have to eat.”
Bodhi stared at the wall.
“It’s not just rations,” Cassian said. “I have real food. I picked up some goldfruit at the market, and I have some gruuvan shaal that was made fresh this morning.”
Bodhi’s treacherous stomach growled and Cassian stood.
“I’ll be right back.”
Bodhi swung his legs off the bed while Cassian was gone, some vague idea of barricading the door or getting the jump on him driving him, but there was no way to lock the door from the inside, he quickly discovered, and nothing that could be used as a weapon. The only furniture besides the bed was a table, bolted to the floor, and two chairs, also bolted down.
Cassian clearly knew what he was doing. Besides, even if Bodhi could overpower him, there was still the droid to contend with. It was pointless.
When the door opened, Bodhi was sitting on the bed, head in his hands.
Cassian hesitated, then set several plates on the table. “I thought I’d keep you company, Kaytoo’s spouting statistics again.”
He sat down and bit into a goldfruit as Bodhi watched. Cassian hummed, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and rapped a knuckle on the table.
“Sorry the room’s so empty. This is the ‘containment’ unit. These old YT-1250 models are pretty bare-bones.”
Bodhi jerked his head up. “This is a YT-1760,” he said.
Cassian raised one eyebrow. “Is that so? How do you figure?”
“For one thing, a 1250 only has room for five passengers. This has eight rooms. For another, the 1250 is longer—this is a shorter ship, and you’ve clearly added quad laser cannons, which you couldn’t do to a 1250. It’s only equipped for double laser cannons.” He fell silent and gulped as Cassian took another bite of fruit.
“Tell me more,” Cassian said calmly. “How fast can a 1250 go versus a 1760?”
Bodhi lifted his chin. “The 1250 can only make it to 800 kilometers an hour without mods. The 1760 can hit 990, and that’s before you add in all the modifications and tinkering you’ve clearly done to this one. You’ve spent a lot of time on her.”
Cassian inclined his head, smiling faintly. “You picked all that up in just the short length of time you’ve been on board? You really know your ships.” He slid one of the plates closer, a silent invitation, and Bodhi swallowed hard as saliva flooded his mouth.
He stood, favoring his shoulder, and crossed the small room to ease into the chair across from Cassian, who was still eating and not looking at him.
The goldfruit was tart and sweet on Bodhi’s tongue and he closed his eyes to savor the taste. When was the last time he’d had goldfruit? This would probably be his last opportunity, at any rate.
His stomach cramped and clawed at his spine as he swallowed, and Bodhi doubled over, taking small, shallow breaths through his nose until the pain lessened.
“That will happen when you haven’t eaten in some time,” Cassian said. There was sympathy in his voice. “Finish the fruit but perhaps not the meat right now.”
When Bodhi was done, Cassian showed him how to use the microscopic sink in the corner to wash his face and hands.
“Rest,” he suggested. “You’re still healing.”
He gathered the plates and left without looking back as Bodhi staggered to the bunk and collapsed onto it. He drew his knees to his chest and closed his eyes.
Shilsa stood beneath him as Bodhi teetered on the top of the garden wall, her arms up and golden eyes bright with laughter.
“It’s not funny,” Bodhi hissed.
“Just jump, you coward,” she whispered back.
Bodhi grumbled and jumped. He landed in the soft lavender grass beside her with a grunt, and Shilsa stifled a laugh, clapping a hand over her mouth.
“If he hears—” Bodhi warned.
“I know, I know.” She dragged him to his feet and along the path, bright with the twin moons’ silver light. In the gazebo at the far end of the garden, twined with climbing roses, Shilsa pushed him onto the bench and flopped onto the floor at his feet.
Bodhi brought his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them, and peered down at her as she lay with her scarlet hair flung out in a silken aureole around her head.
“When I get out of here,” she said dreamily.
Bodhi rested his cheek on one knee and closed his eyes. He’d heard this before.
He woke with a stifled gasp when a metallic knock rang on the door. The droid opened it and peered inside at Bodhi, propped on his elbows, hair in his face.
“Have you rested enough?” Kaytoo inquired. “Cassian is tired and I would like some company.”
Bodhi shoved his hair out of his eyes and stared at him. “I’m your prisoner,” he said carefully. “What if I—”
“What if you what?” Kaytoo said, cocking his head. “You might be able to surprise Cassian, but the odds of you removing both him and me from the equation have a 97.8% chance of failure.”
Kaytoo’s spouting statistics again. Light began to dawn. Bodhi sat up, muffling a noise as the movement pulled on his shoulder.
“Are you injured?” Kaytoo asked.
“Sprained shoulder,” Bodhi said. “I’m fine.” He stood and followed Kaytoo back down the narrow hall to the nose of the ship, where Kaytoo gestured at the co-pilot’s chair.
“Can you fly one of these?”
Bodhi’s hands twitched at the sight of the console and he fought the urge to sit on them. “I—yes.”
“I thought so,” Kaytoo said. He sounded satisfied. “You were a cargo pilot before, weren’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“It’s in your dossier,” Kaytoo said. “Cassian and I both read it, of course. You’re well-versed in most light freighter classes, aren’t you?”
He played me. Somehow, Bodhi couldn’t muster anger at how Cassian had tricked him. He’d needed Bodhi to open up, and he’d found the key. And yet—he hadn’t used it against him. All he’d done was ask Bodhi to eat a piece of fruit and take a nap.
“Where is Cassian?” he asked.
“He’s resting, as I said previously,” Kaytoo informed him. “This is his sleep shift, in order to maintain peak Circadian rhythms.” He leaned closer to Bodhi. “He doesn’t like it when I tell him to go to bed.”
Bodhi swallowed a nervous laugh. “How long have you been with Cassian?”
“Five years, seven months, and twelve days,” Kaytoo said. “My memories start the day we met, of course. They had to reprogram me, so I have no recollection of prior events.”
“And you—help him? Fly? Is this all you do?”
“Sometimes we have more prisoners to transport,” Kaytoo said. “But this time you were the only one going to Naraka. I believe there are two freed inmates there waiting for us to pick them up.”
“You’re a glorified air taxi service,” Bodhi said.
Kaytoo cocked his head and considered. “Yes, I suppose that is an accurate summation.”
“And how long is the trip?”
“About a week. Would you like to help me work on the converter cells in the right quad cannon? I took it off the turret when we were at the port, but fixing it will require more than two hands at times.”
“Why not,” Bodhi said, and followed him back through the ship.
Several hours later, Bodhi was flat on his back and covered with grease under the huge gun that Kaytoo had hung from a hook in the ceiling of the cargo bay.
“Hand me that socket wrench,” Bodhi called.
But when the wrench appeared, it was Cassian’s hand holding it out to him, Cassian bending to look under the weapon at Bodhi with a quizzical smile.
“Um,” Bodhi said, and took the tool.
Cassian straightened, head disappearing from view and replaced by his legs. Excellent legs, Bodhi thought, and mentally smacked himself for noticing.
“Kaytoo, you know if the quad cannon falls on the prisoner and squashes him to jelly on the floor of my ship, we lose our payment for this job, right?”
“The chance of the cannon falling is less than eight percent,” Kaytoo said, unruffled. “Bodhi is perfectly safe. Probably.”
“Probably?” Bodhi scooted out from under the gun and wiped his forehead. “Maybe you should be the one under there.”
“But then who would lift it back up if it did fall?” Kaytoo pointed out. “Cassian has puny arms, look.” He reached for Cassian’s sleeve and Cassian dodged back with a laughing curse.
“Leave off, you.” He turned to Bodhi. “Would you like to use the ‘fresher? After, maybe you can eat some more.”
The ‘fresher turned out to be beside the galley, and there was a neat stack of clothes on the floor next to the stall.
Cassian’s eyes crinkled as Bodhi picked up the loose-weave linen shirt and shook it out. “They might be big on you, but better than what you’re wearing.”
“These are yours,” Bodhi said, feeling stupid.
“It’s not like Kaytoo has anything to spare,” Cassian said, and that was an actual smile curving his lips, amusement in his dark eyes, and Bodhi was spellbound.
He shook himself and cleared his throat. “Yes—thank you.”
It felt good to be clean. The last time he’d been this warm and dry—he shied away from the thought and pulled the borrowed clothes on.
They smelled good, like how he imagined Cassian might smell—like toasted roti and vanilla, and Bodhi lifted the shirt to his nose and took a deep breath.
The knock on the door startled him and he dropped the fabric as heat stained his cheeks.
“Food’s ready,” Cassian called.
Bodhi found him in the galley, slicing another goldfruit.
“Catch,” Cassian said without looking, and tossed him a piece.
Unthinking, Bodhi stretched to reach it and flinched as his shoulder protested, just muffling his noise of pain.
Cassian glanced up. “Sit.”
Bodhi obeyed and Cassian set the tiny knife—less than an inch long blade, barely a weapon—on the cutting board and bent to examine him.
His hands were gentle as he pressed and rotated the shoulder joint, never pushing for more motion than Bodhi could bear.
“It’s a pretty bad sprain,” he said when he straightened. “You shouldn’t have been working on the cannon with Kaytoo.”
Bodhi lifted his good shoulder as Cassian produced a first aid kit and brought out several swathes of fabric.
“I’ve had worse.”
Cassian paused in wrapping Bodhi’s right arm to his chest. His eyes were sad when they met Bodhi’s, but he said nothing as he continued tucking the bandage in place.
His hair was inches from Bodhi’s nose. It looked soft, the satin strands falling forward over Cassian’s high brow as he furrowed it in concentration.
Bodhi breathed carefully through his mouth, holding as still as possible as Cassian finished wrapping the sling.
“There,” he said, straightening. “How does that feel?”
Bodhi relaxed by increments and glanced up at Cassian with surprise. “Oh—that’s better. Thank you.”
Cassian bent to put the first aid kit away and turned back to the cutting board. Scooping the contents onto a plate, he set that in front of Bodhi.
“Eat a few more pieces,” he directed. “If your stomach handles it well, then perhaps the gruvaan shaal you did not get to try earlier.”
“Is this really all you do?” Bodhi asked after he’d swallowed the first mouthful.
Cassian rested his hips against the counter and raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“This—” Bodhi waved a slice of goldfruit through the air and Cassian tracked his hand as it moved. “Taxi service. Shuttling people from one solar system to another. Doesn’t it get old?”
“It pays the bills,” Cassian said, shrugging. His eyes creased again. “And sometimes there are… perks.”
He turned to the stove, leaving Bodhi gaping at his back. Surely Cassian hadn’t meant that the way it sounded.
“Do you like spiced caf?” Cassian asked over his shoulder.
Bodhi mumbled an affirmative and Cassian poured him a cup.
“Stomach feeling alright?”
Bodhi nodded, wrapping his hand around the warm mug and inhaling the fragrant steam.
“Good, let’s try some real food.”
The gruvaan shaal was delicious, although Cassian apologized for having to reheat it.
“Makes the lizard meat tougher, but it would taste terrible cold.”
“Tastes fine to me,” Bodhi said through a mouthful. He felt like his metabolism had been kicked into high gear, and he was suddenly so ravenous he couldn’t get the food into his stomach fast enough.
Cassian laid a hand on his wrist and Bodhi froze in the act of lifting his fork.
“Slow down or you’ll throw it all back up again,” Cassian said.
Bodhi forced himself to chew and swallow more slowly. “So are you going to lock me back in my cell after I eat?”
“I was thinking you could go back and lie down again,” Cassian said, “but you’re not going to be locked anywhere. I would prefer either I or Kaytoo was with you when you’re out of your quarters, but you can go anywhere in the ship you want.”
Bodhi took another bite as he considered. “Alright,” he finally mumbled, looking down at his plate.
“Can I ask you something?”
Bodhi hunched his shoulders but nodded.
“Why did you do it? Murder him, I mean.”
Bodhi glanced up. There was sincere curiosity in Cassian’s eyes, no malice or greed for gossip. Bodhi looked back at his plate.
“Because it had to be done.”
“Were you in love with his wife?” Cassian held his hands up before Bodhi could answer that. “No. Too far. I’m sorry. Finish your food and then you can rest.”
Bodhi ate in silence. When he was done, he followed Cassian to his cell and lay down. He was exhausted again, desperate for some real sleep and not the nightmarish dozing that had been plaguing him for weeks.
Cassian hesitated in closing the door.
“I wasn’t in love with her,” Bodhi said. He rolled over to face the wall and closed his eyes.
His favorite thing about Shilsa was her laugh. Bodhi had decided that five minutes after meeting her, when he’d made a stupid joke and it had pealed from her like a crystal bell.
“Why do you come here, when you know if you’re caught, you could be imprisoned or executed?” she asked him once.
Bodhi stared up at the sky. “At first it was because you needed it.”
Shilsa hummed and popped a blade of lavender grass in her mouth. “And now?”
“You still need it, don’t you?”
Shilsa poked him in the ribs and he squawked.
“Lucky for you he’s offworld, or that would have been it right there,” Shilsa said, grinning brightly.
Bodhi rolled onto his side in the grass and propped his head on one hand. “I’ve never had a friend before. Not—like you.”
Shilsa’s mouth curved. “I’m one of a kind,” she agreed. She turned her head to look at him, sobering. “I’m also pregnant.”
Bodhi sat up straight. “Is it his?”
Shilsa didn’t move except to roll her eyes. “Who else would it belong to?”
Over the next week, they settled into a semblance of a routine. Bodhi ate meals with Cassian and spent time with Kaytoo, usually helping him tweak a mod on the ship or work on the cannon, which still wasn’t meeting Kaytoo’s exacting standards.
“There’s a nick on the drive shaft,” he complained. “I’ll have to file it down and get it perfectly smooth or it will catch every time the cannon swivels.”
Bodhi’s arm healed swiftly, and by the sixth day, Cassian pronounced him well enough to remove the sling.
He felt the joint carefully as Bodhi held his breath. Cassian’s fingers were long and slender and Bodhi wanted— He cut himself off, but it was harder and harder to strangle that thought every time it occurred to him, which was every time Cassian smiled or brushed against Bodhi in passing.
“How does it feel?” Cassian asked, and Bodhi twitched, recalled to himself.
“I—fine.” He pulled away from Cassian’s hands and rolled the shoulder carefully, shaking his arm out, but there was no pain. He smiled up at Cassian before he thought better of it. “It’s good.”
Cassian nodded and collected the sling. “We’ll enter Naraka’s solar system in approximately twenty-four hours.”
A rock settled in Bodhi’s gut. He said nothing, staring at his hands.
“Do you want to help me with breakfast?”
Bodhi nodded and rose.
Cassian was pensive all that final day, seeming lost in thought, a furrow on his brow and his mouth turned down. Kaytoo had to address him repeatedly before Cassian responded. Kaytoo finally threw his arms in the air after the fifth attempt.
“I’m going to run my diagnostics,” he told Bodhi. “You can deal with him.”
He stomped off, but Cassian didn’t even seem to notice, worrying at his thumb with his teeth, frowning abstractedly.
“Can you play sabacc?” he asked, looking up.
Bodhi blinked. “Can’t everyone?”
Cassian produced a card deck and set up the sabacc table’s suspension field. “Brandy or gin?”
“Either,” Bodhi said as he sat.
Cassian’s smile flashed, taking Bodhi’s breath. “We’ll start with gin and move to brandy when that’s exhausted, how about?”
He was an excellent sabacc player, it turned out, seeming to anticipate Bodhi’s moves before he made them, and beating him handily in the first three games.
By the fourth, though, Bodhi was finding his footing, and managed to snatch the victory from under Cassian’s nose.
Cassian threw his head back and groaned. “So close!”
Bodhi grinned and gathered the cards to shuffle. “Pour the drinks, loser.”
The alcohol was loosening them both. Warmth curled through Bodhi’s limbs in diffuse tendrils, and he could see a similar relaxation in Cassian’s slender frame.
Bodhi blinked at his cards. Cassian was humming under his breath, a lilting melody that Bodhi didn’t recognize. He hiccupped, interrupting the song, and Bodhi couldn’t help his laugh.
“Think that’s funny?” Cassian said, but ruined it by hiccupping again.
Bodhi giggled and slapped a hand over his mouth to stop the noise.
Cassian’s eyes gleamed. “That was adorable. Do it again.”
“Do something funny then,” Bodhi challenged.
“Take a shot every time I hiccup and I’ll take a shot every time you giggle,” Cassian suggested.
Bodhi fought the laugh. “We’ll die of liver poisoning.”
“It’ll be fun though.”
It was fun. Cassian had a sharp sense of humor, and he used it to wicked effect to make Bodhi laugh. Bodhi suspected that Cassian was faking at least some of the hiccups, but he was enjoying himself too much to call him on it.
He called a truce after the eighth game, though. “I can barely see the cards,” he said when Cassian protested. “I can’t—focus.”
“But I’m winning!”
“All the more reason to stop now,” Bodhi said. He had an awful feeling that he was tilting sideways on the bench. That or Cassian was suddenly horizontal.
The vinyl was smooth under his cheek and he sighed, and then jumped when Cassian appeared in his field of view.
“How about bed?”
“M’kay,” Bodhi agreed placidly, and allowed Cassian to pull him gently to his feet. Even through the haze of alcohol, he noticed the way Cassian avoided putting pressure on Bodhi’s shoulder, staying on his left side and wrapping an arm around his waist.
They made a more-or-less straight line back through the ship to Bodhi’s room and he sank onto the bed with a relieved sigh.
When Cassian straightened, though, Bodhi lunged and caught his wrist. Cassian froze, staring down at him, and Bodhi swallowed hard.
“Please—I don’t want to be alone.”
Cassian gently freed himself and moved away, but he didn’t go far. He came back with a glass of water and held it out. Bodhi sat up and drained it, and Cassian accepted the empty container and put it on the floor. Then he slid onto the bunk, arranging himself on his side.
Bodhi held his breath, and when Cassian showed no signs of moving, he lay back down, facing him. Cassian touched Bodhi’s hand, between them on the mattress, his finger gentle.
They were so close. All Bodhi had to do was lean forward, just a few inches, and their lips would meet. He closed his eyes and took a breath—
“I don’t think you killed him.”
Bodhi’s eyes shot open. Cassian hadn’t moved, gazing at him with a troubled expression.
“I did,” Bodhi said.
“No,” Cassian said, shaking his head. “You didn’t. I know you didn’t.”
Bodhi stared at him. “They have me on camera. Sneaking into their garden and meeting his wife, night after night. I had motive. I had means. I had opportunity. Why would you think I didn’t—”
Cassian stopped him with his mouth, pressing their lips together as Bodhi made a strangled noise and clutched at Cassian’s arm, his sleeve, anything to pull him closer. Cassian’s mouth was warm and sweet, fitting perfectly against Bodhi’s, tasting like brandy and regret.
When they broke for air, Cassian cupped Bodhi’s jaw in one gentle hand, their foreheads touching.
“The real mystery,” he murmured, “is who could look at you and think you could possibly hurt anyone.”
Bodhi shivered, still clinging to Cassian’s sleeve. “You don’t—” His tongue felt thick in his mouth and he swallowed hard. “You don’t have any proof.”
Cassian pulled away just enough to meet his eyes. “Did you do it, Bodhi Rook?”
Bodhi felt like he was standing on the edge of a precipice, poised to topple. He couldn’t breathe, sure at any moment he would plunge to his doom. “No,” he whispered.
Cassian’s smile was triumphant as he pulled him in for another kiss.
He wasn’t content to leave it there, of course. He pulled Bodhi to a sitting position, facing each other on the thin mattress with legs crossing, close enough that their knees brushed.
Bodhi sat quietly, hands in his lap, searching Cassian’s face. He thought he might be floating a few inches above his body. It was impossible. No one had even considered the possibility of Bodhi’s innocence since it had happened. And now Cassian, after knowing him for six days, had seen to the heart of him, had known the truth without even being told. Bodhi wanted to understand, to wrap his brain around how, but Cassian spoke first.
“I know the basic details,” he said. He leaned forward and took one of Bodhi’s hands. His skin was warm, the press of his fingers reassuring as he rubbed Bodhi’s knuckles. “Why don’t you tell me the rest?”
Bodhi struggled to gather his thoughts. “I was—a pilot.”
“Cargo, yes,” Cassian said.
“I met Shilsa when I delivered goods to her home—normally a shuttle would have taken them, but the droid had malfunctioned, so I said I’d go, I didn’t mind—”
Shilsa had met him at the door, her eyes glowing unearthly gold and her scarlet hair shifting, seemingly of its own volition. Her skin was a diluted shade of her hair, a petal-pink that looked satin soft.
“I gave her the packages,” Bodhi said. “She asked if I wanted a drink.” He lifted his shoulder. “It’s a desert world, it’s hot, and it was a long drive. We sat at her table and we just… talked. For hours.”
“She was lonely,” Cassian said.
“She was sold to V’rana,” Bodhi said. “She didn’t have any friends. He kept her locked away and spoiled with rich trinkets in an attempt to make up for imprisoning her.”
Cassian’s eyes were sad. “So you became friends?”
Bodhi nodded and looked down at their hands, tangled together in his lap. Cassian’s fingers were long and slim, delicate arch of bone and tendon under skin that was rough but warm.
“It wasn’t sexual,” Bodhi said, glancing back up. “It never was. We were both just… lonely. We dreamed of getting her away from V’rana, off Tattoine, anywhere in the galaxy—we’d just go, and make our way together.”
“So how did it happen?”
“V’rana came home early,” Bodhi said.
They’d been in the garden again. The cameras Bodhi hadn’t even known about all faced outward. Nothing that happened within was recorded.
“She was twitchy, anxious,” he said. “She didn’t want to be in the house, called it a prison cell and threw a vase across the room. So we went outside. She liked the garden more—it was cool there, under the trees.” Bodhi swallowed hard. “He was supposed to be gone another week. He—found us.”
Bodhi had been half-asleep, dreaming in the grass with his hands tucked behind his head, and he hadn’t even heard the footsteps until V’rana was upon him.
Shilsa screamed as V’rana dragged Bodhi upright by his hair.
“He was huge,” Bodhi said. He pulled his hand out of Cassian’s to wrap his arms around his ribs. He was trembling, he realized vaguely.
Cassian stood and shook out the folded blanket he’d been sitting on. He tucked it around Bodhi’s shoulders, one hand drifting up to skim the line of Bodhi’s jaw briefly before he settled back on the bunk.
Bodhi pulled the blanket closer. “He shook me, like a dog shakes a rat. Shilsa was trying to stop him, grabbing at him, but he shoved her away and threw me against the wall next to her.” He winced, remembering. “That’s how my shoulder was injured in the first place.”
“Did he say anything?”
Bodhi shook his head. “He was going to kill me, though. And probably Shilsa.”
He’d been dazed, his vision blurry and ears ringing, as V’rana had drawn back a boot, aiming for Bodhi’s face.
It had taken him a minute to process the fact that the boot hadn’t landed.
“Shilsa—she’d somehow gotten her hands on his blaster. She shot him, right before he stomped my face in.”
Cassian’s hands twitched, like he wanted to touch Bodhi again, but he folded them in his own lap and waited.
“All I could think was—if she was convicted for this, she’d lose the baby and V’rana’s wealth and holdings. I…” Bodhi shrugged. “I had nothing to lose.” He looked up, into Cassian’s eyes. “I made her promise.”
“To let you take the fall for her.”
Bodhi nodded. “She’s free now, don’t you see? She’s rich. She can do anything she wants, travel the galaxy, just like she always dreamed.”
“And you just… go quietly away?” There was sudden anger in Cassian’s voice, but Bodhi firmed his jaw.
“I made my choice. I don’t matter. So the galaxy loses a cargo pilot. Plenty more where I came from.”
Cassian made a wounded noise and reached out, catching Bodhi’s face in both hands to pull him into a bruising kiss. His mouth was sweet and Bodhi melted into it willingly, dropping the blanket and pressing closer to Cassian’s warmth.
“You matter, Bodhi Rook,” Cassian whispered when he finally broke away, still cupping Bodhi’s face in his hands.
Bodhi blinked, struggling to focus, but Cassian let him go to stand. Bodhi bit back a protest. He wanted to be kissed again, held in Cassian’s arms and treasured, but Cassian was reaching for his hand.
He pulled him to his feet. “Come on.”
Bodhi followed him out of the cell, still drunk and wobbly with it, but Cassian’s hand was strong and reassuring as he towed him down the hallway.
Kaytoo was in the cockpit when they arrived. “Captain?”
“How long until we enter Naraka’s solar system?” Cassian asked abruptly.
Bodhi swayed on his feet, unsure what he was doing and wishing he could lie down.
The ship lurched around them and Bodhi fell against Cassian, who caught him and eased him into the pilot’s chair.
“Ah—now,” Kaytoo said.
“Hail the prison,” Cassian said. There was something odd in his voice, a thread of silver and steel that made Bodhi think of sharp swords and falling silk.
“Warden Jamson,” an authoritative voice said.
“This is Cassian Andor, hired by the governor of Tattoine to deliver a prisoner to you, one Bodhi Rook.”
Bodhi stiffened, and Cassian’s hand gripped his shoulder, holding him steady.
“I regret to inform you that an incident occurred in transit, Warden,” Cassian said. “The prisoner was unruly, disruptive—he tried to overpower me and very nearly succeeded before my KX droid subdued him.”
Bodhi’s mouth fell open and he twisted to look up at Cassian, who tightened his grip on Bodhi’s shoulder.
“Regrettably, in the scuffle, the prisoner’s neck was broken. He died instantly.”
He was dreaming. It was the only explanation. Bodhi looked at Kaytoo. For a droid with no expression, somehow Kaytoo conveyed the impression of being as stunned as Bodhi felt.
Cassian was still talking. “Since I have nothing on board large enough to preserve a body, we were forced to vent the remains in deep space. I am informing you of the situation as a courtesy, and will of course be returning the transportation fee to the governor of Tattooine. I apologize for the inconvenience to you.”
Bodhi got his hand over his mouth just in time to muffle the protest as Cassian cut the transmission and knelt beside his chair.
“What did you just do,” Bodhi whispered.
“I saved an innocent man.” Cassian’s voice was low, but his eyes were steady, nothing but certainty shining from them.
Bodhi touched Cassian’s face with a wondering finger, traced over soft skin and prickly stubble, along that perfect jaw.
“There is a 37.4% chance you’re wrong,” Kaytoo offered.
“I’ll take those odds,” Cassian said, and a smile bloomed on his mouth as Bodhi leaned down to kiss him.
Stay tuned for the coda, which will tie up the final loose end(s) and maaaybe involve smut. ~cough~
Thanks for reading!
He was asleep when the door opened, the whoosh of it making him sigh and roll over onto his stomach.
The pillows smelled like Cassian, and Bodhi rubbed a cheek against the linen as the mattress dipped.
Bodhi made a drowsy noise and tried to turn, but a hand on his shoulder held him in place as Cassian leaned in and pressed soft kisses to Bodhi’s cheek and jaw.
Still half-asleep, Bodhi hummed and turned his head so Cassian could kiss him properly. He tasted like goldfruit, tart and sweet, and Bodhi protested wordlessly as Cassian drew away and tried to follow him.
“Stay there,” Cassian said, a laugh thrumming in his voice, and swung a leg over Bodhi’s hips to straddle him.
Bodhi relaxed, braced and secure as Cassian pulled his shirt up over his head and dropped it on the floor, then bent to push Bodhi’s shirt up around his armpits.
His beard tickled when he pressed a kiss to Bodhi’s spine, and Bodhi writhed. Cassian huffed a laugh against his skin and moved downward.
Bodhi’s body was awakening, piece by piece, unfolding like a flower’s petals under Cassian’s touch, and he pushed backward, rolling his hips slow and lazy against Cassian’s groin. He was rewarded by a gasp and Cassian folding over to press his chest to Bodhi’s back. His breath was hot on Bodhi’s cheek, coming in sharp, irregular gusts.
“I was—” Cassian cut himself off as Bodhi reached up to cup his head, sliding fingers through Cassian’s hair. “I was going to give you a massage,” he managed.
“Mm,” Bodhi agreed. He rolled his hips again, rubbing his own erection against the mattress. It felt delicious, the heat of it flooding his veins in slow motion as Cassian nibbled his earlobe.
Cassian sat up, the weight of him pinning Bodhi down, and a bottle cap popped. The lotion was warm and smelled like starflowers and jasmine when Cassian drizzled it on Bodhi’s spine, and Bodhi sighed as Cassian’s thumbs dug deep into the knots of tension on either side.
“So beautiful,” Cassian murmured. “I sent your message to Shilsa—no, sweetheart, don’t move, let me work—”
Bodhi relaxed into his hands again and Cassian resumed.
“She’ll get it with the shipment of baby clothes and toys that were a gift from the governor of Naboo,” he said. He found another knot and teased it free, dispersing the tension in Bodhi’s shoulders. “In about a year, we might be able to visit her.”
Bodhi tucked his face into his elbow, overwhelmed, and Cassian leaned forward again to press their cheeks together.
“She’s safe,” he whispered. “And so are you. Well—” There was a hint of laughter in his voice when he hesitated. “As safe as you can be in a smuggler’s ship fighting a rebellion.”
“I’ll still take it over prison,” Bodhi said, turning enough to meet Cassian’s dark gaze. “Especially since it has you.”
Cassian smiled and sat up to continue the massage.
“Come on my back,” Bodhi whispered, eyes closed. Cassian froze and Bodhi pushed back against him, frowning. “Please, I want—”
“What do you want?” Cassian asked.
“You,” Bodhi blurted.
Cassian groaned. “I have a better idea.”
He rolled off Bodhi’s hips, just far enough to push his pants down and then tug Bodhi’s off over his feet. Naked, he crawled back onto the bed and gathered Bodhi into his arms, back to chest, his erection nudging Bodhi’s ass.
Bodhi let his head fall back against Cassian’s shoulder as Cassian reached down and clasped him in a slick, warm fist.
“Okay?” Cassian asked breathlessly.
Bodhi managed a nod, cheek to cheek, and felt Cassian’s smile as he began to move in slow, steady strokes.
“The most beautiful escaped convict in all the galaxies,” Cassian murmured, amusement and affection rich in his tone. “Right here with me. How did I get so lucky?”
“Shut up,” Bodhi choked, writhing against him, and Cassian’s laugh was warm on his ear. Heat spread through Bodhi’s groin in slow, licking tendrils, pressure building at the base of his spine.
Cassian kept stroking, one arm across Bodhi’s chest to keep him in place, up against Cassian’s chest.
Bodhi tensed, breath catching in his throat, and Cassian purred encouragement as the bubble burst and Bodhi’s back arched with the force of his orgasm.
Cassian crooned filthy nonsense in his ear as Bodhi shook and shuddered in his arms and finally collapsed back against him, drawing a ragged breath.
“There,” Cassian said. “There, this is my favorite part.”
Bodhi struggled to parse the words. All he could manage in response was a vaguely questioning noise, though, and Cassian laughed quietly again.
“When you go all loose and sleepy after you come,” he said, letting go of Bodhi’s cock to pet his stomach, trailing a finger through the cooling drops caught in the fine hairs of Bodhi’s abdomen. “It’s getting to see a part of you no one else ever sees. It’s trusting and soft and you’re never more beautiful.”
He pressed a kiss to Bodhi’s shoulder and Bodhi jammed a hand against his mouth to stifle the yawn.
“Wha’ ‘bout you?” he slurred.
Cassian kissed the nape of his neck. “Plenty of time for that. Right now, I just want to hold you. Is that alright?”
Bodhi nodded, already halfway to sleep again. The last thing he heard was Cassian humming a quiet tune, wrapping him in love and safety and trust, and Bodhi smiled and surrendered to it.
I'm on Tumblr (more than I should be, lbh) and I love to complain about these dumb boys, so feel free to come find me!