by Rachel

And he's thinking that he probably shouldn't be doing this.

The waves are--solid. Not large, not six-feet high when cresting, but solid. Under the hiss of the water pulled in and crash of water thrown out, he can hear his common sense. He steps into the surf and walks until the waves curl over his shoulders. He abandons walking and swims.

His arms cut through the water efficiently as his legs power him. The salt is beginning to sting his eyes and he will tell himself that it is the only reason why they water. The beach is receding behind him and the island is growing before him, five kilometers out.

His arms are burning with exertion when he stumbles onto the island. He wipes his face with his hand and sits. His eyes are burning as well. He looks at the beach and can't quite find the energy to smile with satisfaction. Relaxing (boneless) into the sand, he rests his head.

He shouldn't have done this.

He raises his head. His hair is plastered to his skull and plastered with sand. The sun is burning the skin it has dried and he can't seem to flush the grit from his eyes. A wet track on each side of his face and still his eyes are burning. Water laps at the island and water smears the island itself.

And it's not hard to understand.

He's not crying (soundless) because his father is dead. Shot dead, chest cavity destroyed. He's crying because he swam. And because he has to swim back.


Join the Navy. See the galaxy. Scrub toilets with toothbrushes until a sergeant more machine than man deems them clean.

He is sitting cross-legged on a bunk. His boxers have slid into the crease where his pelvis meets his thigh and the blanket scratches the skin it touches. Lights out was five hours ago. He is dealing. The cards are paper and the game is sabacc. He is winning.

He is always winning.

A kid from the Rim asks for two in accented Basic. He stretches out and slides his thumb across the deck twice. A kid from the Core wants three and it's not clear why they're playing, except perhaps to flaunt the rules. He withdraws without trading cards.

It's a calculated risk.

The kid from the Rim has eighteen and the kid from the Core has twenty-one. He wins with an Idiot's Array. There aren't any winnings tocollect but he smiles with satisfaction.

The door bursts open and everyone on the entire planet is yelling at him. He manages to brush the cards onto the floor before a sergeant grabs him, a hand under each arm, and drags him from the room. His feet scrape against the duracrete and layers of skin are burnt away.

Other sergeants surround him, swearing and yelling something about solitary and punishment detail. He can't hear or at least he won't listen. One heel is wet and he glances at the floor: a thin line of red leads to his foot.

He shouldn't have done this.


The shuttle is primed for takeoff. He straightens his cap and leaves the cockpit, then thumbs the palmplate and walks down the ramp that extends. His nose crinkles at the smell of burning hair. An angry growl is followed by a pained howl. He circles the shuttle as the shock baton is thrust between the Wookiee's shoulder blades again.

He knows he shouldn't be out here. He doesn't need to watch the cargo being loaded and he doesn't need to see the stormtrooper's shoulders shake with not-quite-repressed laughter as the Wookiee whimpers.

His eyes burn with anger. His fingers find the butt of his blaster pistol and he knows that he shouldn't be doing this. He pulls the blaster from the holster and flicks the setting to stun. His finger closes over the trigger, smooth and steady like the sergeants taught him in boot. The stormtrooper is enveloped in blue and then crumples to the ground.

The Wookiee straightens and looks at him with near-black eyes and he thinks that maybe it's okay that he's done this.


It's symbolic.

Only a few threads attach the chevrons; they're easy to rip away. The snapping threads are loud in the small cockpit. He walks to his cramped quarters and kneels to open the bottom drawer of his desk. He retrieves a slim metal box and slides his thumb over the scanner. He places the chevrons on top of his father's and he can't seem to flush the grit from his eyes.

The Wookiee is lying very still in the bunk beside him. He kneels again and squeezes a dollop of bacta onto his palm, then lets his flesh warm the gel. He works it into the Wookiee's fur, into the flesh, into the burns. Gingerly, he sits on the edge of his bunk and smoothes the damp fur. His hands are tinged with blue.

The Wookiee's chest rises and falls reassuringly and eventually his own matches the rhythm.


He's thinking that he probably shouldn't be back here.

His mug sweats while a dangerously swaying ceiling fan circulates the air. Five minutes earlier he leaned back and put his feet on the table, all bravado. He set his jaw and refused to take less than 10,000, half up-front.

It's the art of the deal.

He drains the mug and leaves the bar behind. He walks the road until it ends at a sign warning to keep off the dunes. Slipping off his boots, he breathes in the salt-tinged air. The breeze lifts his hair. The sand sinks beneath his feet. The waves are solid. Over the hiss of the water pulled in and crash of water thrown out, he can hear a rumbled question in Shyriiwook.

It's not hard to understand.

He is not crying. He swam and there is nowhere to swim back to.


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