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They Have Taken Photographs of Our Footprints in the Dust

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Bodhi was the first to ask as they left the ruin of Jedha behind them, Chirrut leaning into his side. Baze felt the grief seep from him, like water rising through the cracks, as familiar as the heat of Chirrut against his skin. They were homeless once more, and this time he feared they would remained unmoored.

“Have you been together long?” Bodhi asked, hands fluttering nervously before coming to rest in his lap. Cassian had gently shooed him from the cockpit with instructions to sleep, but Baze could feel the skitter of Bodhi’s thoughts. Sleep was far from them all.

“Our entire lives,” Chirrut answered.

“We have not known each other our entire lives,” Baze said, jostling Chirrut with his shoulder. “Don’t lie to the boy.”

“I'm not lying,” Chirrut replied, serene. “I have known you for the only part of my life that matters.”

“The flight has addled your brains.”

Chirrut smiled, head cocked in Bodhi’s direction, and said, “My husband embarrasses easily.”

Baze contemplated shoving Chirrut to the floor, but Chirrut was already braced against the action. He knew Baze well.

“You’re married?” Bodhi asked.

“Yes,” said Chirrut. “When I bested him for the hundredth time in our sparring, he knew he would find no man a better fit for him, and he married me that day.”

Knowing his part, Baze said, “You cheated and knocked my head into the floor. When I finally came to my senses the masters had already pronounced us spouses. That is how I was tricked into marrying such a fool as yourself.”

“I am but a simple fool in love.”

This time Baze did shove him, but gently, Chirrut rocking with the motion and swaying back into his side like a wave cresting along the sands.

“You’re having me on,” Bodhi said.

“Yes,” said Baze, for he liked the man. While Chirrut spun stories for his own amusement, Baze did not want to deliberately deceive Bodhi, whose courage was hard won.

“But you are married?”

“For my sins,” Baze answered.

“Which are many,” Chirrut added, and Baze snorted, unable to deny that.

Bodhi hesitated a moment and then asked, “How long?”

“For the only part of my life that matters,” said Chirrut, and as he reached out Baze let his hand be found.

 


 

Baze first met Chirrut when he was fifteen and not yet grown into his ears, a fact that Chirrut never let him forget.

“It’s amazing the wind doesn’t catch them and whisk you away,” Chirrut liked to say, head cocked in his direction.

“You speak nonsense,” Baze would retort, already having grown used to Chirrut’s teasing that never crossed the line into cruel. “How would you know what they look like?”

“The Force tells me of important things.” And then, quicker than he had any right to move, he reached out and caught Baze’s ears in his hands, thumbs rubbing along the lobs. “They are quite large. No wonder Master Solare likes to cuff them. They are too easy a target to ignore.”

“I’ll show you an easy target,” Baze retorted stupidly, trying to twist out of Chirrut’s grip.

“I didn’t say they displeased me,” Chirrut said, smile going large and wide and showing too much gum. “I like them.”

The blush rose quick and hot, and Chirrut, sensitive to even the slightest change in the air, must have felt the heat against his hands, for he said, “They even make up for the rest of your face,” and laughed as Baze tackled him to the red Jedha sand.

 


 

Imperial ships, Baze discovered to his displeasure, were not any more comfortable than the ancient freighters that would lift heavily from Jedha’s atmosphere. The bench was stiff under his back, but Chirrut’s lap, while no pillow, was more welcoming than the hard plastoid.

Chirrut had lapsed into silence as Eadu fell far behind them. His fingers were gentle where they brushed over Baze’s hair, still damp from the rain. Later, if they had the time and the privacy, Chirrut would gently undo the leather wraps and comb out any tangles, just as he had every night they been together.

“You should grow it out,” Chirrut said when they were sixteen and covered in sweat and grime from the day. “It would suit you.”

“Says the blind man who cannot even shave his own head,” Baze said.

Chirrut smiled. “This blind man knows that anything to hide those ears can only be in your favor.”

Even now, years away from their adolescence, Chirrut gently tweaked the tip of his left ear, and Baze reached up to pinch his thigh before settling once more. He would take what sleep he could get, and then in a few hours he would watch over Chirrut for his turn at rest.

He had dozed off, comforted by the heat of Chirrut and the gentle hum of his breathing, when the quiet tap of footsteps and the rustle of clothing roused him enough to hear Jyn say, oddly hesitant for such a reckless woman, “So you two are...”

“Married?” Chirrut said. “Yes.” His fingers pressed firmly against the crown of Baze’s skull, and so Baze obediently kept his eyes closed. “Why do you ask?”

“Curious, I suppose,” said Jyn. There was more rustling of cloth, as if she settled across from them. Her voice dipped lower, if in deference to his rest or so the others would not overhear, Baze was not certain. “You know each other very well.”

“We should,” said Chirrut, a touch of amusement to his voice, and Baze bit back a sigh. “We were promised to each other as children.” There was a pause in which Baze pictured Jyn’s incredulous expression before Chirrut said, “It is not so uncommon in Jedha, especially during times of drought. An illness stole my sight when I was young. This was before I entered the temple.”

“So you were betrothed?” she asked, a touch of bewilderment to her voice, and Chirrut tweaked his ear again when Baze felt a smile threaten.

“Baze’s family owned a farm, small but profitable. Our parents were friends, and both wanted their children to make a good match, and so an agreement was reached. Of course, because of my sight, my family provided a dowry. Did you know I'm worth a quarter herd of bantha?”

At Jyn’s sharp inhale, Baze said, without opening his eyes, “My husband is an unrepentant liar. He is barely worth one sick bantha, much less a healthy quarter herd.”

“I am worth at least three herds,” Chirrut said. “And you’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“How am I supposed to sleep with your incessant chatter?” He turned towards Jyn, who sat with arms crossed, exhaustion and pain etched in the lines of her mouth. “We were not betrothed as children. I was raised by my aunts. I never even met Chirrut’s parents.”

“A constant source of disappointment to them,” said Chirrut, who had been left at the temple, blind and sickly, to be raised by the other guardians.

“Another lie,” Baze said. “They are thankful their foolish son somehow convinced a sensible man to marry him.”

“A petulant man, more like,” Chirrut answered.

Jyn huffed out a breath that held a hint of laughter to it and said, “How long have you been married?”

“Long enough,” Baze answered.

“Well, my condolences to both of you, then,” she said, standing and moving back to the cockpit where Baze suspected K2 would lock her out if she kept bothering him.

“Finally someone understands my misfortune,” said Baze.

Chirrut covered his eyes, palm cool and dry. “Go to sleep before you become even more irritable.”

“We both know that’s not possible.” He lifted Chirrut’s hand and pressed a kiss to his palm. “Now be quiet and let me rest.”

Chirrut sighed, but his fingers went back to brushing through his hair, and so Baze slept until it was his turn to take watch. He sat propped against the bulkhead, Chirrut leaning against him, head over Baze’s heart with Baze’s left hand cupped over his ear. Even back in their rooms on Jedha, Chirrut had difficulty finding sleep, the noises of the city threatening to overwhelm him some nights. It eased him, listening to the thump of Baze’s heart, beating along to Chirrut’s own.

That was how Jyn found them, having been banished by K2 as Baze predicted. She dozed fitfully, jerking awake and looking resentful of it. Chirrut had confided that she reminded him of their sisters at the temple, of Lyreth, who in their youth could be found conspiring with Chirrut. Whenever he came upon them, Chirrut, who was shameless and beautiful, would flush a blotchy red.

“Don’t take it personal,” Lyreth would say with a wicked grin. “We’re only talking about you.”

No, Jyn was not like Lyreth, lost to them many years ago, her teeth red and defiant with blood. If anything, he saw pieces of himself in Jyn. She too carried jagged edges that longed to be worn smooth by a purpose greater than herself. Baze had found that in Chirrut. Jyn was still searching.

“You are lost now,” Baze said as Jyn glared at the far wall. “But you will find your way.”

Her glare transferred to him. “What do you know of it?”

“My order is dead,” he said, “and the city we lived in is gone. We are all grieving, little sister.”

Jyn ducked her head, ashamed. “I forgot I'm not the only one who is suffering.”

“No, you are not,” he said firmly. “You are also not alone.”

“Thank you,” she said, and turned her face away.

Under his hand, Chirrut’s head tilted up. “I know it is difficult for you,” Baze said quietly, “but do not speak for once.”

Chirrut pressed a kiss to his chest, and Baze knew he would never be lost again as long as Chirrut was there to tread the path before him.

 


 

It was not the fall of the temple that broke his faith. Chirrut survived and thus he did too, and Baze would suffer through a hundred lifetimes for that. He had always known that his faith was but a pale reflection of Chirrut’s, which filled him like a fresh water spring, clean and cool and ever refilling. Baze’s was a finite resource, and once it was mined there was nothing left but an empty hollow.

It was several years since the stormtroopers entered the temple, exiling them into the city with no purpose other than Chirrut’s burning belief in the Force. They still lived, Baze taking any job that paid well, and Chirrut doing what he did best, which was to cause trouble from which he must be saved.

And then Chirrut returned one hot afternoon, and said, “Put the blaster down. They’re friends.”

“They are clones,” Baze spat, gaze trained on the two men, one carried between Chirrut and the other.

“Please,” said the clone, “he is dying.”

Baze looked to Chirrut, who said, “What do they look like, Baze?”

During the war, a clone company had been stationed briefly at the temple. They had been men identical in looks only, and he remembered, after the first time Chirrut had quickly and efficiently knocked them into the ground with his staff, the easy way they had touched Chirrut, as if he was a brother.

“They look like they are in need,” Baze said, and put down his weapon and nudged Chirrut out of the way to take the injured clone’s weight.

“What are your names?” Chirrut asked, as all three of them sat through the night at the sick bed. Jedha was an old city that was dying by inches, and there was no medicine that could stop an old body from breaking. They took away what pain they could, and offered the comfort of not dying alone.

“We don’t have names,” said the clone, “only numbers.” He held the hand of his brother, head bowed.

“You do,” said Chirrut. “You gave yourselves names.”

“That was another life.”

“Good soldiers follow orders,” said the dying man, words slurred but no less frantic. “Good soldiers follow orders.”

“It’s all right,” said the other, and lifted the clone’s hand to his lips. “It’ll be over soon. No more nightmares. No more mission.”

It was midday when the clone died, body soft and free from pain. His brother bent over him, foreheads pressed together, shoulders shaking with his sobs.

Baze drew Chirrut away, tasting the grief in his throat.

“There is no death,” said Chirrut softly. “There is only the Force.”

Baze felt anger curl under his breastbone, sharp and terrible, as he said, “They were men created to fight and die. They deserve more than the Force.”

It was the only time he ever shocked Chirrut into silence. Chirrut turned to him, blind eyes fixed to the space left of his ear.

“You know the Force gave me to you,” he said finally.

“No,” said Baze. “You found me.”

Chirrut reached out, touching his knuckles to Baze’s cheek. “Why can’t it be both?”

The clone cleared his throat, and Baze drew away from Chirrut’s touch. “Is there a place that will honor him?” he asked, bag slung over his shoulder.

“We will take care of it,” said Baze.

“You are welcome to stay,” said Chirrut.

“No,” said the clone, “but thank you.”

Chirrut cocked his head to the side. “Will you be all right?”

“I have his face.” And from the bag he drew forth an old trooper helmet, green vines painted around the eyes. “Thank you for your kindness.”

Baze pressed the money from his last job into the clone’s hand and waved away his protests. The body was brought to the small temple of the moon goddess, a remnant of the Pantoran community that had quietly and quickly left in the wake of the Empire’s occupation. There the body was washed and then burned, the ashes scatted out beyond the city walls.

“I do not think I could survive you,” said Baze as they aired the smell of death from their rooms.

“You might have to, one day,” said Chirrut, face turned into the night breeze.

And Baze thought that he could not believe in a Force that would give him Chirrut only to snatch him away. He could not place his faith in something so cruel.

 


 

Yavin IV was covered in lush forests, the air thick and heavy with the smell of growing things.

“What does it look like?” Chirrut asked.

“Green,” Baze answered, and then when Chirrut’s elbow dug into his side, “It is as green as Jedha was red. There are clouds building on the horizon. It will rain later.”

“Oh, good,” said Chirrut, “more rain.”

“I am to show you to a room,” said K2 impatiently. “Cassian has informed me you will only require one.”

“I would like a separate room,” said Chirrut, staff tapping as they followed K2 deeper into the base. “You snore.”

“That is you,” Baze said. “You are so loud you wake yourself.”

“Bah,” said Chirrut, and Baze paused half a step so that Chirrut’s staff hit the empty floor instead of his foot. “I have never had any complaints.”

“That is a lie. There was a reason our rooms were at the end of the hall in the temple. You were loud enough to be heard through stone.”

“Who’s fault is that?” said Chirrut, mouth curved wickedly, and Baze was far too old for the heat simmering under his skin.

“This would be the old married talk Cassian was complaining of,” said K2.

“I'm afraid so, my friend,” said Chirrut. “It is an old habit we fall into often.”

That at least was true. Chirrut’s mouth was never still. He could not even meditate in silence. It drove the old monks near mad, but Baze, for all his outward protests, found Chirrut’s chatter to be a comfort. It was a reminder that he would never be alone as long as Chirrut was there to voice every inane thought that crossed his mind.

You fall into,” Baze corrected.

Chirrut turned to him. “I suppose there is truth to that. I always suspected he married me to get in the last word.”

“I married you to see if that would shut your mouth.”

“It did, for a time,” said Chirrut, and his fingers slipped under Baze’s cuff to touch the bare skin of his wrist. “But in the end it just worsened the problem.”

“This is your room,” K2 said pointedly. “I pity your neighbors.”

“Thank you,” Baze said, and then shoved Chirrut inside. He recognized the tilt to Chirrut’s mouth, and while the droid was incapable of feeling embarrassment on their behalf, Baze was not. “If you could please inform us when they meet with the council.”

“You seem to have mistaken me for a protocol droid,” K2 said. “That is not in my programming.”

“Then we will find our way back,” said Baze, for he could hear Chirrut laughing at him.

The door closed on K2’s muttering. The room did not offer much besides a bed, but that is all he needed. He carefully set his rig aside, feeling uneven without its weight on his back. The mattress gave under him, Chirrut patiently waiting as he settled.

“You know how this ends,” he said as Chirrut stepped into the space between his legs Baze made for him. Chirrut’s fingers were warm and gentle as they traced along his brow and over his cheekbones, the line of his jaw.

“I know no such thing,” he said, tipping Baze’s chin up. “I only know this is where we should be.”

“The Force tell you that?”

“Yes.” Chirrut ducked his head, lips frighteningly tender against Baze’s mouth. “You feel it, too.”

He had never felt the Force as Chirrut did. He did not carry that surety in him that he was acting in the service of something old and unknowable. All he had was Chirrut and the quiet certainty that he was meant to be by Chirrut’s side.

“Hush,” Chirrut murmured against his mouth.

“I am not the one talking.”

“I can hear your thoughts.” Chirrut’s fingers slipped beneath his collar. “Be here with me.”

“When have I ever been anywhere else?” Baze asked, and kissed the answer from Chirrut’s mouth.

 


 

He was twenty when Chirrut approached him, chin set in that stubborn jut, and said, “How do you look at me?”

“If this is one of your tests, I don’t have the time,” Baze said. The wet season had been short and dry that year, and there was no shortage of work to coax what little crops the temple had to yield food.

“This is not a test. How do you look at me?”

Chirrut’s hand was clenched tight around his staff, and he kept shifting his weight, as if he was of half a mind to flee. Baze had never seen him run from anything, not even when he was outnumbered by those twice his size.

“I don’t understand,” Baze said, gentle.

“Lyreth says you look at me differently than you do anyone else.” His expression twisted in frustration. “I don’t know what that means.”

Chirrut had run carefully fingers over his face, almost reverent as he traced Baze’s brow and cheeks, nose and mouth, expression intent and focused, akin to when he was listening to the Force. But he had never seen Baze’s face or how Baze’s gaze lingered on his throat, his jaw. He did not know how Baze softened, every inch of him, when they sat with their shoulders touching in Jedha’s harsh sun.

“I look at you,” he said, “like you are Chirrut.”

Chirrut frowned, looking so wronged that Baze laughed and caught his hand, letting Chirrut feel how much Baze adored him.

“Oh,” said Chirrut in wonder, thumbing the edge of Baze’s smile.

“I know you are blind, but I did not think you stupid as well.”

Chirrut tucked two knuckles under his chin. “Be quiet,” he said, and touched their mouths together in a sweet kiss.

When they drew back, breathless, Baze said, “I look at you like you are the only thing I ever want to see.”

Chirrut’s smile was blinding and still showed too much gum, and Baze knew that there would be no other for him in this life or the next.

 


 

They grab what they can to prepare for Scarif. Baze clipped spare charges to his belt, tucked away grenades and explosives, Cassian scanning the hangar for any signs that their plan had been discovered.

“You do not have to stay,” Cassian said as they took their findings back to the ship.

“Chirrut believes this is where we are needed,” he answered.

“And so that is reason enough for you to stay?”

Baze didn’t answer, for it was obvious, even to these new brothers. There were a few constants in life: there was never enough water, the sun would always be too bright and too hot, and where Chirrut went Baze followed. If you wanted to find one, you looked for the other.

“Thank you of your help,” said Cassian, and then as the silence stretched, “I hear you’re married.”

“Everyone has heard that by now. The idiot can’t keep his mouth shut.”

“There have been conflicting accounts,” Cassian said with a smile.

“He likes to think of ways our lives could have gone,” Baze said. “His favorite is the one where we’re reunited after a ten year separation. It’s very dramatic the way he tells it.”

“So that is also not true?” At his look, Cassian said, “Ah, yes, a foolish question. You have been together long, then?”

Chirrut was waiting for them at the ship’s ramp, head tilted to the side as if to pick out their voices from the crowd.

“For the only part of my life that matters,” said Baze.

“I am happy for you, my friend,” Cassian said, and clapped him on the shoulder before moving ahead.

“I was saving that story for an appropriate moment,” said Chirrut when Baze joined him. “It’s my best work. I once made an entire family cry with my telling.”

“It is overly melodramatic with a weak narrative.”

“You just dislike that I made you the one wasting away from unrequited love.”

“As I said, melodramatic.” He glanced back into the hold where the various rebels were assembling. “We will be leaving soon.”

“Yes.” Chirrut stepped into his space and laid a hand over his heart. “We are where we are meant to be.”

Baze laid his hand over Chirrut’s. “I know,” he said, because he doubted much in his life, the Force, himself, but never Chirrut. “Stay near me.”

“Where else would I be?” said Chirrut and then led him up the ramp and into the ship.

It was time.

 


 

There was a moment from their youth that Baze held close, unfolding it through the years like a favored token. It was him and Chirrut in the streets of the holy city in those years before the Republic fell, when the crystals still sang sweet and clear in the temple.

The night was creeping in and Chirrut had juice from an overripe berry running down his chin, and Baze felt the knowledge that this was what he was meant to be doing settle into his bones.

“You felt it,” said Chirrut, because even when he was a skinny thing who smiled too much he read Baze as easily as he breathed.

“You have the manners of an eopie,” Baze said, waiting for Chirrut to wipe the juice away before saying, “And what did I feel?”

“That we are perfectly ourselves,” said Chirrut.

“Did the Force tell you this?”

“I do not need the Force to feel this truth,” he said, and then he stole the fruit from Baze’s hand and took off running, steps swift and sure as if he could see.

And Baze, as always, followed in the path that Chirrut laid before him.

 


 

Baze had lived the first fourteen years of his life without Chirrut, but he could not suffer through the agony of those final moments.

“Don’t go,” he pleaded, when what he meant was the Force gave you to me and it cannot take you away.

But of course it could. The Force gave and it took, and Baze was left swaying against the empty space at his side, alone as he hadn’t been in over thirty years.

These were the facts of life: faith meant sacrifice, rebellions were built on hope, and Baze belonged with Chirrut.

And then, because the Force could be kind, in the moment before the grenade detonated, Baze looked to Chirrut and thought The Force gave me to you and this time I will find you.

 


 

This is the truth of how they were married. The fall of the Republic was more than two years away, and Baze and Chirrut lay in their bed, naked and shameless. Jedha hovered on the cusp of its wet season, the nights heavy and oppressive with the promise of rain.

“I have known you half my life,” Chirrut said, his head on Baze’s shoulder, his arm over Baze’s chest. It was too hot to be touching like this, all down one side, but Baze could never deny Chirrut anything.

“Has it been that long?” he said, and did the math in his head.

“You know that I love you,” said Chirrut like it was a truth of the universe. Everything needed water to live and Chirrut loved him.

“I know you’ve never had a thought you kept to yourself,” said Baze, and felt Chirrut smile against his shoulder, for Chirrut knew how to sift through his words to the truth of him. And then, because Baze had loved Chirrut for half his life, he said, “The only part of my life that matters is the half you’re in.”

Chirrut rose above him in the dark, ribs expanding with breath under Baze’s palms, and said, “I would have you marry me.”

There was not enough light to make out Chirrut’s features, but Baze would know him by the touch of his hand, by the breath from his lungs, by the heat of his skin.

“Yes,” he said, the only vow he would ever freely give, “I will marry you.”

Chirrut laughed against his mouth, the kiss ruined by the way they both kept smiling.

“The Force gave me to you,” said Chirrut, breathless and joyful, and Baze pressed a kiss to the skin over his heart.

“Then we are married,” he said, and there in the dark, their vows exchanged, they lay together with the future about to unfurl under their feet.