“Happy birthday, Eli!” His parents shouted in unison. They were a few days early, but seeing he was leaving for Myomar Imperial Academy later that day, Eli was just glad to celebrate his nineteenth with his folks.
“You did not have to do this.” He said with a wide grin, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Glancing over to the window, Eli saw that it was fairly late in the morning. They had even let him sleep in, how considerate.
“Oh you stop that! Of course we had to.” His mother, Dahlia Vanto, chimed in, patting her son on the shoulder.
“Put some clothes on, there’s a surprise for you downstairs.” Eli’s father, Ephram Vanto, added, taking a step over to the door.
Eli smiled even wider. “Does this surprise involve shaak bacon?”
Dahlia shot Ephram a worried glance. The man shook his head. “It does now. I’ll toss some in the pan. Maybe the smell will get you out of bed, hm?”
Laughing, Eli nodded. “Fine, fine. I’ll see you in a few.” Watching his parents evacuate his space, Eli stretched his arms up over his head. If the surprise was not shaak bacon, which was really the only thing he asked for even if only jokingly, he wondered what it could possibly be.
Throwing a robe on over his night shorts, Eli took a moment to sort his hair out a bit in the mirror before descending the steps towards the kitchen. Immediately he was hit with the smell and the sizzling sound of bacon. He could not wait to get some of that in his mouth that was for sure. But when he entered the kitchen rather than a plate in the center of the round dining table, there was a wooden box with a metal latch. The top had a sort of screen built into the lid, and there was an ornate pattern carved into the box.
“Morning, sunshine.” Dahlia greeted her son, gesturing to the seat next to her own. Eli returned a greeting, but could not take his eyes off the box. Dahlia nudged it a bit closer to where Eli sat down. “Your father brought this home last night so your guess is as good as mine as to what it could be.” She said softly with a wink.
Flipping the bacon, Ephram butted in. “I promise you that it's not anything you’ve seen before. You’re going to love it.”
Now Eli’s curiosity was truly peaked. Usually his mother did the gift shopping. Last time his dad had supplied the birthday present, Eli was stuck with a year long subscription to the Lysatra Times on datapad. Bracing for the worst, Eli placed a hand on the box, flipping the latch with his thumb. “Here goes nothing…”
Opening the lid, a gentle chirp came out from the box. A chirp? Peering down into the space, Eli saw a trembling ball of blue fur.
“Oh crap, almost forgot!” Ephram exclaimed, throwing down the spatula to dim the lights across the room. “He doesn’t like light.”
“He?” Eli asked, incredibly surprised. The blue ball seemed to calm down immediately, slowly unfurling to reveal two large, dimly glowing red eyes and large triangular ears. Darker blue fur populated the top of a round head and their belly, and the creature had four stubby arms. The bright eyes seemed to study Eli, fliting across his features and lingering there.
“Yeah. His name is Mirth’rim’nurpto… Mitth’ripe’naruto… Something like that.”
Dahlia shot her husband a sharp look. “Really? Well. What exactly does a Mip’rip’nip need?”
“It’s not a Mip’rip, it’s a Chiss.” Ephram retorted, crossing his arms.
“Ok then what does a Chiss need?”
“Thrawn.” The small creature chirped.
Ignoring his parents bickering, Eli leaned in closer. “What was that? Can you talk?”
The creature nodded, repeating again “Thrawn.”
“Is that your name?” Eli asked, earning another nod. “His name is Thrawn.”
Ephram pointed at Eli. “Right! Exactly. Thrawn. So, Eli. Do you like him?”
Gently, Eli stuck his hands into the box, lifting Thrawn out. He could fit in his hands comfortably and was incredibly soft to the touch. Rubbing the top of Thrawn’s head with his thumb, the creature leaned into the touch. “Yeah. For sure.”
Ephram beamed. “Knew you would. So, there are some special rules in taking care of a Chiss.” This got Eli’s attention. “There's three rules. First one you already know. Chiss don’t like bright light. Second, you can’t get it wet. So no baths or water bowls. And third, don’t feed it after dark.”
“Why?” Eli implored, tickling the Chiss’ silky belly.
“Don’t know. But the dealer said it was an absolute no. Maybe it would kill it.”
Eli suddenly felt very protective of Thrawn, clutching the Chiss closer. “I’ll keep it safe.”
“Good lad.” Turning back to his pan, Ephram frowned. “Might have to give you a rain check on the bacon.” Picking up a piece in the spatula, Ephram showed off a charred black strip. The others just laughed.
“This is way better than bacon.”
“One more thing.” His father continued. “I checked, and there are no rules against Chiss at Myomar.”
It suddenly clicked for Eli. He had a roundabout way of showing it, but his father was worried about sending him off to school alone. This was a way of giving Eli a sort of companion for the years ahead. He was touched by the gesture. “Perfect. Guess I’ll have a roommate after all.”
After having an unfortunately bacon free breakfast, Eli set to packing his things and settling Thrawn into a nest of blankets he bundled up on his bed. Roaming around on short legs, the Chiss refused to sit still.
Once even, Eli turned around to find him digging through the pile of undergarments he’d assembled on the bed. “Hey! Those are not yours.” Eli chastised, moving the clothes into his pack. Thrawn gave a cute little huff, crossing his arms with a frown but still managing to look adorable. Continuing his exploration of the space, Thrawn ended up sitting on Eli’s desk, carding through scrap documents and office supplies.
“Art.” The Chiss chirped, holding up a piece of flimsi.
Eli turned around to see what sort of trouble he’d gotten into now but was surprised to see the stack was instead meticulously maintained. Thrawn flashed the sheet he held, some class notes with a schematic of a hyperdrive drawn on one corner. “That’s just for school, nothing special.”
Thrawn assessed the drawing again. “Art.” He repeated. Then, the Chiss turned the paper over, setting it down blank side up on the desk. “More.”
“That’s it buddy. Mostly just words. Sorry.” Eli shrugged, packing socks next.
“More!” Thrawn said, louder. Turning back to the Chiss, Eli found him to be brandishing a pencil, pointing in Eli’s direction. “More art!”
“I have to pack. I’ll draw you something later, alright?” Eli stated, returning to his task. A few seconds later, the pencil hit him square in the back of the head, clattering to the floor. “Ow!”
“More. Draw.” Thrawn demanded, waving the page around.
“Fine!” Eli grumbled, sliding into his desk chair and beginning to sketch. “I’ll warn you now, I’m no Pic Caso.”
“Pic Caso.” Thrawn echoed, watching intently. “Show Pic Caso.”
Eli huffed. “I really don’t have time for this. You know what. Here.” Giving up on a poorly drawn flower, Eli pulled out his datapad. Thrawn took a moment to observe the crude lines as Eli pulled up a holonet search on the artist in question.
“Art bad.” Thrawn concluded, pushing Eli’s sketch away.
Eli just rolled his eyes, not taking offense to the small creature’s opinion. “Hey, you asked for it. Anyway here is the good stuff.” With the Chiss fully engrossed in the holonet search, Eli was able to finally accomplish his task.
Then, it was time to go. Tucking Thrawn away into the front pocket of his sack, Eli bid his parents, and homeworld, goodbye for the Imperial Academy. At first, he thought it might actually work out, keeping Thrawn a secret. Just because there were no anti-Chiss regulations did not mean pets were exactly welcome and Eli was just glad he’d been able to pull enough strings to secure a single room for himself and his new friend.
Despite being a bit pushy over using the datapad, Thrawn turned out to be a wonderful companion to Eli. He mostly kept to himself, pouring over whatever article he could get his small fingers on and mumbling in a lilting, high pitched language to himself. However, he also seemed to be acutely aware of Eli’s feelings, offering lots of soft cuddles whenever Eli was worried and overworked due to a rigorous course schedule.
“You know, I really should not have listed all of my experience on the application.” Eli said softly on one such night, holding Thrawn close to his chest while laying on his side in his bunk, under a pile of blankets. “Maybe then they’d have started me on all first level courses. Sure, math comes easy to me. But the sheer amount of work this is giving me is ridiculous.”
Thrawn hummed in agreement. “Busy. Busy.”
“Yeah, you know it was never this crazy back at home. Maybe… Maybe I should have just stayed on Lysatra.” Eli sniffled, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.
“Busy good.” Thrawn tried to argue with a limited vocabulary, applying some pressure to Eli’s wrist in a comforting gesture. Eli held the Chiss tighter, burying his face in silky soft fur.
Eli mumbled into the Chiss and tried to hold back tears. Above all, he was just feeling homesick. His battle with his eyes proved to be unsuccessful as a salty drop escaped into the fur.
Suddenly, Thrawn let out a shrill yelp! Eli sat bolt upright, cupping the trembling Chiss in his hands. Swearing, he started to panic. “I’ve gotten you wet! Oh my stars I am so sorry!” Setting Thrawn down, the Chiss burrowed into the blankets, screeching and shaking. Soon, a welt began to grow where the tear had landed on its head.
Bracing for the worst, Eli gasped when the welt grew fur and ejected itself off of Thrawn, landing across the room. More worried about his friend, through, Eli looked to Thrawn who lay flat on the bed now, breathing heavily.
“You… Are you ok?”
“Fine now.” Thrawn said weakly. Eli exhaled in relief, but a new noise soon grabbed his attention. The fur ball across the room squeaked! Soon, two new glowing red eyes peered at Eli curiously as arms and legs unfurled from the growing ball. Last, two long ears just like Thrawn’s appeared on either side of its blue furred head.
Making sure Thrawn was comfortable and wrapped in a blanket, Eli sat on the floor across from the new creature which cowered from an outstretched hand. “Hey, its ok. I’m not going to hurt you.”
First, the new Chiss turned away from him, but soon he warmed up to Eli, allowing the human to hold his hand. “What’s your name?” Eli asked gently.
After seeming to study Eli, the Chiss spoke softly, in a voice lighter than Thrawn’s. What it said was in what seemed to be the same language Thrawn spoke to himself in, a series of four syllables Eli knew he could probably not repeat back to the being.
“Thrass.” Thrawn provided feebly from his perch on the bed, peering out from his blanket wrappings.
“Thrass, is that your name?” Eli asked. The Chiss nodded, taking a step closer to Eli. Upon a better inspection, Eli noticed some subtle differences in the Chiss. Thrass was smaller, both in height and width, and the hue of his ears and nose were darker blues than Thrawn. That would be helpful in keeping them straight, Eli considered.
“So light makes your eyes hurt, and water makes you, uh, multiply.” Eli thought out loud, picking Thrass up in his hand and setting him beside Thrawn. The first thing the Chiss did was smack Thrawn upside the head, causing Eli to push Thrass away from his… brother.
“Well that’s not very kind!” Eli exclaimed. Thrass seemed not the least bit sorry with how he raised his chin.
Eli sighed. He could already tell these two were going to be a handful. Or rather, two handfuls. “It was my mistake. Plus, he’s your brother so be nice.”
Thrass shot Eli about as rude a look a cute little fur ball could manage before kicking his arm and walking over to the other side of the bed. Standing on his toes, he peered out the window. With it being night, Eli opened the shutters to let in some air seeing he had to keep them closed all day to protect Thrawn’s eyes.
“Go out.” Thrass said flatly, beginning to hoist himself onto the ledge. Eli snapped shut the windows. “No, not that either. I think I’m going to have to set some ground rules, aren’t I.”
Sitting up, Thrawn yawned. “Sleep first.”
Being reminded of how exhausted he was, Eli followed suit. “Fine. But in the morning I’m having a talk with both of you.”
Backing away from the window, Thrass nodded as if he had any sway in the conversation. “Sleep.”
Settling back down in bed, Thrawn crawled in next to Eli who patted a spot behind him for Thrass who politely declined, climbing down to sit down on a pillow that had landed on the floor next to the bed. “Suit yourself.” Eli said, tossing a blanket down to Thrass who wrapped himself up and settled down for bed.
After checking in with Thrawn one more time, Eli let himself fall asleep, the stress of school long forgotten for the night.
After a few hiccups, Thrawn and Thrass eventually learned to get along with one another and even became close after some time. There was an escape attempt (in which Thrass had trapped Thrawn under a box) and then an incident where the duo had dueled with pens, but otherwise it was smooth sailing. Where Thrawn was content to browse the holonet, Thrass required more hands on entertainment. Eventually, Eli just let the creature check all of his homework answers and fill out study guides. Frankly, he was thankful for the extra help.
Of course, as with all good things, something would eventually come and mess it all up. Or rather, Eli grew far too comfortable with this routine and one careless night fell asleep with a plate of jam and biscuits left on his desk. Once the human was out cold, Thrass awoke Thrawn with a tug on the ear.
It was not long before the pair worked together to scale the ladder Eli had made for them to reach the desk’s surface, eyeing the food with salivating mouths.
Eli awoke thinking he was being robbed, two dark figures rummaging in his room and prying open the shutters on his window. Panicked, he reached for Thrawn, only finding a warm spot on the bed where the Chiss had been. “Hey!” He shouted, throwing a blanket over the head of one of the intruder and shoving them to the ground.
Surprise advantage lost, he tried to punch the second thief in the back of the head but found his wrist instantly locked in a vice grip. Two glowing red eyes looked at him.
Eli felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. The eyes were familiar. To familiar. It was impossible, yet, here they were. “Thrawn?” He asked, barely above a whisper, too shocked to form a sentence.
The room was too dark to entirely tell, but Eli could swear the not-quite-human being before him smiled. “Indeed.”
Behind him, the other being struggled to free themselves from the blanket, sputtering in the lilting language of before but in a more deeper tone unlike the squeaking voice of before.
“If you’re… then he’s… Oh jeez…” Eli stammered. Taking a deep breath, he centered himself. “Can I turn the lights on?”
The being who claimed to be Thrawn released his wrist, and Eli did just that, turning the lights to a low din that he was quite accustomed to.
Standing before him, stark naked, was a blue alien with sharp jawbones, long black hair, and a muscular form. Sitting on the floor where he had been pushed down was a similar being, nether regions covered by the blanket.
“I… you’re… Thrass?” Eli could not belive his eyes. The worst part was that they were not only near human, but incredibly attractive at that. He felt a blush populate his face as he forced his eyes away from the sight before him that was Thrawn.
“In the flesh. Well. Different flesh.” Thrass replied coolly. Eli found himself unable to stop laughing. This had to be a dream right? He was just lonely. It had been ages since he’d had any real companion other than two fuzz balls after all. His classmates were fine, but he’d not taken a particular shining to any of them.
Thrawn took a step closer to Eli. “Are you alright?” He asked in a dark, purring voice.
“I’m going insane.” Eli cackled. “Goodnight guys. I’ll see you in the morning I guess.”
Stepping over Thrass’ leg, Eli plopped facedown on the mattress. Soon, a heavy weight settled in beside him. Weighing his options, Eli decided things were already too crazy to stop now and he shifted to his side, laying an arm around what he realized was Thrawn’s body. Legs soon followed suit and they were cuddling proper, Eli’s smaller form now surrounded by the larger Chiss.
Nuzzling his face against Thrawn’s chest, Eli exhaled deeply, sliding back into his sleep despite the disturbance.
“You do realize we can’t just stay here, right?” Thrass whispered into Thrawn’s ear, kneeling beside the bed.
“Why not?” Thrawn murmured, planting a delicate kiss to the top of Eli’s head.
Thrass groaned. “Don’t tell me you have feelings for him.”
“And if I do?” Thrawn replied, tone still soft and dreamy.
“Then I’m leaving without you.” Thrass said in a much firmer voice.
Thrawn tensed. “You know the circumstance.”
“You can not tell me that Ar’alani would not permit you back into the Ascendancy?” Thrass argued, voice nearly hissing now.
“I am exiled. You are not.”
Realizing he was not going to win this argument, Thrass stood up. “Very well. It has been good knowing you, brother.”
“I bid you safe travels.” Thrawn concluded, pulling Eli flush against him.
Keeping his comments to himself, Thrass keyed open the door. In studying Eli’s work, he had plotted an escape plan and intended to follow it to the letter. His first task would be reaching the hangar bay undetected…
In the morning, Eli awoke the the pleasant sensation of being held. “Mornin’.” He said sleepily, slowly blinking his eyes open. He was entirely unprepared for the sight before him. The blue alien from his dream was here, arms intertwined with his and a gleeful smile painted on his features.
Eli just stared, and after a while Thrawn’s grin melted to a more concerned expression.
“It wasn’t a dream.” Eli mused, not breaking eye contact with the Chiss before him.
A more discrete smile graced Thrawn’s lips then. “No, I am real.”
Thrawn’s eyes gained a distant look and his expression neutralized. “He is real as well.”
Sitting up on his elbow, Eli peered over the bed only to find a vacant blanket. “Where is he?”
Considering the question for a minute, Thrawn then replied. “Nearly home now.”
Eli seemed to understand. “Right.” Turning back to Thrawn, his mouth hung open before he spoke again. “And what exactly are we doing?”
“Sleeping.” Thrawn replied plainly, as if there was nothing weird about the arrangement they were in, two men tangled up in each other and wearing next to nothing, one of which was a small sentient ball of fur and floppy ears the day before.
“Ok. Sure.” Eli didn’t try to fight the explanation, and reached over for his datapad to check the time, laying out across Thrawn in the process.
Thrawn wrapped a strong arm around Eli’s torso, pulling him down on top of him. Eli yelped in surprise. “You are not late for your class. Stay.” When Eli did not respond, he added softly. “Please.”
Eli did not fight against the new position, but was still not sure how he felt about all of this. “Alright, but I’m going to need an explanation for all of this” He gestured to the man below him.
Nodding, Thrawn began. “The Chiss live as you see me now, as beings shaped as you are. However, we did not always have this form, and as punishment there was developed a way to revert a Chiss to a more primal state.”
“That makes sense.” Eli said when Thrawn paused. “But how did you get here?”
“I acted against the will of the Ascendancy, that is our leadership, to protect what I care most for. Thus, I was deemed unworthy of my form and exiled to your world.”
“But why Lysatra?”
Thrawn smiled again. “I was lucky I suppose.” Pulling Eli down into a hug, Thrawn emitted a low, reverberating sound from deep in his chest. “I am lucky to have been given to you.”
“Given? Thrawn. I don’t own you.” Eli interrupted.
Thrawn cocked his head. “There was an exchange of currency.”
“That means nothing!” Eli rolled off of Thrawn, sitting on the far side of the bed. “Fine. I give you permission to leave.”
Thrawn sat up, but did not leave the bed. “I wish to stay. Here. With you.”
Eli shuffled his hands together, somewhat of a nervous tick of his. “Alright, but why?”
Thrawn scooted closer, placing a hand on Eli’s thigh. “You cared for me when I was at my weakest. For that I am eternally thankful.”
He really didn’t want to, but Eli pushed Thrawn’s hand away. “I don’t want you to think you have some sort of life debt to me, Thrawn.”
The Chisss shook his head. “No, it is more than that. May I show you?”
Eli nodded. “Alright.”
Then, blue lips pressed against his own, Thrawn closing the distance and leaned on his hands, one on either side of Eli.
“You do not feel the same way.” Thrawn lowered his gaze, sitting back on the side of the bed.
“It’s not that. Well, yeah maybe right now. But I just don’t know you as you really are. Does that make sense?” Eli tried to explain.
“I see. I was able to observe your true form. You have just met mine. I understand.” Thrawn moved to get out of the bed but stopped when Eli reached out, placing a hand over Thrawn’s.
“I’m not saying I’m not interested. Just. We need to get to know each other. In our true forms.”
Thrawn smiled, turning his hand over to hold Eli’s. Eli gave the hand a gentle squeeze and Thrawn a reassuring grin.
It had been difficult hiding a whole other adult being in the Imperial Navy, but Eli had done it. Thrawn had proved to be much more of an advantage than a hindrance as well, his observational skills proving to aide Eli in climbing the ladder of ranks. Soon enough, his quarters became large enough to house the Chiss comfortably and his shore leave options were plentiful. No one paid much mind to an Admiral lugging around a large supply crate, after all.
Learning of the Death Stars destructive power, however, proved to be the true turning point in Eli’s career. That day, he along with nearly all of his ship’s crew defected from the empire, commandeering the ISD Chimaera for the Rebellion. And in the Rebellion, with hundreds of aliens quickly joining his crew, no one batted an eye at Admiral Eli Vanto’s blue skinned and red eyed co-commander. And they all chalked the lowered light levels up to an attempt to save energy and cut costs on running the massive ship.
Honestly, only Karyn Faro had asked about the new being now practically attached to her superior at the hip.
“He’s a long time companion of mine.” Eli responded vaguely, waving the being known as Thrawn over. Faro decided just to accept the answer and not press the subject, glad just to see the Admiral happy.
“I’ve finished studying the files on cooking you shared with me.” Thrawn announced as Faro left to meet with a new friend of hers, pilot Hera Syndulla, to mediate discussion of coordination between the Twi’lek pilot and their own Hammerly’s firepower.
“Oh, and what might the result of these studies be?” Eli teased, smelling strong spices on Thrawn’s clothes.
“You will just have to see.” Thrawn replied cryptically, gesturing towards the lift that would take them to their shared quarters.
His shift over, Eli was looking forward to a warm meal and a night enjoying Thrawn’s company. “I guess I will. Lead the way, love.”