After departing from Eadu, Chirrut fully expects the good captain to stay sequestered in the shuttle’s cockpit for the rest of their journey, so he’s pleasantly surprised when Cassian comes down to tell them, “We could drop you off somewhere along the way.” He makes a small gesture with his hands, implying that this isn’t a big deal. “If you want.”
Baze isn’t impressed. “You wish to keep your precious base a secret?”
“Of course you’re welcome to come with us. You’ve helped us a lot.” Cassian is doing his best to be sincere, but he’s a little distant, his attention splintered. Chirrut doesn’t take it personally – no doubt Cassian is distracted by the other corner of the cargo hold, where Jyn is furiously meditating on the nature of grief and betrayal.
“It’s nice to be asked,” Chirrut says. “We’d love to come.”
“Good.” Cassian pauses, and then returns to the cockpit with another faint, “Good.”
Once Cassian’s footsteps up the ladder have faded away, Baze says, “And what do you hope to find at the Rebel Base?”
“A laundry droid would be wonderful.” Chirrut smiles when Bodhi – sitting on the floor nearby – laughs under his breath. It’s been a long day for all of them. “My robes will dry out soon enough, but your jumpsuit has known better days.”
“Does the Force not launder clothes?” Baze asks.
“Maybe the Force wants us to cuddle for warmth.”
“Then I should cuddle with the pilot,” Baze says. “Seeing as how he’s dryer than you.”
“You should,” Chirrut says, while Bodhi makes a faint noise of alarm. “It wouldn’t do you any good to catch a cold now.”
“That’s a joke,” Baze tells Bodhi.
“I know that,” Bodhi says, a little defensively. He’s been sitting in that spot since they’d launched, but now he peels himself off the floor and sets his wet poncho aside with a loud rustle. “I think there might be – not towels, they wouldn’t have towels – but something you could use to…”
“You do need warming up as well,” Chirrut says. “Or are you used to space by now?”
“Jedha’s winters are harder on the bones than space, really.” Bodhi pauses. “Were.”
Chirrut almost asks if Bodhi had family in Jedha, but he gets the feeling that the question wouldn’t be welcome. He listens with interest as Bodhi shakes himself off, and then starts going through the crates around him. His movements are sure and methodical – open, unpack, sort – while he recites the name and condition of each item that he’s looking at.
“Yes, inventory,” Jyn says, speaking up for the first time since the argument with Cassian. “Good idea.” She gets up and joins him in working through the shuttle’s holdings, the two of them glad to have something to do.
As for Baze, he sits up from where he’d been lying on the ramp and starts removing his armor, setting piece by piece in an arrangement on the floor. After that he’s walking towards Chirrut, his steps quieter without the additional weight.
He presses a hand on Chirrut’s shoulder. “Chirrut.”
“I’ve said it often enough,” Chirrut says. “So I feel it’s—”
“We’ll go with them. I have no problem with that.”
“Because you’re such a fan of the Rebel Alliance.”
“There are only two individuals on this ship who are fans of the Rebel Alliance,” Baze says. “And even then, I’m not so sure.”
“Astute,” Chirrut says. “Makes you feel better about them as a whole, does it?”
“Actually, yes.” Baze’s hand lingers where it is, the tips of two fingers just digging into the cloth near Chirrut’s neck, brushing skin. “Just tell me.”
Chirrut nods and tilts his head back. Baze’s decision-making process a strange one; he doesn’t believe in the Force, but he needs to know what Chirrut believes, so to guide his own actions. Chirrut sometimes secretly thinks of it as belief by proxy, though it’s of course far more complicated than that.
“This path is clear,” Chirrut says. “I would like to follow it.”
What he doesn’t add is: there hasn’t been a path this clear to him in years.
The Rebel Base is on a moon named Yavin 4, which is an obscure enough location that well-travelled Baze has never been in this part of the Outer Rim. There are no viewports in the cargo hold, so Chirrut has to wait until they’ve landed and the ramp is lowered before his curiosity is sated.
“Carved stone in front of us.” Baze speaks while the whole crew descends together, Cassian at the front and K2-SO bringing up the rear, “Forest beyond that. Thick and green, like koramoss. Clear blue sky, with pale clouds.”
“It sounds busy,” Chirrut says. “Like a port.”
“A port with a lot more firepower.” Baze manages to sound only a little bit interested. “Pretty clean.”
“There’s something else.” Chirrut taps his staff experimentally on the ground. “Something large. A mountain?” Baze is quiet. “A temple?”
“It’s not a temple,” Baze says.
Kaytoo the ever-helpful chimes in with, “This is the Massassi Temple, built over five thousand years ago by the Massassi, who are now extinct. The Rebel Alliance repurposed the abandoned site as Base One.”
“So,” Chirrut says. “A temple.”
“A temple that’s been gutted,” Baze says under his breath. Chirrut brushes his palm against Baze’s waist, long enough for Baze to relax and add, “I know. Not a living temple.”
Their small talk is cut off with the approach of a cluster of footsteps. “Captain Andor.”
“General Draven,” Cassian says. The conversation is clipped, with Cassian reporting in and introducing everyone quickly; no doubt there will be a more thorough interrogation later in private, when his supposed failings on Eadu will be put on display. There’s nothing actually interesting being said out loud here, in front of an audience, so Chirrut instead focuses on how Cassian’s voice is different when he speaks to the General, the edges shaved off for the sake of being deferential.
It makes for an interesting contrast when Jyn speaks up – she doesn’t wait for permission, and simply slides into a convenient lull with: “General. I would like to request permission to speak with the Alliance Council myself.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Draven says. “Captain Andor is more than qualified to brief the Council on what was learned on Eadu.”
“Captain Andor never spoke to my father,” Jyn says. “I did.”
“You wish to speak to the Senators? You think you’re prepared for that?” Here Draven sounds like the more rigid grandmasters of Chirrut’s past. “You’ve been free to go since you arrived. We’re already wiped your records, given you the clean slate you asked for.”
Draven moves to leave. Jyn hesitates, perhaps taken aback by the revelation of her freedom, but Chirrut taps the heel of his staff against her foot. Jyn inhales sharply and darts forward, blocking Draven’s path.
“General,” Jyn says quickly. “Did Captain Andor tell you how my father died? We were on-site.” She waits a beat, letting that sink in. “I believe that more than gives me the right to speak with the Council.”
While a few feet away Jyn works on wearing Draven down, Baze moves closer to Chirrut’s shoulder and whispers, “Are your wrists acting up again?”
“Oh hush,” Chirrut says.
“Fine,” Draven says loudly. “I will present your request, but I can make no promises that it’ll be granted. The session is tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” Jyn waits until Draven and his entourage have walked away, and then exhales loudly. “Tomorrow, then.”
“I don’t see what that’s supposed to accomplish,” Kaytoo says. “Cassian is more qualified than you to give testimony.”
“That’s your opinion,” Jyn says. “What are you doing?”
Cassian makes an exasperated sound. “I’m taking Bodhi for debriefing. Kaytoo will show you—”
“What debriefing?” Jyn asks.
“It’s all right,” Bodhi says. “I’m a defector.”
“He’s a defector,” Cassian echoes. “We have protocols for defectors.”
Jyn crosses her arms. “Should I be worried?”
“You know what, it’s fine,” Bodhi says. “I should be debriefed. That’s a good thing. I’ll—we can go.”
Jyn fumes silently while Cassian takes Bodhi away, and then turns to Chirrut and Baze to say, “They should be debriefing all of us. We were all on Eadu, as well as Jedha. We all saw what the Death Star is capable of.”
“Except him,” Kaytoo says. “He’s blind.”
Baze makes an annoyed sound at the droid before turning back to Jyn and saying, “They won’t care what me and Chirrut have to say, but you? I thought you were one of them. A reluctant recruit, maybe, but still one of them.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Jyn says. “I was just useful. Like the rest of us.”
“Can we go now?” Kaytoo says plaintively. “I need to show you to the barracks before I can start on my diagnostics.”
“Please, let’s,” Chirrut says. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
There are barracks for people like them, who are not directly part of the Rebel war machine and don’t have access to the higher security areas. The large, low-ceilinged rooms seem to be modified from the temple’s ancient design, with new sections carved directly into the rock. Baze doesn’t seem impressed by that last part, though he begrudgingly admits that the bunk beds are acceptable.
“We get a bunk bed?” Chirrut puts a hand on the mattress of the lower bunk and sits down. “Where is Jyn resting?”
“She has her own on the other side,” Baze says.
“I’m not resting,” Jyn says. “I’m going to… I need to find some things.”
“That’s not advisable,” Kaytoo says. “Cassian will have to answer for you if you get up to any more… shenanigans.”
“I’m sure he’s used to it,” Jyn says. “What with his having you.”
It’s usually difficult for Chirrut to read droids when they’re not making sounds, but Kaytoo’s silence is distinctive in its indignance, as is the way he turns and walks away.
“That’s one thing less to worry about,” Jyn says. “Will you be all right?”
“We can manage ourselves.” Baze says it a little sharply but Jyn doesn’t seem offended. She merely nods and makes her own exit, her steps quicker and in another direction from Kaytoo’s. Baze shakes his head and says quietly, “I didn’t see it at first, but there’s no mistaking Saw Gerrera’s hand in raising her.”
“Does that worry you?” Chirrut asks.
“Lots of things worry me, Chirrut.” Baze sits heavily on the lower bunk next to Chirrut, and unhooks his cannon carefully. “The security of this place for starters. The sickly pilot is under surveillance, but we get to walk around. They only way I figure is that they must have our records. The Imperial droid—”
“Kaytoo, former Imperial droid.”
“—must have looked us up, or they relayed our identification here somehow.”
Chirrut lifts a hand up, touching the armor on Baze’s neck. “You sound like you wish to advise them on how to improve. Or are you perhaps estimating the chances of our stealing a ship to flee?”
“I won’t do that,” Baze says. “You’ve decided to join them, so we’ll join them.”
“I never said I wanted to join the Rebel Alliance. I just said I wanted to follow this path, which has brought us here.”
Baze turns on the bed, his knee touching Chirrut’s. The barracks are much quieter than the outside, but there are still a handful of people in the communal room, their sounds of their presence indistinct but nearby. Baze limits himself to putting a hand on top of Chirrut’s, to which Chirrut responds by turning that hand around so their palms are pressed together. “Chirrut.”
“It’s not a sign from the Force,” Baze says. “This temple, it’s not a sign.”
“I never said it was.”
“But you’re thinking it.”
“There is absolutely nothing I can say on this matter that would appease you,” Chirrut says. “So I surrender. Completely. You win.”
Baze turns a little, studying the room and its other occupants, before turning back and dropping a quick kiss to Chirrut’s mouth. “Don’t talk of surrender with me, you foolish man.”
Chirrut laughs and tugs at one of Baze’s braids lightly. “You’re not here just because of my say so, either. Use me as an excuse all you like, but you want that thing destroyed even more than I do.”
“Even more?” Baze says in disbelief. “How do you not want that abomination wiped out from existence?”
“I do, of course I do. But you – your anger and grief eclipses my own.”
Baze falls silent, and Chirrut suppresses a regretful sigh. It’s his fault they’re heading towards an old argument that they both thought long worn out. When Baze speaks again, his tone is at least level: “Sometimes you frighten me.”
“I know.” Chirrut draws back a little to give Baze space, but is stopped when Baze takes his hands. “I’m sorry.”
“If you were truly sorry you’d stop,” Baze says. “Do you see your path in that thing – that Death Star? Did the Force want that thing to exist, too? Is that what the kyber is for?”
Chirrut ceased being able to lie to Baze decades ago. His only recourse nowadays is to abstain from speech, but it doesn’t help much. They know each other too well, which means they know the best parts of each other, as well as the most troubling. Baze’s faith in the Temple and the Force – when it existed – was always clear, pure, straightforward. If Chirrut were like him, it’s possible that he would have stopped believing when Baze did.
But they’re not the same.
“NiJedha is dead,” Baze says. “Everyone – Sunfell, Guch, Daylana, all of them. Gone. Gone, Chirrut.”
Chirrut hangs his head silently.
“I put my grief into action,” Baze says. “Into vengeance. That makes much more sense than your… What do you think it was? That it’s all part of the Force’s plan?”
Yes, Chirrut doesn’t say. The Force hides its answers, but they are there, if one pays attention. Its path wraps tight around Jyn and Bodhi, and has drawn Cassian and Kaytoo into its stream. He and Baze’s place in it is less clear, but Chirrut is determined to stay and find out. He wants to be here, and he’s as certain with this as he was once certain of other things – that he was meant to join the Temple, that he was meant to love Baze Malbus. After years of uncertainty, death and their city crumbling all around them, this is a relief.
Baze won’t see it that way, of course. “I’m going to find a refresher.” He stands up, and Chirrut doesn’t protest.
Back when they were both Guardians of the Whills, Baze was the smarter, more devoted one. Chirrut tried to be like him, but he didn’t always understand the ways of the Temple, and often got into trouble with his unnecessary questions and tendency to challenge the grandmasters.
Only Master Ju ever explained it in a way that Chirrut could fully grasp. It was she who explained clearly that were many ways to pay respect to the Force, and although the Temple had its rules and routine, the core of faith in each devotee could never be identical. She spoke of other practitioners; the Dagoyan believed in a more personal connection with the Force, while the famous Jedi were organized, bureaucratic, and openly involved with politics. The Guardians of the Whills were but one way among many, and perhaps it was best Chirrut use their practices as a guideline for his own, instead of holding himself to a standard that may only hurt him to try to achieve.
So when it came right down to it, Chirrut was never a good guardian, not really. Sometimes he’s not even that much of a good person, not with the way he summons death so easily. Baze may be the assassin-for-hire, but between the two of them he’s the one who feels guilt, regret and loss more keenly; a penitent monk beneath the armor. Chirrut’s faith in the will of the Force puts him at a remove from that – which is again ironic, considering his difficulty in becoming a proper guardian.
All this means is that after so many years, Chirrut is well settled with two compasses to guide him. There is the Force, which holds him to the greater will of the cosmos, and there is Baze, who holds him to humanity. (He’s told this to Baze, yet Baze refuses to believe it because he thinks that he’s an awful example of a human being, which is the funniest and saddest thing Chirrut has ever heard.)
Contrary to their interactions of late, he and Baze haven’t actually talked about the Force in years. Oh, Chirrut’s never stopped praying, and always refers to the Force in his marketplace pitches, but for a long time he’s avoided hurting Baze’s old wounds directly. It was easy to do, for the Force was quiet for years – decades – since the loss of the Temple, save the handful of moment that glowed bright but brief.
It’s only in the last few weeks that Chirrut’s been more vocal about the Force’s presence, which has in turn made Baze more irritable. It’s an unfortunate a side effect, but it’s difficult to be quiet when he’s feeling the pull again.
It’s that pull that had Chirrut and Baze in the marketplace at the right time to meet Jyn and Cassian. Chirrut feels that same pull now, in the barracks of the Rebel Base. It pulses like the hum of a turbine in the back of Chirrut’s skull, constant and steady while he and Baze take turns freshening up and cleaning their clothes in their unfamiliar surroundings. Baze doesn’t speak much throughout, but Chirrut doesn’t mind.
“Are you hungry?” Baze asks, after a while. “The rations on the shuttle were appalling.”
“They were,” Chirrut says.
“I’ll find us something.” Baze stands up. “Wait here.”
Chirrut really does mean to wait. He even does wait (and meditate) for half an hour, after which he is compelled to get up, store Baze’s armor and weapons underneath the bunk frame, and leaving the room in search of Baze and a change in surroundings.
He tracks Baze’s route as well he can, going down a flight of stairs and through a busy corridor into another common area. This one is full of people, droids, equipment, plus the smell of food. It’s likely a mess hall or a close equivalent, but more interesting is the tension he can feel bubbling nearby.
A fight is about to break out.
Chirrut barely needs to concentrate – Jyn and her necklace shine too bright to be ignored, and Bodhi is right by her. Jyn is talking in a low voice, urging to Bodhi to keep moving, but Bodhi is refusing. It takes Chirrut a moment to figure out why, and when he does, Bodhi’s already rushing at a fellow rebel, bowling them over with a clumsy tackle.
It’s not like a fight in the Jedha’s marketplace – which could and always did get deadly – but this is still a military facility and Bodhi a recent defector. Chirrut leaps over a box and runs in, darting through the small group of hot-heads who are now throwing fists and pushing each other (Jyn has joined as well) and grabs Bodhi by the back of his jacket.
Bodhi swings wildly, so Chirrut swerves out of the way even as he tries to pull Bodhi out, along the way blocking attempts by various people at getting at Bodhi. Chirrut also registers Baze’s arrival on the scene, where Baze is currently trying to extract Jyn with the same level of success.
Just as someone grabs Chirrut’s robe and he’s trying to decide how to retaliate, Baze barks, “Hey, watch it! He’s blind!”
“Oh!” The Rebel officer drops Chirrut’s robes immediately. “Sorry, I...”
“It’s fine, thank you.” Chirrut takes a quick step back when the officer moves towards them, and pulls Bodhi with him. “This man’s a friend, I’d thank you to stop that.”
“Yes,” Bodhi says quickly, drawing up to his full height and pushing his shoulder against Chirrut’s. “I’m friends with a monk. He’s a holy man. We’re from the same city. It’s a holy city.”
“And,” Chirrut says slowly, “I’m sure that this was all just a misunderstanding. Wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Jyn says loudly, from the other side of the melee. “It was.”
“Uh,” Bodhi says. “Actually, no it wasn’t.”
“Great,” Jyn sighs.
“Well, he shouldn’t have—” Bodhi inhales sharply as someone approaches, passing through the crowd with single-minded focus. “Oh, oh no—”
“Bodhi,” this new arrival says. “Can I really not leave you for five minutes? Hey, save it for the battlefield, everyone! Break it up, break it up. This means you, too, Bynar.”
“Uh, this is Wedge,” Bodhi tells Chirrut under his breath, as the group around them starts to disperse noisily. “He’s – he’s also a defector and he’s supposed to be my sponsor, but I think I already messed up.”
“You’ll be fine,” Chirrut says. “What was the cause?”
“Nothing,” Bodhi says. “They were just—”
“They were saying unkind things about my father,” Jyn says.
“Lies, Jyn,” Bodhi hisses. “They weren’t just being unkind, they were telling lies, and Galen – what Galen’s sacrificed for all of us—”
“It won’t mean a damned thing if we get shoved in a holding cell now,” Jyn says. “He took that first step, but it’s up to us to continue his mission.”
“But they don’t know—”
“They don’t have to,” Jyn says quietly. The four of them are closer now, no longer of interest while Wedge clears the area and talks some other people down. “Bodhi, you know I’m right.”
“And you,” Baze says, turning to Chirrut. “I told you to wait for me.”
“You did,” Chirrut says.
“Who’s watching my cannon? Please don’t say the Force.” Baze waits. “Chirrut.”
“I took the fuses out,” Chirrut says. “Even if someone steals it they can’t use it.”
“It’d still make good scrap.” Baze grunts softly, and presses his knuckles to his nose.
“What happened?” Chirrut asks.
“Jyn elbowed me in the face.”
“Sorry,” Jyn says awkwardly. “I really didn’t see you.”
“You didn’t see him?” Bodhi says.
“I was focused on you,” Jyn says.
Chirrut puts his hand on Baze’s face and pats the familiar features gently. “Good, you’re still handsome.”
“Lucky me,” Baze says.
Chirrut tilts his head. “You’re impressed.”
“She has a very sharp elbow,” Baze says. “Who is this one again?”
“Wedge Antilles,” says the Rebel officer, who is also likely a pilot, judging from the smell of his uniform. “So this is the crew you talked about?”
“Ah, yes,” Bodhi says, before sheepishly introducing them one by one. “I—I really didn’t mean to make trouble.”
“It’s not a big deal, you’ve been under a lot of stress,” Wedge says. “It wouldn’t be the first fight on base today, even. I’m guessing you’re all here for food? Come on, let’s get you guys set up.”
They eat in the mess hall with Wedge Antilles as their escort, and there are no more fights to be had.
Wedge himself is polite and engaging, which helps Chirrut expand his expectations of Rebel pilots, which had previously been limited to Cassian. (Unlike Baze, who’s had a handful of brushes with the Rebellion that he’s tactful enough not to bring up in present company, Chirrut’s had very little exposure to them. Saw Gerrera’s presence on Jedha simply ensured that the mainstream rebels would steer clear of their system.) He answers their questions clearly and with candor, not shying away from his Imperial history. His ease of manner must come from practice, and it has Bodhi opening up like a flower, perhaps from seeing in Wedge what he himself might one day be.
Naturally Bodhi is most engaged in the conversation, though after a few minutes of scrutiny Jyn dives in as well, heading straight to the topic of tomorrow’s Council meeting and what she’s to expect.
“They make decisions very quickly here,” Wedge says. “But it has to be by committee. Chancellor Mon Mothma may be our leader but she doesn’t override the others.”
“Tall,” Baze tells Chirrut. “Controlled, carries herself like a grandmaster. You’d like her robes.”
“You’ve seen her,” Bodhi says in surprise.
Jyn huffs under her breath. “I’m surprised you haven’t. She’s all over the base.”
Chirrut inclines his head thoughtfully. “You’ve spoken to her already.”
“Yes,” Jyn says. “She wasn’t exactly helpful.”
“She shouldn’t be,” Chirrut says. “If she’s to be objective, she can’t help you shape your testimony. What about Cassian? Wouldn’t he have some advice?”
“He thinks it’s a waste of time,” Jyn says.
Bodhi sighs. “You don’t know that.”
“Actually,” Baze says, “why isn’t the captain your sponsor? He actually knows you.”
“He’s still in debriefing with General Draven,” Wedge says. “Last I saw, anyway.”
Chirrut hums thoughtfully. “That’s a long session. Must be plenty to talk about.”
Bodhi takes a deep breath. “I’ll help you, Jyn. Whatever you need. I can come with you, if you think it’ll help. To talk to the Council.”
“I’d like to help, too,” Chirrut says.
“Yeah,” Baze says, “he’ll pray for you.”
“That, too,” Chirrut says.
Jyn makes a sound as though she’d consider it, maybe, possibly, and then turns back to Wedge with another question.
The meal hits Baze’s daily threshold for socializing, so Chirrut excuses them once they’re done eating, leaving the young people to their strategic gossip.
He and Baze return to the barracks, where Chirrut meditates on the lower bunk, while Baze checks that his weapons and armor are all in order. Around them the barracks are a little busier now, with some beds occupied by people already fast asleep.
Tomorrow will be an important day. Chirrut knows this with certainty, because right now is the calm before the rush; the deep breath before the plunge. He knows Baze feels it, too, because he’s just as quiet on the top bunk, no doubt going through his checklist for what they’ll need.
Once Chirrut is ready for sleep, he removes his outer robes and folds them into a little pile he sets underneath the bed. The blanket is a material unfamiliar to him, but cozy enough once he slips underneath. It gets even cozier when Baze climbs down from the top bunk and joins him, both of them well-used to maximizing space. Baze takes the extra step of tying the spare blanket on the bed frame as a makeshift divider, giving them some privacy from and muffling the noises of the busy corridor.
“You okay?” Chirrut asks, once Baze has settled down against his back. “Everything in order?”
“The galaxy hasn’t been in order for years,” Baze says. “You needn’t ask.”
Chirrut carefully rolls over, so he can better touch Baze’s face and stroke his hair. Baze closes his eyes and lets him.
“Tell me that Jyn will get the Rebel armies,” Baze says. “Tell me that we can kill Death Star.”
“You don’t believe in my fortunes.”
“I can pretend to for a while.”
“No. Bedtimes stories are well and fine, but not tonight. I will tell you something else.” Chirrut clears his throat in a show of dramatics. “We are tarnished souls, both of us. So are Jyn, Bodhi, Cassian – even Kaytoo, I think, has a soul of his own. War has made us dull, but we can gleam again under the right circumstances. The Force gathers its own. Soon we shall what that means.”
Baze hums in contentment, and sound seems to resonate through Chirrut’s body, all the way down his toes. It’s in times like this, when Baze is as relaxed as he can be, that Chirrut can so easily imagine other lives for him, where that great heart of his would be better protected. Chirrut’s imagination likes to conjure a farm, where Baze uses his sharp-shooting skills to protect his homestead. He’d do well to have children, too, because there was no one kinder or more patient with the younger novitiates at the Temple.
“I can hear you thinking,” Baze says.
“An old man’s melancholy,” Chirrut says. “I’m allowed that sometimes.”
Chirrut’s fingers are still on Baze’s face, so he feels it when Baze opens his eyes. “Tell me.”
“I would wish you a happier life.”
“And I would wish you eyes that work again,” Baze says. “But then you wouldn’t be you, and I wouldn’t love you, and then what would I do?”
“Be less stressed, I’d wager.”
“Ugh.” Baze throws an arm around Chirrut, pulling him tight for an impressive hug. Chirrut presses his face against Baze’s neck, and sighs when Baze strokes a large palm down the back of Chirrut’s head. “I know you didn’t mean that.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Chirrut agrees. “We keep each other safe.”
“Oh, we now?” Baze says with a laugh. “Not the Force?”
Chirrut ignores the tease, for he’d rather to move his mouth up Baze’s neck, over the edges of his beard, to find his mouth. Baze kisses him back, softly at first, and then not.
They are very quiet. They’ve had years of practice being quiet, especially in unfamiliar locations.
Besides, a military facility must be used to such things and more.
Chirrut expects to sleep well that night. His stomach is content, neither of them are harboring major injuries, and the ambient noise of the temple-base is a marked improvement over the quiet of space. He expects to sleep well, and he even does, until he’s jolted awake.
At first there’s nothing obvious, for the room is cool and most of its occupants asleep. Then Chirrut hears the footsteps with their distinctive gait.
He turns on the mattress, and tilts his head up when Jyn crouches by their bed.
“Chirrut, are you—oh. Um.”
“What is it?” Chirrut says, keeping his voice low to match hers. “What’s the matter?”
“I, uh…” Jyn looks around. “Do either of you know anything about Scarif?”
“Not me.” Chirrut pats Baze’s arm, which is currently slung over him. “Baze.”
Baze grunts. “What now?” Jyn repeats the question, and Baze says, “Imperial territory? No.”
“Why do you need to know?” Chirrut asks.
“It’s…” Jyn sighs. “I need to be prepared for tomorrow, but I don’t know anything about Scarif, what ecosystem it has, what kind of equipment they’ll need on the ground. Bodhi’s never seen it, either. I need to know, because I don’t want the Council to think I don’t understand what I’m asking of them. We were barely ready for Eadu.”
“You preparing tactical plans for them, too?” Baze asks.
“If they need it,” Jyn says flatly. “There are perks of being Saw Gerrera’s prodigy.”
“Can’t you hack what you need from the Alliance’s systems?” Baze asks.
“Or just ask?” Chirrut says.
Jyn shakes her head. “I’m not going to mess around with their systems and there’s no one here I can ask who wouldn’t hit us back with a dozen questions of their own. Or worse, bring Draven back on my head. I thought about Wedge, but Bodhi says he’s gone on a mission.”
“What about the shuttle we took?” Chirrut asks. “Wouldn’t the info be there?”
“I did think of that,” Jyn says slowly. “Was hoping to avoid it.”
“Ah, a mission.” Chirrut nudges Baze with his elbow. “You don’t have to join.”
“That stopped being funny ages ago,” Baze says.
They get up and dressed, and then follow Jyn out of the barracks. They don’t even have to be that stealthy, for even in the night cycle the Rebel Base has personnel and droids bustling about, albeit at a slightly lower level. Their only tricky part is the last leg where they catch up with Bodhi, who’s hiding behind a crate and monitoring movement in the chamber-hangar beyond.
“The ramp’s down,” Bodhi whispers. “But no one’s gone near it.”
“They probably have it on lockdown,” Jyn says.
As soon as it’s clear, they sprint together across the floor and up the shuttle ramp. The acid smell of Eadu rain is mostly gone by now, though the innards of the shuttle are still familiar and oddly comforting. The others head straight for the cockpit, while Chirrut hangs back and says, “I’ll be the lookout.”
There’s an awkward silence, broken by Baze’s exasperated, “It’s quiet outside, he can do it.”
The others start climbing the ladder, and Chirrut sits down near the ramp to listen.
The Force guides, and the Force protects.
Case in point: after about fifteen minutes of faint ambient noise of a base in low activity mode, Chirrut perks up at the approach of footsteps. These are heavy, evenly-spaced footsteps that cannot be human. Most of the droids here roll on wheels, or have small shuffling steps like children. This one has a long stride, each step distinct and clunky. Chirrut relaxes.
Kaytoo pauses halfway up the ramp and says, “What are you doing there?”
Chirrut taps his fingers against his staff. “I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to meditate in a familiar place. It helps clear the mind.”
“I don’t think I believe you.”
“How is Cassian?” Chirrut asks. “We heard that he’d had a lengthy debriefing.”
Kaytoo’s motors whirr as he thinks. “He’s… fine. He’s certainly better than you’re going to be when I sound the alarm.”
“Why would you do that?”
“This shuttle is restricted. I am authorized to review and report on its condition.”
“In the middle of the night cycle?”
“Sleep is for organics and droids that don’t pull their weight.”
“That sounds ominous.” Chirrut stands up when Kaytoo approaches, stopping him in his tracks with a quiet, “Jyn is inside, retrieving information from the navigation computer. About Scarif.”
“About Scarif?” Kaytoo echoes. “What for?”
“Because tomorrow she’s going to ask the Rebel leaders to retrieve the Death Star plans, and she needs to know as much as she can about what the operation would need.”
“They won’t agree to it,” Kaytoo says knowingly. “Cassian says so.”
“How long do you think Cassian will live, if the Death Star continues to exist?”
“That is…” Kaytoo raises a finger and wags it once in a clear threat gesture. Chirrut wonders where he’d picked that up from. “That is irrelevant to the situation. You’re on a restricted vehicle, and you shouldn’t be.”
“You should tell Cassian,” Chirrut says.
“Yes, I will,” Kaytoo says, and he marches off to do just that.
Chirrut waits until Kaytoo is an appropriate distance away, and then runs into the shuttle and taps his staff against the ladder. “We have to go.”
“We got it,” Bodhi calls out faintly. “We’re coming.”
The alarm isn’t raised, and the cavalry doesn’t come to arrest them. Instead, they pretty much sneak off the shuttle and back to the barracks without incident, as if the excursion never happened. Jyn and Baze worry a little, but Chirrut doesn’t, and immediately goes back to sleep.
Chirrut wakes a handful of hours later, and only indulges himself for a few minutes lying on Baze’s chest before he announces that he’s going to get some fresh air. He’s only been on a forest planet one other time in his life, and that was years ago, so he’d like to enjoy it a little. Baze says that sleep is worth enjoying as well, but he gets up to join Chirrut anyway.
“You don’t need to bring your cannon,” Chirrut says.
“Trees are not trustworthy,” Baze says.
They find a relatively private spot to sit together, just outside the temple but within the perimeter of the base itself. No one bothers them, though it’s hard to say whether it’s because Baze looms so effectively, or if it’s because no one wants to tell a blind holy man that he can’t meditate where he wants.
The air is cool and pleasant, if a little pungent with fuel cell ozone. Chirrut lets his eyes fall half-shut and basks the breeze and relative quiet in the shadow of this stone temple. Perhaps it wasn’t always like this, and that the temple had its own pilgrims and celebrations in the place that is now overrun with trees, and is in service of a new cause. Maybe in five thousand years the sand tomb of Jedha will see something new, as well. Who knows.
“They’re so young,” Baze says, startling Chirrut from his thoughts. “They’re so young, that they don’t even know how young they are.”
Of course Baze would be thinking of Bodhi, Jyn and Cassian, all of whom barely remember a time without fighting, without the Empire.
“What is that like?” Baze adds.
“How old were you the first time you used a blaster?” Chirrut says.
“We didn’t know how young we were then, either. We’re only just now understanding how much can be fit into a lifetime. They have no idea.”
Chirrut unfolds his hand on the ground, close to Baze’s knee. Baze takes the offering, weaving their fingers together and squeezing. Chirrut listens closely while Baze takes a few deep breaths, and slowly relaxes.
They sit together in silence, listening to the hum of engines and cries of far-off animals. Overall, it’s not all that different from sitting on a balcony of the Temple during sunrise, and gathering energy and resolve for the day to come. The company that Chirrut has now, as he had then, is top notch.
“Cassian,” Baze says. “Coming this way.”
The good captain’s steps are brisk, but not business-like. The first thing he says to them when he’s close enough is a clipped, “Where’s Jyn?”
“Haven’t seen her today,” Chirrut says. “Can we help you with something?”
“She…” Cassian pauses, sighs, and rubs a hand over his face. “She was looking for info on Scarif?”
“We must get the plans,” Chirrut says. “There’s no question about it. Or… do you disagree?”
“My opinion doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does,” Chirrut says. “As does hers. And mine, and Baze’s. All of us.”
“Sit,” Baze says.
Cassian starts to protest, but Baze clicks his tongue the way he used to do for the novitiates under his charge. Cassian doesn’t sit immediately – Chirrut guesses that he’s frowning, probably offended – but then slowly lowers himself to the ground, where he shuffles around to find a decent spot.
“What worries you?” Chirrut asks. “That Jyn is trying? Or that she is trying and you fear she’ll be disappointed?”
“She will be,” Cassian says. “She doesn’t know what it took for the Alliance to even get here, what all of us have risked. Attack Scarif? It could destroy everything we’ve worked for.”
Chirrut doesn’t respond, and neither does Baze. They don’t know the Alliance and can’t comment on the accuracy of Cassian’s statement, but honesty and desperation vibrate through Cassian’s words. He blames himself, Chirrut thinks. He didn’t do his job – he didn’t bring back a single, irrefutable piece of evidence of what they know the Empire can do. He believes that whatever decision the Council makes today will be on him.
At long last, Cassian says, “Does she have a plan?”
“A few,” Baze says. “The best one assumes the fleet will be dispatched.”
“What if there’s no fleet?”
“Extraction team,” Baze says. “Small, flexible, good with improv. But it’ll be far more difficult, since there’ll be barely any recon.”
Cassian nods. “She’ll want to fight, no question about that. I assume you two volunteered, so that’ll be an extraction team of three. Four, with Bodhi. But it won’t be enough. If it were Eadu, maybe, but Scarif isn’t some secret library hidden away in the mountains. Its planetary defenses alone…”
“Hence, the fleet,” Chirrut points out.
“But ground troops,” Cassian says. “Grounds troops would help. Keep the firepower away from the extraction team, at the very least.”
“Would the Council allow that?” Chirrut asks.
Cassian’s responding laugh is dry. “If you were Jedi, maybe.”
“Hah, Jedi,” Baze says. “All that’s left are people like us.”
Above their heads, the relative calm of the base is broken by the whine of an approaching vessel, just that much larger than the usual X and U-wings around the base. Chirrut tilts his head up, following the vehicle’s journey circling the temple and landing on the far side.
“That’s early,” Chirrut says.
“They arrive in stages. Safer.” Cassian takes deep breath. He’s almost vibrating with frustration, yet when he speaks his voice is low and even: “There may be others. Who’d volunteer. For that ground mission that isn’t going to get approval.”
“You’ve already been talking to people,” Chirrut says in delight.
“How many others?” Baze asks.
“Just a handful now,” Cassian says, “but I think that if they got to hear from the survivors of Jedha, that might help a lot.”
“To get people for this mission that isn’t going to happen,” Baze says.
Cassian nods. “Exactly.”
“You already have the shuttle prepped,” Chirrut says. “That’s what Kaytoo was doing.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cassian rises to his feet, and after a beat Baze and Chirrut follow. They’re just three men standing around enjoying the open air, and not at all planning military insubordination. Two out of three of them aren’t even in this military organization, so it definitely doesn’t count. Cassian adds, in that same mild tone: “We need to be subtle about it. Can’t let the word get out, or we’ll be done before we even start.”
“Of course,” Chirrut says.
“And don’t tell Jyn,” Cassian adds.
“Why not?” Baze asks.
“She needs to believe that she can convince the Council.” Cassian shrugs, stiff and uncomfortable. “Maybe she can. What the hell do I know. I hope she does.”
“You’re creating options,” Chirrut says. “But it doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in her.”
“Sure,” Cassian says. “That.”
As it turns out, quite a few grizzled and otherwise busy soldiers want to listen to them, once they know they’re from Jedha. (Or maybe it’s the thing where Baze carries a cannon everywhere, which has people curious.) Cassian sets it up beautifully, bringing them within range of various vetted infantrymen, starting a supposedly ‘private’ conversation that becomes less so once enough details are dropped.
There’s a Corporal Mefran and Timker at first, later a Private Calfour, then a Lieutenant Sefla and others still, with a reasonable interval in between each encounter. All of them know the official Imperial story, which is that the Holy City collapsed in a mining disaster. Chirrut concedes that the story is “true” in the sense that the Empire did mine the city clean of kyber, and it did result in a disaster. The first time he says that out loud, there’s a shocked silence from their audience, followed by Baze’s low, bitter laugh.
“Of course we’d be the first,” Baze says. “They had no use for us left but testing ground.”
The questions come next: what was it like, what did they see, was it really the whole city?
Baze falters the first time he tries to describe it. Chirrut speaks instead, describing the roar in the ground, the smell of burnt air, the way sand and stone rose into the sky.
“I didn’t understand, when he told me what happened,” Chirrut says.
The next time, with the next audience, Baze talks of the wave of rock. “Miles high. When I saw it, at first it was ‘just’ rock, something to flee from. Then I realized, it was the city. All of that in the air was the city, carved out of the ground and thrown up like – like dust. Like nothing.”
At one point, a Corporal Tonc says, “You’re all witnesses. Cassian can’t come forward but you two, you’re actually citizens of Jedha, the Senate would have to listen.”
“Really?” says his companion, Corporal Maddel. “The Senate? The fact that they even bought the mining story tells us all we need to know.”
“They don’t really buy it,” Tonc says. “They just can’t do anything without evidence.”
Cassian speaks at that point: “Even if there was evidence, they still can’t do anything. Any proof of the Death Star is proof that can be used on them, or someone else.”
“Why’s the Empire still pretending it’s not real, then?” Tonc asks.
“Because it’s not ready,” Chirrut says. “Jedha was but a test. It might not even have been a success by their measures, we don’t know.”
Through all these conversations, Cassian doesn’t push his agenda. He doesn’t mention Scarif, the Death Star plans, or what the Council will be discussing today. He merely lets the story of Jedha spread and settle.
All in all, these soldiers of Rebel Alliance are like any other group of people banded together under a common banner. There is a great variety of opinion to be had, and many feelings about the way things should, could or must be done, but isn’t.
The Force moves that which needs to be moved.
There is a place in the great chamber beyond the maintenance bays, where a handful of people can loiter with reasonable cause and watch people move in and out of the Command Centre. Chirrut and Baze have taken up such a station to follow the increasing volume of traffic as the Council meeting draws nearer.
“The flight general just went in,” Baze says. “Now another Senator. Strong-looking, a little careworn. Hmm.”
“What?” Chirrut asks.
“He’s from Alderaan. Didn’t know they were part of the Rebellion.”
“Another Core world,” Chirrut says. “That makes four now.”
“Five, including Mon Mothma.”
“You don’t sound happy about it.”
“Makes for a longer route to consensus.” Baze taps his fingers impatiently against his gauntlet. “Yet still too small. The Rebellion has been making trouble for years now – I thought they were a bigger operation.”
“Bigger than Saw Gerrera’s at least. And a little more organized.”
“That may be, but,” Baze lowers his voice even more, “there’s barely enough firepower to protect a single planet. Every single battle counts for them. What of the Empire?” He pauses, looking Chirrut up and down. “Aren’t you going to pray? The Council must approve this mission.”
“I’m saving the big guns for when the meeting starts.”
Chirrut only partially meant that as a joke, because the truth of it is that he can sense the Force’s guiding hand even stronger today, tightening its weave around them. He wonders if this strength of feeling comes from all of them close by once more – Cassian and Kaytoo are in the maintenance bay just behind them, while Jyn and Bodhi are now walking up towards the Command Centre entrance.
The latter pair make an acknowledging gesture at Chirrut and Baze, and Baze nods back at them. Baze describes them to Chirrut as looking geared up and prepared, only to be halted in their route by Draven and another man in a similar off-white uniform. Chirrut can sense their agitation from clear across the chamber.
“Get Cassian,” Chirrut says.
“No need,” Baze says dryly. “He’s already coming.” He pauses while Cassian marches past them for the scene with Jyn and Bodhi, and then continues: “Cassian’s jumped in, and now they’re having a discussion which is probably an argument. Something to do with security. The general mumbles when he speaks.”
“Does Jyn look like she’s about to hit someone?”
“No, actually.” Baze hums, and there’s a smile in the sound. “She’s trying to get Bodhi to go in her stead.”
“The general isn’t being difficult for the sake of it,” Chirrut says. “There’s a great deal of tension in that room. The Alliance is troubled.”
“Of course they are. Perhaps they fear that Jyn’s combative side will hinder instead of help.” After a few seconds, Baze adds, “Hmm.”
“Do you remember that time with the Rodian who wasn’t happy with my work?”
“By ‘wasn’t happy’, do you mean he refused to pay you after you’d spent two days hiding in that wonderful swamp planet to get off the trail of the Empire, and when you protested, he offered to take his blade to your face in order to make us a matched pair?” Chirrut shrugs. “Sounds familiar.”
“Right now Cassian has your face, of when you found me.”
“Oh dear,” Chirrut says. “I hope he doesn’t hurt anyone.”
“Only with words, it looks like.” Baze pauses. “A lot of words. A great deal of words. The general’s taking it quite well. I think he’ll let them enter.”
A whine of servos announces Kaytoo’s arrival just behind Chirrut’s shoulder. “Are you talking about Cassian?”
“Have you come to defend his honor?” Chirrut asks.
“That would take a great of energy,” Kaytoo says, “that would probably be better spent elsewhere.”
Chirrut laughs. “You sound like Baze sometimes. When he was younger, especially.”
Baze grunts good-naturedly. “A compliment for the droid, hand-in-hand with an insult for me.”
“I would say that it’s the other way around,” Kaytoo says. “But you’ve been more useful than a significant percentage of humans I’ve encountered.”
“That’s very nice of you say, thank you.” Chirrut gestures roughly in direction of Cassian, Bodhi and Jyn. “What’s happening now?”
Kaytoo’s optical sensors whirr faintly. “General Draven has gone inside, but the two haven’t followed him yet. They’re… having a moment. With Cassian.”
Baze doesn’t disagree. “How do you even know what a ‘moment’ is?”
“They’re having a moment,” Kaytoo says again, firmly. “And then those two will speak to the Council, and there will probably be some pretty words and heartfelt imploring, but it’ll amount to nothing because the mission isn’t going to happen the way they want.”
“Does that happen a lot for you?” Chirrut asks. “Things not happening the way you want?”
“The galaxy is chaotic by design,” Kaytoo says.
“Oh no,” Baze says. “Please don’t start telling the droid about the Force.”
“I know of the Force,” Kaytoo says indignantly. “My database has information on a great many belief systems, current as well as historical.”
“What do you believe in, Kaytoo?” Chirrut asks.
Kaytoo hesitates, but the answer is firm enough: “Me. I believe in me.”
“That’s a good belief to have,” Chirrut says.
“Cassian’s coming,” Baze says.
Cassian’s footsteps are quick, and he offers no pleasantries or explanations. “Information’s going to be flowing out as soon the meeting starts. As soon as there’s a hint that it’s not going to head our way, we make our move. Are you ready?”
As Cassian expected, once the Council meeting starts, information starts to flow almost immediately with people going in and out of the Command Center. The people around them are already talking of the Death Star and Scarif, along with the Council’s having to decide on the next course of action. All that everyone outside the Command Center can do is wait or – as in their case – surreptitiously recruit about two dozen ground troops to join them on standby.
Chirrut trusts that it will all work out, one way or another. Baze doesn’t share that confidence, but he is as calm as Chirrut while they wait for the Council meeting to be over. Baze is a patient man, and capable of being still for great lengths of time (which is useful when he’s on jobs) but internal peace doesn’t come easily to him anymore, not since the fall of the temple.
“Share with me,” Chirrut says.
“It’s nothing,” Baze says.
“Share it anyway.”
“I was just thinking how this was what it took for us to finally leave Jedha.” Baze’s tone is even, and free from overt bitterness. “I never told you, but the last time I prayed, I asked to be able to get you away from the city. That’s all I wanted. I didn’t even care under what circumstance, if you ended up hating me for it, or if we weren’t together anymore. I just wanted you away from that place, so that you could… let go.”
“Oh Baze.” Chirrut has to take a moment to collect himself, and then another moment to tap the heel of his staff against Baze’s boot, just to be triply-sure of his presence. “So you fear that the Force listened, and gave you exactly what you wanted.”
“The Force does have a tendency to fuck us over like that.”
“I’m glad you don’t believe in it,” Chirrut says. “What a terrible burden that would be.”
Baze frowns at him. “I always know when you’re joking, and when you’re not. You’d think that would make things less confusing.”
“And boring,” Chirrut adds. “Yet here we are. Your non-belief is part of you as you are now, because otherwise you wouldn’t be you, and I wouldn’t love you, and then where would I be?”
“Doing quite well, I’d wager.”
“Physically, perhaps, if the Force wishes to protect my existence,” Chirrut says. Baze’s voice would reveal little to anyone else, and they might even think it an attempt to needle a ‘thank you’ out of Chirrut for the years of Baze’s watching his back. But Chirrut knows better, because this has nothing to do with saving each other from pain or death, which has never been a one-way transaction for them anyway. “But there are places even the Force cannot reach.”
Baze is still watching him closely. Chirrut always knows when Baze is looking at him, especially with this kind of intent.
“Marry me,” Baze says.
Chirrut squints at nothing. “Baze, we’ve been married for years.”
“I don’t believe in the Force anymore,” Baze says. “The words we once spoke no longer count.”
“Oh no,” Chirrut says flatly. “What sin we have accumulated.”
“Do you want to or not?”
It’s right then that Chirrut realizes that despite Baze’s conscious beliefs, he can sense what Chirrut does – that the cosmos is building up to something, and they are standing right in the middle of it. It’s likely that Baze hasn’t decided whether this is a good or bad thing, but he will throw himself right into it to find out, because Baze Malbus doesn’t do anything by halves. Chirrut’s chest tightens with the sudden swell of relief; he’d hoped for years for something like this, that Baze would rediscover something else to focus on aside from their day-to-day survival.
“Of course I want to be married to you,” Chirrut says quietly. “Do you not know me?”
“Cassian!” Baze calls out. “Over here.”
“Right now?” Chirrut says with a laugh. “Jyn’s about to—”
“You’ve spoken to everyone?” Baze says to Cassian. “Are there enough?”
“A little more, actually,” Cassian says. “We’re going to have to leave immediately if we want to catch that window.”
“Good,” Baze says. “Also, you’re a captain. You need to marry us.”
“Uh,” Cassian says. “What?”
Kaytoo, who is shadowing Cassian, chimes in with: “I can prompt you, Cassian. I know how it goes.”
“How do you even…” Cassian trails off. “Anyway, I’m uh… I’m not that kind of captain?”
“Consider this a favor,” Chirrut says. “And it’s for the good of your crew.”
“Since we’re part of that crew,” Baze adds. “Quickly now.”
Though Cassian is still not entirely sure what this is about, being heckled by Baze and Kaytoo is enough to get him to engage. Being part of the Rebellion must involve a great deal of flexibility in their job scope after all, so what is the additional task of officiating a marriage? It’s a simple one, too, and to any outside observer it would appear to be a typical discussion between three people and a droid who are known to have flown a mission together.
“So,” Cassian says.
“You say their names,” Kaytoo says.
“Thank you, Kaytoo, I can handle this,” Cassian says, to which Kaytoo makes an electronic grunt that sounds more annoyed than apologetic. “Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe. We haven’t known each other long, and I’m not even a captain of anything at the moment, but in troubled times we make do with what we have, whenever and wherever we are. May you be good to and for each other. I declare that you are married.”
Baze shakes Cassian’s hand, and Chirrut says, “Thank you.”
“Congratulations,” Cassian says. “I’m going to do one more round, check in on everybody. Let me know when Jyn and Bodhi are out. Kaytoo, with me.”
“Yes,” Kaytoo says. He falls into step with Cassian, muttering, “You could’ve just told me that you’ve done that before.”
“So,” Chirrut says, turning to Baze, “it’s funny, isn’t it? The last time we did that was just before a battle, too. It’s turning to be quite a habit.”
“One day I might even agree with you on what counts as ‘funny’.” Baze comes to stand in front of Chirrut for a moment, close enough that Chirrut could poke Baze’s stomach if he wanted to. He doesn’t, because he is sometimes a nice person, and also they have just been wedded. Again. “Tell me our fortune, Chirrut.”
“This path is clear for all of us,” Chirrut says. “Let us take it.”
Later, though not so long later, in a place that is all at once strange and familiar, Chirrut smiles when he feels a touch on his shoulder. He turns but doesn’t speak immediately, for it is better to pause and take in the man standing before him. He has dark eyes, a strong nose and a full mouth, all set within a face that is older, worn, and much lovelier than exists in the hazy recesses of Chirrut’s memory.
“See,” Chirrut says. “Told you you’re still handsome.”
“Right.” Baze moves first, stepping in to wrap his arms around Chirrut and press his face against Chirrut’s neck. Baze’s grip is tight, and it only eases when Chirrut slides his arms up Baze’s back and squeezes him in return. Chirrut can actually do that now, what with there being no cannon blaster in the way.
“You know,” Chirrut says, “when I said you could find me, I didn’t mean right now.” He laughs when Baze pokes his side mercilessly. “Sorry, sorry! It did work out, though. They did it.”
“Hah,” Baze barks. “Did they?”
“Yes.” Chirrut draws back, so he can see Baze’s smile. “There’s a pretty good view from here.”