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you only live a day (but it's brilliant anyway)

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The rook is far from a plodding piece, and the player that gets his or her rooks into the game most effectively often turns out to be the winner. In the history of chess, the rook developed from the chariot: It is both fast and strong and therefore of considerable value. Unfortunately, it begins the game tucked into a corner and usually has to wait for the other pieces to settle into their preferred squares before receiving any attention.

--Recognizing the Role of the Rook in Chess




It’s a bit of a mad scramble getting everything together for the supply run. Famed Imperial efficiency doesn’t mean shit if there’s nobody to do the checking off and clearing before takeoff. They can’t seem to keep people on Eadu, and for once it’s not because they keep getting shot by their higher-ups. It’s isolated, desolate; not exactly a place they highlight in the recruitment brochures.

Bodhi finally tracks somebody down who can sign off on the trip and makes his way towards the freighter. He’s already behind schedule and hopefully he can make the time up elsewhere.

“Pilot!” A voice calls out. It belongs to one of the researchers on the base, a tall, grave man he’s seen around but never spoken to. He’s holding up a flimsie, evidently lost in Bodhi’s haste.

He goes back and plucks it out of the other man’s hand. “Thanks mate. You probably saved my ass.”

Bodhi gets a low, rusty chuckle in response, like the researcher isn't used to laughing. Or he did, and for whatever reason, now does not.

“Then I have done one good thing here, and I am glad.” He puts out his hand. “Galen Erso.”

“Bodhi. Bodhi Rook.”

Galen’s handshake is warm, firm but not crushing. He holds on to Bodhi’s hand for a breath longer than would be polite. “It is lovely to make your acquaintance, Bodhi Rook. I will not keep you any longer, as you probably have important things to do.”

“Kind of, yeah. I’m going on a supply run. Gotta keep you fed and all that.”

“Then by all means.”

He looks back before he goes up the freighter ramp. Galen gives him a mocking salute, and Bodhi waves back. He checks the chrono and sighs. He’s going to be noticeably behind now, but he thinks it might have been worth it.

(“Galen. Galen Erso?” The man with the beard will say. The name means something, and it’s important, although in his stupor of trauma he won’t be able to figure out why.

He will have a memory: somebody calling him. Not his name though. Something else. It is enough to knock something loose, bring him back to the world.

“I’m the pilot.”)

--

It's a rare sunny day on Eadu, and thus everybody, from the lowliest maintenance tech to Krennic himself, is taking advantage of the weather. Bodhi and Galen are sitting out on a deck, poking at the mediocre canteen food. As a researcher, Galen could eat in the officers’ mess, but for whatever reason he prefers the one frequented by the rank and file. Bodhi wonders if he feels more anonymous in a larger crowd, or if he simply does not like the company in the other room. In any case, he has become a regular lunch companion.

Today Galen is quieter than usual, pensive even. Bodhi looks up from his slice of cake (whatever else he can say about the food, there is at least always dessert) to see Galen staring at him. To be precise, he is looking at Bodhi, but seeing something else.

“Something on your mind, mate?” It’s an opening, if he wants it to be.

Galen blinks, refocuses. "I had a daughter, many years ago. She would be about your age.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how hard it must be, losing a child.”

Galen makes a face. “Not like that, not quite. She is still alive, I know. I hope she is doing well, my Stardust.”

Lunch is over and Bodhi gets up. He places his hand on Galen’s shoulder, squeezes. He does not expect to feel Galen’s hand reach for his, curl his fingers under Bodhi’s palm.

“Thank you for indulging an old man. It is… difficult for me to speak of her.”

Bodhi presses his fingers against Galen’s. “You can talk to me about anything, you know that right?” It is a rather bold declaration to make, given their difference in station, but it seems like something Galen needs to hear. Bodhi does not get the sense that he has many friends on Eadu, or even people he is friendly with. It is a sad and lonely way to live.

Galen reaches up with his other hand, pats Bodhi’s. “That is a kind offer. I will keep it in mind.”

(He will see Jyn on the transport from Jedha, the same downturn to her mouth that speaks of a life that has been harder than anybody should have to endure, and he will know instantly.

Later, after Eadu, he will approach her, sitting in the corner of the transport. She will look shattered, and his heart will ache. For both of them.

“I didn’t know him well, but he loved you, more than he could say. I’m sorry.”

Her eyes will flick up to him, focus finally returning. “Will you tell me about him? Not right now, but later.”

“Of course. Anything you want to know.”)

--

Galen is smiling. It is surprising to Bodhi how much it transforms his face, makes him lighter in temperament and age. Then again, with a bottle of twenty year Chandrilan whiskey in front of you, generously poured, very little is terrible.

Bodhi is trying not to think about how much of his salary he’s drunk tonight, or how far the cost would go towards supporting his ma and sister. It’s not that Galen flaunts his wealth or status (he mostly seems indifferent to it); Bodhi has a hard time conceiving of a world where people could be unconcerned about such matters.

Bodhi tips the last of his glass into his mouth. Galen is watching him, eyes heavy-lidded, still smiling. There’s an ease here that suits him, and makes Bodhi wish Galen could be like this all the time. Less stressed. Maybe even happy.

He puts his glass down and reaches for the bottle at the same time Galen does. There is a bit of fumbling in their mutually inebriated state, and some genuine peril for the whiskey. They both agree it is probably better to leave it alone for now.

Bodhi shifts, stretches. “Guess I should be going, if the drinking’s done.”

“Stay, if you’d like.” Galen’s voice is casual, almost deliberately so. Bodhi knows there would be no consequence if he chose to leave, it’s not like that; but there is something underneath the forced nonchalance that makes him hesitate. Galen is lonely; Bodhi’s spent enough time around him to know that. There’s no harm in making someone feel less alone.

He leans in, pressing his mouth against Galen’s. He expected Galen to be a much more aggressive kisser, but he is pliant, open to Bodhi’s exploration and lead. He tastes like oaky sweet brightness, intoxicating in a way that has nothing to do with drink.

Finally Bodhi breaks away, both of them breathing hard. “How’s that for an answer?”

Galen chuckles, low and genuinely amused. “It is a start.”

(The monk and the fighter will bicker with the long ease of a couple that has had decades to carp about the things that annoy them. The barbs will be well-worn, affectionate, but put aside the instant a threat to the other arises. It is not that Bodhi wants what they have, but rather the possibility of such. That, and Galen, died on Eadu.)

--

“You’re from Jedha, correct?” Galen’s voice cuts through the quiet, even though it’s soft, meant to be audible only to someone close. His hand rests on Bodhi’s chest, a weight. Bodhi can’t decide if it’s comforting or something that pins him down, possibly both.

“Yeah.” He thinks about making a smart remark, something about a local boy from the sticks, dreaming of seeing the galaxy and getting stuck on a remote Imperial research base, but decides against it. It doesn’t seem right here, in this strange little cocoon he’s become quite fond of.

“What do you remember?” Galen’s voice is drowsy.

“You really want to hear about that?”

“Would I ask if I didn’t?” Galen seems genuinely surprised.

“Ma used to say I talked too much. Didn’t exactly encourage chattiness at the Academy either.” A small frown crosses Galen’s face at this, but he says nothing.

“I want to know,” he says, so Bodhi tells him about the narrow streets of NiJedha, bustling and full of life. He relates the best he can the smell of ful in the morning and dal at night, bread leavened and flat to accompany them. He describes pilgrim season before the Imperial presence on the moon, a sea of white robes streaked with travel dust.

Once he and his family went to a public blessing at the Temple of the Whills, and a beautifully serene acolyte pressed her thumb between his eyebrows, leaving a yellow-orange dot behind. The paste was made of the insides of crocuses that grew on the cold plains outside the city. As the first flowers to peek above the snow, they were a symbol of resiliency and renewal.

Galen is silent for so long Bodhi thinks he’s fallen asleep. He is staring at the ceiling, lost in thought. Bodhi nudges him, startling him out of his reverie.

He takes Bodhi’s hand and places a kiss in the palm. It is a fonder gesture, more intimate than he is used to from Galen.

“It is good to have memories of a place you are connected to, free from pain. I wish I could say the same for myself.”

Bodhi leans over him, kisses him soft and slow, relishing the hitch in Galen’s breath. “Then we make our own good memories to think about later.”

(On the escape out, he will watch a blind man listen to the destruction of their city, and press his face into his partner's shoulder, body shaking. Passing in the hallway, Baze will put his hand on Bodhi’s shoulder for just a second. They will understand this common loss, and he does not think it will help, but it does, if only a little bit.)

--

Galen has a plant in his quarters. The leaves are delicate spindly things, soft fronds that Galen brushes affectionately. Sometimes it has pink flowers. He dotes over it, watering precise amounts and giving it fertilizer developed specially by one of the botanists on-base. Bodhi laughs at how much he frets, and Galen ignores it.

"Did you know, I used to be a farmer?” Bodhi looks up at him, and cannot picture Galen toiling away in the dirt and mud. He smiles, self-deprecating. “It’s true. I was shit at it. But the crops grew despite my incompetence. Sometimes, things find a way, if it is what they are meant to do."

Bodhi does not think that Galen is talking just about farming anymore. There are whispers regarding Krennic’s displeasure at the slow progress on whatever Galen is working on. Bodhi’s been taken off supply runs to do freighter routes. Whatever materiel the project needs is running low, and the routes are casting out further and further. Something is coming to a tipping point soon, and Bodhi doesn’t want to be in its way when it blows up.

“How do they know what they’re supposed to do?”

Galen looks a little baffled by the question, like he’s never considered it before. “The Force, I suppose. Or something that keeps them up at night.”

He looks at Bodhi, searching. “If you knew something was wrong, would you do something about it?”

“I don’t know,” Bodhi says. It’s as honest an answer as he can give. He’s afraid of getting in trouble, of Krennic, the rumors of Darth Vader’s gruesome methods of punishment for failure. And yet, the scuttlebutt that filters through the techs and pilots that come from elsewhere is troubling. Arbitrary crackdowns, disappearances. The persecution of aliens and tacit Imperial support of xenophobic sentiment.

Galen claps him on the shoulder. “I have come to know you, Bodhi Rook. I think you may surprise yourself.”

(On Yavin 4, he will see a flower growing in a crack in the duracrete. It seems undaunted by or ignorant of its hostile environment. He will mull over the meeting he just attended, frustrated by the Alliance’s inability to support a clear-cut course of action. He has seen what the planet-killer weapon can do, and would not wish that on anyone’s home.

Cassian and K2 will pass him, trailed by Baze and Chirrut.

“Where are you going?”

Cassian will grin, the way a wolf bares its teeth. “We’re going to steal a schematic. Are you coming?”

“Absolutely. Count me in.”)

--

There is a frantic knocking at Bodhi’s door. Grumbling, he pulls on his pants. It’s the dead of night, so it had better be important.

Galen is standing there, wild-eyed and in disarray. He looks like he’s come straight from his lab.

“I need your help.”

“Of course, but--”

Galen presses a finger to Bodhi’s lips. “No time. Just listen.” A small drive is pressed into his hand. “Get this to Saw Gerrera. He’ll know what to do.”

“I don’t even have a ship, how--”

Galen puts his hand to Bodhi’s cheek. “I know you can do this. You need to do this.” Galen rarely asks for things, and never like this.

“All right. I will.”

Bodhi finds himself kissed, rough and desperate. There is too much finality in it, so much that it threatens to overwhelm, but when is he going to get another chance? He gives as good as he gets, trying to convey every bit of feeling at once. When Galen breaks away, he pushes Bodhi in the direction of the hangar. “Go. You don’t have much time.”

Bodhi does not look back. He tells himself it is because he needs to move quickly. If he thinks that enough, maybe he’ll believe it.

(He will heave the last connection into place on board the shuttle, and relay instructions to the Admiral. He will finally understand what Galen meant about surprising himself.

I did it. We did it.

He will see the grenade. He will be frightened at first, but he will close his eyes.

It's all right.

Wait for me. I’ll be there soon.)