After not seeing Jyn for over a month, just about the last words Cassian wants to hear out of Kes Dameron’s mouth is, “Oh, I cannot wait to see the Captain’s face when he sees this.”
Jyn’s co-sergeant laughs as he says it, which reassures Cassian somewhat; at least the surprise isn’t Jyn missing an arm or covered in blood. (Dameron’s a good man; he would be laughing at that… right?)
Still, Cassian braces himself as he walks up the ramp of the Pathfinder’s transport ship, searching for Jyn and Kes. He’s greeted, not by Jyn’s relaxed gaze or Kes’s ever-present smile, but a large pile of fur, jumping onto his legs to demand attention. Only as the fur mop backs up a few inches and lets out a playful growl does Cassian recognize it as a dog. Its head comes up just below Cassian’s knee and a wet nose peaks out from under the curly mess of ashy brown fur. Hesitantly, Cassian kneels beside the dog, reaching his hand to scratch the perky ears.
“Jyn?” He calls, confused by the whole situation.
At the sound of his call, Jyn’s head pokes down from the cockpit. “Good,” she smiles at Cassian and the dog. “You’ve met Zak.”
“I’ve met… who?”
Out of Cassian’s line of sight in the cockpit, Kes snorts. “Told you this would be amusing.”
Jyn jumps down from the cockpit and the dog trots to her side, leaving Cassian’s hand midair. Jyn holds out her hand and the dog – Zak – comes to sniff it. “Sit,” she commands, but the dog disobeys, choosing instead to wag its tail. “Come on, sit. You’re going to make me look bad.”
“Unfortunately,” Kes jumps down from the cockpit, landing beside Jyn and the dog, his smile telling Cassian he is enjoying this situation far too much. “Jyn’s face of intimidation doesn’t work on this mutt like it works on the privates.”
“He’s still learning!” Jyn protests, turning that same face of intimidation on Kes.
“I think he’s gleaning the ability to follow orders from you,” Kes explains. “That is to say, he hates doing it.”
Jyn mutters something that sounds like I’m not that bad under her breath, but Cassian barely takes note. He’s still watching the dog, blinking, like it might disappear.
He clears his throat to interrupt Kes and Jyn’s bickering. “You didn’t leave with a dog, you know.” Maybe you could explain how you came back with one?
Kes smirks. “This is your story, Erso. I’ll be finishing post-flight checks. Captain.” He gives Cassian a quick salute.
When he returns to the cockpit, Jyn addresses Cassian. “I’m keeping him.” Her voice is firm, determined, a tone that Cassian understands he has little chance of changing her mind. “We found him, abandoned and starving, on the lower levels or Coruscant. I couldn’t just leave him there.”
Of course not; one of the first things Cassian learned about Jyn Erso was her inability to leave endangered organics alone. He also doesn’t need to question why. Still, he hesitates to answer, so Jyn beats him to it.
“If Han Solo can keep a Wookie with him, I can keep a dog.”
Cassian doesn’t want to note that the Wookie, at least, can yield a crossbow and take care of himself, unlike this dog.
“Where do you plan on keeping him?” Cassian asks, slowly.
“Our quarters, of course.” She shrugs, as if this answer was obvious. “We can get someone to feed him while we’re both gone.”
Cassian stares, still kneeling where he had been petting the dog earlier, unsure what to say. With a small push from Jyn, Zak ambles back over to Cassian, snuggling up to him. Even Cassian can’t deny how comforting another warm body feels; love and physical affection are rare commodities around the Rebel Alliance.
“Come on, Cassian.” Jyn’s eyes plead just as much as her words. “It’ll be nice to have him around.”
Cassian’s shoulder drop as he sighs, accepting his new roommate.
The next morning, Cassian awakes to a sneeze. Or, really, a series of sneezes. For a moment, he worries he’s caught an illness somewhere, until he realizes his face feels tight and itchy, as well. Forcing his sleepy (and watery) eyes open, Cassian glances towards what he expects is the culprit.
Zak has commandeered Cassian’s tradition spot in Jyn’s arms, despite there not being nearly enough room in the bed for the animal. Before falling asleep the night before, Jyn had agreed Zak would sleep on the floor – she had even sacrificed one of their blankets to make him comfortable – but, apparently, sometime during the night, she had given up that notion and allowed him on the bed.
Groaning, Cassian ran his hands over his swollen face, resisting the urge to start scratching. Jyn stirred at the sound but, rather than waking, she snuggled deeper into Zak’s fur. (Cassian refuses to be jealous at the attention the dog is getting.) Zak opens his eyes and tilts his head at Cassian, as if he wants to ask what’s wrong.
“Your fur,” Cassian accuses the dog, “and I do not get along.”
And the dog’s tail has the nerve to wag, like Cassian just gave him a great compliment.
“Jyn,” Cassian shakes the sleeping woman, “Jyn, wake up.”
She gives a slight groan before turning to face him. Zak protests with a small whine, nudging Jyn’s shoulder with his nose. “What’s wrong with your face?” She asks, confirming Cassian’s suspicions that his face is red and blotchy.
“I think I’m allergic to the dog.”
Jyn frowns, leaning up on one elbow. “Why didn’t you say anything yesterday?”
“I haven’t spent much time in my life around small furry creatures, you know. I didn’t know.”
Jyn gives the dog a longing glance, obviously torn between Cassian and Zak. “What if,” she says slowly, “I made sure he didn’t sleep on the bed? Think that would help?”
Cassian looks at Jyn, sees the pure and honest connection she has with the dog, and he knows he couldn’t ask her to part with it. And if dealing with some discomfort makes Jyn happy, well, Cassian has dealt with worse.
Or, at least, that’s what he tells himself while he sneezes again (and continues to do so every night the dog lovingly greets him with a lick to the face).