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The counterpoint of love

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Krennic watched from a distance, lingering in the shadows of the doorway out of the rain. He’d made a habit of this; watching Galen. Especially when Galen didn’t know he was being watched.

From the very beginning, when they met in the academy Orson had found himself watching Galen.

The quiet genius fidgeting with the wonders in his head. The magnificence of the equation, the joy of the problem unsolved. He was at his most beautiful in those moments, when nothing else in the world existed.

But that was before Lyra. Before she made him notice the world outside himself. Made him notice the physical. And like all things, Galen had thrown himself into that fully. The way he spoke about Lyra…

It made Orson hate them both. How could Galen be so passionate about a woman so plain, so wind-chafed and contrary?

And never notice the man standing next to him.

What was the strange magic she had over Galen?

But with Lyra dead and their wretched by-blow lost in the galaxy, Orson had Galen all to himself again. Galen never had Lyra’s fight, her contrary nature. Give him the right distraction, the right sort of cage, and Galen would do as he was told.

And if Galen strayed, all Orson had to do was bring up the child and he could bring Galen to his knees again.

Quite literally to his knees.

It became a game. Leaving it months between mentions. Pretending he’d forgotten about that little brat. And then casually bring it up. Some little comment about a sighting on some outer rim world. Some rebel criminal found somewhere and interrogated. He didn’t even need to mention the child’s name. Just some little hint of her age, or having pretty eyes, or reminding Orson of Lyra. It would be enough to break Galen again. Leave him weak and biddable. And then Orson could have him. Any way he wanted.

But something had changed. Something subtle. Galen could still be made to be biddable, to be brought to heel for Orson’s gratification. But there was a defiance to him, a core of reliance that hadn’t been there before.

Even when Orson forced Galen down, tormented him with every terrible thing Orson would do to the child when she was found. When he threatened every humiliation he had every visited on Galen ten-fold on the girl, that light in Galen’s eyes didn’t gutter out.

And Krennic needed to know why. Galen wasn’t a good enough liar to hide anything for long. Krennic would have the truth of it.

Which was why he was watching now.

Galen lingered in the lee of a small cargo ship, one of the half dozen or so that ran supplies in and out of this forsaken puddle of a world. Backlit by the open hatch, he seemed to be sharing a mug of something, tea perhaps, or caf with the young pilot. The pilot was a scruffy thing, easily twenty years their junior. Probably much of an age with Galen’s child.

They were talking animatedly, their words lost in the ever-present downpour that was Eadu. But Krennic could see the shape of them – the way Galen’s shoulder relaxed, his perpetual stoop loosened. The way the pilot’s body half turned toward Galen, not quite standing closer than proper and yet intimate and near.

So, that was it. It was time to find out more about this pilot. And see if he was a lever Krennic could use.

***

Galen was checking off an inventory, a package of designs and models to go to one of the other teams working on the project when Krennic come over to him. “Director.” He acknowledged with a nod, trying not to be unsettled by Krennic’s presence. Or the way Orson stood just a bit too close.

“Handsome young man.” Krennic commented, nodding to where Bodhi was loading crates. “Not my type but handsome all the same.”

Galen glanced Bodhi’s way, trying to look surprised. “Pilot Rook? I suppose he is. I hadn’t really noticed.”

“Really? How interesting.” Orson rested a gloved hand on the small of Galen’s back, an openly intimate gesture he made no effort to hide. He wanted them to see, the other scientists, the pilot, anyone around them. He wanted to be sure they all knew Galen was his. “I’d heard you’d been spending time with him.”

“We’ve spoken, yes.” Galen tried to ignore the touch, the way Krennic’s gloved fingers wormed up under his tunic, under the waistband of his trousers. “Rook grew up on Jedha. His memories of the Kyber temples have given me some interesting insights to the behaviour of the crystals.”

“Really, Galen?” Krennic purred sceptically. “Just talk?” He rubbed his thumb over the strip of flesh just above the swell of Galen’s rear, leaning in close enough to whisper, his breath warm on Galen’s damp skin. “A fit, lean young man like that and you’ve never thought about anything more than talking?”

Galen didn’t answer, willing himself not to pull away from that insidious touch.

“I won’t blame you, you know.” Orson went on. “Out here, all alone. Without Lyra.” The name flowed of his tongue, icy and seductive. “With nothing but memories to keep you warm at night. Believe me, Galen. I’m a man who understands needs.”

Galen shuddered, turning his face away. “I have my work. It’s enough.”

Krennic gave a disappointed little hum and withdrew his hand. “Oh, Galen.” His tone is warmly condescending. “The eternal scientist, too busy unlocking the secrets of the universe to enjoy it.” The director looked up, watching Bodhi work a moment longer before stepping in front of Galen. “You, pilot. Here.”

Bodhi looked up as he’d just noticed them there and came trotting over. His eyes skimmed the rank-bar on Krennic’s tunic and saluted, water dripping from the brim of his cap. “Sir?”

Orson looked him over, taking in the pilot’s lean figure. “What’s your name, ensign?” It was an intentional slight. Cargo pilots were rarely referred to by rank as they rarely had ranks higher than ensign. Academy graduates became cargo pilots because they washed out of flight school with grades too low to become fighter pilots or star captains. Bodhi may fly his own ship but he would never be considered a captain.

And for all his best efforts, Bodhi couldn’t hide that the insult struck home. “Rook, sir. Ensign Bodhi Rook.”

“How long have you been servicing Eadu station, Ensign Rook?” At Krennic’s back, Galen’s lips tightened with distaste at Orson’s deliberate choice of words.

But Bodhi ignored it, answering the question as if there’d been nothing odd about the wording. “A little over local season, sir. Five months standard.” He kept himself at attention, back straight and eyes ahead. It was safer that way. He’d learnt that at the Academy. The hard way.

Krennic circled the young man, taking him in. “And you have no complaints about your treatment here?” He glanced over Rook’s shoulder to Galen, his eyes shining dangerously. “Chief Scientist Erso treats you well?”

“No complaints, sir. Except the rain and no-one can do anything about that.” Bodhi kept his eyes front, trying not to look at Galen.

“And Chief Scientist Erso?” Krennic demands.

Bodhi straightens a little taller as if accepting correction. Another reflex. “Chief Scientist Erso has been nothing but professional and polite, sir. He is well regarded by the pilots assigned here.”

Krennic raised an eyebrow at Galen over Bodhi’s shoulder. “Well regarded. Hmm.” He circled around to face Bodhi again. “I understand you and Chief Scientist Erso share a special relationship?”

Bodhi’s eyes widened, trying to cover it with a look of confusion. “Special relationship? Not that I’m aware of, sir. I mean we’ve talked a few times, about Jedha and the temple and such but I wouldn’t say there was anything special.”

“Is that so?” Krennic looked back at Galen, grinning. “Ensign Rook, report to my office at 0400 hours.” He turned to walk away but Bodhi cleared his throat.

“Sir, I’m scheduled to fly out at 0400. I’m on a tight turnover rendezvous with the Destroyer Carnivore.”

Krennic raised an eyebrow, turning a wolfish smile on Galen. “Chief Scientist Erso, have the tower rescheduled Ensign Rook’s flight to 0800. That should give us long enough to… get to know each other.” He strode inside without a backward glance.

Bodhi started to speak but Galen gestured him to silence, shaking his head minutely. It wasn’t safe to speak yet. Not if he knew Orson.

“Pilot Rook,” Galen addressed slowly, trying not to betray the tightness in his chest or the lump in his throat. “Collate your manifest as soon as possible and bring it to my office. We’ll redistribute your cargo, make sure it makes the rendezvous.” He picks up a datapad and scribbles an order on it. “Now be quick about it.”

On the drawing function of the pad was a scrawled note in Galen’s untidy handwriting. He’s watching. Be careful.

Bodhi gave a little salute and jogged for his ship, trying to cover his panic, and hoping Galen had a plan.

When he headed to Galen’s office, he was intercepted by one of Galen’s junior aids. “Chief Erso sent me to find you. He’s been called away. He said to tell you he’ll be in kyber chamber four.” The aid handed him a temporary swipe pass and hurried on his way.

Bodhi had never been into the kyber chambers. Somehow he imagined something like the vaulted warmth of the temple, light reflecting off every surface. What he found was a tall chamber of unfinished duricrete, dark and messy with machinery. Somewhere above there was a large armature, holding a crystal the size of a small speeder, instruments and lasers pointing at it. Everything hummed like a snoring monster, ready to wake and pounce.

He spotted Galen between a bank of machines, his face pale.

Galen took Bodhi’s hand, pulling him into the darkness and kissing him hard. “I’m sorry. It was the only place I knew we could talk safely.”

Bodhi kissed back, running frantic hands over Galen’s shoulders “Galen, what’s going on? How does Krennic know about us?”

“He doesn’t.” Galen answered with a confidence he didn’t entirely feel. “But he suspects. He’s fishing, looking for ways to draw me out, trip me up.” He sighed, lowering his eyes. “Bodhi, he’s going to hurt you. If he thinks he can use you against me, he’ll hurt you. Again and again.”

Bodhi swallowed thickly. “Then we can’t let on. We play his game. I’ll go to his office, let him-”

Galen felt his heart clench, seeing the grim acceptance in the young man’s eyes. “Bodhi, I can’t ask this of you. He’ll force you. Use you.”

“I know.” Bodhi nodded, dropping his eyes. “Galen, he won’t be the first superior officer to take advantage of me. I had worse at the academy. I can do this. If it means you’re safe, that you can finish- whatever it is you’re doing.”

Galen pressed his forehead. “You know I can’t tell you. Not yet.”

“I know! I know, Galen.” Bodhi urged, exasperated. “I understand. And I trust that whatever it is you’re doing it worth the cost.”

“If I could run, here and now, you know I would. Bodhi, I would run away with you in a heartbeat. But-”

“But the time isn’t right.” Bodhi finished. “I know. Stars, Galen! Listen to me. I know what has to be done. And I’ll do it.” He curled a hand in Galen’s hair, his voice low. “Galen, I know he’s hurting you. And that you’ve been hiding it from me. I know that’s why you send me away when you know he’s coming.”

“Bodhi, that’s different.”

“How?” Bodhi asked. “How is it different? If you can take it, I can.”

Galen sighed. “Orson gets off on power. The power he has over me, thinks he has over me. It blinds him. While he thinks he has me on my knees, he doesn’t look to closely at what I’m doing. But this,” He touched Bodhi’s chin, making the pilot look up, “if he breaks you, he breaks us both.”

“No.” Bodhi shook his head, pressing his lips to Galen’s. “He won’t break me. You have to trust me, I can take this. You just have to not care. Until he gets bored and moves on. Just pretend I’m any other pilot in the galaxy.”

“But you’re not. You’re not any pilot. You’re my pilot and I love you.” He kissed Bodhi’s forehead. “I’m so close to finished. If we can just… distract him. A month more, it’s all I need.”

“There’s no time, Galen.” Bodhi sighed. “We both know that. He’s expecting me in less than an hour.” He looked up, holding Galen’s eyes. “You were the one who said I need to listen to my heart, be brave enough to act. We both know the time isn’t right to get out. And now he’s noticed me, it’ll be harder. He needs to forget me. If you give him nothing, he’ll have his fun with me and then he’ll forget my name.”

“Bodhi.” Galen sighed.

“Galen, please? Shut up and kiss me. Give me something good to think about.”

***

“Pilot Rook.” Krennic greeted him with a smile, inviting him in. “Right on time. Punctuality is a commendable virtue in a pilot.”

“And an employable one.” Bodhi quipped back, a little carelessly. He ducked his head in apology. “Sir.”

Krennic actually laughed. “So it is. Come in.” He gestured Bodhi towards a chair but Bodhi stayed standing, still at attention. “This isn’t an interrogation, Rook. Just a friendly chat.” He gestured again and this time Bodhi sat, doing his best not to fidget.

Krennic smiled. It would have been a nice smile, if Bodhi didn’t know better. “I’m making it my business to… get to know the staff of this facility. After all, the research being done here will change the galaxy.” Krennic studied Bodhi’s face. “Do you know what it is we’re building?”

“No, sir.” Bodhi answered honestly. After all, he didn’t. Galen had been very careful to keep him separated from the project. At least until the time was right.

“But you must suspect?” Orson’s smile had become endearing, boyish. “After all, most of our resources come from your home world.

“I know about the kyber, sir. But Jedha hasn’t been my home for a long time.”

“Oh?” That smile again, sympathy, open, welcoming. It made Bodhi want to run.

“I joined the academy when I was fourteen. Never looked back, sir.”

“No family? No friends? No… lovers?”

Bodhi drove his nails into his palm, careful to hide it. Galen had warned him about this. About Krennic.

If he asks about your past, answer. Tell him the truth, only so much as you need to. Assume he’s done his research on you. Assume he already knows the answer but wants to see how you answer. Don’t lie unless you have to. And even then, omit the truth rather than lie outright. He reads people well but he doesn’t pay as much attention if he thinks he’s getting the reaction he wants. I’m sorry I brought you to his attention, Bodhi. I’m so sorry.

“I was raised by my grandmother. She passed away. I enlisted a week later.” It was the truth. Not all of it.

“And why, pray tell? What inspired you to join up, fight the good fight?”

Bodhi had to fight the rising bile. Krennic sounded like an Imperial recruitment holo.

“I grew up in the slums. How else was I going to see the galaxy, sir?”

Krennic narrowed his eye, shaking a finger at Bodhi almost playfully. “That’s not all, now was it, pilot Rook?”

“No, sir.” Bodhi ducked his head, hating the gut twisting awareness that Krennic had his whole history memorised already. “I had two younger sisters to look after. I didn’t want them growing up in the alleys of Jedha.”

“And what became of your sisters?”

It was all in his file. Krennic was toying with him. “I used my first few pay-dockets to get them passage off-world. They had good jobs on Gendius V.”

Krennic cocked his head. “This would have been what? Four years ago? Wasn’t there an epidemic on Gendius V?”

And there was the knife. Bodhi lowered his eyes even further, staring down into his lap.

Let him see what he expects to see. He won’t look for anything else.

So Bodhi gave Krennic that. Blink back tears, pulling himself inward, don’t make eye contact. “Yes.”

“You poor boy.” Krennic came around the table, leaning his hip against the expanse of polished wood to lay a hand on Bodhi’s shoulder. “To rescue those lovely girls from poverty only to deliver them into the hands of such a death.” And then the knife twists. “From what I’ve heard the Gendius plague was a terrible, terrible way to die.”

Bodhi sniffed, trying to look away. Krennic had no reason to know both the girls were alive and well. Bodhi had never even told Galen that. Officially Mei and Fiza were counted amongst the dead. Fortunately kyberpox, a childhood disease every Jedhean child got and got over before they were five, made them immune to Gendius plague. In the madness and confusion that had swept through the cities of Gendius V, the girls had been bright enough to blend in with the aid workers and set themselves up new identities. Mei and Fiza had always been far quicker smarter than Bodhi.

But Krennic took Bodhi’s silence for grief, giving him the thrill of power he wanted. “You poor boy.” He cupped Bodhi’s chin, making him look up. “You tried so hard for them.” He brushed his thumb over Bodhi’s lips. “I’m so sorry. They were loyal citizens of the Empire. They deserved better.”

Bodhi didn’t need to feign shock at the touch. What this really what Krennic got off on? Stirring up grief? Was this what he did to Galen?

“Still,” Krennic purred, pressing his thumb between Bodhi’s lips. “We have you. And the many, many services you provide.”

***

Galen paced around his room, checking the crono over every few steps.

Krennic had left over an hour ago, making a show of inviting Galen to see him to his shuttle. Orson had played the charmer, telling Galen what a pleasant evening he’d had talking with Pilot Rook. How refreshing it was to have such a fascinating young man on staff. Such stimulating company.

Galen kept a straight face the whole time, feigning disinterest in Krennic’s commentary.

When it did finally become too much to bear, he snapped. But made sure to redirect that frustration into something Krennic would believe.

“Orson, I don’t care if you who you screw or how good it was. But next time you want to add one of my staff to your conquests, make sure they don’t have duties to attend to! The work is behind because you couldn’t wait four hours to bend a pilot over your desk.”

He stormed off, hating the sound of Krennic’s laugher following him through the rain.

But that had been over an hour ago, and still no sign of Bodhi.

Galen went down to the pilot’s barracks and asked around. Someone said they’d seen Bodhi but couldn’t remember when or where. Bodhi kept mostly to himself so no-one thought much of it.

Nearly three hours later, Bodhi staggered into Galen’s room. Deeply, dangerously intoxicated.

“Bodhi!” Galen rushed to him, catching his swaying lover before the slight pilot hit the floor. “Oh Bodhi, I’m so sorry.” He lowered Bodhi to the floor, kneeling with him and stroking his hair.

Bodhi started to speak but the words won’t come. Just a sob but bubbled up from deep within him, painful and shattered.

They sat there for some time, Galen rocking the sobbing Bodhi in his arms.

Galen blamed himself, bitter to the core that he’s brought his lover to this. Bodhi would have been safe if he’s been more careful. If he’s hidden his feelings deeper. If he’d been a better liar. He could have spared Bodhi all of this.

If he’s listened to Lyra all those years ago. She had seen what Galen was too blind to realise – what a sadist Orson truly was. All those years of friendship, of self-delusion. Lyra has paid. Jyn had paid. And now Bodhi was paying. All for Galen’s gullibility and lack of judgement.

When the sods finally subsided, Galen moved Bodhi onto the bed and stretched out beside him, determined to be by Bodhi’s side when he woke.

The nightmares started only an hour later. Most of the time Bodhi convinced himself the things that happened in the academy didn’t matter. That they were the price of freedom from the slums. That he wasn’t a good enough to pilot to make combat rating and it had nothing to do with the instructor groping him during his test flight. That hazing in the freshers what just something that happened to cadets. Even when it turned violent. Even then it turned into a regular thing.

Galen had helped him set all that aside. Helped him believe he was someone worth loving. Not just using. Someone special.

And then Krennic. That charming smile that hide the wolf’s grin.

In his drunk and drugged sleep, memories stirred. Something dark and dirty and broken in the depths of Bodhi’s mind began to surface. The pills and the booze hadn’t been enough to keep them down.

The polished surface of Krennic’s desk against his face. The gloating hiss in the director’s voice. The way Krennic left him on the floor, thanking him for his service. That charming smile.

It was all Galen could be to hold Bodhi down, to whisper over and over that Bodhi was safe. That no-one was going to hurt him. That is was just a dream.

Because even as Galen said it, he knew it was nothing but lies. They would never be safe. There was always someone waiting to hurt them. And this was no dream but a living hell they were trapped in.

A month later, Galen pushed the data chip in Bodhi’s hand. “Go. There no time. You have to get this to Saw Gerrera. They’ll test it, any day now. The planet killer. The alliance need to know there’s still hope.”

“Come with me.” Bodhi begged, “All we’ve been through. Don’t let it end like this.”

“He’s forgotten you, Bodhi. He won’t notice you’re gone. That buys us time.” Galen pulled Bodhi close, kissing him hard. “This is the only chance we’ll get. We’ll be together again. I’m sure of it. Bodhi, my heart goes with you, wherever you are. Never doubt that I love you. Not for a moment. Now be brave and fly. Save us all.”

We’ll be together again.

It was a lie. Another lie. Galen had gotten so use to telling them now. To himself most of all. Things between them had never been right after that night. And they would never be right again.

Force, I hope he finds you, Jyn. Galen prayed to the uncaring rain. I love him, but I couldn’t keep either of you safe.

He watched the lights of Bodhi’s ship vanish into the darkness, carrying the last of his hope. The last of his heart. As long as Bodhi was alive and free, and the message was out there, out there with Jyn, there was nothing left Krennic could do to him that would matter.