"To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead." - Bertrand Russell
Chirrut would be the first to admit his son wasn’t perfect. He was forgetful, never cleaned his room, and was often late, especially for things he didn’t want to do.
But he also washed the dishes without being asked, walked Kyber whenever Chirrut didn’t have time, and was always home before curfew.
So when the school called and told him Bodhi had been in a fight, Chirrut found it hard to believe.
The administrator sounded apologetic. “Neither of them is talking, unfortunately. But we found them in the library and they’d done several thousand dollars worth of damage, to say nothing of what they did to each other.”
Chirrut gulped. He didn’t have that kind of money lying around.
“I’ll be right there.”
He whistled for Kyber and got her harness on in record time, murmuring to her as she wriggled and tried to lick his hands.
“Time to work,” he said when he straightened, and Kyber snapped into service dog mode, a step ahead and to his right as they left Chirrut’s studio and he locked the door behind him.
They walked briskly across the square to the bus stop and stopped to wait under the canopy. The sun was warm on Chirrut’s face, a soft breeze ruffling his hair, but he was in no mood to appreciate the balmy spring weather.
“Hey,” a small voice said from his right. “Hey mister, hey.”
Chirrut turned his head toward the voice and smiled. “Yes?”
“Can I pet your dog?” The speaker sounded young, and Chirrut winced.
“Thank you for asking, and I’m sorry, but she’s working.”
“But she’s just sitting there!”
An older woman spoke up. “She’s a guide dog, honey. See the harness? Can you read what it says?”
The little girl spoke hesitantly. “‘I am working… please do not… pet me.’ But why not?”
“She’s my eyes,” Chirrut told her gently. “If she’s distracted, then she can’t tell me what I need to see.”
“But how does she tell you?” she persisted. “She’s a dog, she can’t talk.”
The bus pulled up, cutting off Chirrut’s answer.
“I’ll explain it to her,” the little girl’s companion told him. “Thank you for your patience.”
Chirrut smiled and inclined his head, gesturing for them to precede him onboard. He took his customary seat at the far end of the vehicle and Kyber planted herself between his feet as he sat, ramrod straight, and pulled out his cellphone. He put in one earbud and thumbed Siri on.
“Play last message from Bodhi.”
Bodhi’s voice spoke in his ear, low and husky and tight with worry. “Dad, I’m alright. It was just a stupid mix up, I’m sorry about the library but you should have heard the things she was saying—hey!” His voice went faint, as if the phone had been plucked from his hand.
There was a click, and Chirrut firmed his mouth and silently willed the bus driver to go faster.
It didn’t take very long to get to the school, only a few miles from Chirrut’s parlor, and soon enough, he was making his way down the aisle and off the bus. He stopped to orient himself. It was mid-afternoon, the sun on his left as it sank toward the horizon, which meant that the school entrance was directly ahead of him.
He strode briskly down the sidewalk and up the steps to the front door, Kyber staying close, and felt at the wall for the button. It took a minute of cursing before he found and pressed it, hearing the buzz from within before the doors unlocked and slid open.
Inside, he counted his steps. Seven, then the administrator’s office on the left.
“Mr. Îmwe, thank you for coming,” the principal said in her cool voice. “Bodhi and Jyn are in my office, we’re just waiting on Jyn’s father to arrive.”
Chirrut followed Mon Mothma through the door she was holding and into her inner sanctum. Bodhi scrambled to his feet as Chirrut entered the room.
Chirrut let go of Kyber’s harness and reached for him, gripping shoulders that were still too thin—when was he going to hit another growth spurt? Bodhi was trembling slightly, a symptom of his anxiety that he usually managed to keep hidden. Chirrut tightened his grip.
“Are you alright?” He touched Bodhi’s face without waiting for an answer, hissing through his teeth as he felt a swelling around Bodhi’s left eye, blood streaking his cheek in drying flakes, and a split lip. “Who did this?” he demanded.
Bodhi caught his sleeve. “Don’t get mad, please.”
Chirrut cupped the uninjured side of his face briefly. “I’m not mad, I just want to know what happened.”
Mon Mothma cleared her throat. “Please, have a seat, Mr. Îmwe. Mr. Malbus should be here any minute and then we can sort out the particulars.”
“Chairs are behind me,” Bodhi said. “Two against the wall.”
Chirrut sat down and Bodhi settled beside him as Kyber planted herself between Chirrut’s feet again.
“Jyn is in the chair on the other side of the office,” Bodhi said in a low voice.
“Is that who did this?” Chirrut asked. He lifted his head, turning to try and get a sense for the girl who’d been silent up until now, but the door slammed open, interrupting him.
“What the fuck is going on here?” The speaker was male, his voice deep and rumbly with poorly suppressed anger and vibrating from what sounded like a cavernous chest. “Jyn? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Papa,” a girl said. Her voice was low, but full of banked anger, taut with fury.
“Mr. Malbus, thank you for joining us,” Mon Mothma said, cool as ever. “Please take a seat so we can talk about this like rational adults.”
“Did this boy hit you?” Malbus demanded, and Chirrut tensed.
“Please,” Mon Mothma said, voice sharpening. “Sit. Down.”
There was silence, and then rustling as Jyn and her father sank into the chairs on the opposite side of the room.
“Now,” Mon Mothma said, “Baze Malbus, I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Chirrut Îmwe. He’s Bodhi’s father.”
Baze grunted something and Chirrut just nodded briefly.
Papers on Mon Mothma’s desk rustled. “As I understand it, Jyn and Bodhi were both studying in the library when Bodhi overheard Jyn saying something that he took offense to.”
“It was sexist and racist,” Bodhi said.
“Be that as it may, from what I’ve pieced together, Bodhi approached Jyn and… rather forcefully requested she retract her statements.”
“He told me to take it back or he’d shove the definition of ‘politically correct’ down my throat,” Jyn snapped.
Chirrut’s eyebrows went up and beside him, Bodhi shifted his weight.
Mon Mothma cleared her throat. “The school takes a very dim view on fighting. You will both have to be punished.”
Outrage was thick in Baze’s deep voice when he spoke. “His son started it, why is Jyn being punished?”
Chirrut bristled. “All my son did was ask her to retract statements that were offensive and untrue. Your daughter refused and turned this into a brawl.”
Baze shot to his feet. “My daughter’s a good girl,” he snarled.
Chirrut leaned back, arching an eyebrow. “Which is why she’s saying offensive shit and fighting in the library.”
“Fuck you!” Baze snapped.
“Mr. Malbus, sit down,” Mon Mothma said, her voice steely. Fabric shifted as Baze slowly sat back in his chair. “I see where your daughter gets her temper,” Mon Mothma continued, sounding suddenly tired. “I suggest you teach her how to control it, or she’ll be facing much harsher disciplinary action in the future. For now, both teens are suspended for two weeks, and Bodhi and Jyn clean up the mess they made in the library and apologize to the librarian, who didn’t ask for any of this.”
“You can’t do that!”
“But I have finals!”
“What about the field trip?”
Mon Mothma said nothing, waiting for everyone to stop talking before she spoke again. “The alternative is this—” She paused. “They clean up the mess in the library, and Mr. Îmwe, you and Mr. Malbus accompany them on their field trip next week as chaperones.”
“You have got to be joking,” Chirrut said, disbelieving. “I have work! I can’t just go haring off to DC for a week!”
“Be that as it may,” Mon Mothma said. “Those are my terms. Two weeks’ suspension and miss the field trip completely, or both of you go along.”
Bodhi put a hand on Chirrut’s arm. “Dad….”
Chirrut turned to him. “Does it mean that much to you?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said quietly. “I won’t if you can’t afford it, but I’ve been saving and really looking forward to it, and—”
“No,” Chirrut said. “If this is what you want to do, then we’ll make it work.” He straightened and turned toward Baze. “Maybe Bodhi and I should go, and you and your hotheaded daughter can stay home.”
“No!” Jyn burst out. “Papa no, please, I really want to go, please—”
Baze said something to her, too quietly for Chirrut to hear.
“We’ll go on the trip,” he said brusquely, after a minute.
Chirrut nodded. “Assuming Mr. Malbus here can control his daughter for the duration of the journey, that’s the option we choose too.”
Baze sputtered, but Chirrut just waited, eyebrow raised in cool challenge.
“This is going to end horribly,” Bodhi mumbled.
“That’s settled, then,” Mon Mothma said briskly. “Please report to the nurse, Bodhi. Jyn, you go to the library and begin cleaning up the mess you made. Bodhi will join you after he’s been tended to.”
In the hall outside the principal’s office, Chirrut touched Bodhi’s shoulder, grounding himself. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
He could feel the motion as Bodhi nodded. “It’s just bruises. I’m fine.”
“Can you two keep from brawling again, or should Mr. Malbus and I accompany you to the library so that peace is kept?”
He was relieved to hear a snort at that. “I’ll restrain myself, I promise. I’ll see you at home, okay?”
Chirrut smiled. “Lamb biryani for dinner tonight.”
He and Kyber headed for the door, heavy footsteps behind him. Baze caught up on the sidewalk outside, panting slightly, and Chirrut slowed.
“Can I help you, Mr. Malbus?”
“It’s just Baze,” Baze snapped irritably. “Look, this is stupid. If you’ll just get your kid to admit he was wrong—”
“It’s been lovely, go fuck yourself,” Chirrut interrupted. He stalked away, heading for the bus stop, where he planted himself on the bench and practiced his deep breathing exercises. He’s not worth your anger. In, out, slow and steady.
After a minute, Baze stomped by, heading out into the parking lot. A motorcycle engine roared to life and settled into a steady purr, and Chirrut waited until the sound of it had faded before he sighed.
Bodhi was right. This was going to end horribly.
He was in the kitchen stirring the sauce when the door opened. Kyber yipped happily and scrambled to greet Bodhi, who dropped his backpack to pet her.
“In the kitchen,” Chirrut called. He tasted the sauce as Bodhi’s footsteps grew louder, pursing his lips. “Needs more cinnamon,” he muttered. He found the container, running his fingertips over the braille label to make certain it was the right one, and shook some into his palm before adding it to the sauce.
Bodhi opened the fridge and rummaged for a drink.
“How’s your face?” Chirrut asked.
“Sore,” Bodhi said. The soda can fizzed when he opened it and he flopped down at the table with a sigh. “I’ll be fine.”
Chirrut turned the heat to low and put the lid on the pot before turning to sit down opposite. “So tell me what really happened.”
Bodhi groaned. “She’s such an asshole, Dad. Always mouthing off about shit she doesn’t actually know about, and usually I can ignore her because I think it’s mostly her trying to impress the girl she has a crush on, but she went too far this time.”
Chirrut made an encouraging noise.
“I was at a different table and I wasn’t really listening, I was trying to study, but then something she said caught my attention. I don’t remember her exact words, but I heard the phrase ‘Indian men’, so I started listening just in time to hear her say that Indian men were all mama’s boys and misogynistic assholes because of how they were spoiled as kids.”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said miserably. “And I still kept my mouth shut, because not my fight, you know? Maybe I should have stepped in then, but I didn’t want to start anything. But she kept going. Saying that Indian women were all child brides, that Indian men were totally sexist and there were no women’s rights in India, and I just—I couldn’t take it anymore.”
“Of course not,” Chirrut said. “What did you do?”
“I said she had a point but it was more complicated than that, and could she please not make such sweeping generalizations, that they—we, even, weren’t all like that.” Bodhi sighed. “She said I was using the ‘not all men’ argument, which I wasn’t, I swear—”
“No, I don’t think you were,” Chirrut said. “I see why she thought that, but it does sound like she was being way too liberal with her paintbrush. What else did she say?”
“She told me that since I was Pakistani and not Indian, I could kindly keep my opinions to myself.” Bodhi huffed. “I told her I was closer to the subject than she was, and if she couldn’t see that, she could take her uneducated opinion and shove it up her ass.”
Chirrut snorted before he could stop himself.
“I know, I shouldn’t have said it,” Bodhi said. “I was just so mad. Anyway, like I said, I really think she was trying to impress Leia with how knowledgeable she is on current affairs and women’s rights.”
“Is Leia into that sort of thing?”
“Yeah, she’s an activist. Goes to rallies, protests, marches—those kinds of things. She’s started a few protests on campus, for things like better quality food in the cafeteria and more breaks for students, less homework, that sort of thing.”
Chirrut leaned back in his chair. “She sounds pretty passionate. And Jyn’s got a crush on her?”
He could almost hear Bodhi’s eye-roll. “A mile wide. Everyone sees it. I feel a little sorry for her, Leia’s so busy being political that she doesn’t have time for a junior with a case of puppy love.”
Chirrut smiled. “Did you really tell her to take it back or you’d shove the definition of politically correct down her throat?”
Bodhi squirmed. “She was doubling down, okay? She said she’d watched this documentary on child brides, she’d read about it in National Geographic, too, and she refused to so much as consider that maybe it was a more complex issue than she was making it out to be.”
“Who threw the first punch?”
“Oh, she did,” Bodhi said immediately. “But if I'm honest, it’s because of what I said.”
“Ah… I was pretty pissed by then. I might have insinuated that she didn’t really care about Indian women, and that she was only trying to impress ‘a certain other person’ and she clocked me—probably to stop me actually saying Leia’s name.”
Chirrut couldn’t help the laugh. “You truly are my son.”
“You’re not mad?”
Chirrut patted Bodhi’s hand and stood. He crossed the kitchen in three strides and found the hot pad in its usual place. Lifting the lid of the pot, he took a deep whiff of the bubbling contents before answering.
“Obviously, tempers got out of control,” he finally said as he stirred the sauce. “But your heart was in the right place. I’m going to have words with her father about the beating she put on you, though.”
“To be fair,” Bodhi said, joining him at the stove, “I fell against a bookshelf and split my lip all on my own. She’s only really responsible for the shiner.”
Chirrut huffed a laugh. “Well, good. Kyber needs a walk while I put the rice on. Dinner will be ready in about twenty.”
“On it,” Bodhi said, and scooped up the leash as he whistled. Nails clicked on the linoleum and Bodhi crooned to Kyber as he snapped the leash on.
“So tell me about this field trip,” Chirrut said over dinner.
“Oh man, it’s gonna be awesome,” Bodhi said through his mouthful of rice. “We’re flying, of course, and then we’re going to be doing tours of Mount Vernon and Arlington, as well as the monuments, the Capitol, and the Smithsonian.”
“Sounds exhausting,” Chirrut commented. “You’ve never been all that interested in politics or history—are you sure this doesn’t have something to do with a certain captain of the track and field team?”
Chirrut fought his smile. “I may be blind, but I’m not stupid, kiddo. Does he know?”
“No,” Bodhi mumbled. “And I’m not going to tell him.”
“I’m too young, for one thing,” Bodhi said. “I don’t—I don’t even know how I fit in my own skin, Dad, I’m awkward and neurotic and dumb and I have no idea how to be in a relationship, even if he did like me back.”
“First of all, you’re not dumb,” Chirrut said sharply. “You’re terrifyingly smart, in fact. But it’s okay, I get it. And maybe you don’t know how to be in a relationship, but you know how to fix that?”
Bodhi mumbled something incomprehensible.
“Be in a relationship,” Chirrut continued. “It’s all about trial and error. You have to fuck up a few times before you start getting it right.”
“How would you even know? You’ve never been in a relationship!”
Chirrut blinked, thrown. “Is that what this is about? The fact that I’m single?”
He could hear rustling as Bodhi shifted his weight. “I mean… yeah, I guess. Like, how can you tell me for sure what will work and what won’t when you’ve literally never had a single partner of any gender in all the time I can remember?”
Chirrut put down his fork. “I did have a life before I adopted you, you know. There are a couple of boyfriends in my not-very-shady past. But then you came along, and at first I was so busy taking care of you, I didn’t have time to think about myself—and don’t feel guilty, I wanted to take care of you, I was happy, okay? But then the—” He couldn’t make himself say the word, and instead gestured vaguely at his blind eyes. “And after that, I guess I just figured it was better to make sure you were taken care of. There’s time enough for that later, once you’re on the path to your future.”
“Are you happy?” Bodhi asked, his voice low and unsure.
Love welled inside Chirrut’s chest until he thought he might choke on it, and he reached across the table to cup Bodhi’s face in both hands, careful to avoid the bruises. “I’m happy, love. I promise you. I don’t regret a single choice I’ve made.”
Bodhi turned his head into Chirrut’s palm, lashes soft as they swept down, and nodded. “Okay,” he whispered.
Chirrut released him and sat back. “I can think of one thing that would make me happier, though.”
“If you did the dishes,” Chirrut said, and laughed over Bodhi’s loud, theatrical groan.
Baze was waiting when Jyn let herself into the house after school.
“Have you lost your flipping mind?”
Jyn scowled and dropped her backpack by the door. “Not in the mood, Papa.”
“Oh, you’ll get in the mood real damn fast,” Baze snapped. “Tell me exactly what happened today, and spare no details.”
Jyn shook heavy brown hair out of her eyes and sighed loudly. “Can I at least get something to drink first?”
She pushed past him without waiting for a reply, heading down the hall for the kitchen tucked away at the back of the house.
Baze followed her, clearly still seething. Jyn was pulling a glass bottle of Coke from the fridge when he came in.
“Start talking,” he said.
Jyn shrugged and collapsed into one of the chairs. She picked at the label on the bottle with her thumbnail, hating the lump in her throat, the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that whispered she’d been wrong.
“It was stupid,” she finally said.
Baze sat down in the chair opposite and waited.
Jyn opened her mouth. Closed it again. Sorted through several sentences and discarded them all. Eventually she blew a gusty breath and slouched even harder.
Baze said nothing, eyes like flint.
“I got—carried away,” Jyn said. “I didn’t mean for it to turn into a fight, I just—he was being all pissy and self-righteous with his ‘not all men’ bullshit and I lost my temper.”
“Who threw the first punch?”
Jyn did her best to melt into the chair. “I… did.”
Baze rubbed his face. “Of course you did. Which means you were in the wrong, although that’s something I will never, ever admit to that cheesedick sanctimonious asshole father of Bodhi’s.”
Jyn picked at the label some more. The condensation beading on the outside was sliding down in slow, silver rivulets.
She’d just wanted to show Leia she knew what she was talking about. She’d wanted to impress her with how knowledgeable about current events she was, how she could hold her own in Leia’s chosen arena.
And instead, she’d ended up making a fool out of herself, wrecking the library, and punching Bodhi, who never got in trouble with anyone and who everyone agreed was the sweetest soul in school.
She’d be lucky if Leia gave her the time of day after this.
Tears pricked Jyn’s eyelids and she blinked them viciously away.
Baze sighed and leaned forward to brace his elbows on his knees. “You need to apologize. You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” Jyn whispered, staring at the glass bottle. She didn’t know how. Bodhi would probably laugh in her face anyway.
“You’re grounded for a week,” Baze said.
Jyn jerked her eyes up at that. “What? Why?”
Baze arched an eyebrow.
Jyn felt a flush pinking her cheeks, but she tossed her head defiantly. “We’re already getting punished by the school, isn’t that enough?”
“It’s not the school’s job to raise you,” Baze said flatly. “It’s mine. And I say you’ve lost privileges for a week. No electronics, no internet. Reflect on the meaning of self-control, and every time you reach for your phone, remember that you lost the privilege by being hotheaded and impulsive.”
“This is stupid,” Jyn snapped. She stood to storm out, but Baze held his hand out. Jyn snarled and dug her phone from her pocket, dropping it into his palm. “You don’t understand me. You don’t understand anything.”
She bolted from the room before Baze could answer, tears blurring her vision. Down the hall, up the stairs two at a time, down another short hall, until she’d reached her bedroom door, covered in KEEP OUT posters and crime scene tape.
Shoving it open, Jyn stomped through and collapsed face down on the bed. She closed her eyes and let the hot, angry tears flow, unheeding the salt stains on the sheet.
Leia was going to think Jyn was just a stupid kid now. Stupid and rash and impetuous, and definitely not worth getting to know better.
Jyn sobbed harder, pressing her face into the sheets. She’d fucked it all up, yet again, and she had no idea how to put it right.
It was some time before she heard Baze’s footsteps on the stairs, but Jyn didn’t bother to move. The tears had slowed to a trickle, but he’d know about the crying immediately in any case—he always did.
Baze rapped with one knuckle. “May I?”
Jyn didn’t answer, and Baze took that as a yes.
He stepped inside and sat down gingerly on the end of the bed.
After a few minutes of silence, Jyn rolled far enough sideways to look at him. He looks tired, she thought with a hitch of guilt. There were dark circles under his eyes, his mouth drooping and shoulders rounded. My fault, a tiny voice whispered.
“Did you ever…” Jyn took a deep breath as Baze waited. “When you were a teenager, did you ever feel like you didn’t fit? Like… you could pretend you were interested in things to make people want your company, you could read up on stuff, but it’s—not you, it’s like… it’s like a doppelganger of you. Or like pulling on a coat of assumed interests and hobbies, because you’re not smart or cool enough to come up with your own unique personality. And, and… you’re just this massive fraud, and one day everyone will see that.”
Baze’s eyebrows had climbed steadily through her speech, and when she was done, Jyn closed her eyes and hid her face in her elbow again. She couldn’t bear to see the pity on his face.
“I’m going to let you in on a secret, petal,” Baze said. Jyn rolled back to see him, and he smiled at her. “No one has it all figured out. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.”
“I was a shambling wreck in high school,” Baze continued. “No idea what I was doing, where I was going—both metaphorically and also I just plain got lost a lot—don’t laugh, it was a really big school, okay?”
Jyn fought the smile and pulled her stuffed rabbit close, tucking it in the crook of her arm and burying her face in its soft belly.
“I didn’t know what I wanted,” Baze said quietly. “I didn’t know what made me happy back then. Once I figured that out—well, it was pretty straightforward from there, but it took me years to finally learn to listen to myself.”
“I don’t know who I am,” Jyn blurted. Tears scalded her eyes and she wiped her face on the rabbit in her arms.
“No one knows who they are at sixteen, lotus,” Baze said. The sympathy in his voice made the tears spill over, slipping down Jyn’s cheeks in steady twin streams. “But I’m here to help you figure that out, okay?”
Jyn hiccupped. Nodded. Felt Baze’s hand on her shoulder, and relaxed into it gratefully.
“So, this field trip,” Baze said, sitting back against the footboard. “I hope you realize that you’re going to have to work for me for at least a month to pay me back.”
Jyn sputtered indignantly. “I already have a job!”
“During the summer,” Baze said, unruffled. “Scott’s more than happy to teach you how to change the oil in your car and a few other tricks of the trade.”
“I don’t want to work on cars,” Jyn protested.
A smile lit Baze’s face. “See? You’re already one step closer to knowing who you are.”
“Wait, if I’m working in the garage as punishment, does that mean I get my phone back?”
Baze snorted and stood. “Not a chance. The phone loss is because of the fight—the garage is because you’re dragging me to DC with you.”
He dodged the pillow Jyn hurled overhand at his head and left the room, laughter drifting back.
Alone, Jyn wiped her face and rolled onto her back to stare at the ceiling. She wanted—everything. She wanted Leia to look at her and not just see a dumb kid.
She groaned and rubbed her face. That was the problem. Leia was out there fighting the good fight, going to bat for all the causes that needed passion and energy, and Jyn was just a dumb kid. If she was honest with herself, she didn’t care about the plight of child brides in India—or rather, she did, but in an abstract way, nothing that touched her directly.
She didn’t know how to be a person, how to be comfortable with herself.
“Being a teenager sucks,” she said out loud.
The next day, Jyn turned to survey the school cafeteria, lunch tray firmly in hand. Leia was holding court on the far side of the room, and Luke caught Jyn’s eye and waved at her. Jyn smiled at him but didn’t go over.
She scanned the room until she found Bodhi’s dark head, his shoulders hunched as he ate at the table in the corner.
Jyn swallowed hard and headed that way.
Bodhi jerked when she set the tray down, dark eyes going wide.
“Can I sit here?” Jyn knew she sounded abrupt—rude, even, but she wasn’t sure how to soften the words past the nerves choking her.
“S-sure,” Bodhi said.
Jyn swung her leg over the bench opposite him and sat down. Bodhi kept eating, his head down.
“How’s your—um, face?” Jyn asked.
Bodhi looked up. Jyn winced at the impressive shiner blooming around his eye, but Bodhi just shrugged.
Jyn steeled herself. You have to do this. It’s the right thing to do. “Listen,” she began, and was interrupted by Luke, who flopped down beside Bodhi and slung an arm around his shoulders.
“What’s up, losers?”
Bodhi rolled his eyes but something in his frame softened.
Luke grinned at Jyn. “So we’re going to the mall after school to look badass and make fun of the tourists. You in?”
“Me, Leia, Shara, Kes, and Cassian,” Luke said. He poked Bodhi in the ribs, making him yelp. “And this antisocial nerd, if I can ever drag him out of his shell.”
“My dad needs me,” Bodhi said, hunching his shoulders again. “Another time.”
“You’ve been saying ‘another time’ for months,” Luke sighed. “Come on, man, don’t I always make it fun for you?”
Bodhi grimaced at his plate and Jyn took pity on him.
“I can’t make it,” she said. “I’m failing biology and Bodhi said I could use his notes after school.”
Bodhi’s eyes flicked up, startled, but he said nothing as Luke slumped theatrically against him and groaned.
“Unbelievable. Guess I’ll have to mock the sandals-and-socks crowd without the Greek chorus, then. Catch you guys later.” And with that, he was gone, slithering back through the tables to rejoin his sister and their friends.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Bodhi said to his plate.
Jyn shrugged. “I really am failing biology.”
Bodhi snorted an unwilling laugh and glanced up. “Does that mean you do want to borrow my notes?”
“If they’re available, and only if you’ll accept my apology for punching you,” Jyn said. She took a bite of meatloaf without tasting it as Bodhi considered her.
“Okay,” he said abruptly. “But I wasn’t kidding about my dad—if you want the notes, you’ll have to come over to my house. I don’t like to leave him on his own for too long.”
Jyn gulped. She couldn’t decide if Bodhi’s father fascinated or terrified her, with his sightless eyes and the way he had of cocking his head when someone spoke, homing in on them with laserlike focus. She had the impression that Chirrut didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“He’s really nice,” Bodhi said, as if he’d read her mind. “He’s just… protective. I think he’ll like you, especially once he realizes you’re sorry.”
Jyn relaxed and Bodhi grinned at her. It made his eyes dance, white teeth flashing, and Jyn found herself smiling back.
Bodhi wasn’t altogether sure what to think. The girl who’d given him a black eye was sitting serenely on the bus beside him, her hands folded in her lap, looking as if she’d never committed an act of violence in her life.
“Don’t you have a phone?” Bodhi asked.
Jyn’s lips twitched. “Papa took it,” she admitted. “Lost all electronic privileges for a week, plus I have to work in his garage this summer to pay him back for dragging him along on this field trip.”
Bodhi straightened, excitement fizzing through him. “Your dad has a garage? Is he a mechanic?”
“Yeah,” Jyn said, giving him a sidelong look. “People don’t usually react like that when I tell them.”
“Sorry,” Bodhi said, feeling his ears redden. “I just—I really love cars, and Dad won’t let me get my license until I’m eighteen, and I don’t even know how to drive, isn’t that pathetic? I’m sixteen years old—nearly seventeen! And I’ve never even been behind the wheel.” He glanced at Jyn. “I guess you have your license already.”
“Learner’s permit,” Jyn admitted. “But I’ve been driving since I was twelve. Not far, of course, but Papa would put me in his lap and let me steer while he worked the pedals, out behind the shop.”
Bodhi sighed enviously. “God, I wish. Dad won’t even consider buying a car. Says we don’t need it, the public transportation in this city is great and a car is unnecessary.”
Jyn made a sympathetic noise as the bus jolted to a stop.
“This is me,” Bodhi said, gathering his backpack. “There’s a city bus stop two blocks down, it runs until ten at night, so you’ll be able to get back home.”
Jyn followed him down the aisle and off the bus onto a wide city street, shaded with tall trees that almost blocked the sun. They walked down the leaves-scattered sidewalk, dappled light through the branches touching their faces, and up a path to a low-slung, white bungalow.
“Dad won’t be home yet,” Bodhi said as he unlocked the door and held it open. “He gets home about half an hour after me. Come on in.”
He ushered her into a dark hall and felt for a light switch with a muttered curse. Jyn gazed around, curiosity on her face, as Bodhi made for the kitchen.
“Want something to drink?” he called, rummaging in the fridge.
“Sure,” Jyn said. She followed him in and glanced around the spacious room, meticulous in its neatness. As Bodhi pulled glasses from a cupboard and poured soda into them, Jyn fingered a knife with a label in braille on the hilt.
“Dad loves to cook,” Bodhi said, holding out a glass. “Everything in here is labeled and sorted and always, always, put away in the same place.”
Jyn accepted the drink and they sat down at the kitchen table. “How long has he been blind?”
“Since a couple years after he adopted me,” Bodhi said. “He likes to joke that the timing was serendipitous—no way would the agency have approved a blind single man as a father. He had a hard enough time jumping through their hoops as it was.”
Jyn watched him, cradling the glass in both hands. “I’ve only ever seen him from a distance, other than… yesterday. But it’s obvious how much he loves you.”
Bodhi sighed. “That’s half the problem.”
The front door opened before he could finish his thought.
“Bodhi? I’m home!” There was a metallic clink, and then Kyber galloped into the kitchen at high speed, tail wagging furiously, to investigate the guest.
“Sorry,” Bodhi whispered to Jyn. “I thought we’d have time to study. In the kitchen, Dad!”
Rapid footsteps, then Chirrut appeared. Bodhi winced at his outfit.
“Dad… I laid out some clothes for you. Why did you think the salmon pink pants were a good choice with a bright yellow shirt?”
Chirrut smoothed his hands down the front of his shirt as Jyn smothered laughter.
“I like these clothes,” he said. “They’re comfortable and they fit and they feel good, and if people can see me coming, well—so much the better. Maybe they won’t run the old blind man over.”
“Why do you even have those pants, I thought I threw them out ages ago,” Bodhi sighed. He rolled his eyes at Jyn, who had a hand over her mouth to stop the giggles.
Chirrut put his nose in the air. “I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.”
“Dad, we have a—”
“You’ll never guess who I bumped into today,” Chirrut interrupted. “Mr. Baze my-kid-is-better-than-your-kid Malbus himself. And by ‘bumped into’, I do mean bumped into—the lunkhead doesn’t watch where he’s going any more than he—”
“Dad we have a guest!” Bodhi said at the top of his lungs, eyes squeezed shut.
Silence fell and Bodhi opened one eye. Jyn’s face was bright red, but it looked more like laughter than anger that was struggling to break free. Chirrut was standing very still in the middle of the kitchen.
“Bodhi,” he said carefully.
“Bodhi, please tell me I didn’t just call Baze Malbus a lunkhead in front of his daughter.”
“Um,” Bodhi said.
A giggle pealed from Jyn, startling them both. She slapped a hand over her mouth, waving the other in helpless apology, and Bodhi’s laugh bubbled over too.
Chirrut’s lips were twitching as he swiveled in the direction of Jyn’s laughter and held out a hand. “Welcome to our home, Miss Malbus,” he said formally. “My apologies for slandering your father so heinously.”
“He’s been called much worse,” Jyn managed. She stood and took Chirrut’s hand. “Although I’m not sure what a lunkhead is. And please, call me Jyn.” She hesitated, cutting her eyes in Bodhi’s direction, and then squared her shoulders. “I also want to apologize for my behavior toward Bodhi. It was my fault, not his, and I hope he didn’t get in trouble with you because of my actions.”
Bodhi froze, startled, as Chirrut cocked his head thoughtfully, and then flashed his brightest smile. “Do you like Thai food, Jyn? We’re having green curry for dinner, and you’re welcome to stay.”
Jyn glanced at Bodhi, a silent question in her eyes. Bodhi nodded.
“If it’s okay with my dad, I’d love to,” Jyn said. “I just need to call him and make sure. Bo, can I borrow your phone?”
“Ah… sure,” Bodhi said. He dug it out and handed it to her, and Jyn took a few steps away to dial the number.
Chirrut beckoned and Bodhi crossed the kitchen to him.
“What is she doing here?” Chirrut asked in a low voice.
“She found me at lunch,” Bodhi told him, matching his tone. “She… I don’t know, Dad, she seems like she really regrets the whole thing, and not just because of how it made her look in front of you-know-who. She apologized to me, and then she mentioned she was failing biology, so I said she could borrow my notes, and…” He shrugged. “Here we are.”
Chirrut grunted, looking thoughtful.
“Are you okay with it?” Bodhi asked. “I’m sorry, I should have asked—”
“It’s fine,” Chirrut assured him. “Get her set up in the dining room with whatever she needs and then come help me make dinner.”
“So you bumped into my dad today?” Jyn asked over curry she thought vaguely might be melting her taste buds.
Chirrut flashed that smile, the one that showed his gums and rounded his cheeks, turning him from inscrutable to charming. “I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it, but yes. Kyber and I were crossing the square to get some lunch, and apparently he was in a hurry.”
Jyn flinched. “Did he hurt you? He’s a big guy—if he knocked you down….”
“I’m fine,” Chirrut said soothingly as Bodhi listened to their exchange. “I think Kyber was more offended than either of us, to be honest. She takes her job very seriously.” He dropped a hand below the tabletop to rub her ears, and Kyber’s tail thumped the linoleum in response.
“Will you be bringing her with us to DC?” Jyn asked.
“Ah, no, I think I’ll board her,” Chirrut said. “Logistically, it can be difficult to travel with an animal, even a service dog, and the hotel the school booked doesn’t allow pets.”
“I’ll stay with you the whole time,” Bodhi said. “You won’t need her.”
Chirrut smiled. “Staying with your father on a trip that’s supposed to be fun? I don’t think so. But don’t worry. I’ll have my cane, and I’m not above acting helpless and making people feel guilty enough to offer assistance.”
Bodhi snorted and Jyn smothered a laugh as Chirrut’s smile widened unrepentantly.
“So, Jyn,” Chirrut said, as Bodhi stood to clear the table. “How are your studies? Bodhi says you’re struggling with biology?”
“Yes sir,” Jyn said. “His notes are great, though, I’m sure they’ll help.”
“Bodhi’s an excellent student,” Chirrut said, pride warm in his voice.
Jyn glanced at Bodhi’s slim frame as he stacked dishes in the sink, and back to Chirrut. “Has it always been just you and him?” She gulped, realizing she’d overstepped. “I’m sorry, I’m being nosy, I just—”
Chirrut waved off her apology. “I adopted Bodhi when he was a year old. You should have seen him—biggest damn Disney eyes, black curls, all solemn and quiet. He was a beautiful baby.”
“Dad,” Bodhi said from the kitchen, sounding aggrieved.
“If you have a complaint, take it up with the committee,” Chirrut called. He gave Jyn a conspiratorial grin. “I couldn’t take him anywhere without getting hit on. Talk about a babe magnet. Too bad I’m not interested in women, I could have pulled so many—”
“Stop talking, oh my God!” Bodhi shouted, and Chirrut dissolved into laughter as Jyn realized his voice had been carefully pitched so Bodhi could hear him.
He’s awful, Jyn thought. I love him.
“But yes,” Chirrut continued. “It’s always been the two of us.”
“What do you do for a living, Mr. Îmwe?” Jyn asked.
“Oh, call me Chirrut, please. I run a yoga studio,” Chirrut said. “On Mondays and Thursdays, I teach muay tai to beginners and intermediates, and on the weekends I give tai chi classes in the park. You should bring your father, I’m sure he could benefit from some inner calm.”
Jyn snorted at that. “I’m not sure there’s anything that could get him into a yoga studio, but I’ll be sure to suggest it to him.”
Bodhi came back in with mugs of cocoa and set one in front of Jyn and the other in front of Chirrut, taking his father’s hand and guiding it to the mug before turning on his heel and vanishing back into the kitchen.
“What are your plans for the future, Jyn?” Chirrut asked, wrapping long fingers around the china.
“I’m sixteen,” Jyn said blankly.
Chirrut laughed quietly. “Bodhi had his top five colleges picked out when he was twelve. Filled out applications for them when he was fourteen. Your age doesn’t matter when it comes to knowing what you want to do with your life.”
Jyn squirmed even though he couldn’t see her. “I don’t—” She swallowed hard. “I don’t know.”
“What do you like to do?” Chirrut asked. “What brings you joy?”
“Dad, stop interrogating our guest,” Bodhi said from the doorway. He was holding his own mug of cocoa, and he sat down beside Jyn, giving her an apologetic grimace.
Chirrut swiveled toward him. “I thought this was what supportive fathers did—they indicated interest in their children’s guests.”
“It’s fine,” Jyn told Bodhi. She turned back to Chirrut. “I want to go to college but I’m not really sure where yet. Papa says I can take some time to decide.”
Chirrut made a noise that might have been disapproving but didn’t challenge that. “Bodhi, why don’t you and Jyn go in the dining room to finish up whatever studying you have? We’ll walk her to the bus stop when it’s time.”
It was dark when Jyn declared her brain full to bursting and please could they stop before it actually exploded.
Bodhi laughed but obligingly closed the textbook. “You think you have a better grasp on the material yet?”
Jyn groaned and clutched her hair. “That or I’ve died and gone to hell. Not sure which I’m hoping for.” She lifted her head and looked around to make sure Chirrut wasn’t in earshot. “So what’s the deal with your dad?”
“In what way?”
Jyn rolled her eyes. “Come on. He may be old, and have terrible fashion sense, but—” She lowered her voice. “He’s kinda hot. How come he’s single?”
Bodhi stiffened and Jyn had a moment of panic, wondering how to fix her gaffe. But then he sighed. “He says he’s too busy for a relationship. That he’s ‘happy’, and he doesn’t need a partner to be fulfilled.”
“And… you don’t believe him?”
Bodhi glanced over his shoulder toward the living room and leaned closer to Jyn. “He’s lonely. I don’t know how I know, I just do. He’s… sad, sometimes, when he thinks I’m not looking. And I don’t know how to fix it.”
Jyn fumbled clumsily for words. “Is it—I mean, do you have to? Is that your job?”
Bodhi fixed her with a look. “If your dad was miserable, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make him smile again?”
“Fine,” Jyn conceded, bristling. “How can I help?”
Bodhi stared at her.
“What?” Jyn demanded. “You don’t think I can?”
“No, I don’t see why you want to,” Bodhi said.
Jyn shrugged. “Luke’s your only friend, isn’t he?”
“So, Luke’s a sweetheart, and I love him, but you can’t count on him for the time of day. He’s just as likely to go chasing after a pack of butterflies as he is to offer emotional support when the chips are down.”
“What’s your point?” Bodhi asked.
“My point is, I’m offering to be your friend, you idiot!” Jyn snapped. She slapped a hand over her mouth as the last word came out and stared at Bodhi over it.
Bodhi’s mouth twitched as he fought the smile. “When you put it that way, how can I refuse?” He held out a hand. “Welcome to the clubhouse, population three.”
Jyn grinned and shook his hand vigorously. “Glad to be here.” She glanced outside and grimaced, realizing the sun had gone down. “Shit, I should get home. Dad’s gonna fuss.”
Bodhi and Chirrut walked her to the bus stop in the velvet night, as fireflies danced around them. Kyber was on a leash, not in her harness—not working, Chirrut had explained. He was holding Bodhi’s arm as they walked, but his steps were confident and unhesitating.
“Jyn, I hope you’ll visit again soon,” Chirrut said as the bus drew near the stop.
“Thank you for having me, Mr.—Chirrut, sorry.”
Chirrut smiled, teeth white in the gloom. “Tell your father I send my regards.”
“Yeah,” Jyn said, fighting laughter, “I don’t think I’ll do that.” She waved at Bodhi and stepped onto the bus.
Luke’s lips were wet and soft, and he tasted like spearmint and strawberry milkshake. He breathed a laugh against Bodhi’s mouth and tugged affectionately at a lock of his hair.
“Where are you, Bodhi-baby? You’re not here with me, that’s for sure.”
Bodhi winced and pulled away a few inches, far enough he could see Luke’s eyes, warm with concern.
“Sorry,” he said, breathless. “I’m—I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
Luke leaned back against the bass drum and folded his arms behind his head, gazing up at the band hall’s ceiling. “Wanna talk about it?”
Bodhi rolled up to his knees and swung off Luke’s lap to settle beside him. “Don’t you ever want more?”
“More what?” Luke asked. “More dessert? Sure. More homework? Not usually.”
Bodhi elbowed him in the ribs, making him wheeze with laughter. “From me, asshole. Don’t you want more than just some kissing?”
Luke shrugged. “I mean… yeah.” He rolled his head to look Bodhi in the eyes, suddenly serious. “You know I want you. But you’re not ready. And I’m not that guy, okay? I’m not gonna push you into something you’ll regret.”
“What if—” Bodhi bit his lip. “What if I’m never ready?”
Luke went to his knees, blond hair falling into his face. His lips were kissed pink, and Bodhi could see the faint scars of fading acne along his jawline.
“We’ll figure that out when we get there,” Luke said. He lifted a shoulder, smiling sardonically. “No rush, right?”
“Are you ever going to tell Han?” Bodhi asked.
“Sure,” Luke said easily. “When you tell Cassian.”
“Is too—okay, we’re getting off track. My point is, you actually have a shot with Han.”
“Oh, and you don’t with Cassian?” Luke countered. He flopped onto his back against the drum again. “Han’s only got eyes for Leia. Like he’d ever have a chance with her. Even if she was straight, he’d never have a chance, but no, he still doesn’t even consider that maybe her twin brother is right there, waiting for him to wake the fuck up?”
Bodhi patted his thigh. “Maybe you can seduce him during the DC trip.”
Luke groaned. “Fuck. I still have to pack.”
“We’re leaving tomorrow, Luke!”
“I know, I know! I got busy, okay? What time do we have to be here?”
“Five AM, you idiot.” Despite the words, Bodhi couldn’t help the affection that rose in his chest. Luke was feckless and carefree, but he fought for his friends. Bodhi was safe with him. Luke wasn’t the love of his life, but… he was special.
He leaned forward and kissed him, quick and impulsive. Luke made a happy noise and kissed him back, bringing a hand up to tangle in Bodhi’s hair. The only sound was their breathing for the next few minutes as Bodhi tasted Luke’s mouth again, dipping inside with his tongue in quick, gentle sweeps.
When they finally broke apart, Luke’s eyes were dazed. His throat bobbed as he swallowed.
“God,” he managed.
“Just Bodhi will do,” Bodhi teased, and Luke snorted a laugh and toppled sideways until he was on the floor.
“That joke is so old,” he complained, facedown on the cold linoleum.
“And yet you laughed,” Bodhi pointed out.
“Only because someone has to coax that sneaky sense of humor out of you,” Luke said. He groaned and pushed himself upright. “Bell’s gonna ring any minute. I don’t want to go to trigonometry.”
Bodhi patted his knee. “Blow it off and go home to pack.”
“Nah,” Luke said. He stood and offered Bodhi his hand to pull him to his feet. “Uncle Bail will kick my ass if I don’t get at least a passing grade. See you in the morning?”
“Bright and early,” Bodhi agreed.
Moment of silence for baby Riz Ahmed, who truly was the most adorable child ever.
Baze hated everyone. In particular, he hated cheerful blind Chinese men who had the audacity to be perfectly turned out, neatly pressed, and somehow coherent at fuck o’clock in the morning, when all right-thinking individuals were asleep in bed.
He huddled inside his heavy leather jacket and glared at Chirrut, who seemed to be telling a joke to Han, Leia, and Luke. The three teens dissolved into laughter as Chirrut finished, and Baze scowled. He switched his focus to Jyn, who was fidgeting with her bags.
She looked up as he approached, a worried line between her brows. “I think I forgot to pack my swimsuit.”
“You packed it,” Baze said. “And then unpacked and repacked it, I watched you. I need caffeine.”
“There’ll be coffee at the airport,” Chirrut said, materializing at his elbow, and Baze jumped and swore. “Sorry,” Chirrut said, not sounding sorry at all.
Baze muttered something and stalked off to help load the bags onto the bus. The sooner they got to the airport, the sooner he could get some coffee and maybe stop fantasizing about murdering people.
The teens were gathered in a loose group near the doors of the bus, bantering back and forth with their history teacher, Ben Kenobi.
Bodhi sprang to help Baze as he picked up a bag and set it in the luggage compartment. Baze glanced at him, and Bodhi gave him a shy smile.
“Morning, Mr. Malbus.”
“Just Baze is fine,” Baze said. He picked up another suitcase, grunting under its weight. “What’s in this, anvils?”
“Everything up to and including the kitchen sink, probably,” Bodhi said. He jerked his head toward the group of teenagers. “That’s Leia’s bag. She likes to be prepared.”
“For what, an invasion?”
Bodhi snickered as he handed another bag to Baze, who set it in the hold. “You never know when the aliens will attack, sir.”
Baze’s lips twitched unwillingly and they loaded the rest of the cases into the compartment in comfortable silence.
When the teens were gathered on the bus, the principal stood at the front by the driver and waited until they had settled enough to pay attention to her.
Baze was sitting near the back, a few rows from Jyn, who had planted herself next to Bodhi with a wide grin. Chirrut settled himself at the very back, on the last row of seats, and sat bolt upright as Mon Mothma cleared her throat.
“I know you’re all excited to be going on this trip,” she said in her serene voice, smiling impartially at everyone. “But please remember that this is first and foremost an educational opportunity to learn about our nation’s capital and the history behind its founding. Beyond that, please listen to Mr. Kenobi, who is in charge, and your chaperones, Baze and Chirrut, and treat them with every courtesy. I will see you all next week. Have a great trip!”
She left the bus as everyone clapped and the bus driver put the huge vehicle in gear. It was an hour’s drive to the nearest airport, and Baze stretched out his legs in an attempt to get comfortable, slouching in the seat.
His shins hit the row of seats in front of him and he growled under his breath and glanced around. Ben Kenobi was in the seat behind the driver, and the only other place with any room appeared to be the back row.
Where Chirrut was sitting.
Baze fought with himself for about thirty seconds and finally gave up and stood. He made his way down the aisle and stopped in front of Chirrut, swaying with the bus’s motion as he tried to figure out what to say.
Chirrut tilted his head back, revealing a long, tanned throat. “Something I can help you with, Mr. Malbus?”
“I told you to call me Baze,” Baze said.
“Mm, yes, in the same conversation where you indicated my son was wrong for calling out your daughter’s behavior.”
Baze gritted his teeth. “Can I sit back here? The other seats don’t have enough leg room.”
Chirrut slid over gracefully. “By all means,” he said, waving a hand. “Make yourself at home.”
Baze sat down one seat over and watched him out of the corner of his eye. Chirrut didn’t have his dog with him, the lovely German Shepherd Baze had seen the first time they’d met—this time he was gripping a slender cane, and, as Baze watched, Chirrut folded it into segments and slid it into his pocket.
“How did you know it was me?” Baze asked.
Chirrut’s mouth curved. “Your footsteps are… distinctive.”
Baze bristled. “Are you saying I stomp?”
Chirrut lifted a shoulder, the movement saying elegantly that Baze could take it any way he wanted.
Baze glowered at him but Chirrut didn’t seem inclined to say more, folding his hands together in his lap and sitting quietly.
“So, what’s the plan?” Baze finally asked.
“Specific to what?” Chirrut said.
Baze narrowed his eyes. There had been no particular tone to Chirrut’s question, but somehow he couldn’t help but feel he was being mocked.
“To the trip,” he gritted out. “As in, what’s the itinerary? How many hotel rooms do we have? Where is everyone going to sleep? What’s on the docket as far as where we’re going each day?”
Chirrut tilted his head. “Isn’t that something you should have familiarized yourself with before we left?”
Baze took a deep breath, in through his nose and out through his mouth. Then he took another, and counted to ten. When he looked up, the urge to punch Chirrut had mostly faded.
“I have had. Other things. On my mind,” he said through his teeth. “Things such as making sure my business will run on its own without me, and who’s going to come and feed my daughter’s cat while we’re gone, and who will gather the mail and water the plants. Pardon me for not staying on top of this as well.”
“No need to be rude,” Chirrut said mildly, and Baze balled his fists and took several more deep breaths. “Ben has the itinerary,” Chirrut continued. “He’s in charge of most of the finer details, with you or me standing in as necessary. As for the hotel rooms, I believe Ben has one and the kids have three, divided among them however is most comfortable and will hopefully not lead to too much underage sex—”
Baze snorted, caught off-guard, but Chirrut continued as if he hadn’t noticed.
“You and I appear to be sharing a room.”
“Don’t worry,” Chirrut said, “Bodhi assures me it’s a suite with two beds. Your virtue is safe from me.”
Baze stared at him. “Why are we sharing a room and Ben gets his own?” he finally got out.
Chirrut shrugged again. “From what I understand, the chaperones originally slated to go on this trip were a couple. They requested to share a room.”
Baze fought a whimper and dropped his head into his hands.
“Relax, Baze,” Chirrut said. “We have a long way to go.”
At the airport, things devolved into swirls of frantic activity as bags were unloaded and claimed by their owners, to be carried into the airport, and Ben Kenobi consulted the itinerary and called names.
Bodhi sidled up to Baze, looking diffident. “Sir, may I speak to you?”
“You don’t have to call me sir,” Baze said. Chirrut was standing near Ben, talking to him quietly. “What is it?”
Bodhi shuffled his feet. “I wondered if you could do me a favor.”
Baze lifted an eyebrow and waited.
“Ah, it’s just—” Bodhi glanced toward his father and back at Baze, his big, dark eyes unsure. “I’ll do my best to take care of my dad and make sure he knows where to go, but sometimes Mr. Kenobi has stuff planned for us and I can’t be there for him and I was just wondering—I know you don’t like him very much, and I don’t have any right to ask this of you, but—”
“You want me to watch out for your father.”
Bodhi nodded, chewing on his lower lip. “I’m sorry, like I said, it shouldn’t be necessary very often because I’ll be around for most of the trip. But—”
“What would it entail?” Baze interrupted.
“Just… little stuff,” Bodhi said. He was twisting his hands together, Baze noticed, like he wasn’t aware he was doing it. “Making sure he knows where his seat is when we go places. Showing him where the dinnerware is when we eat. Things like that. He doesn’t like to be coddled, but he needs help sometimes, and I can’t always be there for him.”
“What’s he going to do when you leave for college?” Baze asked, amused.
Bodhi’s shoulders hunched and he withdrew into himself. “Never mind,” he said, voice almost inaudible. “I’ll take care of him. I’m sorry to—”
“Whoa, hey,” Baze said. He reached out and touched Bodhi’s slim shoulder. “I was teasing you, kid. Of course I’ll help him as much as he’ll let me. You’re supposed to be having a good time on this trip, not babysitting your old man.”
Bodhi’s frame eased a fraction and he glanced up. Baze tried for a reassuring smile.
“Really,” he said. “You have fun with your friends.”
Bodhi lifted his chin slightly. “Th-thank you, sir,” he said.
Baze watched him rejoin his friends as Ben blew on a whistle—making Chirrut flinch—and gathered everyone to him. Baze moved in so he could hear, too.
“Grab your carry-on bag and let’s go get the rest of the luggage checked,” Ben said. “Remember, pair up with your travel partner. No one wanders off alone.”
The teens paired off into teams of two as they filed into the airport. Shara Bey, dark-eyed and olive-skinned, held hands with Kes Dameron, all black curls and laughing eyes. Bodhi and Luke were the next to pair up, bumping fists with a grin. Han pounced on Leia, who rolled her eyes but allowed him to pull her into line at the counter. Baze looked for Jyn, who was deep in conversation with Cassian, a quiet boy with eyes that had seen too much but a mouth that smiled easily.
“I guess that leaves us,” Chirrut said from his elbow, and Baze jumped again.
“Would you stop that?”
Chirrut cocked his head. “Is it my fault you don’t maintain proper situational awareness?”
Situational awareness, Baze silently repeated. Who talked like that? Chirrut was still speaking.
“Ben says our seats are at the back of the block of kids’ seats, so we’re first in line.”
Our seats. “So we’re sitting together?”
Chirrut flashed a grin. “I hope you brought something to read.” He tilted his head. “Can you read?”
“Dad.” Bodhi had appeared out of nowhere—clearly he shared his father’s gift—and was glaring at Chirrut. “We talked about this.”
Instead of snapping, something like remorse crossed Chirrut’s face and he nodded.
“You’re right.” He turned to Baze. “I apologize, that was uncalled for.”
Baze stared at him for a minute, but Chirrut’s expression was sincere. “It’s fine,” Baze finally grunted.
Sorry, Bodhi mouthed.
Baze smiled at him. “Better go get in line, kid. Ben’s looking antsy.”
“Yes, sir.” Bodhi spun and dived back into position next to Luke as Ben oversaw the handing off of the luggage to the airport employees.
“That was uncalled for,” Chirrut repeated. “I’m on edge, tense, and I took it out on you. I really am sorry.”
Baze relaxed slightly. “Are you worried about Bodhi?”
“In part,” Chirrut admitted. “But also because I… don’t do well in airplanes or other small, enclosed spaces.”
“You seemed fine on the bus,” Baze said. They moved nearer to the counter as Chirrut shrugged.
“I’m usually good at hiding it. Plus I’m used to buses—as long as I can sit at the back, it’s not much of an issue. An airplane is… different.”
Baze digested this as they handed over their bags and showed their IDs to the clerk, who checked them in with rapid, impersonal efficiency. Cleared to find their gate, they caught up to the knot of teenagers and Ben, who somehow seemed serene and unworried, despite having eight children in his charge.
Jyn was bouncing on her toes, walking as though she was about to float to the ceiling from pure excitement, and Baze didn’t fight the fond smile as he watched her. It had been a while since he’d seen her so uncomplicatedly happy.
“Is Jyn’s mother in the picture?” Chirrut asked, and Baze jerked, recalled to himself. “I don’t mean to pry.” Baze stifled a snort at that. “It’s only, a man raising a teenager on his own is a fairly unusual sight. Did you do it like me, adopt Jyn as a baby and raise her alone?”
“No,” Baze said, watching Jyn’s slim figure as she waved her arms, describing something to Leia, who seemed amused but interested. “Her mother and I divorced when Jyn was twelve.”
“I’m sorry,” Chirrut said, and he sounded sincere. “That couldn’t have been easy for any of you.”
“Jyn’s tough,” Baze said. “She’s doing just fine.”
For some reason, Chirrut let that blatant lie pass with only a raised eyebrow.
They arrived at their gate and Ben waved everyone to seats to wait for the call to board. Baze glanced around and then touched Chirrut’s elbow.
Chirrut followed him to the seats by the boarding gate with the handicapped sign hanging above them, and sat without comment.
Baze sat next to him, lacing his hands across his stomach and leaning his head back against the wall. He caught Bodhi’s eyes across the aisle, full of gratitude, and Baze smiled at him before closing his eyes.
Short-ish chapter because once they get on the airplane, they refused to shut up oh my god, so I'll add a chapter tomorrow to make up for the briefness today.
Also, if you're not on Tumblr, two amazing pieces of art were done for this story yesterday.
Bodhi and Chirrut (and Kyber!) by godforget. Matt, I want you to know that that outfit is absolutely going in a future chapter. :D
Holy crap this is so long, I'm sorry, they would not stop talking!
The flight attendant was a young man named Miguel, with hair dyed an improbable shade of blond that almost glowed against his coppery brown skin, and he’d taken one look at Baze and Chirrut sitting together and decided they were a couple.
“Sir,” he said, bending over Chirrut. “We’re beginning early boarding now. If you’d like, you and your husband are welcome to board first.”
Baze opened his mouth to tell him they weren’t together, but Chirrut gave Miguel a brilliant smile and stood, smoothing his pants.
“Aren’t you kind,” he said to Miguel. “Baze, darling, isn’t he kind?” He leaned in to confess in a stage whisper, “My husband is a nervous flyer. It helps if we can get on early to settle in.”
Miguel looked at Baze, whose mouth was hanging open in shock at the sheer lies coming from Chirrut, and gave him a sympathetic smile.
“We’ll do everything in our power to make your time with us as stress-free as possible,” he said. “Please, come with me.”
Baze snapped his mouth shut and glanced at Chirrut, who seemed perfectly serene as he waited for Baze to gather his things.
They made their way down the covered walk together, Chirrut with a hand tucked under Baze’s elbow.
Inside the airplane, though, Chirrut’s calm exterior began to fray. His breath came shorter, shoulders tensing, and Baze took his arm, suddenly worried.
“It’s too narrow to walk side by side,” he said, “so I’m going to walk in front of you until we get to our seats, alright?”
Chirrut managed a shallow nod and Miguel stepped into the galley, out of the way, so Baze could lead Chirrut down to their seats.
Baze consulted the ticket in his other hand and matched the seat rows until he got to theirs. Once there, he hesitated. “Ah… do you want the aisle or window seat?”
A small smile touched Chirrut’s mouth, despite the perspiration beading on his forehead. “It’s not like I can enjoy the view. Besides, it might—help, to be on the aisle.”
Baze bent and took Chirrut’s bag gently from him and put it, along with his own, in the compartment overhead. Then he guided Chirrut to the seat and let him sit down before carefully stepping over his legs to settle himself in the window seat.
Chirrut fumbled for the seatbelt, hands unsteady, and swore under his breath when one of the ends stuck and wouldn’t loosen.
“Easy,” Baze said, leaning across him to reach the recalcitrant nylon strap. Chirrut went still beneath him as Baze worked on the buckle until he’d popped it loose and it was moving freely. “There,” he said in satisfaction. “You should be able to adjust it now.”
“Everything okay?” Miguel asked.
Baze glanced up and smiled at him. “We’re fine. Thank you.”
Miguel gave him a brilliant smile in return and disappeared back toward the front of the plane as Chirrut snapped the buckle in place.
His knuckles were white where they gripped his cane, Baze noted, alarmed.
“Maybe we should fold that up,” he suggested. “Just so it doesn’t get underfoot.”
Chirrut snapped the cane into its pieces and folded it with quick, jerky movements, setting it in his lap and holding it tight when he was done.
“So, tell me what it is you do,” Baze said.
Chirrut rolled his head along the upholstery toward the sound of Baze’s voice. “Don’t coddle me,” he growled.
“You have an interesting definition of coddling,” Baze said, amused despite himself. “I thought I was making conversation.”
Chirrut frowned but finally he shrugged. “I teach yoga, martial arts, and tai chi.”
“No need to sound quite so surprised,” Chirrut said dryly. “Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I’m helpless.”
“Of course not,” Baze said. People were filtering into the plane in small groups, finding their seats and talking back and forth in cheerful tones.
Bodhi hurried down the aisle, slithering past people with eel-like grace until he reached his father’s side, where he knelt, half in front of him, and took Chirrut’s hands.
“Dad,” he said. “I’m here.”
Chirrut clutched at his hands, leaning forward until his forehead touched Bodhi’s, and Baze looked away, feeling like an intruder witnessing a moment not meant for him.
When he looked back, Bodhi and Chirrut were still touching but the edge of desperation had left Chirrut’s body, leaving him somewhat more relaxed. Baze looked up, searching the passengers’ faces for Jyn, and finally found her in her assigned seat, next to Cassian, who had a book out and was reading peacefully.
Jyn caught Baze’s eye and smiled at him as Bodhi stood, half in front of Chirrut’s seat so he didn’t block passersby.
“I’m three rows ahead of you, okay?” He glanced at Baze, who cleared his throat and nodded. Bodhi squeezed Chirrut’s hand and left to find his seat.
“So, yoga and martial arts, huh?” Baze said.
“And tai chi on the weekends,” Chirrut replied. His voice was steadier, as were his hands. “It keeps me busy, helps me stay fit. What about you? What do you do?”
“I’m a mechanic,” Baze said. Almost everyone had found their seats, the last stragglers hurrying to get settled as the engines spun up.
Chirrut’s eyebrows raised. “Are you now? Do you own your own garage?”
“Malbus Motors, downtown,” Baze agreed. “It’s pretty small, just two employees and me, but we keep a pretty steady turnover.”
“Any particular make you specialize in, or do you fix anything?”
Baze opened his mouth to answer and realized the attendants had taken their places to begin the pre-flight safety briefing.
Miguel gave him another smile as he went through the motions of showing the passengers how to retrieve and put on their oxygen masks.
Baze paid close attention, knowing he’d be responsible for Chirrut if the unthinkable happened, and it wasn’t until the attendants had taken their places in the jumpseats and the plane taxied onto the runway that he realized Chirrut was on the verge of panicking again.
Shit. Baze cast about in his mind for something to do. Looking up, he saw Bodhi, twisted backward in his seat to see them, worry making his eyes huge. Baze glanced at Chirrut again, who was gripping his armrests with both hands, head pressed back against the seat rest while his lips moved silently.
I wonder what kind of kisser he is. The thought was there and gone again so fast Baze wondered if it had really happened. What would an actual husband do in this scenario?
The plane rolled into position on the tarmac and accelerated down it, pressing them back against their cushions, and Baze grabbed Chirrut’s hand.
Chirrut froze, but Baze held on, wrapping his fingers around Chirrut’s and pressing them against his palm, thumb running over Chirrut’s knuckles in slow, rhythmic sweeps.
He was dimly aware that the nose of the plane had tilted up but all he could feel was Chirrut’s hand in his, holding on tight, skin warm and soft beneath Baze’s fingers, tiny curling hairs springing back as Baze stroked along them.
They existed in a vacuum, utter silence in the tiny bubble that enclosed them as Baze watched his thumb moving along the back of Chirrut’s hand.
The ding of the seatbelt sign going off startled him and sound rushed back as he looked up to realize they were in the air and they had been for a while, because the captain was informing them that he’d reached cruising altitude and they were free to move about the cabin.
Baze let go and coughed. “Thanks,” he managed, his voice raspier than usual. “The—takeoff and landing always get me.”
Chirrut said nothing. He just folded his hands back in his lap and sat quietly, a thoughtful look on his face.
Baze glanced up to see Bodhi watching them again. Baze gave him a furtive thumb’s up and Bodhi’s eyes eased. Across the aisle, Jyn was watching them too. Baze raised an eyebrow at her, and Jyn covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.
Chirrut had relaxed, the tension no longer obvious in his shoulders and hands, so Baze sat back against his seat too as the flight attendants began rolling trolleys down the aisle, handing out drinks and packets of pretzels and chips.
“Do you want anything to eat?” Baze asked.
Chirrut shook his head. “I ate breakfast before we left. I wouldn’t mind a drink though. Water or juice?”
When Miguel reached them, Baze asked for apple juice for Chirrut and coffee for himself. Miguel handed them both over, smiling at Baze like they shared a secret.
Bewildered, Baze gave him a hesitant smile in return and accepted his coffee and creamer with a nod.
“I wish my boyfriend knew me well enough to order for me,” Miguel said wistfully.
Baze sputtered but Chirrut smiled brightly.
“Baze is a wonderful husband,” he chirped, patting Baze’s thigh. “Always looking out for me.”
Miguel put his hand to his heart and sighed. “So sweet. How long have you been married?”
Baze waited for Chirrut’s answer, torn between outrage and unwilling amusement.
“Fifteen years,” Chirrut said, tilting his head up so Miguel got the full effect of his smile. “And would you believe he still brings me breakfast in bed?”
Amusement was winning. Baze stifled a laugh as Miguel visibly melted.
“I need a man like that,” he said. “You two enjoy your beverages. If you need anything at all, just press the call button.”
Baze waited for him to get out of earshot before speaking. “You’re terrible.”
Chirrut’s grin flashed gums and white teeth, making his cheeks apple. “I have to amuse myself somehow.”
His hands were quick and unerring on the juice box Miguel had handed him, pulling the straw off and taking it out of the plastic casing, then finding the hole in the box and puncturing it with the end of the straw.
“You’re really not helpless at all, are you?” Baze asked quietly.
Chirrut lifted an elegant shoulder. “Only when it suits my needs. Tell me, Baze, what do you do for fun?”
Thrown, Baze fumbled for words. “I—sometimes I go bowling with Jyn.”
“Bowling,” Chirrut echoed. “How interesting.”
Baze bristled. “It’s a lot of fun. Don’t judge me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Chirrut said. “Is that all there is to you, then? Working in your garage and the occasional bowling jaunt?”
“I take my motorcycle out on the weekends,” Baze said, irritation pushing him. Chirrut didn’t get to judge him for his hobbies or how he liked to spend his time.
“Ah yes, I remember hearing it when we were at the school last week,” Chirrut said. “What kind of motorcycle is it?”
“It’s a 1941 Harley Flathead,” Baze said. “Matte black, pristine condition, like she just rolled off the factory line. I bought her five years ago and basically rebuilt her almost from scratch.”
“Do you take Jyn out on it?”
“Of course,” Baze said. He searched Chirrut’s face but there seemed to be nothing but honest curiosity there. “She loves it, always has. When she was little, I had a sidecar, but now she rides pillion.”
“I’m surprised you willingly put your daughter in such a dangerous situation,” Chirrut said. His tone was neutral, but Baze’s hackles still went up.
“Last time I checked, that was none of your business,” he snapped.
“Of course not,” Chirrut said, tone still mild. “Merely making an observation.”
“Observe this,” Baze muttered.
Chirrut’s lips twitched. “If you’re making an obscene gesture, I’m afraid it’s wasted on me.”
Baze scowled and drank his coffee.
“What about you?” he asked after a few minutes.
“I’ve never been on a motorcycle in my life and I have no intention of changing that,” Chirrut said promptly.
“That’s not what I was asking and you know it,” Baze retorted. “What do you do to relax?”
“My work, oddly enough, relaxes me,” Chirrut said. He turned the juice box in his hands, caressing its corners with long fingers. “Occasionally, Bodhi and I will go see a play.”
“See?” Baze bit his tongue but it was too late.
“I believe that is the accepted vernacular,” Chirrut said dryly, “even if it’s somewhat erroneous when applied to me.”
“I just—how does that work? Do you have any vision at all, then?”
Chirrut shook his head. “I can occasionally detect bright light, like on a sunny day. Mostly, though, I can’t even see shapes.” There was no self-pity in his voice, just simple statement of facts. Baze watched his face as he continued. “However, there are some wonderful theatrical companies who have made an effort to bring more culture to those unable to experience it in the usual ways. Bodhi and I love going to those plays—he wears a blindfold when we do, so he can feel what I’m feeling.”
“That’s… kinda cool,” Baze admitted grudgingly, and Chirrut’s lips curved. “What kind of plays?”
“Gilbert and Sullivan is one of our favorites,” Chirrut said. “You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a blind rendition of A Modern Major General.”
Baze laughed, and something in Chirrut’s face eased.
“Tell me, Baze, are you current on world news? Politics?”
“Of course,” Baze said. “Well, local and country-wide news more, but I try to stay as informed as possible about what’s happening.”
Chirrut nodded, looking pleased. “Who do you think will win the current bid for the Senate seat?”
“Who do I think will win or who should win?” Baze countered. “Because personally, la Croix should absolutely take it. But you and I both know she doesn’t have a chance.”
“Because she’s up against Simmons,” Baze said.
“What’s Simmons got that she doesn’t?”
“Besides a penis?” Baze said, startling an indelicate snort from Chirrut. “Let’s see—he’s got looks, he’s got charisma, he’s got a sense of humor. Who cares that he doesn’t give a shit about women’s rights and he wants to defund all major healthcare reforms made in the past few years? As long as no video surfaces of him fucking a goat or something in the next few weeks, he’s got it sewn up and in the bag.”
Chirrut nodded, looking thoughtful. “I’m afraid you may be right, sad as I am to admit it. I met Justine la Croix at a fundraiser a few months ago, you know.”
“Yeah? What’s she like?”
“Gracious to a fault, excellent conversationalist—she can talk about anything for any length of time, and she’s very good at not hogging the spotlight, making others feel listened to. Important. I agree that she won’t win, and it’s a damn shame.”
Baze looked up to see Bodhi approaching.
“Hey, Dad,” he said, crouching by Chirrut’s seat. “Just thought I’d see how you’re doing.”
Chirrut’s face lit up and he reached out, finding Bodhi’s shoulder and gripping it. “My companion is doing an admirable job of distracting me,” he said. “We’re talking politics.”
Bodhi shivered. “My least favorite thing. I’m glad you’re okay, though. I’ll come check on you again before we land.”
“How long do we have?” Baze asked.
“About four more hours, then a layover in Chicago, and then the last leg will only take about two hours,” Bodhi said. He smiled at Baze and squeezed Chirrut’s hand, then stood.
Baze watched him retrace his steps and sit down beside Luke, bending his dark head to Luke’s bright one in quiet conversation.
“That’s a good kid you’ve got,” he said.
This won a genuine smile from Chirrut. “I must admit, I’m very proud of him.”
“Tell me about him,” Baze said.
Chirrut tilted his head, a frown wrinkling his forehead. “Why?”
“Because we’re stuck on a plane for another four hours, and eventually we’re going to run out of things to talk about?” Baze countered. “I’m curious. What’s he like?”
The smile returned, warm with affection. “Bodhi is—he’s incredible. He’s smart. So smart, Baze. Terrifyingly so. I had him tested when he was in grade school, and they wanted to put him in the gifted class. He asked not to go, though.”
“Bodhi—he struggles with anxiety,” Chirrut said softly. “It’s especially bad when he’s pushed beyond what he can reasonably bear, emotionally speaking, and moving to the gifted class would have taken him from the one friend who gives him the support he needs.”
“Luke?” Baze asked, glancing up. Bodhi’s and Luke’s heads were still close as they spoke in low tones, and there was an intimacy to their body language—a closeness that Baze wondered went beyond the platonic.
Chirrut hummed agreement. “They met when they were six, and Luke moved in with Bail and Breha Organa. Since then, they’ve been inseparable.”
“Where does Bodhi want to go to college?” Baze asked.
Chirrut smiled, but there was an edge of sadness to it. “I’ve been trying to get him to look at Harvard or Yale, but he refuses. Says he doesn’t want to move all the way across the country, he wants to be close to home. Last time we talked about it, he was even considering the local community college.”
“He’s a good kid,” Baze said quietly. “Very polite. He calls me sir—makes me look around for my father every time.”
Chirrut huffed amusement. “Tell me about Jyn.”
Baze glanced up, to where Jyn was drawing on her tablet, hand quick and unhesitating as she sketched and Cassian watched.
“Jyn’s… passionate. She has a lot of fire. Sometimes it can be difficult to channel that, and if it’s not directed properly, it’ll blow up all over anyone in the blast zone. But get her on the right track, and she’s unstoppable.”
“I’ll be frank,” Chirrut said, keeping his voice low. “I didn’t expect to like her, when she stayed for dinner the other day. But I was very pleasantly surprised. She’s got a sharp sense of humor, she’s clearly very intelligent, and she owns up to when she’s wrong. She apologized to Bodhi and me for the incident in the library, did you know that?”
“No,” Baze said, eyes on Jyn’s dark head. Affection nearly stole his voice. “No, she didn’t tell me, but I’m not surprised. That’s Jyn for you.”
“You’ve done a good job with her,” Chirrut said. “Does she see her mother often?”
“About once a year. She flits in, stays for a few days, promises Jyn the world, then disappears again. It used to break Jyn’s heart, but I think she’s gotten more used to it now. She knows her mother will never be the nurturing type.”
“But it makes you angry,” Chirrut observed.
Startled, Baze glanced at him. Chirrut raised his eyebrows, waiting.
“I—yeah,” Baze admitted. “It does. I want her to keep her promises to Jyn, stop getting her hopes up, quit upsetting the apple cart, as it were. But I guess that’ll never happen, so all I can do is try and let Jyn down easy when her mom fucks off again without warning.”
Chirrut nodded. “What does Jyn want to do when she’s grown?”
“I don’t think she’s really decided,” Baze said. Jyn glanced up, caught his eye, and grinned, lifting the tablet so Baze could see that she’d drawn a sketch of Chirrut. Even from across the aisle, the lines were startling with their vivid life, Chirrut’s blind eyes somehow looking into Baze’s soul. Baze gave Jyn a thumb’s up and her smile widened.
“She loves art,” he continued. “Hopefully she’ll pursue that. Or maybe politics—she’s been talking a lot more about that recently.”
Chirrut’s mouth curved. “That may have something to do with her current crush.”
For the first time, Chirrut looked taken aback. “Did you not—know about her crush?”
Baze shook his head, forgetting Chirrut couldn’t see him. Jyn looked up and her smile slipped.
“Baze?” Chirrut said.
“Sorry,” Baze said. “I—uh, who’s… her crush?”
Chirrut looked uneasy. “I’m not sure I should tell you. Isn’t that an invasion of her privacy or something?”
“I’m her father,” Baze protested. “And I’m not going to use it against her or anything—I just want to know!”
“Promise me she won’t find out this came from me,” Chirrut said.
Chirrut made an annoyed noise. “Baze. I’m blind.”
“Sorry,” Baze said again. “I promise. Is her crush on this trip with us?” He looked across the aisle at Cassian, sitting quietly beside Jyn with a book in his hands. “Is it Cassian? They’ve been friends for a while, I could see—”
“No,” Chirrut interrupted. “It’s—” He caught Baze’s shoulder and pulled him down until his mouth was brushing the shell of Baze’s ear. His breath was warm and tickled Baze’s skin when he whispered, “It’s Leia.”
Baze felt his eyes go wide. “Are you serious?”
Chirrut lifted his chin. “Do you have a problem with Leia? Or is it same gender relationships that bother you?” He pulled away, eyes widening. “Are you—did I get her in trouble? Did I just out your daughter, Baze?”
“No!” Baze protested. He ran his hands through his hair, blowing out a frustrated breath. “I mean… it explains a lot. Her moping, and the sudden interest in women’s rights and being ‘involved in the community’—her words, by the way. I just didn’t realize it was… Leia Organa.”
Chirrut nodded, sympathy settling over his features. “How well do you know the Organa twins?”
“Not very,” Baze said. “I know Bail and Breha, of course. And everyone heard the story of how Luke came to them. But I’ve never really gotten to know the family. Maybe I should remedy that.”
“Puppy love,” Chirrut said, smiling again. “It’s not likely to be the kind that lasts.”
“Still.” Baze looked at Jyn, who was leaning out of her chair to say something to Leia, one aisle over and a row up. “What about Bodhi?”
“What about him?”
“Is he dating anyone?”
Chirrut shook his head. “Bodhi is—I suspect he may be asexual, or at least on the spectrum. He wants very much to be in love, but physically he’s uncomfortable with the idea of sex in general. I know he has a crush on Cassian, though.”
Baze glanced over at Cassian, talking quietly to Jyn. “Does Cassian feel the same way?”
“Ah, that I don’t know,” Chirrut admitted. He laughed again. “Look at us, gossiping about high school crushes like a pair of teenagers ourselves.”
“Passes the time, at least,” Baze said. He couldn’t help his own smile. “Have you ever been to DC before?”
Chirrut shook his head. “I’ve never even been outside California before now.”
“Is this your first time on a plane?” Baze asked, startled.
Chirrut grinned at him. “What gave it away?”
Miguel came along then to pick up the trash and offer refills to anyone who wanted them. Chirrut handed over the empty juice box and Baze the coffee cup, and they sat quietly for a few minutes.
“I think I’ll listen to a book,” Chirrut said. “Unless you have a burning desire for more conversation?”
“No, go right ahead,” Baze said. He felt a yawn itching the back of his throat. “Maybe I’ll try to nap a bit. I woke up hellaciously early this morning.”
He pulled the pillow out of the bin and wriggled until he was comfortable, leaning against the window. Folding his arms, Baze closed his eyes and dropped into a light doze.
Chirrut put his earbuds in place and started the book he was working through, but he couldn’t concentrate. Finally he turned the phone off and sat quietly, thinking.
Baze had managed to divert Chirrut’s panic attack. Maybe he hadn’t even realized what he’d done, but Chirrut knew. The grip of Baze’s big hand on his had been the only thing keeping him together as the plane lifted into the air.
When he’d let go, Chirrut had been expecting snark, a snide comment maybe, but Baze had surprised him again.
Chirrut didn’t know what to think. He hated not knowing what to think.
He closed his useless eyes, touched the tips of his middle fingers to his thumbs, and began to meditate. If nothing else, maybe it would help him clear the cobwebs from his head.
The fasten seatbelt sign dinged, startling him out of his light trance, and Chirrut turned his head to hear what was happening.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the fasten seatbelt sign is on. Please return to your seats as we begin our descent into Chicago/O’Hare, where the weather is a crisp 52 degrees, and thank you for flying Delta Air.”
Baze stirred and sat up. “Where are we?” he mumbled.
“Over Chicago,” Chirrut said.
“How long’s our layover?”
“About two hours, I believe,” Chirrut said.
Baze grunted. “Long enough for us to get something to eat at least.” He stretched and groaned with satisfaction as his spine popped.
“Is Bodhi in his seat?” Chirrut asked.
“Yep,” Baze said. “Everyone’s present and accounted for. Ben’s got his trusty checklist out and he’s working his way through another bullet list.”
This made Chirrut smile. “Ben is the most organized person I’ve ever met. We’ll be grateful for that before this trip is over, I guarantee.”
“Is there going to be a lot of walking and hiking on this thing?” Baze asked.
Chirrut’s smile widened. “Is that a problem for you? I mean, obviously I don’t know, being blind, but I was under the impression that you’re a fairly fit individual.”
“And what gave you that idea?” Baze countered.
“You lifted and carried the bags with ease, despite complaining about Leia’s being heavy,” Chirrut said. The plane’s nose dipped as they lost altitude, and Chirrut caught his breath. He wasn’t as afraid, but the fear still battered sharp-tipped wings in the back of his mind. “Plus—” They hit a pocket of air and Chirrut’s breath seized in his chest.
“Plus what?” Baze prompted.
“Ah—plus, you weren’t out of breath when we climbed the stairs and hiked through the airport to get to our terminal. You’re taller than I am, and your voice is deep, indicating you’ve probably get a pretty broad frame, but I’ve known men skinny as reeds to sound like baritone oboes, so that’s really no way to guess—” The plane hit another pocket of air, jostling them, and Chirrut grabbed the armrests with both hands. “Is this—uh… normal?”
“The descent, or you Sherlock Holmesing me?” Baze inquired.
“The descent,” Chirrut managed. His throat was closing, breath shortening again as he imagined all the ways the landing could go wrong.
“Miguel’s half-asleep in the jumpseat, if that’s any consolation,” Baze said.
Something eased in Chirrut’s chest at that. If the attendants weren’t worried, surely there was nothing to worry about.
“I’m 6’1,” Baze said.
Chirrut turned back to him.
Baze cleared his throat. “Would you, uh—would you like to—fuck, how do I say this… would you—”
The plane bounced and Chirrut froze in his seat. Before he could register anything else, Baze had caught his wrist in one long-fingered hand and was guiding Chirrut’s hand to his face.
That same preternatural bubble of silence that had fallen on them before seemed to engulf them again as Baze breathed shallowly under Chirrut’s fingertips. The jostling of the plane receded to dim background information as Chirrut closed his eyes to explore.
Baze’s eyes were deep-set, perfectly shaped but hooded, under a high forehead stamped with care. He seemed to have stopped breathing completely as Chirrut walked his fingers down his temples, committing everything to memory.
He paused at the smile-lines that fanned out from Baze’s eyes, feeling the way they were carved into the skin. Grumpy façade or not, this was a man who smiled easily and often.
Baze’s breathing was shallow and unsteady. Chirrut felt the bridge of his nose, strong and well-shaped, and then traced down his cheeks to his mouth.
Chirrut touched Baze’s lower lip with his thumb. He has the mouth of a poet, he thought, almost dreamily.
Baze wasn’t breathing at all now, as still as stone beneath Chirrut’s questing hands.
The plane jerked as the wheels hit the runway, but Chirrut barely registered it. Baze’s face was warm under his fingertips, and Chirrut wanted to know more, commit his face to memory before the plane stopped and this spell they were under snapped.
He raised his hand past Baze’s cheek, feeling Baze’s shallow, shaky breath on his wrist, and touched his temple again. This time, he went higher, feeling Baze’s hair—cut short but satin-soft and the strands clinging to Chirrut’s fingers as if loath to let go—and then down, to skim over—
He sucked in breath.
“What is it?” Baze managed unsteadily.
“Your ears,” Chirrut whispered. He touched one again, feeling the way it stood out from Baze’s finely shaped skull, running his fingers along the shell of it until Baze shivered and pulled away.
“Baze Malbus,” Chirrut said as the plane rolled to a stop and he dropped his hands. “You’ve been keeping secrets from me.”
“I d-don’t—” Baze cleared his throat. “What are you talking about?”
Chirrut smiled. “You’re a handsome bastard. I had no idea.”
“Lies you tell,” Baze huffed, but the unsteadiness was gone and amusement was creeping in again.
Because his life was cursed, Jyn had seen the whole thing, and she stared at him with sparkling eyes from across the aisle as the plane taxied to the terminal.
Baze scowled at her, but Jyn’s smile just widened. There was going to be no living with her after this—she’d been on him about his sad lack of love-life for a while.
He’d just been doing Chirrut a favor, distracting him from his own head and giving him something else to think about. The fact that he thought he could still feel Chirrut’s fingers ghosting silky warm across his face was neither here nor there.
They stayed in their seats until the worst of the crush had cleared out so Chirrut could walk up the aisle easily. Finally, Baze touched Chirrut’s arm and they stood. Chirrut stepped into the aisle and unfolded his cane as Baze pulled the bags down.
They made their way up the aisle, Chirrut in front, walking confidently with his cane extended, until they got to the front of the plane, where Miguel smiled at them.
“Have a great day!” he chirped.
Chirrut smiled at him and Baze touched his arm, turning him so he was pointed toward the airplane’s door.
“Bump here,” he said. “Not too high.”
Chirrut stepped over it easily and they climbed the gangplank to the airport itself, where Ben had the teenagers in rows waiting for them. Baze and Chirrut joined them and Bodhi slipped his hand into the crook of Chirrut’s elbow.
Chirrut bent to talk to him, their dark heads pressed together, as Jyn pounced on Baze, hands outstretched to grab his sleeve.
“Not a word,” Baze said flatly.
Jyn pretended to pout but didn’t push it. “We’re going to eat at Red Lobster. There’s a two hour layover and the restaurant’s just down from our gate.”
Baze looked at her, the sparkle still in her eyes and the bounce in her step, and touched her face. “Are you having fun, blossom?”
Jyn nodded, smile widening. “Thank you for doing this, Papa. I know you didn’t want to, and it means a lot.”
“I’m glad I did,” Baze said honestly. “Besides, I want to get to know your friends better.”
“And maybe my friend’s dad?” Jyn suggested slyly.
Baze pointed at her. “Another word and you’re grounded for the summer.”
Baze wound up sitting across the table from Chirrut, Jyn on one side and Luke on the other, facing Bodhi. Luke had floppy blond hair and a charming grin that made his blue eyes sparkle, and watching him, Baze couldn’t understand why he and Bodhi were friends.
On the surface, they were opposites. Bodhi was quiet, anxious, an overachiever and chronic try-hard. Luke was charming, extroverted, and seemed to do things last minute, if at all, and he was currently trying to con Bodhi into writing an English paper for him, Baze realized.
Bodhi laughed and shook his head again. “You think I don’t have enough on my plate?”
“Not to mention it’s wrong and you could both get expelled,” Baze said repressively.
Bodhi gulped, glancing up at him. “Yes, uh… that too.” He turned back to Luke and a grin lit up his dark eyes. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to bribe me in front of adults.”
Chirrut snickered, fingers busy on the braille menu that had been provided for him. “Ooh, coconut shrimp sounds just the thing,” he said. “Bodhi, want to split an order with me?”
They placed their orders and Baze looked around the table at the members of the traveling party. Shara and Kes were snuggled together at the far end of the table, talking quietly, while beside them, Han entertained Leia and Cassian with a highly improbable adventure he claimed to have had.
Remembering what Chirrut had said on the plane, Baze took a closer look at Cassian. He’d never had a single conversation with him, he realized, only ever seeing him in the context of Jyn’s activities.
There were shadows like bruises under Cassian’s eyes, his skin waxy pale despite his dusky complexion. Baze frowned. There was something in Cassian’s demeanor, in the way he—
“Earth to Baze!” Chirrut said, snapping his fingers next to Baze’s ear.
Baze jerked. “What?”
“Just wondered where you were,” Chirrut said cheerfully. “The rest of us here on planet Earth are discussing what we’ll do for dinner tonight, in DC.”
“I don’t care,” Baze said. “I’ll eat anything.”
“He will, too,” Jyn chimed in. “It’s kind of alarming, really. Once, I dared him to eat an entire pack of hot dogs, and he did. Buns and all.”
“Can’t stomach the sight of hot dogs to this day,” Baze admitted.
The meal passed quickly, laughter and bantering back and forth over the table from the teenagers, and soon enough Ben gathered everyone up to head for the gate.
Baze and Chirrut brought up the rear of their little brigade as they trooped through the airport. Chirrut seemed more relaxed, quick to make jokes, his shoulders less tense.
When it came time to board, Chirrut was offered the opportunity to go on first, which he immediately accepted, while insisting Baze go with him.
Onboard the plane, they found their seats and Baze put the bags away while Chirrut situated himself in his seat and pulled the belt over his lap.
“Okay?” Baze asked in a low tone as he settled next to him.
Chirrut smiled without looking up and snapped the seatbelt closed. “For the moment. So far so good.”
The plane filled steadily, and it wasn’t long before the attendants were standing up to do their usual safety spiel.
Unfortunately, Baze couldn’t concentrate, because Chirrut’s knee was bumping his in a steady rhythm as Chirrut bounced his heel.
Baze glanced at him. Chirrut’s hands were folded in his lap but there were lines on his forehead, his eyes closed and lips moving silently.
“Are you praying?” The question was out before Baze could think better of it.
“Helps center me,” Chirrut said without opening his eyes.
Baze couldn’t help his snort.
Chirrut cocked his head at that. “Ah, I see. Not a man of faith, I take it.”
“I believe in what I can see and feel,” Baze said. “I don’t need more than that.”
“The point of faith is to comfort one in times of trouble, to give you a support to rest on when you’re not strong enough to go on by yourself,” Chirrut said. “Don’t you ever get tired of doing it on your own?”
Baze shifted in his seat. “Believing in some mystical—and mythical—‘higher power’ isn’t going to help with that. We’re all responsible for ourselves. Which means I can’t blame my fuckups on a supreme being in the sky, either—I make my own choices and I live with the consequences.”
Chirrut nodded thoughtfully. “Does it make me weak, that I do believe in a higher power? Am I soft, for wanting to trust that there are forces at work beyond my control?”
“No!” Baze protested. He ran his fingers through his hair, blowing a breath of frustration. “You’re not weak. I haven’t known you very long but that’s the last term I would use to describe you.”
Chirrut cocked his head. “How would you describe me?”
Baze floundered briefly. “Irritating,” he suggested, and was rewarded by Chirrut’s laugh. He liked the sound of it, he decided. He wanted to hear it more. “Um. Intelligent. Obnoxiously insightful, despite not being able to see.” Attractive. He swallowed. Best keep that descriptor to himself. “A good father who clearly loves his son to bits.”
“Careful,” Chirrut said, a smile flirting on his lips. “I might start thinking you don’t hate me, Baze.”
“I don’t hate you,” Baze said. “I never did. You know how to get under my skin but—” I like you. He closed his mouth on the words.
Chirrut patted his knee. “Look,” he said. “I do believe we’re in the air.”
Baze glanced out the window and his jaw dropped. Chicago was dwindling beneath them as the plane climbed higher.
“Huh,” he said. He glanced back at Chirrut, looking for signs of nerves or impending panic, but Chirrut was calm, hands folded in his lap again, his face serene.
“What’s your opinion on Brexit?” Chirrut inquired.
Baze sputtered a laugh. “You don’t want to get me going on that.”
Chirrut gestured. “Do I have anywhere else to be?”
“Well,” Baze began.
Sorry for the delay on this, my loves--I wrote two fics for the SpiritAssassin exchange happening on Monday (are you excited? I'm excited!) and it sort of sidelined this fic briefly.
Also, just be aware that I start my new job on Monday, and once I'm out of training, I'll be able to write at work between calls, but the first one-two weeks may not allow it, so updates might slow down. Just subscribe, if you haven't, and you'll be notified when I post a new chapter! :)
They landed in DC on time and with much less turbulence on the descent, but Baze hardly noticed, deep in a discussion with Chirrut about foreign and domestic policies and whether the US should get involved in other countries’ wars.
The attendant discreetly cleared her throat and Baze glanced up, startled.
“You may disembark now, sirs.”
Chirrut stood and Baze followed him into the aisle and out of the plane to where the teens and Ben were waiting.
Jyn had a knowing grin on her face and Baze scowled thunderously at her, which just made the smile widen.
“Hotel first,” Ben announced. “We’ll drop our bags in the rooms, you can change if you feel like it, and then dinner. I’ve rented a bus for the duration. Line up, heading for baggage claim now.”
Baze and Chirrut fell into step behind Luke and Bodhi at the end of the line and they found their bags easily.
The bus wasn’t large and Baze didn’t miss the worried look Bodhi threw at Chirrut as they approached it.
“How big is it?” Chirrut asked Bodhi in a low voice.
“Seats… twelve to fourteen, would be my guess,” Bodhi said. “Dad—”
Chirrut firmed his mouth and patted Bodhi’s hand where it rested on his arm. “Ben’s driving. He’s a good driver. I’ll be fine.”
Bodhi shot Baze a miserable glance but didn’t push it. Baze tried to reassure him with his eyes as Ben gestured them forward.
Chirrut felt his way up the stairs, Baze on his heels, and down the narrow aisle to the very rear of the bus.
“There’s a bench that spans the back wall,” Baze said quietly in his ear.
“Perfect,” Chirrut said, and sat down on it.
Baze hesitated and then sank to the vinyl seat beside him, watching Chirrut for signs of panic.
“Bodhi worries,” Chirrut said. The teenagers were boarding the bus, and Chirrut kept his voice low. “I let him, because it makes him feel better, gives him something to do. But I don’t want him to worry about me during this trip. This is supposed to be fun for him. He doesn’t need to be fretting over his poor blind father.” He turned slightly and put a hand on Baze’s arm. “Will you help me?”
“How?” Baze asked, startled.
“Stay with me,” Chirrut said. The entreaty was plain on his face. “If Bodhi sees I’m with someone who’s clearly watching out for me, then he’ll be able to relax and enjoy his trip. I know it’s a lot to ask, but—”
Baze couldn’t help his laugh, and Chirrut drew back, confusion wrinkling his forehead. “No, no,” Baze protested, touching his hand to reassure him. “It’s just—Bodhi came to me before we left and asked me to stick close to you in case you needed help.” He snorted amusement as Chirrut’s lips curved. “Don’t worry. I don’t have anywhere else to be anyway. For the duration of this trip, consider me attached to your hip.”
Chirrut inclined his head. “On behalf of Bodhi’s and my nerves, I thank you.”
The bus started with a rumbling growl and Chirrut stiffened, clutching his staff, but said nothing.
“Everyone in your seats, please,” Ben called. “Enjoy the sights—sorry, Chirrut—and we’ll be to the hotel in about half an hour.”
Chirrut snickered. “Guess I’ll just sit here in the dark, then.” The amusement in his voice took any sting out of the words, but Baze still cleared his throat.
“I can, um… describe stuff, if you want?”
Chirrut tilted his head. “You don’t mind?”
“I mean, I’m no wordsmith,” Baze admitted. “But I can try, I guess.”
He glanced out the window as Ben left the airport and pulled onto the highway.
“Lots of cars, mostly,” he said. “The highways are really wide, like six lanes each direction.”
Chirrut nodded. “Have to try and handle the glut of traffic somehow.”
Dusk was gathering, drawing gray folds across the horizon as headlights flicked on and a few early stars winked overhead. Ben left the highway and turned down a street that looked to be part of the business district.
“It’s almost dark,” Baze said. He leaned across Chirrut slightly to get a better view out the window. “Lights are coming on in the buildings. A lot of yellow and white ones, they sort of—glow—against the twilight. More than lights usually do, I mean, they—” He kicked himself silently. “I’m not good at this, I’m sorry.”
Chirrut put a hand on his arm, warm and reassuring. Baze glanced down at it and up at Chirrut’s face.
“You’re doing fine. What else do you see?”
Baze looked back outside. “People, a lot of them. Most of them seem to have a purpose, they’re walking fast and with their heads down. But a fair number are moving slowly, looking at the buildings around them, taking pictures.”
“What’s the first thing you think when you look at the buildings?” Chirrut asked.
“Old money,” Baze said promptly. “Genteel wealth, columned front porches, cobblestone roads.”
“And the people?”
“Even mix,” Baze said, gazing out the window. “Probably half of them are tourists, just getting their gawk on. The other half are locals. There are a lot of suits, office clothes, neat, professionally tailored outfits.”
Chirrut nodded. He’d relaxed again, leaning just slightly into Baze’s shoulder as if looking for something to brace against.
“That’s a nice house,” Baze said as they stopped at a light.
“Describe it for me.”
“Ah… Corinthian columns in front. Two stories at least. Steps up to the door and a broad porch that looks like it spans most of the house. The porch has a railing around it, hip-height. The house is painted pale blue, with darker blue accents on the windows. The front door is also dark blue, and—” The bus rolled forward as the light changed, and Baze leaned across Chirrut to get a better look in the fading twilight. “There was a brass knocker on the door—I think it was a gargoyle.”
Chirrut hummed. “Sounds lovely.”
Bodhi, in the seat in front of them, turned around. “Dad, do you want to go out to dinner or stay in the room?”
Chirrut smiled in his direction. “I think I’d prefer to eat in the room,” he said gently. “I’m very tired.”
“I’ll stay with you,” Bodhi said promptly.
Chirrut’s smile widened and he leaned forward to touch Bodhi’s arm, draped across the back of the seat. “That won’t be necessary, but thank you. You should go out, enjoy yourself with your friends.”
Bodhi glanced at Baze and back at his father. There was worry in his dark eyes, and Baze wondered how much of it was legitimate and how much was simply Bodhi’s anxiety causing him to fret. It didn’t really matter, he decided, and cleared his throat.
“Are all the teens going out to eat?”
Bodhi looked back up. “Cassian’s not. I think Shara and Kes aren’t. And if Dad’s not, I—I’d rather stay behind too.”
“Jyn?” Baze called. “Going out to eat?”
Jyn’s ponytail bounced as she nodded. “Me, Leia, Luke, and Han,” she called. “And Ben, obviously.”
“I think I’ll stay in too,” Baze said. “I’m pretty worn out. I’ll enjoy the city much more when I’m rested.”
Bodhi’s eyes lit with gratitude and he nodded.
Chirrut’s face was thoughtful when Baze glanced at him, but he said nothing, swaying slightly with the bus’s movement on the cobblestones.
At the hotel, the melee began all over again, with everyone grabbing bags and marshaling resources to get them up to their rooms as Ben retrieved door keys.
He passed out the key cards to the most responsible teens—Leia for the girls and Cassian for the boys, as Han pouted in the background.
“I’m older,” he complained to Leia, who seemed unmoved. “How come he gets the key?”
“Maybe because he remembers where he put his head from one minute to the next?” Luke suggested, and dodged the mock-swipe Han aimed at him.
Chirrut said nothing as Baze accepted the key from Ben. He gripped his walking stick, his forehead knitted with something Baze couldn’t identify.
The teens opted to take the stairs, bounding down the hallways with energy Baze both cursed and envied. Bodhi lagged behind, watching his father.
Go, Baze mouthed, making gentle shooing motions.
Bodhi gave him another grateful look. “I’ll see you upstairs, Dad,” he said, and waited for Chirrut’s nod before bolting after the others.
“Definitely a good kid,” Baze murmured. “Elevator?”
“Yes please,” Chirrut said. His voice was thin with exhaustion, shoulders slumped, and Baze stifled the spike of worry and pressed the button for the elevator.
“I’m sorry,” Chirrut said when they were safely inside and rising to their floor. “I tire easily these days. Usually it’s simply overstimulation—my remaining senses have to work extra hard to make up for my lack of sight. But this time it’s compounded by the… stress of the flights.”
“No apology necessary,” Baze said. He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and shifted his feet, wondering what to say to put Chirrut at ease.
On their floor, he wrestled the luggage cart out and into the hall.
“Why don’t you hold onto it?” he suggested.
Chirrut gripped the brass pole and mustered a smile. “Onward ho?”
Baze grinned as he towed Chirrut and the luggage down the hall to their bedroom, passing Shara and Jyn giggling as they went for ice and Jyn shot Baze a smile.
Baze unlocked the door to their room and held it open so Chirrut could push the cart inside.
“Okay, stop there,” he called, and let the door close behind them. He touched Chirrut’s shoulder as he came up behind him and froze.
“Baze?” Chirrut sounded worried. “What is it?”
“Uh…” Baze rubbed his face. “There’s… only one bed.”
“Is that all?” Chirrut huffed a laugh and took a step forward, cane out in front of him. He found the bed—king-size, Baze noted—and worked his way around it, tapping the floor and anything else that came within reach. Mapping the room, Baze realized.
“I’ll… call the front desk,” Baze said. “Ask to be switched to a different room, one with two beds.”
Chirrut shrugged and sank down onto the mattress, sliding his hand across the comforter. “If you feel it’s necessary, and there’s one available close to the kids.”
But the front desk was very apologetic and unable to help. Baze finally sighed and hung up.
“They have three rooms available with double beds, and they’re all either three floors away or on the other side of the hotel.”
Chirrut was stretched out on the mattress, hands laced across his flat stomach. He’d taken his shoes off and set them by the head of the bed, and Baze’s eye twitched at the garish printed socks he was wearing.
“I’ll sleep on the floor,” Baze growled.
“Don’t be stupid,” Chirrut said.
Baze bristled, glaring at him. “I’m not sharing a bed with you, Chirrut.”
Chirrut sat up fluidly. “Are you afraid of me?”
“Of course not!” Baze sputtered.
“Are you afraid I might touch you inappropriately?” Chirrut pressed.
“No,” Baze protested. He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “It’s—I just—”
Chirrut’s face softened. “We’re adults. This is a very large bed. I promise you, we can share this space without any compromising of morals.”
Baze groaned and took his shoes off. “Promise me Jyn never hears of this.”
Chirrut’s grin was unfairly charming, he thought.
“I promise,” Chirrut said, raising a hand.
“I’ll go find out what the kids want to do for dinner.”
“I vote pizza,” Chirrut called as Baze headed for the door.
Bodhi was alone with Cassian for the first time. He sat on the double bed he and Luke were sharing and looked at his phone, watching Cassian’s slim form out of the corner of his eye as he unpacked his clothes into the dresser drawer.
“What would you like for dinner?” he asked.
Cassian lifted dark eyes briefly before shrugging. “I’m not hungry. I’ll eat a granola bar.”
Bodhi watched him a minute longer, unsure what to say. He’d never been so close to Cassian, in the same room, just the two of them, and he wracked his brain for topics of conversation. But unlike Baze and his father, Bodhi couldn’t think of anything.
Someone knocked on the door and they both jumped. Cassian flicked a glance at Bodhi that didn’t quite meet his eyes and went to answer it, looking through the peephole first.
“Hey, Mr. Malbus,” he said as he swung the door open.
Baze smiled at him, gruff but friendly. “We’re discussing dinner plans,” he said. “Bodhi, your dad votes pizza. What say you?”
“Pizza sounds good,” Bodhi called. “Cassian?”
“I’m—nothing for me, thank you,” Cassian said. His voice sounded brittle, Bodhi thought with alarm, and his knuckles were white where they gripped the door.
Baze had seen it too. His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t challenge Cassian’s statement. Instead he caught Bodhi’s eye. “I’m going to order pepperoni pizza all around unless you have a preference for something else?”
“Mushrooms on mine, please,” Bodhi said.
Baze nodded, glanced at Cassian, and left.
Cassian sat down on his and Han’s bed, took his shoes off, and pulled out a book. His silence might as well have been a shout, so thoroughly did it scream don’t bother me.
Bodhi took the hint and pulled his favorite game up on the phone.
Baze knocked on the door when the pizza arrived, and Bodhi answered it this time. Baze smiled down at him, holding two boxes.
“The restaurant messed up the order and sent an extra pie,” he said. “Knowing what bottomless pits young men can be, I hoped you boys might be able to help us out.”
Bodhi glanced at Cassian and back at Baze. He let his eyes show his gratitude, and Baze’s face softened.
“Have a good meal. Your father tells me we’ll be leaving early for the first round of sightseeing tomorrow, so try to get some rest.”
“Thank you, sir,” Bodhi said.
He set the pizza boxes on Cassian’s bed and flipped them both open. Mushrooms and pepperoni on his, and plain pepperoni on the other. The tantalizing smell of grease, cheese, and dough rolled into the room and Bodhi took a deep breath.
“I’m not hungry.” Cassian had a slight accent, and his voice was taut, arms crossed over his chest.
Bodhi shrugged, affecting nonchalance. “Whatever, but I’m just gonna have to throw them out if you don’t help me eat them, since we don’t have a fridge.”
He flopped onto his bed with a slice and took a bite, moaning with pleasure as the flavor hit his tongue. From the corner of his eye, he could see Cassian, sitting stiff and still.
Bodhi was halfway through his third piece before Cassian gave in and reached for a slice. Bodhi pretended not to notice the way Cassian’s hands shook as he lifted it to his mouth.
“So,” he said after a few minutes. “Kinda dumb that we go to school together and barely know anything about each other.”
Cassian’s eyes flicked up. “I know about you.”
Bodhi’s heart jumped. “You do? What—I mean… how? Do I have a—reputation?”
Cassian almost smiled. “If you do, it’s a good one. Top of your classes, everyone says you’ll be able to pick your own college. You’re not really athletic but you give it your all. You don't have a lot of friends, you don’t make trouble, you keep your head down—well.” His lips curved. “Usually.”
Bodhi’s face warmed with his blush and he self-consciously touched the healed cut above his eye.
“What about me?” Cassian asked. He took another slice and leaned back, tipping his chin up with an almost challenging air. “Surely you know at least a few things about me.”
I know so much, and not enough, Bodhi thought helplessly. “You don't really have many friends either, at least not at school. Your grades are decent—not great, but definitely better than, say, Luke’s.”
Cassian laughed outright at that. “Go on.”
“You’re an amazing runner,” Bodhi blurted. “You move like… a song.”
Cassian’s eyebrows shot up. “A song?”
Bodhi ducked his head and picked at a loose thread on his jeans. “It’s stupid, forget it, I—”
“No, I’ve just never heard it described that way,” Cassian said. “Anything else?”
“You could be a pro track athlete,” Bodhi said. “I’ve heard the coach talking about scouts coming to look at you next year. Whatever your grades, your running’s enough to get you a scholarship just about anywhere you want to go.”
“That’s the idea,” Cassian said, so quietly Bodhi wasn’t sure he was supposed to hear.
“But I don’t know what movies you like, music you listen to, books you read—any of that stuff,” Bodhi continued.
Cassian lifted a shoulder, smile curling wry and soft across his mouth. “The usual, I guess. Action films, comedies, anything that takes me away and lets me turn off my brain for a while.”
“I’ll read anything,” Cassian said. “But I love fantasy, magical realism, sci-fi, things like that.”
“Duh,” Cassian said. He squinted. “Hufflepuff?”
Bodhi couldn’t help his laugh. “Dead on. I feel like you’re probably a Gryffindor.”
Cassian grinned, the expression seeming genuine for the first time. “I got my fo—my mom to knit me a red and gold scarf for Christmas one year. I still have it.”
“I’ve got the ‘Puff badger on a poster in my room,” Bodhi confessed.
They were still smiling at each other when the door burst open and Luke and Han stumbled through.
“What’s up, losers?” Han inquired. “Ooh, pizza!”
“You just ate!” Bodhi protested.
Han shrugged. “Early breakfast?” he suggested with his mouth full.
“Oh, have at it, then,” Bodhi sighed. “I think we were pretty much done anyway.”
Chirrut was on the bed eating pizza when someone knocked on the door.
“I’ll get it,” Baze offered.
Chirrut waved a languid hand. Bodhi’s footsteps were muffled by the carpet when Baze let him in, but Chirrut sat up immediately.
“Bodhi, what’s wrong?”
“How—” Baze cut himself off. “Never mind. I’m going to check on Jyn, you talk to your son.”
Chirrut patted the bed and it dipped slightly as Bodhi sat down. Chirrut wiped his fingers and reached out. Bodhi leaned in, resting his face against Chirrut’s hand. His mouth was turned down, eyes closed.
“What’s wrong?” Chirrut repeated gently. “I thought you were having fun.”
“I am,” Bodhi said. He straightened and Chirrut dropped his hands. “I’m just—something’s going on with Cassian.”
“I don’t know,” Bodhi admitted. “He was… weird about the pizza. At first I thought it was an eating disorder—he’s so skinny, Dad—but now I’m wondering if it’s something else. I can’t just ask him, though—it’s too personal and he’s too private.”
Chirrut considered. “So keep an eye on him. Tell me how he acts, if he’s ‘off’ in any other way. If we can help him, we will. But most importantly—be his friend.”
“I want to be,” Bodhi whispered. “I just don’t know if he’ll let me.”
Chirrut cupped his cheek as Baze opened the door. “You’re more charming than you think, dear heart. Now go get some sleep.”
“What time are we leaving for the tour in the morning?” Baze asked as Bodhi left.
Chirrut yawned. “Eight, I think. Breakfast downstairs and then off we go. Blind man seeing the sights.” He snorted mirthlessly and lay back against his pillows, taking another bite of the pizza slice in his hand.
Chirrut made a vague noise that could have meant anything. “How’s Jyn?”
“Having a grand time,” Baze said. “We’re going to the Smithsonian at some point, she said. I think they have exhibits specifically for hearing and vision impaired people, don’t they?”
“I don’t know,” Chirrut said, perking up. “If they don’t, they should.” He yawned, covering his mouth with an elbow as Baze got up and consolidated the pizza into one box.
“I think it’ll fit in the refrigerator,” he said. His voice sounded lower, like he’d gone to his knees. “The boys don’t have a fridge or minibar in their room, apparently.”
“Good,” Chirrut said lazily. He could feel himself drifting, fraying at the edges as sleep plucked at him with sticky fingers. “Less chance of them getting drunk and costing us a fortune.”
He put the last piece of crust in his mouth and wiped his fingers before turning on his side. He could hear Baze moving around the room, unzipping noises, rustling and bumping.
“Shower tonight or in the morning?” he heard Baze say as if from a distance, but Chirrut was too far under to answer.
He woke with a start, sitting bolt upright before memory flooded in and he realized where he was.
Steady breathing from his right—Baze was sound asleep. Chirrut couldn’t see any light at all, not even the dim glow off fluorescent bulbs he could sometimes sense. It must be late.
He fumbled with his watch, running his fingers over the raised numbers. Close to three AM.
Baze slurred something in his sleep and turned over, making the bed quiver.
Chirrut bit his lip and swung his legs off the side of the mattress, realizing as he did that Baze had put a blanket over him before going to bed. He peeled it off, gratitude warm in his chest for the gruff, burly man who pretended not to care and cared very much indeed.
On his feet, he stretched until his spine popped and then bent to unzip his own carefully packed suitcase. He pulled out his favorite pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste, and padded for the bathroom.
Halfway there, he tripped, turned his ankle, and went sprawling.
“What the fuck?” Baze said. “Chirrut?” A light flicked on as Chirrut rolled to a sitting position, wincing.
“I stepped on something,” he said. “Sorry to wake you.”
The bedcovers rustled as Baze threw them off and stood. His footsteps were heavy but not angry, and when he sank to his knees beside Chirrut’s huddled form, his hands were gentle on Chirrut’s ankle.
“Let me see,” he murmured.
“I’m fine,” Chirrut said. “I just—I don’t know what it was, my foot hit it and it sort of rolled, and I—”
“My shoes,” Baze said, voice sounding horrified. “Chirrut, I left my shoes out. You tripped on them, I’m so sorry, did I hurt you? Are you okay? God, I’m an asshole, please tell me where it hurts. Do I need to bandage your ankle? Is it sprained?”
Chirrut was laughing before Baze was done. “I’m fine,” he repeated. “I know how to fall, trust me. I rolled with it, I’m not hurt.”
“Wiggle your toes for me,” Baze said, sounding unconvinced.
Chirrut sighed for dramatic effect and dropped his feet in Baze’s lap. He wriggled all ten toes and flexed his feet at the ankles for good measure before pulling away.
“See? No damage done.”
“Okay,” Baze said. His voice sounded throttled and Chirrut frowned.
“You’re not getting sick, are you?”
Baze cleared his throat. “No. Nope. Definitely not. Let me help you up and move these shoes so this never happens again.”
Chirrut didn’t bother telling him he didn’t need help up. Instead he accepted the hand Baze put in his and allowed Baze to pull him easily to his feet.
Upright, he brushed himself off. “Ah, dammit, dropped my stuff.”
“I’ll get them,” Baze said immediately. “Toothbrush, toothpaste, and clothes?”
He pushed them each into Chirrut’s hands, and Chirrut cocked his head and smiled.
“I’d apologize again for waking you up, but since it’s kind of your fault anyway, I guess… we’re even?”
Baze half-laughed. “I guess. I am sorry.”
Chirrut patted his arm. “Go back to bed, I’m just getting changed.”
His mouth clean, Chirrut slipped back into the bed in his pajamas. The bed was so large he didn’t think he could even touch Baze without rolling over and stretching his arm out, and he smiled to himself.
Baze’s virtue was definitely safe.
“Goodnight,” Baze mumbled, and a light clicked off.
He’d been waiting to make sure Chirrut got back to bed without incident, Chirrut realized.
He woke without his alarm at six o’clock, rolling out of bed and padding silently to the bathroom as Baze slumbered on.
When he was done, Chirrut went around the bed to the far end of the room, yoga mat from his suitcase in hand. He’d decided the night before that that space would be perfect for his needs.
He rolled out the mat and sank onto it to begin warming up.
It took about ten minutes for his muscles to really loosen, and Chirrut sighed with relief as he bent forward to pull out his hamstrings, running his hands up and down the backs of his legs to encourage the tendons and ligaments to give and stretch.
“What—are you doing?” Baze demanded.
Chirrut didn’t bother to straighten. His back was to the bed, face down by his knees, so he just gave Baze a cheerful upside down smile. “Yoga. Wanna join me?”
“No,” Baze sputtered. “What time is it? Oh god, it’s too early in the morning for this.”
Chirrut half-shrugged and dropped into downward-facing dog.
Baze made a choking noise and dashed for the bathroom. He stayed in there, making loud crashing noises in the sink as he—presumably—shaved, then stomped out and rummaged in the drawer by Chirrut’s head.
“I’m showering,” he said to the room at large, and stomped off again.
Upside down, his knees resting on his bent elbows, Chirrut smiled serenely at nothing.
By the time he was done with his full routine, Baze was out of the shower, leaving a trail of warm scented steam in his wake. It smelled like pine needles and cedar, Chirrut thought as he gathered clothes and slipped into the bathroom as Baze left.
“I’ll just check on Jyn,” Baze said.
“See you downstairs,” Chirrut called, and stepped into the shower stall.
When he was done, skin flushed and warm from the excellent water pressure, he wrapped a towel loosely around his hips and wandered into the bedroom.
His first clue that he wasn’t alone was the noise Baze made, vaguely like a boiling teakettle.
“I thought you were going downstairs,” Chirrut said, lifting an eyebrow.
“I’m—I was, I just thought—you didn’t know the way, so I figured I’d show you so you could find it again, I didn’t expect you to waltz out half-naked.”
“To be fair,” Chirrut pointed out, “I thought I was alone.”
“Fine, sure, whatever,” Baze huffed. From the direction of his voice, he’d turned his back. “Just… get dressed already so we can go eat.”
Chirrut suppressed a laugh and obeyed. “It was thoughtful of you,” he said as he pulled his favorite pair of pants up and buttoned them. “But I’m sure Bodhi would have found me.”
“Bodhi’s got his own stuff to deal with,” Baze muttered. “I promised you both I’d help take care of you this week.”
“I’m not a burden to be shared!” Chirrut snapped, suddenly irritated as he pushed his arms into his shirt. “I’m a full-grown man, I may be disabled but I can get along just fine by myself ninety-five percent of the time, and I mostly asked you to stay nearby so Bodhi doesn’t worry, not because I’m helpless, okay? I can—”
Baze’s hands settled on Chirrut’s shoulders and he snapped his mouth shut.
“I know,” Baze rumbled. “I’m sorry, Chirrut, I didn’t mean to imply you can’t do anything on your own. You’re incredibly capable. It’s just… I’m here. We’re stuck on this trip together anyway. So why not let me help you a bit? Just with little stuff. I know you’ve got the rest well in hand.”
Mollified, Chirrut tipped his head back and considered. He could smell Baze’s aftershave from this close and it smelled wonderful—spicy and rich.
He also knew the second Baze registered what he was wearing. The hands disappeared off his shoulders as Baze took a step back.
“What on earth is that?”
“Dolce and Gabbana, you heathen,” Chirrut said, putting his nose in the air.
“It’s hideous,” Baze spluttered.
Chirrut sat to pull his socks on, dismissing this with an airy wave. “You know nothing about fashion.”
“Okay, granted,” Baze said. “And I don’t really want to, if we’re being honest. But—” There was a brief silence and Chirrut imagined him gesturing helplessly. He fought his grin.
“It’s comfortable, it fits me well and looks good on me. It’s season-appropriate, and it turns heads. Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I have to be dowdy.”
He stood and stepped into his shoes.
“Chirrut, you’re wearing olive hounds-tooth slacks with… with the most god-awful orange and chartreuse shirt. You look like… a clown threw up on you!”
Chirrut paused. “Wait, orange and chartreuse?”
“Uh, yeah,” Baze said.
“Shit,” Chirrut said, and bent to dig in his suitcase. He came up holding a shirt and lifted it for Baze to see. “Is this one dark brown?”
“Yes,” Baze said, sounding relieved.
“That little fucker,” Chirrut muttered. “I wonder if he did that on purpose.”
Chirrut turned the shirt so Baze could see the small piece of paper clipped to the collar. “The braille on it, feel it.” He waited for Baze to brush his fingers over it, then did so himself, nodding. “He did do it on purpose.”
“Done what?” Baze sounded deeply confused.
“My son,” Chirrut said, fighting the amusement that fizzed up out of his chest, “is a masterclass troll. He labels the shirts and pants for me with a kind of shorthand, this one here—” gesturing to the brown shirt’s collar, “—says O and C. Stands for—”
“Orange and chartreuse,” Baze finished. “He switched tags on your shirts.”
“Yep,” Chirrut said, grinning.
Chirrut shrugged and unbuttoned the shirt he was wearing. He folded it neatly, attached the proper tag to the collar, and slipped it back into the suitcase before turning to pull the brown shirt on and realizing he hadn’t answered.
“Why not?” he said. He buttoned the shirt up. “I’ll have to figure out a good way to get him back.”
“You’re saying you… prank each other?”
“Keeps life interesting,” Chirrut agreed, tucking the shirt into his trousers and making sure his seams were straight. “Shall we go?”
Baze pressed Chirrut’s walking stick into his hand on a stifled snort of laughter. “You’re both crazy,” he muttered, and led the way out of the room.
The dining room was loud and cluttered, and Chirrut winced at the sound of plates being dropped somewhere on the other side of the space.
Chirrut tried to pull an appropriately stern look into place as Bodhi bounded up, but it dissolved into a laugh as he caught Bodhi’s arm and tugged him into an embrace.
Bodhi hugged him back, thin arms holding him tight, and Chirrut traced his features with his fingers.
“You little shit,” he murmured, and felt Bodhi’s lips curve with his smile. “You seem happier. Are you feeling okay?”
Bodhi nodded against Chirrut’s hand and then stepped back. “No news there. We’re going to the Washington monument and Lincoln memorial today. I can’t wait. Want me to help you get breakfast?”
“I got it,” Baze said from Chirrut’s side. “You can go sit with your friends, you need to eat too.”
Bodhi touched Chirrut’s hand and then vanished back between the tables as Chirrut turned to Baze.
“Fresh fruit,” Baze said, putting an empty plate in Chirrut’s hands.
“Oh, yes please.”
He felt the plate dip as Baze put a spoonful of fruit on it and they moved down the line.
“Eggs,” Baze said. “Looks like our choices are scrambled or… scrambled.”
Chirrut pretended to think. “It’s a tough call, but I’ll go with scrambled.”
Baze snorted and dumped a spoon of eggs on Chirrut’s plate.
“Waffle or toast?”
“Oh, waffle, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Just have to make it,” Baze said, “which means figuring out how to operate this bloody thing… hang on—oh. I see.”
Chirrut waited as Baze poured the batter into the iron and latched it.
“How do you know when it’s done?” he inquired.
“Looks like—” An earsplitting beep rolled from the waffle iron and Baze and Chirrut both exclaimed.
“I guess that’s how,” Chirrut muttered. “Maybe I should get one.”
“Sounds dangerous,” Baze said, dropping the waffle onto his plate. “Come on, the kids are over here.”
“You don’t know,” Chirrut pointed out, following him with a hand tucked into Baze’s elbow. “I could do it. I’ll bet I could make great waffles.”
“If you didn’t waffle iron your fingers,” Baze said. “Here, sit by your son.”
“Bodhi, do you think I’d waffle my fingers?” Chirrut demanded as he sat down.
There was a confused silence.
“I… have no context for that question,” Bodhi finally said carefully.
“If I got a waffle iron,” Chirrut explained. “I think I could make great waffles. Baze here seems to think all I’d do is cause myself bodily harm.”
“I… think you could probably make really good waffles,” Bodhi said.
Chirrut pointed a triumphant smirk in Baze’s direction, on his other side.
“If you managed not to burn down the house.”
Baze snickered and Chirrut scowled.
“No respect. Eat your food. Who else is here?”
“Cassian’s on my right, then Luke, Jyn, and Baze next to her.”
“Hello all,” Chirrut said, smiling around the table as the chorus of greetings rose.
“Leia, Han, Kes, and Shara are with Ben, at the table right next to us,” Bodhi continued.
“We’re heading out to see the monuments first,” Jyn chimed in. “Tomorrow we’ll do museums. And then the next day we’re going to the Capitol!”
“Your excitement is exhausting,” Baze told her, but there was fondness in his voice, like warm velvet wrapped around his words.
“Papa, the Smithsonian is having a classic and antique car exhibit on Friday!” Jyn continued, undeterred.
Chirrut stiffened in his seat as Bodhi sat bolt upright.
“A classic car exhibit?” he repeated. Chirrut felt Bodhi’s hand settle on his arm, and something in his chest curled up and wept. “Dad, can I go?”
Chirrut fought the words that wanted to spill out. I can’t, I can’t, please don’t ask this— He dragged in air and managed to keep his voice fairly steady. “It’s—not on the itinerary. I don’t know how Ben would feel—”
Baze cleared his throat. “I don’t mind taking him and anyone else who’d like to go.”
Chirrut gripped his fork harder, the metal cutting into his fingers. He could feel Bodhi’s disappointment as he withdrew, and Chirrut wanted to reach out, beg him to understand, please don’t pull away from me, you’re all I have—
“Jyn,” Baze said, his tone forced. “What monuments are we visiting today?”
Paper rustled as Jyn pulled the itinerary out. “First up is the Washington monument, then from there we’ll hit the Lincoln memorial, and the Vietnam memorial is close so we thought we’d go there next.”
Baze asked a question but Chirrut didn’t hear it because Bodhi had scooted his chair closer and laid his head on Chirrut’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered under the table’s conversation.
His hair was silky and smelled like honeysuckle when Chirrut turned his face into it and blinked back sudden tears.
“You did—” Chirrut swallowed. “You did nothing wrong.” He cupped Bodhi’s cheek, tracing the drooping lines of his mouth. “If—” Why was it so hard to say? He took a deep breath. “If Baze will take you, of course you can go.”
Bodhi lifted his head. “Do you mean it?”
Chirrut nodded, hand still on Bodhi’s cheek. “Obviously.” He mustered a smile. “How much trouble can you get into in a museum, right?”
Bodhi’s mouth curved and he leaned briefly into Chirrut’s hand. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Chirrut had lost his appetite, but he picked at the fruit, grimacing at the rubbery texture of the eggs, and nibbled at the edge of the waffle before deciding it was almost inedible as the conversation swirled around him but mercifully, let him be.
Finally, it was time to go, and Ben rounded everyone up and herded them out the door. They waited in a group as Ben went to retrieve the bus, Baze next to Chirrut at the back of the huddle of teens.
“Are you alright?” he asked in something that passed for a whisper.
Chirrut nodded, gripping his walking stick. “Perfectly fine, thank you.”
“It’s just, I couldn’t help but notice at the table—”
Chirrut rounded on him. “It’s nothing I want to discuss with you, so please drop the subject and let’s just have a nice day.”
Baze took a step back and Chirrut flinched as panic flooded him.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Baze, I—really, I shouldn’t have snapped. Please can we pretend this didn’t happen?”
“Of course,” Baze said. “It’s forgotten. Do you want me to describe what we see on our tour today?”
“Yes, please,” Chirrut said, relief leaving him lightheaded. He hadn’t driven him away. “That would be… very nice.”
New job is going great, but I'm not having a lot of time to write in between cramming my brain full of new knowledge and collapsing in the evenings. So here, have a slightly shorter (sorry) chapter and there should be at least one-two a week until I've graduated and have more time to think.
Something was bothering Leia. Jyn could see it in the tense lines of her shoulders, how she whipped her head around to snap at Luke, the way she glared Han down when he got too close as they boarded the bus. For his part, Han was acting like a kicked puppy, head down and eyes imploring, but Leia remained stony, straight-backed and alone in her chosen seat like it was a throne.
Jyn tried to be unobtrusive in her surveillance, sitting down two rows behind her, then propping her chin on her folded arms over the back of the row in front of her and watching Leia’s profile out of the corner of her eye, but she had a feeling she wasn’t being as subtle as she thought.
Bodhi coughed, across the aisle, and Jyn glowered at him half-heartedly. Bodhi just snickered. He turned to Cassian, in the seat next to him, and leaned in to say something.
Jyn went back to Leia-watching. What was eating at her? Leia glanced over and caught Jyn’s eye. Instead of glaring, though, she beckoned.
Hesitantly, Jyn stood, petting down the wrinkles in her jeans. Her boots felt heavier than usual as she made her way down the aisle to sink into the seat beside Leia.
“Um—hi,” Jyn said.
Leia was wearing a white dress with cap sleeves that showed off her slim arms, pale and smooth. The fabric had tiny roses embroidered all over it in cascades of showering petals, and a wide black belt cinched it together around her small waist.
“I like your dress,” Jyn blurted.
For some reason, that made Leia’s mouth crumple, but she just blinked rapidly several times and nodded.
“Do you want to help me when we go to the Capitol?”
“Yes,” Jyn said instantly. She hesitated. “Doing what, exactly?”
Leia’s laugh was a bit wobbly, but it was there, and it made Jyn’s heart sing. She wanted to hear it again, and she wracked her brain for something that would bring it forth, but Leia was speaking.
“I want to speak to our state senator. Personally.”
Jyn stared at her. “But… y-you can’t. They won’t let you get close to him.”
Baze watched his daughter, dark brown head next to Leia’s chestnut one as they talked—probably plotting to overthrow the government, he thought, amused.
Beside him, Chirrut seemed back to himself, hands folded in his lap and spine straight. Bodhi glanced over his shoulder and smiled, looking up and catching Baze’s eye. Even though the smile hadn’t been meant for him, Baze smiled back.
“I like that boy of yours,” he said, voice carefully pitched for Chirrut’s ears alone.
That made Chirrut smile too, there and gone again as he lifted his head. “I will admit to a passing fondness myself,” he said. “What brought that on?”
“Just thinking about how much he loves you,” Baze said, shrugging. “Most teenagers wouldn’t be caught dead hugging their parents in public.”
“Ah, but in our case it’s as much necessity as it is affection,” Chirrut said. “My fingertips see for me. I can’t judge his mood as accurately when I can’t tell what his face is doing.” He lifted a shoulder with a deprecating smile. “Just a bonus for me, since I’m a terribly tactile person in general, and this allows me to indulge that.”
Baze huffed a quiet laugh. “At least you’re honest about it.” He watched Chirrut’s face, remembering—warm, bare feet in his lap, pressing against his groin as Chirrut demonstrated that his ankle wasn’t sprained. Water droplets glistening on his chest, towel slung dangerously low on slim hips—Baze closed his eyes and tried not to groan.
He couldn’t hide from it any longer. His co-chaperone was a devastatingly attractive man, and Baze was not immune to his charms. He wanted to lick sweat off Chirrut’s collarbones, pin him to the bed and watch his face as Baze settled between his knees, keeping him there with his weight centered over those hips—
Baze started, dispelling the fantasy with a rough shake of his head. “What?”
“Your breathing sped up,” Chirrut said. “Are you about to have a heart attack and leave me to deal with these children on my own?”
Baze flopped back against the seat with a heartfelt groan. “I should be so lucky as to die. You deserve to be stuck with these horrible gremlins. Besides, you’re not alone, you have Ben.”
Chirrut made a rude noise. “Ben’s married to his bullet points.”
That surprised a snicker from Baze, and Chirrut grinned triumphantly.
“You’re not earning your keep, by the way.”
Baze sat up, indignant. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Chirrut gestured around him. “We’ve been on the bus for a good fifteen minutes and you haven’t described the sights once. How am I supposed to get anything out of this tour if you won’t pull your weight?”
“I need a raise,” Baze muttered. He heaved a sigh and looked out the window. “Currently, the only thing visible is traffic, more traffic, and probably—wait, what’s that?”
Chirrut sat up straighter. “What?”
“Nope,” Baze said. “More traffic.”
Chirrut scowled. “You may outweigh me by fifty pounds, but I can still kick your ass, don’t try my patience.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Baze muttered. “Oh hey, we’re passing the White House. It, uh—” He hesitated. “Black wrought-iron fence, and then a huge, perfectly manicured lawn. Very green. The house itself has columns—” Chirrut was laughing, he realized.
“I know what the White House looks like, Baze. It may have been during the Bush administration that I saw it last, but I’m familiar with it.”
“Well, how was I to know?” Baze grumbled.
Chirrut patted his thigh and Baze tried very hard not to think about him sliding that hand farther up. “You’re doing great, champ.”
“Mock me and I’ll hand you over to your son,” Baze warned.
“I heard that,” Bodhi called.
Ben’s voice over the intercom forestalled Chirrut’s response. “We’re almost to our designated parking area, so please remember that you are to stay with your tour buddy the entire day. No swapping partners. This is for my sanity and that of the chaperones, who would very much like it if you didn’t get kidnapped.”
“Who’s with who?” Chirrut asked Baze.
“Looks like Shara’s with Kes—obviously. Jyn’s paired up with Leia, then Luke and Han, and Cassian and Bodhi.”
“Well then,” Chirrut said, a smile spreading across his face. “This should be interesting.”
By lunchtime, Baze was thankful he’d worn comfortable shoes. Beside him, Chirrut seemed unflagging in his energy, going so far as to bounce up and down on his toes when they stepped into the grass.
“Feels good,” he said. “Where are we?”
“I have no idea,” Baze confessed. “Hopefully somewhere with food nearby.”
Chirrut cocked his head. “I hear water.”
Baze glanced around. “I’m not sure how you do that, but there’s a fountain across the mall, it looks like. Oh, and there’s a food truck, beside it.”
“Lay on, Macduff,” Chirrut said grandly. He caught Baze’s arm before they moved, though. “Listen—tell me if Cassian eats, will you?”
Baze glanced over at Bodhi and Cassian, their dark heads close together as they consulted a guide book. “I will,” he said. He did a quick status check on the others as Chirrut held his arm.
Shara and Kes were talking to Ben. Jyn was orbiting Leia in spirals, arms waving as she described something in great detail. Leia watched her, brown eyes amused, as Han stared at them from a distance, looking forlorn. Luke was flat on his back in the grass, hands laced across his stomach.
“We’re stopping here,” Ben called. “If you packed a lunch, now’s the time to eat it. If not, there are plenty of food trucks.”
Baze watched as Cassian pulled a crumpled paper bag from his pocket and dropped to sit cross-legged in the grass beside Luke. Bodhi hovered, looking worried, and Baze caught his eye and beckoned.
“What would you like?” Baze asked Chirrut as Bodhi loped toward them. “There are hot dogs, Philly cheesesteaks, Mexican food—”
“Fish tacos!” Chirrut said.
“What’s Cassian got?” Baze asked in a low voice when Bodhi arrived.
“PB&J, I think,” Bodhi said. His eyes were unhappy, and Chirrut moved as if to touch him but stopped himself. “Nothing else.”
“Bodhi, stay with your dad,” Baze ordered. “I’ll be right back.”
“I’m not a stray dog!” Chirrut protested. “I’m not going to ‘wander off’, you know—” but Baze had left.
He returned with his arms full of food to find Chirrut in the grass with Luke, Cassian, and Bodhi, entertaining them with stories. Baze stopped to watch, just out of earshot.
Chirrut’s face was bright with laughter, lips curving in an irrepressible smile as he said something that made Bodhi and Luke fold over with mirth. Even Cassian was smiling, almost reluctantly, as he folded a stem of grass between his thumbs.
“You like him.” Jyn had appeared out of nowhere, a tiny imp grinning mischievously at him with her hands tucked behind her back.
Baze scowled thunderously. “It’s none of your business and I do not.”
“You do. You like him.”
“Jyn, you sound like a—” Baze snapped his mouth shut.
“A what?” Jyn said, eyes bright. “A teenager? I have news for you, Papa.”
Baze’s scowl intensified, but Jyn just laughed.
“That look hasn’t worked on me since I was five. Are you going to ask him out?”
“No,” Baze snapped. “He’s annoying, he gets up at the ass-crack of dawn to do yoga, he thinks he’s funnier than he is, and he hogs the covers.”
He realized what he’d said a horrified second too late, as delight dawned in Jyn’s gray eyes.
“You’re sharing a bed.”
“You’re sharing a bed,” Jyn repeated. She clapped her hands across her mouth and stared at him over them. “I can’t believe this.” Her voice was muffled but the glee was crystal clear. “Wait till I tell the others!”
“It’s not like that,” Baze protested feebly. “Look—shit. What do I have to do to get you to keep this to yourself? What’s it going to cost me?”
Jyn cocked her head and considered. “Leia and I need your help,” she finally said.
Baze narrowed his eyes. “I’m listening.”
“What took you so long?” Chirrut demanded when Baze and Jyn joined them. “I’m starving here.”
“I got enough for everyone,” Baze said. “Pass them out, Jyn.”
Cassian shook his head when Jyn tried to hand him a taco. “I ate, thank you,” he said.
“There’s plenty,” Baze said, offhand as he set two more tacos in Chirrut’s open palms. “I know what teenage boys are like—I used to be one.”
But Cassian just shook his head again, a pleasant smile in place even as a faint blush stained his cheeks. “Thank you,” he repeated. “But I’m fine.”
Bodhi cradled his taco in his hands, sitting at an angle so Cassian couldn’t see his face, and looked at Baze with anguish in his eyes.
Baze lifted one shoulder, almost unnoticeably. What can I do? I can’t force-feed him, much as I’d like to—Bodhi’s right, he’s way too skinny.
He set it aside as a problem to be addressed when he had more data and took a bite of his taco.
Jyn had shuffled around in the grass so she could lean against Baze’s broad back, a habit she’d developed early, when he’d take her to the park while her mother was off on one of her quests to find herself.
Baze would bring his textbooks and study for whatever college final he had pending while Jyn wore herself out on the playground equipment, running around until she was flushed and exhausted, hair sticking to her round face in damp curls.
She would flop in the grass behind Baze and use him as a backrest, often dozing off while Baze read and took notes under the branches of their favorite tree, until the sun had almost set and it was time to go home.
Then he would gather her up in his arms and carry her back to the house, which was usually dark and empty, waiting for their return.
Baze glanced up at Chirrut, eating a taco, and—for once—quiet. Baze watched him for a minute, the way Chirrut’s throat worked as he swallowed, how his shoulders filled out his brown shirt, the line of one collarbone exposed where the placket lay open.
Jyn wriggled, getting comfortable, and let her head fall against Baze’s spine.
Panic seized Baze. He couldn’t ask Chirrut out. He couldn’t risk it. When it went wrong, Jyn would be the one to suffer. Her life had been disrupted enough—Baze couldn’t chance her being caught in more emotional fallout.
It was safer this way. Jyn was the most important—had to be the most important. Nothing mattered more than her growing up in a stable, secure environment.
There’d be time for Baze to think about attachments after she left for college.
Ben appeared, interrupting Baze’s thoughts. “Everyone finish your lunches if you haven’t and pick up any trash,” he said. “We’re heading for the Vietnam Memorial as soon as you’re done.”
Baze groaned. “Can I just… stay here and sleep in the shade?”
“Not a chance,” Chirrut said cheerfully. “If I’m stuck doing this, so are you.”
Jyn bounced to her feet and offered Baze a hand. He took it and heaved himself up with another loud groan for effect. He smiled at her and Jyn dimpled back.
It was worth it, for her. It had to be.
Hahaha guess who managed to leave out a whole chunk of Leia and Jyn's arc? ~facepalm~
Jyn checked the time again, blowing her bangs off her forehead. It had been surprisingly easy, considering, to get Leia through Senator Hopewell’s doors. All it had taken was Baze distracting the office aide, who fell under his spell the minute he opened his mouth and willingly agreed to personally show him to a private place where he could use his phone in peace.
Jyn curled her lip and checked her own phone again, hoping anyone passing would just see another bored teenager. Objectively, she knew her father was an attractive man, but that didn’t mean she liked thinking about it.
Eight minutes. Leia had said to call her at the ten-minute mark if she didn’t come out before then.
The door burst open and Jyn stiffened as Leia stormed out, fists clenched at the sides of her polyester pantsuit. She didn’t even look at Jyn, just stalked by, letting the door swing closed on its own.
Jyn dashed after as the office aide came back, smiling and tucking her hair behind an ear, and stared in surprise.
Leia didn’t slow, so Jyn didn’t either, catching up but saying nothing as they left the building and rushed along the sidewalk. She’d text Baze to let him know, she decided, but before she could, Leia took a hard right turn and dove through a door that had opened in front of them.
Jyn scrambled after, realizing vaguely that they were in a little noodle shop. It smelled like hot oil and soy sauce, but Leia just headed straight for the back, Jyn on her heels.
The bathroom was tiny, but Leia held the door for Jyn to duck in behind her before pulling it closed and locking it.
Then she dropped onto the closed toilet lid and put her head in her hands.
Jyn watched from beside the door, not sure what to do.
“What happened?” she finally asked.
Leia took a breath, like she was forcing back tears, and looked up. “He… patted my head and told me to run along and play with my dolls.”
“Seriously?” Jyn demanded.
“No,” Leia sighed. “But he might as well have. I got in there, and he was surprised at first, but when I brought up my first point, he looked… amused.”
Jyn wrinkled her nose and Leia nodded.
“Yeah. I told him the education system in California needs to be overhauled and revamped, and he smiled. I told him that trans teens needed more protections, more rights, more representation, and he fucking—he laughed, Jyn.”
Jyn struggled to keep from thrilling at the way Leia said her name, dropping to her knees next to her. “What did you do?”
“I told him he needed to take this seriously,” Leia said. She pulled the pins from her hair and let it fall in soft, shining brown waves to her shoulders. “I said… I told him that if he didn’t, we’d vote him out this November and bring in someone who can actually get the job done, and he—you know that thing some guys do, where they’ll pretend to be serious and act like they’re listening, tell you to keep going, they want to know more?”
“Ugh,” Jyn said.
“Yeah,” Leia repeated. “I swear he was an inch from telling me I was cute. It’s a good thing he didn’t, because I would have punched him.”
“I’m sorry,” Jyn said. She folded her hands in her lap to keep from touching Leia’s. “What can I do?”
Leia straightened. Her smile was sad. “You listened. Let’s just… try to have a good time, the rest of this trip, and when we get home, then I’ll start organizing another rally.”
“Don’t you ever get tired?” Jyn blurted.
Leia’s eyebrows rose. “Of what, trying to make the world a better place?”
Jyn hunched her shoulders, dropping her chin. “I just—never mind.”
“No, I know what you mean,” Leia said. “But if I don’t, who will?”
“Someone else,” Jyn suggested. “Someone… I don’t know. Older, stronger?”
“Those things will be fixed with time,” Leia said. “I just can’t—I can’t let someone else do this. It means too much. It’s too important.”
“Of course,” Jyn agreed. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
Leia’s hand on her chin startled Jyn’s eyes back up. Her fingers were cool and soft on Jyn’s skin.
“You’re a sweet kid,” she said quietly.
Jyn hesitated, torn between insisting she wasn’t a kid and reveling in Leia actually touching her, and then it was too late. Leia stood, smoothing her pantsuit with a grimace.
“I can’t wait to burn this,” she said. “Wanna help?”
“Absolutely,” Jyn said, and scrambled to her feet. “Let me just text Papa.”
Thursday, Ben took them all to Mount Vernon and Arlington cemetery. Chirrut followed Baze through the gravestones on the teenagers’ heels, listening to the tour guide’s scripted speech as she reeled it off in a practiced drone.
He was enjoying himself more than he’d expected to. After the incident with the shoes, Baze had proved himself to be an excellent roommate, careful to keep things in the same place, never making unexpected messes, and always close to offer a hand if Chirrut needed it.
Chirrut considered as they walked. Baze was attracted to him. It didn’t take the gift of sight to know that much. It was there in his hitch of breath when Chirrut took his shirt off, in the way his voice got tight when Chirrut bent over or stretched while they were talking.
But he hadn’t made a move.
Chirrut wasn’t stupid. He knew what he looked like. He kept himself fit, he prided himself on being current with sociopolitical happenings, and he liked to think his sense of humor was decent, even if he did have a tendency toward dad-jokes.
Baze slowed and Chirrut lifted his head, train of thought disrupted.
“There’s a gazebo on the hill ahead of us,” Baze said. “We’re going to eat lunch there. Here, take my arm.”
Chirrut obeyed, tucking his hand into the crook of Baze’s elbow. The hill was steep but the footing was good, and Chirrut passed the time enjoying the firmness of the muscles under his fingers.
Maybe Baze thought Chirrut was straight and that was why he hadn’t made a move. Chirrut could work with that.
“Over here, Dad.”
Chirrut climbed the steps into the gazebo, footsteps ringing in the open space, and crossed the springy wooden floor to Bodhi’s side. Bodhi reached out and caught Chirrut’s hand, guiding him to the bench beside him, and Chirrut folded up his cane and touched Bodhi’s face.
Bodhi smiled under his fingers and Chirrut smiled back.
“Are you having a good time? Who’s where?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said, and he sounded like he meant it. “Jyn’s on Baze’s left, on your other side. Cassian’s on my right and Luke’s next to him. Shara, Kes, and Han are helping Ben bring the ice-chests from the bus.”
“How are you feeling, Chirrut?” Jyn asked.
Chirrut tipped his head in her direction and gave her a gentle smile. “I’m feeling fine, thank you for asking.”
“Do you want to go with us to the Smithsonian tom—” Jyn cut off abruptly as if she’d been hushed while Chirrut stiffened.
“I—thank you,” he said, carefully keeping his tone light. “But I thought I’d catch up on sleep, have a quiet day before we fly out on Saturday.”
Bodhi scooted nearer, bracing Chirrut with his thin frame, as Baze cleared his throat.
“So, Bodhi,” he said, “does your dad wake up at the crack of dawn to do yoga at home too, or is that specially designed to annoy me?”
“Knowing Dad,” Bodhi said, bumping Chirrut’s shoulder gently, “he’s probably doing it to annoy you. But he does get up awfully early most mornings. I’m not sure why.”
Chirrut relaxed enough to regain a smile as footsteps and voices neared, signaling the approach of Ben with the food.
“Early bird, worm, all that,” he said, gratified to note his voice sounded normal again. “No point in wasting the day, right?”
“There’s every point in wasting the day,” Bodhi protested. “Sleeping until two in the afternoon is a perfectly acceptable way to relax.”
Chirrut poked him in the ribs, aim unerring. “Slug-a-bed.”
Bodhi squawked and poked him back. “Overachiever.”
They were both smiling as the sound of wheels on wood grew louder and Ben spoke in a cheerful voice.
“Sandwiches and chips in the blue cooler, drinks in the red. Help yourself, but make sure everyone gets some.”
Baze spoke over the noise of teenagers scrambling for food. “I’ll get ours when it’s less likely I’ll lose a limb to the ravening beasts.”
“Bodhi will bring me something,” Chirrut said serenely.
Sure enough, Bodhi set a sandwich on Chirrut’s knee a minute later and pressed a can of soda into his hand.
Baze snorted, but he sounded amused. “Jyn,” he called. “Make yourself useful and bring your father some food.”
“Catch!” Jyn shouted, and Baze lunged sideways, landing half in Chirrut’s lap as he caught the sandwich she’d thrown.
Chirrut froze under Baze’s weight. “I mean,” he said carefully after a second, “I usually prefer a guy buys me a drink first, but—”
“Dad!” Bodhi sounded scandalized as Baze scrambled to right himself.
“Sorry, sorry,” he panted. “It was going to hit you in the face, I made a judgment call.”
“My face thanks you,” Chirrut said. “My sandwich… not so much.” He picked up the sadly squashed package and let it dangle forlornly from his fingers.
“I’ll get you another one,” Baze said.
“I’ll eat that one,” Bodhi offered, plucking it from Chirrut’s hand.
Baze returned with another sandwich and Chirrut accepted it with a nod of thanks.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Baze asked in a low tone.
Chirrut snorted. “Takes more than that to hurt me. What are we doing after lunch?”
“Mount Vernon, then back to the hotel and out to dinner.”
But the bus had other ideas. Halfway back to the hotel, the engine sputtered, turned over, and died.
Ben swore and wrestled the big vehicle to the side of the road. Baze stood and joined him at the front of the bus as Chirrut waited, clutching his folded cane.
“We’re going to see if we can figure out what’s going on,” Ben said. “Everyone stay in their seats.”
Chirrut listened as the old, always-present fear flexed its talons, deep in the pit of his stomach. The teenagers didn’t seem concerned, not even by the whooshing air of passing cars that rocked the bus where it crouched in the hazard lane.
“Dad,” Bodhi said, sitting down beside him. “Are you okay?”
Chirrut turned to him. Bodhi was tense, worry in the taut lines of his mouth and forehead, and Chirrut took his hand.
“I’m fine,” he said firmly. “Baze is a mechanic, remember? They’ll figure it out.”
Bodhi was almost vibrating, he realized. Chirrut cocked his head as it dawned.
“Oh what?” Bodhi asked.
Chirrut let go of his hand, withdrawing. “Go on. I’ll be fine.”
“No,” Bodhi protested. “No Dad, I’m not, I didn’t ask—”
“I know you didn’t ask,” Chirrut said gently. “You didn’t have to, dear heart. Go stick your head under that hood and let Baze show you what he’s doing.”
Bodhi was very still for a long moment, and inspiration struck Chirrut.
“Jyn,” he called. “Come keep me company.” He waited until he heard her boots on the rubber mats before he patted Bodhi’s knee. “Go on, love.”
“It won’t take long,” Bodhi said in a low voice.
Chirrut just smiled.
He waited until Bodhi had left, then patted the seat beside him. “Sit. Let’s talk.”
Jyn eased herself onto the bench and perched on the edge, a wary bird ready for flight. Chirrut cocked his head.
“What’s your favorite thing that we’ve done so far?” he asked.
“Probably… going to the Capitol,” Jyn said. “Getting to see how laws are created and passed, all the checks and counterbalances and safety measures—it was really cool.”
“Do you think you’ll go into politics, then?”
“I don’t know,” Jyn said, shifting her weight. “I… might. I—it’s important, isn’t it?”
“It is indeed,” Chirrut agreed gravely, and lifted his head as Baze’s footsteps sounded.
“It’s the alternator,” he said from the middle of the bus. “Nothing we can do here, we’ll have to get a tow and have the part replaced.”
“I’m calling AAA,” Ben said. “They’ll get a truck out here. We’ll have to get taxis to haul everyone back tonight.”
Chirrut stiffened, hands tightening on his cane, and fought back the instinctive panic.
Baze came closer and Chirrut forced himself to relax, filling his lungs and letting the air out slowly.
“Blossom, go tell Bodhi to come back inside while we wait.”
Jyn hopped up to obey and Baze sat beside Chirrut. There was silence for a minute.
“How far are we from the hotel?” Chirrut asked.
“About two miles,” Baze said.
“We’re not on the highway, are we?”
“No,” Baze rumbled. “We’re in a business district.” He hesitated. “Chirrut—”
Bodhi’s footsteps sounded and Chirrut relaxed a fraction.
“Dad,” Bodhi said, sitting down and taking Chirrut’s hand. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Chirrut said, forcing cheer into his voice. He squeezed Bodhi’s hand. “I’m going to walk back to the hotel.”
Baze and Bodhi both protested at once, voices overlapping.
“Dad, no, it’s too far!”
Chirrut stood, ignoring them both. “I’ll probably beat you there. Want to make a bet on it?”
“No,” Baze said. “I want you to not do this. Chirrut, this is stupid, it’s not far by car, but it’ll take hours for you to walk, and you’re—”
“Yes, Baze,” Chirrut said sharply. “I’m aware I’m blind. But thank you for the reminder, it’s very kind of you to point it out again.”
“That’s not—” Baze cut off with a muffled noise, like he was rubbing his face.
“Dad.” Bodhi touched his arm and Chirrut turned toward him. “I’ll walk with you.”
Chirrut cupped his jaw. “You don’t have to.”
“I want to,” Bodhi insisted.
A throat was cleared, a few feet away, and then Cassian spoke, soft and diffident. “I’d… like to, as well.”
Chirrut raised his eyebrows but didn’t challenge that. “Ben, do you think you and Baze can handle the rest of these unruly beasts?”
“Oh no,” Baze growled. “I’m coming with you. If you’re going to be an idiot, you’re damned well not doing it alone.”
“Ben,” Chirrut called. “Help me out here.”
“I’ll be fine,” Ben said, sounding distracted. “I’ve got Leia and Shara, they’ll help me keep the rabble in check.”
“Hey!” Jyn protested, sounding offended. “I’m not rabble! Papa, do you want me to walk with you?”
There was affection in Baze’s voice when he answered. “That’s alright, petunia. You stay with Ben. And… the others.”
“Papa!” Jyn hissed.
Baze snickered under his breath. “We should get started if we want to make it back before midnight.”
They stepped off the bus onto the pavement and Chirrut stood still for a moment, taking in the sounds around him. An early evening owl was hooting in a nearby tree, cars passing on the street as crickets sang the night in.
“Might as well take my arm,” Baze said. He sounded gruff, but his touch was gentle as he guided Chirrut’s hand to the crook of his elbow. “Don’t need you wandering off into traffic.”
Chirrut huffed amusement but allowed him to turn them in the right direction. “I’m nowhere near as helpless as you seem to think,” he pointed out.
“I know,” Baze said. “But I’m here, so let me help.”
“Fine,” Chirrut said. “But for the record, I’m only allowing this because you have very nice arms and I enjoy touching them.”
The spluttering noise this time sounded even more like a teakettle, and Chirrut grinned to himself.
“What are the kids doing?”
“They’re walking in front of us,” Baze said when he’d recovered. “About half a block ahead.”
“What does Cassian look like?” Chirrut asked abruptly. “I don’t know him well enough to ask to find out for myself.”
“He’s, ah—well, he has an olive complexion,” Baze said. “He’s—I don’t know his nationality, actually, but he looks Hispanic? He’s an inch or two taller than Bodhi, very slimly built. Lean muscle, you know the type?”
Chirrut nodded. “He’s a runner.”
“Right, yeah,” Baze agreed. “He has black hair and dark brown eyes that slant down just a little at the corners. His nose is a bit big for his face and he always looks kind of… sad, I guess. He’s a good-looking kid. He’ll be gorgeous someday, when he grows into himself.”
Chirrut digested that. “How close are he and Bodhi to each other right now?”
“Shoulder to shoulder,” Baze said. “They’re not quite touching, but every few steps, their hands brush. Oh—”
“What?” Chirrut demanded.
“Bodhi just stopped to pet a cat sitting on a windowsill,” Baze said, his voice low. “Hell, you should see how Cassian is looking at him. You know how you said you weren’t sure if he felt the same way?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Safe to say he does,” Baze murmured. “Those are some damn puppy eyes if I ever saw any.”
Chirrut stopped, worry suddenly filling him.
“I thought that would make you happy,” Baze said. “Don’t you like Cassian?”
“I barely know Cassian,” Chirrut said. “What I do know, I like fine. I just… they’re so young, Baze. And Bodhi’s never had a boyfriend, plus he told me flat out he’s not interested in sex, or at least he wasn’t six months ago when we talked about it, and he’s only sixteen, so much could go wrong, I don’t think he’s ready, and—”
“Breathe,” Baze interrupted.
Chirrut obeyed. “Sorry,” he managed after a minute. “It’s just—”
“You’re not ready for him to grow up,” Baze said. His hand was warm and comforting when he covered Chirrut’s. “I know. I really do, believe me.”
“How are you so calm about it?” Chirrut asked as they began walking again.
He felt Baze’s shrug.
“You’ve met Jyn,” Baze said. He sounded amused. “When she decides she’s going to do something, she does it. Rarely, if ever, am I consulted. She’s a—force of nature. I learned a while ago that the best thing to do—and probably the only way to keep my sanity—is to try and direct her flow sometimes, and hang on.”
“You’re not worried about her making the wrong decisions?”
“Of course I am,” Baze said. “Curb here, we’re crossing a street.” On the other side, he continued. “It’s pretty much guaranteed she’s going to fuck up. That’s life. All I can do is teach her what I can, and then be there for her when she does get knocked on her ass.”
They walked in silence for a while.
Finally, Chirrut sighed. “I still don’t think he’s ready,” he muttered.
Baze patted his hand. “Welcome to parenthood.”
WARNING for masturbation scene toward the end of this chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chirrut was still asleep when Baze woke up Friday morning to take the kids to the Smithsonian for the antique car exhibit.
Baze watched him for a minute after he was dressed, stepping into his shoes and smoothing his hair back. Chirrut’s face was soft with sleep, that maddening mouth lax as he dreamed—no doubt of more ways to pester the life from Baze.
Baze shook himself and left the room quietly. The teens tumbled from their rooms, yawning and pressing fists to mouths to stifle the sounds, and Baze did a quick headcount.
He had Bodhi, Cassian, Jyn, and Luke. Shouldn’t be too difficult, he decided.
They were going to take a bus to the museum after breakfast, which Baze spent talking to Jyn and Bodhi and surreptitiously watching the way Cassian shoveled eggs and pancakes into his mouth like there was no tomorrow.
Baze’s first guess, an eating disorder, didn’t seem as likely as he’d initially thought, unless he was bingeing and purging. Cassian had kept his head down, eating with a single-minded focus that bothered Baze deeply. He needed to find out what was going on.
At the museum, they signed up for the first available guided tour. Beside Baze, Bodhi bounced on his toes, so excited he couldn’t hide it. Baze smiled at him.
“You like old cars?”
“I like any cars,” Bodhi said. “Vintage and antique, though—yeah, I love them.”
The tour guide began to speak, and they both shut up to listen as she walked them through the production of the first Model T.
Baze found himself watching Bodhi more than the cars, the way his face glowed as he was given permission to touch the Reo Model B Runabout, how he ran his hands reverently across the sleek bonnet and over the steering wheel.
“You really do like cars,” Baze said during a lull in the tour guide’s patter.
Bodhi ducked his head, cheeks darkening with his blush. “Did you know that the Model B was a major trendsetter for the streamlining of automobiles in America? And the Flying Cloud was the first to use the internal hydraulic expanding brake system?”
Baze’s eyebrows shot up. “I did not know that.” He watched Bodhi’s thin form, the way he fidgeted with the pamphlet the guide had handed out to everyone, long fingers worrying and folding the edges. “You okay, kid?”
Bodhi glanced up and away. “I’m—yeah. I’m fine.”
“Because this is supposed to be fun, and it’s like—” Baze groped for words as they moved slowly after the tour guide into the next room. “It’s like half of you is having a blast, and the other half is guilty about it.”
Bodhi flinched but said nothing, tucking his chin to his chest.
“Your dad is fine,” Baze said, keeping his eyes on Bodhi’s face.
“I know,” Bodhi said, almost inaudibly. “But he—I pushed him into letting me do this, I shouldn’t have—”
“Why not?” Baze asked. The group had stopped in front of another car, but Baze barely noticed, focused on Bodhi, who just shook his head.
“It’s not—if he hasn’t told you, then I shouldn’t,” he finally said.
“Alright,” Baze said immediately.
Bodhi looked up, startled, but Baze just gave him a peaceable smile.
“Ever seen a Hemi Cuda convertible?”
Bodhi glanced at the car and registered it for the first time. “Oh.” He stared reverently at the low-slung muscle car’s gleaming hood, bending to take in the details along the sides. He looked at Baze over his shoulder, his eyes bright again. “They only made twenty-one of these!”
“This one is on loan to us by its owner,” the guide said, appearing as if out of nowhere and making Baze jump.
“Are there any motorcycles in this exhibit?” he asked her.
“Absolutely, they’re in the next room we’re going to, if you’d like to follow me?”
Bodhi exclaimed over the motorcycles and Jyn sidled up next to Baze, who tucked her in against his side.
“You like him too,” she said quietly.
“He’s a good kid,” Baze agreed, and pressed a kiss to her brown hair. “Almost as good as you.”
Jyn giggled and leaned harder against him before pulling away. “Look, Papa, they have a Flathead! It’s not as nice as yours, though.”
Bodhi was admiring the motorcycle as Baze joined him. “Did you restore yours yourself, sir?”
“I did, and you don’t have to call me sir,” Baze said, amused. “I found her in a scrapyard, bought her off the guy for a hundred bucks, and spent several years tracking down the parts needed to get her back up and running.”
“Motorcycles are usually girls,” Jyn chimed in. “Most cars are male, at least to Papa.”
Bodhi grinned. “What about crossovers?”
Baze shrugged. “Individuals. They tell me what they are when I work on them. Some don’t adhere, they’re just… themselves.”
Cassian appeared by Bodhi’s side. “Nice bike,” he said, touching the leather seat with one finger.
“Shit,” Baze said abruptly. “Where’s Luke?”
They all looked around, but Luke had vanished.
Baze swore again. “Bodhi, does he have his phone on him?”
Bodhi was already dialing Luke’s number. It rang several times and Bodhi hung up, shaking his head. “Voicemail.”
“Well, he can’t have gone far,” Baze said. “Spread out and look for him, but none of you leave the museum, understand me? I’m not losing another one.”
He hunted through the rooms one by one, peeking behind displays and calling Luke’s name quietly, but no floppy blond hair appeared. Baze was getting steadily more worried, imagining how he was going to tell Ben he’d lost one of his charges, oh god, he’d have to tell Bail he’d lost his nephew—his phone rang, startling him.
It was Bodhi. “He’s here, I found him, he was in the bathroom near the front.”
“I’ll be right there,” Baze said. “Let the others know.”
He strode through the museum and found Bodhi lecturing Luke, who looked repentant, on never leaving the group without notifying the leader. Cassian was with them, and Jyn panted up a minute later.
“We’re all here?” Baze said. “Good. Let’s go. My heart can’t take much more.”
“You’re not going to yell at me?” Luke asked.
Baze shrugged. “Bodhi seems to have taken care of that for me. Oh, before I forget, everyone send me a text right now so I have your phone numbers, unless I already do.”
Bodhi and Luke obeyed, but Cassian didn’t move, hands pushed into the pockets of his denim jacket and thin shoulders hunched.
“Cassian?” Baze asked.
“I’m—I don’t have a phone,” Cassian said. He sounded defiant and ashamed, and Baze’s heart hurt, but he just nodded briskly.
“Let’s go grab some lunch.”
They trailed after Baze to the bus stop and stood in a loose group to wait for the bus while they discussed where to eat.
“Taking suggestions from the floor,” Baze said. “I’m not particular.”
There was some back and forth, but Bodhi and Luke settled on The Cheesecake Factory as the bus pulled up and they piled on. Baze watched Cassian out of the corner of his eye as it rolled down the street.
Cassian’s shoulders were tight, his head down, and he replied in monosyllables when Bodhi tried to speak to him.
Luke began telling a story, but Bodhi watched Cassian, his dark eyes worried. When he looked up and met Baze’s eyes, Baze shook his head at him.
At the restaurant, they all piled into the booth, but Cassian, squeezed between Baze and Bodhi, refused a menu when it was offered him.
“I’m not hungry,” he told the waiter, with a polite smile.
Baze scowled at the menu in his hands, turning over options. Finally he leaned in and whispered in Cassian’s ear, “I’m buying you lunch, pick something.”
Cassian froze and then shook his head. “Thank you,” he said carefully. “But I had a big breakfast. I’m fine.”
“Bullshit,” Baze said bluntly. Luke was telling another story that had Bodhi and Jyn engaged, so Baze threw caution to the winds. “There’s something going on with you.”
He didn’t miss the sheer panic in Cassian’s eyes as they flicked up to meet his, but Baze didn’t hesitate. “I’m not going to ask you what it is, because it’s none of my business. But as a favor to me, and Bodhi, let me buy you lunch.”
Cassian slid his eyes toward Bodhi and back to Baze. “What do you mean, as a favor to Bodhi?”
“He’s worried about you,” Baze said bluntly. “So do us both a favor and eat some lunch, would you?”
Cassian’s throat bobbed as he swallowed. “I can’t—I don’t—”
“Would it help if I said you can pay me back later?”
Relief was instant in Cassian’s eyes and he nodded. “Yes—I… thank you. I’ll pay you back, sir.”
Baze leaned back against the vinyl seat and handed Cassian the menu. “No rush.”
When the waiter arrived, Cassian chose a small sandwich and water. Baze sighed but didn’t push it. At least he had something to put in his stomach.
After their meal, they headed back to the hotel. Baze was pleasantly sleepy, worn out from hiking several miles the day before, sightseeing, and a heavy lunch weighing him down, and all he really wanted to do was take a nap.
Unfortunately, Chirrut was in the room when he got there, doing what looked like tai-chi—not that Baze would know.
“How’d it go?” Chirrut greeted him, flowing from one stance to another.
Baze shut the door and took his shoes off to set them under the TV stand. “Fine, other than losing Luke and having to basically bully Cassian into eating something.” He flopped onto the bed, arms above his head, and stared at the ceiling.
The mattress dipped under Chirrut’s weight as he sat down by Baze’s feet. “I hope you found Luke.”
“Yep.” Baze closed his eyes.
Baze sighed and sat up. Chirrut’s head was turned away, presenting his profile to Baze. It was a trick he had when listening intently, Baze had realized early on. It meant he was fully focused on what the speaker had to say.
Baze tried very hard not to appreciate Chirrut’s firm, brown arms in the tight tank top he was wearing, closing his eyes and swallowing hard.
“Cassian?” Chirrut prompted.
“Right. He didn’t want to eat lunch. Said he wasn’t hungry. I told him Bodhi was worried, and that got him to order a small sandwich that I paid for. He only agreed once I said he could pay me back, though.”
Chirrut nodded, looking thoughtful. “Eating disorder?”
“I don’t think so,” Baze said. “How much do we know about his home life?”
“Very little,” Chirrut said. “I’ll ask Bodhi, see if he knows anything.”
“Ask him if he’s heard or seen Cassian throwing up at any point,” Baze suggested.
“In the meantime,” Baze said, “I’m going to take a nap. Can you do whatever it is you were doing just now without waking me up?”
“I was practicing my forms,” Chirrut said as he stood. “I’ll go pester Bodhi now.”
“Fantastic idea,” Baze said, and lay down again.
But he couldn’t sleep. He rolled onto his back after a few minutes and stared at the ceiling, spread-eagled in the middle of the bed.
“I just want a nap,” he told the cornice.
The cornice did not reply.
An idea struck him. Lifting his head, Baze checked that he was still alone and Chirrut didn’t appear to be coming back any time soon. He grabbed the blanket at the end of the bed and pulled it up over himself, to his chest. Then he slid a hand back down underneath it and unbuckled his belt.
He didn’t push his pants off, just unzipped them and slid them down enough to free himself from his underwear. He spent a few minutes idly toying with himself, thinking about Chirrut’s maddening mouth, how his lips peeled back and showed his gums when he laughed—Baze had never thought much one way or the other of gummy smiles, but he was rethinking his stance in favor of them, in detail.
He thought about those lips wrapped around his cock, how it would feel to have Chirrut kneeling in front of him as he took Baze’s shaft deep in his hot, wet mouth.
His cock jerked and dribbled pre-come onto his hand, and Baze stifled a groan. It had been too long since he’d done this, but something about Chirrut made him feel like a randy teenager again.
He moved his hand faster, breath speeding up as well. He wanted to taste Chirrut’s mouth, memorize and map out his body, stake claim on every freckle and mole that dotted Chirrut’s skin until he was writhing underneath him, begging Baze to get on with it.
He wanted to—he wanted to shut Chirrut up, make that mouth slacken with pleasure, scatter his sarcastic comments and make him gasp and whimper as Baze took his sweet time with Chirrut’s body.
What if he’s straight? Baze couldn’t help but wonder. Surely no straight man joked like Chirrut did, but then, Baze didn’t know very many straight men.
He twisted his wrist and shuddered at the feeling, spreading slow and thick like molasses through his body. It felt so good, and he wanted to make it last, but Chirrut could come back at any minute, and Baze knew masturbating when roommates might walk in was considered in poor taste.
Baze grabbed a tissue from the box and planted his feet on the bed, knees braced. Two, three quick pumps of his fist and his release shuddered through him on a low groan as he spilled into the tissue.
He took a moment to catch his breath, still breathing hard, and then set about cleaning up, dropping the tissue in the trash and tucking himself away. Then he dragged himself upright and stumbled to the bathroom to wash his hands.
Back in the bedroom, he flopped on his side of the bed, suddenly exhausted again. Sleep tugged at him with sticky fingers, and Baze sighed and surrendered to it.
They opted for pizza again that night, for their last meal in DC. Everyone gathered in the boys’ room, the adults getting seats on the beds and the kids sprawling on the floor, and the pizza was handed around to everyone.
It was comfortable and relaxed, Chirrut’s shoulder brushing Baze’s as they sat side by side on one of the beds.
“So, Mr. Îmwe,” Leia said, propping herself on one slim wrist, “you run a yoga studio, right?”
Chirrut nodded. “I also teach some martial arts, mostly for beginners, and on the weekends I do a tai-chi class.”
“What kind of martial arts?” Jyn asked, brightening.
“Wing Chun and muay thai, among others,” Chirrut said. “You should join one of my classes, Jyn, I’ll bet you’d be a great fighter.”
Jyn looked at her father, eyes bright. “Can I, Papa?”
Baze considered her, amused. “We’ll talk about it when we get home, but it’s certainly a possibility.”
Jyn squealed, clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle it, and Leia laughed out loud.
“You should come too,” Jyn told her.
Baze turned to Chirrut. “I’m not sure you know what you just let yourself in for.”
“I can handle her,” Chirrut said, a smile playing on his lips. “It’ll be good for her to find a way to channel that aggressive energy.”
“That’s true,” Baze admitted. “How long have you been a martial artist?”
“All my life,” Chirrut said. “My parents owned a Wing Chun studio—I was literally born into it.”
“And yet you chose to teach yoga,” Baze said. It hadn’t been an accusation, but Chirrut lifted a shoulder, lips twisting.
“Not many people want to learn martial arts from a blind man,” he said. There was no self-pity in his voice, just calm statement of fact, but Baze flinched.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean—can I ask how you lost your sight?”
Chirrut dabbed at his mouth with a napkin. “You can, but I’d rather have that conversation in a private setting.”
“Of course,” Baze said. “I’m sorry, again, I’m just… putting my foot in it, aren’t I?”
A smile bloomed on Chirrut’s face and Baze’s stomach lurched.
“Good thing you’re cute,” he said, and patted Baze’s arm. “I think I’ll keep you.”
Ben clapped before Baze could respond to that. “Alright, boys and girls and chaperones, we need to be ready to leave by six AM tomorrow. So please be packed and coherent, or at least upright, when I knock on your doors in the morning.”
A chorus of groans went up at that, but Ben just smiled and stood.
“Thank you for making this trip so much fun,” he said. “You were all rock stars and I’ll be sure to tell your parents how great you all did. Except for you, Luke.” He leveled a glare in Luke’s direction. “Did you think I wouldn’t hear about you giving Baze a heart attack at the museum?”
“I didn’t mean to!” Luke protested. “S’not my fault he wasn’t paying attention.”
“Hey!” Baze said, stung.
Bodhi poked Luke in the ribs. “You really want the big, gruff, growly man madder at you? I suggest you stop talking.”
Luke glowered but closed his mouth.
Chirrut snickered and stood as well. He threaded his way carefully among the teenagers, who scooted aside for him, and Baze joined him, blowing Jyn a quick kiss from across the room.
Back in their bedroom, Chirrut set his cane down and took off his shoes.
“How are you feeling about the flight back?” Baze asked.
“Fine, in theory,” Chirrut said. “We’ll see how I am when it actually happens.”
They brushed their teeth and changed into sleepwear in comfortable silence, moving around each other to reach the sink, and Baze made one final sweep of the room to make sure nothing would get left behind as Chirrut crawled beneath the covers, tucking one arm under his head.
Satisfied, Baze settled in as well and turned off the lamp. He rolled over as the clouds parted and a moonbeam fell across Chirrut’s face. His eyes were closed, mouth soft, the ever-present wrinkle on his forehead smoothed out. Baze glanced at Chirrut’s hand, resting between them on the mattress.
“Are you asleep?” he whispered.
Baze held his breath and touched the back of Chirrut’s hand with one finger. Chirrut didn’t move, so, greatly daring, Baze covered Chirrut’s hand with his own, curling his fingers around the slim bones.
He’d forgotten to ask Chirrut how he lost his sight, he realized, and yawned. It could wait. Baze stroked Chirrut’s knuckles with his thumb and fell asleep.
Jyn woke early, before her alarm went off, and stretched. Pushing the covers down, she sat up and stumbled to the bathroom, eyes gritty with sleep.
The door was closed, and she pawed at the handle for a second before turning it and letting it swing open.
Leia was looking in the mirror, and she screamed.
Jyn screamed too, reflexively, and stumbled backward, yanking the door to between them. “Oh God, oh God, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” she babbled. Then she snapped her mouth shut. What had she just seen? She hesitated, then tapped on the door as frantic shuffling and scrambling came from inside. “Leia?”
Leia yanked the door open, caught Jyn’s arm, and hauled her inside, slamming the door shut behind them.
Jyn instinctively turned her face away, putting a hand up. “I didn’t see anything,” she said. There was silence, and Jyn finally lowered her hand. “I didn’t, right?”
Leia was very, very still, and Jyn looked at her. At the stubble on her chin and the flecks of shaving cream that clung to her skin. At the razor dangling from one of Leia’s hands, and then back up to the tears beginning to gather in her big eyes.
“Please don’t say anything to the others,” Leia whispered.
For those of you not on Tumblr or who missed my reply there, I've gotten some feedback on Leia's reveal here that it feels cheap and done for shock value. The overwhelming majority of responses from my trans and nb readers has been very positive, but I want to address why I did it this way, for those who are bothered.
I’ve reached out to several trans people who are reading the fic (and a few who are not) and asked their opinion on the reveal, and whether it felt done simply for shock value or as a part of the character arc of the individuals.
Here’s the thing—I didn’t out Leia to the world. No one outside that bathroom knows and they won’t know, unless she chooses to tell them. But it’s a tiny space and there are three girls basically living on top of each other—some walking in on another person is almost inevitable.
This reveal didn't happen to "shock" readers with "oh no, the worst possible thing, a trans character" but to show the way the girls bond and come together over this. My trans and nb readers agreed that real life is rarely neat or accommodating, and accidental outings do happen. Nor did they feel I did this because I was using someone’s gender as a shock or plot twist, but because both Jyn and Leia are going to deal with this experience and grow closer from it. This is how the story wants to be told, in this little fictional world.
However, I don’t ever want to speak over someone else’s experience, especially in this area, so I’ve added warnings and tags (and this explanation) to the story so no one feels blindsided as they read. Please feel free to reach out to me with any further concerns (and thank you so much for reading).
Warning for mention of pedophilia in the first few paragraphs.
Jyn stared at her, unable to form words.
The first tear spilled down Leia's cheek and she wiped it away with an impatient sound, not taking her gaze from Jyn.
“You're...” Jyn couldn't figure out how to finish, and Leia did it for her as fury flashed in her eyes.
“Pretending to be a girl?” she hissed. “Go ahead, Jyn, tell me what a pervert I am for wanting to make my outsides match my insides. Tell me I'm just doing this to get close to 'real' girls, or—I don't know, maybe you want to go the child molester route, since everyone knows that all trans people are secretly pedophiles. Or—”
“Stop!” Jyn said, flinging out a hand. “Leia, just—stop. Please. Give me a minute to process, please!”
Leia snapped her mouth shut and dropped the razor in the sink with a clatter. She slid down the wall to sit on the floor and wrapped her arms around her knees.
Jyn eased onto the rim of the tub, head spinning. “Who else knows?”
“Luke, obviously,” Leia said. Her voice sounded thick, like she was fighting more tears. “Uncle Bail, Aunt Breha. And Han.”
“How is it that they're the only ones?” Jyn asked.
Leia shrugged. “We moved here after I transitioned. They agreed it would be best for me if I... presented as female from the start. Less complicated.”
“But—you met Han at this school. How—”
“Luke let it slip,” Leia said. “Why do you care? The real question is, what are you going to do?”
“'Do'?” Jyn echoed. “What do you mean?”
“When are you going to tell everyone?” Leia's voice was bitter, nothing but resignation to her fate in it.
Jyn stared at her. “I'm not—why would I tell anyone?”
“Because that's what people do,” Leia spat. “That's why we had to move, that's why we're here in the first place. One person found out, and then every-fucking-body knew, and our lives went to shit. People egged our house.”
“But—why?” Jyn asked, bewildered. “Why did they care?”
Leia rubbed her face. “I was running for student council. I was captain of the debate team. I had standing in the community, I was active and engaged and then I came out and suddenly everyone decided I'd been lying to them all along. They felt—I'd deceived them.”
“That's bullshit,” Jyn said. “I don't—I don't know the circumstances, I don't know what it's like to be trans, but you couldn't be deceitful. It's not in your nature, you're the most honest person I know.”
Leia dropped her hands. “But I'm—I'm not who you thought I was.”
Jyn slid off the tub. The tile was cold and hard on her knees but she barely noticed. “Are you Leia, fierce political activist and staunch feminist? Do you care more about other people than you do yourself? Did you give your lunch to that homeless guy yesterday?” She smiled at Leia's clear consternation. “You thought I didn't see, but I did.” She lifted a shoulder. “I don't care that you—” She hesitated. “I don't know the right words,” she admitted. “That you used to be a guy?”
Leia shook her head and hiccupped, wiping her face. “I was never a guy. I was assigned male at birth, but I've always—I'm a girl.”
“Okay,” Jyn said. Holding her breath, she reached out and took Leia's hand. “Is that why you always wear dresses and makeup?”
“Yeah,” Leia said. She let her hand rest in Jyn's and leaned her head against the wall. “If I'm not aggressively feminine, if I let my standards slip, I get accused of not being 'female' enough.”
Jyn squeezed her hand gently. “You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. No matter what.”
Leia's laugh was soggy but she squeezed back. “I'm on hormones and I had the first few reassignment surgeries before we moved, but every once in a while I have to stop my stupid face from growing hair where it shouldn't.”
“How can I help?” Jyn said.
Leia looked at her, and Jyn had the dizzying feeling that Leia was actually seeing her for the first time. “Just don't tell anyone,” she said. Her thumb moved restlessly and Jyn didn't dare move for fear Leia would remember they were still holding hands.
“I won't,” she said. “Of course I won't. I would never.”
Leia's eyes softened. “Thank you,” she whispered. “We should get ready to go.”
Cassian was nervous, and getting more so. Bodhi watched him out of the corner of his eye, head down as if he was reading the book in his lap as the plane taxied to the runway. Cassian was sitting next to Jyn again, knee bouncing as he chewed on a cuticle, fingers tucked into a loose fist. His dark eyes were distant, as if he was miles away.
Bodhi checked on his father, but Chirrut was talking to Baze, seemingly unaware that their plane was about to take off. Bodhi sighed and glanced at Cassian again.
This time, Cassian caught his eye.
Bodhi gave him a tentative smile, but Cassian hunched his shoulders and looked away. Bodhi's smile slipped and he straightened.
Beside him, Luke bumped him gently with an elbow. “Cheer up. At least you still have me.”
Bodhi scowled at his lap and didn't answer. He couldn't help sneaking glances at Cassian throughout the flight, though, watching the way Cassian's slim frame got ever more tense until he was strung taut, his breathing shallow.
When the plane landed in Chicago, Cassian was one of the first off the plane, bolting up the aisle and out the door as soon as it was opened for him.
Bodhi fumbled with his seatbelt, swearing, and stood, but the aisle was filling with people and his progress was slow.
Finally, he won free of the crowd and dashed up the gangplank in time to see Cassian's dark blue hoodie vanishing into the bathroom.
Bodhi dove after him. The unmistakable sounds of vomiting came from the nearest stall, and Bodhi hesitated, then wet a paper towel and squeezed it out. He waited until Cassian was done throwing up, then knocked lightly on the stall door.
“Go away,” Cassian rasped.
Bodhi swallowed his anxiety and squared his shoulders. “No. You need help.”
There was a brief pause and then the toilet flushed and the door swung slowly open. Cassian was on his knees beside the toilet, his face sallow.
Bodhi held out the wet paper towel and Cassian took it, hand trembling.
“Is it an eating disorder?” Bodhi asked before he thought better of it.
Cassian flinched, glancing up. There was genuine surprise on his face.
“It's not an eating disorder,” Bodhi said. He crouched next to him. “What can I do?”
“There's nothing to be done,” Cassian said. He rocked to his feet and straightened. Bodhi rose too, a hand out in case he fell. Cassian looked at him for a moment. “Why are you being so nice?”
Bodhi pulled his hand back, confused. “I—”
“Forget it,” Cassian said abruptly. He slipped past and went to the sink to wash his face and rinse his mouth out.
Bodhi shifted his weight, unsure what to do. “If it's not an eating disorder, then—”
“It's none of your business, is what it is,” Cassian said sharply, and Bodhi jerked, feeling like he'd been slapped. “I'm sorry,” Cassian said, low and urgent. “Bodhi—”
Bodhi hugged his ribs, trying desperately to figure out what to do. He wasn't equipped for this. He didn't know what to say. He didn't have something gruffly comforting like Baze would, or something witty like his own father might. He was anxious and neurotic and awkward and he couldn’t—Cassian stepped in close and Bodhi forgot to breathe.
Cassian brought his hands up and gently tugged Bodhi's arms away from his body. His eyes were bottomless pools, sad and liquid, and his mouth trembled before he firmed it.
“Please,” he whispered. “Just....”
Bodhi made a helpless noise and gathered him in, wrapping his arms around Cassian's too-bony body and tucking Cassian’s face against his neck. Cassian gulped deep breaths into Bodhi’s skin, clutching desperately at his shirt.
“I’m sorry,” he panted, over and over. “I’m sorry, Bodhi, I just wanted—I wanted one good thing, I wanted to know what it was like—”
“Shh,” Bodhi said, freeing a hand to smooth Cassian’s black hair off his forehead. “What what was like?”
But Cassian just shook his head and clung to him harder.
“Okay,” Bodhi said. “Okay, Cass, you’re safe.”
“No,” Cassian whispered.
“We won’t let anything happen to you,” Bodhi said. He didn’t want to let go, he never wanted to stop touching Cassian in any capacity he was allowed, so he tightened his grip instead. “You’ve got people who care about you.”
Cassian’s laugh was hollow and it scraped Bodhi raw. When he pulled away, Bodhi had to fight an internal battle to let him go.
“I’ll talk to my dad,” he said. “Cass—”
“No,” Cassian said, shaking his head again. “No. Bodhi, promise me—” He caught Bodhi’s shoulders, eyes fierce and desperate. “You can’t tell him. Please. You can't tell anyone.” He looked distraught and Bodhi hesitated, torn.
“But they can help.”
Cassian shook his head. “People have tried.” He let go and stepped back, squaring his shoulders. Bodhi ached to reach for him, protect him, but he could see Cassian putting up his walls again, shutting him—and everyone else—out again.
The door swung open and Baze pushed through, Chirrut on his heels.
“Everything okay?” Baze rumbled.
Bodhi glanced at Cassian, whose dark eyes were silently pleading with him. Hating himself, Bodhi nodded. “Cass must have eaten something that disagreed with him. He's feeling better.”
He avoided Cassian's eyes and stepped around Baze's bulky form to take his father's arm. Chirrut brought a hand up to touch Bodhi's face as they left the restroom, fingers gentle.
“What really happened?” he asked once they were in the hall, people bustling by in both directions.
“He threw up,” Bodhi said. “Which way is our gate?”
Chirrut pointed, and Bodhi turned them that way.
“And?” Chirrut said gently.
“He made me promise,” Bodhi said. He wrapped a hand around Chirrut's bicep and struggled to keep from putting his head on Chirrut's shoulder as they walked. “I can't—I can't say anything else.”
“Is he in danger?” Chirrut asked, voice serious.
“I don't know,” Bodhi said. He gave in to the impulse—just briefly—and put his head on Chirrut's shoulder. “He's scared but he won't tell me why.”
Chirrut touched Bodhi's cheek. “Alright.”
Bodhi lifted his head. “Can we buy him something to eat, please? He just threw up breakfast and I don't think he's got any money.”
“Of course,” Chirrut said. “Do you see anything good?”
Bodhi steered them toward a restaurant and when Cassian and Baze joined them at their gate, Chirrut found an excuse to get up and tow Baze away with him as Bodhi pushed the styrofoam container at Cassian, who recoiled.
“You owe me,” Bodhi said flatly.
Cassian's eyes narrowed. “How do you figure?”
“I didn't tell,” Bodhi said. “I'm keeping your secrets. The least you can do is put some fucking food in your stomach for me.”
Maybe it was the obscenity, or maybe it was just that Cassian's defenses were worn thin and he couldn't find the energy to fight. Bodhi didn't know and didn't really care, as Cassian sat on the vinyl bench beside him and accepted the container.
He opened the container, hands unsteady, and lifted out half the roast beef sandwich inside. Bodhi tucked his hands under his knees and watched him eat, worry churning his stomach. Cassian's eyes were veiled, his expression neutral, but he managed to eat the entire half-sandwich before his shoulders slumped and he closed the lid.
“I'll save the rest for later,” he said to his hands.
Bodhi glanced at his father, saying something to Baze, who had his eyes fixed on Cassian's dejected form.
“What's going to happen when we get home?” Bodhi asked Cassian in a quiet voice.
Cassian's shoulders rounded more and he retreated into himself. “I'll be fine.”
“That's not an answer,” Bodhi said.
Cassian flicked his eyes up. “It's the only one you're going to get,” he said.
Bodhi nodded, swallowing hard. “You're right. It's not like we're friends.”
Cassian made an aborted movement as if reaching for him. “It's better this way.” He lifted his chin. “Thank you for the food, Bodhi.” He hesitated. “And... the hug. But... I don't want to talk to you anymore.”
He stood, clutching the container to his chest, and crossed the waiting area to sit beside Jyn. Bodhi curled around the hurt that bloomed under his breastbone, shame and embarrassment tearing at him with sharp teeth. Of course Cassian didn't want to talk to him, what could Bodhi offer him? Neuroses and insecurities, that's all Bodhi had to give anyone.
Luke flopped into the chair beside him. “Han's being a jerk. Wanna go find a closet and make out? We have an hour before they even start boarding.”
Bodhi shook his head, struggling to breathe, and Luke's eyes sharpened.
“What happened? Is it Cassian? I'm gonna kick his ass. Where is he?”
Bodhi caught him before he could rise and pulled him back down. “Stop,” he hissed. He glanced around. “Bathroom.”
Luke followed him into the handicapped stall, clearly still seething. “What'd he say?”
“It doesn't matter,” Bodhi said numbly.
“Which is why you look like someone kicked you in the stomach.”
“He just—he doesn't want to be friends. He said he didn't want to talk to me anymore.”
Luke growled, clenching his fists. “Then he's a fucking idiot.”
“No,” Bodhi said automatically. “He's... right.”
“Hey, hey,” Luke said. He touched Bodhi's shoulder, folding a hand around it to pull him close. Bodhi let him, staring unseeing at the wall. “He's got no idea what he's missing,” Luke said into his hair.
He eased back and put a finger under Bodhi's chin. Bodhi blinked at him and Luke smiled and leaned in. His lips were warm and he tasted like peppermint gum.
Bodhi didn't move for a minute as Luke kissed him. Why couldn't he want what he had? Why wasn't the person in front of him good enough? He frowned in concentration, angling slightly to better kiss Luke back.
But it was no use. All he could see were Cassian's brown eyes, all he could think about was how he'd felt in his arms, so rangy and thin, unlike Luke, who was sturdy with solid muscle and puppy fat. Bodhi broke away and shook his head.
“I'm—I can't. I'm sorry, Luke.”
Luke's eyes were sad, but he smiled and chucked Bodhi's chin with one knuckle. “I've still got my best friend, at least, right?”
“Always,” Bodhi said immediately. “I've got your back, Luke, you know that. What’s Han doing?”
Luke shrugged and opened the stall door. “Same shit, different day. Bugging Leia, ignoring me. I need to just… get over him. But then he gives me that grin, and I fall all over again.”
They left the bathroom and headed back toward their gate. As they approached, Bodhi caught sight of Cassian sitting against the far wall, eyes fixed on the airplane outside the window. Bodhi’s steps faltered but he drew a breath and kept moving, sitting down beside Chirrut, who patted his hand in greeting.
Cassian didn’t look away from the window.
Content warning for... sloppy makeouts, I guess?
(Also please do not beat the author with a feather duster for writing yoga when she's literally never even taken a class. I hope I sold it but feel free to correct me on any points!)
The last leg of their flight went smoothly. Chirrut was so wrapped up in worrying about Bodhi and Cassian that he barely noticed the airplane’s takeoff, only surfacing from his thoughts when they were in the air and a familiar voice interrupted the endless circling of his worries.
“If it isn’t my favorite married couple!”
Chirrut lifted his head, a smile spreading. “Hello, Miguel. How have you been?”
“Fine, fine!” Miguel chirped. “Glad to see you two are still as loved up as ever.”
Chirrut couldn’t let this opportunity pass. “Who, us?” He grabbed Baze’s hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing the back of it, as Baze caught his breath but said nothing.
Miguel sighed rapturously. “The cutest. I’ll be right back with the drink cart, okay?”
Chirrut waited until his footsteps had receded before letting Baze’s hand go.
“You are awful,” Baze informed him.
Chirrut grinned. “I don’t hear any complaints.”
Baze muttered something under his breath and Chirrut snickered.
“Are the kids doing alright?” he asked after a minute.
Baze grunted an affirmative. “Jyn’s drawing, Bodhi’s talking to Luke, Cassian appears to be reading but he hasn’t turned a page in ten minutes.”
“Did he say anything to you in the bathroom?” Chirrut asked.
“Of course not.” Baze sighed. “I don’t think that kid would talk with a gun to his head. Do we know what his deal is?”
“Bodhi confirmed it’s not an eating disorder. At this point, I wonder if he’s dealing with abuse. I need to find out more about his home life, but I can’t ask him, obviously. Maybe Ben knows something.” Chirrut grimaced. “I don’t want to pry when he clearly doesn’t want to discuss it, but something is very wrong.”
Miguel came back with the drink trolley before Baze could answer. “Apple juice and coffee again?” he asked.
Chirrut gave him a blazing smile. “Sounds perfect. Doesn’t that sound perfect, Baze, darling?”
Baze muttered something under his breath, but he leaned across Chirrut to accept the drinks and guided his hand to the juice with a gentle touch.
“This might be inappropriate,” Miguel said, “but I’m sorry, I just have to ask. How do you keep the spark alive?”
“Flavored lube,” Chirrut said immediately, and Baze spat coffee all over himself.
“Goddammit, Chirrut,” he said when he’d finished sputtering and Miguel had handed him some napkins with many earnest apologies. “It’s fine,” he said. “Really. I should be used to it by now.”
Chirrut patted his knee. “You really should.” He turned back to Miguel. “If you want the honest truth—listen to each other. Communicate. And honestly—” He leaned forward. “Make the other feel cherished.”
Miguel made a noise. “I just—he never remembers the things that are important to me. He blows me off for dates because he’s working, and then makes me feel bad for wanting to spend time with him because he’s ‘building his career’.”
Chirrut nodded sympathetically. “Lawyer?”
“Stockbroker,” Miguel sighed. “I should get back to work. Thanks for talking to me.”
“Good luck,” Chirrut said.
Silence fell as Miguel moved away, and Chirrut sipped his juice.
“Sorry about making you inhale coffee,” he finally said.
Baze grunted, but he didn’t sound annoyed. “That was actually good advice you gave him.”
“I may not have been in a relationship in a while,” Chirrut said, “but I’m not stupid. I learned from my mistakes, and I dumped the asshole who only called me when he wanted sex.”
“Good,” Baze said. “You deserve to be cherished.”
Chirrut froze. For once, he bitterly resented his loss of sight. What had Baze meant by that? Had he intended to sound like he wanted to kiss Chirrut breathless, or was that Chirrut’s overactive imagination and wishful thinking?
He opened his mouth to ask just as Bodhi knelt beside his seat.
“Hey, Dad,” he said softly.
Chirrut snapped his mouth shut and turned, automatically reaching for Bodhi’s face. “What’s wrong?” he asked, tracing the downturned lines of Bodhi’s mouth.
“N-nothing,” Bodhi said. “I mean, the same thing. Whatever. I just—I came to check on you. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Chirrut said gently. “We’ll figure it out, alright?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said. “I’ll see you when we land, I guess.”
They were both quiet after Bodhi left. The moment had passed and Chirrut couldn’t figure out how to reopen the conversation, so he sipped his juice and thought about frustrating Chinese men who sent mixed signals and what it would be like to kiss him.
He barely registered it when the pilot came over the loudspeakers, informing them that the fasten seatbelts sign was on and they were beginning the descent into Sonoma County Airport.
“You alright?” Baze said quietly.
“Hmm?” Chirrut lifted his head, pulled from his thoughts. “I’m—” He hesitated as he realized he was alright, that the old panic had receded into a manageable state, still clearly there but nowhere near the gibbering formless mass threatening to take him over that it had been in the past. “I’m fine,” he said, and gave Baze a brilliant smile.
Things became chaotic again when they landed, and in the shuffle of retrieving bags and getting up the gangplank, Chirrut lost contact with Baze. He heard Miguel’s voice on his way out of the plane and reached out for his arm.
Miguel accepted his hand and Chirrut leaned in. “Dump him. You deserve better.”
Miguel sputtered a laugh that sounded sad. “I’m not sure I do.”
Chirrut squeezed his hand. “I am. Believe in yourself.”
In the airport, Chirrut realized he was alone, so he took several steps to the side, until he fetched up against a wall, and stood quietly for a moment, orienting himself.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Baze panted as he caught up. “It’s a madhouse, I was trying to keep the kids in view and then I somehow lost you, I’m sorry—”
“It’s fine,” Chirrut said, cutting off the stream of apologies. “I’m fine, Baze, really. Where are the kids?”
“Just up ahead,” Baze said, and guided Chirrut’s hand to his elbow.
They joined the group and Bodhi fell into step on Chirrut’s other side.
“Cassian’s gone,” he said, low and urgent.
Chirrut hesitated mid-step. “What? Where would he go?”
“He said he was going home, that he had a ride, he’d see us at school—he was talking to Jyn but I was right there—and then he took off, Dad, he’s vanished.”
“Okay,” Chirrut said soothingly. “If he said he had a ride, then I’m sure he did. He’s a big boy, Bodhi, he’ll be alright.”
“No.” Chirrut could tell Bodhi was shaking his head. “No, Dad, he’s not, but I don’t know what to do, how to help him, what do we do?”
Chirrut stopped and cupped Bodhi’s face in both hands, feeling the tightness around his eyes. “We can’t barge into his life without proof,” he said gently. “Listen to me, dear heart—if he asks for help, of course we’ll help him. But what do we know? That he has issues with eating, or paying for food. And that he’s afraid of something. That’s not enough, Bodhi, we need more than that before we start flinging accusations around. Besides, has he asked you to rescue him?”
Bodhi shook his head minutely, mouth turned down.
“Then we wait, and try to be there for him when he’s ready to reach out. Alright?”
Bodhi sighed and then nodded a fraction.
“Come on, let’s get our luggage,” Chirrut said. “I’m ready to get Kyber and go home.”
On the curb outside the airport, Chirrut took a breath of California air, scented with exhaust fumes and jet fuel, and smiled. “It’s good to be home,” he said to Baze.
Baze grunted agreement. “I guess we leave each other here, then? Or are you going back to the school with Ben?”
“No, our home’s on the other side of the city, we’ll take the bus,” Chirrut said. He hesitated and then put his hand out. “Thank you for making this trip more fun than I expected it to be, Baze.”
Baze huffed a laugh and took his hand, palm warm and solid in Chirrut’s. “Likewise. You’re good company when you’re not being deliberately provoking.”
Chirrut feigned outrage. “I am a delight, excuse you.”
Baze’s laugh was deep and contagious, rolling from his chest and making Chirrut laugh with him.
“Come to yoga,” Chirrut said impulsively, still holding Baze’s hand.
Baze’s laugh cut off and he hesitated. “I can’t do yoga, Chirrut.”
“Anyone can do yoga,” Chirrut countered. “I’ll go easy on you, I promise.”
Baze was silent.
“Please?” Chirrut said.
Chirrut cocked his head. “It’s just yoga, Baze.”
“Alright,” Baze said abruptly. “When? And what should I wear?”
Relief made Chirrut lightheaded. “Tomorrow, nine AM, is my beginner’s class. Wear something comfortable and non-restrictive.”
Baze squeezed his hand and let go. “I’ll see you then. Goodbye, Chirrut.”
A small hand touched Chirrut’s arm as Jyn’s delicate floral perfume reached his nose. He leaned toward her and she stretched up to kiss his cheek.
“When is your self-defense class?” she asked.
“Wednesdays, five PM,” Chirrut told her, smiling. “Shall I put you on the roster?”
“You bet,” Jyn said. “Bye, Mr. Îmwe.”
“Chirrut, please!” Chirrut protested, but she’d already left and Bodhi was taking her place.
“I have the bags. There’s another bus in a few minutes, we should get over there.”
What was he doing? What had he been thinking, agreeing to come to Chirrut’s yoga class? Baze looked down at his soft blue and white striped pants and grimaced. And wearing pajamas, to boot.
He hesitated, hand on the door. Through the glass, he could see a group of what appeared to be mostly women wearing spandex, bags slung over their shoulders, and Baze had another moment of panic. Should he have brought a bag? What was he supposed to even put in it?
Someone cleared their throat and Baze jumped, realizing he was blocking the entrance.
“Sorry,” he said, and stepped aside for the blonde woman who sniffed as she stalked past.
Baze wavered on the door step. He should go. Text Chirrut and let him know something had happened, that he’d have to reschedule. It was madness, being here, especially given his decision not to start something with—
“Baze!” Chirrut sounded delighted, and Baze froze in place. How did he even know? “Don’t just stand there with the door open, come in, come in! Ladies, this is my friend Baze, he’s joining us for the beginner’s class, be nice and don’t eat him alive.”
Baze swallowed hard and stepped inside, letting the door swing shut behind him. The space was bigger than he’d thought from outside, airy and welcoming. There were large mirrors on the walls and windows set into the ceiling, allowing the sunlight to shine through and illuminate the warm room with its pale green walls, with flowers painted all over them, and mahogany floor.
Chirrut was hurrying toward him and Baze forgot how to breathe. Chirrut was wearing a loose shirt cropped at the waist with the words PERFECT ONE printed in bright pink across the chest, and skin-tight black and white leggings that showed off every muscle in his flawless legs, and—Baze jerked his eyes away from Chirrut’s crotch.
He wasn’t going to survive this. What the fuck had he been thinking?
“I’m—I—” He struggled for words but Chirrut didn’t pause. He caught Baze’s hand and pulled him into the room.
“Here’s your mat,” he told him. It was in the corner, Baze realized, at the back of the room where he wouldn’t have all eyes on him.
Gratitude rose inside his chest as Chirrut pointed to the shelf lining the back wall.
“You can put your shoes there,” he said. “Then sit on your knees and we’ll begin.”
Baze obeyed, noticing Kyber in the corner, curled up in a luxurious dog bed. She thumped her tail at him but didn’t move.
There were eight women in the room, Baze realized as he sat down where Chirrut had directed. Most of them in tight spandex, all of them sneaking sideways glances at him and giving him smiles, and Baze tucked his chin down and glowered at his knees. This was the stupidest thing he’d ever done, but he couldn’t figure out how to escape.
Chirrut had moved to the front of the room and he clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Most of you here are intermediate level, but I hope you don’t mind if we start slow for my friend’s benefit, let him get into the swing of things.”
A murmur of agreement rose and several women slanted friendly smiles at Baze, who could feel a blush firing his cheeks.
Chirrut turned on a sound system and soothing music filtered through the speakers as he straightened. “Let’s begin with the mountain pose. Feet together, make sure your weight is evenly distributed through your soles, arms at your sides.”
Baze got in position, watching the women surreptitiously to make sure he was holding the pose properly. Chirrut was still at the front of the room, speaking in a calm voice.
“Inhale, then raise your arms up over your head, palms together, and reach for the sky with your fingertips. Hold it for twenty seconds, then bring your arms back to your sides on an exhale. We’ll repeat that ten times. Ready? Let’s go.” He raised his arms and Baze followed suit.
It wasn’t difficult, he realized quickly, with a rush of relief. Raise his arms, reach up, hold, then release.
“Good,” Chirrut said, smiling around the room. Baze watched the way his lips curved, showing his white teeth, and tried not to think about kissing him. “Now let’s move to the warrior pose. For this, you’re going to stand with your legs three to four feet apart, whatever’s comfortable for you, turning your right foot out ninety degrees and your left foot in just a little to help you balance.”
Baze obeyed, frowning as he concentrated on placing his feet just so. Chirrut was moving through the rows, murmuring in a low voice to his students, occasionally stopping to adjust a position with a judicious hand in the small of someone’s back or on their thigh.
He was getting closer, Baze realized.
“Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, practicing your mindful breathing,” Chirrut said as he paced slowly down the aisle. “Now extend your arms out to the sides, palm down. Got it?”
They all murmured acknowledgment and Chirrut nodded.
“Bend your right knee ninety degrees, making sure you keep your knee over your ankle, and look out over your right arm. Hold this for one minute.”
Baze wobbled and just kept the expletive inside as Chirrut came up beside him.
“Drop your shoulders,” Chirrut said quietly. “I’m going to touch you, okay?”
Baze nodded and then wanted to smack himself. “Yes,” he said aloud, and was rewarded with another smile.
Chirrut bent and placed a hand on Baze’s right knee, long fingers probing gently. “Turn your foot more,” he directed. “That’s why you’re not balanced, you’re—ah, there. Very good.” He straightened and ran a hand along Baze’s shoulders. “You have a tendency to hunch,” he said. “Keep your shoulders down, breathe deep from your sternum, yes—that’s good. Switch sides now.” He stepped away, giving Baze room to do so, then bent to touch Baze’s left knee, humming in approval when he did. “Fast learner,” he said, tilting his head up with a sweet smile, and Baze fought back the urge to lean in for a kiss.
Instead he concentrated on holding the pose, and after several minutes of switching sides, he found, somewhat to his surprise, that his breathing had slowed and the tension was draining from him.
Chirrut was moving back up the row, bending to correct someone else’s stance, and Baze watched him as he repeated his poses.
“Very good,” Chirrut said as he reached the front and turned. “Let’s do the tree pose now. Feet together, arms at sides. Shift weight onto your left leg—” He demonstrated as the class followed his movements. “—And place the sole of your right foot inside your left thigh above the knee. Make sure your hips stay facing forward. If you’re not flexible enough, you can press the sole of your foot against your left calf or even your ankle.”
Baze swore out loud this time as he tried to get into position, and several women giggled.
Chirrut smiled but didn’t acknowledge it. “Once you’re balanced, bring your hands together in front of you in the prayer position.” He pressed his palms together in the middle of his chest. “Take a deep breath and on the inhalation, you’re going to extend your arms up over your shoulders, palms facing each other. Hold it for thirty seconds.”
Baze tried again to get into the position. It was standing on one foot, how hard could it be? But every time he lifted his right foot, he wobbled dangerously and had to put it back down. Scowling thunderously, he pushed his sole up against his left ankle and copied the student’s movements in front of him.
Chirrut approached again as Baze worked to get the pose in place. “Drop your shoulders,” he said again. “Breathe deep from your sternum, remember. Don’t take shallow breaths. Choose a flower on the wall.”
Baze picked a white magnolia at head height. “Okay,” he muttered.
“Now, look at that flower and don’t think about anything else but that flower. Admire the glossy leaves, the satin shine of the petals, the stamen, and lift your right foot and put it on your knee. Keep your shoulders down. Look at the flower. Tell me how many petals it has.”
“Five,” Baze said, staring at it as he obeyed.
“What color is it?” Chirrut moved around him but Baze didn’t look away from the wall.
“It’s white, but it has a sort of… rosy tint to it. It fades to pale pink at the very tips.”
“Take a breath and lift your arms like I showed you,” Chirrut instructed. “What color are the leaves and how many are there?”
“Deep, dark green,” Baze said, arms over his head and palms together. “There are four leaves, they’re waxy and broad, bigger than the petals.”
“Look at yourself,” Chirrut said, and Baze glanced down, startled to realize his right foot was resting on his knee in a perfectly balanced pose.
Chirrut was smiling from ear to ear when Baze looked up again.
“I did it,” Baze said blankly.
“You did indeed,” Chirrut said. “You’re a natural. Switch sides and do it again.”
The rest of the class went by in something of a blur as Baze followed the poses Chirrut described as closely as he could. It was fun, he decided. It warmed his muscles up, cleared his mind, and he felt sharp, alert, and focused.
Chirrut took the students through a few cool-down exercises, still moving through the rows, hands behind his back, and when he deemed them thoroughly done, he dismissed them with a bow, hands pressed together in front of his chest again.
“Thank you all for coming,” he called over the chatter of the women as they broke formation to pack up their gear. “See you tomorrow!”
Baze shifted his feet awkwardly, not sure what to do, but Chirrut was moving toward him.
“Help me clean up?” he asked with another smile, and Baze was just as powerless against it as ever.
Chirrut showed him how to wipe down the mats and then roll them up and stand them on end in the bin at the far end of the room.
“You did well,” he said as they moved down the rows.
“I’m an old, creaky man with balance issues,” Baze huffed, but he couldn’t help the warmth rising in his cheeks.
“You’re not old,” Chirrut said, sitting back on his heels. “You’re what, a year older than me? Practically a teenager still.”
That made Baze laugh out loud as he turned from putting another mat away. “You’re full of shit, you are.” He glanced at the shallow wooden bowl filled with flat, oblong glass beads in iridescent rainbows. “What’s this for? Some yoga trick for the advanced class? Do you balance beads on your nose or something?”
Chirrut’s laugh pealed out and he stood up with fluid grace. “You mean the glass? No, you cynical fool, I think they’re pretty. Adds to the aesthetic of the space.”
Baze grunted doubtfully and dipped his hand into the beads. They were cool and slick against his fingers, sliding away with small clacking noises, and he looked up just in time to see Chirrut bending over in front of him, only arm’s reach away.
Baze jerked upright and the bowl went flying.
It landed with a loud crash and Chirrut straightened with a startled curse, spinning to find the source of the noise as beads skittered across the floor in a wild rainbow array.
Baze froze for one brief moment, closing his eyes in mortification. “I’m so sorry,” he began when he opened them, but he hesitated when he realized Chirrut was laughing. He bent to pick up the bowl, which was still lazily spinning on its base. Chirrut waved him off, still laughing.
“Bodhi’s done that more than once himself,” he said. “I really should find a better place for it.”
He sank to his knees and began gathering the glass beads, scooping them into his palm and feeling across the floor with the other hand.
Baze joined him, feeling stupid and clumsy, and guided Chirrut’s hand to the bowl so he could put the gathered beads in it.
The studio was quiet, both of them kneeling on the satiny hardwood floor and searching for any beads that had escaped detection.
When Baze found the last one, he turned to find Chirrut right beside him. The sun had gone behind a cloud and the studio was dim, Chirrut’s cloudy blue eyes almost glowing in the low light.
Baze held his breath as Chirrut scooted a little closer, still sliding his hand across the floor, patting the boards for beads. His searching fingers found Baze’s knee instead and he hesitated. Then a mischievous smile lit his face and he squeezed gently.
Baze managed to clear his throat. “That’s—that’s not a bead.”
Chirrut pretended to be dubious. “But how can I be sure?” His hand inched up Baze’s knee, skirting the edge of his thigh muscle.
Baze closed his eyes. Just once, he thought. Just get it out of my system. Then I can move on. He lunged forward and Chirrut’s laugh cut off abruptly as their mouths met.
Chirrut’s lips were warm and soft and he tasted like black tea and honey. Baze gathered him in, unwilling to lose any point of contact with him, and Chirrut made a rough noise and went to his knees so he could fling a leg over Baze’s lap and straddle him.
He was taller this way, perched on Baze’s thighs, solid and somehow heavier than Baze had expected, his hands roaming restlessly across Baze’s face as they kissed. His fingers explored the smile lines framing Baze’s eyes, traced across his forehead and smoothed away the wrinkles there with quick, gentle strokes.
Baze groaned into his mouth and looped his arms around Chirrut’s hips to pull him closer, so their chests were plastered together.
“I knew it,” Chirrut panted, breaking away briefly to pepper Baze’s cheeks and jaw with light kisses. “I knew you wanted me as much—what took you so long?”
“Complicated,” Baze managed. He was dizzy from lack of air and Chirrut’s intoxicating taste and smell, his head spinning with the sheer thrill of the situation, knowing he shouldn’t be doing this, oh God, what was he thinking—Chirrut captured his mouth again and Baze’s eyes fluttered shut.
The kiss was slow and sweet this time, lacking in urgency even though Baze could feel that Chirrut was as hard as he himself was, grinding against him in tiny, quick movements that made sparks go off behind Baze’s eyes.
Chirrut’s arms were around his neck, one long finger lazily tracing the shell of Baze’s ear, and Baze shivered but didn’t pull away.
Chirrut smiled against his mouth. “I love your ears,” he whispered. “I want to—bite one.”
“God.” Baze jerked away and Chirrut’s head fell back on a laugh, arms still around Baze’s neck. Baze growled and attacked his throat, making Chirrut jerk, his breath catching and arms tightening.
“We can’t—” he gasped.
Baze pulled back, reason returning briefly. Oh God, he was right. What madness had possessed him? “I’m sorry,” he began, trying to let go so Chirrut could slide off his lap.
But Chirrut held on like a limpet and dipped in for another searingly hot kiss.
“I mean we can’t do this here,” he said, lips curving in that maddening smile.
Baze swallowed hard and looked around.
Chirrut leaned in and nipped at Baze’s earlobe. “Come to dinner.” His voice was low and intimate, promising filthy delights. “I’ll cook for us.”
Baze leaned back enough to look at his face. Chirrut’s lips were swollen, kissed pink and distractingly wet, and it took Baze a minute to register what he’d said.
“What—” He cleared his throat. “What about Bodhi?” What about Jyn? He stiffened, remembering his resolve, and Chirrut made a distressed noise.
“Don’t,” he begged, tightening his grip on Baze’s shoulders.
“We shouldn’t—” He ached, and he had to fight through the haze of desire to focus. “Chirrut, it’s not a good idea.”
“That’s why we should do it,” Chirrut countered. “When’s the last time you did something selfish, something just for you?”
Baze hesitated, chewing his lip.
“Exactly,” Chirrut said triumphantly.
“I told myself—” Baze searched for words. “I decided I wasn’t going to look for anything until Jyn left for college. It’s too—I can’t risk it. She needs a stable home life, Chirrut, how can I disrupt that?”
“Who’s looking for a marriage proposal?” Chirrut wriggled against Baze’s hips and Baze caught his waist with a stifled sound. “I just want to have some fun. Wouldn’t you like to have some fun, Baze?”
At that moment, there was nothing Baze wanted more.
“Come to dinner,” Chirrut repeated.
“Alright,” Baze said abruptly.
Chirrut’s face lit with delight. “Really? You will? You’re not going to say you’ll be there and then chicken out at the last minute, like you almost did this morning?”
“How do you do—never mind. I said I would, so I will.”
“In that case,” Chirrut announced, “I’m going to kiss you again, I think.”
He lowered his head and sealed their mouths together and Baze opened for him with a sigh, letting Chirrut slip his tongue inside with slow, gentle sweeps.
Someone cleared their throat and Baze and Chirrut startled apart. Baze looked up to see a group of women clustered in the doorway, eyes bright with curiosity and delight.
“Are we interrupting?” the one at the front asked demurely.
Chirrut was laughing, damn his hide, as he slid off Baze’s lap and stood, offering him a hand. “This would be my 11 o’clock class, Baze,” he said, mirth ringing like crystal bells in his voice. “I suggest you run while you can, because they will eat you alive.”
Baze scrambled to his feet and dove for his shoes. When he turned, Chirrut was waiting for him by the front door as the women got into position on their mats.
“Seven o’clock tonight,” he said when Baze joined him, and then leaned in. “Don’t bring Jyn. Not this time.”
Baze muttered something, his cheeks scorching red, but he touched Chirrut’s hand before he slithered past him out the door. The smile he got was almost worth the mortification.
TW: mention of animal abuse, child abuse
Holy long-ass chapter, Batman--I considered breaking it up but also I'm quite fond of my limbs staying intact, so I decided to give you guys the entire horrible angsty thing at once. ~throws it at you and runs~
Bodhi found Luke waiting for him at the entrance to the school, leaning against the railing with his feet crossed at the ankle.
“Morning,” Bodhi said, hitching his bookbag up.
Luke pushed away from the railing and fell into step beside him. “Remind me again why we have to be here.”
“Educational purposes as mandated by state and federal law,” Bodhi said automatically, pushing the heavy doors open.
It was chaos inside, students jostling and bumping into each other as they hurried to their first classes of the day.
Bodhi headed for his locker, watching for Cassian. No familiar dark head showed, and he suppressed a sigh and pulled out the books he needed for first period, stowing the rest in his locker.
Beside him, Luke was following suit. “I’ve been thinking about it,” he said very seriously as they headed for homeroom, “and I’ve decided I’m going to run away and join the Air Force.”
Bodhi snorted a surprised laugh. “You. In the Air Force.”
“You don’t think I could do it?”
“I think they won’t let you sleep until noon or eat junk food all day,” Bodhi said.
“Yes, but they’d teach me how to fly.” Luke sighed, suddenly sober, and Bodhi looked at him.
“Are you okay?”
Luke pulled his customary grin back into place. “Always, my boy. Shall we?”
“If we must,” Bodhi said, and they went into their homeroom.
Bodhi spent the morning watching for Cassian, and finally caught a glimpse of him as he headed for math. Bodhi breathed a sigh of relief and took a step toward him but Cassian didn’t look up, his head down and shaggy hair falling in his eyes, as he pulled books from his locker and turned in the opposite direction.
Bodhi’s shoulders slumped and he sighed.
“You should talk to him,” Jyn said.
Bodhi jerked. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“Maybe I was always here,” Jyn said knowingly, tapping her nose. She grinned suddenly. “Or maybe I walked up behind you while you were mooning over your not-boyfriend. You should talk to him.”
“He doesn’t want to talk to me,” Bodhi said. He closed his locker and they headed down the hall together. “He’s made that very clear.”
“And you’re going to give up that easily?”
Bodhi slanted her a look. “It’s that or be the asshole who doesn’t respect boundaries.”
“Fair,” Jyn acknowledged. “But he needs friends.”
“You be his friend then,” Bodhi snapped. He pushed the door to history class open and stalked through.
“I am,” Jyn said, close on his heels. “But he needs more friends. He doesn’t talk to me much in any case. I know he likes you, though.”
“He told me—” Bodhi swallowed, throat tight. “He said he didn’t want to talk to me anymore, to leave him alone. He doesn’t like me, he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“God, he’s stupid,” Jyn sighed. “And so are you, if you believe that.”
Bodhi slid into his desk, bristling. “What else am I supposed to believe? I can’t read his mind.”
Jyn glowered at him, gray eyes stormy. “I’m telling you, he needs you.”
Bodhi shrugged. “That and a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee. Somewhere.”
But she was right, and Bodhi knew it. He just didn’t know what to do about it.
The teacher cleared her throat, and Bodhi forced himself to pay attention.
He didn’t see Cassian again until lunchtime. Sitting at his usual table, Luke beside him and Jyn across from them, Bodhi tried to eat as Cassian slipped in the doors late and headed for a table in the corner.
He pulled out a familiar looking container and Bodhi’s heart sank as he realized it was the other half of the roast beef sandwich he’d given him at the airport.
Cassian ate in quick, hungry bites, shoulders hunched and not looking around. He looked fine at first glance, Bodhi thought, but the more he watched, the more he realized something was very wrong. Cassian held himself carefully, like the slightest movement was too much, and the dark circles under his eyes were so pronounced they looked more like bruises.
A few minutes before the bell, Bodhi couldn’t stand it any longer. He shoved his tray and half-eaten lunch at Luke.
“Finish that for me.” He’d have preferred to give it to Cassian, but something told him it would have been thrown back in his face.
Luke grabbed the tray happily and tucked into the mashed potatoes as Bodhi stood.
Cassian didn’t look up as Bodhi approached, and Bodhi was standing in front of him before he lifted his head, expression wary.
“What do you want?”
Bodhi swallowed nerves. “I want to know what’s going on with you.”
Cassian’s eyes tightened. “Nothing.”
Bodhi stood his ground. “That’s not true and we both know it.”
Cassian shot to his feet. “What’s it going to take to get you to leave me the fuck alone?” he hissed, fists balling at his sides.
“Prove to me you’re okay,” Bodhi managed through teeth that wanted to chatter. He hugged his ribs, trying to stop the trembling. “You—you’re not, Cass, someone’s hurting you. P-please—let me help.”
Cassian’s face crumpled for one heartbreaking moment before he composed himself. “You can’t,” he whispered.
The bell rang and kids stood up, jostling and bumping as they headed for the door. Cassian and Bodhi stared at each other, twin oases of silence in the middle of the chaos.
Someone jogged Cassian’s shoulder as they passed and Cassian made a noise, snapping his mouth shut almost immediately.
Bodhi rounded the table and held out his hand. “I can listen,” he said simply.
Slowly, almost dazed, Cassian took his hand and Bodhi led him from the cafeteria.
The music room was empty right after lunch, he knew, so he took Cassian there. Inside the big, shadowy room, Bodhi let Cassian’s hand go and pointed at the beanbags in the corner.
“No one will come in here for at least an hour,” he said.
Cassian’s throat bobbed as he swallowed but he said nothing, curling up in one of the beanbags with his knees to his chest.
Bodhi settled next to him, heart banging against his ribcage. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes.
Cassian sighed. “Easiest if I show you.” He sat up and lifted his shirt to his armpits.
Bodhi caught his breath. Cassian’s ribs were a patchwork quilt of black, blue, and purple bruises, fading into ugly green mottling. The bruises overlapped each other, no distinct edges, and Bodhi fought nausea.
“You promised,” Cassian said flatly. “You can’t tell.”
“But if we can help—”
“No.” Cassian looked on the verge of bolting, and Bodhi put out a hand.
“Okay,” he said. “Okay. I—I won’t say anything.” The words burned in his throat, but they worked—Cassian relaxed again, sinking back into the beanbag.
“Who?” Bodhi asked.
Cassian drew his legs back up with a pained breath and put his cheek on his knee. “My foster father.” He sounded impossibly tired.
Cassian lifted one shoulder a fraction of an inch. “He didn’t appreciate me forging his name and taking off for a week, I guess.”
Bodhi stared at him and a smile almost touched Cassian’s eyes.
“Yeah,” he said. “Not the smartest move I’ve made, in terms of self-preservation.”
I just wanted one good thing—the words at the airport rang through Bodhi’s mind.
“How did you pay for it?”
“You know the military surplus store down on Fifth? I work there part time. Have for over a year now, since I was legal to hold a job. I’ve been saving for this trip for eight months. I’d have had more but I have to buy most of my own clothes and shoes.”
“That’s why the thing with food,” Bodhi said, the light dawning. “You couldn’t afford to eat out.”
Cassian’s mouth twisted. “Pretty sick of granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches.”
“At the airport, you said… you said, ‘people have tried’.”
Cassian nodded. “In sixth grade, I had a counselor. I made the mistake of confiding in her. She was trying to help, I know. But she… she confronted him. Told him if he ever touched me again, she’d see him arrested and fired.”
“He killed her dog,” Cassian said. “And then came home and broke my arm.” Thick lashes swept down. “At least he usually leaves my legs alone.”
Bodhi ached to touch him, but he held still. After a minute, Cassian sighed and opened his eyes, meeting Bodhi’s gaze.
“I knew what I was getting into,” he said. “I chose to do it anyway. Don’t feel sorry for me.”
“How long have you been with them?”
“Since I was six,” Cassian said. He shifted so he could lie down, making tiny pained noises behind his teeth and wriggling in tiny increments until he was on his side, curled up in the fetal position on the beanbag.
Bodhi watched him, not sure what to do. Cassian closed his eyes again and held out his hand. It lay between them, resting on the edge of Bodhi’s beanbag, palm up and fingers loosely curling. Bodhi held his breath and reached out, sliding his hand into Cassian’s.
Cassian squeezed once. “I just need to rest,” he said, his voice thick with exhaustion.
“Do you want to come over to my house tonight?” Bodhi asked quietly.
Cassian shook his head fractionally. “If I don’t go straight home—”
“Okay,” Bodhi said. “Another time, maybe.”
“I’d like that,” Cassian said through a yawn. “I’m sorry about the airport.”
“It’s okay,” Bodhi said. “You were trying to protect me, weren’t you?”
Cassian nodded. “Still am. Don’t want you to—get hurt—”
His breathing evened out and Bodhi stayed utterly still, holding his hand as Cassian slept. He had to do something. But he’d promised. He closed his own eyes. I don’t know what to do. He needed to talk to his father.
When Cassian woke up, they were both late for class, but Bodhi hadn’t had the heart to disturb him.
Cassian jolted upright, hair on end and eyes startled. “What time is it?”
“Time for class,” Bodhi said. A thought struck him and he dragged a notebook from his backpack as Cassian scrambled to his feet. “Cass, wait—” He ripped a sheet of paper out and scribbled his number on it, shoving it at Cassian when he was done.
Cassian stared at it blankly. “I don’t have a phone, Bo.”
“I k-know,” Bodhi stammered, thrown by the nickname. “Just—in case, okay? If you ever want to t-talk, or… need anything.”
Cassian accepted the paper, folding it before sliding it into his pocket. He nodded, lips twitching into an almost-smile, and left the music room.
Bodhi had to stay late for robotics club, which for once couldn’t hold his attention. He fretted all through the teacher’s walkthrough of motherboards and circuits, barely listening as he watched the track team out on the field, just visible through the window at the back of the room.
Every once in a while, Cassian’s dark head came into view and Bodhi would straighten, only to slump again when Cassian disappeared. He didn’t seem to be running today, from the little Bodhi could see.
When Bodhi was finally released, the track team had already dispersed. Bodhi stood awkwardly on the edge of the track but Cassian didn’t appear, and eventually Bodhi turned for home.
Kyber barked joyfully and scrambled to greet him as Bodhi walked in, and he dropped his backpack and knelt to rub her ears. Her jaws lolled open and she bestowed liberal amounts of drool all over his arms as she attempted to lick every inch of skin she could find.
Despite himself, Bodhi smiled at her, petting her sleek coat for a minute before standing.
The house smelled amazing, he realized, like steak and avocados and fresh flour tortillas. He followed his nose to the kitchen, where Chirrut was stirring sizzling strips of steak in his favorite cast iron skillet, humming along to the music on the radio.
“Hey!” he greeted Bodhi. “Do you think you could go to Luke’s for dinner?”
Bodhi blinked. “What now?”
“Luke’s,” Chirrut said, still stirring industriously. “For dinner. So you’re not in the house tonight.”
“Oh my god,” Bodhi said, the light dawning. “You have a date.”
A grin lit Chirrut’s face but Bodhi didn’t stop to appreciate how happy he was. He dropped into a chair and rubbed his eyes.
The smile slid off and Chirrut turned the heat off under the skillet before pulling up a chair beside Bodhi and holding out his hands.
Automatically, Bodhi leaned into them, resting his face in Chirrut’s warm palms. He closed his eyes as Chirrut traced the droop of his mouth.
“What is it?” Chirrut asked quietly as he dropped his hands.
“I—Dad, I don’t know what to do. I need… advice.”
“Okay,” Chirrut said. He folded his hands in his lap and waited.
Bodhi took a deep breath, searching for words. “Hypothetically.”
“Hypothetically, say you knew someone in your school was being abused. Beaten. But you didn’t have proof, other than this person’s admission and the bruises on them.”
“If they admitted it, and you saw bruises, then that’s enough for me,” Chirrut said, his mouth tight. “It’s enough to get the police involved.”
“No,” Bodhi said, horrified. “Dad, no, you can’t, he’ll never forgive me—if he even knew I’d said this much, he’d—he’d hate me. Please, Dad, don’t call the cops.”
Chirrut leaned forward and covered Bodhi’s hands with his. “He’s in danger.” It wasn’t a question, and he didn’t wait for an answer. “We have a moral responsibility to help if we can, in any way we can. Wouldn’t it be better for him to be safe and hate you than to be in danger and possibly end up even more badly hurt?”
Bodhi blinked back tears. Chirrut was right, he knew, but he could already see the betrayal on Cassian’s face, the hurt in his deep brown eyes.
Chirrut sighed and gathered Bodhi into a hug. “I’ve tried to protect you,” he said into his hair. “But I can’t always keep the hurt from finding you. There’s evil in this world, and I hate that you have to know this, it breaks my heart, but we have to help others as best we can, don’t we?”
Bodhi nodded against Chirrut’s chest, eyes closed. He could hear his father’s heart beating steadily under his ear, and it reassured him, somehow. Whatever happened, Chirrut would always be there for him.
“What do we do?” he whispered.
Chirrut released him and stood to cross to the stove. He touched one of the pieces of still-warm meat in the pan and grimaced. “Not done, but I guess it’s not happening tonight.” He turned toward Bodhi, still in the chair at the table. “We’re going to have to call the police,” he said. “And you’re going to have to speak to them, tell them what you saw. Can you do that?”
Bodhi swallowed hard as terror surged in his stomach. Could he speak to the police? Would he even be able to force words out without vomiting?
Chirrut was waiting, head cocked. He wouldn’t push, Bodhi knew. This was his call to make, and Chirrut would respect his decision either way.
Please let this be the right thing to do. “I—yeah,” he managed. “I’ll talk to them.”
Pride warmed Chirrut’s face. “That’s my boy,” he said quietly.
The doorbell rang and Chirrut jerked, turning toward it. “Fuck, he’s early—Bodhi, I have to—goddammit, um, hang on. Let me just get rid of him and then we’ll—”
Bodhi scoffed and stood. “Like I’m passing up an opportunity to meet your date.”
Bodhi ignored him and headed for the front door, where Kyber was dancing from paw to paw, waiting to meet the new arrival.
He was smiling at her antics as he swung the door open and looked up at Baze.
The smile on Bodhi’s face lit his eyes, softening his expression, and it slid off like he’d been hit with cold water when he saw Baze.
Chirrut appeared before Baze could speak. “Like I was trying to say, you’ve already met him,” he panted.
“Is this a bad time?” Baze asked. “I can—come back, or—” Leave and never show my face again, that sounds appealing.
“No!” Chirrut said, reaching around Bodhi, who appeared frozen to the spot, to grab Baze’s arm and pull him through the door. “I mean, yeah, something sort of happened. But please come in—”
Baze followed him down the hallway, Kyber on their heels, with a glance at Bodhi over his shoulder. In a warmly lit kitchen that smelled enticingly of avocados and steak, Chirrut stopped and turned to him.
“Don’t come in just yet!” he called to Bodhi, and went up on his tiptoes to wrap his arms around Baze’s neck. “Hi,” he whispered, his smile small, secret, meant just for Baze, and Baze couldn’t help it, he bent to kiss him.
Chirrut kissed back willingly, gone loose and pliant against him, and for just a minute, Baze let himself get lost in his mouth, pulling him closer and tightening his grip.
“Dad.” Bodhi sounded outraged and embarrassed, and Baze and Chirrut broke apart. Bodhi was in the doorway, fists clenched. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Language,” Chirrut said mildly. “I did warn you not to come in yet.”
Bodhi sputtered. “That’s not—oh my god. Baze? Baze Malbus? He’s your date?”
Chirrut cocked his head. “Do you know another Baze? It’s not a terribly common name.”
“Stop dicking around!” Bodhi shouted.
Baze cleared his throat. “Maybe I should… go.”
Chirrut caught his wrist before he could move. “No. Not yet, at least. I need to explain what’s going on. Bodhi, sit down. Baze, you too, please.”
When everyone was sitting at the table, Chirrut folded his hands in front of him. “Bodhi, I want to tell him. May I, please?”
Baze glanced at Bodhi, who looked miserable and angry, then back at Chirrut. “What’s going on?” he asked warily.
“Bodhi?” Chirrut said.
“I don’t—he made me promise,” Bodhi whispered. “I shouldn’t have told you.”
“If it helps, he already knows,” Chirrut said. “Or suspects, anyway.”
“Suspects what?” Baze asked, increasingly bewildered.
Finally, Bodhi sighed. “Cassian,” he said.
“Oh,” Baze said. “Oh. Is he alright? What happened?”
“He’s being abused,” Chirrut said.
Baze sucked in air. “Shit, okay. What do you need me to do?”
Chirrut turned toward him, eyebrows going up. “You? We don’t need you to do anything. I’m just letting you know what’s going on and why our date will have to be postponed.”
“No,” Baze said, shaking his head. “I was on that trip too. I saw him. I want to help. I can talk to the police, tell them what I witnessed.”
“There’s no need for you to get mixed up in this,” Chirrut said as he leaned forward.
Bodhi’s phone rang before Baze could answer.
“Hello?” Horror flashed across Bodhi's face and Baze straightened. “Cassian? Cassian, where are you? Are you okay? Cass, tell me where—okay. Okay, hang on. I’m coming, okay? No, stay on the line with me, can you stay with me? Cass, talk to me, are you safe?” He covered the mouthpiece but Chirrut and Baze were already on their feet.
“We’ll take my car,” Baze said. He took Chirrut’s arm and they hurried down the hall toward the front door.
Baze unlocked the Range Rover and Bodhi jumped in the back, talking urgently. Baze stopped, remembering Chirrut’s fear of enclosed spaces, and reached around him to pull the passenger side door open.
Chirrut slid inside without hesitation, his face pale and jaw set, and Baze’s estimation of him rose a few more notches. He leaned in and pulled the seatbelt across Chirrut’s lap, subtly bracing him with his shoulder as he latched it.
“I’m a very good driver,” he said under his breath, just loud enough for Chirrut to hear.
Chirrut said nothing but his mouth softened slightly.
In the driver’s seat, Baze checked to make sure Bodhi was buckled before starting the engine. “Where are we going, Bodhi?”
Bodhi relayed that to Cassian and then reeled off the address and Baze put it in his phone, waiting impatiently until the directions came up.
“Is he in danger?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said, his voice tight with fear. “He says he’s never seen him this angry.”
“Who?” Baze asked, pulling away from the curb. Chirrut planted his feet flat on the floor and reached up, feeling for the emergency handle, but he said nothing.
“His foster father,” Bodhi said.
Traffic was light, thankfully. Baze knew a shortcut to the south side of town, so he ducked down a side road.
Chirrut sucked in a breath, knuckles white on the handle, as he was slung against the door. Baze swore to himself and reached out to grip his hand briefly.
“I’m here,” he said roughly.
“Dad,” Bodhi said, leaning forward as much as the belt allowed. “Are you okay?”
Chirrut’s mouth worked but his voice was mostly steady when he spoke. “I’m fine, love. Keep talking to Cassian. Is he somewhere safe?”
“He’s locked in the bathroom right now,” Bodhi said. Baze glanced in the mirror just as Bodhi flinched at a noise from the phone. “I think his dad’s beating on the door,” he said tightly.
“Chirrut, do you have your phone on you?” Baze asked.
Chirrut was already pulling it from his pocket. “On it.” He held the phone to his mouth. “Siri, call 911, on speaker.” When the dispatcher answered, Chirrut gave her the details, crisp and concise. “My son’s friend is in danger, he’s being physically abused by his foster father. We need police immediately to this address.” He reeled off the street and number and waited.
“We’re almost there,” Baze said.
The dispatcher must have heard him. “Sir,” she said sharply, “please don’t make contact. Wait for the officers to arrive. You’re not trained to deal with this, you could be in harm’s way yourself.”
“Hurry,” Chirrut said, and hung up. “Drive faster,” he said to Baze.
Baze slanted a glance at him but said nothing.
Within a few minutes, they were pulling up in front of a small house with peeling white paint and cracks in the sidewalk.
“Bodhi, stay in the car,” Chirrut ordered.
Baze unbuckled and rounded the vehicle to help Chirrut out as Bodhi protested. They hurried up the sidewalk, Chirrut holding Baze’s arm.
“You okay?” Baze asked quietly.
Chirrut made a noise that could have meant anything.
“Do you have a plan?” Baze continued.
“Wing it,” Chirrut said tersely.
“Steps, four of them,” Baze said. They went up them and Baze balled a fist to bang on the door. He could hear shouting from inside, echoing indistinctly through the walls, and it cut off abruptly at the sound of knocking.
There was silence for a minute, and Baze pounded again.
“Come on, come on,” Chirrut muttered under his breath.
Footsteps, soft and hesitant, pattered down the hall and the door opened a crack. A faded blue eye stared up at Baze, widening when it saw how big he was.
“We’re not buying,” a timid voice said.
Chirrut put on his most charming grin. “What a coincidence, madam, because we’re not selling. We’re actually talent scouts from Santa Rosa Junior College, hoping to speak to Cassian, is he home?”
“He’s busy,” the woman said.
Baze put his foot in the door when she tried to close it and smiled, showing teeth. “It’s important,” he said.
The woman hesitated. “Bill!” she shouted. “Some people here for Cassian!” She turned and stalked away, letting the door swing open behind her, and Chirrut promptly stepped inside, Baze right beside him.
A man appeared at the end of the hall and Baze resisted the urge to put himself between Chirrut and the stranger, who must be Bill, Cassian’s foster-father.
Bill was nearly as big as Baze, with meaty shoulders that strained the seams of his sweat-stained tank top, two days’ worth of stubble, and a gleam in his eye that boded no good.
“Whaddaya want with him?” he demanded.
Chirrut smiled, hands folded in front of him. “I understand you’re Cassian Andor’s guardian, is that correct?”
“Yeah, so? Who wants to know?”
“I’m Chirrut Îmwe, and this is my colleague, Baze Malbus,” Chirrut said. “We’re talent scouts for Santa Rosa Junior College, and we’ve heard some amazing things about Cassian. We were hoping to speak to him. Is he here?”
“He’s only a sophomore,” Bill snapped. “Since when do colleges start scouting that early? And anyway, ain’t you blind? How the hell are you a scout if you can’t see shit?”
Chirrut’s laugh was easy and charming. “Very astute, sir! I am indeed blind. However, that doesn’t stop me from performing my job or change the fact that I competed in the Olympics in my twenties, which I think you’ll agree means I know my stuff.” He lifted his voice. “Cassian! Are you here?”
A door down the hall eased open and Cassian’s dark head appeared. Baze caught his breath at the blood visible on his face even in the dimly lit hallway, and Chirrut stiffened, but his voice was calm and friendly as he beckoned.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said. “I know we haven’t met, but I’ve heard a lot about you and I just had to tell you how excited we are to talk to you about the prospect of you attending Santa Rosa Junior College.”
Bill stepped in front of Cassian when he tried to slip by, blocking him with his bulk. “He’s busy,” he growled.
“This won’t take a minute,” Chirrut said.
“What happened to your nose, son?” Baze asked.
“He ran into the door,” Bill snapped.
“What a pity,” Chirrut said, all smiles and warm concern. “Baze, would you get him a napkin for his nose? Cassian—” He held out his hand again, and this time Cassian managed to duck past Bill, who snarled but stayed where he was.
“Let’s talk outside,” Baze said, and led them out onto the front lawn. Bodhi was pressed against the glass of the Range Rover, and he flattened his palms on the window, mouth shaping Cassian’s name.
“What are you doing here?” Cassian asked in a low voice as he swiped at his nose with a sleeve. He didn’t look at Bodhi.
Chirrut’s eyebrows rose. “You called my son. From what he said, you were in considerable distress. Did you think we wouldn’t show up?”
Cassian hunched his shoulders. Blood was smeared across his face, one eye swelling shut, and he held himself as though everything hurt.
“I shouldn’t have—look, I’m fine,” he said. “Please, just—go.”
Bodhi opened the door of the Rover and nearly fell out, catching himself on the handle. “Cass,” he said, hurrying across the withered lawn, “Cass, are you okay?”
Cassian turned his head away, closing his eyes briefly before firming his jaw. “I didn’t call you so you could rat me out, Rook. Go away.”
Bodhi flinched like he’d been hit and Chirrut stepped between them.
“Let’s not say anything we regret,” he said quietly.
Cassian opened his mouth as if to do exactly that, but the wail of a police siren cut him off. Horror flashed across his face and he spun on Bodhi.
“You called the fucking cops?”
Bodhi stood his ground and Baze silently applauded his bravery as the first car pulled up and the sirens cut off.
“I had to,” Bodhi said. “I had to, Cass, you—”
“Don’t call me that,” Cassian interrupted. “You don’t get to—I trusted you.”
Bodhi’s face crumpled but he didn’t argue as Chirrut put a hand out in Cassian’s direction.
“Technically, I’m the one who called the cops,” he said quietly. “If you need to blame someone, blame me.”
Cassian jerked away. “You wouldn’t have even known if he hadn’t told you,” he spat.
Chirrut snorted. “I may be blind, but I’m not stupid. I knew something was deeply wrong with your situation by the first day in DC.”
The police officer strode across the lawn, hitching his gunbelt up on his stocky frame. “What’s going on here?”
Chirrut turned toward him and identified everyone as Baze watched Cassian, who’d angled himself away from the policeman.
“We believe there’s a case of domestic abuse going on here,” Chirrut was telling the officer, whose nametag read WESTIN.
“He’s wrong,” Cassian said over his shoulder, and took a step away, back toward the house.
“Hold on there,” Officer Westin said, moving to intercept him. He sucked in a breath as he caught sight of Cassian’s bloody face. “What happened here?”
“I fell,” Cassian said. He looked trapped, small and desperate, and Baze was torn between wanting to protect him and going back in the house to beat Bill to a bloody pulp.
Chirrut cocked his head. “Your foster father said you walked into a door.”
“Alright, let’s just take a step back,” Officer Westin said. “Cassian, is it? Cassian, why don’t you go with my partner, Officer Francis, here—” He gestured to the second arriving officer, a lanky woman with sharp brown eyes and short hair. “And tell her what happened to you, while I talk to your friends?”
“They’re not my friends,” Cassian said, and walked away without looking back.
Bodhi folded in on himself like a collapsing balloon, his face crumpling as he clutched his ribs. Chirrut touched Baze’s arm.
“You talk to the officer first. I need to speak with my son.” With that, he took Bodhi’s elbow and led him toward the car.
Baze watched them over Westin’s shoulder as he gave his version of events. Chirrut was cupping Bodhi’s face, speaking to him in a low, urgent voice. After a few minutes, Bodhi’s shoulders shook and Chirrut pulled him into a tight hug, still talking quietly.
“So you saw signs of abuse?” Westin asked.
Baze nodded. “It was pretty obvious on the field trip, and Bodhi saw bruises today.”
A third cruiser arrived and two more officers appeared. After a short conference with Westin’s partner, they headed inside the house. They reappeared a few minutes later with Cassian’s foster parents. Bill was blustering loudly, the woman—whose name Baze didn’t know—seeming cowed into silence.
Officer Francis asked Cassian a question and he jerked away, shaking his head. Francis shot a look at Westin, who told Baze to stay where he was and joined her.
“No!” Cassian shouted. “I told you, I’m fine!” He sounded panicked, on the edge of bolting. “Don’t touch me!”
“We just want to see your ribs,” Westin said soothingly. “Please just lift your shirt.”
Cassian looked up, across the lawn to where Chirrut was holding Bodhi, and the fight abruptly left him. Silently, he gathered the hem of his shirt and raised it to his armpits.
Westin nodded to Francis and turned to Bill. “You’re under arrest for aggravated assault and assault of a minor,” he began. “Put your hands behind your back and—”
Bill took a step back, then another. “You can’t do this. I didn’t touch him. He’s lying. He lies, it’s what he does. He’s a little rat and I never should have brought him into my house.”
“Sir, stop moving,” Westin said flatly, hand on the butt of his tazer.
Bill ignored this, backing across the lawn. He was going to run into Chirrut and Bodhi, Baze realized in horror, but before he could open his mouth, Bill had spun, fixing on Chirrut, who shoved Bodhi behind him.
“You,” he snarled, and crouched.
Baze started across the lawn, knowing with sick certainty that he wouldn’t be in time.
Bill launched himself forward and Baze stumbled to a stop as Chirrut stepped neatly to the side and did something rapid and complicated that ended with Bill face down and groaning in the withered grass, Chirrut kneeling between his shoulder blades and holding one of Bill’s arms behind his back.
“Sir,” Officer Westin managed, after everyone had finished gaping, “please… let go of him and step away.”
“Of course,” Chirrut said, and rose. Bodhi reached out and caught his hand, pulling him away as Westin and Francis converged on Bill and handcuffed him before hauling him roughly to his feet.
“We need to get everyone’s official statements,” Westin said.
So Baze found himself following three squad cars, Chirrut in the backseat with Bodhi in his arms, down to the police station.
It was nearly ten PM before they were done. CPS had been called and arrived in the form of a small woman with bright blue eyes and dark hair, who said her name was Laura and spoke to everyone in turn.
When she got to Bodhi, her voice was gentle and sympathetic as she coaxed him through his version of events, from DC all the way up to that day.
Bodhi kept his chin up and his voice stayed mostly steady, but he gripped Chirrut’s hand so hard Baze was faintly concerned.
“Can Cassian come home with us?” Chirrut asked when Laura was done.
Laura looked regretful. “He’s indicated he wants nothing to do with you, and in any case, you’re not court-approved as a foster home. I couldn’t release him into your care regardless.”
“Where will he go?” Bodhi whispered.
“He’ll go to a group facility,” Laura said briskly. “It’s brand new, very well staffed, and Cassian will get care and therapy and treatment there.”
“But will he get love?” Chirrut asked.
“That’s outside my purview, unfortunately,” Laura said. “But we can at least take care of his body and mind, if not his soul. I just wish we could have gotten to him sooner. This wasn’t the first incident in his file, but it’s the first one to stick.”
Baze pulled his phone out and texted Jyn. Will be awhile longer. You okay?
Her reply was immediate. Don’t wanna hear details of your sex life. Grandma and I are watching Fred Astaire movies.
Baze stifled a snort and put his phone away as Laura rose.
“You can go home,” she told them. “We’ve got what we need, and we’ll call you if there’s anything else.”
Chirrut and Bodhi were silent as Baze drove them home, in the backseat together again, with Bodhi’s head on Chirrut’s shoulder.
He walked them to the front door and Chirrut put a hand on his wrist when Bodhi had stumbled inside.
“Let me just make sure he gets into bed, will you—can you wait?”
“I’ll wait,” Baze said quietly.
Chirrut showed him to the kitchen and disappeared, and Baze sat at the table.
After a minute, he stood and began going through cupboards until he found Tupperware containers, and put the food away.
Chirrut’s footsteps were quick and decisive as he came back through the house. “Baze?”
“At the stove,” Baze said, spooning steak strips into a container.
Chirrut came to him, hands out, and Baze reached for him. Chirrut laid his head on Baze’s chest with a sigh and they stood quietly for a minute in the middle of the kitchen, arms around each other.
“I’m sorry,” Chirrut whispered after a minute. “This is not how I envisioned our first date going.”
Baze rubbed his cheek against Chirrut’s hair and smiled. “The Olympics, really?”
Chirrut huffed a quiet laugh. “Go big or go home, I always say.”
“Crushed.” Chirrut sighed again, tightening his grip. “He did the right thing and it backfired horribly on him.”
“It was still the right thing.”
“Tell that to the brokenhearted teenager in the next room,” Chirrut said. “No, I know you’re right. It just… it hurts me to see him hurting.”
Baze turned his head and pressed a kiss to Chirrut’s temple.
Chirrut’s eyes fluttered closed and he leaned into Baze’s touch. “Kiss me properly, Baze.”
Baze put a finger under Chirrut’s chin and tilted his head up. Chirrut’s lashes were dark against his cheeks, washed silver by the moonlight through the window, his expression trusting and soft, and Baze’s stomach turned over as he bent and covered Chirrut’s mouth with his own.
Time spun out like warm honey, golden sweet, as Baze memorized the shape and curve of Chirrut’s lips, the soft noises he made and the way he clutched at Baze’s shirt, pulling him in until they were pressed together from head to toe in a long line of heat.
It took all Baze’s self-control to break away, easing backward as Chirrut swayed, looking dazed.
“Soon,” Baze promised, voice rough with desire. He thumbed Chirrut’s cheekbone gently. “Very soon, beautiful.”
Chirrut reached up, catching Baze’s hand and turning his face to press a kiss to the palm. “You’d better go,” he said.
“Yeah,” Baze said, not moving.
Chirrut’s lips curved. “Take the steak home with you,” he said. “It’ll still be good reheated.”
He pushed the containers into Baze’s hands and walked him to the door. Baze’s last sight of him was Chirrut leaning against the doorframe, listening to Baze’s footsteps as he walked down the sidewalk to his car, Chirrut’s lips kiss-swollen and hair mussed.
TW: mentions of child abuse, mention of child molestation
Throws ACTUAL SEX at you and skitters off
Jyn and Luke pounced when Bodhi walked up the steps.
“Have you heard? Cassian’s not coming back.”
Bodhi stopped, foot in midair, and stared at Jyn, who looked repentant.
“Real tactful, Jyn, God,” Luke said. He wrapped an arm around Bodhi’s shoulders. “Someone named Laura came and picked up his shit from his locker and—I don’t know, signed him out or whatever?”
“Was he with her?”
Luke shook his head and they climbed the steps toward the front doors. “She apparently told the registrar that he’ll be attending a different school, he’s in a new district, I guess. What the fuck happened, dude?”
Bodhi struggled for words. “He—I don’t know how much to say. What do you know?”
Jyn was in front, walking backward so she could face them. “My dad told me some last night,” she volunteered. “But not a lot. Just that Cassian was in a bad situation, and you guys helped?”
“I heard Cassian’s dad was molesting him,” Luke said. He shrugged at the horrified look on Bodhi’s face. “I mean, it was just a rumor, I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t spread it further,” Bodhi snapped, unslinging his backpack as he reached his locker. “The truth is bad enough.”
“Sure, no problem,” Luke said, bobbing his head. “So what did happen?”
Bodhi opened his locker with a sigh. “I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s not my place.”
“Are you and he still friends?” Jyn asked, eyes shrewd.
Bodhi flinched and disguised it by slamming the locker door. “No, and it’s better this way. Clean break for him.” Jyn was staring at him and Bodhi cast about for something to throw her off the scent. “Are you aware of where your dad was last night?”
Jyn narrowed her eyes. “On a date.”
“Maybe you should ask him who he was on a date with,” Bodhi said. “Don’t we have classes to get to?”
“Same one you do,” Luke agreed. “Shall we?”
Bodhi was relieved to fall into step beside him and leave Jyn and her eyes that saw too much behind.
Jyn ducked into the bathroom and called her father.
“What is it?” he asked, sounding distracted. “Up to my elbows in a car right now, can this wait?”
“What happened with Cassian?” Jyn demanded. “Bodhi won’t tell me anything.”
“Ugly situation,” Baze said briefly. “Not much to tell. Don’t you have class?”
“Fine, then who were you out with last night?”
“Don’t you have class?” Baze said loudly, and hung up.
Jyn stared at the phone for a minute and finally shoved it in her pocket.
She went straight to the garage after school. Her father was working deep in the engine of an old Volkswagen, a smear of grease on his cheekbone and his coverall rolled to his waist.
She stopped and watched him from the doorway before he realized she was there. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he muttered under his breath, leaning in to reach for something out of sight.
He’d been happier, recently. Since the DC trip, really. Jyn had never doubted his love for her, but lately he was more prone to dropping absent kisses on her hair as she worked on homework at the kitchen table, or patting her shoulder clumsily when they passed each other in the hall.
Something slipped and Baze jerked and swore, dropping his wrench with a loud clatter. He pulled his hand back and scowled at the blood dripping from his knuckles.
Jyn dashed forward and Baze glanced up, surprise flashing across his face.
“What are you doing here, flower?”
“Just wanted to see you,” Jyn said, shrugging. She took his big hand in both her much smaller ones and turned it. “Ouch,” she said. “Better get this cleaned up.”
Baze pulled away. “In a minute. Almost got this carburetor working again.”
“No, now,” Jyn said, pointing toward the bathroom on the far wall. “Aren’t you the one who taught me never to work with an open wound?”
Baze grumbled but stalked toward the bathroom, Jyn on his heels. She slipped by him to pull the first aid kit out of the cupboard and gestured at the sink, but he’d already turned on the faucet and was running his knuckles under the water.
“So,” Jyn said casually, pulling antibiotic ointment out of the kit and holding it out to him. “Are you going to tell me who your hot date was with, or do I need to go talk to Bodhi?”
Baze stiffened and Jyn kicked the door to the bathroom shut without taking her eyes off him. He glowered at her but she just waited.
Finally, he sighed and shook the water away. Jyn turned the faucet off and held out a clean bandage for him to blot to wound dry.
“You already know, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
“I suspect strongly,” Jyn corrected. “But I think I deserve to know for sure.”
Baze’s shoulders slumped and he stopped dabbing at his knuckles. His eyes were guilty when he glanced up. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Dad,” Jyn said. “Are you secretly a serial killer?”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous. What are you even on about?”
“You’re acting like it’s some heinous secret,” Jyn pointed out. “So either you’re a serial killer in your spare time, or you’re actually dating again.”
“I’m not dating,” Baze protested.
“So you are a serial killer?”
Baze glared at her and Jyn giggled.
“It’s not a date,” Baze muttered. “I just… went over there to—see him. And then the thing with Cassian happened, and… I’m not dating, okay? I’m not serious about this.”
“Him,” Jyn echoed. “Are we by any chance talking about the sexy blind guy who hogs the covers?”
Baze sputtered. “I—I don’t even—what? What do you mean, sexy? Jyn!”
“What?” Jyn demanded. “I’m young, not stupid! He may be old but he’s hot, okay?”
Baze’s glower redoubled. “He’s a year younger than me, you brat.”
Jyn snickered. “My point stands.” She held out a bandage and Baze snatched it from her, muttering under his breath as he wrapped it around his hand. “Anyway, stop avoiding the question.”
“Fine,” Baze snapped. “I kissed Chirrut. Are you happy?”
“Ecstatic,” Jyn said, grinning. “Is he a good kisser?”
“That is absolutely none of your business,” Baze growled. He shoved the first aid kit back into the cupboard and stalked out of the bathroom, Jyn on his heels.
“But you went on a date with him,” she persisted.
“No, I went to his house for dinner, which didn’t happen because Cassian needed help,” Baze said. “Wouldn’t you rather talk about that?”
“In good time,” Jyn said. “First, you tell me what happened with Chirrut.”
“Nope,” Baze said flatly. “I’m not dating him, I’m not in a relationship, I’m not going to be in a relationship, change the subject.”
Jyn pouted. “Fine, tell me about Cassian.”
“His foster father is an abusive dillhole,” Baze said. He went to his knees and groped under the Volkswagen for the wrench he’d dropped. His voice floated up from under it. “He called Bodhi—he being Cassian. I think he panicked, didn’t think it through, because when we showed up, he was angry.”
Baze emerged, wrench in hand, and shrugged. “He didn’t want everyone to know his business, I guess.”
“But—isn’t it better for him to be out of there?” Jyn hopped on the hood of the truck beside the Volkswagen.
“Abuse victims don’t always have a clear view,” Baze said. He paused. “I knew a girl in college—you were just a tiny baby—who came out of an abusive home. She didn’t even realize she’d been abused.”
“How do you not know you’re being abused?” Jyn demanded.
Baze shrugged again and put the wrench down, leaning a hip against Jyn’s perch. “Well, doesn’t everyone have a nine o’clock bedtime at seventeen years old, and parents who insist they call and check in every half hour when they’re out of the house?”
Jyn stared at him, horrified.
Baze’s mouth twisted. “We figured they were just controlling, right? But then she came in with bruises one day. Her phone died and she couldn’t get through to her father. She said it was her fault. She should have planned better. Found a charger. Borrowed a friend’s phone.”
“That’s awful,” Jyn said.
Baze put an arm around her and Jyn rested her head on his shoulder. “Abusers are very, very good at making what they do seem reasonable or inescapable. It’s not Cassian’s fault for not getting help sooner, you know that, right?”
Jyn nodded against his shoulder. “What happened to your friend?”
Baze laughed quietly and released her. “Once we were sure she was safe, I might have punched her father in the face.”
Jyn gasped. “You did not.”
Baze grinned, looking rueful. “Didn’t do any good, he wasn’t going to stop, but it made me feel better.”
“So, tell me about you and Chirrut,” Jyn said. “When are you going to see him again?”
Baze groaned loudly and Jyn laughed.
Chirrut stepped off the bus at his stop, Kyber by his side, and straightened the bag over his shoulder. It had been a long day and he was looking forward to putting his feet up and relaxing for a few minutes before he started dinner.
Two weeks had passed since Cassian had been removed from the foster home. Two weeks without a word from him to Bodhi, who had spent the time convinced it was his fault. Chirrut stayed quiet unless Bodhi asked for comfort, but he hugged him more than usual, reminding him silently that he’d done the right thing.
As they neared the house, a car door slammed and footsteps sounded on the pavement. Kyber stiffened to attention and then wagged her tail. Someone she knew, then.
Chirrut cocked his head. “I couldn’t possibly be so lucky. Baze Malbus, dropping by for a visit?”
“Okay, how do you do that?” Baze demanded.
Chirrut grinned. “Kyber didn’t bark or get worried, which means it was someone she knew. Plus I’ve heard your car door shut before and I know the sound of your footsteps.”
Baze grunted. “So it’s impossible to sneak up on you, is what you’re saying.”
“Why are you here, Baze?” Chirrut asked. “Not that I’m not glad of your company, but—”
“Jyn has a thing after school,” Baze said. He sounded diffident, Chirrut realized. “She said Bodhi was there too.”
“Yes,” Chirrut said. “Some protest Leia was organizing, I think?” He stopped as the implication sank in. “Baze—is this… a booty call?”
“Don’t call it that,” Baze hissed.
Chirrut laughed out loud in delight and grabbed Baze’s wrist. “Why are we standing here talking? Come on.” He towed him up the sidewalk to the front door and inside, bending to take Kyber’s harness off. The buckle caught and snagged, and Chirrut swore under his breath as he struggled with it.
A warm hand hesitantly touched his lower back, and Chirrut went still, frozen in place, as Baze stroked across his hip and down, to cup his ass.
The buckle popped free and Kyber dashed away down the hall toward the kitchen and her food bowl. Chirrut stayed where he was as Baze stepped closer, hand still cupping the curve of Chirrut’s buttock.
“That day in the studio,” Baze said, sliding his hand back up and then around, brushing Chirrut’s groin, “did you bend over in front of me on purpose?”
Chirrut straightened and spun, grabbing Baze’s arm and yanking him close, into a hot, hungry kiss. Baze kissed back with an urgency that made Chirrut dizzy, his hands roving Chirrut’s body and a growing erection pressing into his hip.
“Of course I did,” Chirrut gasped when he broke for air, and Baze laughed and nipped his throat.
“I knew it. Where’s your bedroom?”
Chirrut pulled him down the hall, unwilling to break contact with him. Inside the bedroom, he kicked the door shut and pushed Baze backward onto the bed. The springs squeaked and Chirrut pounced, landing on top of him and bending to capture his mouth again.
“What should I do with you?” he murmured, breaking away to kiss along Baze’s jaw.
Baze made a stifled noise and brought a hand up to cradle Chirrut’s head. “Whatever—ah, fuck—whatever you want.”
“Whatever I want?” Chirrut mused, and set his teeth in Baze’s earlobe. “What if I want you to fuck me?”
Baze jerked and swore, thick and filthy, reaching between them to cup Chirrut’s cock. “Gonna—fuck, I’m gonna come in my pants if you keep that up,” he panted.
Chirrut ground down against his hand, moaning at the feel. “It’s okay with me,” he managed.
Baze gasped a laugh, pulling him closer. “I won’t fit in your clothes and I don’t have time to do laundry. Here, roll off—” Chirrut allowed Baze to gently dislodge him, ending up flat on his back with Baze tugging his pants down. Chirrut lifted his hips to help him and wriggled with a happy noise as the cool air brushed his skin.
“God, how are you adorable and sexy,” Baze muttered. “Tell me you have condoms.”
“Drawer,” Chirrut said, gesturing vaguely. “Bodhi gave me some last year for April Fools’, I think he was hoping I’d take the hint.”
Baze’s warmth left him briefly and the drawer opened and closed. Then he was back, settling between Chirrut’s legs, and that was definitely warm, bare skin on Chirrut’s thighs and Chirrut rolled his pelvis up invitingly.
Baze caught his hip, pressing a thumb into the vee of muscle. “Be still,” he growled.
Chirrut laughed deep in his chest and pushed against him. “Are you gonna make me?” he taunted.
Baze pulled away abruptly but before Chirrut could protest, hands caught and flipped him. The world swung wildly and suddenly Chirrut was facedown on the bed and Baze was pressing him into the comforter.
Chirrut couldn’t help the moan and Baze laughed against the nape of his neck, grinding his hard length along the crease of Chirrut’s thigh.
“I guess I am gonna make you,” he said. He worked a hand under Chirrut’s body, still heavy on his back, and Chirrut bucked against him as Baze gripped his cock. “Be still,” Baze repeated, stroking hard and fast.
“Can’t,” Chirrut gasped, writhing in Baze’s fist. “Feels—Baze—”
Baze lifted him up, sitting back on his heels and pulling Chirrut into his lap. Chirrut could feel Baze’s erection trapped between them, but all he could focus on was the hand on his own cock and the arm around his chest, holding him in place.
“Please,” he begged, squirming. He reached back and caught Baze’s head, pulling it down until he could feel hot breath on his neck. Fire was building in his groin, pressure and heat and a delicious ache that was only intensifying with every sweep of Baze’s hand. “Need—Baze, please, I need—”
Baze nipped his shoulder. “So pushy,” he murmured, hand still moving steadily. “What do you need? Tell me.”
Chirrut struggled to think. “I want—I want to fly, Baze, please—”
“Let it go,” Baze ordered, and fastened his mouth on Chirrut’s shoulder as Chirrut came on a choked sob.
Baze pulled the orgasm out of him with smooth, practiced touches, slowing and gentling his strokes until Chirrut fell back against him, limp and drained, head lolling on Baze’s shoulder.
“Look at you,” Baze crooned. He pressed their cheeks together and Chirrut turned his head enough that he could catch Baze’s mouth, warm and sweet. “Lie down for me,” Baze said, and Chirrut lazily obeyed, allowing Baze to maneuver him into position away from the wet spot.
On his back, Chirrut held out his arms. “I want to feel you,” he said.
“God,” Baze muttered, and came to him, fitting in Chirrut’s arms like he’d been made for him. He rested his head on Chirrut’s chest, slipping one thigh between his, and Chirrut sighed happily and pressed a kiss to the crown of Baze’s head.
He could feel it when Baze took hold of himself, a shudder running through his thick frame as he began to stroke.
“Can I—” Chirrut lifted a hand but hesitated.
“Wh-what?” Baze managed, his strokes slowing.
“I want—can I see?” Chirrut whispered.
Baze groaned and pressed his face into Chirrut’s hand.
“Does it feel good?” Chirrut asked, fingers light and careful along Baze’s cheeks, registering the hitch in his breath, the way his mouth firmed as he chased his pleasure.
“So good,” Baze husked. “Chirrut—fuck—wanted you for so long—”
Chirrut hummed, cupping his cheek, and Baze leaned into his hand as he caught his breath and wetness splattered Chirrut’s thigh.
“F-fuck,” Baze choked. He was trembling, crowding close as if trying to touch as much of Chirrut as possible, and a terrifying tenderness seized Chirrut.
He kissed Baze’s hair and stretched with a languorous sigh.
“God, I needed that. Wanna shower with me?”
Baze made a drowsy noise and tightened his grip. “Sleep.”
Chirrut laughed quietly and tugged Baze’s ear gently. “You can’t sleep, you have to get home, remember?”
Baze groaned and sat up. “Are you always this energetic after sex?”
“It’s good exercise,” Chirrut said, rolling off the bed and stretching to pop his spine. “Although I haven’t had it with anyone else in… how old is Bodhi—seventeen years now, I guess.” He slanted a smile over his shoulder in Baze’s direction. “Thanks for breaking that streak.”
The bed rustled as Baze went to his knees and reached out, catching Chirrut’s waist and pulling him back against him.
Chirrut let him, melting into Baze’s arms and smiling as Baze kissed his throat.
“Thank you,” he murmured against Chirrut’s skin.
Chirrut laughed suddenly. “We never even needed the condoms.”
Whoa, has it really been a week since I updated? I guess that's what happens when you tell your husband you're leaving him and start apartment hunting full-time and also trying to split up and pack the household properly. ~feeble thumbs up~
Sorry this is short, but the chapter I'm working on promises to be gargantuan (and involves marathon sex) so please be patient just a little longer! For now, enjoy some father/son feels. <3
Bodhi pushed the door open and dropped his heavy backpack with a groan of relief, rubbing his shoulder. “I’m home!” he called.
Kyber yipped in greeting from the kitchen, where Bodhi discovered her in her crate.
“Hey, baby girl,” he said, dropping to his knees and opening the door to let her out. “If you’re home, where’s Dad?”
The door slammed and Bodhi spun and scrambled to his feet. “Dad?” He could hear Chirrut’s footsteps, brisk and unhesitating on the hardwood floor, as he came down the hall toward the kitchen.
Bodhi narrowed his eyes when Chirrut walked through the door. His normally immaculate father looked suspiciously… rumpled.
“You’re home early,” Chirrut said, opening the fridge.
“Science club was canceled,” Bodhi said, watching him. “Was that Baze’s truck outside?”
Chirrut jerked, nearly dropping the orange soda in his hand. “Who?”
“Come sit down,” Chirrut said. He sat down at the table and beckoned. His fingers were cool from the glass of the soda bottle when he touched Bodhi’s face. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Bodhi said, resisting the urge to pull away. “Stop avoiding the subject.”
“I’m not avoiding,” Chirrut protested. “Just… prolonging?”
Bodhi narrowed his eyes under Chirrut’s hands, and Chirrut grinned.
“Fine, fine. Baze and I are… involved. I would say seeing each other, but that wouldn’t be accurate, would it?”
“Oh my god, why are you like this,” Bodhi moaned. He slumped back in his chair as Chirrut snickered and opened the soda. “Are you serious? About each other, I mean.”
Chirrut shrugged. “Nah. It’s just some fun. Breaking the dry spell. He’s good in bed, you know? The things he can do with his hands—”
“Stop,” Bodhi said desperately. Kyber rested her chin on his knee and Bodhi stroked her ears, sighing.
Chirrut sobered. “What is it? Is it me and Baze? Because—”
“No,” Bodhi interrupted. “No, Dad, it’s not, I’m… well, I’m grossed out, because I really don’t want to think about you… doing that. But it’s not that. I want you to be happy, and—Baze makes you happy.”
Chirrut cocked his head. “Then what is it?”
Bodhi hesitated. “I—have you heard from Laura lately?”
“I can’t imagine why I would,” Chirrut said. “I’m not connected to Cassian’s case in any way, she’d have no reason to contact me.” He waited but Bodhi said nothing. “Cassian’s in a better place now.” He grimaced before Bodhi could speak. “I didn’t mean that how it sounded. I just meant—”
“You meant he’s not getting starved and beaten every day,” Bodhi said, staring at Kyber’s triangular ears. Who cares if it means I never see him again?
Chirrut rested his hand on Bodhi’s leg. “I’m sorry, love.”
Bodhi sighed. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s safe.”
Chirrut squeezed Bodhi’s knee gently. “Would it help if I tried to find out what center he was sent to?”
“You’d do that?” Bodhi asked.
“I don’t know if I can,” Chirrut said. “But I can certainly ask around.”
Bodhi nodded and leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Chirrut’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said, muffled against Chirrut’s shirt.
Chirrut cupped his head and then made a disgusted noise. “You’re all gross and sweaty, did you walk home?”
Bodhi lifted his head. “I wanted some time to think.”
“About what, how sweaty you could get before actually melting?” Chirrut demanded. “Go shower before you dissolve my good kitchen furniture.”
“So fussy,” Bodhi said, but he was smiling as he stood.
“You’re sure he works here?” Chirrut asked, adjusting his shirt as he stepped off the bus, Kyber at his side.
“He did,” Bodhi said. His voice was thin with anxiety, and Chirrut fought the urge to touch him. Growing up, he reminded himself. Bodhi wouldn’t thank him for coddling him, especially in public.
Instead he just nodded. “What’s it look like?”
“It’s a long, low building,” Bodhi said, stepping closer. “Glass fronted windows. There are a couple of mannequins wearing camo on display. MREs are ‘artfully’ scattered around their feet.”
Chirrut snickered at the distaste in Bodhi’s voice. “No one’s going to make you eat them. Let’s do this, then.”
The door chimed when Bodhi pulled it open.
“Two steps up just inside the door,” he said quietly.
Kyber took Chirrut up the stairs, Bodhi right behind them. At the top, Chirrut cocked his head, taking in his surroundings. The air was still and vaguely musty, talk radio playing at an almost inaudible level from a back room. It smelled like leather and nylon, and Chirrut wrinkled his nose.
“Can I help you find something?” The voice was cool, faintly British, and seemed disapproving.
Chirrut swiveled toward it and smiled. “We were actually hoping one of your employees was here today. Cassian?”
“Who are you?” The speaker sounded unfriendly. “And how do you know Cassian?”
“I’m—I go to school with him,” Bodhi said.
“And that means what to me?”
“Are you Kay?”
Chirrut stepped forward. “Chirrut Imwe, this is my son Bodhi. We were just wondering how Cassian is doing. Is he here, by chance?”
“He doesn’t work here anymore,” Kay snapped. “If you’re not going to buy anything, feel free to go away.”
“How long ago did he quit?” Bodhi asked.
“Last week,” Kay said.
“Did he come in to pick up his last check?” Chirrut said.
“None of your business.”
Chirrut touched Bodhi’s arm. “We need to go.” He smiled vaguely in Kay’s direction. “Thank you for your help.”
Kay didn’t respond as Chirrut led Bodhi from the store.
On the sidewalk, Bodhi took a shaky breath. “Dad—”
“I know,” Chirrut said. Public be damned. He pulled Bodhi into a quick hug. “You have to forgive yourself for this, do you hear me? You did the right thing.”
Bodhi stiffened against him and Chirrut had a split-second of wondering what he’d said wrong when he heard a familiar husky voice.
“What are you doing here?” Cassian hissed.
Chirrut turned toward him. “We came to see how you were doing,” he said pleasantly. “How are you doing? Bodhi, how’s he doing? How does he look?”
“Good,” Bodhi whispered, voice thick. “He looks… good.”
“You’ve seen me,” Cassian said. “Now go away.”
Chirrut bristled at this. “Listen, none of this is Bodhi’s fault.”
Bodhi caught his arm and pulled. “Forget it, let’s just go.”
Cassian said nothing. If it weren’t for his feet shifting restlessly on the pavement, Chirrut would have thought him gone. Silence splintered around them, and Chirrut nodded.
“If you ever need somewhere to go, or just a friendly face, you know how to find us.”
Chirrut allowed Bodhi to tug him away toward the bus stop. When he reached for him, though, Bodhi shied back. Chirrut didn’t let the hurt show on his face as he dropped his arms.
“I’m sorry,” Bodhi managed. “It’s just—”
“Can they see us?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi whispered. He was probably hugging himself, thin arms around his ribs in that way he had. Chirrut’s heart ached but he stayed quiet.
Neither spoke again until they were on the bus. Only once it had pulled away from the curb, bearing them off in a cloud of foul diesel fumes, did Bodhi scoot close. Chirrut immediately put his arms around him as Bodhi’s shoulders shook.
“I thought—” Bodhi hiccupped. “I thought I w-was helping him.”
“You were,” Chirrut said. “You did. You might have saved his life.”
“Why is he so angry?”
Bodhi nodded against Chirrut’s chest and Chirrut sighed.
“My guess is that he’s very proud and a little stupid.”
Chirrut smiled as Bodhi lifted his head. “Emotionally, not intellectually. I think—” He hesitated. How much to say? Would it make the situation better or worse?
“What?” Bodhi prompted.
Chirrut rolled the dice. “I think he has, or had, a crush on you.”
Bodhi sat up straight. “What? Why?”
Chirrut snorted. “Disregarding that, because I don’t have time right now to list everything amazing about you, can you see how that would make it worse for him?”
Bodhi was silent for several minutes. “Yeah,” he finally whispered. “I saw him at his weakest, didn’t I?”
“He would certainly see it that way,” Chirrut agreed. “Given time, maturity, and a ton of therapy, though, hopefully he’ll come around.”
Bodhi sighed, and Chirrut patted his knee.
“Now, since that’s out in the open, I can tell you all the reasons—at length—why anyone would have a crush on you.”
“Oh my god, Dad, no.”
WARNING for: massive chapter? Oh also, they have sex.
(Thank you all for the really lovely comments on the last chapter. I'm doing pretty well, my husband's actually being super helpful and supportive, and while it's definitely disrupting life, it's also hopefully going to make it much better.)
Baze watched his daughter rushing around to get ready with a mixture of amusement and dismay.
“What time will you be back from this date?”
“ Not a date,” Jyn said without looking away from the mirror, eyes wide and steady as she applied mascara.
“Uh huh,” Baze said. He flopped backward onto Jyn’s bed. “That’s what your mom said the first time we went out.”
The mattress dipped as Jyn sat down beside him. “Have you heard from her recently?”
Baze shrugged without looking. “You know your mom. She’ll blow through here one of these days, all about whatever’s captured her interest most recently. Probably hit me up to ‘invest’ in one of her schemes.”
“You won’t, though, right?”
Baze turned his head. Jyn looked worried, even from upside down.
“Of course not, blossom. I learned better a long time ago.”
“Okay.” Jyn nodded, firming her mouth. “I gotta go.”
“Say hi to your girlfriend for me,” Baze said.
“Not my girlfriend!”
“Right. And when will you be home, again?”
Jyn blew her bangs off her forehead and slanted a look at him. “Late?”
Jyn fiddled with one of her bracelets. “Um… like, two AM?”
Baze snorted. “Make it midnight.” A thought struck him and he sat up. “Actually, I’m feeling generous. Be home by one.”
Jyn’s smile lit up her face. “Thank you, Papa.” She scrambled off her bed in a flurry of satin and the tinkle of copper and brass on her wrist, leaving behind the subtle scent of her flowery perfume.
Baze waited until the front door slammed behind her before pulling out his phone.
Chirrut’s reply was almost immediate. Last class just finished. What’s up?
Want to treat you to dinner, my place , Baze typed out, cursing his big thumbs. Can you make it?
I’ll send Bodhi to Luke’s. When?
Baze grinned. Give me an hour. He was going to do this right.
He dashed down the stairs and headed for the refrigerator. Five minutes later, he closed the door and groaned. Maybe he should have planned better. He put his head in the pantry hopefully.
“How is it there is no food in this house?” His voice echoed off the empty shelves.
He was going to have to go to the store. Baze swore and fetched his boots from beside the front door. He had an hour before Chirrut would even be there, he had plenty of time.
He barreled through the store, grabbing ingredients with only cursory inspection, and pulled back up in front of his house with plenty of time to spare.
Except… Chirrut was sitting on his front steps, feet together and hands on his knees, Kyber on the ground beside him with her head on her paws.
“What—” Baze threw the truck into park and stomped up the walk. “What are you doing here?”
Chirrut cocked his head, a smile touching his mouth. “I believe I was invited.”
“For—” Baze checked the time. “Forty minutes from now, yeah!”
Chirrut lifted a shoulder and stood fluidly, stretching with his fingertips laced over his head. His T-shirt—huge pink cabbage roses printed on pale green silk—rode up, revealing smooth, golden brown skin, and Baze’s mouth went dry.
“The bus goes right by your place,” Chirrut was saying, but Baze barely heard him.
It had been a week since they’d seen each other. A week of thinking about the noises Chirrut made when he was unstrung by pleasure, a week of coming up with new things Baze wanted to do to him.
Chirrut waved his hand in front of Baze’s nose. “Focus.”
“You have no idea how focused I am,” Baze said, twitching away. “I have to put the food in the refrigerator or I’d jump you right here and you know it.”
Chirrut grinned. “Can I help?”
“You’ve never been to my house,” Baze said. “You’d end up tripping over stuff or accidentally walking into walls. Here, come on.”
He caught Chirrut’s wrist in one hand and unlocked the door with the other as Chirrut laughingly protested.
“I haven’t accidentally walked into a wall in years,” he said, snapping his fingers to bring Kyber to heel.
Amusement fizzed in Baze’s throat and he led him into the living room and turned to face him, running his hands down Chirrut’s muscled arms.
Chirrut tipped his chin up and Baze accepted the unspoken invitation, bending to kiss him. Chirrut’s mouth was warm, sweet like black tea and honey again, and he went on tiptoe to get closer, humming contentedly as Baze explored.
When he finally broke away, they were both breathing hard.
“The groceries can wait,” Chirrut suggested, snaking a hand between them. He hesitated suddenly and yanked his hand away. “Unless Jyn is here. Oh god, Baze, please tell me Jyn isn’t here.”
The horror on his face made the laughter bubble up and Baze took a step back as it rolled out.
“It’s not funny,” Chirrut snapped. He looked an inch from stomping his foot, lips pressed tight and eyebrows drawn together.
Baze struggled to suppress the giggles. “I’m s-sorry,” he managed. “It’s just—your expression, did you really think I’d make out with you while my daughter was—what, sitting on the couch?”
Chirrut snorted before he could stop himself. “When you put it that way… So where is she?”
“She’s on a not-date,” Baze said.
Baze grunted agreement and touched Chirrut’s arm, turning him. “Couch four feet behind you, sit and wait for me and I’ll tell you about it.”
Chirrut sat down willingly enough and pointed at his feet. Kyber flopped on top of them and Baze smiled at the picture they made.
“Be right back.”
He made it into the kitchen with all the groceries in one trip, suppressing a groan. When he got back to the living room, Chirrut wasn’t where he’d left him. Instead he was wandering the space, hands out to carefully map where he was.
“You’re not very good at following directions, are you?” Baze said.
Chirrut set the tiny carved dolphin down and shrugged. “I’ve never really seen the point. If you’ll pardon the pun.”
Baze rolled his eyes and stepped into the room as Chirrut swiveled to face him, smiling invitingly.
“Maybe you need to be taught how,” Baze said, and hungrily watched the way Chirrut’s eyebrow went up and his throat bobbed as he affected nonchalance.
“I think that might take awhile,” Chirrut said. “Do we have enough time?”
“For the first lesson, at least,” Baze said. He closed the distance between them and brought his hands up to cradle Chirrut’s waist. He rubbed his thumbs over the silk, feeling the ridges of Chirrut’s abdomen as Chirrut swayed toward him. “This shirt is ridiculous,” Baze said, smiling.
Chirrut preened, tipping his head and baring his throat. Baze pressed his mouth to the smooth skin under the bolt of Chirrut’s jaw. He could feel every shiver that went through Chirrut’s body this way, and he took his time, sucking and nibbling along the column of his throat.
He pushed down on Chirrut’s shoulders until he got the hint and dropped to his knees on the carpet at Baze’s feet.
Baze thumbed Chirrut’s lush mouth with one hand while he opened his pants with the other. The sound of the zipper was loud in the quiet room and Chirrut’s lips parted. Baze let go of him to pull himself out, stifling a noise.
Chirrut shifted his weight, clearly impatient.
Baze traced his mouth again and Chirrut closed his eyes, thick lashes fluttering down as he leaned into Baze’s touch.
“Your mouth drives me crazy,” Baze murmured.
Chirrut smiled but when he tried to answer, Baze pressed two fingers inside instead, stopping whatever he’d been about to say. Chirrut’s jaw slackened on a startled moan and he began to suck, wrapping his tongue around Baze’s fingers and bobbing his head, a tiny frown of concentration marred his forehead.
Baze swore under his breath and gripped himself with his free hand. The wet warmth and suction around his fingers and his own hand on his cock was intoxicating, making his head spin.
He could see Chirrut’s erection tenting his pants, but Chirrut didn’t seem aware of it, all his focus on Baze’s hand in his mouth.
The smell of sex was thick in the air, salt and sweat and arousal, and Baze could feel his orgasm gathering at the base of his spine. He sped up his strokes and Chirrut whimpered, pulling back.
“Close your eyes,” Baze ordered, and Chirrut obeyed just in time as Baze groaned and spent on Chirrut’s face, come splattering his cheek and sliding down. He folded forward, trying to catch his breath, and put a hand on Chirrut’s shoulder to steady himself. Chirrut didn’t move, muscles quivering, until Baze regained his composure and straightened.
He wiped Chirrut’s cheekbone, smiling to himself, and then set about tucking his softening cock away. When he was put to rights, he bent and cupped Chirrut’s straining shaft through his pants.
A damp spot had gathered at the head, his erection perfectly outlined against the fabric, and Chirrut jerked at the first touch of Baze’s hand, breath catching.
Baze spent a few minutes leisurely rubbing him, but when Chirrut’s hips sped up and his mouth opened, Baze pulled away.
“Wait,” Chirrut said. “Wait, no, Baze—” His chest heaved, skin pinking at the neckline of his truly awful shirt, and Baze slapped his hand away when Chirrut tried to reach for himself.
Chirrut made a shocked noise and froze.
“Don’t come,” Baze said. “Don’t touch yourself, either.”
Chirrut’s mouth worked but he didn’t move.
“Show me you understand.”
Slowly, jerkily, Chirrut managed a nod.
“Good,” Baze said, and kissed him.
Chirrut melted into it, breath hot and desperate in Baze’s mouth, and whimpered when Baze broke it.
Kyber whined and Baze glanced up. She was still on her stomach where Chirrut had left her, but her ears were flattened, her tail low.
“Reassure your dog that I’m not murdering you,” Baze told Chirrut.
“I’m—not entirely sure you’re not,” Chirrut managed, but he snapped his fingers and Kyber scrambled to him. Chirrut bent over her, crooning quietly. “I’m fine, baby girl. The big, strong man is tormenting me but I’m okay, I promise.”
Kyber licked his hand, tail thumping, and Baze reached for a tissue from the mantelpiece to clean Chirrut’s face.
“Do you have a fenced yard?” Chirrut asked when he was done.
“Sure,” Baze said. “Will she let me take her, or do you need to do it?”
“I’d better do it, just to make sure she doesn’t worry.” Chirrut unfolded gracefully and stood, patting his thigh. Kyber bounced to her feet and Baze led them down the hallway and through the house to the patio off the kitchen.
With the dog safely stowed in the yard, Baze closed the sliding glass door and turned to pull Chirrut against him, slipping a hand down to feel his erection, fabric still taut.
“Does this mean I get to come?” Chirrut asked, arms going around Baze’s neck.
Baze laughed against Chirrut’s throat. “No.”
“I have to make dinner,” Baze pointed out in tones of utmost reason. “Would you like to stay in here with me, keep me company?”
It wasn’t often he got the chance to see Chirrut discomfited, he thought, delighted, as Chirrut opened and closed his mouth several times.
“There’s a chair here,” Baze said, and guided him to it.
Chirrut sat silently, clearly lost for words, and Baze grinned and bent to kiss him briefly. When Chirrut tried to deepen the kiss, though, Baze pulled away.
“I hate you,” Chirrut said.
Baze thumbed the head of his erection, making Chirrut swear. “No, you don’t.”
He straightened, watching Chirrut’s face, and turned to open the refrigerator. “Any dietary restrictions?”
Chirrut made a noise that could have meant anything and adjusted himself.
“I should have planned better,” Baze said ruefully, looking at the groceries he’d bought. Celery, a slab of beef that would take far too long to cook, a few apples and some cheese. What had he been thinking?
“I’ll eat anything,” Chirrut assured him.
“Fuck it,” Baze said abruptly. “I’m ordering in. What are you in the mood for?”
“Chinese,” Chirrut said, grinning.
Baze sputtered laughter. “And for dinner?”
Chirrut shrugged. “Surprise me. You seem to be good at that.”
Baze rifled through the menus in the drawer beside the oven, humming thoughtfully to himself. He found one that looked good and placed the order. When he put the phone down, Chirrut was sitting perfectly still, hands on his knees, head cocked as he listened to Baze’s movements.
“We have some time before it gets here,” he said before Baze could speak. “What would you like to do?”
“Oh, it’s not going to be that easy,” Baze said. Disappointment flickered across Chirrut’s face as Baze closed the gap between them and straddled his lap.
Chirrut leaned back in the chair, hands coming up to rest on Baze’s thighs, his palms warm. Baze bent forward and licked a quick stripe up Chirrut’s throat, then pulled away and blew on the wet spot.
The shiver went all the way through Chirrut’s body and his hands tightened convulsively.
“How—” He swallowed hard. “How long are you going to—”
“Make you wait?” Baze nipped at Chirrut’s jaw.
“Torture me,” Chirrut managed.
“As long as it’s fun,” Baze murmured, and pulled the neck of the T-shirt aside to close his mouth on Chirrut’s collarbone.
“Fuck,” Chirrut said. He squirmed, fingers biting into the muscles of Baze’s legs, but he didn’t reach for himself.
“You’re enjoying it too,” Baze said when he lifted his head. “You could stop me any time you wanted. I saw you with Cassian’s foster father—I don’t think anyone could make you do anything you didn’t want to do.”
A smile flickered across Chirrut’s face and he tilted his head, a challenge in his raised eyebrow, but he said nothing.
Baze sat back enough to drag Chirrut’s shirt up and off. Bare to the waist, Chirrut was somehow even more beautiful, a flush crawling up his chest, and Baze splayed a hand over his ribs, stroking the satin skin.
“The things I’m going to do to you,” he murmured.
“Like you haven’t alr—” Chirrut cut off as Baze kissed him, cupping the back of his head and taking his time, slow and leisurely.
He savored every hitch of Chirrut’s breath, the way his hands opened and closed spasmodically, how he didn’t even seem aware of his soft moans as Baze deepened the kiss, delving inside in smooth, rhythmic sweeps, his hips rolling. He was already hardening again, and he finally broke away to catch his breath, almost laughing.
“I feel like a teenager,” he said. “What are you doing to me?”
Chirrut slid his hands around to cup Baze’s ass and pull him closer, and Baze resettled his weight and bent to take another kiss.
But then he sat back, a hand on Chirrut’s pectoral to stop him following.
“Let me look at you,” he said.
Chirrut wriggled. “You’ve seen me. Remember? My bedroom?”
Baze drew a line down Chirrut’s sternum with one finger. “I didn’t know how to tell you, but—”
“Tell me what?” Chirrut sounded worried, and Baze soothed him with another quick kiss.
“Nothing, just—you didn’t turn the lights on. It was dark in your room, I couldn’t see much.”
Chirrut went very still beneath him.
“I didn’t need to see, I could feel you just fine,” Baze hastened to assure him. “It’s just—”
“I’m an idiot,” Chirrut said, and began to laugh.
Relieved, Baze leaned back and enjoyed the way Chirrut’s eyes creased and lips peeled back to reveal his perfect teeth and pink gums.
“I’m so sorry,” Chirrut said through his giggles, reaching up to find Baze’s face. “I’m so used to not needing light that I completely forgot—”
Baze smiled under his hand. “Well, let me look at you now, then.” He stood and pulled Chirrut to his feet.
“Can I take my pants off?” Chirrut asked plaintively.
“As long as you don’t touch yourself,” Baze said, and watched as Chirrut scowled but unzipped his slacks and let them fall to the floor. He was wearing silk boxers underneath—of course he was, Baze thought, grinning—tented and damp at the front. His legs were cleanly defined muscle under smooth skin with crisp, curling hair, his stomach flat. Baze’s mouth watered but he stayed where he was.
Chirrut shifted his feet. “Are you enjoying the view?”
Baze made a noise to indicate he was.
“Any chance of doing something to the view?” There was a bite to Chirrut’s tone.
“In good time,” Baze said, and the doorbell rang.
Chirrut swore and yanked his pants up. “My shirt—what did you do with my shirt—dammit, Baze, stop laughing and help me!”
Baze took pity and tossed the shirt to him. It struck him in the chest and Chirrut groped for the armholes as Baze headed for the door.
When he came back, bags of food in both hands, Chirrut was dressed and tucking in his shirt—inside out. Baze clicked his tongue, disappointed at the view denied him, and set the food on the table.
“Sit down,” he directed. “I’ll bring everything to you.”
Chirrut obeyed, and Baze began laying out the food. He put plates and cutlery on the table, guiding Chirrut’s hand to each in turn, showing him where the glass was before he poured a drink for him.
“You still haven’t told me about the not-date,” Chirrut said.
Baze’s hand lingered on his, stroking his knuckles, and Chirrut shivered and pulled away, reaching for his drink with a cough. Baze grinned.
“Jyn was vague on the details,” he said. “It was either roller derby or smashing the patriarchy, I can’t remember.”
“Fuck yeah, stick it to the man,” Chirrut said. “So what did you order? It smells amazing.”
They ate Mongolian and crispy beef in easy, companionable silence, as Baze watched Chirrut’s face.
“When did you know you liked men?” he asked after a while.
Chirrut lifted an eyebrow. “Early. Girls never… made sense to me, not that way.”
“Did your parents care?”
“They figured out early on that I was going to do what I wanted to do.” Chirrut grinned and took a sip of his soda.
“How did you lose your sight?” Baze asked impulsively.
Something flickered across Chirrut’s face and he put his glass down. “I know I said I’d tell you, but—can it wait?”
“Of course,” Baze said. He leaned forward and covered Chirrut’s hand where it rested on the table. “How’s your food?”
“Delicious,” Chirrut said, a smile returning slowly. “But I find I’m not very hungry.”
“What a pity,” Baze said, sitting back. “We still have dessert, and then I thought we could watch a movie.”
Chirrut narrowed his eyes. “Baze—”
“Are we going to actually have sex this evening?” Chirrut asked.
“That depends entirely on you,” Baze said calmly, and stood to clear the table.
In the living room, Baze sat down and took Chirrut’s hand to pull him onto the couch beside him. He tugged and Chirrut swore as he lost his balance and fell, halfway in Baze’s lap.
“Juvenile,” he said.
“But effective,” Baze said, loosening his grip enough for Chirrut to get comfortable, tucked under his arm, and picked up the remote.
“So what are we ‘watching’?” Chirrut asked.
“The Forty-Year Old Virgin or There’s Something About Mary,” Baze said absently, scrolling through the choices. “It’s that or a sci-fi flick I’ve never heard of and a couple of action movies that probably won’t be very interesting to you.”
Chirrut didn’t move for a long moment. “You’ve put some thought into this.”
“I mean, I assumed we might have a date night at some point,” Baze said. “Seemed logical to do some research on what kind of entertainment a blind person would enjoy.”
Chirrut said nothing.
Baze tilted his head to look into his face, which showed nothing of his thoughts. “So, which would you prefer, or should I keep looking?”
“The Forty-Year Old Virgin,” Chirrut said. “But you have to tell me what’s going on when they’re not talking.”
“Okay,” Baze said.
“And describe the people to me.”
“Shut up,” Baze said, and pressed play.
It was more fun than he’d expected, narrating a movie he’d never watched to a man who couldn’t see it.
The title sequence rolled and Baze watched Steve Carell go through his morning routine. A sharp elbow in his side made him grunt.
“What? Oh, right. Uh. You know what Steve Carell looks like?”
Chirrut shrugged. “I know he’s white.”
“Brown hair, brown eyes, big nose. He’s shaving. And showering. I think we’re supposed to be sympathetic for how empty his life is, but that house looks pretty damn peaceful to me.”
Chirrut snickered. “Spoken like the father of a teenager.”
“Now he’s getting his bike—oh my god, he’s got the helmet and everything, he looks ridiculous.”
“Safety is no joke,” Chirrut said, poking him in the ribs.
“Talking to an elderly black couple now,” Baze said, catching and holding Chirrut’s finger before he could poke him again. “He just said—”
“I’m blind, not deaf, doofus,” Chirrut said. He pulled but Baze held onto his hand, and just like that, the movie was forgotten, the easy comfort of earlier broken and the tension flooding back.
The dialogue on screen faded into background noise as Baze watched Chirrut’s throat work.
Baze traced a line down Chirrut’s chest, feeling the way he breathed, slow and unsteady under Baze’s hand, until he reached his crotch.
Chirrut was hardening again, and he twitched as Baze unzipped his pants and slid a hand inside, under the silk boxers, to finally wrap a hand around his shaft.
“I—oh God, Baze, please—” Chirrut’s hips rolled and Baze helped him push his pants back off over his feet.
When Chirrut tried to change positions, though, Baze held him in place, his strokes steady and unrelenting.
Chirrut writhed, jamming a hand against his mouth, head back on Baze’s shoulder and a leg thrown over Baze’s thighs to give him better access.
“Does it feel good?” Baze asked.
“Don’t be—ah—stupid,” Chirrut managed.
Baze stopped moving and Chirrut’s eyes widened.
“I didn’t—I’m sorry, please—” He pushed against Baze’s hand but Baze didn’t take the hint.
“Tell me,” he said.
Chirrut’s mouth opened and closed and he swallowed hard. “Tell you… what?”
“How it feels,” Baze said, and pumped his wrist once.
Chirrut bucked into his grip and whined when Baze didn’t do it again.
If he’d been asked, Baze didn’t think he’d have been able to explain why he was doing this, why it was so important that Chirrut turn over control to him. All he knew was he needed to dismantle the perfect, beautiful man squirming in his lap, take him apart piece by meticulous piece, and worship him the way he deserved. And that meant Chirrut had to let him in.
So he waited, as Chirrut struggled for words.
“It feels like—freedom,” he managed.
Baze’s eyebrows rose but he rewarded him with another stroke. “What does that mean?”
Chirrut gulped for air. “Like—flying. Like… Baze, please—”
Baze began moving his hand again, Chirrut’s cock sliding like silk over hardened steel under his fingers, the tip steadily leaking.
“It’s like—wind in my face,” Chirrut gasped, rolling his head and pressing his lips to Baze’s throat. “Like warm summer and salt air and fireflies at dusk. Safety. Freedom. It’s like—it’s like not being afraid.”
Baze lost his rhythm at that and Chirrut whimpered. In a movement too quick to follow, he was up off the couch and straddling Baze, heavy and solid on his thighs.
His breath was warm on Baze’s face as he leaned in to kiss him, hands cupping Baze’s jaw, erection lying on Baze’s stomach.
“Can I suck you off?” he whispered.
Baze shivered. “I thought you wanted to come.”
“I do,” Chirrut said, kissing Baze’s jaw. “But I’ve also never played with your cock and I really, really want to. So please may I?”
“If you absolutely must,” Baze said in an air of disaffected nonchalance, and Chirrut laughed, bright and joyful, and slid off his lap to land on the floor between Baze’s feet.
He smiled up at him, rubbing his cheek against one of Baze’s splayed thighs, waiting as Baze undid his trousers and pushed them down far enough to free his shaft, hard and ready again.
Chirrut nosed at the base of it, breath warm and ticklish. “I love your smell,” he murmured. “I’d know it anywhere.”
“What—ah, shit—what do I smell like?” Baze asked. Chirrut’s brow was furrowed as he explored Baze’s cock with his fingers and mouth.
Chirrut lifted a shoulder, a finger tracing almost absently down below Baze’s balls. “How the hell am I supposed to explain it? You smell like you . It’s a good smell.”
He sucked Baze’s cock into his mouth and Baze forgot his follow up question in a strangled noise. Wet, suffocating heat overwhelmed his senses, pressure and suction and rhythm, Chirrut’s hand systematically working the part his mouth couldn’t reach.
“Fuck,” Baze choked. He couldn’t help reaching out, cupping Chirrut’s face as he worked, tracing a hand down his jaw, as the pressure built behind his eyes, a ball of delicious agony in the pit of his stomach.
Chirrut hummed, making Baze’s toes curl, but didn’t stop.
“C-close,” Baze managed. “Chirrut, pull off—”
Chirrut ignored him and a knuckle found Baze’s entrance and pressed on it.
Baze came on a helpless groan, spilling down Chirrut’s throat as the waves of his release rippled through him. It almost hurt, pulled from him in heavy spurts, every muscle going rigid through it.
When he finally collapsed back against the cushions, Chirrut let go with a wet pop. Baze watched, dazed, as Chirrut placed a soft kiss on the head of his cock.
“I was afraid I’d gotten rusty,” he said, lifting his head. He was smiling, and as usual, it made Baze’s knees weak. He groped until he caught Chirrut’s sleeve and tugged.
Still naked from the waist down himself, Chirrut straddled Baze’s lap. Instead of kissing him, though, he just folded forward and pressed his cheek to Baze’s shoulder, a warm, solid bundle of muscle in Baze’s arms.
“Thank you for giving me that,” he whispered.
Baze tightened his grip, suddenly wordless. He could feel how hard Chirrut was, erection trapped between them, but he didn’t move, didn’t make any effort to touch himself or even grind against Baze’s abdomen.
He’d surrendered, Baze realized, and a rush of something like terror seized him. Was he up to this? What should he do?
Chirrut was trembling faintly, pressing his face harder to Baze’s shoulder as he waited, and Baze acted on instinct. He pushed them both sideways, twisting so he was on top when they landed on the cushions. Chirrut’s mouth parted, air escaping him, but he said nothing.
Baze was between his thighs, pinning Chirrut on his back to the couch, and he made no effort to lift his weight up. Instead, he kissed Chirrut’s throat and slid a hand between them.
Chirrut caught Baze’s shoulders with a gasp and Baze lifted his head enough to see him. His eyes were wide and blank, lower lip caught between his teeth and a tiny wrinkle on his forehead.
“You are so beautiful,” Baze whispered, and set to work.
The movie was still playing, nothing but white noise in the background as Baze took Chirrut apart in smooth, devastating strokes, until Chirrut was clinging to him, breath ragged and sweat beading on his forehead, muscled legs around Baze’s waist as he shook.
“Can I—Baze, please, please I need—I c-can’t—”
“I know what you need,” Baze growled. “And I’ll give it to you.” He lifted up just enough to press his forearm across Chirrut’s collarbones, pinning him more thoroughly, and watched his face as Chirrut sobbed and fell to pieces beneath him, tears slipping from the corners of his eyes as he pulsed onto his stomach in wet throbs and then went limp.
His head rolled to the side, mouth lax, and Baze swore and sat up. “Chirrut? Chirrut!” He shook his shoulders, but there was no reaction. Baze pressed two fingers to his throat and held his breath.
There was a pulse, he realized with a rush of relief. Baze was reaching for the phone in his discarded pants to call an ambulance when Chirrut stirred and moaned, eyelashes fluttering.
“You asshole,” Baze managed, and checked his pulse again. It was steady and strong, and Chirrut’s breathing was clear.
“I thought I killed you is what happened,” Baze snapped. The rush of adrenaline was wearing off, and he was abruptly shaky. He sat back on the cushions with a thump and rubbed his face. “Jesus, I’m too old for this shit.”
Chirrut hummed and stretched, arms over his head and dropping his legs in Baze’s lap. “I feel great. Think I’m gonna nap. Wanna nap with me, Baze?”
Baze pushed his legs off. “No, I don’t want to nap.” He couldn’t stop thinking about Chirrut’s face, smooth with oblivion. Is that what he’ll look like—Chirrut sat up abruptly, worry wrinkling his forehead.
“Did I do something wrong?”
Baze looked at him, wearing nothing but an inside-out T-shirt, feet folded at the ankle and hands gripping the joints, and he sighed.
“No. No, come here.” He gathered Chirrut to him, tucking him under his arm again. He fit perfectly, Baze noticed with a twinge of unease. “It’s too late to nap, I have to drive you home after the movie’s over.”
“Ah yes, the movie we’ve been paying such close attention to.”
Baze almost smiled against his hair and focused on the screen.
“Sorry I scared you,” Chirrut murmured. “But thank you.”
Baze tightened his grip. “Shut up,” he suggested. “They’re going to a salon, now it looks like Carell is getting waxed.”
You worry too much, he told himself.
CONTENT WARNING: panic attack, mention of past trauma/injuries
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Should we do something about our dads?” Jyn asked Bodhi.
Bodhi closed his locker and glanced at her. She was leaning against the wall, bangs in her face as she twiddled with her necklace—he thought it was a dolphin but he couldn’t be sure.
“Like what, exactly?”
Jyn shrugged and fell in beside him. “I don’t know. You know they’re having sex?”
Bodhi shuddered. “Kindly don’t remind me.”
“Just saying,” Jyn pointed out. “As long as you’re aware of the situation.”
“More than I’d like to be,” Bodhi muttered. He scowled. “Look, I don’t want to think about… that, but I’ve been trying to get my dad to go on a date for years, and your dad is—well. Your dad. I get it.”
Jyn arched an eyebrow. “Did you just admit my father is attractive?”
“Fuck off,” Bodhi said, and dove into his homeroom.
Unfortunately, Jyn followed him in. Bodhi made for his desk but she was right on his heels and perched a hip on its edge as he sat down.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“I need to borrow your notes for the next test.”
Bodhi sighed. “I need them too, Jyn, I can’t just hand them over.”
“So come over to my house and we’ll both study them. Or—” She brightened. “I have a better idea. Papa wants me to come by the garage today and learn how to change the oil on a car like the one he says he’s going to buy me when I’m eighteen. Why don’t you join me?”
Bodhi perked up and then hesitated. “I… shouldn’t.”
“Why not? Did your father forbid it?”
Bodhi glowered. “He wouldn’t do that. But he wouldn’t like it, either.”
“Is it your life or his, Bo?” Jyn poked his chest and Bodhi’s glower redoubled. “You can’t spend all your time making sure Daddy won’t be disappointed.”
“That’s exactly what I can do,” Bodhi snapped. “He worries, okay?”
Jyn’s expression softened. “Yeah, I know. So does Papa, even though he tries to hide it. But someday you’re gonna have to live your own life, you know.”
Bodhi rubbed his face and Jyn clearly sensed his weakening.
“I won’t tell,” she said. “We’ll just say you went to my place. Which is technically true.” She stopped to consider. “Ish.”
“You’re a very bad person,” Bodhi informed her. “What if your dad says something?”
Jyn waved a dismissive hand. “He’s filing taxes. Trust me, he won’t even put his nose outside the office the entire time. Scott’s going to be the one showing me how to change the oil.”
“I’m going to hell,” Bodhi sighed.
Jyn’s smile lit up the room and she bounced to her feet. “Meet you at the bus.”
Yet another day fending off a suburban housewife, Chirrut thought, amused. The casserole dish was warm in his hands but he couldn’t put it down, Amber was still talking.
“It’s just, I know you’re single, and you’re raising a son, and believe me, I know all about how bottomless growing boys are, two hollow legs if you ask me, and with your—” She trailed off and Chirrut raised an eyebrow.
“My disability?” he said gently.
“It’s not that you’re not capable,” Amber rushed to say. “I just thought maybe it would help…”
Chirrut took pity on her. “It smells delicious. I’m sure Bodhi and I will enjoy it.”
The door locked behind Amber and her sandalwood perfume, Chirrut set about cleaning up the studio. When he was finished, he snapped his fingers and Kyber’s claws clicked on the floor as she dashed to him and pushed her silky head under his hand.
Chirrut smoothed her ears, smiling absently. It had been a week since he’d seen Baze, and Bodhi had gone over to help Jyn with more notes. Maybe they could all have dinner together.
“Wanna go see the big, grumpy man?” he asked Kyber, who licked his fingers. Chirrut grinned and pulled out his phone. “New text message to Baze,” he told it. “Hey, any chance you’re home and want company?”
He waited until the phone buzzed in his hand and read the answer in its mechanical voice.
“At the shop. Would love company though, save me from doing taxes.”
Chirrut hesitated. Kyber whined, and Chirrut shook himself. “I’m fine,” he told her automatically. “What could happen? Maybe I’ll give him a blowjob in his office while he’s working on his taxes.”
He grinned at the mental image of crouching under Baze’s desk between his feet and making him fall apart while Baze tried to concentrate.
“Yeah, that’s what I’ll do,” he said, and picked up the casserole dish.
As the bus rumbled away from the stop, Chirrut considered texting Bodhi to let him know where he was, but discarded the idea. He’d be busy with studying, no reason to interrupt him, and Chirrut would be home before him in any case.
The casserole dish was warm on his knees as the bus jostled along, and Chirrut pushed the fear down into a tight ball in the pit of his stomach and concentrated on the thought of what he would do to Baze when he got his hands on him.
He hadn’t expected Baze to put so much thought into watching a movie with him, or take such delight in shattering Chirrut into pieces in meticulous detail. He hadn't expected Baze to take control like that, either. He shivered, remembering Baze’s arm pinning him down, and the bus’s brakes squealed as it slowed and stopped.
“This is you, Chirrut,” the driver called.
Chirrut stood and made his way down the aisle, casserole dish under one arm and Kyber at his side. “Thanks, Amelia,” he said as Kyber indicated the steps.
“Sure thing,” Amelia said cheerfully. “See you tomorrow!”
Chirrut stepped onto the pavement and stood for a moment, orienting himself. Cars passed on the street at his back, and music was playing in front of him, a song he didn’t recognize, with an upbeat tempo. Someone called something, and was answered with a laugh. Chirrut could smell oil and grease and rubber, and he swallowed hard as Kyber pressed closer to him.
“I’m okay,” he told her, and they started up the walk.
A door swung open as they neared and someone murmured a greeting as they stepped around him.
“I’ve got the door,” a pleasant baritone said.
Chirrut smiled his thanks and stepped into an air-conditioned office, the door swinging shut behind him.
“Can I help you?” The speaker sounded friendly but distracted.
“Looking for Baze,” Chirrut said. “I believe he’s expecting me, I’m Chirrut.”
“Oh yes, he mentioned you might drop by! I’m Scott. Let me tell him you’re here. There are seats along the wall to your left if you’d like to wait.”
An inner door opened and footsteps went through. As it swung closed, Chirrut heard a familiar laugh and stiffened.
Bodhi? He moved without thinking, pushing the door open and stepping into a cavernous space that smelled strongly of grease and oil. Metal clanged on metal, echoing in Chirrut’s ears.
“Dad?” Bodhi sounded guilty and startled, across the garage bay, and Chirrut started toward him.
Chirrut didn’t recognize the voice but it was too late in any case—his foot caught the edge of something solid and he tripped. He pitched forward, arms coming up to catch himself. The dish went flying. Glass shattered. Kyber yelped.
Voices erupted in startled shouts as Chirrut landed in liquid, foul-smelling and stinging his skin where it hit him. He rolled, panic sinking wicked claws deep, and hit the edge of whatever container he’d fallen into.
Footsteps pounded as Chirrut grabbed the rim and pulled, bucking frantically in an attempt to get free.
All he could smell was gasoline, thin and malevolent in his nose. He could hear the crackle of flames, creeping ever nearer, and even though he knew, somewhere in the rational part of his mind, that he wasn’t trapped in his car facing death, knowing he’d never see Bodhi again, all he could feel was the seatbelt cutting into his neck as he dangled from his seat.
Hands caught him and dragged him upright and Chirrut twisted, fighting.
“ Dad—” Bodhi sounded on the verge of tears. “Dad, please, it’s me, you’re okay—”
“Get it off,” Chirrut panted, slapping at his wet skin. “It burns, please—”
Even deep in the panic, he knew Baze’s footsteps as he pounded across the bay toward them.
“Let me,” Baze said, and big hands took hold of Chirrut’s shoulders, turning him. “Keep Kyber,” he directed Bodhi, and wrapped an arm around Chirrut’s waist, leading him across the bay in quick steps to the far end and through a narrow door.
Chirrut was dazed, only barely able to keep his feet as Baze led him into a small room and shut the door behind them.
One hand stayed on Chirrut’s arm while Baze bent and turned on a faucet and water pipes groaned. The spray hit Chirrut between the shoulder blades, freezing at first but quickly heating up, and Chirrut tore at his clothes, suddenly desperate to have them off, to get himself clean.
“Easy,” Baze said, “let me help.” He pulled Chirrut’s shirt up over his head and pushed his pants and underwear off and onto the floor in a sodden heap, maneuvering him so he was more fully under the spray. He pushed a bar of soap into Chirrut’s hand. “This cuts grease and other chemicals.” His voice was steady, reassuring. “Do you want my help?”
Even though the water had warmed, Chirrut’s teeth were chattering with the force of his tremors, and he barely managed a nod, afraid to open his mouth and let out the screams trapped in his throat.
“Okay,” Baze said. He took the soap back and began the process of soaping Chirrut up, paying special attention to his arms and torso where the gasoline had soaked him most. Chirrut let him work, blinking fiercely and trying not to hear his own voice, thick with tears, begging for someone to help.
When Baze turned him into the spray and started rinsing him, Chirrut was still shaking, tears running silently down his face and mixing with the misting water.
“Oh, Chirrut,” Baze murmured. He gathered him close, wrapping him in his arms, and held him tight. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think, I’m so sorry, sweetheart—you’re safe, you’re okay.”
“B-Bodhi—” Chirrut’s voice stuttered and died in his throat and he clutched at Baze’s sodden shirt.
“He’s safe,” Baze said against his hair. “He’s fine, I promise. Breathe for me.”
The water was running cold and Chirrut shivered suddenly.
“Okay, let’s get you dry,” Baze said. He turned the faucets off and moved away briefly. A cupboard door opened and closed and then Baze was back, wrapping a fluffy towel around Chirrut’s shoulders. “All I have are a few spare jumpsuits,” he said, sounding hesitant. “They’re clean, but—are you okay wearing one?”
Chirrut held out a hand silently and Baze put the jumpsuit into it. Rustling noises suggested he was changing too, but Chirrut didn’t ask. He pulled the rough cloth up over his hips and fumbled for the armholes. The trembling had slowed slightly, but he let Baze take him into his arms again when they were both dressed.
Nose to Baze’s broad chest, Chirrut closed his eyes.
“Bodhi’s going to be frantic,” he said after a minute. “I need to let him know I’m okay, and then I guess… I owe you a story.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Baze said quietly, “but if you want to talk, I’ll listen.”
He was a comforting presence at Chirrut’s back as Chirrut stepped out of the bathroom.
“Dad—” Bodhi was sitting on the floor, and he scrambled to his feet when the door swung open, and rushed into Chirrut’s arms. He was trembling violently, tears running down his face, and Chirrut pulled him close, tucking Bodhi’s head against his shoulder. “I’m sorry, I should never have come, I’m so sorry, Dad, this is all my fault—”
“Hush,” Chirrut said, rubbing Bodhi’s thin back. “No harm was done, ultimately. Can you do me a favor, love?”
Bodhi nodded against Chirrut’s chest, hiccupping.
“Take Kyber home for me, will you?”
“But—” Bodhi pushed away slightly. “What about you?”
Chirrut cupped his cheek and pressed their foreheads together briefly. “I’ll be fine. Baze and I have some talking to do.” He hesitated when Bodhi didn’t relax. “I’m not angry, love. We’ll talk when I get home, okay?”
Bodhi heaved a sigh and nodded fractionally. He stepped away and whistled to Kyber, who whined.
Chirrut bent and held out his hands to her, letting her push her damp nose against his palm and lick the skin as she wriggled frantically with relief.
“I’m fine, baby girl,” he said gently. “Go with Bodhi now.”
“Chirrut—” Jyn sounded close to tears herself as Chirrut turned toward her. “It’s my fault he was here. I’m sorry, I practically forced him into it, he didn’t want to come—”
“Yes I did,” Bodhi protested.
“Enough,” Baze rumbled, and both teens shut up. “Blossom, go home. You’re not in trouble. Bodhi, you too. I’ll bring your father home when we’re done talking.”
They waited until Jyn and Bodhi had obeyed, departing in opposite directions, and then Baze wrapped one warm hand around Chirrut’s wrist.
“My office is this way.” He led Chirrut past the bathroom they’d showered in and down a hall that felt stiflingly narrow, the carpet musty smelling in Chirrut’s nose. He sneezed and Baze pushed a door open. “In here. Sorry, I’m hoping to remodel soon. It’s cleaner in my office, I promise.”
Chirrut stepped inside and Baze ducked around him. Papers shuffled off to the side and what sounded like magazines thumped to the floor. Then Baze was back, taking Chirrut’s hand and pulling him gently across the room.
“There’s a sofa here,” he said. “You can sit, and—” He hesitated. “Can I—hold you?”
“Please,” Chirrut said immediately, tears pricking his eyelids again. He blinked them away and allowed Baze to guide him to the couch. Baze sat down and eased Chirrut between his legs, arms loose around Chirrut’s shoulders and his cheek pressed to Chirrut’s hair.
Chirrut closed his eyes, listening to Baze’s heart thumping away steadily under his ear. With the worst of the panic past, he could feel himself beginning to drift, unmoored from his tethers.
“You’re so… safe,” he whispered.
Baze’s grip tightened briefly. “You okay?”
Chirrut nodded dreamily. “Safe. Nice to be safe.” He sighed. “I don’t like… talking about it. Thinking about it. But—”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Baze said.
“Want to,” Chirrut insisted. “Just… don’t know how.”
“Was it a car accident?” Baze asked gently.
Chirrut didn’t move. “Did Bodhi tell you?”
“No, sweetheart,” Baze said. He pressed his cheek to Chirrut’s short hair. “I just… put the pieces together. You’re terrified of enclosed spaces, cars in general, anything that makes you feel trapped. I’m guessing the smell of gasoline sent you over the edge just now, along with being around cars already.”
Chirrut nodded silently.
“You can’t bear the thought of Bodhi being around cars or learning about them, which tells me you’re afraid of him being hurt, because you’re not the type to stifle a hunger to learn.”
Chirrut squeezed his eyes tighter closed. “It’s all he wants, and I—”
“How long ago did it happen?”
“Bodhi was four,” Chirrut whispered. “He was at daycare, I was driving to pick him up. There was—do you remember that summer thirteen years ago, with all the rain?”
“What year was that—oh god, yeah. We were practically floating that year.”
“Californians can’t drive in rain,” Chirrut said. If he relaxed, if he stopped focusing so hard on being in Baze’s arms, he’d be back there on that rain-drenched highway, with the semi hurtling sideways across the lanes toward him. “The kid was new to trucking, young and stupid and impatient, and he was going too fast to stop when he came around the curve and realized traffic wasn’t moving.” The brakes had made an awful screaming noise as the back half of the semi had skidded sideways, pulling the cab with it—
Baze shook him, startling Chirrut back to himself. “You’re safe,” he said, his voice as rough as his hands were gentle. “Deep breaths.”
Chirrut obeyed, pressing his nose to Baze’s chest and taking in lungfuls of his scent.
When he spoke, his voice was muffled. “He plowed through us like a bowling ball through pins. Sent at least four cars in different directions. He—hit me first. Hardest. Sent my car up over the railing and down into the ravine.” He took a hitching breath as Baze held him tight. “So much noise, and rain, and—I don’t think they even realized I was down there at first. I couldn’t—I couldn’t make them hear me.”
“How long were you there?” Baze asked.
“It felt like an eternity but was maybe half an hour. I hit my head pretty hard and I’m not sure how long I was out. When I woke up, the car was upside down. It was pitch dark, and I could hear—” Chirrut swallowed hard. “I could hear something on fire, outside. I didn’t know what it was, but it… crackled, and I knew—I knew the car would go up in flames at any moment and all I could think—” He sucked in a ragged breath. “All I could think was, ‘thank God Bodhi’s not here thank God Bodhi’s not here’.”
Baze said nothing, his arms strong and reassuring around Chirrut’s shoulders, but Chirrut could hear how shallow his breathing was and how fast his heart was beating.
“You said—” Baze cleared his throat. “You said it was dark?”
“I thought it was,” Chirrut said. “It was raining, of course, but night hadn’t fallen. I couldn’t see anything, though.”
“Oh, Chirrut.” Baze’s voice was full of grief. “What caused it?”
Chirrut lifted a shoulder. “The doctors said the blow to my head caused damage to my optic nerves. They kept saying it was probably temporary, that since my eyes weren’t actually burned or injured, that my sight should come back.”
He’d had a ritual, after he was released from the hospital. Every morning when his alarm had gone off, he’d turn it off without looking. Then he’d lace his hands across his stomach, take a deep breath, and open his eyes.
Every morning, the same enveloping blackness greeted him.
Finally, he’d stopped trying. Much, much later, he’d stopped expecting to see again. He’d adjusted. Adapted.
“Don’t pity me,” he said, lifting his head.
Baze touched his face, drawing a finger down Chirrut’s cheek to his chin. “I don’t,” he said quietly. “I hate what happened to you, but pity is the last thing on my mind.”
“I dropped Amber’s casserole dish,” Chirrut said suddenly, horrified. “Shit, Baze, there’s going to be glass and chicken broccoli and rice all over your garage bay, I’m so sorry!”
Baze laughed, the vibrations reassuring. “Worse things have been spilled on that floor. Scott will have cleaned it up already.”
“God, and now I have to buy Amber a new dish.” Chirrut dropped his head to Baze’s chest with a groan.
“So who exactly is Amber?” Baze asked, running a palm over Chirrut’s short hair.
“Woman in my advanced class,” Chirrut said with a sigh, lifting his head again. “Been trying to get into my pants for awhile.”
“Can’t really blame her,” Baze said, a smile in his voice.
Chirrut almost laughed and leaned forward to press their mouths together. Baze tasted like coffee, his lips soft and breath warm, and he cradled Chirrut’s jaw in one hand as they explored each other’s mouths.
When he broke away, Baze blew out a breath.
“Christ,” he muttered. “Think I’m dying.”
Chirrut pecked his lips again and stood. “I need to go home. When’s the next bus?”
Baze stood too. “Will you let me take you?”
Chirrut hesitated, and Baze stepped close, cupping Chirrut’s face in both hands and tilting it up to kiss him again.
This time, Chirrut was the one out of breath when they separated. He swayed and Baze steadied him.
“You don’t fight fair,” Chirrut managed.
“The point of fighting is to win,” Baze countered. “‘Fair’ doesn’t enter in. You haven’t answered my question.”
“I don’t—I don’t know,” Chirrut whispered, raw truth dragged from his throat. “I’m not sure I can—”
“I’ll go slowly,” Baze said. “And I’ll hold your hand the entire way if you want even though that’s probably not proper driving procedure. I don’t want you on a bus right now, Chirrut, you’re still too fragile, and the only other option is walking, and we’re all the way across town.”
Chirrut leaned into his comforting bulk and nodded. “Okay. No, you’re right. Just… take it slow.”
Buckled into Baze’s truck, a reassuringly large vehicle with plenty of legroom and panels that felt like welded steel, Chirrut tightened his seatbelt and worked to keep his breathing steady. He settled on his favorite prayer, repeating it under his breath line by line while Baze climbed into the cab beside him and got buckled.
The truck engine roared as Baze fired it up, vibrations rippling through the body of the vehicle, and then Baze’s hand found Chirrut’s and squeezed.
“We’ll be home in no time,” he said, and pulled away from the curb.
He was right. It wasn’t long at all before he parked and killed the engine, shifting his weight to face Chirrut, sitting very quietly beside him.
“Verdict?” Baze asked, still holding his hand.
Chirrut worked moisture into his dry mouth and nodded. It hadn’t been—quite—as bad as he’d expected, maybe because of the way Baze had talked the entire time, deep voice calm and reassuring as he described the sights, thumb rubbing Chirrut’s knuckles in small, gentle circles.
“Bodhi’s coming down the walk,” Baze continued. “He must have been watching for us.”
Chirrut unbuckled with his free hand as Bodhi pulled the door open.
“I’m okay,” Chirrut said. “Let’s go inside. Baze…”
“I’ll call you tonight,” Baze said, squeezing his hand.
Chirrut nodded again. “Thank you,” he managed, and slid from the cab.
True to his word, Baze called him that evening, close to bedtime. Chirrut was curled up in bed, a mug of his favorite tea on the bed stand, listening to a meditation video. The speaker’s voice was calming, and the last dregs of the fear had slipped away like grains of rice through Chirrut’s fingers, leaving him exhausted but calm.
When the phone rang, Chirrut thumbed it on with a smile.
“How are you feeling?”
Chirrut stretched, his satin pajamas sliding against the sheets. “Much better.”
“You sound better.” Glass clinked and Baze grunted as he sat.
“I’m fine,” Baze said, sounding surprised. “Just tired.”
“Convinced it was her fault. Bodhi?”
Chirrut sighed and rolled onto his back. “Very much the same. We had a long talk. He feels guilty for lying to me, of course, or letting me believe he was at your house when really he was going to the garage—”
“I didn’t know he was there without permission,” Baze interrupted.
“I know,” Chirrut assured him. “He made it clear you weren’t complicit. He was also very insistent that he be punished. I think he would have felt worse if I hadn’t, honestly.”
“So what did you do?” Amusement thrummed in Baze’s deep voice and Chirrut smiled.
“Grounding and dish duty for two weeks.”
“Getting off easy,” Baze observed.
Chirrut didn’t answer, remembering the guilt in Bodhi’s voice as he begged for forgiveness he felt he didn’t deserve.
“I have to let him go,” he finally said.
Chirrut dragged a hand across his face. “I’ve been denying him what he wants, the only thing he’s ever really wanted, because I’m such a coward.” Fear prickled the back of his throat and he swallowed hard.
“You’re not,” Baze said sharply. “You’re the bravest man I’ve ever met. What do you mean, let him go? Chirrut—”
“Summer’s almost here,” Chirrut said. “Will you—Baze, can Bodhi work in the garage over the summer? You won’t have to pay him, he could be a—an apprentice, as long as you teach him, he’s such a hard worker and he’s so smart, Baze, he’ll soak up everything you give him and ask for more.”
There was dead silence for a minute.
“You want your son to work for me.” Baze’s voice was quiet, and Chirrut couldn’t get a read on it.
“You wouldn’t have to pay him,” Chirrut repeated, as the anxiety rose to throttle him again. “Please just think about it—as a favor to me, maybe. I haven’t—I know I haven’t done anything worth repaying, but—”
“Shut up,” Baze said, and Chirrut snapped his mouth shut. “Of course he can work for me. But not as a favor to you—as a favor to him.”
Chirrut closed his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Baze, I—”
“Hush,” Baze said, and he sounded almost unbearably gentle. “You need to sleep. It’s been a very long day.”
“I was going to give you a blowjob under your desk,” Chirrut said, and a yawn caught him by surprise as Baze sputtered.
“I never would have heard the end of that,” he finally managed, affection making his words soft around the edges.
“Have you—” Chirrut stopped to yawn again. “Have you ever had phone sex, Baze?”
“I’m not having phone sex with you, Chirrut,” Baze said firmly, but Chirrut smiled, hearing the laugh in his voice.
“Maybe not tonight,” he said, sleep burring his tongue. “Goodnight, Baze.”
So it turns out packing two households, getting mine set up, driving two hours to work and back, AND keeping children fed and clothed and in school tends to cut into the writing time a bit. *flops facedown* That being said, the insanity should begin to settle down soon, which means the updates should pick up at a more frequent pace. Thanks for sticking with me!
Update on me: settled into my new apartment, but still driving the grueling commute back and forth to get stuff down here, which sucks. We're getting close to the end though, not much further to go!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bodhi was laughing at a corny joke Luke had cracked when they walked out the school doors and saw Baze leaning against his motorcycle at the curb, big arms crossed over his burly chest.
The laughter died in Bodhi’s throat and he glanced away. Baze had straightened, he saw out of the corner of his eye, smiling down at Jyn running over to him, glossy brown hair bouncing.
Jyn waved at Leia, who blew her a kiss, and Luke jostled Bodhi’s arm.
“Blocking traffic. What’s got you spooked?”
Bodhi took a step to the side, looking for his bus. “Figure it out,” he snapped. He hitched his book bag higher as the bus rolled forward and Luke made a sound of comprehension, beside him.
“You know that wasn’t your fault, right?”
Bodhi swung around and Luke took a step back, raising his hands.
Bodhi opened his mouth to reply but Baze was walking toward them, imposing in his motorcycle leathers, jacket unzipped in concession to the encroaching summer warmth.
“Can I speak to you, Bodhi?” Baze said. There was nothing but friendliness in his voice but Bodhi stiffened further.
Luke cleared his throat. “Catch you later, Bo.” He slunk away as Bodhi hurled mental invectives at his retreating shape.
Baze gestured toward the side of the walk, out of the way of the students boarding buses. “Let’s talk over here.”
Bodhi followed him, unsure what to say.
Baze smiled at him. His eyes creased, warming his face. “You’re not in trouble, son. I actually had a question for you.”
Bodhi waited, tongue-tied.
“Would you like to work at my garage over the summer?”
Time froze for one crystalline moment. “I—what?”
“I’d like you to apprentice to me,” Baze said.
Baze’s eyes softened more. “It was his idea.”
Bodhi jerked backward, feeling like he’d been hit. “What?”
Baze looked suddenly alarmed. “Don’t get upset, Bodhi—”
“What do you mean, it was his idea?”
“I mean, he asked if I would consider taking you on. And I have, and I’d like to, so that’s why I’m here.”
“No.” Bodhi shook his head, pain and guilt carving his chest open. He hugged his ribs in a vain attempt to keep himself from shattering and took another step back. “No, I’m—I can’t, I can’t work for you, I’m sorry—”
His bus was rolling away from the curb. Bodhi launched himself around Baze’s blocky form, catching his foot on the pavement and nearly falling.
“Wait!” he shouted, waving his arms.
Grudgingly, the bus slowed and the doors folded open. Bodhi stumbled on without looking back and staggered for a seat. Sinking onto the hard plastic, he folded forward and wrapped his arms around his knees, fighting back a sob.
Chirrut was in the kitchen when Bodhi came through the front door. Early classes today, Bodhi remembered.
“No electives today?” Chirrut called. “Come taste this for me.”
Bodhi dropped his backpack but couldn’t do more than touch Kyber’s head as he trudged through the hall into the kitchen.
Chirrut was standing at the stove, his head cocked and face intent. “What is it?” he asked.
Bodhi said nothing. Shame sat cold and leaden in his stomach. He sat at the table and Chirrut put the spoon down and crossed to his side.
He reached for Bodhi’s face and Bodhi jerked away, turning his head and closing his eyes against the stinging rush of tears.
Chirrut didn’t move, hand still half-outstretched, and Bodhi choked back a sob.
“How could you,” he managed.
“How could I what?” Chirrut demanded. “Bodhi, what’s wrong? Talk to me!”
“How could you ask Baze to take me on as an apprentice?”
Something like guilt flickered over Chirrut’s face. “It’s what you want.”
“No,” Bodhi flung at him.
Chirrut reached out again and Bodhi nearly overturned the chair in his scramble to get away. Chirrut flinched visibly and took a step back.
“I don’t—” Bodhi swallowed the pain at how fragile his father looked, standing in the middle of the kitchen with his shoulders hunched and tears in his eyes. “I won’t do it. Dad, I can’t—don’t ask this of me. I won’t leave you, don’t you get it? Why would you ask me to?”
Chirrut’s throat worked. “It’s all you’ve ever wanted,” he said, almost too low to be heard. “I can’t—I won’t hold you back from that any longer. I hate myself for denying you for so long.”
“I didn’t ask you to do this!” Bodhi cried. “Dad, how could you even think—”
Chirrut took a quick step forward and checked himself. “I know you didn’t ask,” he said. His voice was unsteady, and Bodhi wrapped his arms around his ribs again as more guilt shivered through him. “But you want it, don’t you?” Chirrut continued.
Bodhi opened his mouth and closed it again. Silence pooled around them, thick with unspoken emotion.
Chirrut nodded once. “That’s why,” he said softly. “I’m done, okay? I’m done being afraid for you, I’m done stifling your needs because they don’t mesh with mine. I won’t do it anymore. So you’ll go work for Baze over the summer. You’ll keep your grades up, and when you’re ready, you’ll go to college and you’ll get a degree in business so you can open your own garage or whatever it is you want to do.” He held out a hand, pleading silently, and Bodhi choked on another sob and rushed into his arms.
Chirrut caught him with a grunt and held him while Bodhi clung to him, the tears flowing.
“I love you,” he whispered into Bodhi’s hair. “I love you so much, Bodhi-bird. I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy,” Bodhi managed, pressing his face harder against Chirrut’s shoulder.
“Not as happy as you could be,” Chirrut murmured. He rubbed Bodhi’s back.
“I know,” Chirrut said. He smoothed Bodhi’s hair off his damp face and smiled down at him. The smile was a little wobbly, but it was genuine.
Bodhi leaned into his hand and closed his eyes, heart lifting a fraction. “I have to apologize to Baze.”
Chirrut huffed a quiet laugh and kissed Bodhi’s forehead. “Something tells me he’ll forgive you. And if he won’t, well… I’m sure I can find a way to convince him.”
Bodhi recoiled. “Ew! Dad, gross.”
There was no questioning the sincerity of the laugh that bubbled out of Chirrut’s throat at that, and Bodhi’s heart lifted a little more. He stepped back into Chirrut’s arms.
“I love you, Dad,” he whispered.
“I love you too, Bodhi-bird.”
Bodhi smiled against Chirrut’s shirt. “You haven’t called me that in ages .”
“Just wait until I use it in front of your first boyfriend,” Chirrut teased.
Baze was so wrapped up in thinking about Bodhi’s reaction to his offer that he failed to notice the small, beat-up car parked in front of his house until it was too late.
He swore under his breath but the driver had already seen him and was unfolding from the front seat, tall and willowy as ever in her flowing skirt and figure-hugging tank top.
“Mom!” Jyn said, voice muffled by the helmet. Baze stopped the bike and Jyn scrambled off the back, pulling her helmet off and grinning incandescently at her mother, who held out her arms.
Baze rolled the motorcycle into the garage as they hugged, taking his time about removing his own helmet and reappearing. He couldn’t delay it forever, though, so finally he sighed and stepped out onto the grass.
Jyn was talking a blue streak, arms flailing wildly, and Alyssa was smiling bemusedly at her. Her heavy hair had pink streaks fading through it, only barely visible against the dark blonde. Bracelets of ivory and jade and brass jangled on both slim wrists, and her arms were smooth and pale under the afternoon sun, not even a freckle marring their perfection.
“Hello, Alyssa,” Baze said.
Alyssa smiled at him. “You’re looking well, Baze. Still letting our daughter ride that death-trap, I see.”
Baze bristled but Jyn spoke first.
“Oh, don’t, please. Please don’t fight, not already.”
Baze pushed the irritation down and took a deep breath. “What brings you by, Alyssa? Last I heard, you were in Connecticut.”
Alyssa shrugged. “Got bored.”
“Ran out of money?” Baze guessed.
Thunder veiled Alyssa’s eyes, lids dropping and mouth tightening, but Jyn forestalled the outburst by catching her arm and pulling her toward the front door.
“I want to tell you about Leia,” she said.
Baze followed more slowly, cursing his thoughtless tongue. Keep the peace, don’t upset Jyn.
In the kitchen, Jyn was regaling Alyssa with stories about Leia as she set drinks out for everyone.
“She’s so smart, and funny, oh my god she makes me laugh so much, and she’s going to run for Senate, she says she’s going to be President of the United States some day!”
Alyssa’s eyebrows climbed her smooth brow. “And are you two… dating?” She slanted a look at Baze, who took a chair and said nothing.
“We’re just friends,” Jyn said. “She’s going to Berkeley after she graduates. Papa, I want to go to Berkeley. We’re going to room together.”
Baze choked on his beer. When he’d recovered, wiping his streaming eyes, Jyn and Alyssa were both regarding him silently.
“Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea how much a school like that would cost?”
Jyn clouded over, mouth forming a pout.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Alyssa said soothingly. “Maybe you could get a scholarship.”
“Students in different grades don’t usually room together,” Baze couldn’t help pointing out.
Jyn’s chin jutted. “It's not unheard of, and anyway, Leia’s father knows the dean.”
“Of course he does.” Baze rubbed his face. “Jyn, I want you to attend college because you’re actually serious about your education, not because your favorite person is there. Do you even know what major you’re going for?”
“Not yet,” Jyn said, lifting her chin. “But Berkeley’s one of the best colleges in the country and I’ve been looking at the courses they offer and I think it’d be a really good fit for me. I want to major in some kind of art-related field, photography or photorealistic art or something, I don’t know, but I’m not just going because of Leia, okay? I actually want to attend for me .”
Baze looked at her thoughtfully but before he could speak, Alyssa jumped in.
“Don’t worry, honey, of course you can go. We’ll figure it out, okay?”
Jyn lit up and swooped in to kiss her mother’s cheek before dashing from the room. “I have to tell Leia!” she shouted over her shoulder as she ran.
“Going to see the dolphins tomorrow!” Alyssa called after her.
Baze sighed heavily and set his drink down.
“Oh, don’t be like that,” Alyssa said, flicking blonde and pink hair over her shoulder.
“You know I hate it when you do that,” Baze said.
“You were going to say yes,” Alyssa said, nose in the air.
“Maybe,” Baze countered. “I hadn’t—haven’t—decided, and I really don’t appreciate you saying she could go before I could make that decision. Now I’ll be the bad guy if I have to tell her no.”
“I thought I was her mother,” Alyssa snapped, bristling. “Don’t I get a say?”
Suddenly furious, Baze leaned forward. “You gave that up when you walked out on her when she was four years old and didn’t come back for five years. She didn’t even know who you were when you showed up again.”
“She’s still my daughter and I love her,” Alyssa protested, and Baze could see Jyn in the jut of her jaw.
That more than anything tempered the words he wanted to hurl, and instead he sat back with a deep sigh.
“Why are you here, Alyssa?”
Alyssa fidgeted, worrying a tassel on the tablecloth between her fingers.
Baze waited. She’d always been a flighty thing. It had been charming when they were sixteen, less so when they were twenty and dealing with a colicky baby. But Baze had finally learned there was no changing her—she was a butterfly, fleeting and ephemeral, and to pin her down would be to kill her.
That didn’t mean he had to like the devastating effect she had on Jyn, though, the way she came through and disrupted everything, got Jyn’s hopes up only to dash them when she remembered that parenting came with responsibilities and flitted off again.
“Lys,” Baze prompted, and Alyssa sighed gustily.
“Fine, fine, I need a loan, okay?”
“How much this time?” Baze said.
“Five thousand,” Alyssa said, and rushed on before Baze could do more than sputter. “It’s an incredible opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the biggest thing to hit California since essential oils—”
“No,” Baze said flatly.
“You haven’t even heard me out!”
Baze pushed away from the table and stood. “Answer’s still no. You can sleep on the couch. How long will you be here?”
“I’d pay you back,” Alyssa said, standing too. “My partners say we’re guaranteed to make a profit in the first year, and—”
Baze snorted rudely. “That’s almost unheard of. Are you really trying to tell me you’re going to be bigger than Amazon in the first year?”
Alyssa looked blank.
“Amazon lost money for the first eight years of operation,” Baze said. He forced himself to take a deep breath. “Lys, these people are taking you for a ride. They’ve found an easy mark and they’re going to use your money and it’ll probably fail anyway.”
“‘Probably’,” Alyssa said. “You don’t know.”
“No, my crystal ball is on my dresser,” Baze snapped. “But the balance of probability tells me your odds aren’t good. Do you have a business plan? A mockup of overheads, storefront costs, projected earnings and losses for the first few quarters?”
Alyssa opened and closed her mouth. She looked small, suddenly, breakable, and Baze steeled himself against the inevitable sympathy.
“You can stay for a couple of days,” he said. “I’m going to make dinner. Hungry?”
“Why do you always do this?” she hissed suddenly.
Baze swung around, startled. “Do what, make sense?”
Alyssa clenched her fists. “Ruin everything.”
“That’s going a bit far—” Baze started, but Alyssa cut him off.
“All you do is see the downsides of everything. ‘It’ll never work, Alyssa’, ‘it’s unbearably naive of you to even consider this, Alyssa’, ‘why don’t you ever think about the consequences of your actions, Alyssa?’ You don’t support me, you never have, all you ever do is complain and be grumpy and snap at anyone who tries to be nice to you.”
Baze stared at her, mouth hanging open, as Alyssa snatched her purse off the chair.
“You’ll never find anyone who puts up with you half as long as I did,” she flung at him, and stormed out, righteously indignant footsteps receding down the hall until the door slammed and Baze was alone, staring after her.
After a few minutes, he went to find Jyn. He discovered her sitting on the stairs, knees drawn to her chest and her arms wrapped around them.
“Oh, petal,” Baze said, and knelt to hug her.
Jyn allowed him to pull her close, obviously fighting tears. “I should be used to it,” she said, cheek to Baze’s chest. “Why does it still h-hurt?”
“Because she’s your mother and you love her,” Baze said gently.
“Then why doesn’t she love me?” Jyn burst out, and the tears won.
Baze held her as she cried, rubbing her back like he had when she was a colicky baby and couldn’t sleep for the pain, only able to rest when someone was carrying her.
“She does,” he finally said, when Jyn’s sobs slowed. “She does, blossom. Your mother… is complicated. She adores you, I know she does, but she’s… unpredictable. She’s not steady. She runs to whatever holds her interest, and it’s not your fault that she left, do you understand? I know it feels like you're not interesting enough or not good enough, but that's not true. The fault is in her. You are perfect, you're wonderful, and it's her loss that she never sticks around long enough to see that. I know it hurts. It’s okay to be angry, even. But don’t hold the bitterness in your heart, okay? It’ll just end up hurting you.”
Jyn sniffled and wiped her wet face on Baze’s shirt.
“Do you want me to take you to see the dolphins tomorrow?” Baze asked.
Jyn nodded, hiccupping. “Can Leia come?”
Baze huffed an affectionate laugh and kissed her hair. “Sure.”
Despite his words, though, he couldn’t help the nagging sense of unease that ate at him all the next morning. Jyn had bounced back quickly with the natural resilience of youth, and Baze watched as she and Leia pointed at the dolphins breaching the surface beside the ship. He forced a smile when Jyn glanced back at him, cheeks pink and hair whipped by the sea breeze, but it slid from his face as soon as she faced the sea again.
As if on cue, his phone vibrated. It was a text from Chirrut.
Bodhi’s spending the night at Luke’s. Come for dinner?
Baze stomach turned over and he looked up at Jyn. The phone buzzed again.
Want to talk about something.
“Papa!” Jyn shouted, pushing her hair off her face. “Can I go to Leia’s tonight?”
Alyssa was right. He wasn’t mate material, and it had been stupid of him to think he could have something for himself. Stupid and selfish. He had Jyn to think of, he couldn’t risk breaking her heart yet again when it went wrong. It was time to end this.
Baze swallowed hard. “Yeah,” he called. “Yeah, that’s good, I’ve got plans too.”
If I haven't said it recently, you can always find me on Tumblr where you can scream at me all you want about the shenanigans I'm putting our beloved characters through. :D
WARNINGS FOR: sex (and angst?)
On the sidewalk outside Chirrut’s house, he straightened his shirt again and tried to calm his nerves. This is the right thing, he reminded himself. This is what Jyn needs.
Kyber barked from somewhere in the house when he rang the doorbell, nails clicking on the hardwood floor as she rushed toward the front door.
Baze could hear Chirrut’s footsteps not far behind her, and he braced himself, rehearsing his speech yet again in his head. I’m sorry, but this can’t continue—
Chirrut swung the door wide but Baze didn’t have a chance to do more than open his mouth before Chirrut had launched himself forward.
Baze caught him, grunting, as Chirrut wrapped his arms around Baze’s neck and pulled him down into a hot, hungry kiss.
He was a warm, solid bundle in Baze’s arms, and Baze bit back the groan. He wanted, he wanted so much, but he couldn’t—
“Wait,” he managed. “Chirrut, wait—”
Chirrut pulled away just enough so Baze could breathe. “It’s been a week, Malbus,” he husked. “I’ve been going crazy and you can’t tell me you haven’t too. Get in here.”
He caught Baze’s hand and pulled him inside, kicking the door shut with unerring accuracy.
“Kyber, kennel up,” he ordered, and dragged Baze down the hall toward the bedroom.
“What about dinner?” Baze protested, balking.
“It’ll wait,” Chirrut said over his shoulder. In his spacious bedroom, he flicked on the lights with a saucy grin that pulled an unwilling laugh from Baze and then stepped in close.
Baze swallowed hard at the heat pouring off Chirrut’s sturdy form. Of course Chirrut wasn’t going to make this easy on him.
Chirrut cupped Baze’s groin and hummed appreciatively. “Looks like you’ve missed me too.”
Baze closed his eyes. One last time. Since I can’t have him again, surely—
“Are you okay?” Chirrut asked, a crease forming on his forehead. “Baze, if you need—”
Baze lunged forward and caught Chirrut’s mouth in a bruising kiss, desperate with all the things he couldn’t say. Chirrut made a noise and kissed him back willingly, stepping backward and drawing Baze toward the bed.
“Okay,” he whispered, nipping Baze’s jaw lightly before letting Baze lower him to the mattress. “I’m here. Come on, then.”
Baze kicked his shoes off and crawled onto the bed after him as Chirrut tipped his head back, baring his throat invitingly. For the first time, Baze got a look at what he was wearing. Another crop top—he loved showing off his midriff, not that Baze blamed him—and what looked like actual harem pants in a garish green and yellow print.
Baze couldn’t help his laugh. “Dear God, did Bodhi prank you again?”
Chirrut wriggled, crossing his arms beneath his head so the top rode up. “Excuse you, this is comfortable and sexy. ”
Baze flattened a hand on Chirrut’s abdomen, savoring his intake of breath. “It might be comfortable, but only you could make it sexy.”
Chirrut’s smile was brilliant and he reached up, groping until he found Baze’s shirt and caught hold of his collar. He pulled and Baze obeyed, bending to kiss him.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered against Chirrut’s mouth. “I want—can I—”
“I want you in my mouth,” Baze blurted, grateful that Chirrut couldn’t see the blush staining his cheeks.
“Oh,” Chirrut said. His lips curved and he thumbed Baze’s cheekbone. “I’m not going to argue. You’re beautiful too, you know.”
Baze turned his face into Chirrut’s hand briefly, fighting the grief. He wanted—he wanted to keep this. Why couldn’t he keep this?
It’s not about you, it’s about Jyn and what she needs, he told himself, and slid down the bed to straddle Chirrut’s legs.
For once, Chirrut was utterly still, seeming to be holding his breath as Baze hooked his thumbs in the waistband of the hideous pants and pulled them down and off. His mouth watered as he looked at Chirrut’s cock, resting flushed and thick against his abdomen.
“I can’t believe I’ve never tasted you,” he murmured. And now I’ll never get to again. He shook the thought off and bent, nosing along the sharp cut of Chirrut’s hip. He smelled like the soap he loved, sandalwood and cedar with a musky overlay. Baze licked a stripe along the skin and then blew on it, smiling at the shiver that induced. “Should I make you beg?” he wondered aloud.
The shudder was stronger this time. “B-Baze,” Chirrut managed, one hand coming up to Baze’s shoulder.
“Already?” Baze said. “I’ve barely even started.” He wanted to take his time, draw it out and make it last, build a vault of memories he could pull from when he needed to, but Chirrut’s hand was gripping his shoulder tight, tremors running through his perfectly toned body, and Baze took pity on him and bent his head.
He licked the tip, leaking and silken on his tongue, and glanced up Chirrut’s body to see him jam a fist against his mouth. That wouldn’t do. Baze sucked the head of his cock in and ran his tongue over the frenulum, hollowing his cheeks.
Chirrut curled forward, half-sitting up and reaching out, fingers taut and grasping as he groped for any part of Baze he could connect with, and Baze frowned. Mouth still busy, he caught Chirrut’s flailing wrists in one hand and squeezed, pulling them down and pinning them across Chirrut’s abdomen.
Chirrut made a noise and went still, utterly rigid under Baze’s hands.
Worried, Baze looked up. Chirrut was staring sightlessly at the ceiling, mouth open.
Baze pulled off. “Okay?”
Chirrut’s throat worked and he managed a jerky nod. “D-don’t stop. Please.”
Baze tilted his head. “You’ve had your dick sucked before, right?”
“I—” Chirrut’s hands flexed in Baze’s grip but he wasn’t trying to get away. “Not… really?”
Startled, Baze let go and sat up. Chirrut made a protesting sound but Baze ignored it.
“Why would I joke about that?” Chirrut demanded. He wriggled invitingly but Baze didn’t take the hint.
“How have you never had a blowjob?”
Chirrut clutched at his hair. “We’re doing this now? We’re really doing this now. I’m going to die, Baze, and you want to know why I’ve never gotten head? Can’t it wait?”
No, because I’ll never do this again. Baze kept the thought behind his teeth with an effort and waited.
Chirrut sighed noisily. “Normally I enjoy your bossy tendencies, but if I actually die, I’m coming back to haunt you.”
Baze bent and kissed Chirrut’s nipple. “Tell me,” he murmured.
Chirrut shivered and cupped the base of Baze’s skull, fingers gentle. “I only had one serious boyfriend before I adopted Bodhi,” he said. “And he didn’t like…” He shrugged. “That wasn’t his thing, so we didn’t do it. And then after Bodhi, I was so busy, I didn’t have time to date, and then the accident happened, and…”
“So you’re saying I’m your second… ever?”
Chirrut grinned, bright and mischievous. “I didn’t say that. I’m not a monk, Baze. I’ve just never—” He gestured vaguely. “Now please can we get on with it?”
“Don’t pull on my ears,” Baze warned, and Chirrut’s laugh cut off with a gasp as Baze’s mouth engulfed him.
He wrapped a hand around the base, working in steady rhythmic movements what he couldn’t reach with lips and tongue, savoring every micro-reaction Chirrut gave him. He pressed bruises into Chirrut’s thigh with his free hand, holding him still and then soothing the spots in gently rubbed circles, mouth never losing its rhythm.
The noises Chirrut made sounded dragged from him, harsh and desperate, his stomach quivering and chest heaving.
Baze hummed around his mouthful and Chirrut cried out, grabbing his shoulder.
“I’m going to—Baze, please—”
Not yet. He didn’t want it to be over yet. He didn’t want to stop, knowing he’d never have this again, never taste the sharp salt of Chirrut’s pre-come or feel the way his thighs quivered as he got closer to the brink, but Chirrut’s voice was taking on an edge of desperation, his fingers claws clutching Baze’s arm.
“Oh god, Baze, I’m gonna, Baze—” Chirrut stiffened and hot spend filled Baze’s mouth, salty and slick, as Chirrut shuddered through his orgasm in long, helpless waves.
Baze eased his grip, gentling him through it, lapping softly at the head of his cock to catch any drops he might have missed as Chirrut collapsed backward onto the bed, gasping for air.
Finally, he lifted his head and wiped his mouth. Chirrut held out a hand that still trembled, but Baze ignored it and slid off the bed.
Baze didn’t look at him, finding his shoes and bending to step into them.
Chirrut propped himself on his elbows, unselfconscious in his half-nude state. “Baze, come back to bed. What are you doing?”
“I have to—” Baze cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. I can’t—I have to go.”
Alarm flashed over Chirrut’s face and he sat up fully. “Baze, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Baze didn’t look at him. If he did, if he saw the flush on Chirrut’s cheeks, how he gripped his ankles, the way orgasm had made his limbs loose and soft, the tiny wrinkle forming on his brow, he would weaken and crawl back into bed with him, he knew he would.
“I can’t see you anymore,” he said, his face turned away.
“What?” Chirrut scrambled off the bed. “My pants—goddammit, Baze, don’t you move, what did you do with my pants?”
Baze scooped them up on one finger and held them out, brushing Chirrut’s arm. Chirrut snatched them away and dragged them on with shaky hands.
“Now,” he said once he was dressed. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry,” Baze said. He rubbed his face miserably. “I didn’t mean to let it go on so long, but I can’t let it continue. It isn’t—it’s not working.”
Chirrut didn’t move and Baze finally risked a glance at him. He was standing utterly still, hands at his sides, an unreadable look on his face.
“Let me get this straight,” Chirrut said, and his voice was dangerously soft, raising the hairs on the back of Baze’s neck. “You came over here… intending to break up with me. But you thought—what—you’d get your jollies one more time before you did that?”
“It—no ,” Baze protested. “It wasn’t like that. I wanted—”
“What?” Chirrut interrupted. “You wanted to have some fun? One last fling before tossing me aside?”
“No,” Baze repeated, but Chirrut ignored him.
“Get out of my house,” he said, deadly quiet.
“Chirrut,” Baze said. “Don’t—”
“Don’t what?” Chirrut hissed. “Don’t feel like a used kleenex? Or maybe like a toy you’re tired of playing with?”
Baze thought distantly his heart must be cracking right down the middle. He held himself together with a mighty effort. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I have to do this, I can’t—”
“Get out,” Chirrut said.
Baze swallowed the grief that threatened to tear him apart and escaped on silent feet, closing the door quietly behind him.
He was vaguely grateful the house was empty when he got home. Jyn wouldn’t be back until Sunday, which meant he had all of Saturday to wallow before pulling it together and pretending he was fine.
It took forever for him to fall asleep that night. Every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Chirrut’s stricken face, his hands clenching uselessly at his sides as he fought to hide the hurt, but Baze already knew him too well. He’d seen what his words had done to him, the wounds they’d sliced into Chirrut’s skin, and Baze couldn’t stop the guilt and shame from crashing over him in a drowning wave.
Eventually, exhausted and numb, he fell asleep.
He woke to Jyn standing over his bed, fists on hips.
Baze jerked the covers up to his armpits despite the fact that he was fully clothed. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“Have you lost your fucking mind?” Jyn snapped.
“Language!” Baze said, sitting up.
Jyn glared at him. “Have. You Lost. Your goddamn fucking mind?”
She was fairly bristling with fury, and Baze stared at her for a minute.
“You know,” he said suddenly. “How?”
“Luke and Bodhi were going to an airshow today but Bodhi forgot boots because it’s muddy so he went home and he found his father distraught oh my god Papa how could you?”
“Distraught?” Baze nearly fell out of bed. “That can’t be right. No, no, he was upset but it was just a dumb fling for him. He’ll be okay.”
“Bodhi said it looked like he’d been crying,” Jyn hurled at him.
“No.” Baze shook his head. “No, that’s not possible.” He turned in a circle, unsure what he was looking for. “He’ll be fine, blossom, it was—I handled it badly.”
“What happened?” Jyn asked, and Baze realized with a rush of horror that tears were welling in her eyes.
He caught her hands and pulled her to the bed.
“Here, sit. Let me explain.”
Jyn crossed her legs and sniffled, wiping her eyes with an impatient hand. “It better be good, like you dying of cancer or something.”
Baze’s eyebrows shot up and Jyn shrugged.
“You know what I mean.”
“Lucky for you,” Baze muttered. He shifted his weight on the bed. “Remember when your mom showed up?”
“That was two days ago, Papa, of course I do.”
“Right. Well, remember how you felt when she took off again?”
Jyn’s mouth fell open. She jerked her hands away from Baze’s and shot to her feet. “If you broke up with Chirrut because of me, I will never forgive you .”
Baze patted the bedspread a little desperately. “Please, petal, sit down.”
Baze groaned. “Jyn. Sit. I can’t have this conversation with you hovering.”
Jyn sank reluctantly to the mattress, perched on the edge like a malevolent bird, and Baze rubbed his face.
“You are… the most important thing in my life,” he began.
“That doesn’t mean—”
Baze held up a hand. “You have been since you were put in my arms in the hospital, all red and wrinkled and pissy. I would do anything for you, flower, do you understand that?”
“Yes, but Papa—”
“That means,” Baze forged on, “that means not putting you through the same kind of shit your mother puts you through several times a year. That means not getting involved with someone who’ll disrupt your life and make things harder on you. That means staying focused on making sure you graduate and get to a good college and keeping your home life stable and grounded so you don’t have to worry and fret, don’t you see? It means you come first. Always.”
Jyn shook her head. “No.” She met his eyes, anger still sparking in her own. “It means you’re a coward, Papa.”
“Whoa, hey,” Baze protested.
“No, it’s true,” Jyn snapped. “You’re too afraid to go after him because ‘what if’. ‘What if’ something happens? I see how you are every time Mom shows up. You’re scared . You’re afraid of it blowing up in your face. Well guess what—that’s life! Life is messy! I’m sixteen years old, I can handle it if you and he break up because you’re really not right for each other, I’m not a baby. I’m not going to fall apart if it doesn’t work out, I’m not made of porcelain, and quite frankly, I resent the fact that you think I’m that delicate!”
Baze stared at her, mouth hanging open, but Jyn wasn’t done.
“He makes you happy. I think you’re probably in love with him, but in any case, you fucking deserve to have something that makes you happy and how dare you use me as an excuse to hide from that just because something might happen?”
She sucked in air, gray eyes snapping, but Baze couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Anyway, Chirrut’s nothing like Mom,” she continued. “He owns his own business, Papa, he’s raising a son on his own, he’s stable and hard-working and responsible, and he makes you happy.” Her chin quivered suddenly. “I’m scared too, Papa. I’m so scared. I’m scared Leia won’t ever love me back. I’m scared I’ll never find out who I am. I’m scared I won’t like who I am if and when I do figure it out. I’m scared all the time. But I’m not scared of you and Chirrut getting together. Okay? So don’t you dare hide behind me as your reason for going after what you truly want.”
Shame flooded Baze and he covered his face. Small hands tugged on his wrists and he lowered them to see Jyn in front of him, big eyes pleading.
“Go back and apologize to him,” she said.
Baze blew out a breath that was half-laugh, half-sob, and gathered her into his arms. “I’m—he doesn’t want to see me again,” he said, holding her close. “I really fucked up.”
“He loves you too,” Jyn said against his shirt. “I’ve seen it. Bodhi’s seen it. We both know.”
“God.” Baze held his daughter and stared at the wall. “I don’t even know how to fix it,” he finally admitted.
“You’ll figure it out,” Jyn said, and the serene faith in her voice made Baze’s eyes sting. “You love him, don’t you?”
Baze leaned back enough to see her face and she smiled up at him. Impulsively, he kissed her forehead.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But I think—I think I do. I know the thought of being without him makes me—” He swallowed hard.
“Yeah,” Jyn said. “Go get him back, Papa.”
“It just happened yesterday!” Baze protested. “Shouldn’t I give him some time to, I don’t know… adjust?”
Jyn gave him a flat look.
“Okay, you’re right.”
Bodhi answered the door when Baze rang the doorbell. His eyes were cold.
Baze spoke before he could. “I know you’re angry, but is he here?”
“Why do you care?” Bodhi said, clinging to the door. “You broke his heart, what do you want now? You want to kick him while he’s down?”
“I broke—” Baze cut himself off. “I want to fix it, Bodhi, I swear. Please, can I talk to him?”
Bodhi stared at him, searching his expression. “What do you mean, ‘fix it’?”
“I mean I fucked up,” Baze said baldly. “I hurt us both because I thought it was what I had to do, but it wasn’t, I can’t—please, Bodhi. Let me make this right.”
Bodhi’s face crumpled. “You hurt him so bad,” he whispered.
Guilt prickled Baze’s throat. “I know,” he managed. “I’m trying—I’m trying to put it right, son, I am.”
Bodhi wiped at his face. Baze ached to comfort him but kept still. Finally, Bodhi heaved a sigh.
“He went to the studio.”
“He doesn’t have classes today, it’s Saturday,” Baze said, startled.
“He said he wanted to clean up. I think he wanted to be alone, mostly. He even left Kyber here.”
“Okay.” Baze nodded. “I have to go. Thank you.”
“If you hurt him again,” Bodhi said, suddenly fierce, “I’ll kill you myself and they’ll never find the body.”
Baze looked at the fine-boned teenager, eyes like a hawk in his sharply drawn face, and a new respect filled him.
“I’m going to do my best to never hurt him again,” he said quietly. “I have to go now, but if you need to yell at me later, like Jyn did, please know that you have my permission. I deserve it.”
Bodhi blinked but couldn’t seem to find words. Baze mustered a smile and left him in the doorway.
He parked outside Chirrut’s yoga studio and lifted his hands off the wheel, scowling at the way they trembled.
Don’t be stupid, he told himself sternly. Go in there and fix this best you can.
What if he doesn’t forgive me?
“You don’t deserve to be forgiven,” he said aloud, and got out of the truck.
The shades were drawn but the door was unlocked when Baze tried it. Inside, it was dark, the only light filtering in around the edges of the windows. Baze stood still, letting his eyes adjust.
“I’m closed,” Chirrut said from near the center of the room. His voice sounded… odd, Baze thought. “Next class is Monday, please—”
Baze’s eyes finally adjusted enough to see in the dimly lit room, and he realized with a surge of worry that Chirrut was sitting on the floor.
“Are you okay?” he blurted before thinking better of it.
Chirrut froze. “What—what are you doing here?”
Baze groped for the bank of light switches on the wall and flicked several on at random. A lamp in the corner glowed with soft yellow light and revealed Chirrut scrambling to his feet, multihued rocks scattered around him on the floor, and Baze caught his breath in horror as he realized Chirrut must have knocked over the bowl of stones again and had been sitting in the middle of the mess.
“Are you okay?” he demanded.
Chirrut wiped his face with his sleeve and lifted his chin. “I’m fantastic,” he said, lip curling. “Why do you care?”
“Don’t move,” Baze said. “Let me get the rocks picked up so you don’t slip on them.”
He went to his knees and began scooping the smooth stones into a pile. He didn’t look at Chirrut, who was standing perfectly still above him, until he’d picked up the last handful and put them back in the bowl.
Then he stood too. “You really do need to find a better place for that.”
Chirrut’s mouth wobbled and then firmed. “Why are you here?” he whispered. “Haven’t you—”
“I need to tell you something,” Baze said.
“I think you’ve said enough, don’t you?” Chirrut turned and Baze stopped himself before he reached out and caught his arm.
“Jyn’s mother left when she was three years old,” he blurted.
Chirrut stopped, back to Baze and profile lit by the golden glow of the lamp.
“I was…” Baze struggled to breathe. “I was practically a kid myself. Trying to figure out how to get my life together and raise a baby on my own and find a good job—” He swallowed around the glass lodged in his throat. “Alyssa stayed gone for five years the first time. And then she came back. With presents and pretty clothes and prettier stories of all the things she’d done and the things she and Jyn would do together.”
Chirrut slowly swiveled until he was facing Baze, a few feet away.
Baze forged on. “Jyn fell in love with her, and who wouldn’t—I certainly did, all those years before, and she ate up everything Alyssa told her. Alyssa said she was home for good, she was going to find a job and live near us and share custody of Jyn—”
He closed his eyes, remembering.
“So when we woke up one morning to Alyssa gone and a note on the kitchen table explaining that she was sorry but she just had to go see the butterflies or some shit, I don’t even remember but I know it was bullshit, okay, Chirrut—it destroyed Jyn.” He could feel hot tears sliding from his eyes but he ignored them. “All she wanted was her mother, but Alyssa couldn’t stay still long enough to give her that.”
Chirrut hadn’t moved, barely seeming to breathe.
“I’ve spent the last thirteen years trying to make sure she has someone she can depend on,” Baze continued. “Someone who’ll never fuck with her head the way Alyssa does. Everything I did… it was all for Jyn.”
“So why are you here?” Chirrut repeated.
Baze wiped his face. “She tore me a new asshole when she found out what I’d done to you,” he admitted. “Because I fucked up. I—” He gulped. “I fell in love with you, and I panicked.”
He couldn’t breathe for the boulder on his chest, afraid to even look at Chirrut, to see how he was taking it.
“I didn’t—Jyn was right. I used her as an excuse, but I’m—I was scared. Am scared.” He rubbed his face. “I’m fucking terrified,” he said into his palms.
Chirrut’s hands were warm when they covered his and pulled them gently away from his face. There were tears in his eyes.
“What are you afraid of?” Chirrut asked, almost too quietly to be heard.
Baze couldn’t move, afraid of dislodging Chirrut’s touch. “This?” he managed. “Us. A relationship, I guess. What if it goes wrong? I didn’t mean to fall in love with you, I—”
Chirrut squeezed his hands. “You think I’m not scared?” he whispered. “I don’t know how to do this. I have no idea what I’m doing. We can figure it out together. Isn’t that what couples are supposed to do?” A tear spilled down his cheek and Baze reached out before he thought about it, thumbing it away. Chirrut’s breath caught and he turned his face against Baze’s palm.
“I’m so sorry,” Baze managed. “I hurt you, I hurt you so much, it was the last thing I ever wanted to do, and if you don’t love me back, or you think you can’t, maybe sometime in the future, that’s okay, I’ll—”
Chirrut covered Baze’s mouth on a laughing sob. “Shut up, you idiot, of course I love you too, of course I do, how could I not?”
Baze stared at him over his hand. Chirrut caught the back of Baze’s neck and pulled him down into a searing kiss.
Chirrut’s lips were salty and sweet, and Baze wrapped his arms around him and tugged him close, plastering their bodies together as he devoured Chirrut’s mouth in hungry sweeps of his tongue.
When they broke for air, Chirrut swayed, looking dazed.
Baze huffed a laugh. “Don’t move.”
He crossed to the door in a few quick steps and threw the lock, then was back before Chirrut could even react, catching Chirrut’s arms and walking him backward, until his shoulder blades hit the wall with a thump.
Chirrut’s eyes went wide and his throat bobbed. “What are you—”
Baze pushed him against the wall, enough to make his point, and then let go. “Don’t move.” He dropped to his knees, hiding his wince at the impact, and reached for the waistband of Chirrut’s pants.
“Not here!” Chirrut hissed, grabbing at his hands, but there was no heat behind the words and he didn’t really try to stop Baze from pulling the pants down off his rapidly growing erection.
Baze tilted his head back, assessing Chirrut’s expression. “Do you want this?” he inquired, sitting on his heels.
“I’m—I shouldn’t,” Chirrut husked.
“Not what I asked,” Baze pointed out.
Chirrut’s head thumped against the wall and he groaned.
“You want to do this,” Baze said, grinning suddenly. “You want me to suck you off right here so you can think about it the next time you’re teaching a class of bored, horny housewives, how your boyfriend gave you the best blowjob of your life against this wall.”
A choked noise ripped from Chirrut’s chest and he folded forward, knees buckling. Baze caught him as he fell, burying his face in Chirrut’s throat and holding on.
“I love you,” he whispered into golden skin. “I love you so much, please let me make up for what happened the last time I did this.”
Chirrut was trembling, clinging to Baze’s shoulders, but he managed a shaky nod. “You’re not—” He swallowed again. “You’re not going to blow me and then break up again, are you?”
“No,” Baze said, tightening his grip. “I promise, sweetheart. Never again.”
“Okay,” Chirrut said, and lifted his head enough to press a kiss on Baze’s jaw. “How do you want me, then?”
“On your feet,” Baze said, smacking Chirrut’s ass. “Back where I had you.”
Chirrut scrambled to his feet and flattened his back against the wall as Baze watched in appreciation. Long, lean legs, sleek and sparsely haired, muscles shifting under the perfect skin, the sharp vee of his hips under the shirt he was still wearing and—Baze’s mouth watered. Chirrut’s cock was returning to full hardness, flushed and leaking from the tip, and Baze leaned forward and blew lightly on it.
“F-fuck,” Chirrut said. His knees buckled briefly and Baze caught his thighs and pushed, straightening Chirrut’s legs.
“Stay there,” he warned.
“And if I don’t?” Chirrut said, but he stiffened his posture.
“I think we’ll both enjoy the consequences of that, but another time,” Baze said. He slid his hands up Chirrut’s legs, tracing the lines of his hips as Chirrut shivered. Then he drew a thumbnail down the underside of his shaft, until Chirrut was shaking under his hands.
“Baze, come on,” he said. “I’m not twenty anymore, I can’t take this.”
“You can take anything I give you,” Baze growled. “But we can explore that at a later date.”
Chirrut jammed a fist against his mouth. “Fuck,” he rasped, and Baze took him deep, swallowing him down as Chirrut made a guttural, choked noise.
Baze took his time, memorizing Chirrut’s cock, driving him up the hill toward the brink over and over, and every time he felt Chirrut’s abdomen tighten and his thighs quiver, he backed off, until Chirrut was swearing in a thick, unrecognizable voice.
“Please,” he choked. “Please Baze, I want to—I need to—”
“Not yet,” Baze said, and licked the swollen head, savoring the burst of salt on his tongue and tracing the ridges.
Chirrut sobbed out loud, curling forward, and Baze smacked his thigh warningly. Chirrut made a shocked sound and caught Baze’s head as he came, hips jerking and fingers curving against Baze’s skull.
Baze hummed as he swallowed, still gripping Chirrut’s thighs until his knees gave way and he slid down the wall in a boneless heap. Then he gathered him close and tucked Chirrut’s head under his chin.
“Something else to explore?” he mused, rubbing Chirrut’s spine.
“Mmphmm,” Chirrut said, wriggling closer. “Wha’ ‘bout you?”
“Later,” Baze murmured, smiling to himself. “How was that?”
In answer, Chirrut just sighed, warm and limp in Baze’s arms. “Love you,” he whispered.
Baze tightened his grip. His knees were aching and his back was sore from the position he’d been in, but an earthquake couldn’t have budged him.
They’d figure it out. As long as they had each other.
You guys trusted me, right?
(We're not done yet, so don't leave now!)
They sat side by side on the end of the dock, legs dangling off the edge. Jyn didn’t watch the way Leia licked her ice cream cone and definitely didn’t think about kissing her and what it would be like, how her lips would be cold and she’d taste like chocolate and strawberries.
“So,” Leia said after a minute. “Your dad and Chirrut.”
“Apparently,” Jyn said. “They finally got their shit together.”
Leia laughed, white teeth flashing. “Is it serious?”
Jyn nodded, mouth full of ice cream. “I’ve never seen Papa like this. He… smiles. All the time. Makes jokes. Gets dopey when he thinks no one’s looking.”
“Gross,” Leia observed, lips curving. She hesitated. “So I have some news.”
Worry gripped Jyn. “Are you leaving?”
Leia bumped Jyn’s shoulder with her own. “Not any time soon, don’t panic. But—I have an internship with one of Uncle Bail’s old buddies from Yale. It’s over next summer, after I graduate.”
“That’s awesome!” Jyn said, even as desolation filled her at the thought of Leia going away. “For the whole summer?”
“Most of it,” Leia said. She licked a melting drop of ice cream off the cone. “And… it’s in England. He moved there about fifteen years ago, apparently. Han won’t be thrilled, but he’ll get over it.”
Jyn’s stomach sank and she struggled to find a smile. “That’s… amazing. I’m happy for you, princess.”
Leia wrinkled her nose. “That’s the worst nickname.”
“I disagree,” Jyn said, willing to be distracted. “You’re bossy and regal and you like to tell everyone what to do. It’s the perfect nickname.”
Leia laughed under her breath and leaned a little harder against Jyn’s shoulder.
“I’m so glad we’re friends,” she said suddenly. “Has your dad come around to Berkeley yet?”
“If I get a job and help pay tuition,” Jyn said. “And if I get in. There’s no guarantee that’ll even happen.”
“It’ll happen,” Leia said serenely. “We’re rooming together, after all. One year without you is going to be bad enough. If I have to take on the dean myself to get you in, I will.”
“I think you would,” Jyn said. She slipped her arm around Leia’s waist and rested her head on Leia’s shoulder.
“It’s gonna be great,” Leia said. “You wait and see.”
Three years later
“How long have you been dating?” The boy had to shout to be heard over the music and he was drunk, Jyn could tell, his eyes glassy and lips pink, but there was nothing but friendly interest on his face.
Jyn glanced across the room at Leia, talking earnestly to the RA. Her silky brown hair was longer, pinned up on top of her head, and she’d lost some of the roundness in her cheeks, but she hadn’t grown an inch since her senior year of high school, something she bemoaned frequently to Jyn when they were alone.
“We’re not,” Jyn shouted.
The boy blinked. “But—”
“Really,” Jyn said, forcing a smile. “Just friends.”
Leia crossed the room toward them and squeezed onto the sofa beside Jyn. “Scoot,” she demanded.
“Yes, princess,” Jyn said, wriggling sideways to give her room. “Anything else I can do for you, princess?”
Leia’s face rounded when she smiled, making her deep blue eyes sparkle, and Jyn leaned against her slim shoulder and grinned back at her.
The drunk boy was still watching them. “Okay, but seriously.”
Leia looked up quizzically. “What’s he on about, Jyn?”
“He thinks we’re dating,” Jyn explained over the music.
Leia’s laugh rang out, clear as a crystal bell, and Jyn hid her flinch.
“Did you explain?”
“I was just about to.”
Leia leaned forward, hand on Jyn’s thigh to steady herself. “We’re best friends,” she said, pitching her voice high enough to be heard. “Jyn’s too good for me.”
Jyn elbowed her in the ribs. “Don’t be stupid,” she hissed as embarrassment crawled up her throat in a burning rush.
“You are,” Leia said, sitting back.
She’d had a few herself, Jyn realized. Her satin cheeks were flushed and her hair was coming loose from the topknot she’d put it in before they left their dorm room.
“How much have you had to drink?” she asked before she could think better of it.
Leia gave her a haughty look. “Enough to tell Han how I really feel.”
Jyn went still. “How did that go?”
Leia hiccuped and didn’t answer.
“Okay, let’s go.” Jyn stood up and grabbed her hand, hauling her to her feet.
It was quieter in the hallway, bass thumping from the room behind them but muffled by the walls and heavy carpeting. Leia swayed and Jyn wrapped an arm around her waist.
“You need air, come on.” She towed Leia, unresisting, down the dim hall, dodging several drunk kids of indeterminate gender making out, and through the heavy door at the end.
The night air was cool and crisp, an owl calling from the tree overhead and moonlight filtering through the branches.
Jyn made for the bench under the tree and settled Leia on it before sitting next to her. “What happened?”
Leia drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I told him he was fun, I loved him as a friend, but I would never feel the way he wants me to feel.”
Jyn winced. “How did he take it?”
“Not great.” Leia put her cheek on her knee and closed her eyes, lashes thick and dark against her pale skin. “We’ve decided not to talk for awhile. He says he needs some distance.”
“Okay,” Jyn said. She ached to touch her, but Leia looked so fragile, like spun sugar ready to crumble at the slightest pressure. “But you might be able to keep him as a friend, right? I mean, once he accepts this?”
Leia lifted a shoulder without opening her eyes. “Depends on him. I don’t think he’s wired that way, but maybe.”
“Well, it’s only been, what—five years?” Jyn demanded. “Three years of high school and then two years of college and for some reason he still thinks you’ll change your mind?”
“One of Han’s greatest assets is his tenacity.” Leia sounded tired. “And I… I led him on.”
“You did not.” Jyn clenched her fists, suddenly furious. “You never once promised him anything more than friendship. I know, I was there for four years of it.”
“But I didn’t tell him no outright before now either.” A tear leaked from under Leia’s eyelid and slid down her cheek. “I should have—but I was scared, and I didn’t want to lose his friendship, and he’s one of the few people who’s always accepted not only me being trans but also—” She snapped her mouth shut.
“Also what?” Jyn asked.
Leia squeezed her eyes tighter. “Forget it.”
“Fat chance,” Jyn snapped. “Lei, I’m your best friend. Is there something you’re not telling me?” She pulled back, horror flooding her. “Do you feel like there’s something you can’t tell me? You know nothing you do or say could ever make me love you less, right?”
Leia reached out an imploring hand and caught Jyn’s wrist. “I know,” she said. “I know. I just—” She loosened her grip and slid her hand down to tangle their fingers together. “I don’t want you to look at me differently either.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Jyn said, gripping Leia’s hand. “It’s okay. If you don’t feel right sharing it—”
“No, I want to,” Leia interrupted. “I just—can’t find the words.”
Jyn waited in silence, watching Leia’s face, moonlight reflecting off her cheekbones in silver fractals that threw her dark eyes into shadow.
Finally, Leia drew a breath. “I met you four years ago. We’ve been rooming together for—this is our second year, right?”
Jyn made a noise of agreement, afraid to breathe.
“In all the time you’ve known me, have you ever seen me look at another person in a romantic or sexual way?”
“I mean… sure. There was that girl in your freshman year—you told me about her in your letters.” Those emails had somehow managed to be the best and worst moments in Jyn’s life, knowing she had to hear Leia talking about another girl and trying desperately to be happy for her.
Leia looked startled. “I’d forgotten about—okay, yeah. But we didn’t date, did we?”
“Not as far as I know,” Jyn said. It had been agony, waiting for the news to break that Leia was involved, but it had never happened and eventually Leia had stopped talking about her.
Leia’s hand was still in hers, resting there as if forgotten. “Why?”
“I’m a virgin,” Leia said in a rush, face turned away as if braced for a blow. “And I know I don’t want sex. Ever.”
Jyn stared at her.
Leia pulled until Jyn let go of her hand. “I told you. Are you going to look at me differently now?”
“Why would I?” Jyn asked.
“Everyone wants sex,” Leia spat. “It’s the human condition, right? We’re programmed for it. Coded to want it, to look for it, and if we don’t want it, then we’re broken. Garbage. To be tossed out or pitied.” She swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand. “Sex disgusts me, Jyn. I don’t even want to think about it. That’s why I’ve never had a boyfriend or girlfriend. They all, inevitably, want sex. On top of the trans thing, and trying to ground my career and do well in school, there’s just—” She shrugged again. “It’s easier not to look for love. It never works out anyway.”
Jyn’s head was spinning. “I’m—wait, hang on. So Han knew?”
“He didn’t care. He wanted sex, but he told me he wouldn’t force me into anything I didn’t want to do. I tried.” Leia looked up, tears sheening her eyes. “I did , Jyn, I tried to love him, I tried to let him be enough. I couldn’t. I wanted to vomit when he kissed me because all I could think about was how he was going to want more, I never—Han is a nice guy, a good guy, but he’s not… safe.”
Jyn nodded slowly. “Okay. No, I get that. It’s not your fault, you know that, right? You can’t make yourself feel something that’s not there.”
“It’s not fair to him, though,” Leia said, and a sob shook her shoulders. “I hurt him and I didn’t m-mean to, and—”
Jyn reached out and grabbed Leia’s arm. She pulled until Leia let herself be tugged into position, resting on Jyn’s chest, her face pressed to Jyn’s breastbone. She was still crying, small frame shaking with the force of her tears, and Jyn held her close, whispering into Leia’s soft hair.
“You’re not a bad person,” she said over and over. “This isn’t your fault. Han knows that too. He’ll tell you himself, once he gets over the hurt he’s feeling right now, and that’s not your fault either.”
Leia clutched Jyn’s shirt, fingers pressing against Jyn’s hipbone. “I want love,” she managed. “I want to be with someone. Why can’t I just be with Han? He knows everything about me and he doesn’t care.”
“Why can’t you be with me?” Jyn countered, and wanted to bite her tongue off.
Leia lifted her head and stared at her. “What?”
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” Jyn said, tripping over the words. “I meant—shit. I meant, I feel the same way about you that Han does, and now I know everything about you too, and I don’t care, it doesn’t matter to me, but my point is, you can’t make yourself love someone you don’t.”
Leia eased away and sat up, automatically smoothing out her rumpled dress. “I thought you—I figured you were over that by senior year in high school. I wasn’t there and you never talked about it—”
“Why would I talk about it?” Jyn said around the pain constricting her heart. She forced a smile. “I accepted that you didn’t feel the same way. I’m not asking you to try to change that. I was just trying to make the point that it doesn’t matter how someone feels if you don’t reciprocate.”
Leia reached unsteady hands up and pulled the pin from her hair. Glossy brown waves tumbled to her shoulders and Jyn swallowed.
“You’re drunk,” she said gently. “And you’re sad and you’re hurting, so let’s just get you into bed. We can talk more in the morning if you want.”
Leia followed her mutely across the campus. About halfway to their room, her small hand found Jyn’s, and Jyn gripped it tight as they walked.
In their cozy room, Leia crawled into her bed and Jyn pulled the covers up over her.
“Don’t go to sleep yet,” she murmured, smoothing the hair off Leia’s face. “I’m gonna get you a glass of water.”
Despite the warning, Leia was half-dozing when Jyn returned, glass in hand.
“Hey, princess, wake up,” Jyn said. She patted Leia’s shoulder and smiled when Leia turned her face against the pillow with a muffled noise. “Come on, you’ll thank me tomorrow when your head doesn’t split open.”
Leia groaned but pushed herself up on one elbow and accepted the glass. She drained it, slender column of her throat barely visible in the shadowed room, and handed it back with a sigh.
“Love you,” she whispered as she lay back down.
“I love you too,” Jyn said. She bent and kissed Leia’s rose-petal cheek and then tiptoed to her own bed.
Tucked in herself, she closed her eyes and let the tears fall for several minutes, the silent sobs reverberating through her as she struggled to keep from waking Leia.
She needed—she needed a hug. She needed someone to tell her it would be okay. On impulse, she pulled out her phone and texted Bodhi.
The reply was quick. Am now.
Jyn grimaced. Sorry. Go back to sleep.
Nah, Bodhi replied. Give me five to pee and put a shirt on?
She waited in the dark, the only light her glowing phone screen on the lowest setting, until he sent another message.
Sup? Everything okay?
Jyn slid her thumb down the edge of the phone case. Idk.
They’re fine, Jyn sent hastily. Sorry. Nothing to do with them. Just me and my stupid heart.
Did you finally tell Leia?
Jyn worried at a loose piece of skin on her lip. Not intentionally.
How’d she take it?
She’s passed out drunk, Jyn replied. Broke it off with Han for good tonight and I had to go and throw my two cents in.
How did Han react?
She blew her bangs off her forehead and stared into the darkness.
Told her he needed some space.
What did you say?
Jyn squeezed her eyes shut briefly. Nothing much. I just… said I loved her too, like Han does, and it’s okay that she doesn’t feel the same way. I was trying to make the point that it didn’t matter how another person felt, that how SHE felt was what was important.
That took guts.
Jyn scowled at the screen. I’m gonna move out, she sent.
Because this is just hurting both of us, Jyn sent, tears making it hard to focus on the screen. She feels guilty and I can’t bear it, I made it awkward, it’s better if we get some distance.
Bodhi’s reply was a long time in coming and Jyn was beginning to think he’d fallen asleep when her phone buzzed.
Sure that’s a good idea?
Nothing in my life has been a good idea, Jyn sent, wiping her face on her pillow.
She could almost see Bodhi’s eye-roll. Don’t be so dramatic. You really think leaving her is a good idea right now?
Jyn hesitated. She could just barely see Leia, asleep in a blanket-covered heap on the other side of the room.
Bodhi was still typing.
Idk, just seems to me like kicking her when she’s down.
Jyn chewed on her lip. I’ll think about it. How’s the boyfriend?
Broke up with him. He wanted sex and wouldn’t stop pushing.
Jyn glared at the screen. Where does he live.
No, you’re not beating him up for me.
I could make it look like an accident.
And this entire conversation is incriminating, but thx. You’re a good sister .
Jyn stifled a yawn. Ty for talking to me. Go back to sleep.
See you at Thanksgiving .
Jyn locked her phone and shoved it under her pillow. Leia hadn’t stirred. Sleep tugged at Jyn’s eyelids and she yawned again.
When she woke up, Leia had already left for class, but there was a note on the pillow beside Jyn’s head.
Thank you for taking care of me, it read in Leia’s perfect, flowing script. See you for dinner. xo
A week passed and Leia didn’t mention their conversation that night under the owl’s tree. Sometimes Jyn thought she caught Leia watching her, but she passed it off as her overactive imagination.
Friday afternoon, Jyn stumbled through the door and dropped her heavy bookbag with a groan of relief.
Leia was applying mascara in the mirror attached to her bedside table. “What took you so long?” she said without looking away.
“Professor Krennic is an evil bastard who delights in torturing us all with as much extra bullshit as he can get away with.”
Jyn collapsed facedown on her bed as Leia made a commiserating noise and switched to the other eye.
Finally, Jyn rolled sideways and looked at her. “You got a date I don’t know about?”
“Yeah, with you,” Leia said. Her lips curved and she bent to pick up her favorite lipstick, carmine red that perfectly complemented the red blouse she was wearing. “Get dressed so we can go. I’m hungry.”
“I’m tired,” Jyn protested.
“There’ll be food we don’t have to cook,” Leia cajoled. “And no dishes to wash after. Come on, Jyn, please?”
Jyn groaned again but she pushed herself to her feet and grabbed her shower caddy, then trudged for the communal bathrooms.
In their favorite booth at Citrus, Jyn stared at the menu. Leia seemed on edge, fidgeting with a napkin and sneaking glances at Jyn from under her eyelashes, but Jyn didn’t push. Whatever was bothering her would be revealed when Leia was ready.
“I think I want fish,” Jyn mused. “You?”
Leia didn’t say anything.
Jyn glanced up. Leia was staring into space, her eyes distant. “Lei?”
Leia jumped. “Sorry! Yes?”
“Where are you?”
“Nowhere,” Leia said, fingers busy shredding the napkin. “Here, I mean. I’m here.”
Jyn squinted at her but let it drop. “What do you want to eat?”
“That butternut squash burger looks good,” Leia said absently. “I’m going to the bathroom. Tell our server I want extra avocado on the side, okay?”
Leia flashed her a smile as she slid from the booth. “Thanks, but I’ll be right back.”
Jyn gazed around the restaurant while she waited. Citrus had opened the year before, and had immediately become their favorite place to go, with its weathered plank floors, silvery with age, and huge floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed light to spill over the vintage herb prints on the walls.
Leia loved their vegan menu, and Jyn was secretly addicted to their toasted marshmallow brownie shakes, which she only allowed herself to have on very special occasions.
When the waiter arrived, Jyn placed their order and then propped her chin on her hands. It wasn’t long before Leia returned and slipped into the booth.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Food’s on its way,” Jyn said. “You alright?”
Leia nodded, but it was jerky, uncoordinated, and alarm rose in Jyn’s throat.
“Tell me what’s going on, Lei, please. You’re kind of freaking me out.”
Leia avoided her eyes. “I—I have some questions for you. Is that okay?”
“I thought you knew everything about me,” Jyn said, startled.
“Just… please, Jyn, don’t make this hard for me,” Leia pleaded.
Jyn stiffened. “Are you moving out? Are you trying to tell me you don’t want to be friends anymore? Lei, please—”
Leia waved her hands frantically until Jyn stopped talking. “I’m not, just— God, Jyn. Shut up for a minute.”
That was the Leia Jyn knew and loved. She shut up and waited.
Leia took a deep breath and met her eyes. “What’s your opinion on sex?”
Confused, Jyn shrugged. “It’s fun, I guess?”
This didn’t seem to be the answer Leia was looking for. Her mouth wobbled but then firmed. “You’ve had it, though. Right?”
“Yes…” Jyn said. “I had that ‘summer fling’ with Emma, remember her?”
Leia nodded. “That was the year I went to England for the summer. I remember.”
Jyn had missed Leia with a fierceness that bordered on desperation. In an attempt to move on, get over the unrequited pining that was making her so miserable, she’d struck up a friendship that blossomed into a romance with the sweet, dark-eyed girl who worked at the flower shop downtown.
The summer passed in slow, syrupy days, heat that made the pavement shimmer as they rode their bicycles through town and made their hair stick to their skin with sweat, laughing and challenging each other to greater speed.
Emma had always tasted like strawberries when Jyn kissed her, almost unbearable sweetness bursting on Jyn’s tongue.
She’d been shy and quiet, and Jyn thought perhaps she could have loved her, the girl who brought her flowers and tripped over her own feet when Jyn smiled at her, but then Leia had come back to town, and Jyn had known.
“Why did you break up with her?” Leia asked quietly, and Jyn blinked, recalled to herself.
“Oh…” She attempted a smile. “She wasn’t the one. It wasn’t fair to her.”
She’d cried when she’d told Emma she couldn’t see her anymore. Emma had wiped her tears away, captured her hands and kissed their palms, and then smiled at her. There were tears in her own eyes, and it had hurt Jyn to see it, like jagged shards of glass lodged in her chest.
But Emma had been sincere when she’d hugged her and told her she wished her all happiness, and pressed a lily into Jyn’s hand.
Jyn blinked, recalled to herself. “Sorry. Why do you ask?”
Leia’s napkin was a shredded pile of confetti in front of her. “Did you have sex with her?” she blurted.
Jyn’s eyebrow rose. “A couple of times.”
“Did you—was it good? Did you… like it?”
Jyn stared at her as pink bloomed in Leia’s cheeks, and something like understanding began to dawn.
“No,” she said carefully, and Leia looked up sharply, hope unmistakeable in her dark blue eyes. “I mean,” Jyn continued, “it wasn’t bad? But it wasn’t… I don’t know, it wasn’t really something I cared about. If I need… whatever, I have a vibrator.”
Leia’s mouth trembled and she firmed her jaw. “I need to ask—it’s okay to say no, by the way, but—”
“Yes,” Jyn said.
Leia’s breath caught. “I didn’t—”
Greatly daring, Jyn reached across the table to touch the back of Leia’s hand. Leia was utterly still as Jyn caressed her skin with one finger, staring at their hands as if spellbound.
“I can’t give you sex,” Leia whispered.
“I don’t want it,” Jyn said immediately, and took Leia’s hand in hers. “Lei, look at me, please?”
Leia lifted her eyes and Jyn smiled at her, hope and terror choking her.
“I’ve only ever wanted to be near you,” she managed. “For you to… see me.”
“I see you,” Leia said, her voice strangled, and a tear spilled down her cheek. “I see you, Jyn, I just didn’t think—”
A laughing sob caught in Jyn’s chest and she squeezed Leia’s hand. “We’ll figure it out. If you want me—not want me but… you know—then… the rest will come together.”
“I’ve been stupid,” Leia whispered. “You were right in front of me, and I—” She pulled on Jyn’s hand. “Come here, please?”
Jyn slid out of the booth and joined Leia on her side. She lifted a hand and wiped away a tear with her thumb.
“Do you think… you could kiss me?” Leia asked.
Jyn stiffened. “Are you sure?”
“I like kissing,” Leia said. “I just don’t—”
“Okay,” Jyn said, and swallowed hard. She leaned in, then hesitated. “I haven’t brushed my teeth—”
Leia caught her face and pulled it down to hers, swallowing Jyn’s laugh as it sputtered off. Her lips were soft and she tasted like raspberry lemonade, and Jyn couldn’t quite believe she was there, that it was Leia kissing her, and she was recalled back to earth abruptly by someone clearing their throat.
They startled apart to see their server holding several plates, a benevolent smile on his face.
“Who’s hungry?” He set the food down and Jyn tried to move back to her side but Leia caught her wrist.
“Stay?” she asked quietly.
Jyn relaxed. “Forever, princess.”
Leia’s smile lit up the room.
So I might have misjudged and there'll be one more chapter after this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The motorcycle’s rumble was loud on the quiet street, reverberating between trees losing their leaves and the houses that stood under the bare branches. Fall was in the air, crisp and cool in Bodhi’s lungs, even through the grill of his helmet.
He slowed, letting the motorcycle coast. Ahead of him was the small white clapboard house Cassian had lived in when—Bodhi shook off the memory of Cassian covered in blood, too-thin shoulders rigid with fury and shame.
It had taken close to six years of therapy and intense late-night discussions with Luke and Jyn, but Bodhi didn’t blame himself for what he’d done anymore. It had been the right thing, he knew that now. He’d saved Cassian from an ugly situation, and he would do it again if he had to.
That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, thinking about the betrayal in Cassian’s eyes.
Bodhi opened the throttle and the bike growled happily as he sped past the small house. It was time for him to go home. Jyn would be there, and Leia was coming over for dinner. Plus, Bodhi hadn’t seen Chirrut since Bodhi had left for Japan, six months earlier, and he missed him with an ache that seemed to live permanently under his breastbone.
Moving away for college had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. But Chirrut had put his foot down.
“You need this,” he’d insisted. “I’ll be fine, Bodhi-bird. I have Baze now, don’t I? You can come home for holidays, or we’ll come visit you. You can’t live your life taking care of me.”
“Baze doesn’t know how you like your tea,” Bodhi had muttered, and Chirrut had laughed and pulled him into a hug.
“He’ll learn. He won’t do as well as you, maybe, but I’ll survive.”
So Bodhi had gone to college, desperately homesick at first, but the pain easing as he made friends and found his footing.
He rounded a corner and hit the brakes, swearing. Chirrut had asked him to pick up a quart of rice milk for Leia so he could make sure her meal was fully vegan.
Bodhi did a U-turn and headed for the corner bodega and then swore again, voice muffled by the helmet, when he saw the closed sign. The next closest store was several miles away, and he was going to be late.
At a stop light, he dug his phone out and texted his father.
Grab me some kale and basmati, was Chirrut’s reply. Take your time, Leia’s running late too.
Bodhi muttered to himself and turned for the center of town and the good grocery store that was Chirrut’s favorite.
The store’s fluorescent lights cast a washed out, greenish glow on the kale as he picked out a decent bunch. Bodhi unzipped his leather jacket—the heat was on to combat the chill outside, and he was overwarm almost immediately—then headed for the pasta and rice aisle.
He was so focused on finding the brand Chirrut liked best that he wasn’t paying attention to anything else, and the startled intake of breath was his first clue that he wasn’t alone on the aisle.
He looked up to see Cassian staring at him, and Bodhi dropped the rice.
The jar it was in was plastic, so instead of shattering, it just bounced, with a clatter that reverberated inside Bodhi’s head as he scrambled to pick it up.
When he straightened, Cassian hadn’t moved. He’d filled out, Bodhi noted distantly, clutching the rice container until it dented under his fingers. His shoulders were broader, lean muscle defining his arms and chest, and he’d lost the puppy fat that had rounded his cheeks as a teenager. Dark hair fell over his forehead and he wore a short beard that somehow didn’t blur the sharpness of his jaw at all.
“Um,” Bodhi managed. He couldn’t—quite—meet Cassian’s eyes. Instead he looked at Cassian’s nose, bold and curved, and his soft lips, the way the collar of his jacket rested almost lovingly against his throat. “Hi?”
Cassian took a step forward and Bodhi flinched backward, shoulders hitting the shelf with a thud.
“Oh, no,” Cassian said, and Bodhi couldn’t read his voice, because surely that wasn’t shame and regret he was hearing. “Please, Bodhi, don’t—”
Bodhi lifted his eyes, rice still clutched to his chest. “W-what are you doing here?” he whispered. “I thought—you moved?”
“I did,” Cassian said, hands opening and closing at his sides. “I’m—I came back last year. Graduated early, got a job for a little nonprofit here.” He moved as if to take another step forward and checked himself. “I need to say something.”
Bodhi braced for it, waiting.
“I’m so sorry,” Cassian said. When Bodhi jerked his gaze up, Cassian’s eyes were full of grief. “I was young and stupid—so fucking stupid,” he continued. “I was too proud to admit I needed help, that I couldn’t escape on my own.” His mouth wobbled. “I didn’t want to drag you into my shitty life, you deserved better than that.”
There was a boulder on Bodhi’s chest, making it impossible for him to breathe, but Cassian wasn’t done.
“You were trying to help,” he said, voice unsteady. “You did help. You saved me. And in return, I spat in your face.”
Bodhi shook his head helplessly. “No, no, that’s not what happened.” He took a step forward, still scarcely daring to breathe. “You were hurting, and I exposed you to the world. I did exactly what you asked me not to do. Of course you were angry. I—” He gulped. “I betrayed you.”
“Oh god,” Cassian said, half-laughing. “We’re a fucking mess.” There were tears in his dark eyes, Bodhi realized with a jolt. “Can we—can I buy you a coffee? I want to—” He scrubbed at his face. “The grocery store is not the place to have this conversation, but there’s more to say. Or are you busy—I’m sorry, I didn’t think—”
“No,” Bodhi said. He dug his phone out with one hand, fumbling to unlock it. “Let me just let my dad know.” Dinner could wait.
He almost laughed at the prompt response he got. “He says Leia and Jyn are going to be at least another hour. I have time.”
Cassian’s finely arched eyebrows rose. “Looks like there’s a lot for you to tell me, too.”
Bodhi lifted the dented rice jar with a sheepish smile. “Let me just pay for this irreparably damaged container and then we can go somewhere.”
He was hyper-aware of Cassian beside him as he paid for the rice and kale, but Cassian said nothing, hands in his jacket pockets, posture relaxed and easy.
“Don’t you have shopping to get yourself?” Bodhi asked as he swiped his card.
Cassian’s laugh loosened something in Bodhi’s chest. “I’ll come back tomorrow. There was nothing that can’t wait.” His smile was small and private, just for Bodhi. “This is more important.”
Bodhi fumbled and dropped the card, swearing under his breath. Cassian’s smile widened and he bent to pick it up. His fingers were warm when they brushed Bodhi’s, and an electric tingle raced up Bodhi’s arm, making him shiver.
Outside the store, he hesitated. “Ah… did you drive?”
Cassian shook his head, hunching his shoulders against the cold. “Don’t have a car,” he said. “I figured we could just take yours, if that’s okay?”
Bodhi gestured at his motorcycle leathers and Cassian seemed to register them for the first time.
“Oh,” he said, and burst out laughing. “Are you on a bike?”
“We can still go,” Bodhi said hurriedly. “I have a spare helmet. Do you—ah… do you mind riding pillion?”
Cassian’s smile this time was wide and delighted, and it made Bodhi’s blood fizz, breath catching in his chest. He led the way to the motorcycle and Cassian made an admiring noise, running a hand over the sleek leather of the seat.
“She’s lovely,” he said, glancing up. “What’s her story?”
“Baze found her in a junkyard,” Bodhi said, pride swelling. He touched the handlebar with a fingertip. “1981 Yamaha Virago 750. It was basically just the skeleton when he brought her back to the shop, I thought he was crazy when he said I was going to rebuild her—with his help, of course.”
He bent and tucked the groceries in the saddlebag, then unhooked the spare helmet from the back.
“I usually don’t carry this around with me,” he said, holding it out. “But I’m moving home, so I guess you got lucky.”
Cassian’s mouth curved and he accepted the helmet. “I guess I did,” he said, but he was looking at Bodhi, not the helmet.
Bodhi’s brain shut down and he forgot how to form words. Cassian took advantage of the pause to pull the helmet on, fumbling with the faceplate.
“How do I—”
Bodhi caught his hand and pulled it away with a laugh, then flipped the faceplate up. Cassian peered out at him, cheeks squashed by the close fit, and Bodhi laughed harder, taking a step away and gasping for breath.
“Shut up!” Cassian protested, but laughter rang in his voice too.
“I’m sorry,” Bodhi managed, straightening. “You just look so disgruntled. It’s adorable.” He hesitated, realizing what he’d said, but Cassian seemed pleased, if anything, almost preening.
“So how does this work?”
Bodhi swung a leg over the seat and settled onto the leather. “Hop on,” he said, and pulled his own helmet on as Cassian gingerly clambered into place behind him.
The position meant that Cassian was pressed up against Bodhi’s back, thighs bracing his and hands fluttering like he wasn’t sure what to do with them. In a fit of courage, Bodhi caught them and settled both on his waist. Even through the leathers, he could feel the press of Cassian’s fingers and he closed his eyes and prayed briefly.
“Just hold on,” he said, and kicked the engine over.
Thankfully, the coffee shop was only a few blocks away, but Bodhi found himself wishing the ride was much longer, for the way Cassian leaned against him, chest pressed along Bodhi’s back and hands cupping his waist, and he pulled into the parking lot with a regretful sigh that he kept hidden.
When he cut the motor, Cassian sat still for a minute but then straightened and leaned away to pull his helmet off. Bodhi put the kickstand down and took his own helmet off, shaking out his hair.
He glanced over his shoulder at Cassian, who smiled at him. His eyes crinkled, smile lines fanning out around them, and Bodhi jerked his gaze away before he did something stupid, like kiss him.
Instead he slid off the bike and steadied it so Cassian could do the same. When he looked up, Cassian’s smile had disappeared, and he looked… sad, Bodhi thought. But he said nothing, following Bodhi into the little cafe.
It was warm inside, smelling deliciously of roasting coffee beans and cinnamon, and Bodhi unzipped his jacket and relaxed a fraction.
“This is one of my favorite places,” he told Cassian as they got in line. “I’m glad you gave me an excuse to come by.”
Cassian’s lips curved but he stayed quiet. When they reached the front, he asked for a black coffee. Bodhi requested a chai latte and they both tried to pay the cashier at the same time.
“I invited you,” Cassian protested, pushing Bodhi’s hand away. “I should pay.”
“No,” Cassian said flatly. “I’m paying.” He gave the cashier a bright smile and handed over a ten dollar bill.
Coffees in hand, Bodhi led him toward the back of the shop, up three stairs to a small loft area with several small loveseats and overstuffed chairs. It was empty, and Bodhi gestured at the space.
“We can talk here, pick a seat.”
Cassian chose the loveseat tucked against the wall and patted the seat next to him in clear invitation. Bodhi gulped but set his chai on the coffee table and sank down beside him. Cassian smiled at him over his coffee cup, eyes crinkling again, and Bodhi dredged up a half-smile in return.
He took refuge in his chai, sweet and milky and not too heavy on the cinnamon, and silence fell for a minute. Flute music was playing on the shop speakers, nothing Bodhi recognized, bright and wild and elemental. It reminded him of Cassian’s eyes, he thought, and almost laughed at his flight of fancy.
“So,” Cassian said, tucking his legs beneath him so he could face Bodhi on the small sofa, “tell me what’s been going on with you.”
Bodhi shook his head. “You first.”
Cassian huffed an amused breath. “That’s fair. So I went into the foster system. You knew that?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said. He cradled his chai against his chest, letting the warmth of it soak through his bones. “I—we tried to find you. Before we went to Kay’s.”
“You did?” Cassian looked startled. “I didn’t know.”
“Your caseworker said she couldn’t give us any details. All she could tell us was that you were safe and had been removed from the area, but she wouldn’t say where.”
Cassian nodded thoughtfully. “I was sent to a place in San Bernadino. They wanted me far enough away that I could make a fresh start, I guess—not run the risk of running into anyone I might have known.” He hesitated. “That day… at Kay’s.”
Bodhi nodded silently.
“I’d gotten away from the center, slipped out when no one was looking. Got in serious shit for it when I got back, but that’s not important.” Cassian leaned forward, dark eyes intent. “I was hurting,” he said. “I’m not excusing what I said, because there is no excuse for it. But I was in a strange place with a lot of other angry teens, and some jackass had picked a fight with me the night before and jumped me in the bathrooms.”
“You needed someone to blame,” Bodhi said. “I get it, I do.” He smiled ruefully. “My dad insisted on counseling, after—” He made a vague gesture. “Everything.”
“Your dad’s a pretty smart guy,” Cassian said. “I went to counseling too. Psychiatrist. Turns out I had PTSD and depression. Who knew? I’m on medication now. The doctor says the depression will probably never go away but we can manage it if I work hard.” He looked up, eyes vulnerable. “Does that bother you?”
“Why would it—” Bodhi’s brain caught up with his mouth. “I have anxiety,” he said baldly. He reached out, holding his breath, and touched Cassian’s knee. “I’ve been on medication for it since I was twelve years old. It’s never going away either.”
Cassian looked down at Bodhi’s hand and back up at his face. Something seemed to ease in his bearing, and he ran a hand through his hair.
“I went to a new foster family about six months after I left here,” he said. When Bodhi tried to draw his hand back, Cassian reached for and caught it, holding it without even seeming aware of what he was doing. Bodhi froze as Cassian rubbed his knuckles absently, eyes distant. “They were… they were pretty great, really. They got me to therapy and the psychiatrist, helped me work through medications until we found one that worked, and encouraged me to keep up my running.”
“Do you? Still run, I mean,” Bodhi asked. Anything, anything, to keep Cassian talking and holding his hand.
“Not really,” Cassian said, mouth curving. “Maybe to catch the bus in the mornings. But it got me through the rest of high school and college.”
“That’s good,” Bodhi said. Cassian’s hand was lean, the fine bones and tiny blood vessels visible below the skin, and Bodhi spent a moment admiring the architecture of it, the long, graceful fingers and the soft web between thumb and forefinger.
“Bodhi?” Cassian said, amusement in his voice, and Bodhi jerked his hand away, horrified, as he realized Cassian had asked him a question.
“I’m sorry,” he said, a blush firing his cheeks. “What did you say?”
“I just asked what you’d been doing,” Cassian said. He held very still, watching Bodhi thoughtfully, and Bodhi set his chai on the coffee table and drew his knees to his chest.
“I went to college,” he said, lifting a shoulder. “Interned with Baze at his shop over the summers. I graduated this summer but Baze wanted me to take at least six months working somewhere else. So… I’ve been in Japan, working for Yamaha.”
Cassian’s eyebrows shot up. “You went to Japan!”
Bodhi ducked his head. “Yeah. It was weird but pretty great. I learned a lot.”
“I want to visit someday,” Cassian said. “That’s awesome. And now you’re back?”
“I’m going to work for Baze for a few years, probably,” Bodhi said. “Save up and start my own garage. I’ll focus on vintage motorcycles, mostly. But I’m going to take it slow and learn all I can from Baze—he’s got a shitload to teach me.”
“Staying at home?”
“For now, but it’s pretty crowded there now. Baze moved in and Jyn’s home during school breaks and I think she’s taking a year gap before she hits the job market. I may look for a place of my own soon.”
“And Leia?” Cassian said, grinning. “Did I hear that right?”
Bodhi smiled back. “Yeah. They’ve got their own thing going. Took ‘em long enough, but it seems to work for them.”
“I’m glad,” Cassian said. “What about you and Luke?”
Bodhi blinked. “Me… and Luke?”
“Weren’t you guys…” Cassian waved a hand.
“Fucking?” Bodhi said bluntly.
Cassian winced. “I might have chosen a different word.”
Bodhi took pity on him. “We made out sometimes. Never had sex. We were mostly just best friends who kissed occasionally.”
The smile lines around Cassian’s eyes made Bodhi’s knees weaken. The relief in his face made them turn to jelly.
“Anyway, he’s somewhere in the south Pacific on a really big destroyer, flying airplanes off it at insane speeds.”
Cassian’s mouth formed an O of surprise. “Air Force?”
“Yup. Joined up right out of high school. He would have gone sooner if he could have figured out how to forge the papers. Last I heard, he was having the time of his life.”
“And what about you, then?” Cassian said. He turned the coffee in his hands, looking into the cup. “Are you seeing anyone?”
Butterflies stirred in Bodhi’s stomach and he stomped on them ruthlessly. “I broke up with my last boyfriend last year. Haven’t found anyone worth slowing down for since. How about you?”
Cassian shook his head, a shy smile curving his lips. “I’ve dated here and there but nothing serious.” He took a breath. “Turns out I’m still hung up on a boy I knew in high school.”
The world stopped. Cassian’s mouth moved but all Bodhi could hear was a dim roar in his ears. He swallowed, then swallowed again, trying desperately to work moisture into a suddenly dry mouth. Was he supposed to be coquettish? Ask who Cassian was talking about? He groaned internally. He was hopeless.
“I can’t flirt,” he finally managed. “Just put me out of my misery and tell me if it’s me.”
Cassian’s laugh was warm and genuine and lit up his eyes as he set his coffee down and then turned to cup Bodhi’s face in soft palms.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “It’s you. It’s been you since we were sixteen years old, Bo.”
“Oh, thank god,” Bodhi breathed, and pressed their mouths together.
It was awkward and clumsy and his angle was wrong. They bumped noses and Cassian recoiled, a hand over his face.
“Fuck, I’m sorry,” Bodhi gasped, his own eyes stinging with the force of the impact. He was an idiot and Cassian would never—Cassian was reaching for him, laughter in his eyes as he pulled Bodhi in.
“Come here,” he murmured, and claimed his mouth.
He tasted like coffee and something darker, wild and sweet, with an edge Bodhi would willingly let slice through him if it meant getting closer, swallowing the breath off his tongue and eating Cassian’s tiny gasps as he slipped his hands under Cassian’s jacket and caressed his sides, greedy in a way he’d never been before for every inch of skin he could find and explore.
Cassian shivered under his touch and lifted his head, one hand still cupping Bodhi’s jaw. “That—” His mouth moved but nothing came out and instead he lowered his head and took Bodhi’s mouth again, soft and slow, his tongue mesmerizing in its gentle sweeps.
Bodhi closed his eyes and held on, letting Cassian take the lead. He’d wanted this for so long, dreamed of it in so many ways, that he was afraid it wasn’t happening, that he was going to be snapped out of it at any moment.
When Cassian broke for air the second time, Bodhi squeezed his eyes shut and pressed closer.
“I don’t want to wake up,” he mumbled, nosing blindly along Cassian’s throat. He touched his lips to soft skin as Cassian tightened his grip.
“You’re not asleep, beautiful. Look, I’ll prove it.”
He pinched Bodhi’s arm and Bodhi yelped, eyes flying open. Cassian grinned at him.
“You had to resort to physical violence?” Bodhi grumbled.
“Aw,” Cassian said, his smile widening. “Come here and let me kiss it better.” But it was Bodhi’s mouth he found instead, delving in in ever bolder sweeps until they were clinging to each other and panting.
Every nerve in Bodhi’s body was awake and tingling with a scalp-prickling intensity he’d never experienced before. He felt drunk, intoxicated with the taste of Cassian’s lips and the press of his fingers, and he groped for the nape of Cassian’s neck, pulling him down until their foreheads were touching.
“Come home with me,” Cassian whispered.
“Yes—no,” Bodhi said.
Cassian straightened, looking dismayed. “I may not be the best at reading signals, but you’re giving off some pretty crossed ones here.”
Bodhi was digging through his pockets, frantically looking for his phone. When he found it, he flashed Cassian a brilliant smile.
“I have a better idea,” he said, and called Chirrut. “Dad, can we fit one more in at the dinner table?”
Cassian’s eyes went huge and he shook his head, hands over his mouth as if afraid to make a noise Chirrut might hear. But it was too late anyway. Bodhi hung up and grinned triumphantly at him, smile slipping as he realized how dismayed Cassian was.
“I can’t,” Cassian said. He looked around as if coming to earth, and Bodhi’s stomach sank. “Bo, they won’t want to see me.”
“Bullshit,” Bodhi said instantly. “Dad knows how I’ve felt about you since the beginning. He cares about you, Cass. He always has. He’ll be thrilled to see you, are you kidding me?”
“But—” Cassian’s voice was unsteady. “I’m not—”
Bodhi leaned forward, cupping his sharp jaw and tilting Cassian’s head to meet his eyes. “You are,” he said fiercely. He ran a thumb over Cassian’s lips, smiling when they parted under his touch. “I don’t even know what you were going to say but it doesn’t matter, you are. You’re—come home with me, Cass?”
Cassian groaned, dark lashes fluttering down.
“Besides,” Bodhi continued, a mischievous imp possessing him, “you don’t have a car, right? I’ll have to take you home after dinner.”
Cassian’s breath caught on a laugh and he nodded against Bodhi’s hands. “Okay,” he said helplessly. “Okay.”
Gentle reminder that I'm on Tumblr and always available for flailing at, especially over these characters
WARNING for: sex, gross shmoopy family feels
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bodhi spent the drive back to his house in a daze. Even with Cassian pressed up against his back, arms around his waist this time, a warm, solid weight keeping Bodhi from floating up through the clouds, he wasn’t sure it was really happening.
In the driveway, he put the kickstand down and took his helmet off before glancing over his shoulder to see Cassian following suit. Cassian met his eyes, worry clear on his face, and Bodhi twisted impulsively in place to kiss him, bringing a hand up to smooth Cassian’s hair, ruffled from the helmet.
“Don't,” he said against Cassian's mouth. He traced the shell of Cassian's ear, making him shiver. “It's going to be fine, I promise.”
Cassian firmed his jaw and nodded, and Bodhi swung his leg off the motorcycle and stood, smoothing his leathers.
“You should wear those every day,” Cassian said, startling him. He'd stood too, holding out the borrowed helmet.
Bodhi accepted it, blinking in surprise. “You like... the leather?” He looked up and swallowed hard at the heat in Cassian's eyes. “Oh. I'll—take that as a yes.”
Cassian took a step closer. “Maybe, after dinner—” He caught himself. “If dinner goes well—I can show you just how much I like them."
Bodhi swallowed a groan, closing his eyes, and then hung both helmets on the handlebars.
“Dinner's going to go fine,” he said, gesturing for Cassian to follow him up the path.
He didn't ring the doorbell. He just pushed the door open, and when Cassian hesitated, he caught one slim wrist and pulled him over the threshold after him.
“I'm home!” he called.
"Is that my son?” Chirrut shouted back from the kitchen. “Move, move, dammit Kyber, get out of the way, move I need to hug my son!”
Running footsteps sounded and Bodhi laughed out loud, letting go of Cassian and bolting down the hall as Chirrut rounded the corner and they collided, knocking the breath from Bodhi’s lungs as he was caught up in Chirrut’s arms.
“A beard?” Chirrut said into his hair, running a hand over Bodhi’s face, fingers soft like butterfly feet. “Who gave you permission to be this devastatingly handsome? And you’ve grown, haven’t you?”
Bodhi clutched him back, smelling coriander and cumin and Chirrut’s aftershave. “I’m half an inch taller,” he said into Chirrut’s collarbone.
“And a good twenty pounds heavier,” Chirrut said, squeezing him tighter. “Were you learning how to fix bikes over there or weight-lifting them?”
Bodhi laughed again, breathless this time, and took a step back, still holding his father’s hand. “Dad, I brought a guest.” He held out his other hand to Cassian.
Chirrut smiled and turned in the direction of Cassian’s hesitant footsteps. “Welcome,” he said. “Have we met?”
“Yes sir, we have,” Cassian said. “Th-thank you for having me.”
Chirrut’s eyebrows lifted in only mild surprise but his grip was suddenly bone-crushingly tight on Bodhi’s hand. “ Cassian ?”
Cassian shot Bodhi a look and Bodhi nodded encouragingly at him, but Chirrut had already dropped Bodhi’s hand and was stepping forward, arms out.
“Oh—” Cassian’s breath hitched and he let Chirrut fold him into his embrace. He squeezed his eyes shut and Bodhi blinked away sudden, stinging tears as he watched.
“I’m so very glad you’re here,” Chirrut said quietly.
Cassian’s mouth worked as he struggled for words but nothing came out.
“May I?” Chirrut said, lifting a hand. “I don’t usually, with random dinner guests, but I also haven’t seen you in—what is it, Bodhi, six years?”
“Close enough,” Bodhi said, clearing his throat.
“Of course,” Cassian managed, his voice wobbly. He held perfectly still as Chirrut explored his face with soft, careful fingers. Finally, Chirrut took a step back and Cassian wiped furtively at his eyes.
“Is he as handsome as I think?” Chirrut asked Bodhi.
Cassian sputtered but Bodhi just grinned.
“More so, if possible.”
Cassian made a faint fizzing sound and Chirrut laughed.
“We’re all in the kitchen,” he said. “Come on, come on, why are we standing around in the hall?”
He pulled them both along the corridor and into the kitchen, warm and bathed in rich golden light from overhead. Baze was at the stove, stirring something, and Jyn and Leia were sharing a chair, arms around each other.
A chorus of welcome and startled cries at the sight of Cassian went up, and Jyn disentangled herself from Leia and hurled herself into Bodhi’s arms.
Bodhi hugged her as Leia greeted Cassian more sedately and Baze put the spoon down and took off his apron, holding out a hand to Cassian.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” he said.
Cassian’s reply was lost as Jyn pulled Bodhi to the side and went on tiptoe to reach his ear.
“Spill,” she ordered.
Bodhi grinned down at her and stepped neatly to the side, avoiding her grasping hand, to give Leia a quick hug and turn to Baze.
Baze’s smile was wide and uncomplicated, full of love for the son he’d once told Bodhi he had never expected to have but couldn’t possibly love more than he did. Bodhi blinked away more tears and stepped into his welcoming arms.
“Hi, Papa,” he said into Baze’s chest.
Baze dropped a clumsy kiss on his hair. “How did Japan treat you?”
“Weird but good,” Bodhi said. “Sorry for the unexpected guest.” He took a step back, to Cassian’s side, and brushed the back of his hand in subtle support. “I bumped into him in the grocery store. Let’s just say I’m really glad the rice there is sold in plastic containers.”
“We’re all so glad you’re here,” Chirrut said. “Come, sit down, tell us what you’ve been doing!”
Bodhi sat next to Cassian at the table and watched his face as he told the story of his life since he’d seen them last, leaving out a few of the details he’d given Bodhi in private. He was relaxing slowly, shoulders dropping and the skin around his eyes easing as he got more comfortable, and Bodhi waited until Baze said something and everyone was looking at him before surreptitiously scooting his chair closer and taking Cassian’s hand under the table.
Cassian caught and gripped him back, a faint smile curving his mouth as he answered whatever question Baze had posed to him without missing a beat.
Bodhi hadn’t even heard the conversation, but he didn’t care. He was sitting next to Cassian, he’d been kissing Cassian just a few minutes before, and Cassian seemed to want to be there, with Bodhi, as much as Bodhi wanted him there.
Kyber pressed a cold, wet nose against Bodhi’s free hand and Bodhi smiled down at her as he rubbed her head.
“Hi, baby girl,” he said, leaning down to press his face against her hard skull as she wriggled happily in greeting. “You taking care of Dad for me?”
“Excuse me,” Baze rumbled as Bodhi straightened, “I do plenty of that too.”
“Excuse both of you,” Chirrut said, clearly nettled, “I can take care of myself .”
Baze laughed and pulled him in, tucking Chirrut up against his side. “But why deny me the pleasure?”
“They’re gross,” Bodhi said to Cassian, loud enough to be heard by both men. “I apologize in advance for any PDAs you may witness tonight.”
“I think it’s sweet,” Cassian said, smiling as he watched Baze drop a kiss on Chirrut’s upturned nose.
“So,” Jyn interrupted. She propped her elbows on the table and her chin on her fists. “Are you single, Cassian?”
“Shut it, toejam!” Bodhi said. He dipped his fingers in the water glass and flicked them in her direction.
Jyn wrinkled her nose and looked unrepentant. Leia rolled her eyes and wrapped an arm around Jyn’s waist, pulling her against her side.
“I apologize,” she told Cassian. “I’d cast aspersions on her upbringing but her father’s standing right behind me.”
“Jyn’s an anomaly,” Baze said cheerfully. He’d turned back to the stove and was stirring something again while Chirrut poked through the refrigerator. “I gave up on manners from her years ago.”
Jyn preened and Leia deftly changed the subject to work. As she and Cassian discussed their jobs, Bodhi watched his profile.
It had been puppy love, he’d known that for years—a case of putting someone he barely knew on a pedestal and spinning fantasies around him like spun sugar at a county fair, sweet but fragile.
But he found he liked the man Cassian had become, too, secure in his body, neat and contained, quiet and polite but with a sharp sense of humor underneath.
“Bodhi,” Chirrut said, “where’s the stuff from the store?”
“Oh—” Bodhi blinked, brought back to himself. “I left it in my saddlebag, I’m sorry. I’ll go get it.”
“No need,” Chirrut said. He put a hand unerringly on Jyn’s head and she smiled, leaning into it. “Would you go get it?”
“Of course,” Jyn said promptly, and hopped to her feet.
“Excellent,” Chirrut said. “In that case, Bodhi, if you can stop holding Cassian’s hand for a minute, I have a few things to show you in your bedroom.”
Bodhi and Cassian let go as if magnetically repelled, and Bodhi could see an identical blush to his own blooming on Cassian’s thin cheeks.
“He’s teasing, Cassian,” Baze put in, sounding absent.
Chirrut grinned, unrepentant, and held out a hand to Bodhi.
Out of earshot, Bodhi poked his father in the ribs.
“Did you have to embarrass him like that in front of everyone?”
Chirrut snorted. “Trial by fire, kiddo. If he can handle this, he can handle anything, and I’ll know he’s good enough for you.”
Bodhi thought vaguely that his blush might be enough to light the hall, and he groaned and put his face on Chirrut’s shoulder.
Chirrut stopped in the hall outside Bodhi’s room and pulled him into his arms again. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered.
Bodhi hugged him back. “I missed you too. I’m sorry to—”
“Not a word,” Chirrut said, releasing him and fumbling for the door. “You know I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t brought him.”
“So what did you want to show me?” Bodhi asked. He flicked on the light switch.
Chirrut sat down on the bed and patted the space beside him. Bodhi settled next to him and Chirrut touched his knee.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Fine,” Bodhi said. He stopped, reassessed, and smiled. “I am, Dad, I’m fine.”
“Did he kiss you?”
Bodhi ducked his head. “Technically I think I kissed him first, but… yeah.”
Chirrut nodded, a smile tugging his mouth up. “And how are you feeling?” he repeated.
“Like I’d rather not discuss sex with my father?” Bodhi parried. He huffed amusement and leaned against Chirrut’s shoulder.
“So you are thinking about sex?”
“I’m your father, I’m allowed to ask,” Chirrut pointed out. “Especially if you’re considering embarking on… something with Cassian. You know the kind of baggage he’s carrying.”
Bodhi sighed and straightened. “Yeah, Dad, I know. I also know he’s a lot steadier emotionally than he was, and he’s going to therapy.”
“Good.” Chirrut nodded, relaxing fractionally. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“No one is a hundred percent normal,” Bodhi continued. “I’m… I have to get to know him, you know? But—”
Bodhi hunched his shoulders. “I don’t know how to describe it, but I’ve never felt like this before. Like… alive, or more alive somehow, and sort of tingly, and I can’t stop thinking about—” He cut himself off.
“It’s called sexual attraction,” Chirrut said, patting his thigh.
Bodhi covered his face as the blush returned with a vengeance.
Chirrut laughed quietly. “I did some reading up on it when you hit adolescence and weren’t interested in sex. I suspected for a long time that you were asexual—”
“Yeah, me too,” Bodhi said. “Which doesn’t explain… this.”
“Sure it does.” Chirrut was serious again. “It’s a spectrum, after all, and everyone’s different. Plus, your label may change, and that’s okay too.”
Bodhi groaned and flopped backward onto the mattress. “I don’t understand anything.”
“No one does,” Chirrut said, sympathy and amusement in his voice. “Just… take it slow and see what happens, and no matter what, you’re allowed to say no at any time, okay?”
Bodhi rolled over and buried his flaming face in the bedspread. “Change the subject,” he begged in a muffled voice.
Chirrut snickered. “I have to go back and check on dinner. How’s Cassian getting home?”
“I’m taking him,” Bodhi said, still facedown.
“So I shouldn’t expect you back tonight?” Chirrut inquired, standing.
Bodhi twisted to throw a pillow at him and Chirrut escaped, laughter trailing behind.
Dinner was curry in honor of Bodhi’s return, and it passed in a haze of laughter, streaming noses from the spices, and gentle teasing back and forth across the table. Bodhi was acutely aware of Cassian’s leg pressed against his, hand occasionally brushing his as they reached for something at the same time.
He watched as Jyn leaned in to whisper something in Leia’s ear, giggling against her alabaster cheek, as Leia’s eyes creased with amusement. It made Bodhi’s heart warm to see his prickly sister, relative in all the ways that mattered, finally coming into her own, allowing her walls to lower so her family could see the true Jyn.
“How’s your bike?” Baze asked.
“She’s great,” Bodhi said. “She was in good hands while I was gone, clearly.”
Chirrut snickered. “He spent more time out there polishing your damn bike than he did—” He broke off with a muffled yelp and rubbed his side with an aggrieved look on his face as Baze rested his elbows back on the edge of the table with an innocent air.
Bodhi groaned. “Oh my god, Dad.” Cassian was laughing, he was relieved to see.
“Baze took me out on his bike,” Chirrut said. “Did I tell you that?”
Bodhi choked on his mouthful and spluttered for air. “You,” he managed. “On a motorcycle.”
Baze quirked an eyebrow. “It took some convincing.”
Chirrut just grinned. “I was scared shitless, of course,” he said cheerfully. “But it actually turned out to be a lot of fun once Baze convinced me death wasn’t coming for me.”
He’d spent the meal with his chair snugged up to Baze’s, leaning against him with Baze’s arm draped across his shoulders, and he rested his head along Baze’s cheek briefly. Baze closed his eyes and smiled, and Bodhi looked away, privy to a moment not meant for him.
Leia and Jyn were in a similar position, Bodhi saw, sharing a chair again and occasionally feeding each other.
“I apologize for dragging you into Lovebird Central,” Bodhi said to Cassian.
Cassian’s eyes crinkled with his smile. “It’s nice,” he said. “The only real friend I have is Kay, and he pretty much hates everyone, so it’s nice to be around people who love each other.”
“Well, you have us now too,” Chirrut said firmly. “Consider this your standing invitation to come for dinner any night you want.”
Cassian blinked rapidly several times. “I—thank you, sir,” he managed.
Bodhi touched his hand under the table and Cassian took a shaky breath.
“Can I use your bathroom?”
Bodhi gave him directions and Cassian smiled at him and stood. When he was gone, silence fell for a minute.
“Well, he grew up hot,” Jyn finally said. “Bodhi, you’d better get on that.”
Bodhi sputtered. “Leia, control your girlfriend.”
“Not possible,” Leia said, smiling fondly at Jyn. “Besides, she’s right.”
“Seconded,” Baze remarked, and took another bite. “I mean, not about the hot thing, that would be weird. But you definitely need to move on that, Bodhi.”
“We’ve already discussed my opinion,” Chirrut said. He lifted his voice. “Cassian, would you like to stay for dessert and coffee or should Bodhi take you home now?”
Bodhi glanced up as Cassian rounded the corner and met his eyes.
“I’m—I would love to, but I have work tomorrow,” he said. “Thank you so much for having me, I had a wonderful time and it was delicious.”
“Next time,” Chirrut said. He stood fluidly and held out his hand. “Come to dinner next week. We can catch up some more. Bodhi will fix the day, he knows when we’re available.”
Cassian shook his hand and then Baze’s and waved at the girls. He followed Bodhi out the door into the cold night air, shrugging into his jacket, and accepted the helmet from him.
“Verdict?” Bodhi said, watching his face.
Cassian stepped closer. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “I would kiss you but I think Jyn’s watching out the window.”
Bodhi closed his eyes and groaned. “She is the worst. Let’s get you home. How far away are you?”
“I’m renting the apartment annexed to Kay’s shop,” Cassian said. He pulled on the helmet and slid onto the bike behind Bodhi, arms going around his waist again.
The motorcycle growled happily to life, vibrating between Bodhi’s thighs as he rolled it out onto the street and pointed it toward the center of town.
Cassian didn’t try to make conversation. He held on, resting his head against Bodhi’s shoulder as he drove, and when Bodhi turned into the driveway behind the military surplus store, it took him a minute before he moved, lifting his head and drawing the helmet off with a sigh.
“You okay?” Bodhi asked when he was free of his own helmet and off the bike.
Cassian’s eyes were luminous in the moonlight. “Just… been awhile, I guess.”
“Since—” Bodhi looked at him. “What’s been awhile?”
Cassian waved a hand vaguely. “Since… family. I know you’re not my family,” he hurried to add, “but it felt—”
Bodhi dropped his helmet and it bounced on the pavement as he caught Cassian’s face, pulling him into a fierce kiss until Cassian was clinging to him, gasping against Bodhi’s mouth.
When Bodhi lifted his head, Cassian’s dark eyes were dazed, lips visibly kiss-swollen in the silver moonlight.
Bodhi ran a thumb over his cheekbone, feeling unbelievably daring. “Show me your place,” he said.
Cassian swallowed hard and nodded. When he stepped away, he slid his hand down Bodhi’s arm and tangled their fingers together, pulling him up the walk to the front door.
Inside was a small kitchen with plants hanging in the window over the sink and concrete floors, a threadbare couch in the corner and steps leading up to a loft above the kitchen under a thirty foot corrugated steel ceiling.
“It’s not much,” Cassian said, closing the door. “But the rent is cheap and it’s close to the office—”
“I like it,” Bodhi said. He fiddled with the zipper of his jacket. Was it presumptuous to take it off? Would Cassian think he was being too forward?
“Would you like something to drink?” Cassian had opened the fridge and was looking inside.
Bodhi swallowed. “No.”
The word hung between them, heavy with meaning, and Cassian froze. He straightened slowly and swiveled to face him, and Bodhi unzipped his jacket.
They stared at each other, the world crystalline silent around them, and then Cassian muttered something thickly under his breath and they snapped together like gravity, lips and tongues meeting as hands grappled at clothes, pushing and pulling as they gasped into each other’s mouths.
Cassian spun Bodhi and walked him backward until Bodhi’s hips met the cabinets and without missing a beat, bent and lifted him up onto the counter and stepped between his open legs.
Bodhi caught his breath, drowning in sensation as Cassian caught the back of his neck, fingers sifting through his hair, and explored the skin of his throat with his lips. Dizzy with want, Bodhi wrapped his legs around Cassian’s waist and hooked him closer, bending to capture his mouth again.
Cassian groaned and looped his arms around Bodhi’s hips. “I want—I want you so much,” he managed. “Bo, can I—”
“Yeah,” Bodhi husked. He pressed the heel of his hand to his erection, hard to the point of discomfort in his unforgiving leathers. “Please, I need—”
Cassian reached between them, eyes on his, and cupped the bulge at Bodhi’s groin.
Bodhi’s head fell back, connecting with the upper cabinet with a thud, and he arched his spine as Cassian explored.
“You’re so beautiful,” Cassian murmured. He popped the button on Bodhi’s pants and drew the zipper down carefully, so carefully, parting the layers with something like reverence until Bodhi was exposed, offering himself up for the silent worship in Cassian’s eyes.
He’d never felt this, this aching like a raw nerve, a wildfire devouring his senses, like he was burning alive and drowning simultaneously, like Cassian was the flood and the flame, the only thing keeping Bodhi from being pulled apart at the seams, like he was hurtling toward the ground at top speed and yet safer than he’d ever felt in his life.
Cassian leaned forward, burying his face in Bodhi’s throat, one arm snaking around his hips to pull him forward and the other sliding between them. Bodhi arched into the contact with a strangled noise and Cassian hummed.
“When I saw you,” he murmured, “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Bodhi gasped for air and fought to gather his thoughts. Cassian’s hand was moving, thumbing the head of his cock, tracing along it with teasing light touches, and he chose now to strike up a conversation?
He wrapped his arms around Cassian’s shoulders and made a vague noise that he hoped sounded encouraging.
Cassian fastened his mouth to Bodhi’s throat and sucked briefly before letting go with an obscene pop. “Standing there in your leathers—” He lifted his head just enough to catch Bodhi’s eyes. “Do you have any idea how gorgeous you are?”
Bodhi struggled to work moisture into his mouth. “I’m—Cass—”
“Well, you are,” Cassian said, and bent to pull his shirt to the side and scrape teeth lightly along Bodhi’s collarbone, all while his hand danced and teased, advancing and retreating, not quite enough to get Bodhi anywhere and absolutely maddening.
Cassian was still talking, he realized through the fog.
“You’ve got muscle now,” he was murmuring. “And that beard—” He nosed against Bodhi’s jaw briefly and sighed, settling himself more firmly between Bodhi’s thighs. “I would have thought you were the hottest guy I’d ever seen even if you hadn’t turned out to be… you.”
His hand closed around Bodhi’s shaft and he stroked once, twice, free arm tightening around Bodhi’s hips to keep him from falling off the counter.
“And then I realized who you were, and—”
“Cassian,” Bodhi managed.
“Please shut up.”
Cassian laughed and he stepped back.
Bodhi nearly did fall off the counter trying to stop him. “Not what I meant,” he babbled, “you can talk if that’s what gets you off, Cass, please—”
“Actually, I want to—” Cassian made a motion and Bodhi gulped as he caught his meaning.
“I’m clean,” Cassian assured him. His hands were resting lightly on Bodhi’s leather-covered thighs, thumbs rubbing absent circles.
“So am I,” Bodhi managed. “I just—I don’t think I’ll last very long.”
Cassian’s eyes gleamed with amusement in the moonlight. “Who says this is all you get?”
“Oh God .”
Cassian huffed a quiet laugh and dropped his head. Bodhi watched, spellbound, as he bent and breathed warmth over his shaft, and then it was wet and heat and suction and Bodhi shoved a fist in his mouth to stifle the noise, back arching again at the pleasure rippling through his nerves.
After half a dozen bobs of his head, Cassian wrapped his hand around the base of Bodhi’s cock, pumping in time to his mouth.
“I’m—I can’t—Cass—” Bodhi’s toes curled and he hunched forward with a choked moan as he came, hands scrabbling helplessly for purchase through the waves of bliss.
When he opened his eyes, Cassian was wiping his face, a satisfied smile clinging to his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Bodhi began, but Cassian pressed a finger to his lips, stopping the words.
“Don’t you dare,” he said, and leaned up to kiss him. He was warm and real and solid in Bodhi’s arms, tasting like sweet black coffee, and Bodhi closed his eyes again and held on tight.
Cassian nipped along his jaw, nosing through the short beard. "Okay?" he murmured.
Bodhi managed a nod. He felt boneless, suffused with pleasure. "I... didn't know it could feel like that."
Cassian jerked upright so fast he nearly fell. "You what?"
Bodhi straightened too, yanked abruptly back to reality.
"What?" he said warily. Cassian's eyes were huge as he stared at him from two feet away. Bodhi glanced down and grimaced. He slid off the counter and put himself to rights as Cassian took a step away and turned back, something like horror on his face.
"Tell me I didn't just take your virginity, Bodhi."
Bodhi's mouth fell open. "No!" He took a step forward as Cassian visibly sagged with relief. "Cass, why would you—wait. Why would it be a problem if you had?"
"Because—because we didn't talk about it!" Cassian burst out. "I just... I shoved you up on the counter and went down on you and we said what, like five words between us? I mean—" He blushed, visible even in the dim light. “Other than what I said… during.”
"More than that, I think," Bodhi murmured, amused. He trailed a finger down Cassian's arm. "We can talk about it now, if you want?"
"Yeah," Cassian said, shivering at Bodhi's touch, and ducked his head. "Do you want—is it... god, I don't know how to do this. Do you want to sit for a minute?"
Bodhi sat down at the table and Cassian perched on the chair next to him, worry still clinging to his frame like a tattered quilt.
"I'm fine," Bodhi said gently, but far from reassuring him, that made the frown on Cassian's face deepen.
"I should have asked," he said. "I don't—I would never pressure you into anything you weren't comfortable with, Bo."
"I know that," Bodhi said, suddenly nettled. "I'm not a fainting violet, Cass, you think I'm not able to say no if I don't want it?"
That seemed to reassure Cassian. The lines in his face eased. "I just should have been... clearer. I don't know what you've done or what you're comfortable with or what you want—”
"You," Bodhi interrupted. He could feel the embarrassment crawling up his throat in a scarlet flush, but he tilted his chin and met Cassian's eyes. "I want you, Cass. All of you, whatever you want to give me."
"And you're not a virgin?"
Bodhi rolled his eyes. "That's an outdated concept, but no. I'm not. Does that make you feel better?"
Cassian nodded, shoulders softening.
"I just..." Bodhi shrugged. "I never wanted much to do with it before. I've fooled around but there wasn't really anything there , so I didn't do a lot. Because I didn't want to. Not because I didn't have the opportunity."
"Okay." Cassian ran a hand through his hair. “And you want—with me?”
Bodhi couldn’t help his laugh. “Sorry, was that part not obvious?”
Cassian’s lips quirked. “Just making sure.” He leaned forward, moving slowly enough that Bodhi could dodge if he wanted to, and waited until Bodhi closed the distance between them and pressed their mouths together, soft and slow and with the promise of many more kisses to come.
When Cassian eased back, he was smiling. “In that case, would you like to see my bedroom?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Bodhi said, and Cassian caught his hand and tugged him, laughing and eager and fearless, up the stairs to the loft.
Started from the bottom, now we here, or something blah blah basically thank you SO MUCH for reading and commenting and encouraging me during this fic, it wouldn't exist without all of you. Special thanks to Aaliya and Rowan, the best betas in the world, for helping me with plot and characterization and all those pesky grammar issues.
Please feel free to find me on the Tumbls for all your flailing needs. <3