It was past sundown when Chirrut heard the steady cadence of Baze climbing the stairs. He breathed out once, letting the worry unwind from his stomach. It was unlike Baze to be out so near curfew when not on a job.
“You’re late,” he called when Baze reached the landing outside their rooms. “I started dinner. Dumplings, I think. Of course, I am blind. Who knows what I made?”
When there was no familiar retort of how Chirrut was not allowed in the kitchen after the fireweed incident, he moved towards the door, fingers brushing over his staff. He knew the tread of Baze’s feet as surely as his own heartbeat, walking alongside that light and certain gait for over half his life as he had, but now Baze moved soft and gentle with an odd hesitation every fourth step.
“Are you injured?” Chirrut asked as the door opened.
The hall behind Baze was empty and outside the streets were silent save for the stamping of stormtrooper boots.
“Quiet,” said Baze. “I’ve only just settled her.”
Chirrut listened, to the door closing, to the familiar whisper of Baze’s clothes as he moved, to the steady breathing of Baze and the small form he cradled in his arms.
“How old?” he asked, sliding into the stillness it took the old masters years to instill in him.
“A few months,” said Baze within touching distance.
“Mother?” But he heard the answer in Baze’s slow, pained exhale. “Is there any family left?”
“None that I could find.” The baby whimpered, and Baze hummed low and soft in the back of his throat. “I couldn’t leave her on the street.”
“No, you could not,” Chirrut agreed.
When they were still guardians, when the temple still stood, Baze made a point to visit the crèche for NiJedha’s orphans once a day. He would sit with the children, letting the small ones climb over him as he sang songs from Jedha’s history, voice rough and sweet.
When the Empire came, they burned the crèche first, even though the children had long since been secreted away. Those guardians that remained, they took what they could from the temple’s wreckage, but none of them entered that burned husk. No one save Baze, who went in quiet and came back quiet. He was never the loudest or most talkative of men, but when he returned the nature of his silence had changed. It was deep and heavy, and even Chirrut, who knew the lay of Baze’s heart, could not help carry it.
“Where did you find her?” he asked, running careful fingers along the blanket. She was small and made smaller for being held in Baze’s large hands. Chirrut knew well their strength and care for he had felt it countless times in the way Baze touched him. There was no place safer in the vast unknown universe than in his husband’s arms.
“By the eastern gate,” Baze answered.
There was heavy Imperial presence in that quarter of the city, unsurprising given that most of NiJedha’s trade came from the eastern portion of the moon. It was contested territory, and Chirrut carried new scars from their own efforts to stymie the Empire.
“She’ll need food,” said Chirrut. “I don’t suppose you have any?”
“Old Florian provided formula. It’s why I was late.” Baze’s hair brushed his fingers as he bowed his head, gently shushing the unhappy whine the baby gave. “It will be enough for now. In the morning, I will look to see who can take her.”
He would find no one, Chirrut knew. There was no more Temple of the Whills to care for the city’s orphans, to feed them and love them and to set them on their path. Everyone on Jedha was lost now.
“I believe she’s hungry,” Chirrut said.
“Yes,” said Baze. “Hold her while I prepare a bottle.”
Chirrut stepped back. It was Baze who sought out the children, not him.
“Have you forgotten I'm blind?” he said.
“How can I with you reminding me every time you do not want to handle the laundry?” said Baze, and then, impatient, “Chirrut, you will not drop her.”
Sighing, he offered his arms, letting Baze arrange them to his liking before the baby was carefully given over, her head nestled in the crook of his elbow. She was as small as he first thought, but, oh, how she shone, clear and bright, so excited to be in the world even as she fussed at being parted from Baze.
“I think you’re her favorite,” Chirrut said, freeing one hand to run a finger over the span of her brow and the slope of her nose, over the soft ridges of her cheek and the tiny curl of her fist.
“Then she will grow to be very wise indeed,” Baze said, running some of their precious water to heat the formula and presumably clean the bottle.
“What does she look like?”
Baze came close, and he did not need sight to know that Baze’s gaze was trained to where her small hand was closing about his finger, grip tight and stubborn.
“She has dark skin,” said Baze. “Darker than mine. It is like the night sky on a summer night when the stars just begin to shine. There are blue scales around her eyes and over her cheeks and along her neck and collarbone.”
“She will need a name.”
He half-expected a token protest from Baze, who grumbled about those Chirrut would bring into their home even as he fed them, but Baze touched where she was still holding on tight to his finger, and said, “She does.”
He smiled, basking in the certainty seeping into his bones before saying, “The formula’s overheating.”
She made an unhappy noise as Baze pulled away, releasing Chirrut’s finger to wave an angry fist through the air.
“I know,” Chirrut said, carefully turning her towards where Baze stood in their small kitchen, “but he here he is. Of the two of us, you can most clearly see he didn’t leave.”
Her grumblings were just beginning to edge towards a cry when Baze padded back over. “Let me take her,” he said, and Chirrut steadied her head as she was passed from his arms and into Baze’s.
He leaned against Baze’s shoulder, listening to her take the bottle. She was hungry, if the sounds were anything to go by.
“Tell me,” said Chirrut, “did I manage dumplings?”
“That remains to be seen,” said Baze. “Did you use fireweed as a seasoning again?”
“You’ll just have to try one and see,” he said, and leaned in to press a kiss to the annoyed curve of Baze’s mouth.
A baby, Chirrut was discovering, required a great many things. Clothes, for one. What she was dressed in was unlikely to last another day before it needed a good washing. Diapers as well, although Old Florian, bless xir, had greater foresight than either he or Baze as xe had provided a bag along with the formula. They would need more of that as well, and then soft food as she grew older. Children also needed toys, but given her age anything shiny would do until they could make a trip to the market.
They also needed a crib, Chirrut thought, pulling out the softest blankets they owned. He was more sensitive than Baze, who would mutter about Chirrut’s hedonistic tendencies even as he scoured the markets for throws woven from fine bantha wool.
Chirrut was grateful for Baze’s efforts as he carefully swaddled her in a blanket that Baze informed him was dyed a blue to match the sky. She fussed and squirmed, although she quieted when Baze cupped her head, humming tunelessly as Chirrut tucked in the ends.
“Any thoughts?” he asked once he and Baze were in bed, the baby laid carefully in the curve of their bodies. He placed a hand on her chest to feel the steady rise and fall of her breaths as she slept.
“Thoughts of what?” said Baze, fingers trailing over Chirrut’s knuckles.
“Names.” He angled his head towards Baze, an old habit. It comforted Baze to see Chirrut’s face even if Chirrut could not return the favor.
“You’re not going to suggest we name her Faith, are you?”
“Even I find that in poor taste,” said Chirrut, smiling at Baze’s snort. “Perhaps Khasa?”
“You know she never cared for children.”
“What did she call them? Sticky monsters?”
Baze laughed quietly. “She claimed that if you pressed them against the wall they would stick there.”
That seemed plausible, especially how the baby had spit up after being fed. The smell still lingered, even after Baze had disposed of the rag.
“Sol,” Baze suggested.
Chirrut shook his head. She made a soft sound, and Chirrut shifted, sliding his hand out from under Baze’s hand to stroke two fingers over her cheeks and the line of her scales. He had never put much stock in the power of names. You were what you were, regardless of what you were called, but these were fraught and uncertain times they lived in. For this child, so impossibly small and trusting as she slept in the lee of their bodies, he would give her every advantage.
“Saya,” he said.
There was the heavy silence that he had learned meant Baze was searching his face, although he could only guess what he saw there.
“That was my grandmother’s name,” Baze finally said.
“Yes.” He carefully shifted closer, reaching over the baby to brush his knuckles over Baze’s cheek. “She was remarkable.”
Baze snorted again. “She could out stubborn a mountain. Do you forget how much she disliked you?”
“I won her over in the end,” said Chirrut, which was partially true.
Saya Malbus outlived two husbands, a daughter, and a son, and Baze was the last of her family. She had raised him to early adolescence out beyond NiJedha’s walls in that empty space between cities, and she made it clear that Chirrut, for all that he had given himself over to the Temple of the Whills and the Force, was not what she wanted for her grandson.
The last time she had stepped foot in the temple, mere months before she had passed into the next life, she had waited until Baze left the room before grabbing Chirrut by the back of his neck and pulling him close.
Baze had inherited his height from her, and so Chirrut balanced up on his toes as she said, soft in his ear, “I do not doubt your commitment to the Whills, but we both know you’re a little shit that will get yourself and my grandson killed one day.”
“No,” he protested, because he would give his remaining senses to keep Baze safe.
She barked out a laugh. “Yes, you will. I know your type.” She sighed through her nose. “But you and he love each other, and who am I to protest the inevitable? You will take care of him. He can feel too much.”
“I know,” said Chirrut, who did not know then because he was young and foolish, and that lesson would be hard learned by him and Baze both.
“You will be good for him,” Saya had said with all the certainty of the old masters, shaking him once before finally releasing him from her hold. “Now remember your manners and prepare an old woman some tea.”
“I have never met anyone so themselves as her,” said Chirrut.
“That is one way to put it,” said Baze. “She would have fought the entire Empire herself for what they’ve done to our home.”
“She would have won,” said Chirrut, “one way or another.”
“Saya,” said Baze slowly, as if tasting it on his tongue. “It is a good name.”
Chirrut settled his hand back over her chest. “Yes,” he said, as Baze draped an arm over them both, “it is.”
Saya woke twice during the night, once needing her diaper changed and the other with unhappy crying while he and Baze took turns rocking her gently and walking in laps around the room until she finally slid back to sleep.
In the morning, Chirrut woke to the quiet murmur of Baze’s voice and an empty bed. He rolled over, eyes still closed, and listened to the familiar sounds of NiJedha stirring outside the window.
“And that,” said Baze, raising his voice, “is Chirrut pretending to be asleep so that he does not have to help prepare breakfast. Such a lazy man I married.”
“A clever man,” Chirrut retorted, rolling to his feet. His staff and echo box were set neatly beside the bed, though he had no need of those here in the home he shared with Baze. He sniffed the air. “What are you making?”
“Rice, and of course Saya’s breakfast.”
Chirrut moved closer, sliding one hand along Baze’s arm to where Saya’s head was resting on his shoulder. He smoothed his palm over her tuft of curls. She made a small noise, nuzzling into Baze’s shirt.
“She’s quiet,” he said.
“For now,” said Baze. “Take her so I can finish preparing her bottle.”
He lifted her from Baze’s shoulder, and as he settled her against his side, she reached up and patted his cheek. “Hello,” he said, and caught her hand, blowing against her palm until she laughed, a sweet and silly sound.
“Oh,” he said, and then did it again, smiling at her giggle. “What does she look like?”
“Happy,” said Baze, hushed. “She’s smiling. Her scales are beautiful, almost iridescent, like light through a crystal.”
“Yes, I see,” said Chirrut.
He remembered the caverns beneath the temple and the kyber crystals within. He had lost his sight long before joining the temple, but he remembered how the crystals sang, such a joyful and reverent sound, and even now he could still feel their warmth against his palms.
“Here,” said Baze. “It’s your turn to feed her.”
Chirrut pressed a kiss to her palm and said, “She might prefer you.”
“Of course she does as she has a working brain,” said Baze and guided Chirrut with a hand to the small of his back to a chair, “but she needs to get used to you.”
He shifted Saya, head supported by his arm, and accepted the bottle Baze passed him. It took a moment of confusion on both their ends, but Saya settled easily enough to her breakfast, and Chirrut felt the heat of her seep into the core of him.
“See,” said Baze, when she was half finished, “it’s not so difficult.”
“I never said it was difficult,” he said, but they had known each other too long for him to hide anything from Baze, who merely paused in his path from stove to table to rest his palm on the back of Chirrut’s neck.
Saya pulled back from the nipple, and Chirrut obligingly took the bottle away, shaking it slightly to determine what was left. About a quarter, which was good. She seemed far too small and light for her age.
“You have to burp her,” said Baze, and chuckled at the face Chirrut made. “Here, like this.” He laid a cloth over Chirrut’s shoulder, one hand steadying Saya as Chirrut moved her. “Just a pat, here.” He touched the space under her shoulder blades.
Chirrut patted her twice. “I can feel the face you’re making. Would you like to take over?”
“You need to be firmer,” Baze said. “You won’t hurt her.”
Chirrut patted her again, once, twice, and then on the third time she finally burped, spitting up onto the rag.
“Ah, there we are,” Chirrut said, shifting her back towards his chest and flinging the rag at where he knew Baze was smirking. “How do we feel now?”
Saya made an inquisitive noise, wriggling until Chirrut gave in and said, “I think she wants you.”
“Chirrut is not so bad,” Baze said to her, setting two plates on the table. He tapped the back of Chirrut’s hands before scooping her up. “He does have bony knees though. You should be careful of those.”
“Lies,” said Chirrut. “My knees are perfectly normal.”
“My kidneys beg to differ. Eat your breakfast.”
They ate, Saya perched on Baze’s lap. More than once Chirrut had to gently move her grasping hands from touching the hot plate or tipping over a glass. She made an annoyed sound, and Baze said, “Yes, his hypocrisy is astounding, but for once he is correct. This game you want to play could hurt you.”
“Hypocrisy?” said Chirrut, frowning.
“Have all the games you invented to amuse yourself that endangered yourself and others slipped your mind? Before you say anything, I would like to remind you of your light bow.”
“I'm quite proficient with it now,” he said.
“Yes, now,” said Baze meaningfully, and Chirrut had to allow the point. The early days of learning its use were quite exciting.
“Do we have a plan?” Chirrut asked, taking their empty dishes to the washer. It was an old unit they scavenged but it still worked more often than it didn’t.
“A plan?” Baze repeated as Saya gurgled away happily on his lap. “Have you hit your head? You never plan ahead.”
“I prefer to think on my feet, it’s true,” he agreed, “but we have a child depending on us now. I think perhaps this may call for some kind of foresight.”
The chair scrapped back as Baze stood, and Chirrut could do nothing more than turn before Baze cupped the back of his neck and kissed him. They had been together long enough that Chirrut was no longer compelled to catalogue the many ways Baze touched him, but Baze still lit him up until Chirrut was fairly sure he was shining like the guiding light that once graced the temple’s tallest tower. It was easy to fall into the kiss, into the way Baze touched him as if Chirrut was something holy, and perhaps they would have stayed there longer if not for one small hand hitting his cheek as Saya grumbled, clearly unhappy with being ignored.
“Our apologies,” said Baze, drawing back. “We did not mean to neglect you.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Chirrut told her, leaning in to brush a kiss over her cheek.
Baze made a surprised noise and said, “Her scales have darkened.”
“Interesting,” said Chirrut, and brushed a finger over the ones around her eyes. The ridges were soft, and he wondered if that would change as she grew older. Time would tell. “Do you think they indicate her mood?”
“Perhaps. We’ll have to watch closely.” He shifted Saya higher on his hip. “But for now she needs more than we have.”
“There’s no avoiding it,” Chirrut said as Baze sighed. “We’ll have to go to the market.”
It seemed that Saya’s cooperation that morning was just to lull them into a sense of false security, Chirrut thought as the wailing increased in pitch before Baze lifted her back into his arms. She had been drowsy from her feeding, and so they had placed her in a cocoon of blankets to sleep while they changed. Baze had made it no more than two steps before that terrible cry had started.
She was unwilling to be parted from them for even the few minutes it would take to dress. Robes in place, Chirrut mutely held out his arms, and Baze passed over Saya, who cried louder in protest.
“Go on, I have her,” Chirrut said when he felt Baze hesitate, no doubt willing to stand around half naked holding Saya all day if that was what she wished. “I think I'm going to have to be the disciplinarian,” he told her in a mildly horrified tone. “I'm going to be terrible at it.”
There was a pause between wails, and Chirrut had just started to relax when Baze left her sight and she drew in a deep breath and screamed directly into his left ear.
“He is still here,” Chirrut said, making his way to their small bedroom. “See? He’s right there.”
“Chirrut,” said Baze, sounding deeply aggrieved, “I'm not wearing pants.”
“It’s not like she’s developed long term memory yet,” he said, “and unfortunately I am unable to appreciate the vision I know you are.” Into the silence that hummed with annoyance, he said, “You’re upset you can’t throw anything at me while I'm holding her, aren’t you?”
“You’ll have to put her down sometime,” Baze said.
“Not if we don’t want to go deaf.”
Saya’s cries had quieted into intermittent grumbles, but even those tapered off when Baze finished dressing and took her back.
“You’re going to spoil her,” Chirrut said, unwrapping the sash from his waist.
“I am not.” Saya suddenly giggled, and Chirrut smiled at the sounds of Baze blowing kisses into her neck. “What are you doing?”
“Since she will not be put down and we do require the use of our hands,” he said, moving closer to loop the sash over Baze’s shoulder and across his chest, “I believe I have a solution.”
It took a few minutes of work, during which Baze patiently raised his arms, Saya cradled in securely in his large hands, but in the end the sash proved to be a serviceable sling. Saya apparently approved of being held over Baze’s heart because she burbled happily to herself, the tears from earlier already forgotten.
“We should hurry,” said Chirrut, grabbing his staff where it leaned near the door, “or the stalls will be picked clean.”
Baze sighed heavily but followed him down the stairs and out to the street. Chirrut quite enjoyed the market, and spent most of his days telling fortunes while listening carefully to the stormtroopers. It was quite amusing how they assumed he was deaf as well as blind. Such helpful things he learned, sitting behind his bowl and reciting koans to those who paused long enough.
Baze, though, was made different. He preferred the solitude of their rooms to the noise of a crowd, and those days they were not planning a move against the occupying Imperials, Chirrut knew it was only for him that Baze suffered the press of people.
They were well known, two of the last guardians in the holy city, and it was not long before they were weighed down with what they needed for Saya. Old Florian had gifted them a bag of clothes, both in Saya’s size and larger.
“For her to grow into,” xe said, irritably waving away their thanks. “My grandchildren grew out of them. It is nothing.”
Knowing better than to try to slip xyr a few coin, Chirrut made a note to send her an extra fuel ration.
“How is she?” Chirrut asked after they purchased food for both themselves and Saya.
“Interested in what’s happing around her,” said Baze, “but I think she may be growing tired.”
Her and Baze both, Chirrut thought privately, but said, “We have enough for now. I think a nap would do us all good.”
Baze grunted, which Chirrut knew was for his benefit, and Saya made a high inquisitive noise, as if echoing Baze. Chirrut smiled, reaching out and touching where her hand was tucked under her chin.
“Thank you for letting me know you were listening,” he said, and angled his head up so that Baze, all exasperation, could press a kiss to his mouth.
“Well, shit,” said Nawid to their left, “someone actually let you have a child.”
“Good morning, Mistress Nawid,” Chirrut said, pulling away as Baze snorted, one hand going to protectively cup Saya’s head. “How are you this fine day?”
“Oh, I'm well, Master Îmwe,” she said, curl of amusement to her voice as she returned his familiar greeting. “Where’d you get the kid?”
“Baze found her.”
“I did,” said Baze after a pause, which Chirrut assumed was Nawid looking to him for confirmation. “She has no one else.”
“None of us do anymore,” she said. “What’s her name?”
“Saya,” said Chirrut.
“Saya.” She moved closer, and Chirrut took a step to the side, although he remained close. “She’s cute. Her hair’s going to give you problems.”
Nawid had let him feel the planes of her face once, waiting patiently as he mapped out her features, the tight curls of her hair brushing his hands, so different from what he and Baze had, and said, “You are quite the vision, Mistress Nawid.”
“So forward, Master Îmwe, and you a married man at that,” she had said, and Chirrut had grinned, delighted.
“Will she have hair like yours?” Chirrut asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “Come by when she’s a bit older. I’ll show you how to care for it.”
“Thank you,” said Baze.
She touched his arm, and Chirrut obediently held out the bags for her to rifle through.
“Well, this is a start,” she said, adding when Chirrut raised his eyebrows, “Babies need require much. I have cousins. I’ll see what I can find for you.”
“You are as kind as you are beautiful,” said Chirrut.
“Please take him home,” she said to Baze. “I fear the sun has fried his brains.”
“If only that were true,” Baze said mournfully.
“Bah,” said Chirrut, nudging Baze’s ribs as Nawid’s laughter trailed behind them as they turned towards home. “I have never felt better.”
Which was when, startled by the sharp laughter of passing Nautalans, Saya started to cry.
“In that case,” said Baze, “you can carry her.”
Their days found a rhythm after that. Nawid brought them a crib carved from the twisted wood scavenged from Jedha’s vast wastelands, smooth and well made, and Chirrut wondered how many children had slept well within its care. Saya continued her habit of waking through the night, each time wailing as if the world was crumbling around her. Baze would take her first, voice a rough rumble as he endlessly circled their rooms.
“What color are her scales?” Chirrut would ask once she calmed enough to be put back in her crib.
“The blue after sunset,” Baze answered, “right before the last light fades.”
The second and third time she cried Chirrut would rouse himself, settling her on his shoulder, rocking her gently as he told her what the city sounded like at night.
And then, as much as he would like to blame Baze’s soft heart, Chirrut would lay her between them on the bed, listening to her snuffle and settle.
“Why do we even have that crib if we do not use it?” Baze said.
“Obviously it’s another piece of furniture for me to trip over,” Chirrut answered, and Baze laughed, that terrible snorting one that Chirrut loved best.
“I remember that misplaced stool that sent you sprawling.” Baze’s large hand encircled his wrist. “You were so betrayed.”
“It had no place being in that hall,” Chirrut sniffed, and Baze lifted his hand to press a kiss to his knuckles.
“You recovered yourself remarkably well.”
Now Chirrut laughed. He had lain in an undignified sprawl spitting out profanity that no acolyte should know while Baze, once he realized Chirrut was not hurt, laughed until he had cried.
Saya whined between them, and Baze said, “Are we keeping you from your rest? Our apologies.”
She still shrieked like the winter winds if they put her down longer than what she considered a reasonable amount of time, but in their arms she was a happy baby, chattering away and patting their cheeks, laughing brightly when they blew kisses into her belly or her neck.
Chirrut wanted to ask if this was why Baze had gone to the crèche so often, for the simple joy of it, but he had enough sense to hold his tongue. He knew how Baze would stay awake at night, placing himself between them and the door when the patrols went past. NiJedha would never be what it once was, but Chirrut carried the hope that it would grow into something new. It was not a hope Baze shared. Chirrut understood. They all grieved in their own way.
But their grief was old and tempered by time and it had no place in their home this morning as Saya, in a talkative mood, woke them both with her chatter.
“In this she must take after you,” Baze groaned, already rolling from their bed.
Chirrut had been without his sight much longer than he had ever been with it and did not mourn its passing, but there were times like these, Baze rough from sleep and stripped of his layers, stretching as the morning sun caught his hair and the planes of his face, that he was acutely aware of what he would never have. It was a shame he could not appreciate Baze with his eyes, but he had other means left to him.
Chirrut followed after, sliding one hand along the sturdy width of Baze’s waist, the other scrubbing affectionately over his beard. “Better to take after me in this than to pick up your grooming habits. You are very unkempt.”
Baze snorted, ducking his head to rub his rough beard along Chirrut’s neck. Chirrut shivered and felt Baze smile against his skin.
“You like it,” said Baze, voice dropping low and intimate.
“That is a lie you tell yourself,” Chirrut corrected, although they both knew how undone he was by the simple scrape of Baze’s beard against his inner thigh.
Baze’s hands spread over his back, and Chirrut swayed into him, as inevitable as the creeping frost. They had spent their youth learning each other in various corners around the temple, getting caught more often than not. It was quite the scandal, for they were expected to exhibit some self-control, but how could Chirrut restrain himself knowing how it when felt Baze laughed against the skin of his ribs? How could he be patient when Baze would sigh so quietly when Chirrut dropped to his knees, Baze’s hands sweet but urgent along his jaw? Chirrut was only human, after all.
The urgency of their youth may have faded but the desire remained, a simmer under his skin, and Chirrut sighed as Baze licked into his mouth. Baze’s hair was unbound and soft when Chirrut sunk his fingers into it, dragging his nails over Baze’s scalp, swallowing the small noise Baze made.
He could have spent hours there, kissing Baze slow and easy, and had done in the past, but Saya’s happy burbles were turning into the annoyed whine which, they had learned, came right before the crying. They had left her alone too long.
“Remember when we could have sex whenever we wanted?” Chirrut asked as Baze picked her up, shushing her gently.
“Was it around when we slept through the night?” Baze replied.
“Such luxury we took for granted.” He grabbed a hair tie from beside the bed and followed Baze out to the kitchen. “You’ll need this,” he said and held out the tie at Baze’s surprised grunt. Over the weeks, Saya had honed her grabbing skills, and Baze’s hair was her favorite target as was shoving a bit in her mouth to gum on. It kept her happy, and since Chirrut found it hilarious he encouraged it to Baze’s annoyance.
“Thank you,” said Baze, taking the tie and passing over Saya, who fisted one hand in his shirt and tugged.
He took a seat at the table to entertain her as Baze made their breakfast. He had long since run out of lullabies that first week and resorted to singing bawdy tavern songs, which would only work until she started understanding words and Baze would subsequently forbid it. He had a few months until that happened.
Baze handed over the bottle, and Chirrut propped her against his arm as she ate. The uncertainty of the first time had faded into familiarity, and while he still kept most of his attention on her, he did not miss the way Baze hesitated over them.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I have a job offer,” said Baze.
“Off planet?” he asked.
Saya turned away from the bottle and he set it aside. Baze passed over the rag, and Chirrut went about the business of burping her. He set her on his lap when done, passing her the small rattle Nawid gave them, which Saya promptly shoved in her mouth.
“We need the money,” said Baze.
“I know,” he said. They could not alone live off what he collected in his bowl, although the addition of Saya in the sling across his chest helped to bring in more coin. Food cost money, as did water, and Saya needed so much of both.
Baze brought over two plates, and when he reached for Saya Chirrut shook his head. She was happy on his lap, bony knees or no, and he, spiteful even now, did not wish Baze to draw comfort from her.
“You’re going to tell me I can’t come,” he said, and Baze sighed, such a heavy and sorrowful sound.
He feels too much, Saya Malbus said, and it was true. Baze was quiet and he was gruff, but Chirrut never made the mistake of thinking that made him uncaring. Baze cared more than anyone Chirrut had ever met, and Chirrut would protect him from the world if he could.
“Nawid can watch her,” Chirrut said, “or Florian.”
“Chirrut,” said Baze, gentle.
And Chirrut clicked his teeth closed against the words clawing up his throat. It was not just the two of them anymore.
That first time Baze accepted a contract, they had argued well into the night, and for all that Chirrut loved Baze no one could quite drive him to such anger as his stubborn bastard of a husband, a feeling that he was well aware Baze shared.
“You need someone to watch your back,” he had insisted.
“You belong on Jedha,” Baze snapped, which was true.
Chirrut could no more leave Jedha than he could ask Baze to recover his lost faith. They were what they were, obstinate and recalcitrant in turns, but he was no longer that foolish youth who kept score of who won their arguments. Sometimes you had to be the one to move.
“You are right,” said Chirrut, who could still hear the songs of the crystals down in their mines. “I belong on Jedha. But I belong with you more.”
And Baze had fallen silent, standing just out of reach, forcing Chirrut to wait with strained patience, until he had stepped forward and said, “I am not asking you to leave.”
“No,” said Chirrut, hand cupping Baze’s cheek. “I’m volunteering, as it were. Besides, you know I enjoy playing the helpless blind man.”
“You enjoy it far too much,” said Baze, and thus the matter was settled.
Everyone thought that it was Baze who followed Chirrut, but they were wrong. Where Baze went so did Chirrut. They were not meant to be alone.
“We have a daughter,” said Baze, and Chirrut felt Saya breathe under his hands, still happily chewing on the rattle. “She’s already lost one family. We cannot deprive her of a second.”
“You will come back in one piece,” he said, listening as Baze knelt before him. “And I expect a nice present for both of us. Isn’t that right, Saya? You want your father to bring you back a toy from whatever planet he’s breaking the law on.”
“She gets a present,” Baze said, voice thick, “but not you. You’re already spoiled.”
Chirrut cupped Baze’s cheek, smoothing his thumb under Baze’s eye. “You have only yourself to blame,” he said.
“Yes, I suppose I do,” Baze murmured, and pressed a kiss to Chirrut’s palm before scooping up Saya to her delight.
“How long will you be gone?” Chirrut asked.
“Not long. Six days, maybe less.”
No, not long. He and Saya would manage until Baze returned to them.
The old masters always warned him about hubris, Chirrut reflected, as Saya’s outraged screams echoed through the room. Normally he would be impressed by her well developed lung capacity, but she had been at it for hours with no sign of subsiding, and he had given into the headache throbbing between his eyes.
Baze had said goodbye late that morning. They had spent the early hours in bed, Saya dozing in Baze’s arms while Chirrut had braided his hair, wrapping the leather into place.
“There,” he said softly when he was done. “You are a very intimidating sight.”
“Your blind jokes stopped being funny years ago,” Baze said flatly, tilting his head to the side as Chirrut pressed his lips, soft and reverent, to the divot behind his ear.
Baze had kissed them both, Chirrut and then Saya, and then had turned and left, steps heavy with the weight of his blaster strapped to his back. And then it was just him and Saya, alone.
She had not been bothered, used to one of them leaving during the day, but as the afternoon faded to evening she had kept turning towards the door, chatter turning angry when Baze failed to step through.
“He’ll be back,” Chirrut said as she fussed and struggled against his grip. “It won’t be long.”
He was never clear what finally set her off, but as sunset approached, she drew in such a great breath for so small a body and shrieked. She thrashed in his arms, angry fists beating against his chest. Chirrut had tried to put her down only once, and she had screamed even louder, clinging desperately to his robes, and so he had settled her in the sling and begun the first of many loops through their rooms.
She was, for the most part, content to be held by either him or Baze, happy as long as someone was paying attention for her. But there were days when only Baze would do, and no amount of Chirrut singing the bawdiest songs he could remember would do.
She would cry until Baze would lift her in his large hands and say, “Why are we screaming off Chirrut’s ears? How has the world wronged you?”
It didn’t bother him, for Baze was his favorite as well, but Chirrut had not thought what he would do if Baze was not there to soothe away her fear and anger. It never occurred to him that Baze’s absence itself was how the world had wronged her.
“I know,” he said as she wailed, face flushed and hot. Her scales were raised in an angry line which he was trying not to take personally. He thought they must be the color of a bruise. “I miss him, too. If I thought screaming would bring him back faster I would join you.”
That did no good, and so he resigned himself to a sleepless night. Around dawn her screams tapered to cries and then to sniffles, and then finally she sighed, eyes closed as her body went soft and loose against him.
He kept her close as he slept, one hand on her chest, feeling her lungs expand with each breath. In the morning, she cried when Baze failed to appear, refusing her breakfast, throwing away any toy he tried to distract her with until, once more, she settled into exhaustion, dozing fitfully through the afternoon and evening.
The third day she sulked, deigning to eat only to spit up half of it over him.
“Well,” he said, setting her in the crib as he stripped, “do you feel better at least?”
She sniffed, which Chirrut took as a no. The air in the room was thick and sour, and Chirrut thought if he had to spend one more day within the same walls he would join Saya in her frustrated crying.
“Shall we go to the market?” he asked, smoothing his robes in place and securing his echo box. “You and I like to people watch. Well, you do the actual watching. I prefer to listen.” Saya hummed, the sound muffled, which meant she found something to put in her mouth. “I will take that as agreement,” he said.
He pulled the loth cat doll from her mouth and tucked her favorite fuzzy hat over her head. The winds were particularly cruel as Jedha swung towards it wet season, and his nights were filled with prayers that Saya would not fall to the fever that stole so many.
Saya safe in her sling and staff in hand, Chirrut stepped out onto the streets he had walked for his entire life. Before he dedicated his life to the temple and the Force, long before he bound himself to Baze and Baze to him, Chirrut walked NiJedha’s streets secure in the knowledge that they held nothing as terrible as him.
“One day,” he said, turning north, “when you learn to walk and then to run, I will show you the city as I see it. I will teach you to listen to its words and how to recognize where you are through the soles of your feet so you will never be lost. This is our home, and I would have you fear nothing in it.”
Stormtroopers had a distinctive gait, a heavy tread that sought to intimidate and mask their own uncertainty. Chirrut stepped into shadow, one hand cupped protectively around his daughter’s head as they passed and said, “Not even them.”
Saya was quiet as they continued on, and Chirrut, for all that he was once a guardian, never did well with silence. “Baze wishes you will not take after me in some things. I don’t blame him. I am not the easiest person to love, but I hope it will be many years before you realize that.”
She made an interested sound, and Chirrut tapped his staff against the stones. They were in one of the smaller squares that dotted the city, and it was the slow, sorrowful notes of a flute that had drawn Saya’s interest. He obediently paused, letting the music weave over and above them. If it were another day, he would perhaps set out his bowl nearby, enticing those who paused to listen to have their fortune told or just to show off his beautiful daughter.
But Saya snorted, so reminiscent of Baze, as one song blended into another, and so Chirrut moved on.
“Baze will teach you many things,” Chirrut continued, stepping around an exasperated mother and her own children. “He will teach you how to be kind and compassionate in such a cruel world. He will also teach you to use a blaster. I suppose that leaves the actual fighting tutelage to me.”
He caught the doll when she threw it, which was such a great trick that when he returned it she did it again, laughing as he plucked it from the air.
“But mostly,” Chirrut said as they reached the market, “he will love you, and he doesn’t know how to love less than fully and completely. It terrifies me sometimes, how deeply he cares. If I was a better man perhaps I would have sent him away all those years ago and let him find someone who was more careful with his heart. But lucky for us both I am what I am, and so we must bear the weight of his love.”
Saya squirmed and grumbled, and Chirrut unwound her from the sling, balancing her against his shoulder so she could look around. She always got quiet when something caught her interest, and Baze described how her eyes grew wide and awed.
“Where to, my love?” he asked, and when her head turned in the direction of jingling bells, Chirrut followed her cue and chased the sound.
He spent the next hour taking a winding path through the market, pausing whenever Saya made an excited noise, moving on when she hit him in the ear with the doll. It was a pleasant way to spend the day, enough so that he almost forgot that Baze had stepped off Jedha entirely.
When Saya yawned, doll slipping from her lax grip, Chirrut placed her back in the sling. He bought two teas and a juice and made his way to Nawid’s stall. She did most of her business in the morning or evening, selling bits of metal and machinery, a profitable business in a city as old as NiJedha where anything new was a rare commodity.
“You look terrible,” Nawid said, taking the drinks from his hand. “Hey, kid, you keeping him up at night?” Saya sneezed. “Get in before you catch a cold.”
Inside was hardly warmer, but at least it dulled the sharp bite of the wind, and Chirrut sat on the stool Nawid just happened to keep for such a purpose.
“Where’s your better half?” she asked. “I almost never see you apart.”
“He has a job.” He placed Saya on his lap and offered the juice, which she made a pleased noise over. She was going to be horribly spoiled.
“Off planet?” He nodded, and she said, “Well, that explains why you both look so miserable.”
“It’s been a trying experience for us both,” he agreed, setting the juice aside when Saya sighed, the signal she was done for now.
Nawid stirred her tea and said, “What do you need?”
“You are very perceptive. What have you heard?”
There was pause, and Chirrut listened to the quiet sounds of Nawid shifting, and he assumed she was looking at Saya sitting in his lap, gnawing on the doll’s ear.
“Did you think we would stop because of her?” Chirrut asked.
“You have a child,” she said. “This isn’t just about you and Baze anymore.”
Chirrut thought of the Imperials gutting the temple, of those disappeared in the night, the prison ships moving heavy and sluggish in the sky.
“I will not have her grow up under the Empire’s boot,” he said. “I will have her free and safe, one way or another.”
“I think she would rather have both her parents alive,” said Nawid.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Baze and I are very stubborn. We have no plans to leave her just yet.” He ran his thumb over Saya’s cheek, smiling as she swatted at him. “I have family off planet, cousins, an aunt or two. If it gets worse, will you take—”
“Yes,” said Nawid. “You know I will.”
“Thank you. Now, Mistress Nawid, what have you heard?”
In the end, there was nothing that Chirrut had not already gleaned from listening to the street, and when Saya’s fussing changed from bored to grumpy, he tucked her back in the sling and said goodbye to Nawid and took the short route home.
Saya fell asleep easily after her dinner, and Chirrut wrapped her in the blue blanket, laying her in the crib before preparing his own meal, turning over the conversation with Nawid in his mind.
The Force, the old masters said, was just but not kind, and Chirrut feared that one day he would be required to leave his daughter to fulfill his purpose. Baze would never forgive him, he knew, and that was fair for Chirrut would never be able to forgive himself.
But as Saya woke with a wail, Chirrut knew that decision was years away, if it came at all, and so he turned his attention to what was most important, which was trying to calm his daughter who was angry that her favorite father had yet to return.
“Shall I tell you a story?” said Chirrut, once more walking from room to room, almost fully deaf in his left ear. “What would you like to hear? Something about monsters and heroes or how the sun loves the moon? Or perhaps of how the kyber crystals were first created?”
Saya cried louder, and so he considered all the stories he knew, and said, “I have the perfect one. Many years ago, much longer than you’ve been alive, I came to the Temple of the Whills. I was young and blind and angry, and my family thought that the Force and the guardians could give me patience and purpose where they could not.
“Alas, they underestimated my stubbornness, and I tried the patience of even the most revered of our order. There was a joke that if one wanted to truly test their commitment than they would spend an hour locked in a room answering my questions. I may have broken some spirits back then.”
He rocked her gently, which seemed to only anger her further, and he thought that the old masters must be having a great laugh at his expense.
“I eventually grew into myself and managed to carve out some peace, but I was far from what an ideal acolyte should be. I was still too headstrong and argumentative and, as you know, I never did learn to appreciate the silence. I was grateful to the temple for feeding me and sheltering me, but there were a great many things I would rather be doing than saying prayers and trying to get anything to grow in this terrible soil.
“But then I was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal when I heard this laugh. It was ridiculous and ugly and very undignified, and I knew I could not leave until I had learned everything about a person who was so full of joy.
“If Khasa were here, she would tell you how I sprinted from the kitchen, tripping over my own legs like a newborn eopie. I ran right into him, spilling his food everywhere, and I said, ‘My apologies, I’m afraid I didn’t see you there.’ Baze will never admit it, but he appreciates a good blind joke.”
Her cries were interrupted by the odd hiccup, which meant soon she would fall back asleep, exhausted, and with any luck he would have an hour or two of uninterrupted rest before she remembered how wronged she had been.
“We have been together ever since,” he continued. “And his laugh is just as terrible now as when we were children and I love it even more.” He bent his head towards her and said softly, “Do you know it was the same with you? You laughed and I was lost.”
The hiccups gave way to sniffles, and Chirrut made himself comfortable on the bed, carefully arranging Saya over his chest so her head was tucked beneath his chin.
“I know that there will come a day when you doubt these words,” he said, gently rubbing her back until her breaths evened out, “but everything I do is to make a better world for you to live in.”
That was how Baze found them in the morning, Saya asleep on his chest, his hand anchoring her over his heart. He jerked awake when he felt her being lifted, going for the small blaster they kept tucked under the mattress.
“It’s only me,” Baze said.
Saya snuffled and then gave a happy shriek. Baze laughed, fond and still undignified, and even now Chirrut wanted to run to him.
“I believe this is the first time I have ever snuck up on you,” Baze said over Saya’s loud scolding.
“That is because your daughter has deafened me,” said Chirrut, wiping drool from his shirt.
“What must that feel like,” Baze said, “having someone incessantly making noise when all you want is to sleep?”
Chirrut threw Saya’s doll at his head, smiling at Baze’s surprised grunt when it made impact. Saya laughed again, finding the entire thing a game designed solely for her entertainment.
“What a welcome I get from my husband,” said Baze. “Perhaps I shall leave again until you learn to properly miss me.”
“If you think it will help,” Chirrut said, although the quick way he climbed from the bed to get his hands on Baze belied the truth behind his words. “Saya and I barely noticed you were gone.”
“You didn’t miss me at all?” said Baze, touching the dip below Chirrut’s bottom lip.
Chirrut shivered. “Your daughter missed you. I enjoyed having the bed to myself.”
“Liar,” said Baze, and kissed him all slow and sweet until Chirrut’s entire body hummed from it.
“I might have missed this,” he admitted, and pressed his mouth to Baze’s throat. When he felt Baze swallow, he added, “Now go entertain our daughter while I sleep for the next week.”
As he fell back into bed to do just that, he heard Baze say, “I take it by his dramatics you gave him a hard time?” and smiled.
Baze did not accept another contract off planet despite Chirrut’s assurances that he and Saya managed perfectly fine and had barely noticed his absence. “Perhaps I did not manage so well,” said Baze, and Chirrut left it alone.
He had his own offers, more rare than Baze but not unheard of; a penitent blind man could go places hired men could not. He accepted a job that took him outside of NiJedha for two days of hard travel, and when he returned, windswept and covered in red dust, it was to Baze shoving Saya into his arms and saying, “She wouldn’t stop screaming.”
“Oh,” he said dumbly as she scolded him. “You missed me?”
“How did I marry such a stupid man?” said Baze, and kissed his mouth. “Of course she missed you. We both did.”
Saya grew, and they introduced her to soft foods, which she liked if no other reason than it gave her a new game of how much of it she could rub in his and Baze’s hair. The answer was quite a bit.
“I am a master of zama-shiwo,” Chirrut said, scrapping a bit of pureed vegetable from his cheek, “and yet somehow she keeps getting past my defenses.”
“Please just eat this,” Baze begged her, and Chirrut didn’t even need sight to know that Baze caught the resulting spoonful right in the face.
Her growth put to rest the quiet worry that she would remain so small and vulnerable. All too soon her clothes no longer fit, and he and Baze bought what fabric they could and proceeded to stretch their meager sewing skills to the limit.
“How does she look?” Chirrut asked, buttoning Saya into the sweater they had, after several false starts and choice words, managed to cobble together.
“Well,” said Baze, “by the time she is older and cares about such things we will hopefully have improved.”
“That bad?” he said, and tickled Saya’s sides until she shrieked with laughter, hands opening and closing against his cheeks.
Mostly the days were good, Saya a cheerful baby whose babbling was growing ever closer to words. She had advanced to crawling, and much of their time was spent chasing her and making sure anything sharp was out of reach, although Chirrut was sure she took that as a personal challenge.
“I thought this was the will of the Force,” Baze said as Chirrut once more snatched her when she tried to scale the cupboards lining their small kitchen. “Does the Force not want our daughter to learn perseverance?”
Chirrut was too busy trying to hold onto a squirming baby to do more than direct a distracted glare at Baze. “Why are you doing this to me?” he asked her, finally getting a good grip on her middle and taking her to the crib which she had come to hate with a fervent passion.
“If only the old masters could see you now,” said Baze, who was taking far too much joy from Chirrut’s struggles. “Their revenge has finally come to pass.”
But then there were the bad days when Imperial ships cast long shadows over the city and it became necessary to leave Saya with Nawid. They pressed kisses to the crown of her head, the scales of her cheek, and they went and did what they must, ash heavy on their tongues and grief thick in their throats.
But as Chirrut had said, he and Baze were very stubborn, and they always returned to her.
“One day,” Nawid said as they held Saya close, “you will have to choose.”
“I know,” Chirrut said because the Force was just but not kind, “but we do not have to make that choice today.”
And then Chirrut’s worst fears came to pass when he wok to the terrible sound of their daughter vomiting in her crib. He was always faster than Baze, climbing over him in his haste, nearly weeping at how her forehead burned at the first touch.
“What is it?” said Baze, reaching to take her.
“Fever,” said Chirrut, pressing the back of his hand to her flushed cheek, scales rough and dry against his skin.
“Draw a bath,” said Baze. “We need to bring her temperature down.”
They placed her in the cool water, and she thrashed and cried, and Baze said, “I know, my love, I know. It will help, I promise.”
Chirrut poured palmfuls of water over her brow, his other hand cupped to shield her eyes. He remembered this, feeling as if there were coals stitched under his skin burning through his muscles and bones.
They wrapped her in a soft towel and tried to feed her a bottle. She drank a fourth of it and then vomited it up again. Too sick to even cry, she nuzzled into Baze’s chest.
“What does she look like?” Chirrut asked.
“Flushed,” said Baze. “Unhappy. Her scales have lost their shine.”
They wrapped her in blankets and brought her to an old Rodian who had served as a medic in the Clone Wars. She took Saya from them, humming thoughtfully.
“She’s checking Saya’s eyes,” Baze murmured. “Now her glands. Palpating her stomach.”
Chirrut listened to Saya’s whimpers and bit off cries, hands clenched tight around his staff, old prayers from the temple filling his head so no other thought could find purchase.
“Is it the fever?” Baze asked when the Rodian read off Saya’s temperature, far too high but not deadly, not yet.
“It’s a fever,” she said, “but not the one you fear.”
Chirrut felt her gaze settle on him and his useless, dead eyes.
“You had it as a child, didn’t you?” she said.
“Yes,” he said, Baze radiating tension.
“Many suffer when the seasons change,” she said, and placed bottles of salve and powders in their hands with strict instructions on how to prepare them. “If it does not break in five days return and I will see what can be done.”
Jedha was old, and even before the occupation it was hard to get the necessary medicine this far from the core, but now it was near impossible. Perhaps if they lived even on a mid rim world Saya would already be recovered, the memory of the illness weak and fading.
But their home was Jedha, and Chirrut would have leveled what remained of the temple himself if it meant she would live.
They took turns holding her through the day and the night. Every few hours they would mix the powder with her formula, coaxing her to eat. She managed to keep some of it down, the rest ending up on their shirt fronts.
Their water was low, and so Chirrut went out and begged extra. Nawid handed hers over without protest. She had lost friends to the fever, Chirrut remembered, in that first year the Empire took the holy city. Those that did not fall to blaster fire succumbed to the disease that had swept through the streets. He had feared for Baze, who had not spoken for months. But of course it was not the fever that almost stole his husband away.
On the third day, when her fever had only worsened and she could not manage even the distressed whimpers as she lay exhausted in their arms, Chirrut prayed without stopping, the old holy words tumbling ceaselessly from his lips until his throat ran dry and his voice cracked, and even then he kept to his vigil until Baze pulled him away.
“You need to rest,” he said, pressing water into his hands. “Drink.”
Chirrut shook his head, unfolding from where he knelt to touch Saya’s brow before beginning again. Once the great hall of the temple echoed with the voices of his brothers and sisters, the crystals singing underneath. Now there was only him bent over his daughter.
“Chirrut, stop,” Baze said, pulling him away. “It’s just words! Do you think words will cure her? Do you think you can pray this fever away? This is not some sickness of the spirit. It is real!”
“You think I don’t know that,” he snapped, wrenching Baze’s hand from his arm. “I am well aware of what this illness can take!”
There was no sound but Baze’s pained exhale. “You do not speak of your vision loss,” he finally said.
“It can’t be undone,” he answered, checking to see if their shouting had disturbed Saya. “It’s not something I like to dwell on.”
Baze gently touched his wrist and Chirrut flinched away, trying to breathe through the useless anger he hadn’t felt in years.
“You’ve only said you were young,” said Baze, and if he was hurt by Chirrut’s rejection he kept it from his voice. “You say you remember colors, the shape of things, but you’ve never said how old you were.”
Saya slept on, and so he said, “Eight, I think. Ten, maybe. I was a sickly child, and I don’t remember much from before the fever came upon me. It didn’t happen fast, at first, just a blackening around the edges.”
“And then?” said Baze.
“And then it was gone in a matter of hours.” He had screamed for his mother, his sisters, the panic gripping him so hard that he couldn’t breathe. It was lucky, the healers said, that it was just his eyes. He should have died, the fever boiling his brain in his skull.
“I am sorry,” said Baze.
“I don’t mourn it,” he said, that anger sparking just under his skin. “You know I don’t. And I don’t need—”
“You don’t need to see to feel the Force,” Baze interrupted, irritated and fond. “Yes, I am well aware of that. May I?”
Chirrut hesitated a moment before nodding, allowing Baze to slide one rough hand through the short hair at the base of his skull, thumb stroking along his jaw.
“I am sorry,” Baze repeated. “My words were thoughtless and meant to pain you.”
When he was young and learning how to live with the darkness, before the Force found him and brought him to Baze, Chirrut could not see the difference between compassion and pity. Blind he may be but helpless he was not. It would take years before he learned there was a difference between being powerless and accepting help from those who loved him.
“I am afraid,” Chirrut said. “What if the fever worsens? What if it doesn’t break?” He turned his cheek into Baze’s palm. “What if she ends up like me?”
“Chirrut,” said Baze, ducking his head to press their foreheads together. “If she is like you that means she will be headstrong and stubborn and will never learn to keep her mouth shut.”
“Don’t,” he said, too weary for the familiar teasing.
“But,” Baze said, “she will be wise and brave and loyal and kind. She is going to have the best parts of us and she will make us proud.”
He swallowed, and said, “You are a good man, Baze Malbus, and I did well to marry you.”
“Yes, you did.” He kissed the corner of Chirrut’s mouth, the swell of his bottom lip. “And our daughter will inherit your heart of kyber.”
Chirrut shook his head, because it was Baze who shone so bright that even Chirrut with his useless eyes could see him. Saya would burn as Baze did, endless and brilliant, and it was Chirrut who would keep them safe.
Saya’s fever broke on the eve of the fourth day when he and Baze had slid into an uneasy sleep. When her babbling did not get their attention fast enough, she reverted to the tried and true method of screaming, which quickly turned to laughter as they fell out of bed in their hurry to reach her.
“Oh,” said Chirrut, hands shaking as he touched the cool, soft scales along her cheeks. “Baze, tell me, what does she look like?”
“Her coloring is normal,” said Baze, touching Saya’s curls and the curve of her skull. “Her scales are a bright blue, like the feathers of the bird that Khasa charmed.”
“Do you remember the soil that Master Jyn brought in for the tree that grew in the center of the garden? It was dark and rich and meant to grow life. That’s the color of her eyes. She will grow great things.”
“Yes,” said Chirrut, letting the weight of the words settle on him, as certain of that as he was that he belonged to Baze and Baze to him.
“You helped her when I could not,” said Baze, shushing Chirrut’s protest. “I cannot believe in the old ways. You know this.”
“I do,” said Chirrut. He did not like to think of those first years when they carved out their survival from a city turned alien, how close he and Baze had come to losing each other, their grief so large and encompassing it seemed impossible to ford it. “You know I love you.”
“I’ve always known that,” said Baze. Saya hummed happily between them, and Chirrut let his hand be caught in her small grip. “My faith in you has never wavered.”
“Nor mine in you,” he said, an echo of their wedding vows made what seemed like a lifetime ago. “We are here now, you and me and our daughter, and I would have it always be so.”
“I would have that as well,” said Baze, and with Saya cradled between them they held each other as the morning light chased away any lingering sickness.
As if to make amends for the fever, Saya grew fast and strong, and one morning, as Baze tried to entice her to her breakfast she said, in such an offended tone, “No.”
“Was that a word?” Chirrut asked, turning from the stove.
“Yes,” said Baze. “Saya, what did you say?”
“No,” she repeated, and then laughed when Baze did. “No, no, no!”
“I feel this does not bode well for her adolescent years,” said Chirrut, but Baze was too busy praising her to bother responding.
No was her favorite word, which Baze blamed on Chirrut, which he felt was quite unfair.
“My mistake,” Baze said. “You don’t say no. You just refuse to listen to sensible advice and continue your reckless ways.”
“I'm glad you recognize the difference,” he said, and serenely dodged the soiled rag Baze threw at his face.
Her second word was up, her third kitty, which applied to anything that was not him or Baze, but her fourth word was papa, and Chirrut had blown elated kisses against her stomach as Baze had said, stunned, “That’s us.”
They were both papa and they quickly developed the talent of telling which one she wanted.
“How?” Nawid demanded. “Kid, that is not a toy. Put it back.”
“It’s actually quite easy,” said Chirrut, plucking a bit of machinery from Saya’s hand and returning it to Nawid’s workbench. “You just have to listen closely, that’s all.”
“He’s actually right, for once,” said Baze. “It’s all in the intonation.”
“It’s much harder to tell if you’re having me on than your terrible husband,” she said to Baze, and then let loose a mock outraged sound when Chirrut darted in to press a kiss to her cheek, dancing away before she could do more than swat half-heartedly at him.
And then, as Chirrut was reciting his evening prayers that night, Baze said, “Chirrut, come here.”
He went, fingers brushing Baze’s shoulder where he was kneeling. “What is it?”
“She’s trying to walk,” he said. “She’s pulled herself up. Saya, love, over here. Careful now.”
It would be easy to give in to the sorrow and the anger that he would not witness his daughter’s first steps, but this was a joyous occasion that had no place for self-pity. He knelt next to Baze and thanked the old masters for teaching him that there were other ways of seeing.
He listened as Saya raised one leg, uncertain, feeling the vibration as she placed it firmly down before lifting the other and repeating the process.
“She’s scowling as if the floor has personally insulted her,” said Baze.
“Ah, so she takes after you,” said Chirrut.
He was sure Baze had some sort of reply, but it was lost as Saya gained momentum, teetering towards them. Before she could overbalance and tip herself over, Baze grabbed her around the middle, lifting her into the air to her happy squeals.
“You are a very clever girl,” said Baze, pressing kisses to her cheeks and belly. “Chirrut, isn’t our daughter the most clever girl?”
“In the whole universe,” he agreed, and tickled her sides.
A mobile Saya was a menace, and it was unclear who was more tired at the end of the day, her from running about or them from chasing after.
“Tell me,” said Chirrut, when they finally laid her down to sleep, “how do people manage more than one child at a time?”
“You’re just old,” said Baze, who was sprawled next to him and didn’t even roll away from the elbow Chirrut jabbed into his side. “Are you saying you don’t want another?”
He bit back his initial blithe answer. Baze was practically radiating indifference as if this was just another bit of their endless banter, but Chirrut knew the nature of Baze’s heart.
“No,” he said slowly, testing the truth in the words, “but I think it would be wise to wait until she was a bit older before we go looking.”
“In that case, you can find the next one. I’ve done my part already.”
“And what an admirable part it was.” He listened closely, but Saya was sound asleep in the next room. With a grin, he rolled over, swinging one leg over Baze’s hips and depositing himself neatly in Baze’s lap. “Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t try, does it?”
“Despite our best efforts, neither one of us can get pregnant,” Baze said as dry as the winter air even as his hands crept beneath Chirrut’s shirt.
“True.” He leaned down, nosing at the line of Baze’s neck. “But who says we can’t make the effort anyway?”
Baze rolled them over, and Chirrut grinned up at him, hitching one leg high on Baze’s hip. “Be quiet,” Baze said, “or you’ll wake her.”
They were very quiet and Saya slept through the night.
The wet season rolled in with clouds hanging low and ominous in the sky. Baze had been on edge all day, sniffing the air as if he could taste the coming rain, and perhaps he could. He always knew when one of Jedha’s torrential downpours was approaching, a skill that was particular to the Malbus family as Saya Malbus had been the same.
Their Saya may have inherited that talent, for she like Baze was restless and kept looking to the windows, waiting.
“Papa,” she said when the wind changed and even Chirrut could smell the approaching storm.
“You’re going to be as bad as him,” Chirrut said, making sure she had her boots on before Baze settled her on his hip and took her outside.
Chirrut followed slowly. In this he and Baze were different. He liked the rains for the water they brought and how, for just a moment, NiJedha was washed clean and new, but he did not feel the same uncomplicated joy in it that his husband did. Perhaps it came from living out in Jedha’s vast spaces where the rain nourished and coaxed life from the empty soil. Or perhaps this was something unique to Baze, who reveled in the taste of the storm on his tongue.
As the first fat drops fell, Baze said, “Take her.”
“Papa?” Saya said quietly, arms going around his neck as Chirrut stepped under the overhang as Baze walked out into the street
“It’s all right,” he said, hitching her closer. “What does she look like?”
“Her eyes are wide,” Baze answered. “She’s staring up at the clouds. Here it comes.”
As if it was just waiting for Baze’s announcement, the entire sky seemed to sigh as the rain poured forth. It was near deafening, and Chirrut had to take a moment to recenter himself to hear anything above the relentless drumming of the water on the street.
Saya gasped very softly in his ear, and Chirrut murmured quietly to her, “This is his favorite part.”
Baze laughed, honking and ridiculous, and Chirrut pictured how he looked, head tipped back, hair hanging like a pennant down his back, grinning up at the sky as he savored the moment.
“Papa!” Saya demanded, wriggling, and Chirrut obediently set her on her feet.
“Do you want to join me?” Baze said. “Careful, it’s slippery.”
Crouched under the hanging, Chirrut kept one hand close to her back as she determinedly stomped forward and into Baze’s waiting arms.
“I have her,” said Baze. “Well, what do you think?”
There was a long pause as if Saya was thinking hard about the answer. “Up,” she demanded. “Up!”
“You are like your great-grandmother,” said Baze. “She loved the rain.”
“Papa,” Saya called to him.
“One of us should try to avoid getting sick,” said Chirrut, knowing it was a lost cause.
“Papa!” she demanded, practically scolding.
“Chirrut,” said Baze, laughter weaving through his voice, and Chirrut was done for.
“Fine,” he said. “But when you’re congested and can’t breathe right for a week remember that I wanted to be sensible.”
“Oh, you’re pretending to be the responsible one now?” said Baze as Chirrut took a breath and stepped out and into the rain. It slicked his hair and crawled under the collar of his robes, shockingly warm given Jedha’s normal climate.
“One of us has to be,” he answered, moving slower than he liked. “It appears to be my turn.”
Baze held out a hand, and Chirrut took it, letting Baze reel him in. Saya patted his cheek, giggling when he caught her hand.
“Hello,” he said, and pressed a kiss to her palm, still so small when held against his own. “Are we having fun?”
Baze grunted, and Chirrut said, “Did she grab your hair?”
“She is getting very strong,” Baze said.
Chirrut gently disentangled her grip, wiping water from her cheeks, feeling the flex of her scales as she grinned. There were others joining them in the street now, some collecting water in pots and bowls, others basking in the relief as winter finally gave way.
Later, when the rain would stop as abruptly as it began, they would return to their home, leaving their wet clothes in tubs to dry. Chirrut would pull out soft blankets for them to wrap in as Baze made tea that was always just on this side of too sweet. They would sit down to their dinner of stew Baze had been attending diligently to throughout the day, and it would leave them warm and content. And then that night they would slip into bed, Saya nestled between them, having already learned how to use their soft hearts to get her way, and Chirrut would lay awake, listening to her and Baze breathe, knowing down to his bones that this was where he was meant to be.
But for now Chirrut stood with his family, their faces turned to the sky as the rain washed over them, fresh and sweet and clean.