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Kindling

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The radio clicks off, and the wave of relief that rushes through Bodhi’s body is so intense, so profound, that he slumps to the floor atop the comm cable. His head spins.

They’re here. They’re listening.

Listening. He hears a clatter, a steadily rising beep. Against every instinct, he scrabbles towards it, half blind with panic and exhaustion. His fingers close around the cold casing of a grenade. Who knew his own death would come in so small a package? He turns, flinging it wildly toward the pandemonium outside, and curls into a ball.

He’s never been the religious type, but in those few seconds, he prays for what feels like an eternity.

--

Chirrut is halfway to the comm tower by the time Baze manages to pick his jaw up off the ground. He looks so small, one weedy figure against the backdrop of explosions and blaster fire. Even over the ruckus, Baze would swear he can still hear the prayer.

And the blasters keep missing.

But he’s never been content to let the Force have Chirrut’s back alone. He sets his jaw, readies his blaster, and charges into the field.

--

The explosion rocks the whole ship. Rogue One groans and shudders around Bodhi’s shaking shoulders. A heavy box lands on his back, drawing a yelp of pain from his throat that he can’t even hear over the ringing in his ears. The only thing he can hear, in fact, is the pounding of his own terrified heart.

Which means he’s alive.

He’s alive!

And if one grenade made it in, more are sure to follow.

The cargo bay is full of dust and smoke, but he knows these shuttles well. He finds the ladder, drags himself up into the cockpit. The air is clearer up here; outside the viewport, he can see reinforcements on their way. People bleeding on the ground. People dying.

For a wild instant he thinks, This is Galen Erso’s fault. Then he sets his jaw, shakes his head. No. This is what Galen spent his life trying to prevent.

He punches in the ignition sequence. The ship shudders, but it starts, exhaust ports blowing crazy eddies in the smoke. He hears feet below, doesn’t know if they’re friend or foe. Doesn’t matter. He kicks the hatch shut and locks it. His fingers fly over the console. Please let the ship be skyworthy, please please please –

It lifts.

--

Baze takes a blaster shot to the shoulder as he runs. His armor deflects the worst of it, leaving a burn and the smell of singed carbon behind. He tucks his head, abandons any pretense of shooting back, and runs faster.

Chirrut’s just pulled the switch when Baze staggers to a half beside him. “The Force is with me,” Chirrut says triumphantly, turning to smile in Baze’s direction.

Baze hears the screams of TIE fighters. He grabs Chirrut’s hand. “Let’s hope it still is,” he says, and takes off across the battlefield with the monk in tow.

The sound is right overhead. He swings Chirrut in front of him, puts his armor and his bulk between the smaller man and the comm tower.

Not a moment too soon. There’s an enormous noise, and a giant force swats him in the back. They go down, Baze huddled over Chirrut. The heat washes over his back. He can feel Chirrut’s voice, a vibration in the plating on his chest.

I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.

--

Bodhi’s a little surprised he doesn’t immediately get shot down, but to be fair, the Empire doesn’t know he’s not one of them, and the Rebellion…

The Rebellion has bigger problems.

Bodhi knows how the Empire thinks. He knows the key to getting out of here alive is speed above all else. Even at full strength, the Rebellion’s no match, and they’re not even close to that now.

His hands hover over the controls. He could just leave. Use the confusion to slip away, wait for the shield to go down, fly away with no one the wiser. No one could blame him. The odds are overwhelmingly against him.

He turns the ship towards the explosion in the distance. The comm tower. How many people died for that uplink? For a few seconds of hope?

Keeping the ship low above the trees, he heads for the tower.

--

Baze’s arms feel hot and tight, the skin stretched too thin. His ears are ringing. He sits up. Chirrut doesn’t move.

A chill of panic shoots through his chest. “Chirrut? Chirrut!”

The smaller man shifts, blinks clouded eyes. “We’re alive? I did not expect that.”

Baze grins and claps him on the shoulder. “Looks like the Force was with us, eh?”

Chirrut smiles. “It still is.” And points.

A shuttle swoops overhead, banks, and comes back, skimming near to the ground. Baze squints. “Is that…?”

“Let’s go, no time to waste,” Chirrut says briskly, levering himself to his feet. He lost his staff, Baze realizes, somewhere in their crazed run. There’s no time to go back for it.

The cargo door opens for them as they run up. Two bruised, blood-streaked faces greet them with toothy, triumphant grins from under Rebel helmets, and hands reach out to help them inside. It’s not until the door closes behind them and his eyes adjust to the darkness that he sees the Imperial troops piled haphazardly in the corner.

He gets Chirrut settled, then climbs up to bang on the hatch. It opens quickly, revealing Bodhi’s exhausted, frightened face. Baze grins at him as he clambers up into the cockpit. “Thanks for coming to get us.”

“Ah… no problem,” Bodhi says with forced casualness. “Did anyone else…?”

Baze glances out the window. He can’t see their battlefield at this angle, but he doesn’t need to. He shakes his head.

Bodhi mutters a quiet curse and slumps into the pilot’s chair. After a moment, he looks up again. “What now?”

Baze shrugs. “You’re the pilot. I just fire the big guns.”

“What was that?” Chirrut shouts suddenly from below.

“What was what?” Bodhi calls back, but Baze has already seen it.

“The shield,” he says, pointing out the window. Then, louder so that Chirrut can hear, “The shield is down!”

“They did it,” Bodhi breathes. “I can’t believe it.”

Baze scans the sky, but the shield is completely gone. Massive chunks of debris light up the atmosphere as they fall – one, he would swear, looks like a Star Destroyer. But that would be crazy. And then, on the horizon…

“We need to go,” he says.

Bodhi looks up. Draws in a breath. He’s frozen, staring at the weapon slowly cresting the edge of the world.

And then, suddenly, he moves. The ship turns in response to his flying fingers, heading –

heading straight for the central tower.

“Cassian and Jyn are in there,” Bodhi says, almost defensively. “They’re going to need a way out.”

Baze looks at the Death Star for a long moment. Then nods. “They may need help,” he says, and heads back to the ladder. He pauses, meets the pilot’s eyes. “Fly true.”

--

The building judders and shakes around them, flexing in the miniature shockwave from where the beam clipped the top. It’s going to get worse. It’s a good thing Jyn’s never been the nervous type, she thinks, or getting in an elevator right now might sound like a really bad idea. But they can’t take the stairs, so she hits the button for the ground floor.

Cassian leans against the wall where she left him, breathing hard with the effort of staying upright. She limps back to him, steadies him with a hand on his arm.

“Where are we going?” he asks after a moment. “You saw it fire. You saw what it did to Jedha.”

She opens her mouth. Closes it on a choked sound, then tries again. “Hope, remember?”

He snorts, but doesn’t argue. Blood drips from the wound in his side, squeezing out between the fingers of the hand he’s clamped over it. She puts her hand over his, like that’ll help, like she can keep the blood inside him by sheer force of will.

She looks up. He’s close, his eyes inches from hers, glinting in the uneven light. His breath huffs against her skin. Goosebumps race down her arms. It’s not fair. The first person who’s ever stuck around when things got rough, and neither one of them is going to be around long enough to find out what that could mean.

He drifts closer. His gaze is warm and dark. She slides a hand up to loop loosely around his neck, and closes the final inch between them.

He tastes like sweat and blaster discharge, acrid like the smoky air, but she kinda likes it that way. After a moment, he leans into her, hard. His free hand cards through her hair.

Neither of them has the breath left for a long kiss, but neither of them wants it to end. They only break apart when the elevator thuds to a stop, and the doors grind open. Their eyes meet. He bumps her forehead with his. She smiles, shakes her head, and slings his arm back over her shoulder.

The view when they emerge stops them both dead. Not the hellish glow on the horizon, no, that she expected.

The Imperial shuttle hovering just before the door, its cargo doors wide open? That’s a surprise.

“What are you waiting for?” the man leaning out of the doors yells, and Jyn’s exhausted brain belatedly realizes it’s Baze. He’s out of context. She’d never expected to see him again.

She glances up to find Cassian smiling, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. “Hope, huh?” he grunts. Jyn elbows him gently and they limp for the ship.

Once inside, they collapse together onto the bench seats. Someone who sounds suspiciously like Bodhi shouts overhead as the doors close, and the ship lurches away from the ground. Baze bends over Cassian, tending to the wound on his side with unexpected care. “I’ve patched that one up enough times,” he grumbles in response to Jyn’s questioning look, jerking his head towards Chirrut.

Chirrut smiles. “We are one with the Force. The Force is with us.”

Cassian’s arm is still around her shoulders. She doesn’t mind. Baze mutters to himself. Chirrut prays. The ship shudders and jukes in time with Bodhi’s whoops and shouts.

Jyn leans into Cassian, just a little.

Welcome home.