“Why does he sit so much?” Bodhi’s voice was pitched low, for Jyn’s ears alone.
Jyn shrugged, double-checking her blaster. “Ask him.”
Bodhi watched Chirrut as he sat on the weapons case, head tilted as he listened to the commotion around him. He didn’t look tired, but Bodhi had been watching him. The minute the crew stopped moving, Chirrut found somewhere to sit, Baze never more than a yard away.
It bothered Bodhi. He wanted to know why.
So curious, Galen had often said, that crooked smile tugging at his lips. You have to understand everything, don’t you?
Bodhi had always shrugged, feeling awkward but pleased. I like to know why a thing does what it does.
Baze put a hand on Chirrut’s shoulder even as Chirrut turned his head toward him. The huge gunner bent and asked a question, too quietly for Bodhi to hear.
Affection flitted across Chirrut’s face but he shook his head. Then he pointed, unerringly, right at Bodhi, and crooked a finger.
Bodhi glanced around him. Jyn was talking to Cassian and Kaytoo was in the pilot’s seat, muttering to himself as they broke orbit. When Bodhi looked back, Chirrut was smiling, head at an angle as he waited.
“He means you,” Baze called.
Bodhi gulped, smoothing the front of his jumpsuit, and took a hesitant step forward, then another.
Chirrut slid over on the weapons case and patted it in clear invitation.
Bodhi eased himself onto it, perched on the very edge as Baze drifted a few feet away, keeping a watchful eye on Chirrut but giving them privacy to talk.
“You want to ask me something,” Chirrut said.
“It’s—really, it’s not i-important,” Bodhi managed.
“You have a questioning mind,” Chirrut said, thumping his bo staff on the floor between his feet. “This is a good thing to have. Ask your question, little one.”
“Why do you sit so often?” Bodhi blurted.
Chirrut’s smile grew. He hooked a thumb in Baze’s direction. “That one, he’s restless. Always on his feet, watching everything—he probably has at least three exit strategies in the event this ship is attacked.”
“Four,” Baze rumbled.
Chirrut huffed amusement. “Even in the air?”
“Oh, in flight I have five,” Baze said. His voice was serious but his eyes were smiling when he glanced at Bodhi, inviting him to share the joke, and Bodhi ducked his head but couldn’t help his answering smile.
“You see,” Chirrut said. “Me, I don’t need to always be on guard. That’s why I have him.”
“Landing in ten,” Cassian called.
Baze sat down on the other side of the case, his back against Chirrut’s.
“Did that answer your question?” Chirrut inquired.
Bodhi hesitated. “Not really,” he admitted.
Baze snorted a laugh. “He likes to ‘explain’ without explaining. You get used to it.”
The ship hit a pocket of air and bounced, jostling the passengers. Bodhi caught himself before he fell off the weapons case with one hand tangled in the webbing above his head. Chirrut swayed with the ship’s movement, utterly serene, and Bodhi snuck glances at him from the corner of his eye as they dropped through the atmosphere like a stone through mist.
“It’s quite alright to stare,” Chirrut said. “It’s not like I can see you.”
“Then how do you know?” Bodhi asked. He bit his tongue but Chirrut didn’t seem annoyed by his prying.
“The Force is with me,” he said simply. He leaned his head back against Baze’s wild mane. “And so is Baze.”
Baze muttered something and Chirrut laughed as Bodhi watched, fascinated. He couldn’t pin down exactly what it was that drew him to the pair, but he wanted to find out. He needed to.
“Do you have any family, Bodhi?” Chirrut asked as Cassian slowed their freefall into a manageable descent.
Bodhi shook his head, remembered Chirrut couldn’t see him, and cleared his throat. “Ah—no. They were—my father left when I was little, my mother died years ago. I had a great-aunt in Jedha City, but she hated me.”
Chirrut tilted his head. “Why?”
“Because… I left for the academy,” Bodhi said. “I worked for the enemy. I was—” He swallowed. “I was a traitor.”
Chirrut made a noncommittal noise but Baze growled something under his breath that sounded distinctly uncomplimentary, and Bodhi’s chest eased a fraction.
Then the shuttle touched down and personal conversation disappeared into the bustle of getting ready to play their parts.
Cassian swore under his breath as an official looking Neimoidian bustled toward the ship, clipboard clutched to chest.
“Inspection of cargo,” they informed Cassian when he let them in. “Won’t take long.”
Cassian scowled but glanced at Jyn. “Take Bodhi in my place. See you back here.”
Bodhi drew back, startled, but Jyn just nodded and gestured at him to follow.
They stepped out first, Baze and Chirrut on their heels, splitting off to the right as Jyn and Bodhi went left.
Jyn almost bristled as she strode along, arms swinging freely, and Bodhi debated the merits of mentioning that she was practically begging someone to start a fight.
He decided not to risk it, on the off-chance she took a swing at him.
The spaceport was teeming with life, nearly every conceivable species rubbing shoulders as Jyn and Bodhi slipped through the throngs to the assigned meeting spot—a pub set deep underground, ducking down the steps just as Imperial troops came around the corner of the alley opposite.
The stone walls wept cool condensation as they hurried down the wide, shallow stairs and emerged in a dank, dimly lit room. It was crowded and noisy, and no one seemed to notice when they came in.
Jyn jerked her head toward one of the few empty tables and Bodhi sat down, clutching handfuls of his pant legs in an attempt to calm his nerves as Jyn headed for the bar and leaned across it to shout something to the bartender, who spat on the bar beside Jyn’s elbow.
Bodhi tensed, but Jyn didn’t react. She just gazed at the bartender, whose nostrils flared, his antenna whipping wildly back and forth over his head, until he scowled and slammed a bottle of brandy down in front of her.
Jyn accepted it with a nod and joined Bodhi at the table.
“Relax,” she said out of the corner of her mouth, and unscrewed the bottle lid. “You look about ready to go up like Cloud City fireworks.”
“What if he doesn’t show?” Bodhi said. “Did you see the stormtroopers outside? What if they recognized us? What if they’re calling for backup and have the place covered and we’re trapped like—”
“Enough,” Jyn said sharply. She shoved the bottle to him. “Drink.”
Bodhi raised it, knowing his hands were shaking, and took a long pull. It burned its way down his throat, leaving a trail of fire all the way to his stomach, and Bodhi choked, spluttering on the potent fumes.
Jyn’s smile lit up her face and took ten years off her age. “That’s the good stuff.”
“If by good, you mean I c-could degrease the shuttle’s engines w-with it,” Bodhi managed, wiping his streaming eyes, and handed the bottle back.
But her diversion tactic had worked—his nerves were settling. This mission was important, entrusted to them by Mon Mothma herself, and they couldn’t risk screwing up.
Jyn took several swallows and slid the bottle back to Bodhi. They shared in silence and warmth filled Bodhi’s core, licking fiery tendrils into his limbs as the tension unspooled between them.
He was relaxed enough that he didn’t immediately react when someone sat down backwards in the chair opposite him and cocked his head. Bodhi blinked, focusing, and stiffened.
“It’s okay, this is our contact,” Jyn said.
Bodhi eyed the stranger warily. He appeared male, tall and humanoid in shape, with deep scarlet skin and triangular golden eyes.
When he spoke, his voice was deep and soft, full of sibilant noises and elongated vowels. Iss he parrrt of the traaade?
“No, K’rillek, and you know it,” Jyn said flatly.
K’rillek pouted, full magenta lips pursing as he looked Bodhi over with a deep avarice. I waaant hiiim.
Alarm spiked through Bodhi but Jyn was already speaking. “Too bad, he’s mine. Now, do you want the goods we actually brought for you, or shall we go to another buyer? They’re lined up waiting for you to fail and us to walk, you know.” She made as if to stand and K’rillek laid a hand on her arm.
His fingers were webbed, Bodhi noted, fascinated in spite of himself, and when K’rillek blinked, an inner eyelid flickered across his gleaming corneas, there and gone again almost too quickly to be seen.
Not nesssessssary, K’rillek said. He patted Jyn’s arm until she scowled and sat again.
“Fine, but stop hitting on my pilot,” Jyn said. “Do we have a deal?”
In answer, K’rillek pulled out a small pouch and slid it across to Bodhi. We have a deeeal.
“Check it,” Jyn told Bodhi.
He obeyed, opening the bag to discover a thin, pale blue disc inside, stamped with an image of a star in mid-supernova.
Bodhi lifted it out, looking dubiously at it and then over to Jyn. She nodded.
“Put it away. K’rillek, we’re in bay twenty-seven B, far left dock. The robot might be willing to help you unload the wares, but you’ll have to be nice to him, which means not hitting on him.”
K’rillek recoiled, tongue flashing a shocking pink against his scarlet skin as he licked his lips. I would neeever.
“Pity,” Jyn said to Bodhi, and stood. “I’d pay good credits to see that. Always a pleasure, K’rillek.” She strode away and Bodhi scrambled to catch up, shoving the disc in its soft bag in the front of his jumpsuit.
He waited until they were outside and well away from the pub before he asked, “What is it?”
“It’s a key,” Jyn said over her shoulder.
“Didn’t look like a key,” Bodhi said dubiously.
Jyn dodged a wookiee arguing with a street vendor. “It’s a metaphorical key, if that helps.”
Jyn didn’t answer, and Bodhi sighed and picked up his pace to stay with her.
They hurried through the streets, keeping their heads down, until finally they rounded a corner and stopped in front of a vast temple that squatted above the houses surrounding it like a malignant stone toad.
Jyn turned to face Bodhi. “Sorry, by the way.”
Bodhi blinked. “What for?”
“For the—you know, saying you belonged to me. K’rillek’s race—they think in terms of ownership. He wouldn’t have backed off if I hadn’t laid claim to you.” Jyn looked uncomfortable, and Bodhi stifled a smile.
“Thank you, then,” he said gravely. “I hope you won’t be too harsh an owner.”
That made Jyn snort. “No, but I may make you wash dishes sometimes.” She glanced behind, toward the temple. “Chirrut and Baze will be waiting, we need to go.”
Bodhi followed her up the steps. Stone pillars soared high above them to a ceiling so high up it was only barely visible, but the air was cool and sweet-smelling, hinting of spices and incense.
Chirrut and Baze were by the wall near the front, Chirrut—predictably—sitting, and Baze standing watchfully above him, one hand on his gun as he scanned the room for threats.
Chirrut’s head swiveled toward them as Jyn and Bodhi walked in and he said something quietly to Baze.
“Do you have it?” Chirrut asked when Jyn stopped in front of him.
Jyn motioned at Bodhi, who pulled the pouch out and laid it in Chirrut’s open palm.
Chirrut fumbled with the drawstrings and opened it, drawing out the disc inside. He caressed the etching with reverent fingers, head tilted to the side as he explored the design and Baze shifted his weight, beside him.
“Oh yes,” Chirrut murmured. “Can you feel it, Baze?”
“You know I can’t,” Baze snapped.
“What is it?” Bodhi asked.
Chirrut smiled. “It’s a Duinogwuin scale.”
Bodhi stared at the disc. “That’s a… Star Dragon scale?”
Chirrut hummed. “I wonder what the artist used to carve this design into it. Star Dragons have some of the toughest skin in the galaxy.” His mouth curved and he tucked the scale back into the bag. “They’d have to, of course, to be able to survive in space. Shall we?”
He stood and a cloaked figure approached, bluish-gray hands clasped in front of its robes. It bowed to the group and gestured for them to follow.
“Where are we?” Bodhi asked Jyn in a whisper.
“The temple of Axan’ilay’nah, the greatest of the Star Dragons,” Jyn murmured. “These monks worship the Duinogwuin in general, and Axan’ilay’nah in particular.”
“And they want this scale?” Bodhi asked as they went deeper into the temple, down a stone hallway lit by torches that flickered in their sconces.
“Oh yes,” Chirrut said, right behind him. “After all, it’s believed to be Axan’ilay’nah’s own scale. It has tremendous value to the monks. The owner of this—” He held up the pouch. “—Could name their price, and it would be met without haggling.”
“Is that—what we’re doing?” Bodhi whispered.
Chirrut just smiled and tucked the pouch in his sleeve.
Their guide stopped in front of a heavy wooden door and rapped with one knuckle.
“Enter,” a melodic voice called.
The guide pushed the door open and stepped aside to allow them to file inside the room, Jyn and Bodhi on Chirrut’s left and Baze on his right.
It wasn’t a very big space, with a desk carved of stone directly in front of them the only furniture in the room.
The Selonian behind the desk rose, pressing her hands together. The short fur that covered her muscular body wasn’t the usual brown or black—instead it was a deep russet, gleaming in the torchlight as she bowed in greeting.
“I am Thalei Tn’ral,” she said. “You are welcome here.”
Chirrut took a step forward and bowed too, hand over fist. “Chirrut Îmwe, known to your litter mate Lorech Tn’key. My husband, Baze Malbus, and our associates, Jyn Erso and Bodhi Rook.”
Thalei swept the group with sharp golden eyes and nodded as Bodhi shifted his weight.
“Do you have it?” she asked.
Chirrut drew the pouch out and Thalei sucked in a sharp breath. Her hands were visibly trembling as she accepted it and lifted the disc from inside.
“Despecto Chirrut, you honor us all on this day,” she whispered.
Chirrut inclined his head graciously, and Jyn scowled but said nothing.
“Do we have a deal?” Chirrut inquired.
“Of course,” Thalei said. She bent to pull open a drawer in the desk and pulled out a thin metal box. She took the lid off and displayed the contents—six slim metal oblongs, rounded corners, with an image of a Duinogwuin stamped on each.
Thalei offered the box to Baze, who accepted it. He thumbed each disc and glanced at Chirrut.
Chirrut nodded even though Baze hadn’t spoken. “It is an honor to do business with you, Thalei Tn’ral.”
Thalei bowed again and watched as they left. Bodhi glanced over his shoulder, last out of the room, to see her sitting, hands folded as her lips moved in what looked like prayer.
Cassian was waiting impatiently, Kaytoo standing beside him, when they arrived back at the ship.
“How’d inspection go?” Jyn asked as she stepped through the hatch.
“Fine,” Cassian said. “Did you get it?”
Baze produced the metal box and handed it over.
Cassian opened it and sighed, visibly relaxing. He glanced at Kaytoo. “Let’s go.”
Kaytoo peered down at the discs. “What are they?”
Bodhi snapped his mouth shut on the question he’d been dying to ask.
“Currency,” Cassian said. “Priceless, to a rebellion. Each disc is worth approximately a million credits, which means more guns, more ships, more food—everything we need to keep going.”
Kaytoo cocked his head. “How interesting. And what did we trade that was worth so much?”
“A Star Dragon scale,” Jyn said, taking her blaster off her thigh and hanging the rig up in the lockers along the wall.
“Is that so?” Kaytoo said. “How did we acquire one of those? I was under the impression that the Duinogwuin were extinct, or at least vanishingly rare, and certainly not in the habit of handing out their scales to just anyone.”
Jyn’s smile lit the hold. “Well, I’m not just anyone, am I?”
Cassian interrupted before Kaytoo could reply. “Inform the port we’re leaving and let’s get out of here.”
Chirrut had already sat down on the weapons case again. He looked tired, Bodhi thought, and evidently Baze thought so too, judging from the concern on his face.
Without turning his head, Chirrut reached for Baze’s hand and twined their fingers together. The worry in Baze’s eyes eased and he relaxed a fraction.
With his free hand, Chirrut pointed at Bodhi and beckoned.
Bodhi joined him and sat down on the case. “Are you alright?” he asked in a low voice.
Chirrut smiled and didn’t answer.
“He needs to rest,” Baze rumbled.
“Bah,” Chirrut said. “Time for rest later.”
Kaytoo had moved to the ship computers as Cassian took them out of the spaceport. “Actually, now would be an excellent time to rest, as you have all been awake and active for approximately twenty-one and a half hours,” he said. “Our flight will take around eight hours, and there is no need for you to remain alert during that time. I am perfectly capable of flying the ship on my own.”
Cassian slid out of the captain’s chair and stretched. “That’s a very good idea, Kaytoo. Jyn?”
Jyn nodded and followed him up the ladder to the crew’s quarters as Bodhi watched. He was suddenly exhausted, but he also wanted to talk to Chirrut some more, maybe finally get a straight answer out of him.
But Chirrut stood too. “I assume this is what will make you happy, Baze?”
“As happy as I’m capable of being,” Baze agreed, a smile tugging his mouth up.
Chirrut laughed, turning to the ladder. Even with his staff and robes, he climbed nimbly, hands and feet on the rungs sure and graceful.
Baze was right behind him, and after a moment, Bodhi sighed. No point in staying down in the bay by himself, since Kaytoo had already assumed control of the ship and didn’t seem to be in a talkative mood.
Bodhi went up the ladder and found the last empty room, right next to the one Chirrut and Baze were in. As he passed their quarters, its door open, he glanced inside to see Chirrut face down on the bed, bare to the waist. Baze was on his knees beside him, but Bodhi barely noticed, fixated on the twisted, ropy scar that bisected Chirrut’s spine like malevolent lightning.
Baze bent over Chirrut’s prone form to murmur something in his ear, and Chirrut huffed amusement and turned just enough to draw him into a kiss.
Bodhi jerked as he realized he was eavesdropping on a private moment and hurried past to his room.
Safely inside, he kicked off his boots and crawled into the narrow bed. He stretched out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, hands beneath his head.
He missed Galen like an ache under his ribs that never fully went away. He’d grieved when Galen had died, silently so as not to intrude on Jyn’s mourning. She had the greater claim to him, after all. But Bodhi had spent nearly five years with Galen, eating with him almost every night that he was on Eadu, forging a bond with the enigmatic man.
He still didn’t understand what Galen had seen in him, why he’d taken such a liking to him and asked for Bodhi to be assigned to Eadu on permanent duty. But Bodhi hadn’t asked, afraid to know the answer.
Galen had talked about Jyn, of course. He’d told Bodhi everything about her, over the years. His nickname for her, the way Jyn had followed him everywhere, her fierce independence even at a tender age. His grief over losing her had been an almost palpable thing, something Bodhi had hurt to see.
He wanted to tell Jyn about Galen, all the times Galen had told him stories of her, but he hadn’t found the words yet. Someday, he thought, and fell asleep.
He woke screaming, tied to a chair as the bor gullet attacked his mind, scraping him raw from the inside out, leaving him nothing but a broken shell, a useless thing. Bodhi thrashed wildly, bucking against the restraints, as Chirrut burst through the door, Baze right behind him.
Awareness snapped into focus and Bodhi heaved for air and curled up in a ball, cold sweat slicking his skin.
“He’s alright,” Baze called.
Bodhi squeezed his eyes shut and wrapped his arms over his head, dimly aware that he was trembling but unable to make himself stop.
“I’ll stay with him,” Baze said, and Chirrut left the room, leaving Bodhi alone with Baze.
He could hear Baze’s breathing, but Bodhi didn’t look up. After a minute, Baze sat down on the end of the bed.
Bodhi worked on slowing his breathing until he wasn’t in danger of hyperventilating and finally lifted his head.
Baze was leaning against the bulkhead, his eyes closed and arms resting on his folded knees.
Bodhi worked moisture into his mouth, swallowing several times, and managed to sit up, dragging himself around so he could lean against the wall too.
The room was quiet, the hum of the engines a dim, comforting vibration along Bodhi’s ribs. He leaned his head back and drew his knees to his chest.
It was a while before Baze spoke.
“I left him.”
Bodhi opened his eyes, turning his head to look at Baze, who was staring straight ahead.
“Chirrut?” Bodhi asked.
Baze nodded. “When I lost my faith, we—I was so angry. I felt betrayed. But Chirrut—he never stopped believing. So we fought.”
Bodhi watched his face, not sure what to say.
“I walked away,” Baze continued. His mouth twisted. “He said he didn’t need me, he had the Force, and it would protect him, to go if I was going.” He took an unsteady breath. “So I left. Went offworld, took jobs anywhere, as far away as possible. And he—”
“He got hurt,” Bodhi guessed.
Baze nodded, grief in his brown eyes. “He took on a squad of stormtroopers by himself. Stupid kriffing—but that’s why—” He pressed the back of his hand to his mouth.
“That’s why he sits so much,” Bodhi finished, sorrow filling him.
Baze nodded again. “Blaster to the spine does a lot of damage. They said he wouldn’t walk again.” He blew out a sharp breath, edged with something almost like amusement. “Shows what they knew about Chirrut.”
“How did you find out?”
“Lorech—Thalei’s litter mate—was an acolyte with us at the temple. She sent me a message. Took a while to find me—I was worlds away. But… I came back.”
Bodhi watched Baze’s profile silently, the lines of care and worry etched into his face, a map of the love he carried for Chirrut.
“We can’t fix our past,” Baze said, turning to meet his eyes for the first time. “But we can correct our courses. Make it right.”
If you do this, you can get right with yourself. Galen’s voice echoed through Bodhi’s head. He’d believed in Bodhi, had always seen the best in him even when Bodhi was sure there was no good there at all.
Bodhi swallowed hard and nodded.
Baze smiled, the lines around his eyes suddenly legion, and Bodhi ducked his head.
“Are you hungry?” Baze asked.
“Ah—sure, I guess,” Bodhi said.
“I’ll make dumplings. I had them stock the galley before this run.” Baze patted Bodhi’s knee and stood. “Plus if I know my husband, he’ll have spiced caf waiting for us.”
Bodhi followed him out of the room. Jyn was standing in the door of her room, her eyes worried, and Bodhi hesitated.
“When we land,” he said. “After… the mission. I—can I talk to you?”
Jyn nodded. “Of course.”
Bodhi dredged up the memory of a smile and hurried to catch up with Baze, waiting down at the end of the corridor.
He wasn’t sure exactly how he’d acquired the family he suddenly had, but he was going to fight like hell to keep it.