by Belsmomaus

Category: Novella

Summary:

Soulmate AU where soulmates are emotionally linked and one can feel it if the other is experiencing strong emotions

From early on Cassian Andor and Bodhi Rook lead lives that couldn’t be more different. As kids they dreamed of meeting their soulmates. As adults they never expected to actually find each other.

Chapter 1

Cassian didn’t remember it, he’d been way too young back then, but there had been a time when that deep-rooted feeling of not-being-alone hadn’t been there. He didn’t remember the night so very long ago when he’d screamed his little throat raw from pain and confusion and fear and too much, his parents tired and worried and unable to soothe the one year old in any way.

That night, across the galaxy on a cold planet where it was just nearing midday, Bodhi Rook was born. It hadn’t been an easy birth, but the little boy was strong and healthy and his exhausted mother and his worried father were so very proud and happy.

***

Cassian didn’t have many friends as a child, at least not his age. They moved around a lot. It wasn’t unusual for one of his parents to be gone for days, sometimes weeks. Sometimes they both left him for a while, their friends looking after him. He was too young to understand any of it, but he could feel the tension all around. And he could hear the adults talk as they cursed the ‘Republic’ and ‘clones’ and ‘this whole damn war’.

But no matter what one thing always stayed with him: his soulmate. His mother had cuddled up with him one night, explaining to him about these moments when he felt like laughing all of a sudden without knowing why. Or that time he’d kicked the kitchen table hard enough that his father’s blaster had fallen off and all just because of a sudden bout of rage that had come out of nowhere. She’d told him that those weren’t his emotions, but those of his soulmate. A person somewhere out there who was meant for him. “Like a friend?” he’d asked. “Yes, honey, like a friend.” “Can we go looking for them?” “Not right now, but one day, we will. I promise.”

***

Bodhi was a happy child. Sure, life on Jedha wasn’t easy. The climate was harsh and his parents had to work hard for a living, but they loved him with all their heart, just as much as his two little sisters. He loved to play outside, to run through the maze of his neighborhood with his friends, hunting after necko-beetles.

He was a curious kid, always asking questions. One day he trudged home from playing with his friends and asked his father why he felt so sad when the afternoon had been so much fun. That’s when his father had sat down with him and explained to him about the Force. That it was all around and influenced everything and that it took care of people. It connected two people who belonged together, who complemented each other. Soulmates. And if one felt something very strongly then the other one would feel it, too.

“So it’s my soulmate who’s sad?” “It seems so.” “But why?” “I don’t know, Bodhi.”

“I don’t want them to be sad.” “Then cheer them up. Be happy and they will feel it, no matter how far away they are, they will feel it.” “Papa? Will I meet them one day?” “Maybe? If you’re lucky? They say meeting your soulmate is like finding something you didn’t even know you were missing. But the universe is big. Lots of people never find their soulmate. But no matter if you two find each other or not, you will always be connected through the Force. You will always be close to one another, you only have to listen to your heart.”

***

A year later Cassian still didn’t know what was going on all around him, but he knew that the Republic was bad, that they were responsible for the war all around that “devastated planets” as his father always said when he railed against the Republic, although Cassian wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Only that it was something bad.

He knew that the Republic was the reason they had to move so often. He knew that the Republic was the reason some of his parents’ friend never came back or that there sometimes wasn’t enough food. And he knew that the Republic was the reason his parents argued a lot. He knew his father fought the Republic, fought the bad guys. And he wanted to do the same. He was so damn proud when his father and his father’s boss asked him to help. His mother was livid, but Cassian had left with his father all the same, too happy to be treated like one of the grown-ups.

“Listen, Cassian, I know how distracting a soulmate can be, but this is important. This mission is important. When you’re up there, I want you to focus only on the job. Don’t let your soulmate get in the way.” He nodded.

And although it was difficult he ignored the childish bubbles of joy the best he could as he threw stones at clones and Republic walkers alike together with three other kids, the parapet hiding them from view and errant blaster fire, while their parents attacked them head on.

***

It’s three years later when Bodhi felt restless, almost anxious. He couldn’t sit still or concentrate. His mother had checked his brow for fever two times already because the last time he’d trailed after her like that and had practically begged for her comforting embrace with everything except words had been when he’d come down with sand fever. But there was no fever, so they went to the temple for the monthly festivities, just as planned. It was there, in the middle of the holy ceremony, surrounded by monks and citizens alike, that he started crying. And no matter what his parents tried, no matter how close they held him or how much they stroked his hair or how many times they asked him what was wrong, he only hid his face against their necks and cried until his face was red and his chest hurt. But what else could he do with the terrifying pain and the devastating feeling of loss that wrecked his mind?

It was one of the monks who led them aside, away from prying eyes. And it was him who touched Bodhi’s head, murmuring prayers, before he stated in a sad voice, “There’s nothing wrong with the boy. It’s his soulmate.”

***

Cassian was too young to know what it felt like to lose everything. And yet he did. He’d learned that on Carida, when a simple protest against the militarism of the Republic had gotten out of hand. Nothing had been the same ever since. His father was dead. Killed right before his very eyes.

And his mother was gone. Taken into custody by those kriffing clones. Nerrik, his father’s best friend, had gotten him out. Not just out of danger but out of the system as well. Nerrik said he shouldn’t get his hopes up at seeing his mother again. He also said that they would make the Republic pay for that. Cassian was alone and sad and so very, very angry. At the Republic for taking his parents away. At his parents for leaving him alone. At himself for feeling so damn helpless. And most of all at his soulmate for making it all even worse!!! For forcing him to feel their joy and happiness and hope when all he wanted was to hide in a closet and cry. Or scream at the universe. Or both at the same time. But when he lay in bed at night, curled up into a tight ball, he clung to the memory of that happiness, clung to its warmth, for it was the only good thing left to him.

***

Bodhi never found out what had happened to his soulmate that day – and how should he – but he had his suspicions. He tried to send good feeling across their connection, at least as soon as he was able to feel anything but the other’s pain. It was the only thing he could do to help or comfort after all. For a while the only things he felt from his soulmate were grief, loneliness, fear and anger. But all too soon their anger burned the other emotions to the ground until it was the only thing left.

It hurt Bodhi. And it didn’t make his own life easier. His sisters became afraid of his outbursts. His parents were at a loss. They took him to the monks of the temple in the end. Not that they were of much help at the beginning. “All is as the Force wills it.” What could the Force possibly want with his soulmate in pain? Or with himself hurting his family? Bodhi argued, his mother insisted and his father begged and in the end one of them relented – or took pity in him. The monk taught him a meditation technique that would allow him a certain amount of dissociation to his soulmate’s emotions. He’d still feel them, but they wouldn’t be able to affect him like they did before. “But be careful, boy. The bond between soulmates is a sacred thing. Once damaged it can’t be repaired.”

The meditation helped. But he didn’t like being cut off from the other like that. And he felt guilty for shutting him out. Life got back to normal and as the boiling anger and bouts of rage slowly subsided over the years he stopped meditating.

He’s eleven when he learned what had happened to his soulmate after all. He’s eleven when his mother died. A severe sickness had taken her, suddenly and without mercy. Bodhi knew that grief that followed; that devastation and helplessness, that terrible loss. He had felt it before. And as he mourned his mother and cried in his father’s embrace with his sisters huddled against him he also ached for his soulmate, knowing that they had suffered the same. Knowing that it had sent them on a dark path, full of anger and self-hatred. Never before had he wished so much to meet them in person. To hold them close, just like his sisters. But also to bury his head in their neck to weep for them both.

***

Cassian made the rebellion his home. He was clever, quick on the uptake and more than eager, his fury at the Republic for taking his parents his driving force. The rebels took him under their wings and taught him how to use a blaster, how to defend himself, how to fly and lots of other things as well. They groomed him into the perfect soldier but also an independent thinker. It took years – his teenage years – but he worked his way up the ranks. Slowly. Efficiently. After a while his priorities shifted. A deep routed drive for revenge turned into the general need to do something about the Empire and the oppression and terror it brought on the galaxy. He realized that he couldn’t let his anger control him. That he needed to keep a cool head and strategy to win against an enemy like that. It wasn’t just his anger; emotions in general would only serve as a distraction in a fight like this one. A liability. So he forced himself to stop feeling altogether. Of course that didn’t work. Not like he wanted to and certainly not from one day to the next. It took him years to learn how to keep his emotions under control, allowing them up to a certain degree, because they could be a good guidance like fear or suspicion, but they also were the best reminder why he did what he did. The hate for the Republic, the disgust with their actions, but also the joy of a victory, the camaraderie amongst the rebels. But beyond that level they were a distraction or got you killed. For years he pushed them away, clamped down on them or tried to distance himself. He wasn’t sure what worked in the end but when the time came to prove himself on his first real missions it had become second nature and served him well. It worked on his soulmate’s emotions just as well. Sometimes at night, when he couldn’t sleep, he wondered about his soulmate. About the kind of life they led. A sheltered one he guessed, judging from the overall happy feelings. It was good that way. And it should stay that way. He vowed to fight, to do everything in his power to ensure that at least his soulmate could be happy. For the both of them. The thought that his soulmate could be part of the Empire, this his fight could cause them pain one day never got to cross his mind. He forced it off even before it could fully form, because that wasn’t an option. Not in his book.

***

Bodhi should’ve never tempered with his connection to his soulmate. He’d thought it was just the anger that slowly dissipated, but it was everything else as well. Everything! Dimming down month for month, year for year, until nothing was left. Where he once had felt vibrant emotion there was nothing but emptiness now. And it was all his fault. He’d run to the monk the moment he’d realized what was happening, but the old man had only looked at him with sympathy. “It’s possible that you weakened your bond, yes, but it’s also possible that the problem is caused on the other side of your bond.” He came back again when even the last dim ember of emotion had vanished. “Are... are they dead?” The monk shook his head. “You would now if they were. Believe me.” But how would he know? And what were the alternatives? Either was his soulmate in a coma – and he just refused to believe that – or it was his own fault for tempering with their bond. Could his soulmate at least still feel him? Soon enough there was no time to worry about that anymore. His father couldn’t provide for the four of them alone so Bodhi took on work wherever he got it. He was good with technical stuff, a quick learner and dependable which soon got him a more permanent position with the technicians at the local hangar. But then the Empire sent their troops to Jedha in search for kyber crystals. They weren’t interested in trade and they wanted them all. That’s when the fighting started. It was futile, what resistance could a few monks and a couple hundred brave, but ordinary people offer against an endless supply of Stormtroopers? And the occupation began. They killed the monks, ransacked the temples and destroyed them all. First one city then the next. And when they’d taken that they searched again, plundered ancient sacred places in the desert as well as in the catacombs beneath the cities. And just like with the crystals the Empire dealt with everything else: they simply took it. Just like the food for their troops. Jedha was a harsh world. Food was scarce or imported and of course the Empire controlled the air space. Never before in his life had Bodhi felt such helpless anger – at least not his own. Never before had he been afraid of the future. He longed for the comfort of the presence of his soulmate. But he’d taken that away from himself. By rashness. By stupidity. He should’ve tried harder to soothe his soulmate instead of cutting him off. He promised himself to never act this rash and stupid ever again. But even careful consideration and logic – there was no decent employer left on Jedha and his father’s health was deteriorating and they needed money – could lead to regrettable actions. And he was certain that he would regret this one sooner or later. He did it nonetheless. He enlisted for the enemy.

Chapter 2

Cassian wasn’t sure when it had happened. Probably there was no real ‘when’ and it was more of a gradual process, without him realizing it. One mission turning into the next, one special assignment into another. And now here he was, lying on the ground with a sniper rifle in his hand and his target clear through the scope.

When had his need to fight blurred his sense of morality? For the rebellion. That’s what he told himself. Again and again. He’s glad he perfected pushing his emotions away a long time ago. Even with that ability it was sometimes hard to look at his reflection in the mirror. Without it he’d drown in shame, disgusted with himself and all the horrible things he had done in the name of freedom and peace. He wouldn’t be able to go on.

For the rebellion.

For the rebellion!

In the past he’d sought comfort in his soulmate and his never-ending positivity. Had sought justification for his actions in his self-assigned task of keeping them safe from harm, of making the galaxy a safer place for their sake. That comfort was lost to him now as well.

And he had failed his task. The positivity and the happiness had been replaced first by disbelief, then helpless anger and fear in the end. It had been a slow process. Even now he kept telling himself that it was for the best this way. That it had only been a matter of time until his soulmate was confronted with the ugly truth that the galaxy wasn’t a friendly place. But deep down, underneath all that control and seemingly cold demeanor it broke his heart. His comlink beeped softly. The moment he pressed it the first blastershot hissed past him. “We’ve been discovered! Get your ass out of there, Andor!” And he did. Just not fast enough.

***

Tomorrow was the big day. The last big test of Bodhi’s training. Two years had gone by, in such a rush he sometimes felt like simply stumbling along, trying to keep up. And yet, at the same time, he felt like being stuck in molasses with time not moving at all. It was strange. Maybe it was because he wasn’t used to being away from home. Maybe it was because he wasn’t used to being hated by his youngest sister for the choice he’d made. Maybe it was the emotional emptiness of his connection to his soulmate that was finally getting to him. It didn’t matter. Nothing of it did. He’d enlisted to become a pilot, to earn the money his family needed back home. He was good. His instructors thought so, too. They said he’d make a fine TIE-fighter pilot. He’d grinned at that, proud with his achievements and because TIE pilots made the most money. But it had also brought a creeping, cold dread along that settled deep in the pit of his stomach. Bodhi went to bed early, glad he had the tiny room to himself since his roommate had been expelled for disorderly behavior two days ago. Late that night he awoke to a scream. It was his own. A pain so fierce it threatened to rip him apart pierced his lower abdomen, just above his left hipbone. His hands flew to his side, searching, pressing, just holding himself together as he curled up in bed and whimpered. A few breaths later he became aware that although the pain was bad it wasn’t as bad as he’d initially thought. The suddenness must have made it worse than it was. Or the shock and panic that had flooded his system for a moment. Only then did his brain connect the dots. It wasn’t his pain. His soulmate wasn’t dead or in a coma. And their connection was still there and still working, on some level at least, but something terrible had happened. They were in agony.

He lay there for who knew how long, curled up and his hands pressed against his hurting side, panting and crying and blindly staring into the darkness. He focused on the pain, on the only thing connecting them, the only life-line he got while his mind painted one horrible scenario after the other to what could’ve happened to put his soulmate in such a state. After a while the pain suddenly eased off and vanished completely.

“No!” Bodhi gasped, weak and shaky. But apart from the pain gone nothing else had changed and he remembered the words of the monk from years ago – it felt like a lifetime – saying that he would know when the other would die. He clung to that. But what if he wouldn’t feel it because of the damage he’d done to their bond?

He failed his test. His mind hadn’t been on it, his reactions too slow, his hands trembling on the controls. The disappointment of his instructor was unmistakable and yet he didn’t care. They gave him a cargo ship and the responsibility over endless boring hours of flying the same route again and again and again. He didn’t care. The money was still so much more than he’d get anywhere on Jedha. The only thing he did care about was for the painful twinge he’d felt in his side the evening after the test. His soulmate was still alive. In the end he came to cherish these bouts of pain that happened maybe two or three times a year; sometimes just a little sting, sometimes far far worse. The mere thought of his soulmate hurt pained him more than the actual ache, but it seemed as if pain was the only thing still able to cross their bond. And he wondered how bad the pain must be for them if he’s able to feel it as well. He hated it and yet he would take whatever connection he could get. It was on one of his runs to Eadu when he was looking for a quick meal in the mess as a sharp pang shot through his ankle. He grunted, stumbled and barely managed to find support on one of the tables, his tablet with his food on the other hand crashed to the floor. “Are you alright?” a concerned voice asked. That voice belonged to Galen Erso.

***

“Hey? Are you alright?” Of course he was. A little bit anxious maybe. After all, if the rumors turned out to be true, if the Empire really constructed a planetkiller, then there was so much more at stake. Then this was bigger than anything Cassian had ever... “You don’t seem okay,” Jyn supplied unnecessarily. Maybe his obnoxious, ‘too stubborn for her own good’ companion was right. His hands were shaking and his breaths came unnaturally fast. He had fallen behind. This wasn’t just a little bout of nerves, there was a deep, dark, unshakable fear settling down in his body. So all- consuming that not even his years of keeping emotions at bay could withstand against it. And it wasn’t his own. “I don’t... I...” he croaked, his accent thicker than usual and his voice broke before he even knew what he wanted to say. He closed his eyes, squeezed them shut tightly, but of course that didn’t help at all. He fought for calm, for any kind of composure he could muster, but his breaths rasped loud in his ears and he barely managed to keep the terror at bay that held his soulmate in a death grip. This wasn’t just your usual kind of fear, his soulmate feared for their very life.

What the hell was happening to them? And then the pain exploded in his mind. Sharp and pressing and unrelenting. It was everywhere. And the panic and terror spiked even higher. His knees hit the ground. His hands balled to fists in the cold, rough sand of Jedha, his muscles shaking as he lifted one hand to press it against his temple. Hands grabbed his arm, his shoulder. Please, make this stop! Make this stop! And then it did stop. From one second to the next. And that was even worse. He’s dimly aware that he’s waving Jyn’s hands off, that his heart is racing in his chest and that there’s sweat coating his brow. His soulmate was in mortal danger – or dead. He shook his head, not ready to accept that second possibility. The sudden ending of pain and fear could mean any kinds of things, any kinds... But for once it was hard to keep up hope. This mission is important. Don’t let your soulmate get in the way. It was his father’s voice. It always was when it came to a reminder of his duties. Right now, though, that was harder than ever before. “Whatever that was you should probably get it checked.” He snorted and got to his feet again. “Let’s move it. We have a mission to accomplish.” By the time they reached Jedha City Jyn was finally tired of scrutinizing him skeptically whenever she thought he wasn’t looking. And he had himself under control again. It might have caused another part of him to die in the process but the mission came first. It always did.

***

Are you the pilot? Hey- hey, are you the pilot? The shuttle pilot? Bodhi’s drifting, lost in the vast darkness of his own mind. Left there. Forgotten. At least until that voice came. Gentle and soothing and so warm. It’s like a light, guiding him and he followed, without asking. Without doubting. There was something about that voice that he trusted implicitly. “Pilot?” he mumbled. His lips dry, his voice a mess, but the word was familiar. “Galen Erso? You know that name?” Yes. Yes he did. “I delivered the message. I’m the pilot.” With every spoken word his memories got clearer and he started to realize that he was still alive. That it was over and he’d survived. And that he wasn’t alone. The voice. He turned his head and found himself staring. At dark hair and fluffy fur and hooded eyes, their gaze oddly soothing, encouraging, coaxing. Bodhi had no idea why but he knew he could trust this man. And he wanted that man to trust him as well. So he told him everything he wanted to know.

***

Cassian hadn’t expected to end up in a cell. Together with a badass fighting monk, who’s blind and won’t shut up about mystical nonsense, and his grumpy – friend? Bodyguard? – who’s just as badass but with a surprisingly refreshing sense of humor. But he really, really, hadn’t expected to find the pilot they were looking for right here. In their current prison. Lucky coincidence. Or maybe there actually was a mystical thing out there that for once worked in his favor.

He wasn’t prepared for those eyes though. Those big, dark eyes, bloodshot and confused and hurt and so damn vulnerable. He wasn’t prepared for the sudden knot in his stomach, for the sudden urge to protect.

It took him a while to understand. And who could blame him with all that chaos around him? He still had problems wrapping his head around it all. That it was true. Everything about the weapon was true. For a moment there he’d thought they wouldn’t make it, but they had – the monk would probably insist that it had been the Force’s will or something. And now as the familiar streaking lights of hyperspace filled the windshield he could allow himself to breathe again. To think.

He knew the routine of such close calls. The relief would push the shock aside – only for it to hit him again later on – the adrenalin would make him giddy, would make him laugh at the overcome danger. But it didn’t. Mind-numbing shock and horror settled in his guts instead. Again it was not his own.

They’re alive!

Only when he focused on the controls, when he forced those feelings aside the best he could to concentrate on his job, only then did his mind finally catch up on the fact that those feelings matched the recent events far too well. His breath hitched as an image came to his mind, sudden and uninvited but once there he couldn’t let it go again.

The pilot. Bodhi. Vacant eyes, confused and hurt, mere hours after he’d felt that overwhelming fear and pain. And nothingness. He knew it was true. He felt it. Bodhi Rook, Imperial pilot, deserter to the Empire, was his soulmate. He’d found his soulmate. Cassian had no idea what to do, no idea how to feel. A part of him wanted to jump up and sit next to the man, hug him close and offer any sort of comfort he could. That man was the source of all the happiness that had accompanied his youth, it hurt to see him like this: shaken and horrified. But he didn’t. He still had a mission. One that had gotten even more important now that they knew – that they’ve witnessed – the power the Empire wielded. So he stayed in the cockpit with K2 and tried to get his racing heart back under control.

***

His father was dead now. As was Priya, his younger sister. There would be no chance for reconciliation now. She’d died hating him. Not knowing that he defected...that he’d tried... Bodhi closed his eyes. He couldn’t think about that now. At least Chandra should be safe, she’d left Jedha a few years ago. He needed to find a way to contact her.

Oh Force, he should’ve acted sooner. The sudden wave of revulsion hit him completely unprepared. Like ice-water in the face. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg, the coating on a churning inner conflict. The mix of emotions more potent than a powder keg. It set his nerves on edge and made him take a deep breath. He hadn’t felt a thing from his soulmate for years apart from pain. And now this. He didn’t know what to make of it. Didn’t know what’s going on. He shook his head, trying to clear it from the confusing emotions that made his head spin and his hands sweat. Of course it didn’t work. Why would it? But this way his gaze fell on Cassian, the rebel agent who was the reason he was still alive – and sane. Headphones were covering his ears as he stood in front of the communications panel, probably listening to word from the Alliance. And it was all right there: the resignation in his downturned eyes, the anger and determination in his set shoulders, the repulsion in the hard line of his lips. It’s just the same. The same as... His hand reached up shakily to his goggles and pulled them off, so he had something in his hands to keep them occupied. Something familiar to keep him grounded so he could even attempt to process it all. He was looking at him. Right now! He’d found him, or, his soulmate had found him. Saved him. Cassian Andor, a fighter of the Rebel Alliance. But now? Did he know? The others started talking. Bodhi paid them no mind. Until he heard his voice, then he looked up, only to be distracted by the woman. By Jyn. By Galen’s daughter! And before he knew it they had a plan, a mission. Having something to do – having new hope – it allowed him to push the things away that he couldn’t change, at least for the moment, and focus on the things that he could do. Things that he wanted to do. Like talk with Cassian. But it wasn’t the right moment. None of this was the right moment for anything. Until, maybe, it was. They were out in the pelting rain. Alone. He grasped for something to say, for the right moment, the right words. Any words. Instead he stayed quiet on the subject and led Cassian up the ledge to a point where they could have a look at the facility. Cassian, who was still torn, but the farther away they got from the ship the more it was replaced by resignation. And coldness. It still astounded Bodhi that he could feel this much from his soulmate. Maybe it was because they had found each other? Or because they were in close proximity instead of worlds apart? “Get back down there and find us a ride out of here.” What? No, this moment couldn’t be over already. They’d barely been alone for a few minutes. “What are you doing?” “You heard me.” “You said we came up here just to have a look.” “I’m here. I’m looking. Now go! Hurry!” And all of a sudden he knew what was going on here. It wasn’t too hard to put the man’s harsh behavior and their current position into context with his soulmate’s troubled feelings. Somehow it shocked him far less than it should have. But still... Cassian had turned back to look out at the platform, clearly restless and impatient, waiting for him to leave. He would have to wait a long time for that. Bodhi stepped forward and placed his hand on the other man’s sodden jacket, right over his shoulder. It did the trick. It got Cassian’s attention. He turned and looked up right into Bodhi’s eyes. “Don’t do it.” There’s surprise in those dark eyes, then the turmoil is back. In his feelings. In his gaze. But with an angry defiance. Cassian pulled away from him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Yes, you do.”

Cassian’s face hardened. “That’s none of your business. It’s... I have to... you don’t understand!” Bodhi knelt down, right in front of him, and blinked the relentless rain out of his eyes. He placed his hand right back on the other’s shoulder. This time it was allowed to stay. “You know it’s wrong.”

The turmoil got worse, a maelstrom of regret and shame and duty, until it suddenly broke and Cassian released a shuddering breath, right before he sagged. Bodhi bit his lip and pulled the other man towards him, felt the other’s wet face and dripping hair pressed against his neck. And finally, he knew exactly what he needed to say.

“You’re not alone.” “I thought I’d lost you. Earlier, on Jedha. The pain and then you were gone...” Cassian’s voice was different now. Softer. His accent thicker. Bodhi could drown in that voice and would die a happy man. “I’m still here. You saved me.” The other man leaned back, composed again, and stared right into Bodhi’s eyes. “I wanted to protect you from the Empire.” And Bodhi smiled. It was a sad smile. “I only ever wanted you to be happy.”

Chapter 3

“You might as well be a Stormtrooper!” Jyn’s words, spat in – not unjustified – anger, hit a nerve with Cassian. He could take a verbal lashing without flinching but he would not stay quiet when this woman, who knew nothing of what it meant to fight, compared him to a mindless puppet of the enemy. He got distracted, though, from a vibrant air of protection, radiating through his mind. That’s when he spotted Bodhi, clearly tense, and about to speak. On his behalf, no doubt. Cassian stopped him with a glare. He needed no protecting. Never before and certainly not now. But he couldn’t deny that it felt nice to know that there was someone who would. “What do you know?” he threw back at Jyn. Yeah, what did she know? It was time she understood that this was real life, not just a game you could play until you didn’t like it anymore. “Suddenly the rebellion is real for you? Some of us live it. I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old.” He went on and Jyn growled right back at him. By the time they’re finished it was eerily quiet; the tension clearly palpable. He left for the cockpit to get some distance.

Some time later Bodhi came up the ladder, slow and hesitant. He just stood there, behind him and K2. Cassian wished he’d leave again, his life was complicated and difficult enough even without this soulmate mess. “So,” the other man started tentatively, “this- this is what you did? Your whole life?”

He closed his eyes for a second to compose himself. Obviously they were doing this now. “The aft injectors seemed a bit out of sync earlier. Could you take a look at them, Kay?” Thankfully the droid got the message and left – although not without a ‘if you want me leave why don’t you just say so?’. Bodhi flopped down on the vacated pilot’s seat. He looked tired. His hair was still soggy, some loose strands at his temples only held back by the still present goggles. Cassian wondered why he was still wearing them. Was there a story behind those goggles? He wondered what that hair might feel like between his fingers. He certainly remembered how the other’s hands had felt in his hair, up on that ledge, in the pelting rain. Not alone. Not...

He pulled back. Not physically, but emotionally. There was no time for this. There’s never time for anything. The mission came first and it still wasn’t over. There’s always a mission. And a next one. And a next one. “I was born into this fight,” he finally answered.

Bodhi grinned, almost a bit cheeky. “That explains a lot.” It’s not the reaction Cassian had expected, but maybe that’s the reason it made him smile. He wondered, though, how much of his life Bodhi had felt all those years. He gazed over at the pilot who had one leg pulled up and leaned against it. Exhaustion dragged the man down, his limbs just as much as his eyelids and it made him wonder how long it’s been since Bodhi had gotten any sleep. And thinking back only brought the horrible nothingness right after panic and pain back to his mind. “What did he do to you? Gerrera.” Bodhi tensed, closed off, his eyes dropped to the ground. “He didn’t believe me.” There’s a finality to his voice that kept Cassian from imploring further. The surge of horror he’s feeling and Bodhi’s trembling hands were enough to stoke his anger at a dead man. But also at himself for bringing the topic up in the first place. “It’ll take a few hours until we reach Yavin. You should get some sleep.” “I- I wouldn’t be able to.” “You’re safe here.” I won’t let anything happen to you. He didn’t say it, the words unspoken, but they’re there, hung in the air between them and he knew that Bodhi still heard them somehow. “It’s not tha-“ “Are you done with your private conversation?” K2’s head poked in through the hatch in the ground and right now Cassian cursed the droid’s timing even more than the universe’s. Bodhi visibly startled and jumped to his feet. “Yeah, yeah- um- sure.” Cassian didn’t want him to leave. “Bodhi?” The other man turned and Cassian reached for him. And Bodhi never hesitated a second, he simply took his outstretched hand in his. It was still a bit cold from the harsh wind and rain of Eadu. Letting him go again was nearly impossible. “At least try to get some rest?” he tried again. It earned him a small smile. And a suspicious comment from K2 as soon as the pilot had left. “You’re not going to replace me with him, are you?”

***

“Mr. Rook, I’d like you to stay a moment longer. Our specialists would like a word.” Bodhi nodded. What else could he do? He watched the others leave towards the door, watched the circle of people around him, mostly military men with broad chests and grim expressions. And the calm woman. They’d been nice so far, listening to their reports but now they wanted him alone. With specialists. Clearly to determine if he was lying, if they could trust him; he was the enemy after all. His breath quickened and he closed his eyes to push the memory of tentacles and pressure on his mind away, but he was failing. Failing so miserably. “I’d like to stay, if that’s alright.” And then Cassian was there, right next to him, a reassuring hand on his arm and Bodhi was just so relieved. They only wanted his knowledge about Imperial operations. Codes, procedures, anything that could help the rebellion. He felt stupid now for expecting torture. The accompanying adrenaline high – or coming down from it afterwards – took even his last reserves of energy. He stuttered, lost track more than he could count and he had to lean against the table to keep from swaying. Cassian excused him and the lady in white – he’d forgotten her name already – told him to get some rest and that this could wait a few more hours. Before he knew it – before he could protest – he was heading down a hallway, his surroundings a blur. Everything apart from that warm hand against the small of his back. Cassian led him into a small room, nothing special, but it had everything that he longed for right now. Something was off, though. “Lie down before you keel over.” “Need a shower first.” It’s a sonic, like home. Never much water to spare on Jedha. Don’t think about home! The kneading vibrations evaporated all the grime and dust and slime just as much as the memories of monsters and cells. He’s clean again. Almost new. It’s only after he rinsed his mouth with a teeth-cleaning agent and slipped into the sweats and shirt lying on the lid of the toilet that his mind caught up with him again: this wasn’t some guest quarter, someone already lived here. Cassian. He should probably pull back. This was too fast. Too much. Everything! All of it was too much! But instead he fumbled at the shirt that hung loosely on his frame and smiled. Cassian’s there when he stepped out again. Unusually fidgety. And he stared before he coughed and pointed at a grey heap on the floor. Bodhi’s uniform. “I guess I can burn that?” “What? NO!! Don’t!” Bodhi reached out instinctively towards the grey flightsuit, even though it was too far away to reach it. “You want to keep it? Why would you...” “As a reminder.” It was enough. Cassian seemed to understand and nodded. “I’ll have it cleaned then.” The other man vanished into the refresher without another word and Bodhi crawled into bed. This should be weird, being in a stranger’s bed, on a foreign planet, surrounded by former enemies. He snuggled closer into the pillow, inhaled the faint smell – Cassian’s smell – and smiled again. He was safe here. Cassian wasn’t a stranger after all. He was his soulmate. The bed dipped and Bodhi blinked his eyes open once more, sluggish and half asleep. Cassian sat on the edge, in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. There’s something about the vulnerability of so much bared skin, about the way he bit his lip in indecision... it took years off of him. Bodhi rolled onto his side, facing Cassian, and scooted back to make room. “You sure you’re okay with this?” “Just get in,” he mumbled and closed his eyes again, too exhausted to keep them open any longer. The mattress dipped for real this time. And after a little bit of shuffling he could feel it: the body heat, close, but not touching, except... His hands were folded against his chest and something was brushing against the back of his left hand. Something warm and soft. His hand moved on instinct, stroked along the back of Cassian’s hand until it could sneak around and loosely intertwine their fingers. Like a bridge between them. And a soothing calm settled inside of him. A calloused thumb rubbed gently across his skin and Bodhi’s drifting, almost asleep, when he heard a soft rustle and then lips pressed against his. Just a short, gentle peck, really. But it’s enough to force his eyes open once more. Cassian was just leaning back again, looking caught and embarrassed. Bodhi lifted his free hand to the other man’s cheek and pulled him forward again, closer and closer. And then he kissed him. Kissed his soulmate. Kissed Cassian. And Cassian kissed back.

It was languid and tired, nothing but soft caresses of lips and tongues. It was drowsy and sweet and absolutely perfect. After that, he was asleep in seconds, a warm smile on his face and Cassian’s fingers still entwined with his.

***

Waking up to one Bodhi Rook pressed against him? Cassian could get used to this. He’s still not sure what had gotten into him yesterday, taking a man he’d just met to his own quarters instead of guest quarters. Let alone kiss him. But even if they’d just met, Bodhi was no stranger to him. Not really. Still, he’d let himself get distracted. But lying awake and watching the other man sleep, he felt at peace in a way he’d never experienced before. His hand covered Bodhi’s on his chest as he lifted it to trail his fingertips up his arm along tan skin and over dark hairs and then down again. It was a gesture so soft and reverent, it was foreign to him. But he knew he wanted more of this. More of that warm skin, of that long, open hair, all messy and askew. More of those deep eyes and sweet lips. More of that trust. And that peace. He wanted everything. Fuck bad timing! Bodhi Rook – his soulmate – wasn’t just a distraction. If anything, he was the best reason to win this war, once and for all!

“Are they still grilling him?” It seriously disturbed him to not see Bodhi with the others in the mess hall for lunch. A droid had fetched the pilot right after breakfast to finish yesterday’s meeting, but that had been hours before. Jyn only glared at him over a mouthful of bread, clearly still pissed at him.

Chirrut had no such qualms. “Sit down, Captain Andor. Join us.” And Cassian did. He could very well eat his sandwich sitting down. His gaze swept across the room only to settle onto the entryway. Chirrut chuckled. “Relax! They released him an hour ago.” “Then where is he? And- where’s your witty friend?” It was surprisingly easy to overlook the monk’s big and scary looking shadow that was currently missing as well. “Baze took Bodhi to the infirmary.” “What?” What had happened? Jyn eyed him curiously now and Cassian was just about to get up and search for Bodhi when the monk’s hand grabbed his arm – on his second try – and he looked at him with milky eyes and an eerily knowing smile. “No need to worry, Captain. Your pilot is fine. It’s just that he seemed to have missed the regular newcomer check-up yesterday that we all went through.” It took him quite a while to notice it over his relief at this simple explanation: Chirrut’s choice of words. Your pilot. He liked the sound of that.

Jyn was storming into the hangar. Fuming. Cassian had known that they wouldn’t go for it. Always playing it safe and from a distance. This was too risky, too open. He’s not surprised at the council’s decision. But he was by the intensity of outrage and helplessness and the desperate need to do something coming from Bodhi.

Bodhi felt responsible, he realized. None of this was his fault and yet he knew, if their roles were reversed, he would feel responsible, too. So he stepped in, prepared with an apology and a plan. Or part of one. He’d spent half the day talking to others, to colleagues he knew would see things his way. Jyn’s surprised, Chirrut isn’t. Baze looked ready to fight an army on his own and Bodhi... Bodhi beamed at him, nervous, but all the more determined.

Rogue One. It was a good name. Fitting. And Bodhi was right: it was cramped. But none of them cared. They kept busy with planning their coup. Bodhi came down and gave them every information he had on Scarif. Then they worked out the details, went through the things they got at their disposal and how best to use them until in the end an atmosphere of grim determination filled the cargo hold of the ship. Bodhi went back in the cockpit as they closed in on their destination. The men settled into small groups, their conversations quieter than before. Cassian watched them. This highly trained bunch of rebels who all knew that the odds of surviving this were slim. His focus was on Bodhi, though. He could feel the pilot’s anxiety, but even more so the flicker of hope. And his trust in their little team. In his soulmate. And Cassian latched onto that. Onto that hope. He wanted to wake up with Bodhi at his side again. Wanted to hold him close. He wanted to know everything there was to know about the other man. He wanted... “Shouldn’t you be up there?” Chirrut whispered close to him and nodded towards the cockpit. “Just go already!” Baze added with an eyeroll. Cassian didn’t ask, but as he noticed how close they stood to each other, how their hands touched and how they always seemed to know what was on the other’s mind, he wondered if maybe they were soulmates, too. Anyway, they were right. He did climb up into the cockpit. K2 turned towards him, then let out something that sounded close to an annoyed sigh. “Oh no! I’m not leaving again! It’s too cramped down there already!” “Suit yourself.” He stepped between the pilot chairs and leaned down close to Bodhi. “How long?” “Around twenty minutes.” “Good!” He put his hand on Bodhi’s face to turn it towards him. And kissed him. The pilot’s eyes widened for a second, surprised, but then they closed and so did Cassian’s. It’s nothing like their kiss last night. It’s rougher, deep and hungry and with no doubts left between them. Almost desperate. The angle was a bit awkward, but he didn’t care. Bodhi’s hand was at his neck, long fingers buried in his hair, keeping him in place. The hard edges of a pair of goggles pressed uncomfortably into his forehead and he grinned into the kiss as he fumbled them back a bit. He reveled in that kiss. Wanted it to last forever. Wanted more. But at one point he had to pull back to breathe again. Bodhi was blinking slowly, a bit dazed. There was something shining in his eyes, something flaring across their bond. Something warm. “That...” Bodhi paused, his eyes narrowed and darkened. “Was that a goodbye? In case...” “No. It’s more like- motivation. A reminder of what’s waiting. Afterwards.” He didn’t really believe it. But he wanted to. He wanted to! Bodhi smiled and his fingers curled around Cassian’s neck once more. “Then remind me again!” Cassian didn’t need to be told twice. K2 snorted behind them. “I fail to understand how the exchange of saliva can be viewed as motivation.”

Chapter 4

Bodhi had no idea anymore which part of the emotional cocktail that currently flooded his whole system was actually his own and which was from Cassian. It all blurred together. The excitement, the dread, the nervousness, the fear. All except for the spike of pain and grief and denial not too long ago. That had been Cassian’s.

He didn’t want to think about what it might mean. And he had no time for it either. Right now there’s only urgency. It filled him from the inside, a tickling tension in his muscles. It was all around him in the shouting and the shooting and the heavy weight of the cable in his hands. But most of all it he could hear it in Cassian’s voice over the comlink. “Bodhi? Are you there? Have you got the switch?” “I can’t get to the shuttle. I can’t plug in!” “You have to! They have to hit that gate! If the shield’s gone, we can send the plans.” It was up to him now. He needed to succeed or their mission would fail. He could do this! He had to do this! And so he did. He didn’t know how but somehow he survived the run straight through the line of blasterfire. Maybe Chirrut was right and the Force was indeed looking out for them all. No time to linger on that thought, though. He plugged the cable in. There was no connection to the comm- tower. His hands trembled a bit as he called Meshi again about the master switch. They needed that switch! That’s the moment his breath hitched. A gasp was forced from his lungs as pain exploded in his chest. Out of the blue. He couldn’t breathe. He’s grasping for the wall, for the ground, for anything to cling to. If he weren’t kneeling already he would’ve crashed to the ground in an instant. Cassian! Something went wrong. So horribly, horribly wrong. The pain ended just as sudden as it had started. It left him shaking, gasping, one hand clutched to his chest the other against the console to keep him upright. His eyes were wide as saucers, but unseeing, his whole focus directed inwards, searching for an answer. For a sign. For something different. You would know if he’s dead! You would know! He didn’t feel any different and like before, he clung to that. He had to, the alternative too horrible to accept. Now more than ever. But the pain! Cassian had to be... The faint blinking of a small light irritated his right eye – and therefore forced him to concentrate on the outside world again. It’s the connection! He’s got a connection! And within seconds he erupted into a flurry of hectic activity, pressing buttons and opening a channel. Hold on, Cassian! Hold on! Let me finish my job and I’ll come for you. I’ll find you! His nerves were a mess, his whole body taut like a rubber band, a nudge in the right direction would shoot it into action, but a nudge in the wrong direction could rip it up. He’s screaming and laughing as he got an answer. And he had to remind himself to speak but when he did the words flowed out of him. Too fast. Too urgent. Definitely unstoppable.

“Standbye, Rogue One. We’re on it.” He did it! They knew. It could work. It would work. Something moved in his periphery. A grenade. He watched it fly through the air and clatter against the back wall of the cargo hold. He just watched. Not enough time to react. There’s nothing he could do. Not anymore. And time slowed down. This was it. He knew it. Had always known it in a way. This mission hadn’t been meant for an afterwards. As much as he would’ve loved that. They hadn’t been meant to last. It had been nothing but wishful thinking. A dream. But a dream worth dreaming. They had met after all which was so much more than lots of others ever got. And he wouldn’t miss it for the world. And he thought of Cassian. Of course he did. Remembered the gentleness in his eyes the first time he’d looked into them, back in a cell. He remembered the softness of his hair and their last kiss. He remembered their night, their hands entwined. So warm. So close. And a soothing calm settled over his mind as the fire engulfed him.

***

Cassian startled awake from an intense surge of heat and pain, just for a second. Then it’s gone. All of it was gone. Bodhi! He’s left gasping and groaning and hurting and utterly disoriented. Only one thing on his mind.

BODHI!!!

But there was nothing. Less than nothing. A part of him was missing, ripped out of him by brutal force. There’s nothing but a gaping hole in his soul where once had been warmth. A hole with ragged edges in a soul that had lost all cohesion. He was crumbling on the inside. Piece for piece was breaking away and got sucked into the cold nothingness of that gaping hole that devoured it all.

He’s so empty – alone, all alone – and in pieces and he can’t breathe. Can’t think. But he knew that he’d lost it all. Everything that mattered. The warmth of connection. The comfort of belonging. His last hope for happiness. For a future.

Bodhi was dead. And so was Cassian. Dead inside. A living corpse. This mission is important. Don’t let your soulmate get in the way. The old mantra came unbidden, though even his father’s voice sounded tired and uncertain. The words were hollow and right and also wrong. Still, there was one thing left. The mission. This one last mission. Bodhi had died for that mission and he’d be damned if he let him die in vain! His body moved. Somehow. There’s damage, he knew it. He’s limping and it was hard to breathe. His vision was all blurry but there was no pain. None at all. He’s numb. Inside and out. Body and mind. Bodhi was gone. But Jyn was alone and their mission still unfinished.

He had no idea how he’d managed the climb. But he did. He blinked against the bright light and the dizziness and the blurry images all around. It’s harder to move now, heaviness and exhaustion weighing him down. And he could barely breathe, not the way he should. Jyn was there. As well as an officer all in white.

His blaster was in his hand. He was swaying, his legs threatening to buckle under him and he had to lean against whatever the thing to his left was. He’s lightheaded and he had to squint to get his vision to cooperate but his aim was steady from years of training as he took the shot. The officer went down and Jyn hurried to a panel.

He closed his eyes, just for a second. Trying to breathe through the cold. Through the numbness. He’s shaking. And then Jyn was right in front of him all of a sudden, talking. Looking at him, all worried. Even scared. She took his face in her hands and her thumbs rubbed across his cheeks. The touch felt distant, barely real. Her fingers were glistening as she took them away again. Glistening with tears.

He’s crying. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried. And it didn’t matter. He was crying and he couldn’t stop. His eyes leaking tears like his soul leaked blood from a wound that couldn’t be healed. Jyn pulled his arm over her shoulder to lead him away, he didn’t know where to. He felt so heavy, sagging again and again to give in to the pull of gravity. He’s panting, wheezing against the pressure that was like a vice around his chest. It would crush him, crush him for good for he was hollow inside. There’s sand beneath his feet and then the weapon was there in the sky. Big and looming and threatening and he felt nothing. Nothing at all. Not even when the blurry green lines combined and seared through the atmosphere and into the water close by. Not even when the world around him erupted into fire and heat and destruction. He fell to his knees. Jyn took his hand, pulled him into one last embrace. It’s a comfort, but it’s not the same. Not the same. He closed his eyes and he was back on Eadu, soaking wet, held close by a man he barely knew and yet had known his whole life. A man, so strong, that he gave comfort even after just being tortured and losing everything. He was back in the cockpit, looking at that cheeky smile begging for another kiss, hoping against hope to grow old next to that smile. He was back in his own bed, his fingertips playing across soft, tan skin as the other slept in his arms. And he tried to remember the peace of that moment. But he couldn’t. There was only cold numbness left. The blast came. The heat singed his tears away. And he let himself go. Let the hole within swallow even the last bit of him, hoping that at the other side of that darkness he’d find that peace again. Waiting for him. Afterwards.

The End