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Before they knew each other, Chirrut was a familiar voice in the dark.

Baze didn't expect to hear any kind of Jedha accent out here, in the bowels of a deportation vessel taking the slow route out past Shantipole. It was the kind of low-security shuttle that made the same journey three or four times a month, just like dozens of others across the galaxy. A hundred prisoners sharing a single dormitory cell, petty lawbreakers and refugees and people the Empire didn't want cluttering up the polished order of the inner worlds.

He should have escaped before they left spacedock, but he was exhausted and the ship was scheduled to dump them on Mataou anyway, a port with easy transport to seven different systems on the Outer Rim. If not for the fact they'd confiscated his weapons when they brought him onboard, he was practically getting a free flight across the sector.

He fell asleep within minutes of takeoff, curled up on one of the disposable bedrolls strewn across the cell floor. Half a day later, he awoke to the sound of someone who sounded like home.

The man was telling a story to a group of children, a tale with plenty of heroic duels and miraculous escapes. Baze recognized him from when everyone was first escorted into the cell, although he hadn't been nearby when Baze went to sleep. He was blind but otherwise nondescript, except for the fact that he didn't seem afraid. In a place like this, that kind of calm was a rare commodity. No wonder the kids liked him.

Baze waited until the children left before asking, 'Taking a risk, aren't you? They don't like Jedi stories out here.'

'Who said anything about Jedi?'

'Traveling heroes who fight with swords and lift things by magic?'

'Around here, that's the kind of story they need.'

Baze wasn't sure he agreed, but he wasn't going to start an argument over fairytales.

'I'm Chirrut,' said the storyteller, and turned to face where Baze was sitting cross-legged on his little plot of floorspace, finger-combing the knots out of his hair.

Chirrut looked much the same as everyone else in here, albeit a little more hygienic. Old clothes, and the tired look of someone who'd been forced to sleep somewhere he'd rather not. But there was a kind of quiet humor about him that made Baze take notice.

'Baze,' he replied, at last. A first name couldn't hurt.

The man called Chirrut smiled a smile that Baze would later learn to recognize as bad news. 'Hypothetically,' he said, leaning forward. 'If someone were to suggest hijacking this vessel and getting everyone out of here, would you help to remove the guards on this patrol level?'

Baze fumbled the tie he was using to fasten his hair, snapping it against his knuckles. 'No! Do I seem crazy to you? Just sit tight for another few hours, then you can get lost in the connection point at Mataou like everyone else in this shithole.'

'That was my original plan, but this ship is no longer bound for Mataou.'

Baze looked up sharply. Chirrut's face was serene, almost amiable. Very possibly the serenity of a madman. 'What?'

Chirrut shrugged. 'We should have passed through an Imperial blockade this morning, but the engine sounds never changed. They're taking us somewhere else, probably outside the sector.' 

Listening to the implacable certainty in Chirrut's tone, Baze was caught between two warring instincts: his automatic distrust of strangers spouting paranoid bullshit, and his decade-long belief in the Empire's ability to fuck him over at every available opportunity.


'Does the why even matter?' asked Chirrut, in a tone of gentle enquiry.

Baze said nothing. There could be a perfectly innocent explanation, like the ship had been rerouted because of an ion storm or an equipment malfunction. Or Chirrut could be a liar who invented some nonsense about engine noises and blockades, just to mess with him.

Or, they could be on a one-way trip into the most nighmarish rumors about the Imperial fleet, vanishing as surely as if they'd been dropped into a black hole.

Chirrut shrugged again. 'You can choose to believe me, or not. But you'll know for sure in six hours when we don't arrive in Mataou, and by then it could be too late.'

It was hard to storm off when you had nowhere to go, so Baze just turned silently on his bedroll and watched the crowd, finishing up with his hair. When he glanced back, Chirrut was politely ignoring the world around him, lying back with his hands folded over his chest.

Baze tried to forget what Chirrut had said, but the idea ate away at him. He hadn't survived this long by ignoring warning signs.

He found himself watching the guards out of the corner of his eye, noting their unusually punctual patrols. The 'troopers on this kind of ship tended to be sloppy, trapped out here with no officers and a dull, repetitive routine. Drudge work. Yet for some reason, these guards were behaving with an efficiency you rarely saw outside the big military outposts. Two of them were posted outside the cell at all times, and they actually seemed to be paying attention.

After an hour or so, Baze decided to mount an investigation the only way he could.

'Hey,' he called out, leaning against the bars when the next patrol came past. 'Guard!'

The stormtrooper paused in their slow walk outside the cell wall. 'What is it?'

'Where's this ship going? We still headed for Mataou?'

There was a split second where the stormtrooper halted in surprise, before she whipped out her stun baton and jabbed at him between the bars. Icy pain shot through his ribs, sending a spasm down one side of his body. Baze barely felt the impact as he fell into a gasping sprawl on the metal floor.

Around him, Baze was vaguely aware of the crowded cell going quiet and then collectively deciding to pretend nothing had happened. At least Baze had his answer now. Earlier, the guards hadn't even bothered with stun batons when one of the drunks started screaming at them and threw a shoe through the bars. But a simple question had caused this one to panic and revert back to her training: inflict pain until people shut up and obey. If they were still going to Mataou, wouldn't she just have said so?

Baze dragged himself back to his bedroll and pulled open his shirt. An ugly red welt was blossoming on his side, with a starburst pattern from the baton charge.

'I'd apologise,' said Chirrut, behind him. 'But you could have just listened to me in the first place.'

Baze grunted, and Chirrut sat down beside him without asking, leaning his tall wooden walking stick against the bed. 'Where did they hit you?'

'My side. Not so bad.'

Chirrut reached out, giving Baze time to bat his hands away, and poked at Baze's ribs until he hit the right spot. His fingers were light and cool against where the bruise was beginning to inflame, almost ticklish.

'You're right. Not so bad,' said Chirrut.

'You're not a doctor, are you?'

'I'm a monk,' said Chirrut, and patted him on the chest. 'So if you die from your wounds, I'll know what to do with your spirit.'

Baze pulled back and fastened his shirt. There was still so much room for uncertainty, the possibility that Chirrut was wrong about what lay ahead. The problem was, Baze had learned long ago to follow his instincts, and right now he was besieged by an unfamiliar emotion he could only identify as trust. There was something about Chirrut that inspired comfort, as if they'd known each other for much longer than just a few scant hours. 

At last, he asked: 'Why come to me?'

'You're a fighter.'

He wanted to ask, How do you know? But evidently Chirrut did know, and at this point it hardly mattered why. 'There must be a dozen others in here,' he said, instead.

'I trust in the Force, and it guided me to you.'

Baze snorted aloud. 'The Force? It guided you to a filthy transport full of crying babies and criminals, headed for who knows where.'

'And now, you and I are going to help those crying babies escape.'

'As if I have any choice now,' said Baze, sourly.

'See? The Force was right. It brought me to a kind soul.'

Chirrut stood before Baze could think of a suitable retort, and made his way across the cell, gently clearing a route with his walking stick. He returned with a woman in tow, lanky and grey-haired.

'This is Morla, she's a pilot.'

Baze was puzzled for a moment, before realizing what Chirrut meant. 'You can fly this thing?'

She glanced at Chirrut. 'Not exactly. I used to work on an agricultural freighter. But they make the controls pretty similar across the fleet, so they can shift people without much new training. Did he tell you about the engine sound?'

Baze nodded.

'Well, he's right, for what it's worth. I didn't want to go to Mataou, and I sure as hell don't want to go wherever they're taking us now. You better be a good shot.'

'I might be if they hadn't confiscated our weapons.'

One side of Chirrut's mouth lifted in a smirk. 'Not mine,' he said, and tapped his walking stick on the ground.

'It's a stick,' said Baze flatly. 'What are you going to do, prod the stormtroopers to death?'

Chirrut just smiled.

'So, what?' asked Morla, uncertain. 'You're gonna stage a fight and distract the guards?'

Baze shook his head. 'They won't care. Why bother coming in here to break up a fight? We need to scare them.'

He looked out across the cell, a long rectangular room with featureless metal walls at each end and bars along the sides, so one stormtrooper could patrol each side with no blind spots. Aside from the kids, most people in here were subdued and kept to themselves, napping or sitting on the bedrolls, keeping close to whatever possessions they had left. Someone else might have persuaded them to band together, but Baze wasn't the inspirational type.

'Sickness,' said Chirrut, at last. 'Make them think one of us is contagious.'

'They'll hate that,' said Morla, with satisfaction. 'They'd have to follow containment procedures if they want to dock with sick passengers. They might even come into the cell to check.'

After some discussion, the three of them decided Chirrut should be the one to fall ill, on the grounds that Morla was a more convincing panicker, and Baze might attract too much suspicion from the guards. Their best chance of getting out was to take down one guard and steal their blaster as soon as possible, before the second guard figured out what was going on.

While Baze made his way to the opposite side of the cell, Chirrut fell to the floor and began to convulse. Morla called out for help, babbling something about Correllian flu, and Baze dug his nails into his palms as the guard looked over and then reluctantly came closer to the bars.

Separated from them by a crowd of onlookers, Baze couldn't see what Chirrut did next. But it resulted in a loud, cascading clatter as the stormtrooper slammed against the bars and then fell to the floor, followed by a hubbub of yells from the other prisoners.

There was some kind of scuffle on the ground before Morla yelled, 'Baze!' and flung something over the heads of the crowd: A blaster, thank the Force.

The blaster nearly broke one of his fingers when he caught it, but he was ready when the second trooper appeared on his side of the cell. Baze had to shoulder his way past a panicking Sullustan to get a decent shot, and time slowed to a crawl as the blaster bolt finally hit its mark.

The trooper fell to the floor with a black, smoking hole in the chestplate, and Baze followed up by shooting the hinges of the cell door until it cracked open. He turned back to witness the collective indrawn breath of shock before pandemonium broke out across the cell.

They had no choice but to move fast from there. Chirrut dragged someone out of the crowd and gave them the second of the two stolen blasters, telling them to get everyone else to safety. Then he, Baze and Morla fled along a dark metal corridor, picking up speed as a shrill, whooping alarm began to ring.

It wasn't a large ship; Baze had seen it from the outside. Enough room for the cell, a cargo area around the same size, and some living quarters for the crew. There was no way of knowing how many guards were onboard, or where they were stationed. All they had was a vague idea of where the bridge might be located, based on other Imperial ships.

'Do you know how to fight?' Baze asked Morla, lining up to shoot open a blast door at the end of the corridor.

'I know how to use the defensive cannon on an agricultural freighter. My training didn't exactly cover close combat situations.'

'Well, if we see another blaster, grab it. Just think of it as a smaller defensive cannon.' The door slid open, to another cold stretch of echoing metal and flashing emergency lights. 'There's a corridor junction up ahead, and a ladder going up,' he said, for Chirrut's benefit. 'Any ideas?'

Chirrut leaned his staff against the wall and shrugged off his jacket, a ragged, bulky old thing that he carelessly dropped to the ground. He was wearing a dark shirt underneath, and Baze took note of the corded muscle in his forearms. Taking back his staff and standing straight, Chirrut had a look of compact efficiency.

'Corridor,' he decided. 'Less likely to get your head blown off when you open the door.'

'Thanks,' said Baze, with sarcasm, and led the way.

It wasn't long before they heard the rhythm of stormtrooper boots hitting the floor at a run.

'Get back,' he told Morla, and glanced back at Chirrut, realizing he'd never bothered to ask if he could fight. The answer had already seemed obvious from the way Chirrut moved.

The footsteps were coming from where the corridor brached out into two more blast doors, giving them just enough cover to hide around the corner. Baze tucked himself into the bulkhead while Chirrut stayed back.

'I hear eight or ten,' said Chirrut.

'Ten more guards? On a ship this size?'

If Chirrut offered a reply, Baze never heard it. The door slid open and he opened fire, taking down the first two stormtroopers in an instant. He caught a third before they started shooting back, but after that it wasn't so easy.

Faced with either retreating or stepping forward into a hail of blaster fire, the stormtroopers bottlenecked in the doorway. But they had numbers on their side, and within seconds Baze's ears were ringing with the sound of ricocheting blaster bolts.

He was only vaguely aware of Chirrut behind him, until Chirrut just... wasn't there any more. Between one shot and the next, Chirrut had found his way to the center of the melee, landing a flying kick to a stormtrooper's head.

Chirrut was a whirlwind of violence, but somehow he never seemed to get in the way of Baze's shots. As Baze ducked forward and aimed low, Chirrut swung behind him as if they were attached at opposing ends of a thread, orbiting each other.

Focusing on his own opponents, Baze only caught the tail end of the fight as Chirrut used the cramped space to run halfway up a wall and land feet-first on a stormtrooper's neck. He should have fallen, but he somehow sprang back up to drive his staff into the vulnerable hip-joint of the final trooper's armor. Baze finished them off with his blaster and turned to stare at Chirrut, who was only a little out of breath.

'A monk, huh?'

Grinning bright with adrenaline, Chirrut twirled his staff and set the end back down on the floor. 'The path to enlightenment is rarely a peaceful one.'

Baze knew then what Chirrut was. He should have realized it before. A Jedhan warrior monk: a Guardian of the Temple of the Whills, the great stone tower that cast a shadow over the Holy City. Baze had passed them in the street many times, but he'd never spoken to one beyond a few muttered greetings as a child.

'You're a long way from home, aren't you?'

'So are you,' Chirrut replied. 'Come on, we should hurry before they notice these ones are missing.'

They heard the echo of more blaster fire from somewhere else in the ship, but as it turned out, the doors to the bridge were just around the corner. In seconds, Baze was blasting the final door panel to reveal the ship's pilot sitting in the tiny navigational chamber, a square-faced woman with neatly cropped hair.

'Can you fly this?' Baze demanded, and Morla barely had to glance at the controls before nodding. 'Get up,' he said, gesturing with the blaster.

Chirrut fixed his sightless gaze on the pilot as she scrambled out of the control chair. ‘Where were you taking us?’

The pilot’s eyes flickered between them, possibly trying to figure out who was in charge. ‘A research facility in the Hosnian system,’ she said, voice shaking. ‘But, please, I didn’t know we’d been redirected until after we left dock. It was too late.’

‘Was it?’ Baze growled. At the phrase “research facility,” his heart had turned to a chip of ice. His hands flipped the blaster onto its disintegrator setting, and the shot hit home with a dull, implosive thud.

In the aftermath, the only sound was Morla’s fast, distressed breathing. Baze felt himself flush with shame, halted by a curl of fingers around his arm. He realized he’d been waiting for Chirrut’s judgement, but he was met with calm. Chirrut’s hand felt as if it was thawing Baze through the thick, reinforced layers of his sleeve.

Setting her jaw, Morla slid into the pilot’s seat. She caught Baze’s eye, and nodded. ‘Go. Help the others,’ she said, and started punching new commands into the control panel. 

It took an hour to check the ship for surviving stormtroopers, and another three days to locate a safe spaceport and get everyone out. Baze, who was unused to sticking around after the fighting was over, was happy to let someone else take charge. One of the other prisoners knew someone who knew someone, and lined up an unmarked shuttle to ferry people off the ship once they arrived. An unannounced Imperial transport would invite too many questions.

After everyone was planetside, Baze and one of the more disreputable passengers—a hard-eyed woman who said she’d fought in the Clone Wars—would rig the place to blow with the remainder of the stormtroopers’ grenades. A dead end for anyone trying to track them down, hopefully.

The three days before that were tense. By unspoken agreement, everyone moved their bedrolls out into the corridors and the stormtroopers’ quarters, unwilling to spend any more time in the cell.

Baze and Chirrut carried their bedrolls to the alcove outside the bridge, where Morla slept under the control panel. When Baze awoke that first morning, he was greeted by the sight of Chirrut practising some kind of form, one half of a fight in slow motion. Graceful stretches, and steady hands drawing shapes in the air. Amid the forbidding murk of an Imperial ship, it was like seeing a plant flourish in the dirt of a bomb crater.

‘I know I’m beautiful,’ said Chirrut, balancing on one leg. ‘But there’s no need to stare.’

Baze meant to return fire with a witty response, but instead what came out was: ‘I think I've seen that before, when I was a kid. Some of the younger guardians used to practise drills in the square. Maybe you were one of them.’

Chirrut paused. ‘I think I would have known if you were watching,’ he said, at last. Whatever that meant. Then: ‘Would you like me to teach you?’

Which was how they ended up back in the cell, the only wide open space on the ship.

Baze learned quickly that his body wasn’t built for Chirrut’s weird Jedi monk stretches. After days of inaction followed by a few terror-fueled minutes of violence, it did feel good to do this kind of slow, gradual exercise. But Chirrut was relentless. ‘You’re like a rickety old tree,’ he said cheerfully, bending one of Baze’s arms half out of its socket.

‘I’m forty,’ Baze snapped.

‘Don't worry, you don’t look a day over thirty-nine,’ said Chirrut, and nudged one of his legs into place.

They spent the morning on what Chirrut claimed was a training form for child novices, Baze stripping off his outer layer as they warmed up. When they broke for lunch (ration pellets and gel; apparently the stormtroopers got the same food as the prisoners), they ate it sitting cross-legged against the wall.

‘They say the temple guardians can sense the Force,’ said Baze. ‘Is that something you do when you fight?’

Chirrut spread his hands out in front of him, spanning the air. ‘Not like a Jedi. The living Force isn’t a tool, it’s more like the weather.’ His hands moved, as if trailing his fingers through a stream. ‘It’s all around us, unless you’re in a place of death. It’s in you, in me. In forests, in oceans. In the kyber crystals on Jedha. Less so in some people, like the stormtroopers. They tend to feel... empty.’

‘Is that how you always seemed to know where they were?’

‘That, and their conveniently noisy armor,' he replied, and smirked at Baze's embarrassment. 

It was somehow reassuring to know that despite all the mysticism and the deadly combat skills, Chirrut was also kind of an asshole.

They spent every moment together, after that. Chirrut told him about the long journey that brought him halfway across the galaxy, bitingly funny but with more than a little homesickness underneath. Baze spoke of the skirmishes and mercenary contracts that led to him being scooped up by the indiscriminate net of the Imperial fleet, a false name on his ID tag. He found himself sharing more than was probably wise, perhaps because Chirrut always backed off when Baze genuinely didn’t want to answer a question. He’d make an excellent interrogator.

Later, Baze watched in silence as Chirrut spoke to the other passengers, planning their route to safety. He allowed Chirrut to check the bruise from the stun baton, unnecessarily running his fingers along the ridges of Baze’s ribcage. And at night he listened to Chirrut breathe as they lay side-by-side on their bedrolls, caught between hoping Chirrut wouldn’t notice him listening, and wondering what would happen if he did.

The next day, they fought.

By Chirrut’s standards he was a poor opponent, although Baze was mercifully adept at hitting the ground without too much injury. It had been a long time since he’d used his hand-to-hand training for anything other than survival, and he’d almost forgotten that it could be like a dance.

With Chirrut, it was impossible to forget. While Baze’s fighting style was a tool of brute force, Chirrut’s was more like a musical instrument. A pleasure to witness.

Perhaps less of a pleasure to experience firsthand, though.

The fourth time Chirrut knocked him onto the flat of his back, winded and bruised, Baze groaned, ‘It’s just as well I’m a better shot than you.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Chirrut thoughtfully, lifting his foot from where he’d pinned Baze’s wrist to the ground. ‘You should see me with a bowcaster.’

Baze, hauling himself upright, was caught unawares by his own laughter. He saw the same surprised happiness mirrored in Chirrut’s smile; a smile that came out often, more often than his own. They must be about the same age, but Chirrut seemed less worn-down than Baze felt. Maybe that was what meditation did for you. It stopped you getting wrinkles, and gave you the strength to smile even when you were rattling around in the bowels of an Imperial prison transport.

Unbidden, Baze thought: I wish this didn’t have to end tomorrow. An uncharacteristically whimsical thought, for him. And anyway, it was pointless. It did indeed end the next day, with Chirrut joining the last twenty passengers onboard the shuttle, and Baze staying behind to set the explosive charges across the ship.

He and the Clone Wars veteran watched from the safety of an escape pod as the ship’s heat signature blipped off the screen, and then they made their slow and inexpert descent to the port. By the time they’d exchanged the pod for docking fees and persuaded the marshalls to wave them through, there was no one familiar to be seen.

Just as he had been a week ago, Baze was alone.

He paid cash for a hostel bunk and washed his hair in the communal bathroom, sighing with relief as he rid himself of the stale greasiness of recycled air. Usually by this point, he’d already have started calling his contacts in search of a new job, or a ride back to one of his preferred hunting grounds. But something was holding him back, and he found himself wandering the streets in the early hours of the morning.

The markets were quiet, although far from asleep. Towns like this always catered to the muddled diurnal cycles of long-distance travelers, selling communication chips and first aid and snack food and booze around the clock. Baze found somewhere he could access one of his emergency accounts, and withdrew all the money inside—just enough to buy a gun, some dinner, and the cheapest possible ticket out of here. 

It was one of the old Neimoidian colony worlds, gone to seed since the Trade Federation was absorbed by the Empire. The kind of place where you heard at least five different languages in every bar, and everyone was trying to sell you something. Baze settled for some flatbread and caf, served out of a gourd with sweet fruit cream.

He claimed one of the seats outside the bar, next to a heat lamp that was attracting tiny lizards from the street. Perfect for sinking into the shadows and watching the foot-traffic, a steady stream of traders and travelers and probably the occasional pickpocket. A familiar sight, yet Baze still had a nagging feeling that something was missing.

With so many awnings overshadowing the narrow streets, it was hard to tell when dawn broke. A faint yellow glow was beginning to emerge when Baze felt someone drop down into the seat beside him. His heart caught in his throat when he saw it was Chirrut.

Without thinking about it, he reached out and clasped Chirrut’s hand as if he was greeting an old friend after years apart, not someone he’d known for less than a week.

‘I thought you went with the others,’ he said. Most of them had been planning to leave on the first transport out to a safe haven planet.

Chirrut smiled. ‘I go where the Force guides me.’

‘Don’t tell me you need help with another prison break already.’

‘No,’ he said simply, and tugged at Baze’s hand.

Even though Baze guessed what was about to happen, he still froze in surprise as Chirrut curled his fingers around his jaw, bringing their mouths together. The kiss began soft and slow, deepening once Baze pulled himself together and leaned in. For a brief time they were like any couple embracing on a street corner, oblivious to the world in their eagerness to touch one another. Beneath the hem of his shirt, Chirrut’s skin was warm and smooth; sleek muscle strung delicately over bone. Baze felt Chirrut shiver and smile into his mouth.

It was everything Baze hadn’t allowed himself to hope for onboard that ship. His whole body wanted to be close to Chirrut, searching for a beacon on a dark night. He wondered if this was what the Force felt like.

Eventually they drew apart, a long moment stretching out between them. Baze’s lips tingled, but more than that—there was something oddly intimate about the way Chirrut’s fingers were twined around his own. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d held hands with someone. Maybe not since he was a child.

Beneath the table, their legs had slotted together like gears in a lock.

Hungrily, Baze took in all the little details he’d resisted watching before. The blank, cool blue of Chirrut’s eyes. The amused tilt of his mouth; softened, now. The way his chest rose and fell beneath his shirt—a little faster now than after he’d taken out a couple of stormtroopers, Baze noted with some satisfaction. Chirrut was beautiful, although that wasn’t a word Baze would feel comfortable saying out loud.

‘Seems like the Force has good taste,’ said Baze eventually. His voice came out gruff. 

Chirrut ran his fingers over Baze’s lips and along his jaw, twisting around a lock of his hair. Baze was sure Chirrut must be able to feel the pulse beating at his throat.

‘When was the last time you went home?’ asked Chirrut.

‘I don’t have one.’ Not such an unusual answer, these days.

‘Jedha, then.’

‘Five years, maybe? Longer than that, if you mean the City.’

Chirrut nodded, slowly. ‘You should come back with me.’

He tensed in shock, and wondered if Chirrut could read his expression through their joined hands. ‘Back to Jedha?’

Ordinarily, Baze would say something like: What’s the contract? Who’s the target? Or even: You’re crazy . But what came out was a weak, baffled protest: ‘We’ve known each other for less than a week.’

‘Well, it’s a long journey back,’ said Chirrut reasonably, as if this was a perfectly normal conversation to be having. ‘We’ll get to know each other better on the way.’ His mouth quirked. ‘If it makes things easier for you, we could say you’re my bodyguard. These Outer Rim waystations can be dangerous, you know.’

Baze snorted. ‘Yeah, you seem like you’d need help with that.’

Chirrut said nothing, apparently content to wait for Baze's true answer. Baze looked away, drawn to the early morning routine of stallholders setting up in the street.

It was like trying to focus on a single thought when you were hopelessly distracted by pain, or hunger, or exhaustion. His mind simply couldn't comprehend the straightforwardness of Chirrut's request, as if they were each attuned to different frequencies. The truth was that the galaxy was immense and complicated, and in the midst of it, Baze's life was small and complicated. His decisions were always guided by practical concerns in the face of encroaching entropy. There was no room for him to start chasing dreams now, yet Baze already knew what his answer would be. He wanted to see where this beacon led him, and if it led somewhere bad, well... he was already living on borrowed time, anyway.

When he turned back, he was surprised to see that Chirrut looked more than a little nervous. That was a relief, in a way. Proof that he wasn’t so all-knowing after all.

Baze nudged their knees together under the table. ‘You know, usually when someone asks me to make this kind of long-term agreement, there’s payment involved.’

Chirrut’s face broke into a grin, sunlight emerging through cloud. He disentangled his hand from Baze’s grip. ‘Ah, ah,’ he said, fumbling in one of his pockets. He drew out a couple of coins, and dropped them into Baze’s palm. ‘We have a deal?’

Baze looked down at the coins, and laughed. It was two decicredits, enough to buy a second cup of caf and not much more. ‘I guess we do,’ he said, and pulled Chirrut in for another kiss.

In years to come, when people asked in disbelieving tones how the hell they got together, Chirrut would say: I paid two decicredits for him in a Neimoidian bar. And Baze, if he said anything at all, would add: Listen to him, he’s a monk. They’re not allowed to lie.