Cassian surveys the land through his quadnocs and then looks down at the representation on the datapad in front of him. It looks accurate enough, and the fence should work—a combination of defense and aesthetic that will hopefully not annoy any of the people he's living with—but there's still something about it that's not quite right.
He sighs, allowing his quadnocs to dangle from their strap around his neck as he begins pacing the proposed path. Jyn will say that any defensive fortifications is him being paranoid, but she'll say it fondly. Bodhi will just look at him with those wide, guileless eyes of his, asking if there's some reason they should be concerned. Chirrut will make some witty and cutting remark about how the captain has never been able to remove himself from the battlefield—it never mattered what Cassian's actual rank was. Whether he had been demoted down to lieutenant or crawled his way up to colonel, for some reason the Guardian insists on calling him captain.
Baze will understand, at least. He might even offer some helpful comments, though more likely he'll look at the schematics and grunt before going back to work on some piece of the temple or other.
Cassian's eyes automatically move towards the structure. It stands out, great stone walls etched with symbols and murals that Cassian's still only half-familiar with.
It's the reason Cassian's thinking about building a wall—a fence. A bit of protection, because the Temple of the Kyber is starting to attract a lot of attention, and though Cassian is used to moving carefully through crowds he's not sure about crowds moving through his home.
This is what we wanted, Cassian. Even the Jyn in his mind is usually exasperated with him these days. To help the Guardians rebuild their temple—to see pilgrims coming to it again!
It's what Jyn wanted, at least. It was a goal for them to latch onto when all their others had been pulled away, and Cassian...
He can't even say that he let himself be pulled into it. He fought them, but when even K-2 sided with Jyn and said that maybe it was time for them to try something else... maybe it was time for Cassian to take a break...
K-2 makes a remarkably good farm droid. Perhaps it's because he gets to order lots of other droids around, as well as keep careful tabs on what the humans are doing. K-2 always did like to have a sense of control and coordination over events, and it's something he has in spades here.
Cassian's still not sure he makes a good farmer, but he hasn't had to be much of one. To be fair he's pretty sure Jyn is also a terrible farmer, but she at least seems to have made a go of it, keeping any of them from starving. And what Cassian lacks in farming skills he's so far been able to make up for in other areas—helping the Guardians thread through the New Republic bureaucracy and attain funding for their temple, doing what he could to help in the design and construction of the temple, running what security screens he can on the visitors who have started coming to the temple in massive numbers since it became known that Luke Skywalker occasionally drops by.
A slight smile twitches at the corner of Cassian's mouth. If all these Force-lovers could actually hear the conversations Luke and Chirrut have, he's pretty sure they wouldn't be quite so quick to worship.
Cassian's foot slides along a bit of loose scree, and he comes to a halt, looking down at the schematic and then at the surrounding bit of land. It doesn't look much different from the air, but there's a definite change in soil composition here that they'll have to take into account.
Jotting a few notes down, he tucks the pad away. He'll talk to Jyn and Bodhi about the proposed changes tonight; then he can take it to the monks tomorrow, and they can figure out how they want to apportion cost. Though none of them are poor—the New Republic has been as kind as possible to their veterans, and they've been able to do fairly well with regards to getting funds for the temple under the guise of reclaiming culture that the Empire had attempted to snuff out—none of them are exactly rich either, and any big new projects need to be approached carefully.
Cassian scowls at the collection of brightly-colored tents strewn around the front of the temple. Though guest quarters had been built into the original design at Chirrut's insistence, they're starting to prove inadequate to the flow of pilgrims. At this rate a whole little town will grow up around the damn temple, and then security is going to really be impossible.
You're not supposed to be working security, Cassian. K-2 can manage to be just as smug as Jyn, and Cassian isn't sure which one is better at getting under his skin.
That's the problem though, isn't it? Cassian's not sure exactly what he is supposed to be doing anymore. Finding a way to make a living. Keeping his team safe and alive and as happy as he can manage. Jyn has her farm and Bodhi seems content flying little supply and transport runs and Chirrut has his temple and Baze has Chirrut. Cassian has...
Stop being morbid, Andor. Cassian gives his head a little shake, glancing up at the sky. Lavender clouds are slowly spreading out to hide the setting suns. He always finds it harder to shake off thoughts like these when a storm comes in—one of this planet's little quirks, he supposes. Or the way the planet interacts with his body, just like how the cool, damp nights after a storm tend to make his old injuries ache and throb.
A figure it cutting across the field towards Cassian—no, not across. Good. They're walking in the designated lanes, so Cassian won't have to yell at them when they get here.
Cassian recognizes the young woman when she's about two-thirds of the way through her trip. She's one of the pilgrims to the temple. One of the more dedicated ones, too—she's been here for over a week and shows no signs of intending to leave. Cassian had run a quick background check on her, as he tries to do on everyone who stays for more than a day, but nothing interesting had come up. Her name was... it shouldn't be this hard to remember. Remembering people and places is his job. Was his job.
Running a hand over his neatly trimmed beard, Cassian manages to dredge up the information. Wynn Rider. Twenty-one. Joined the rebellion shortly before the battle of Endor, left about the same time he and Rogue One did, when Mon Mothma decided that the best way to hasten peace was to begin decommissioning the forces that won it in the first place.
The woman smiles as she comes up to Cassian, a bright, shy expression, and holds out a thermos. "From Master Chirrut. He also says that you should come in before the storm hits."
Cassian reaches out to take the offering, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He makes it a point not to show the divisions among the Rogue One crew to outsiders. "Tell him thank you and that I'll take his advice into consideration."
The woman nods, raising one hand to unsuccessfully hide a smile. "I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear it."
Sighing, Cassian flips open the thermos and takes a sip from it. The tea inside is tart, with a faintly bitter lingering effect, but it's better than some of the things he's had Chirrut try to foist on him. When the woman remains planted in front of him, Cassian holds out the thermos to her. "Did you need some?"
Waving a hand, Wynn smiles unapologetically and turns away. "No, sir. I wouldn't dream of it. I'll see you around the temple!"
Cassian makes a noncommittal noise in reply, taking another sip from the thermos and turning back towards the farm.
Towards Jyn and Bodhi.
Towards home, and just because it's different from every other home he's ever known...
Well, Jyn keeps telling him that his life has been anything but normal, and conversations with Bodhi make him tend to agree.
Maybe the fact that it doesn't seem to fit right means it actually is right.
Cassian's not sure the thought is comforting, and he sighs as he makes his way along the paths.
"Look, I understand what you're saying, I just..." Jyn looks at the schematics again. "It just seems a little extreme, you know?"
"She's right." Bodhi speaks quietly, his eyes studying Cassian for signs of distress as he sides with Jyn. "A little extra protection, given how things have changed... that seems sensible. But setting up and paying for all this, when there haven't been any incidents..."
"This is the best way to prevent incidents." Cassian doesn't reclaim his datapad, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He seems more sulky than angry, and Jyn's not sure if that's good or bad. "We have two Guardians who managed to convince Skywalker to get them actual Kyber crystals. If someone decides to come after them—"
"I really think they'd regret it." Jyn winces. "Baze may have started wearing the robes again, but I'm pretty sure that plasma cannon of his is never far."
Cassian stares at her as though she's grown a second head. "Baze? Is wearing the robes—the Guardian robes?"
"For the last two days." Bodhi's hand reaches towards Cassian, though he doesn't actually touch him. "When he's in the temple, at least."
Which explains why Cassian hasn't noticed. He sees the temple as a security risk, not a place of worship. Jyn wouldn't even be surprised if Baze had been intentionally hiding the fact from Cassian. It's clearly not something the big man is completely comfortable with yet, and since he and Cassian tend to see eye to eye on some things...
"I hadn't noticed." Cassian's arms are pressed tight to his chest now, more hugging himself than keeping their arguments at bay. A rumble of thunder shakes the ground beneath her boots, and Jyn glares daggers towards the window. Something about this world's storms and Cassian's biology doesn't mix well. He's going to be sore and irritable tonight even without this little argument between them. "It doesn't change the fact that there's only two of them there."
"There's only six of us total, Cassian." Bodhi looks down into his mug of hot tea. "If someone comes with a force... well, we'll be the ones playing defense. And we know how hard it is to have an impenetrable defense when someone really wants to get in, since our job for six years was to get in."
"So what? We just give up on protecting ourselves?" Cassian snaps at Bodhi, and sweat is starting to show on his brow. (Jyn had suggested that they try to find another planet to settle on when it became clear that Cassian and this one didn't always get along, but they had already been here for three months by then. The foundations for the new temple had been laid. Cassian had been adamant that he didn't need coddling, that he would adapt just fine. Sometimes Jyn wishes she had fought him harder on that.)
"We're careful about the impression we make." Bodhi doesn't respond to the anger. Though Cassian can still intimidate him if he tries, Bodhi has learned his own ways of handling the man over the years. "We're prepared to fight back if we need to, but we don't paint a target on ourselves. And... most of the people coming here? They would fight for the temple, I think, if it came to that. You just have to talk to them to know that."
"People will say a lot when there aren't blaster bolts flying about. Once the fighting starts in earnest... that's when you learn who your true allies are." Cassian stares blankly towards the schematics, though Jyn's pretty sure he's not actually seeing them.
Sliding the datapad towards Cassian, Jyn speaks carefully. "I don't think it would necessarily be a bad idea to have some kind of delineation between the temple's land and the farm and whatever... village or town wants to grow up around the temple. I don't think Bodhi has a problem with that, either."
Bodhi nods his agreement.
"We're just thinking... a little more aesthetic, a little less cannon." Jyn pries one of Cassian's hands away from his arms, holding it tight. "Would that be acceptable?"
Cassian blinks at her, and she sees something that looks frighteningly like exhaustion in his deep brown eyes. Did Cassian ever look like this during the rebellion? She saw him tired then, and hurt, but there's something almost... hopeless about the look he gives her now. "I was trying for more aesthetic than cannon."
"Well." Jyn glances over at Bodhi. "Maybe it just needs a little more help. Nothing the three of us together can't manage, right?"
Bodhi nods, his hand settling firmly against Cassian's arm. "Right. Look, if we just change things around here a little bit..."
They spend a little over an hour fiddling with plans for the proposed fence and defensive reinforcements. Cassian doesn't fight as much as Jyn expected him to, mainly just murmuring out agreements once she and Bodhi have come to an arrangement. Sweat continues to build up on his face despite the steadily falling temperature.
Maybe we made a mistake. It's not the first time Jyn's had the thought, but it's the first time she's really considered that it might be true. Maybe we should have let him stay with the Alliance.
Let them continue to use him despite the physical and psychological toll it's taken on him over the years. Let them send him back out on solo missions until he just didn't make it back. The war had been killing him, slowly but surely. Jyn's as convinced of that as she is of her own name. But it was also all he knew, and if taking him away from the military means burying the fire and hope that makes him Cassian...
"Cassian, are you all right?" Bodhi reaches up to touch Cassian's forehead, his expression showing the concern Jyn's feeling. "You don't seem to be running a fever, but you don't look good."
"I'm fine." Cassian's tone is clipped, brusque—he hates having to admit to weakness. "Nothing new or unusual."
"If you say so..." Bodhi's hand trails down Cassian's arm, his fingers lacing gently through Cassian's.
After a few hesitant seconds Cassian's shoulders relax, his hand holding tight to Bodhi's. "You both know how the storms affect me. That's all."
"If you're certain." Jyn puts her hand on Cassian's other arm, scooting her chair over so that she can lean her head against his shoulder.
"Everything was fine at my physical last month." Cassian's body relaxes, a slackening of muscles and welcoming of the physical contact that Jyn can feel even though she knows it wouldn't be visible.
No unexpected physical complications, Jyn corrects, but she knows better than to say that. They've all picked up scars over the years, and Cassian doesn't need any more reminders of what his life has been. "Perhaps we should leave this for tomorrow?"
After a brief hesitation Cassian nods. "I can go down to the temple tomorrow. See what Baze and Chirrut think."
"A good idea." Bodhi stands, the legs of his chair scraping against the floor. "To bed with us?"
Cassian doesn't fight them helping him up or helping him into bed. So long as something can be covered up as an act of tenderness, he doesn't mind, and Jyn likes having an excuse to undress him, to touch him, to give him the physical contact he so obviously craves.
She and Bodhi sandwich Cassian between them in the bed that night, hoping with their touch and warmth to keep the worst of the discomfort away.
It ends up being a fool's hope, but she's glad they tried anyway.
The ghosts come in his dreams, and just like the first time around, Cassian can't do anything to save them.
"Andor!" Tivik screams his name, clawing desperately at Cassian's chest. "What did you do, what did you—"
Cassian shoots him in the back. It's what he has to do. He's lived this moment time and time again, waking and sleeping, so that the horror has a kind of grayed-out, fog-seeped overlay to it. Now he turns and runs, before anyone comes to check on the bodies of the stormtroopers he killed, and—
Tivik's hands claw their way up Cassian's legs, one strong, one weak. Blood stains Tivik's teeth as he talks, spatters out to spray Cassian's shirt. "Andor, please, don't—"
Cassian shoots him again. There is a sense of fear to everything, now, an overlay of panic that makes his movements too sharp and fast. You overcorrect when you're nervous, K-2 told him any number of times, but he doesn't have to be completely accurate with these shots. Two blaster bolts lance out, and Cassian's silencer must have broken because they are loud, echoing in his ears—
Or perhaps that is just Tivik's voice, continuing to emit from a corpse that now only has half a head, begging Cassian to help him. Demanding Cassian help him, because Tivik's information saved the universe, and it wasn't his fault Cassian was late.
Cassian runs. It isn't the controlled ascent up the wall that his original escape had been. It's a panicked, desperate lunge away from the nightmare creature that keeps pawing at him. His hands and feet slip and slide, unable to keep purchase on the pipes that run alternately too hot and too cold, scalding and burning and freezing his exposed skin in equal measure.
Then he is over the wall, but he is not on the Ring of Kafrene anymore. He is on Scarif, white sand blowing hard against his face, and the person who has grabbed his hand and dragged him forward is Melshi.
"What are you doing, Andor?" Melshi smacks Cassian with the back of his hand, and though it isn't a hard strike it hurts, a thrumming pain that starts at his shoulder and seems to dive all the way to his heart. "We've done what you asked. Now get us out of here."
He would if he could. He's dreamed of so many different ways that Scarif could have gone. He could have died there with them, and that would have been right, maybe. That would have been enough to make up for everything. Or they could have saved more of them—could have had more insane U-wing pilots snatching survivors off the ground and making for hyperspace as quickly as they could.
The truth is that Cassian couldn't even save himself from Scarif. He managed to save Jyn—he kept himself going because she needed to succeed. But by the time Jyn led them down off the tower Cassian had barely been able to stand, let alone plan an extraction.
"You're useless, Andor." Melshi takes a step back, cradling his rifle close to his chest. There is something wrong with his skin. It is starting to melt, peeling off in little strips, and Cassian thinks he can see tiny flashes of planet-killer light as each small piece goes. "You know that, right? Maybe you did some good once. But you were compromised a long time ago, and now..."
Melshi's skin is gone, his muscles flaking away, but his expressions are still somehow readable, his voice completely unchanged. "What's your purpose, Andor? What's your point?"
Cassian takes a stumbling step back, shaking his head. Melshi was like him. Melshi should understand. They both chose to go to Scarif, for the same reasons, and if Cassian could have brought the others out alive—
"And if you don't have a purpose anymore..." The skeleton with his friend's voice and wearing the trappings of the rebellion steps forward, grinning jaw coming far too close to Cassian's face. "Then maybe it's time you started paying us back."
"What..." Cassian can't retreat anymore. There's nothing but open water at his back... or is that something else? It feels almost like the towering not-ice pillars of Chemvau, but he doesn't dare turn away to see. "What is it that you want?"
"What is it that you can give us, Cassian?" Melshi straightens up, and even his bones are flaking away now, his skull riddled with holes. "What have we always given? Life. Hope. Blood." Melshi's head tilts, and it looks like he's laughing but that could just be his jawbone falling off. "How much blood do you think it would take to pay off your debts?"
Something wraps around his ankle, spiny and sharp, and Cassian screams as he's jerked backwards. Saltwater fills his nostrils, his mouth, dips into injuries he wasn't aware of. Except he knows that's not right—Chemvau didn't have any salt in its water.
The saline taste fades away, though his skin doesn't stop stinging, and Cassian sets about trying to free his leg from the thorny tentacle wrapped around it. He has to get out of here. He has to report back to the Rebellion. He won't be able to save his team—he sacrificed one member of his team, trying to figure out how to survive.
Fingers latch onto his throat and Cassian chokes, his ankle jerking painfully as the thing in the water continues to tug at him. There aren't enough fingers on the hands wrapped around his throat. Only three digits to a hand. Janga. Trying to get back at him for leaving her to die here?
He can't breathe. He's being torn in half and he can't breathe and maybe he deserves this and—
Angry at him?
No. Not angry. Scared, and Cassian tries to draw a deep breath into his lungs. He can do this. He isn't underwater. He's in perfectly breathable air, and nothing is trying to tear him apart. Those are Bodhi's hands on his shoulder, Jyn's fingers against his wrist—checking a pulse?
"What..." Cassian coughs, sputtering as he tries to blink his eyes open and figure out what's going on.
"Cassian?" Bodhi's hands cup Cassian's cheeks, Bodhi's face suddenly far too close. "You're awake? Please tell me you're awake." Lips press hard against Cassian's forehead.
"If you give him a chance to answer hopefully he will." Jyn's voice is slightly calmer, but not by much.
"I'm..." It's hard to talk. Cassian's throat feels swollen, raw and chafed, as though he's been running or screaming. He can feel his hair plastered to his head with sweat, and his heart is pounding too-hard in his chest, as though this were a battlefield rather than their bedroom. "Fine."
Bodhi doesn't say anything, his eyes haunted, his hands stroking through Cassian's hair as though confirming that he's present.
Jyn slides her body to lie against Cassian's other side, one of her hands burying itself possessively in his hair, too. "You stopped breathing, Cassian. For almost two minutes."
"You've been having nightmares all night, but it would usually seem to get better if we nudged you." Bodhi's hand has trailed down Cassian's side to claim his fingers in a vice-grip. "But this last time... it looked like you were dying."
"Dreams don't... kill people." Breathing and talking shouldn't be so difficult.
"No, but..." Jyn's hand tightens in his hair, tugging almost painfully at his roots. "This wasn't normal."
Cassian forces himself to sit up, laying one hand on Jyn's knee as he does, keeping Bodhi's fingers locked tight with his. The world tilts alarmingly as he does, but by focusing on the sheet that's been kicked to the end of the bed he's able to get it to settle back down. (He's able to ignore the shapes moving at the corners of his vision. Melshi is dead. Tivik is dead. Janga is dead. (The list of the dead is so long, has been added to steadily year by year, and if they've decided he should join their ranks...))
"Cassian?" Jyn's hand releases his hair, sliding down to cup his face.
"Maybe we should call someone." Bodhi makes the suggestion to Jyn, his fingers white-knuckled where they grasp at Cassian. "I don't like this."
Cassian raises his eyes, smiling at Bodhi even as he shakes his head in negation. "I'm fine, really. Just... took a little to shake off the dream. Come on, now. This isn't the first time we've seen someone having night terrors."
Bodhi frowns. "You've never had night terrors before. Nightmares, yes, but this..."
Shrugging, Cassian gestures towards the window with his head, both hands occupied with his companions. "It was a bad storm. That's all."
"You scared us." Jyn's voice trembles slightly, a sign of anger or fear or, more commonly, both. Her fingers trail down to his chin, playing through his beard, turning his face so that he meets her eyes evenly. The trembling fades from her voice. "You scared yourself, didn't you?"
(He is seeing things that aren't there. It's normal with night terrors, he's heard—seeing monsters in the dark, waking covered in sweat, with a too-fast heartbeat. But it still takes all his strength not to scream as Janga leans in to sniff at Jyn's hair, her slit-pupiled eyes studying Cassian knowingly.)
"I'm fine." Cassian closes his eyes. If he can't see anything, he won't react to the things that he knows aren't real. "Just tired. I'm sorry to frighten you both. Come on, let's go back to sleep."
They don't argue with him. They trust him—though he can be stubborn, he knows better than to lie about his own capabilities or how badly he's hurt. They're taking him at his word.
He hopes he isn't betraying that trust.
(Should we kill them instead, Andor? The words are a sibilant hiss, belonging to a pilot who's been dead for sixteen years. You were always good at sacrificing others in your stead...)
Jyn and Bodhi curl up around him again, as they had when they first bedded down for the night. Jyn pets him, gentle strokes of her fingers through his hair, along her side of his face, down his chest—Jyn is almost as much of a glutton for physical contact as he is, and it shows more when she's upset. Bodhi moves less, but he presses himself tight against Cassian's side, and his breath forms a steady cadence against Cassian's chest.
Cassian keeps his breathing even, his body still, trying to ignore what's said by any whispers that aren't in Jyn or Bodhi's voices. Nothing else is real except those two. Jyn falls asleep after about ten minutes—she, like him, learned early to take her sleep where she can, when she can. Bodhi is awake for maybe twenty minutes, the occasional twitch and shift of his body and hitch to his breathing giving him away, but eventually he too sleeps.
Cassian doesn't. He's not sure if he wants to, and instead of giving into the dreams that claw at him he drifts in gray darkness, trying not to listen to the whispers that grate louder and louder against his ears.
It means he doesn't wake the others again, and that's enough of a victory for the night.
Bodhi makes breakfast for his lovers.
It's something he likes to do—taking care of the others. He'd been surprised to find that Cassian's actually a fairly talented cook, and Jyn can make most things at least edible. Bodhi's the one who seems to enjoy cooking the most, though, especially in the morning.
Cassian is out of bed shortly after he is. It's not that unusual, though Cassian is often a little slower the day after a storm has come through, all his old injuries aching again.
He's definitely slower today, as well as just... jumpier than normal. His eyes seem to flick again and again to things that Bodhi can't see, and he sits in a shoulders-hunched, defensive posture when he finally settles down at the table.
Something dark trickles down the line of Cassian's jaw, and Bodhi frowns, watching it, until a tiny crimson ball drips down onto the table. Abandoning the cakes he was making on an unlit part of the stove, Bodhi grabs a towel and moves to Cassian's side. "You're bleeding."
Cassian blinks at him as though he has two heads, then lifts a hand to gingerly touch the side of his face that's oozing. "Must have cut myself when I was trimming my beard."
Pressing the towel gently against the injury, Bodhi makes a sympathetic noise in the back of his throat. Cassian's hand rises a few seconds later, replacing Bodhi's, and Bodhi watches the way Cassian's fingers shake minutely. He's still sweating more than usual, too, and he has his blaster holster and utility knife both attached to his belt—sure signs that he feels vulnerable or ill. "This last storm was worse than usual, huh?"
Cassian shrugs, his gaze dropping down to the tabletop. "You should rescue breakfast."
Jyn's arms wrap around Cassian's shoulders from behind. "He will, but that's not going to stop us from fussing over you."
Smiling broadly, Bodhi returns to his cooking. "She's right. I think we've all gotten very good at multitasking, especially when it involves taking care of stubborn teammates."
Cassian actually smiles a bit at that. "I'm feeling better than last night. I'm sure in a few hours I'll be back to normal."
"And until then, we get to coddle you." Jyn plops down into a chair next to Cassian, scooting it closer so she can lean against him. "Or Bodhi gets to coddle both of us, because the two of you are far too fond of seeing the suns rise."
"It's an absolutely terrible thing to watch beauty being painted across the sky." The dry humor in Cassian's voice sounds more like him than most of what he's said in the last twenty-four hours, and Bodhi finds himself relaxing a little bit.
Maybe last night really was just a result of the storm.
Maybe, for once, everything truly is going to be all right.
The ghosts become less tangible the brighter and hotter the day gets.
Which means whatever's wrong inside his head is hopefully fixing itself, because Cassian doesn't want to have to go explain to a medic exactly what's going on.
I'm seeing the ghosts of people I helped kill during the rebellion. Cassian's lip twists as he imagines having to explain. No, sir, not stormtroopers and the like. Our people that I let die. I was an intelligence officer, you see, and sometimes the intelligence was more important than the officers.
Sometimes you did what you had to do, right? Tivik's ghost flickers on the path next to Cassian, the man seeming to gaze in wonder at the temple rising up before them. Because you would be much better suited to escaping and surviving torture than those you eliminated.
"I always tried to get everyone out." Cassian knows he shouldn't talk to the ghosts. Talking to them acknowledges that they're there. Talking to them raises the very real possibility that he's going insane. "And I would have killed myself before letting any Imperial get information out of me."
Tivik is already gone, though, the path next to Cassian as empty as it should be.
Cassian's hand falls to where his blaster should be, though he had enough sense to leave it at home before he came down to see Chirrut and Baze. With his mind playing tricks on him, he doesn't trust himself to carry a weapon like that into a place that's supposed to be peaceful. The weight of the holster on his hip and thigh is still comforting, though, and he had let himself keep the knife on the other side of his belt.
All he's going to do is talk to his old friends. To his teammates. To the people who have had his back for over six years. He shouldn't be this jumpy and nervous.
He shouldn't be this out of breath, and maybe Bodhi was right. Maybe he should go see a medic and see if there's something physically wrong with him.
After he sees the others, though. After he has a chance to talk to them about the perimeter fence. If there is something wrong with him, it'll be more imperative than ever that the others are able to protect themselves.
He hears someone laughing off to the right and turns to look, but the ghosts' images shred away in the bright light of the steadily-climbing suns.
Turning resolutely towards the temple entrance, Cassian wipes a hand across his brow. If the Force is real—and he's seen enough over the years of the war to start to accept that it probably is—then he prays it will give him the strength to complete this mission before anything else goes wrong.
There's a different cadence to Baze's steps for the last three days, a different pattern to his breathing, and Chirrut is determined to find out why.
Baze seems just as determined to keep him at arm's length during the day. Or, rather, more than arm's length, staying just far enough away to keep Chirrut from touching him. That gives Chirrut a good idea of what's going on, but he wants confirmation.
Which is why he's stalking his lover through the corridors of the temple, smiling pleasantly to those pilgrims who greet him. He knows Baze's patterns and routines, just as Baze knows his, and he's determined to get his answer today.
Trading out the candles in the prayer sanctuary and the Kyber's alcove is a tedious but important job. When they decide to take acolytes—and Chirrut thinks it will be time to have that discussion soon—it will almost certainly be passed on to them. For now, though, it is something that Baze likes to do. It's also a time when Baze can't just run away, not without looking like a fool or scattering bits of wax in his wake, and Chirrut is not above taking advantage of that.
The Kyber alcove isn't open to the public this early in the morning, but Chirrut is good at masking his footfalls, the stone of the temple floor already perfectly familiar to his feet.
The sigh that Baze gives when Chirrut wraps his arms around the bigger man makes it clear that he hadn't been stealthy enough, though. Apparently Baze has decided to allow himself to be caught.
Turning Baze so that they're face to face, Chirrut trails his hands from Baze's neck down his chest, across his arms, a smile breaking across his face and tears that may be a bit ridiculous starting to prick at his eyes as he confirms his suspicions. "This is what you've been skulking about for?"
"It's nothing." Baze's voice is rough, his body turning slightly away from Chirrut with his uneasiness. "Just... an easy way to set ourselves apart from the pilgrims. To make it clear who belongs here."
"They're our robes." Both Chirrut's hands move up, trailing over Baze's face so that he can feel the minute shifts and nuances in expression. "You're wearing our robes again, Baze."
For several seconds silence reigns between them, and then Baze closes his eyes, exhaling deeply again. "Yes. Yes, I am."
Chirrut steps forward, shifting so that his arms can wrap around Baze's upper body and hold him tight. "Thank you. For letting me see."
Baze's hand rises to stroke the back of Chirrut's hair, and Chirrut can hear the fond smile in his voice. "I knew you'd get overly excited about it. But I also can't keep away from you forever. So."
"Stubborn as always." Chirrut leans up to press a kiss to the side of Baze's face.
"You have no right, ever, to call anyone else stubborn." Baze returns the kiss with a brief brush of his lips against Chirrut's. "Also you should let me finish so we can both return to our proper duties."
"I'm not stopping you from finishing." Chirrut releases his hold on Baze, though he stays close to the large man, occasionally reaching out to trail his fingers along the edge of Baze's robes.
Whether Baze wants to admit it or not, his taking up the robes again is a sign of healing. All the steps of their journey have been healing ones, honestly, for them or for those close to them, though sometimes the healing can be painful by itself. But it was much better for Baze to be a soldier than to be a mercenary; much better for Bodhi to fight than to turn a blind eye; much better for Jyn to find herself and her light rather than squandering it down in the darkness; much better for Cassian to have a team than to be the solitary moral spy, sacrificing himself piece by piece for a cause that almost deserved it.
They all still have healing left to do—Chirrut included, if he's honest with himself. The Force will never let the galaxy truly fall into darkness, but there are still fears, angers, and old injuries to deal with. Baze isn't the only one who wakes in the night worried that this, too, will be wrenched away from them.
But maybe, if things keep on as they are... maybe everyone will have a chance to finish healing before the galaxy needs them again.
"You're being suspiciously quiet." Baze's rumbling voice cuts through the quiet hum of the Kyber as they sing to themselves.
"What more is there to say?" Chirrut leans against Baze's shoulder. "We've come home. And I am very glad of it."
Baze gives a soft little grunt, and his arms wrap around Chirrut, holding tight. Chirrut leans into the embrace, relaxing and giving a quiet sigh of his own. Of all the places in the universe, he couldn't think of anywhere he would rather be.
After a minute or two Baze pulls away, straightening Chirrut's robes as he does. "I'm done here, and we should really go back."
"If we must be reasonable and responsible." Chirrut smiles as he gestures for Baze to lead the way back to the temple proper.
It isn't a group of pilgrims who greets them when they emerge from the Kyber chamber, and Chirrut finds himself pausing, drawing in a sharp breath of astonishment.
Baze also freezes, a low growl emitting from his chest.
"Good to see you again, too." Cassian's voice is cheerful, but Chirrut thinks he hears strain beneath the man's usual accent.
There is something... off about Cassian's aura. As soon as Chirrut hears the strain in the man's voice he reaches out with all his senses, hoping to get a better idea of what's going on. There is no darkness flowing around him, no sense that Cassian has been asked to do something unpleasant again by those who should really know better by now. But there is something wrong with him. Usually Cassian registers in the Force as a tight ball of fierce energy, always confined deep within his skin, guarded from the outside world; now that energy is diffuse, patchy and roiling, wisping out beyond the confines of Cassian to blend into the background hum of life that forms the universe.
"My dear captain." Chirrut takes a step closer to Cassian, his concern overriding caution.
Cassian takes a step to the side, away from Chirrut's advance though without retreating. "Do the two of you have a moment to talk about something relevant to the Temple?"
Baze's hand falls on Chirrut's shoulder, holding him in place. "Our quarters acceptable?"
"Perfect." There's a brief eddy of the air currents that is probably Cassian gesturing for them to precede him.
Chirrut is silent until they've reached their quarters. Cassian won't appreciate any weaknesses being pointed out where others may hear. And if Baze is being quiet about it, perhaps—
"Cassian, you look like crap." Baze's words follow immediately on the sound of the door clicking closed.
"I'm fine. Just the storm." Annoyance tinges Cassian's voice—or perhaps that's fear? "I just want to talk to the two of you about a potential... fence. To separate the farm and the temple, make it clear where their boundaries are."
"Not everything needs clear boundaries." Chirrut speaks gently, trying to ease his way closer to Cassian, so that he can pick up more of the man's movement and general state of being. What could possibly have caused such a sudden and drastic shift in how Cassian's being interacts with the rest of the universe? Is it something physical, mental, spiritual—
"Some things need clear boundaries. Say things you want to protect." There's the sound of something being pulled from a pocket—a datapad, from the soft buzz of technology that follows. "Like Kyber crystals that have been entrusted to your care."
Chirrut frowns, feeling the increased tension from Baze immediately. Really, Captain, just because you're hurting doesn't mean you have to make others hurt.
Cassian takes a shuffling step backward. His voice is raspy and far too weak for Chirrut's liking when he speaks again. "I didn't mean... it's just an idea. I showed it to Jyn and Bodhi yesterday. But if no one likes it, it's fine."
Chirrut's heart is beating too quickly in his chest. Is this the first time he's felt fear since they came to this planet? No, that can't be right. It's the first time he's felt fear like this, though—the kind of visceral fear that tends to accompany the battlefield. This isn't like Cassian. Chirrut has come to know the man's quirks and tendencies over the years. Cassian doesn't just back down from a confrontation. He doesn't abandon ideas easily—not ones that he's worked to come up with himself.
"Let me see it." The scuff of robes against the floor, and Baze steps forward and then retreats back to Chirrut's side. He spends a few minutes studying the datapad, and Chirrut almost reaches up to touch Baze's face, to better read his reactions.
"It's not a bad idea." Another shuffle of fabric, and presumably the datapad is handed back. "I'll explain it to Chirrut later, but I imagine the two of us would support the project."
Chirrut frowns. He's really not sure he likes the idea of fencing off the temple, or of Baze giving permission for him before they've had a chance to talk. Though if this is a ruse to calm Cassian down, to get him to admit to whatever's troubling him...
"I'm glad you came to talk to us about it." Baze pauses. "Especially after the storm last night."
"It... wasn't a very pleasant night. But I am feeling better now than I did overnight." Some of the tension has faded from Cassian's voice. "I just got a little out of breath on the way over, that's all."
Both Chirrut's eyebrows rise. Cassian has kept himself in remarkable shape even after their discharge from the New Republic military proper. For him to be out of breath after just the walk from the farm to the temple speaks volumes for how poorly he must be feeling.
"If you like the idea, though, I can work more on it. See about getting a proper estimate, an idea of materials needed..." There's an almost cheerful note to Cassian's voice as he recounts the steps he'll need to take to enact his plan. The man always has needed a plan and a purpose, even if it's something as simple as building a fence, and Chirrut finds it much more pleasant than the uncertainty and hesitance that had been in the captain's voice before.
"Captain." Chirrut breaks into Cassian's litany of steps to be taken. "You know you can talk to us. About anything. Right?"
"Colonel." Cassian's tone is all crisp efficiency, and when Chirrut reaches out to try to sense his presence in the Force he finds that Cassian has started to collect himself, the wispy tendrils pulling back in to bank a more normal and proper fire. "I do know that I can trust you, though how well you'll listen to what I tell you is another matter."
"They gave you the rank of colonel because you deserved a better stipend for your service than what you would have gotten. But you are, at heart, a captain. You are one who does best leading a small group of people in the field, not directing squadrons from afar who must, for sheer practicality's sake, be reduced to simple numbers." Chirrut closes the distance between himself and Cassian before Baze can stop him, placing a hand on Cassian's shoulder. The man isn't feverish, and the cadence and depth of his breathing under Chirrut's fingertips is closer to normal than Chirrut had feared it would be. "And Rogue One still needs her captain."
There's a beat of silence, and then Cassian's hand covers Chirrut's. "I appreciate the sentiment. I really do. But I'm doing better. I promise. If things worsen again, I'll... go see a physician."
Chirrut allows his hand to fall to his side. "Acceptable. Go in peace and with the strength of the Force behind you, Cassian."
"You two try not to get mugged or murdered by your pilgrims." There's the dull thud of a fist against flesh, undoubtedly Cassian giving Baze's shoulder a light punch. "I'll see you later."
Baze's soft words of affirmation almost aren't audible, and Chirrut listens to Cassian's retreating footsteps.
"I'm thinking..." Baze's arms wrap around Chirrut, pulling him into a tight embrace. "We contact the others, make sure they keep an eye on him."
"I concur. Though I think perhaps we contact Kaytoo." Chirrut leans into the embrace. "He's had the longest acquaintance with Cassian. He might know more about what's going on." Though there is something almost familiar about the changes there had been in Cassian's aura, something dancing just at the edge of Chirrut's recollection... something he can't recall.
"I'll go do that, then." Baze's arms fall away.
"And then you'll explain to me this idea about fences?" Chirrut follows Baze out into the hallway.
Baze gives no sign of having heard him.
"Baze." Chirrut walks a bit faster to keep up with the longer-legged man.
"You'll try to say no, and I like the idea." There's something almost petulant in Baze's tone.
Chirrut sighs, suspecting that it's going to be a long day for everyone.
Cassian wends his way back through the temple corridors, glad to have just the barest flicker of ghost movement at the corners of his vision. He is getting better. This is just a worse-than-average reaction to the storms, nothing for everyone to get so upset about.
Cassian turns at the unexpected female voice. One of the pilgrims is approaching him—a young woman who looks vaguely familiar, but Cassian's head is still too fogged to allow him to pull up exactly why. He debates correcting his rank, but given Chirrut's hold on the temple it's usually a losing battle, and he decides it's not one he wants to engage in today. "Can I help you?"
The woman holds out the tray she's carrying, displaying a collection of small teacups. "Refreshment for the road?"
Cassian hesitates for just a moment before taking one of the little cups and sipping at it gingerly. It's actually quite good—some kind of sweet fruit taste predominates, though with a bitter aftertaste that suggests it may have been steeped a bit too long. "Thank you."
"Not at all." The woman smiles. "Feel free to indulge yourself. I hear the suns can get quite oppressive at certain times of day."
After another moment's thought Cassian takes a second glass, draining it in a few quick gulps. Is he usually this thirsty? Well, being ill does tend to have that effect, and as much as he might hate to admit it the storms do make him ill.
When he goes to put down his second cup, his fingers bump into a third, and before he really intends to he's downed that as well.
Too much hydration can be almost as bad as too little when one has to walk, so Cassian forces himself to stop there, inclining his head to the woman. "Thank you for your kindness and hospitality."
"I am only repaying you and yours for what you've done." The woman smiles again, and there's something achingly familiar about it.
He can't remember. He should be able to remember why that smile seems familiar—though maybe not quite right, not quite the right face—but he can't.
Muttering out another thanks, Cassian ducks away from the woman, heading as quickly as he can for the door and the fresh air outside. Hopefully the walk home will help clear the rest of the cobwebs from his thoughts.
The communication's console is in their room, so after ensuring Chirrut is once more comfortably mired in the flow of pilgrims Baze returns to send a quick message. He's not sure which of the farm's residents he'll reach, and relaxes a little bit when K-2SO is the one to answer the call. Everyone in Rogue One has become close over the years—multiple near-death experiences tend to have that effect, at least when everyone in the group is also a decent person—but Cassian and K-2 retain a special relationship.
"Baze Malbus." K-2's eyes are fixed on the display. "To what do I owe the pleasure? Is the temple on fire?"
"No, but your master looks like he has been." Baze frowns. "Have you noticed anything off about Cassian lately?"
K-2 straightens, the silence stretching out for just slightly longer than normal. "I last spoke with Cassian at lunch yesterday. Are you saying there's something bothering him other than his usual reaction to the storms?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's just a severe reaction to the storm." A shrug doesn't manage to dismiss the worry twining in Baze's chest. "But he was out of breath after walking from the farm to here. Sweating more than he should be. And he seemed... off. Wary and concerned about something, though he wouldn't say what, and... just not quite acting like Cassian."
"Is he on his way back home or staying there?" K-2 has straightened completely, leaving his head out of the image.
"He left about four minutes ago. Said he would be fine walking back, but it might not be a bad idea to make sure he gets there in one piece." Baze sighs. "Again, I hope we're blowing this all out of proportion. I hope he's fine. But Chirrut and I would rather be overly cautious in this case than have something happen."
"You concern is noted. I will pass it along to Cassian." Without further comment or question the droid cuts the transmission.
Baze supposes he can't blame K-2. The droid tends to be blunt and direct, and they'd exchanged the information they needed to exchange. Besides, K-2 is probably heading out now to meet Cassian on the road home, and that's really right where Baze wants him to be.
Exiting their quarters, Baze practically trips over one of the young pilgrims. The woman scrambles away, and the look on her face causes something to freeze cold in the center of Baze's chest. He's seen that look before. She's doing something that she knows could get her in trouble—is scared of what might happen, though also furious at being found out.
The expression disappears almost before Baze can ascertain he's seen what he thinks he has, and the young woman holds out a tray half-filled with small cups. "Refreshment for you, master?"
"We're not masters." Baze growls out the words. "Or at least I'm not."
"Ah, quite right." The young woman bows her head in contrition. "My apologies, brother."
Baze doesn't really like being called a brother, either, but it's at least better than master. He reaches out to touch one of the teacups, then shakes his head. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm fine. Could you remind me of your name, traveler?"
"Wynn. Sir." The young woman's gaze drops to the ground.
Baze probably should have remembered that. This woman has been staying at the temple for over a week now, if he's remembering correctly. "Well then. Thank you, Wynn."
Bowing low, Wynn takes her tray of drinks and retreats back toward the temple kitchen.
Baze watches her go, wondering exactly what's going on here and if there's a reason for the hackles-raised feeling that only seems to be increasing in intensity as the day goes on.