Chirrut has always known he would meet his end in the sand.
Jedha City is filled with it; he shakes it from his robes every evening, the grains rushing to the floor, their melody rough in his ears. The desert winds can be harsh, and at night they scrape against the walls of the temple, weathering it ever-so-slowly away. It does not bother Chirrut, to be reminded of ruin. Order and disorder, light and dark—all is as the Force wills it.
Baze does not believe. Baze pulls him to his feet when they are cast out of the temple for good, mutters, we cannot stay here, Chirrut, we must go.
Where? demands Chirrut. This is our home.
So we will find a new one, Baze answers.
His city—his holy city—does not go quietly. There is wailing in the streets, and hawkers still pushing their wares through Tythoni Square, the clack of prayer beads juxtaposed against the rattle of blaster fire. Gerrera’s rebels plant another bomb; the Empire deploys another tank.
“They are stripping the Temple of its crystals,” Baze says from the window, confirming what Chirrut has already sensed. In the horizon, something ominous: dust swirling at their heels, enough to choke on.
“You are thinking of fighting.”
Baze snorts. “As if you were not.”
Chirrut leans his head against Baze’s leg. Baze settles a palm on his scalp, heavy and warm.
“You can cut a man’s legs from under him. That does not mean he kneels,” contemplates Chirrut.
“Save your wisdom for a book,” replies Baze.
“That’s why I’m telling you. Write this down,” Chirrut says imperiously, and Baze chuckles, a dry, comforting rasp in his ears.
Faith, Chirrut thinks, is a bit like sand. In small handfuls, it seems barely anything—but gather enough of it, and you could build yourself a beach, an island. A place to stand.
“No more than you,” points out Chirrut, reaching for the linen to dress Baze’s wound. “Now give me your arm.”
Martyr, Baze calls him, which always means: I will indulge you this, so long as you do not go anywhere I cannot follow, and Chirrut thinks, with a touch of sadness—
I did not mean to make you into a pilgrim, old friend; I am no sacred place, I am not worth the journey—
“You’re going to be the death of us,” Baze groans.
Chirrut does not disagree.
There is a knife at his throat.
“Don’t cut me,” Chirrut counters.
Baze makes a sound, part annoyance, part admonishment. He keeps one hand clamped to the back of Chirrut’s neck; the other guides his blade as it follows the curve of Chirrut’s jaw, shaving away the hair there. When the task is complete, Baze grunts, settling back on his heels.
Chirrut reaches up to touch his chin with one hand, reveling in the newfound smoothness.
“Excellent. When will you do yours?”
“Never.” Baze smiles against the pads of his fingertips, the gravel of his voice a pleasant rumble, like some distant landslide, as he leans in, stubble rubbing roughly against Chirrut’s cheek. “You like my beard too much.”
“Hmm,” considers Chirrut, winding a lock of Baze’s hair around his finger and tugging lightly, delighting in the warm puff of air that forces from Baze’s nose. “Perhaps.”
Baze’s love is full of sound: his weighted shuffle around their room, his unimpressed grunts, his occasional laugh. The way a round from his heavy blaster cannon rends the air, whizzing over Chirrut’s shoulder, screaming past his ear as it finds its mark.
Are you trying to make me deaf as well? Chirrut demands, but there is no real fear to his question because—
Because the truth is that he cannot imagine a world without the solid clomp of Baze’s footsteps behind him, even as he marches them toward an inevitable end.
Fool, thinks Chirrut, but he says nothing out loud; he does not ask Baze to leave.
This is how you love a martyr: quietly, with grief.
“You did not have to come so quickly, you old fool.”
“Thankless,” snipes Baze in response.
Chirrut tries to make light. Presses a palm to Baze’s chest and feels it flare, Force-bright. “Was it really so lonely without me?”
“I go where you go. Or has death made you senile?” answers Baze. Stubborn, always. Foolish, but not faithless.
Baze, who could have followed anyone, but chose him.
“Martyr,” murmurs Chirrut, which means: come, then, let us walk this path together, and so they continue, this time arm in arm, side by side, into the light.