Chapter 1: Part One: Scarif
Blue 11 had been shot down.
Along, it seemed, with everybodygoddamnelse.
Laren Joma managed to turn a crash into a spin, to the far side of the island. The miraculous side: there, the thicker canopy of flexible subtropical trees had allowed her to survive. The down side: this far away from the security complex, unless she could get her U-wing back into the air, she was out of the fight.
Every explosion, every shot, loud or close enough to reach her, set her teeth on a whole new edge. But she kept working. Patching up anything that whistled and steamed, pulling wires that smoked, finding new ways to cross-attach the rest. The craft probably couldn't survive breaking atmo, but it might have a few more passes in it. She could check the gunnery last. If nothing else, she could re-crash, only this time into something.
That line of thought was probably why there were tears streaming down her face, but she didn't let them interfere with the work.
Ignoring the tears was far easier than ignoring her door gunner's small body. Not actually visible to her here, where it had been thrown, but she'd seen it on the way down. She could find Bistan and bury him. But that wouldn't really honor him, or any of them, better than getting back up there.
It would also be difficult without a co-pilot, but kriff it. Full dexterity flying was not the order of the day here. Not anymore.
She tried also not to notice that, though the work was finally getting somewhere, the noises were dying down.
By the time she was trying to jump-start the engine, things had gone really awfully quiet…
Doesn't matter. There's always something left to do. Get over there and find it.
The U-wing finally sputtered back to life. She left out a furiously victorious whoop and eased it nose-up, clawing for altitude.
She'd just broken the canopy when the Death Star fired.
For a moment she couldn't process what she was seeing. Okay, clearly she'd been injured after all in the crash. Something in her own ship had blown and made a light show. That could not really be…
But it was: the dissolving transmission tower in its wake; the mushroom cloud; the rising other clouds of… what…? smoking atmosphere, boiling sea…? rising and coming toward them.
Joma was faced with another choice. Break for atmo right now: accept that she'd been gifted a miracle, and accept it by surviving.
Or take one more sweep.
Check for more survivors.
She noted with distant satisfaction that her hands had already guided the U-wing back toward the battlefield, while her brain was still wondering whether right choice and death wish were necessarily incompatible.
It was good this was a beach… the black bodies were so easy to see in the white sand… good thing too she was probably in shock or she might have had a harder time piloting through vomiting. For all the navy really hated when the infantry shouted at them for preferring atomization in vacuum to having to deal with bodies… and navy would yell back that it wasn't better not to have a physical body to return… there was truth both ways.
Once again, at first she thought she must be hallucinating, a wishful dream, when she saw movement, not in the blue of the water or green of the treeline, but of solid body black. That's what training was for, though. Her hands and pilot skills could take over while her consciousness was still trying to slap itself to its senses.
Yes. Two of them.
On the other hand: A whole two…!
She brought the U-wing down mere metres away. She could have vaporized their heads off. But that shockwave wasn't leaving them much margin here. And it definitely would.
"Get in!" she bellowed at them over the complaining thrusters. She still didn't know if the ship was still space-worthy, but they literally had nothing to lose.
* * *
…But why would his fantasy involve a voice he didn't know…?
Raising his face from the fabric at Jyn's shoulder, Cassian turned his head—sending reasserting pains through his broken body—which must be survival instinct again; everything had stopped hurting a little while ago, perhaps the physical turning point of shock becoming irreversible, and/or perhaps the psychology of deciding there was no longer a point.
But if this wasn't just misfiring neurons… there was a U-wing there.
The fact that it was not his own, that the pilot wasn't Kay, was what forced him to actually consider it.
Then decide to believe it.
At which point many thoughts flashed simultaneously through his mind.
Options, logistics, odds… who cares… The main thing to grapple with was… he was dead anyway. The fall had given him internal injuries—breaks and ruptures—that might not have been fatal at once, but he had made so, made them irreversible, by dragging himself up the data core. At this point, he doubted he could be gotten to a medical facility before internal bleeding finished its work. He'd barely been able to stumble out here. Even if he didn't slow Jyn too unforgiveably getting to the ship, it (rightly) had not landed. It wouldn't be a matter of walking up a ramp. They would have to pull themselves onto it as it hovered. That was almost certainly beyond him.
…But that was the whole mission, wasn't it. Take the next chance, and the next.
And whether or not he really knew her well enough now—he did—to know she wouldn't accept him telling her to go without him…
Go Jyn, I can't—
…He'd seen her lose two fathers in fewer days. He would not impersonate Saw Gerrera at her.
As she pulled back too, their eyes met, and he was drawing himself painfully up. He'd need her help but dammit he'd go faster than they'd gotten out here from the tower citadel. Not because he expected to get offplanet. Or survive long even if he did. But because he knew, no matter how hobbled his movement, his not trying would be more of an impediment.
And he wouldn't waste Jyn's time. Her chance.
So however it was he'd impossibly gotten through that snapping trap atop the tower citadel—
wondered if it mightn't be the Force in the form of Baze hurling him straight up, Bodhi and Chirrut catching him and pulling him through
—for Jyn, again, he did the unthinkable. In moments they were on the metal deck as their blue-banded pilot sent the U-wing screaming for atmo ahead of the wave.
* * *
(…and, most importantly, how it actually wasn't inexplicable at all.)
Jyn, the best partisan soldier, the overorphaned, the consummate survivor, who'd learned long ago to trade emotions for pragmatism, hadn't paid attention to any of it.
She'd sat cross-legged on the scorch-stained deck and took Cassian Andor's head into her lap. Ran her fingers across his face and through his dark hair. Pressed her hand to his chest and kept it rising and falling as if that could keep his chest doing so too. And muttered constantly, Chirrutlike, to him and to the Force and whatever else was never ever don't you know by now it isn't listening.
I know the universe isn't fair. I know nobody gets what they deserve. I know it's useless to ask when it will be enough. If anything was bought with Mac-Vee and Mama and Maia and Akshaya and Hadder and Saw and Papa. If I've earned just one. I know it doesn't work that way. I know none of that works.
But not him. Just once. Please. Please.
Don't die don't die don't die
Chapter 2: Yavin 4
Spoiler (I can't stay so mean) : he'll be okay.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
ERSO J — MODERATE INJURIES
JOMA L — MINOR INJURIES
ANDOR C — DEAD ON ARRIVAL
* * *
As reports of Scarif flooded the channels, every Rebel who’d been off-Base when Andor—
(There would be so much debate later, if it had been Andor or Erso; but Draven knew. Even in unprecedented mutiny. He knew Cassian’s work.)
—had recruited them, and too far off to get the report in time to join the second wave of attack, had started flooding Yavin IV itself.
Some, like Kes Dameron, wanted to tear off to Scarif anyway. Join the fight late but at all. Others, like (thank the Force for) Shara Bey, held him and those like him back by the collars and joined Draven and Dodonna in staring at displays and sifting incoming messages. See what assistance they might provide on a level not already being supplied—like, say, retrieval.
Their faces had gotten tighter and tighter as the reports continued. Then died down. Even Dameron’s face had gone grey. He no longer suggested they fly in after.
There was blood on the side of Shara’s mouth. She’d bitten through her own lip. When someone pointed it out, she absently swiped it with her hand and kept her eyes stonily on the charts.
It had failed. The last rallying cry of the Rebellion. Their last (however unsanctioned, maybe mutinous) hope. It had failed.
Draven and Bey had had the thought that part of the fleet should hold back, to preserve some of it in case of heavy losses… but complete failure meant… they shouldn’t have bothered. There would shortly be no Alliance to make whatever they had left be sufficient.
Then, into the awful silence, the sudden notices:
ID CONFIRMED - LANDING APPROVED
Draven lost track of how Bey and Dameron came to be tearing down the hallway with him. He was positive he would have prevented that. But kark it. Maybe they could be useful.
They hit the landing pad just in time to be nearly flattened by the med units zooming past with a laden hovercot.
Draven knew exactly what was on it.
With a will, he turned away. Toward those who were left, being treated by other med units directly on the pad, some being ushered away with a bit less urgency…
He sifted quickly through the painfully few survivors before being directed to Joma and… yes, of course, Erso.
Bey was already embracing Joma as Draven finally approached. Though Joma kept her head high and shoulders squared as she gave Draven her report, she also kept tightly inside the circle of Bey’s supportive arm. Draven again decided he was fine with Bey inserting herself into command action. Especially when it kept Dameron, equally inclined to do so, less obtrusive when he did.
…And what Joma reported… Draven’s eyebrows felt like they’d exceeded his hairline by the time she was finished. Why would the Death Star have obliterated the transmission tower…? and why would a Star Destroyer leave the job unfinished to chase after a corvette…? Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but…
Slowly, Draven turned to Jyn Erso.
She was sitting staring out ahead of her, with eyes that obviously saw nothing. She hadn’t moved since she was placed there.
Draven looked at her.
In the days and weeks and years to come…
They would come to be remembered as heroes, by those who remembered at all. There would always be disagreement—usually along political lines—whether they’d been “Andor’s team” or “Erso’s team”. Who had “really” been in charge? Most avoided the issue, stuck to the callsign designation.
But in those first dark days, with the gutting of Raddus’s fleet and the taking of Tantive IV, when it seemed the plans—if they had indeed existed—were destroyed, Leia Organa in Imperial hands, Bail Organa with the rest of Alderaan dead, and the Alliance at a deficit of specialized agents to throw at any of this because a core of the best ones had been “wasted” following Erso or Andor to the slaughter… it had been an issue indeed.
Those who thought it was Erso’s team cursed her for somehow brainwashing their best and brightest.
Those who thought it was Andor’s team… also cursed Erso for somehow brainwashing their best and brightest.
They would scream at each other over it. Who was to blame? him or her? despite sharing the refrain: “She turned him against the Rebellion.”
Draven, who knew without ever really being able to know, that it had been both of them—Andor’s team in execution, Erso’s in impetus and resolve; he had gathered the team that would voluntarily rally around her; he was functioning CO but all would know it was on her behalf; his directives, her direction, a single commander in two people…
Draven remembered the meeting to hear Andor’s report and Erso’s testimony of Operation Fracture. Remembered Erso’s sabersharp, should-be immortal words. The words many—including some who’d vehemently nodded along with them at the time—maybe not including others who put forth more anatomical suggestions—would later cite as somehow brainwashing Andor.
But Draven remembered that Andor was the only one from that meeting who hadn’t heard them.
As soon as his own report was over, barely into Erso’s testimony, well before the debate that would incite Erso’s oration, Cassian had read the room. Knew that the Council would vote against further action and propose disbandment and surrender. And he’d left. Straight to gather what would become the Rogue One unit. Just before he did, he’d met Draven’s eye.
And Draven, no matter the argument he was about to make—had to make, no matter his personal feelings, it was his responsibility to raise logistic and strategic possibilities like that this whole thing was a trap—had let him go.
Draven remembered the girl Jyn still was and the boy Cassian had once been, and would level his glare at whoever talked of them as traitors.
“She didn’t turn him against anything,” Draven would growl back. “I recruited him when he was fifteen. I trained him. He was under my direct command. On the record and off: his loyalty, his behavior, never changed. Not when he met her or any time after. They disobeyed the Council. Because the Council had turned against the Rebellion.”
That would be later. Right now, he looked at Erso and saw earlier.
Saw young Cassian Andor, three years after Draven recruited him, sitting just like that, on a different landing pad, at a different Base One… sitting on a crate in the middle of the Dantooine cargo platform, wrapped in a thermal sheet, burned and bloodied and broken-limbed but not moving toward medbay, shaking as he never would again, lightyear-long stare he would never not have again… Draven sitting down beside him to debrief the sole survivor of the team that had been betrayed by one of their own
Mere days ago, he’d felt Cassian almost say it as they’d watched K-2SO bring her in from Wobani. (Not her. Don’t put me with her.) Sensing, without being able to realize it himself, but of course Draven could tell: (We’re too alike)
All the time in between the Dantooine platform and the Wobani retrieval, Cassian had requested solo assignments. The only partner he’d ever have again, a droid he’d reprogrammed himself. Until Jyn Erso.
Jyn Erso had just had Cassian die in her arms. And she’d utterly shut down. Silently, Davits Draven sat down beside her.
She didn’t flinch. She barely blinked.
Draven said quietly, “You did it, didn’t you?”
Jyn didn’t move.
Draven considered her.
He knew touching her was not fair. Under any other circumstance, she wouldn’t permit it. The only reason doing so now would not result in getting punched was because she’d stopped caring about anything. She might not even be able to feel it. Even if it weren’t self-defeating, that was an unacceptable reason.
But what else might bring her, just for a moment, back? Little as he might want to make her come back. Just long enough to confirm what they’d fought for. What so many of them had died for.
He was still frowning it over when Kes Dameron, Shara Bey, and Laren Joma quietly closed ranks around them. Joma slipped from Bey’s supportive arm to kneel in front of Jyn and look up into her eyes.
“Erso,” said Joma quietly. “Did you do it?”
Bey and Dameron stood silent in Jyn’s line of sight.
Jyn Erso, the traitor, the devil, the hero, blinked. Looked at them. Then turned her eyes to Draven.
“We did it,” she said. In defiance and defense even now. Even from very far away.
Slowly, simultaneously, Draven, Bey, and Dameron all let out a breath.
Joma reached for Erso’s hand.
Draven’s comm pinged on a priority channel. He switched it on instantly. “Draven.”
“Medical,” answered the voice at the other end. “You’re Cassian Andor’s CO, confirm?”
Draven grunted, impatient with the protocol. They knew he was. There was no one else in Andor’s datafile to make decisions on his behalf or be informed of… anything.
Medical, wisely, took that as sufficient. “We’ve administered bacta injection and resuscitated Captain Andor. Unknown if brain damage has occurred. Must stabilize vitals before all else. Initiating full bacta immers—”
Draven was on his feet, barely had time to bark, “Acknowledged,” before flipping off the comm and beating a stunned Joma, Dameron, and Bey in taking off after Jyn Erso. Who had simply, suddenly… moved. She was already halfway off the tarmac, in the direction the med units had taken Cassian’s body.
Draven realized, pounding after her, that Jyn wouldn’t have known this was a possibility. The Partisans didn’t have Core patronage like the Alliance had in people like Bail Organa. The Empire wouldn’t consider wasting the resources. When Jyn had been in the presence of high enough tech in the hands of someone inclined to restore life after this long a lapse, she’d been too young and possibly too sheltered to have it on her radar. Well, he’d curse himself (and her—and Andor while he was at it) later. Right now, he had to catch up with her.
He reached her in the hallway. He had no intention of making a grab at her. She spun and seemed ready to hit him anyway. He stood still and just looked at her. Bey had outstripped the others and nearly bowled into him. She managed to stop instead beside him, at a loss.
“I’m going to him,” Jyn said. All distance, all numbness, gone; the sharpness, the fire, back in her from eyes to fingernails. “Don’t try to stop me.”
Draven could feel her and Bey’s surprise as he answered calmly, “I’m not. It’s not worth anyone’s time to try and keep you away. When he wakes up—” yes, when, dammit, “—it’ll save time if he can see you right away. But they won’t let you in without me. So we’re going to walk, not run, the rest of the way.”
He couldn’t help feeling some wry approval at how Jyn only allowed a flash of astonishment in her eyes before switching gears and getting on with it. Like Cassian indeed. Not one to let feelings get in the way of what she actually wanted to happen. She just nodded. She even let him take the lead.
(…Of course, following him was quicker and easier than figuring out where med bay was on her own.
What a handy way, also, to get her there for eval. Draven silently forbade Dameron and Joma, catching up to them last, from saying as much. Bey had fallen into step already and would stay silent.)
Erso. Andor. Bey. Dameron. Joma.
Many, many more others who would never come back.
All of them.
Draven had the rest of the walk to let himself, as always but rarely indulged, silently hate the Empire.
* * *
In general, I hate how movies and TV make resuscitating someone from death seem like the rule rather than, as it really is, an exception. (And even when it works, full quality of life is rarely preserved.) However. This is Star Wars and they've got future-y med tech. Handwavy magic without guilt.
Chapter 3: Yavin 4
She was not the kind of person who just watched. Either she did things or she got the hell out. If there wasn’t any degree of agency she could seize, what was the point.
Not since childhood. When she’d just watched Krennic kill Mama and take Papa.
(Would it have been better to run immediately, as they’d wanted? not see? Wonder forever? …Did it matter when there’d been nothing left but to wonder anyway?)
That had been more than enough. Never again.
Until Jyn Erso stood in front of a medbay observation window, eyes numbly fixed on the figure in a bacta tank. (How scarred he was under the fresh injuries didn’t surprise her. How thin he was, for all she’d felt it when she held him on the beach, did.) Watched him fished out, laid on an operating table, cut open, adjusted, and put back into the tank. Three times.
It had been her agency to be standing here at all. Her choice again, when Cassian’s body had finally been sufficiently repaired and he was removed from the theater, to brush past Draven, ignoring how it was him doing or saying something from behind her that allowed her likewise to brush past the med units unchallenged, and follow the hovercot to the recovery area. Drag over a chair and plant herself at his bedside.
But action was usually in service of further action.
These actions were to let her keep watching. Karking waiting.
She was choosing her own helplessness. Why…? She wasn’t doing anything for anyone, certainly not herself—and who else should she serve when the universe kept demonstrating that was all she could do—by sitting here, drawn and silent, for hours that stretched into days. Hearing but ignoring as the war continued to unfold outside. Doing a lot of sleeping, for lack of any other bearable way to pass the time; maybe to make up for a lifetime of vigilance and deprivation; with her head on the bunk and her hand slipped under his. Pretending to stay asleep whenever med units circled in to check Cassian’s vitals, make adjustments to his body or the attached dripbag; and none after the very first trying to talk to her, even to offer her a more comfortable option than the chair.
For all it reminded her a bit of Mac-Vee—the med unit who’d offered to bring the hovercot back in. Put it alongside Cassian’s bed so she could stay beside him.
She couldn’t afford to think about what that, too, showed about the Alliance. All the levels on which they were not the Partisans. They were not the Empire.
All the ways she wasn’t like Cassian. Who’d have pulled himself back up and be rejoining the fight immediately if he could. Not settling back on nearly dying, losing all those good people, and probably awaiting courtmartial for treason—(also, why wasn’t she running?!)—as an excuse for a vacation.
She couldn’t allow these thoughts when all they boiled down to was Welcome home.
Only when the comms were reporting the Death Star here in orbit and a final aerial assault trying to save Yavin IV from going the way of not Jedha or Scarif but Alderaan (itself something she should really have cared about, but had only distantly, bitterly felt, of course they did). And that last line of defense seemed to be failing. Only then. Did she leave the chair… to slip herself onto the bed, mould between his arm and against his side, wrap her arm around him, rest her head in the hollow of his shoulder and chest, and close her eyes.
She’d been supposed to die anyway. With his heartbeat murmuring her home. She should resent that she’d been robbed of the hopeful death, in which they’d succeeded and her parents’ sacrifices would be fulfilled and there would be some kind of legacy; instead now had to hear how, once again, the universe didn’t pan out like that; the Death Star would wipe out the Rebellion like it had wiped out a Core Planet and get on with whatever it wanted to do next and it was all for nothing.
But she didn’t even think that way. There was no point.
She just pressed their bodies together as she had on the beach, mourned but didn’t resent that this time he couldn’t hold her back, held him all the more strongly to make up for it, and waited to die.
…How in the hell had her survival instincts allowed her to fall asleep?
It was a last rebellious act, in a way. Even like this, she’d managed to find the loophole, accomplish the impossible, steal back a piece of what had been stolen. After all the chances to die in battle, instead, she’d die asleep in a bed.
What did it say about the Rebellion. That no one tried to wake her.
Jyn finally felt consciousness return… and there was still a physical reality. His breathing warmth against her. Her arm having fallen asleep.
Death surely wasn’t supposed to have your arm falling asleep.
It would be too cruel if they were still caught in that last moment. Still waiting for the Death Star to fire.
Unwillingly, Jyn opened her eyes.
Two people she didn’t know—but kinda felt like she should—were slumped over onto each other in a pair of chairs on the far side of Cassian. They’d fallen asleep as she had… supported and comforted by one another, as she and…
Her raising her head was somehow enough to make the woman stir. Then nudge herself and her companion awake, him yawning, she disentangling them to sit forward.
What did it say about the Rebellion. That Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, usually the centers of every celebration, who’d only not been up there flying and fighting (and dying), themselves, because they were too junior and there simply weren’t enough X-wings left. Instead of joining all the celebration of the Death Star’s destruction, welcoming Leia Organa and R2-D2 and C-3PO home, welcoming Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Chewbacca to the Alliance, or even the planning stages of moving Base One off Yavin IV; two people no more disinclined to stay still and wait for anything than Jyn herself, no less inclined to constantly contribute than Cassian; they’d chosen instead to wait for Jyn to wake up on her own, neither pulling her from Cassian nor leaving her without knowing the moment she awoke.
“Jyn,” Shara said quietly, “it’s done. The Death Star’s dust. We won.”
Jyn didn’t cry. Barely gaped. Just looked at them.
Managed at last to say the least of what that meant.
And lay back down. Turned her face back into Cassian’s chest.
Her tired, tired mind couldn’t reach for thoughts of her father. Nor her mother. Nor Saw. Kaytu, Bodhi, Baze, Chirrut, the others whose names she hadn’t quite learned, yet another family she’d gained and lost, was she so lucky to have had all these families or so cursed to only have them for so briefly and have them end so badly, yet not be able to shut them out when they found her again…
All she could think still was
Yeah, yeah—Wake up and tell me that.
I’m too tired to go back. To this existence. To being without anyone. …Being without you. Wake up.
She was invited to the medal ceremony. She might even have received one herself, despite there still being some debate… but she solved that problem for them by refusing. Was entirely content having all focus kept on Leia's team. They'd made it the difference between utter betrayal and victory, after all. Made their sacrifices mean anything at all. And kept her and Cassian away from condemnation or exoneration a little longer. Left them alone.
She dreamed of riding him.
She hadn’t had a dream like this in a long, long time. Finding the impossible balance in the Partisans of living with literally no privacy yet sleep being dangerous enough without risking it involving any sound or movement. After Hadder, she’d found she didn’t want to feel anything like this ever again, even in her own mind.
But in the dream she’d taken Cassian—who’d betrayed her—who’d laid his life and his cause at her feet—who’d meant to kill Galen—who instead killed Krennic—who’d lied to her—who over and over as no one else ever had came back for her—she took him fast and held him there, moved on him inside her, drank him with her core, him molten hard where she slickly ached, she dug and rolled and pulled him tight, felt every sliding grip, tissue and nerve, felt his hands upon her, his body encircled by her, his eyes closed yet expression not closed or distant from her not at all, couldn’t imagine him being louder or more expressive than she but just the crease of his brow and laboring breath like she’d gotten him to shout; cradled his head into her throat the same way she curled him deeper still, and he breathed like the ocean into her skin, his hands running down her back, holding and pulling her in and pushing into and working in her at once, equal and opposite forces meeting in the fulcrum of her, and she arched in sweet agony, wanting relief and release, but also wanting it forever, stay there there be in me forever
It dissolved into med bay grey. And he was still there, her arm and (oh skies) her leg both thrown over, constricting, pullingly tight, around him…
…and somewhere in there, his arm had stopped being limp beside her. It had come up to fold around her, with strength behind it, to pull her close. Holding her too.
She raised her head and raked her eyes interrogatingly over him.
His breathing was different. Slower, deeper.
His eyes moved under his lids.
She put her palm against his face. Not sure what she was checking for.
He turned his head slightly, into her touch. And breathed something that might have been “Jyn”.
With a sudden sob of released breath, Jyn pulled away from him, sat upright, and slapped her palm to the monitor beside the bed.
In the moments it took for med droids and staff to flood the room, ready to do whatever it took to bring him the rest of the way back, seize howevermuch was still Cassian in there and keep it from slipping away,
Jyn leaned over him, her hand again on his cheek, and touched her forehead to his.
“They did it, Cassian,” she murmured. Borrowing Shara’s—which, perhaps with the humor of the Force, were so close to Galen’s—words. “It’s done. The Death Star’s dust.”
Please Jyn whispered. Please.
He tried. Please believe. He tried.
But there were too many things in the universe no one could will away.
He’d been ready to die and still was. He was grateful he got to be beside her. He hoped she’d forgive him—for committing on her yet again and again the same crime everyone else had too. Leaving her behind. Glad he was condemning her to survive.
Which might have been that life’s last conscious thought.
* * *
he walked with chirrut and baze
somehow cassian was the one who was blind
though could see their breathtaking surroundings perfectly
the other two guided him
with a hand on his shoulder
pretending to be bored while in truth as captivated as cassian by
who could see the very molecules of the world
holding cassian's hand and expounding on them and the force
with language cassian could never have invented nor held in his conscious mind
too exquisite and sensical and profound
he knew that chirrut and baze had loved one another and did still
no matter that they no longer walked in any world
and for a moment felt enfolded into them
i am one with
on those rain-soaked bluffs with
the only one of them who hadn’t had everything taken from him
instead had given it up
and been betrayed
any minute, by cassian
but for just a moment his injured, resilient eyes looked at cassian with gratitude and trust
and cassian steeled himself to send bodhi away
turned to do so and it was no longer the pilot beside him but
who looked so burdened, so sad
as he slipped a blade between cassian’s ribs
opened his ribcage to pull out everything within
replacing organs with weaponry
began hooking cassian by wires and veins up to Kaytu
to keep him alive until Jyn could get there and detonate them all
and it is with
draven and mon mothma approaching him with knives
told him his next assignment was to die
but they’d do him the honor and the service of dissecting him themselves
kaytu’s hands gripped him to hold him in place from behind
screaming at kay not to leave him alone
in the elevator with jyn
instead of down to that doomed beach it took them up
and they stepped out into the forest of yavin four
past the massassi ziggurat
the base that it turns out was fine he couldn’t not think of as home
would climb to sit with the sun warmed stones at his back
they went into the trees
the ocean of forest
laid each other down
and together deep and slow
Not something that had occurred to him in life. It never could have. They hadn’t been people.
He’d been Alliance. She, an asset.
For all he admired her lithe grace, the apparent effortlessness of skills torturously mastered,
how in spite of everything she’d always choose not just the tactical but the right act
her stardust eyes that saw and analyzed and remembered everything
every time they touched to break the other down or pull them up
all that had been in combat
which he knew too well to stomach the leap
the best physical drive that could be hoped for in that context was comfort
but they found it
hope recognition connection acceptance forgiveness humanity trust
as if romantic or sexual love could be needed to make it more powerful
though when Bodhi and Kay got them through the Scarif shield
and she’d jumped up suddenly to grab his arm
they’d both startled at finding how being close to one another this time felt, abruptly,
when smiling made her look not like a mythic general but a human woman
when she looked at him like he was the most beautiful person she’d ever seen
when he’d been unable to let her go even to finish her ancient enemy
when they’d breathed in and for each other as the elevator descended
seeking in one another’s eyes the galaxy they had saved and would never have again
when her arm could no longer support him when he couldn’t support himself
so she sank down with him on the sand
and her fingers trailed his thigh then her hand found his
then pushed herself up against him and they held each other for the end
it hadn’t occurred to him then either
except inasmuch as everything he’d simultaneously never had and given up years ago
just cost for just cause
and everything she’d had stolen from her yet never gotten to have and he wanted for her so badly
it all seemed for a moment in reach, happening at once, right there between them
and it had been so good
to be with her
and be finished
He woke with a start to two moons shining at him.
They diminished and resolved into the oculars of Kaytuesso.
“You were dreaming,” said Kay. “I can’t tell if it was pleasant or a nightmare.”
“Please don’t try,” said Cassian.
“To tell the nature of the dream or to identify that you’re dreaming? I didn’t like learning how often you have nightmares and I don’t know.”
Cassian hesitated. There was an argument that one shouldn’t wake a dreamer, even if it was bad. …But he’d been grateful every time Kaytu had pulled him out of a terror.
“If it’s ambiguous,” he said at last, “leave it. I’ve got to sleep sometime.”
“Nice to hear you think so,” said Kay. “You’re over-resistant to it as it is. Though I’ve theorized that if the prospect felt safer—”
“It does,” murmured Cassian. “Having you.”
Kay’s oculars shifted. In the way that Cassian—though still not sure how much to disregard some organics telling him he was projecting too much onto a droid—thought of as Kay being moved.
“Do you want to go back to sleep?” said Kay at last.
Cassian rose, stretching. “No… thanks, Kay. Help me work out the leg?”
Kay instantly joined him in the widest part of the cabin, where they’d been continuing the postop physical therapy that had helped them convince Draven and everyone else that Kay’s reprogram had well and truly took. People had been angry, Clone Wars still too fresh, that Cassian was bringing a killdroid among them. Let alone claiming it as a partner. Putting himself entirely at Kay’s mercy, not just giving the droid every opportunity to hurt him but making it take great care and diligence for him not to, showing that Kay wouldn’t, had been a damn effective persuasion.
“What were you dreaming?” said Kay after a while. Perhaps in diversionary tactic re: Cassian being unable, at that last push, to keep his knuckles from going white.
“Lots of things,” said Cassian, voice steady through breathing hard.
“The one about killing stormtroopers to save someone only to find you’ve killed that person, too?”
“A classic,” said Cassian drily. “Don’t forget when the troopers’ masks crack open and they’re everyone I care about.”
“Except me,” reminded Kay, for accuracy.
“Including you,” said Cassian.
“You’d mistake me for a stormtrooper?”
“Dream logic. I also dreamed that I was blind, but still able to see.”
“Then in what way were you were blind?”
Kay tilted his head. “It sounds like the main difference between dreaming and lucidity is that organics are aware of their irrationality in dreams.”
Cassian lopsidedly smiled. “Or more ready to admit it?”
“Both,” said Kay.
Cassian sat upright, catching his breath and forcing the cabin back into focus. The leg ached, bone-deep, as usual, but it also felt better every time.
You realize neither charm nor nurture are in my skill set?
Yet you take such good care of me.
Cassian's head turned sharply to Kaytu. “…What?” he said unwillingly.
Kay’s face had not been designed to be read. It hadn’t been entirely designed to be a face. Yet the angle of head and body, the way he regarded Cassian now… on a human, it would have been, unmistakably, a loving smile. “Locking the vault door now.”
A useless whisper: “No… Kay… Please don’t.”
* * *
Now Cassian woke (again?), gasping.
“Got him,” said a mechanical voice. It wasn’t Kaytu’s.
More lights shone in his eyes. And, yes, his leg hurt. But then everything hurt.
“Identify yourself,” said the droid.
Cassian’s brain snapped instantly to captive protocol. If they didn’t already know who he was, he needed to figure out who they were before choosing what to tell them. Did he have any gear? …the Lullaby…
“Shove over!” snapped a familiar voice. “He’s Intelligence. He’s not going to tell you.”
“We need to ascertain cognizance of—”
“I know, pfassk you. Let me.”
The face of Davits Draven entered Cassian’s sight.
“General—” Cassian’s voice came out as gravel. What was wrong with…? his mouth and throat felt simultaneously coated over and parched.
“Rank if not facial recognition,” someone noted in the background. Cassian could almost laugh at the look of loathing exasperation that crossed Draven’s face.
Draven refocused on Cassian—pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Identify yourself,” Drafen repeated. Then added their unique keyword—unlock Cassian to allow full disclosure: “Lyyxo.”
“Sir,” that damn whisperish rasp. “Andor, Cassian Jerón, operative Fulcrum, Alliance to Restore the Republic, Intelligence, operations: specforce, acquisitions; Massassi unit; captain, UT-60D LMTR-20.”
…wait. That wasn’t…
“No,” said Cassian, nonvoice going strange in a different way. This could condemn him later. But he’d speak truth to Draven. …He’d speak truth about this no matter what. “…Joint commander, Telgorn-Sienar Zeta SW-0608.”
Draven’s hand tightened on his shoulder. Then, with deliberate slowness, released, nodded, and stepped back. “At ease, agent. You're all right.”
Cassian found the strength to force some actual voice past the maddening denaturation of his throat. “Sir.”
Draven stopped at once, leaning back over him.
“Where are they?”
Draven’s look flattened out the way Cassian had seen over and over. “You and Jyn Erso were the sole survivors of Rogue One."
Melshi. Basteren. Calfor. Farsin. Jav. Casrich. Stordan. Rostok. Sefla. Pao. Bodhi. Chirrut. Baze. Right now, Cassian might be the only one to know exactly who was on that list. Whether he’d ever share it would depend on how anyone else felt about them now.
Kay. I’m sorry. I loved you. I’m sorry.
“Where is she?”
Draven’s expression subtly changed one more time. This time… under irritation and amusement… Cassian could almost swear there was… affection. The General jerked his head in a direction Cassian couldn’t make his neck move to follow. “Watching. You’ll see her soon.”
Draven's hand returned to Cassian’s shoulder to make him stop. “You did it. We finished it. Now rest.”
He wouldn’t be able to rest until he saw her.
Saw her… and…
was it part of the dream
her hand on his chest
lying against him under his arm
A dying moment is an ending, not a beginning… definitely not a contract… he’d been coerced—by others or his own sense of mission—every time before, he would never… how could he even know to ask and be able to trust anything out of it if it came first from him…?
but she’d survived
and she was watching.
That meant she probably didn’t want to have nothing to do with him from now on.
He didn’t know if he could go back to how he’d been before. Live that life. Be his old self.
Be without her.
…He didn't think he could. And, exhaustedly, didn't want to try.
But if that was too much to expect, to put on another person, at least it wasn’t the thing to worry about right now.
She was there, somewhere. She was watching.
They did it. We finished it.
His head fell back and he gathered himself to do whatever he had to next.
But not to throw himself at the next way to die.
To get back to her.
K-2SO: You realize neither charm nor nurture are in my skill set?
CASSIAN: And yet you take such good care of me.
~ Star Wars Adventures issue 3: Tales from Wild Space
by Alan Tudyk & Shannon Eric Denton
© & TM 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.
I have trouble accepting the standalone Kay/Cassian origin comic as canon, but Adventures in Wookiee-sitting absofragginlutely is.
Kay not liking that he can't tell when Cassian is having nightmares is a reference to another AO3 work. (Probably by bright_elen ?) As ever, I read it too long before ever thinking to write something of my own; please someone tell me if they recognize it so I can credit properly.
I hadn't thought of this as a sequel to Quiero Saber, but I love that (hopefully both are canon-compatible enough that) a reader thought it could be. So, though generally I'm trying to stick to canon and avoid it—for all I often repeat myself—the occasional reference (e.g. the keyword) is explained there.
General Draven exited the sealed room. A moment later, the door beside Jyn whispered open, and Draven stepped out, hands clasped behind his back
(as Cassian’s had been when he spoke to Draven on the tarmac when K-2 had told her she was a bad idea whenever the hell that was…)
He turned with soldierly angles to walk over to Jyn.
He stopped at her side. She didn’t turn to meet him. He wasn’t bothered. They both kept their eyes on the obserview.
“They’ll be checking for physical dysfunction,” said Draven, with his infuriating superior briskness. “Will take a while. But his mental condition and personality seem to be intact. When he does get out… it’ll be the person we knew.”
If they’d known the same person at all? And if not, which one of them knew better…?
Jyn couldn’t unlock her muscles enough to show anything. …and even if they could, wasn’t sure what she'd show. No relieved release of breath. No urge to cry. No gladness. She felt none of the sort of things a person should be feeling. Just… tense. And… cold.
“He asked about you,” said Draven. “You before the outcome of the mission.”
…how can you know it’s the same Cassian when that clearly isn’t…?
…how did you know it wasn’t the injury… that the change was before…
I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now
Abruptly, Jyn unfolded her arms from over her chest and spun on her heel away from Draven. He didn’t try to stop her as she took off down the hall.
* * *
It all crashed back.
Say you understand Trust the Force You’ll never win Come my child Can never be hidden again It’s getting hot out there Go go go Save the dream I have so much to tell you
Good luck little sister
Die with the rebellion
Your father would be proud
It had been frozen under shock. Not banished after all.
Now… Cassian would survive, and recover.
For the fifth time, Cassian would come back to her.
No one else had even once.
(…Except Papa…? but how well had that gone…)
Suddenly it was unthinkable. Too dangerous. Too insane.
What she wanted from him.
What if he wasn’t there with her
What if he was
How could she want it at all
How could she ever again
When it always went away
And the cost was so high
The cave in her mind had been blasted away on the beach.
She ran now to find a new one. She had to close herself in. Shut out the light.
There was an old rusted panel and she kicked it down. Grabbed the barrier to hurl it aside—
Seriously? You’re not going to crawl in a kriffing ventilation shaft.
Chest heaving, she set it back into place.
Walking more slowly back down the hall, she jerked her thumb over her shoulder to a passing droid. “There’s a loose panel. Someone should fix it.” And kept going without explanation.
She didn’t know where she was going. She’d been so fixated on gluing herself to Cassian—
FEKEFEDDINGJACTNAKRAZSCH who are you karking weakling Corewife—
—there’d been no establishment of security. Her clearance, her liberty.
We’ll make sure you go free.
She hadn’t been insubordinate. She’d been a free agent. The deal should stand. She hadn’t incited anyone to mutiny. It was the others… it was Cassian…
She pushed hard at the first door she could find, and found herself back in that damned room.
The one where they’d first taken her after Wobani. Where Draven and Mothma and whoever else they hadn’t bothered to identify to her had asked her about Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera.
Yes also where she’d met kriffing Cassian.
…no she couldn’t really curse at him even in thought… he was still… the only one who came back but it was more than that you know it’s more when have you ever known that recognition
The tactical and comm equipment had all been stripped. It was a shocking realization: not that of course they’d be abandoning the base now, just that she hadn't noticed. They were probably already well underway. There had been far too few people in that hallway, and this door should not be unlocked… were there just a few left now, waiting on… … …Cassian? Would he really be that important…?
Not the Partisans. Not the Empire. What did all these things say about
But there was someone else in here now. Palms braced on the circular lip of that illuminated globe, whose purpose had never quite been clear to Jyn except as a way for the people around it to look very important (perhaps even godlike) standing over; maybe it had once had tactical application as some kind of display, but outdated by the others that had been installed… or maybe it had something to do with this building’s original function as… whatever it had been… looked like a Temple maybe… had she really never thought about any of this before…?
The other person’s back was to her, leaning over that sphere display. Whoever it was was Human, dark-haired, female presenting, dressed in flowing white. Immediate association was to Mon Mothma, but this person was far too short.
Jyn hadn’t yet decided whether to back out of the room or just keep walking past. When the other person looked up over her shoulder at Jyn.
“Jyn Erso,” the other said.
Somehow, the way she said it… surprised but neither unwelcoming nor demanding.
It didn't make her want to bolt.
And provided a direction for the next moment other than just trying to get through it.
Jyn stepped toward her—body angled away, as always, to pivot for flight or defense. Though she didn’t see the other woman as particularly threatening. That long hair and those flowing skirts could be used against her, for a start. And in a universe of people generally much taller, she had to be the same height as Jyn.
“Looks like everyone’s moving out?” Jyn said cautiously.
The other woman nodded. “Many already have. The new base is being set up to be ready ahead of the last wave. For the highest security and at-risk individuals.”
At-risk like Cassian. And high security like…
“I’m Leia,” she said.
Princess Leia Organa. Recipient of the Death Star plans. Who’d smuggled them to safety, withstood torture for them, watched her home planet destroyed by Galen’s invention, then broke free and brought back not only the plans but the pilots who’d execute them.
We did it. The Death Star’s dust.
Jyn hadn’t thought about it while she heard all this through the glass around her mind. But she made the connection now.
“We’ve met,” said Jyn.
Leia tilted her head. “We have?”
“In this room.”
Leia’s brows knitted, then abruptly smoothed. “…My father’s meeting with Saw Gerrera. Skies, I must have been… eight?”
Jyn had stopped counting her age by then. Somewhere in her mind, the overheard information, ignored at the time, had been stored anyway—that Leia had been born two years after her. “Then I was ten.”
So how come Leia seemed by far the older as she looked at Jyn with such sad compassion right now? “I’ve been hoping to see you. I thought, to introduce myself. But I guess we’re old friends.”
She used the word with… if not humor, at least awareness. Of course we’re not friends. The word was too heavy and their acquaintance too light. But it was clearly… not an assumption; an offer. If Jyn couldn’t find the space in her head to consider it seriously right now, it was still something that she didn’t find it gratingly stupid.
“I’m sorry,” Jyn said. She’d distantly heard the announcement and the eulogy. “About your father.”
And your whole kriffing planet.
Leia said, “Thank you. I’m sorry about yours.”
Jyn shook her head slightly. As if that could shake it off.
After a moment, Leia again: “Have you thought about what you want to do next?”
“What I want has never been a factor in what happens next.”
Leia smiled. Still so sad. She didn’t take the words as rudeness. If anything, she seemed to understand—maybe better than Jyn, who was still catching up to it—that Jyn’s lack of filter was kind of an honor.
“I’d understand if you never wanted anything to do with any of us again,” said Leia. “I know how we failed you. But I want you to know… we understand how you did not fail us. We let you down, and you gave us everything. Saved our cause when we would have given it up. Not to mention saved our lives.”
Jyn stared at her. What would that meeting have been like if Leia—maybe Bail—had been at it…?
“So,” said Leia. “If there was a comet’s chance you wanted it, you have a place with us. Any time. For as long as any of us are alive.”
The Empire hadn’t killed Hadder and Akshaya. The Empire plus the Rebellion had.
They prefer to surrender.
You put him at risk. Those were Alliance bombs that killed him.
The Death Star’s dust.
I won’t forget what we did to you.
You’re not the only one who lost everything.
“What will the Rebellion do next?” Jyn heard herself ask. There were several other questions inside it.
Somewhere in there, Leia had turned to face Jyn fully. She was leaning back on the sphere’s rim now.
“Finish the relocation,” said Leia. “Help rehome offworld survivors of Alderaan. Assess our allies. Regroup. Rebuild.”
She hesitated, just enough for Jyn to know she was about to hear something confidential.
The way Leia’s brown eyes flickered to meet Jyn’s cemented it. “And declare open war.”
Jyn nodded. Good.
And found the words for the other question. “And Ca…ptain Andor?”
Leia spread her palms. “Victory transmutes all sins. I don’t think there’s anyone who’d still seek a courtmartial. And if there were…”
In her eyes and the corner of her mouth, Leia gave a sudden smirk. “…tough.”
Jyn blinked at her.
“If not for what you did,” said Leia, “the Rebellion would have ended. Alderaan would have been the first instead of the last. If you or Captain Andor had been up to joining the ceremony where we honored Chewie, Luke, and Han, I would have put medals on your necks too. And everyone would have kriffing well applauded.”
I’m not used to…
Jyn couldn’t bear to hear the words in her mind one more time.
And suddenly, for first time since she couldn’t remember, tears were flowing down her face.
She remembered, distantly, how strange it had seemed to her, to see people just hugging each other when they landed from Scarif.
Also distantly, she notes how it doesn’t feel strange that Princess Leia is hugging her now.
* * *
She walked quietly back as the sky was going black. For all the diminished population and security on the base now, she wondered how she was going to get back into Medical. Only to find a droid waiting for her, who cited Draven’s instructions, and keyed in the passcode to let her in.
Why hadn’t she tried martyring herself years ago.
…Nah. Not funny enough.
She kept her footsteps silent as she passed into the recovery room—noticing and understanding belatedly why it was so deserted.
Cassian was sitting upright in the same bed. Propped up on pillows, but so vitally different from when he’d been on his back. A datapad on his lap illuminated his face as he looked up.
Like hers (though hers were dry), his face was lined with not just exhaustion and scars but with tears.
She moved the rest of the way to his bedside and looked down at the datapad’s display.
Personnel unaccounted for | Presumed killed at Scarif . He had stopped scrolling at Maddel - R
She looked back up. Their eyes met: black and green. Sky and sea. Infinities searching each other.
Without a word, she picked up the datapad, set it on the side table, and climbed onto the bed beside him.
Without a word, he took her in his arms.
She slipped her arms around him too and touched his head to bring it to her chest.
He bowed his face against her and had his turn—after however many years it must have been for him too—to wrack with grief.
She rested her lips in his hair and closed her eyes, and felt unabashed when her renewed tears washed free again.
As one—as always—they both stopped. He shifted free enough for her to slide down the pillows to lie flat, and he followed. They turned to face one another, pressed in close, and, with much-missed synchronicity, held each other as they fell asleep.
Bail, Saw, Leia, and Jyn's meeting: https://i.redditmedia.com/FwyIX-N9MWbIvVf0mYvFRB_P8j240gnqiSmQshx1wJo.jpg?w=500&s=3fecdeb969389bb9f0a4688f203dc4a0
Excerpts from Beth Revis's Rebel Rising (glossary of non-film last words):
"Wait in a shell turret," he said. He pressed a small blaster into her hand; she had no idea where he'd gotten it. "Until daylight." he withdrew a pair of knives from a hidden sheath inside his pants. He pressed on into Jyn's hand but kept the other one. / "You're not leaving me behind, are you?" Jyn asked urgently. / Saw's big eyes stared into hers, and she could see all the love in them. "He knows who you really are," he said. "A secret like that, once exposed, can never be hidden again."
"Ponta One, you okay?" Jyn screamed into the mic. / "Go, go, go!" Hadder's voice urged her forward. / "It's getting hot out here," Akshaya said. A plasma blast fired close to Jyn, too close for comfort. She couldn't tell if it had been a stray shot from one of the Y-wings or a failed shot from a TIE, and she didn't want to stick around to find out. / Behind her, something exploded. The force of it pushed her little shuttle faster, but she was already slipping into hyperspace, the blue-gray light filling the cockpit window.
It had taken all her powers of argument, justification, bullying, and general Gamorrean-headedness, and finally the backing of General Draven
—who seemed to be championing them, Jyn gathered from comments—the friendliest by Leia, Shara, and Cassian—the way Draven had once championed Cassian and Kaytu. What might be an objectively bad idea for anyone else could be the best thing for his agent. It was also the one thing that agent actually asked for, for himself, in an otherwise anonymously self-sacrificing life.
The last possible day, the med units to agree to let Cassian go
(besh.) without one of them
(cresh.) with her.
One last time before the final ship off Yavin IV.
“Keep him relaxed,” they’d commanded. “Take an easy path to a restful spot and stay there. Physical exertion is out of the question.”
So here they were, midway through the hour-long climb straight up the Massassi ziggurat.
Jyn had Cassian lead. He’d long ago found the best way up. She loudly refused to coddle—figuring he’d be his own best pace-setter. Unstatedly, it also allowed her to keep a constant eye on him. As they went, her eyes kept flitting to the side of his shirt, low on his abdomen. The bacta had erased most of the surgical scarring. It made no sense she kept waiting to see a blossom of blood.
(There’d not even been that when he’d hit the transparisteel, just there, falling down the tower. And Krennic had shot him higher—so starimplodingly close to his heart.)
But he seemed almost comfortable doing this climb. Maybe he’d have been able to do it at other times without getting as winded, without having to favor quadrants of his body in turns. But he took it easy, slow and stopping more often than she knew he’d like. She appreciated him not making her have to suggest it.
She wondered if he was re-seeing it, the way she was: that other so-different climb up the datacore.
Was that part of why he wanted to do this? Not just say goodbye to the base that, in spite of himself, quite obviously, he’d come to think of as a home, but to confront that terrible memory; overwrite it with this better one.
His hand was suddenly, inexplicably, in front of her. She looked up, startled, and saw he was standing on a flat stretch—and there was no more ziggurat behind him. They both knew she didn’t need his help getting the last bit of the way up. She took his hand and let him share the work anyway. They’d both done everything by themselves most of their lives. Knowing how well they could… how amazing, any moment when they didn’t have to.
They stood side-by-side, looking out over Yavin IV. The sky was so many colors. The tree canopy spread out around them in all directions, and the sun cast gemlight over the expanse. A wind wrote a living, moving narrative in cloud transformation and shadowplay and rolling waves of leaves. It was…
“It’s like Lah’mu,” Jyn breathed. “On a cliff, looking down at the ocean.”
Cassian’s hand tightened, quick as a heartbeat, on hers. She hadn’t noticed until that moment that neither had let the other go.
She looked up to see him looking not at the ocean above the forest, but back at her.
How had she not known. Those few countless days they’d spent together before they almost died. How hadn’t she seen through the lines a terrible life and terrible acts had carved on him, to what his medical stats had laid bare. He was older than her… not by nearly as much as she’d assumed. Not nearly as much as he looked.
“Sit down,” said Jyn suddenly.
“I’m fine,” he said.
His lips curved, infinitesimally, in that way that transformed the universe. He led the way to a place where one of the massive blocky stones had had a chunk taken out of it—maybe by something crashing into it, maybe by… who in space knew? It made a gentler slope than the temple gave elsewhere. They stepped down to that tier. Cassian sat back into that sun-baked curve of stone. Jyn moved herself into the waiting curve of him.
They hadn’t spoken. About any of the things they needed to. Any of the things… humans did.
They’d been able to forestall the rest with the one thing they mercifully hadn’t had to. That they’d be sticking together now. At each other’s side… and whenever possible… closer too.
Maybe they had died on Scarif after all. Maybe this was some kind of Force projection of them back to this world, and that was what had been saved and extracted and brought back to life. Because how else could they have ever found their walls, their personal prisons, so thoroughly gone, that they couldn’t quite breathe without the other. That being physically apart felt like amputation. That bodies that could never stop waiting tensely for the universe to take another swing at them became utterly relaxed against each other. It only made sense if their molecules had sifted together, filling the spaces of each other, atomized together in the kyber blast.
…though they’d both seen it from the start, hadn’t they… the inversions and mirroring that spoke of a whole. That they’d ambiently fallen into (working together seamlessly) and also angrily resisted (until they didn’t).
Don’t think about that. It was distortive and ridiculous. She didn’t really believe any of it. Those were the stories people told themselves who needed something to bemoan when they didn’t have survival to worry about.
It was just because it felt good against him. Feel his heartbeat steady and breathing tidal against her back and all around. Looking out and knowing they were both seeing together the gleaming sea of trees.
“It shouldn’t matter.” Cassian’s murmur vibrated in her ear and through her body. “To me. Not as much as even more lives… many more planets… the rise and fall of civilizations… the fate of the galaxy and everyone in the Rebellion. — But I’m so glad we saved this forest.”
Skies, she loved him.
She wasn’t anywhere near willing to say it. It was a thought she’d had stupidly many times in her life about many people. She’d learned how little it actually meant. How many reasons could be behind it. How few of them were built on anything that mattered. How many ways it could vanish as quickly and easily back away or lead to disaster or be betrayed.
But in that moment, for that moment, in the safety of her mind, she allowed it: she loved him.
She closed her eyes and fused them together. Imagined turning and kissing him and taking him in her hand and slipping him in…
Probably more what the med units had in mind re ‘exertion’.
Contrary to what everyone, Draven on down, quite obviously thought: they’d done none of those things. There was no inevitability between them that they might. She wasn’t sure (outside such moments) she wanted to—not when this, whatever they were already doing, was something she found far more intimate and precious and strange. But even being able to enjoy the thought, feeling it for a change not to be a liability, was remarkable.
She didn’t want to actually change a thing. This incredible moment of… feeling…
“Thank you for bringing me here,” she murmured.
She felt the rise of his chest beneath her; the tightening of his arms. He didn’t have to worry—she wouldn’t try to look at his face.
“Thank you,” he said softly back. He didn’t say more. She could guess most of it. Thank you for being the first person I’ve ever wanted to have here and then doing it.
…Yes she wanted to.
Ugh, no, don’t do that. The question of action disturbed the peace.
But she craved it too badly and couldn’t not.
Turning her head slightly, she brushed her profile into his throat. The touch of her nose camouflaged that of her lips, slaking their yawning ravenous screaming to feel his skin.
His neck curved as he bowed his head on hers. His face (and lips) brushing the same way into her hair.
She could just… take his hand, couldn’t she… move it down the front of her… take charge, make this something declarative and just finally face it, see where it went, instead of this indistinct… hovering.
No. She didn’t want to. Still. Not yet.
And she’d realized somewhere in there that he would never initiate.
She’d had a lot of time, even after he came out of that coma, and her mind started to come back to itself too; to lie awake and watch and listen to and feel him sleep. And think about all of it over and over from so many angles.
It was a better mental exercise than letting her mind fall onto anything else. The deaths. The people behind them. The near things. What should have gone better. Who she’d let down. Who’d let her down. The absurdity of finding herself more frightened of thinking about this intangible thing, about Cassian, than she’d been frightened by bombs in her ears and blasters in her face. That made her rebel and face this head on. Not going to be one of those soldiers who can face anything but their feelings. Not that she’d ever been able to find peace with her feelings, but at least she’d known about them. No denial, no avoidance. Might not be able to cope but will karking look at it.
She already knew he would never lie to her again. She already knew he would never (…willingly; remember what universe this is) hurt her. And she already knew he would never (ibid.) leave her. This is not how betrayals were supposed to go. She sometimes felt otherwise, but she knew the difference between trauma and evidence. The evidence was pretty kriffing overpowering. How many people got to prove themselves as fully and extremely as Cassian had proven himself to her? So even when she had the inevitable feelings, they were miraculously fewer and briefer (helps knowing they were less founded) than she’d ever had them before.
She also knew he could—and did—desire her.
Most times, when either of them dreamed in a way that was visible in the waking world, it was a nightmare. Sometimes the terrors followed them into wakefulness. Sometimes it broke down their resistance to breaking down once awake. Kay. Bodhi. Chirrut. Baze. Galen. Saw. Things much older, for each of them, that the other hadn't seen. They seemed to have a talent, at least, for taking turns. Or maybe, for Cassian, being able to comfort and calm Jyn helped his own nightmare fade back. She'd certainly been doing less of the comforting while simultaneously accepting more from him. It wasn't him sparing or coddling her. She would have been able to tell. He definitely knew better. It wouldn't have worked. So… perhaps…?
A few times, though, she’d heard him dreaming—explicitly, if quietly, about her—and felt him hard. She'd wondered if she was about to feel him press and move himself against her; wondered if she wanted him to (…this way). Only to have him start awake and—unfailingly, every time—turn over, put the rest of himself between her and what he couldn’t control.
Every time, after the stunned moment of needing to process that first one, she’d simply turned over with him, press her chest against his back, mould into him just the same, and rest her head in his neck and her arm over his ribs.
The third or so time, he finally acknowledged that they both knew what was happening. His hand reached for hers. They’d threaded their fingers together in agreement: they didn’t want to talk about it. And it was okay.
…That was the crux of it. It was okay. Any of it. Their staying at one another’s sides, having one another’s backs, was what mattered above anything else. There was no price for it, and it wouldn’t change with anything added or kept back.
With that, in their way, established… she wondered why he didn’t even… try. They both knew she was the better at unarmed combat—even when he wasn’t at bedridden disadvantage. They both knew she could fight him off if she wanted. They both knew he would never ever want her to have to. Would back off without it ever approaching that. So, if the worse that could happen was her refusal, and if he wasn’t a karking coward, why didn’t he show the pfassking courage at least to try…?
Nights of these thoughts before she remembered what she’d seen in his record.
She’d hacked in while he was still half-out, intending only to check his med stats. But hadn’t stopped looking when she’d caught a glimpse of his past work.
What I want has never been a factor in what’s happened next.
She’d known anyway that would have been, obviously, true for him too. Been in this fight since I was six years old
Once again, though, blast him, he had one up on her. The one thing she’d kept firmly in her own control—with violence when she frequently had to—was, at the very least, her own (lack of) sex life. She couldn’t control what happened outside of her but she would fight to the teeth to keep any say in what happened in her. That didn’t mean she hadn’t made a few choices based on considerations other than what she wanted, but it had still been her choice.
His mission records showed he’d given up his choices for that part of himself, too.
His med records showed, once or twice, they'd been taken.
She'd never loved K-2SO more than reading how he'd wiped out the group that had done that.
She tried to incorporate why that had just popped into her mind. Found herself, shockingly, wishing K-2 were there to try and ask. Not likely that he would have told her…
…but her own conjured imagining of him might.
My specialty is just strategic analysis.
Actually, Kay, I think your specialty was Cassian. So how ’bout it? Why is this relevant?
Why are you asking me? answered imaginary-Kay.
’Cause you would know, she answered.
But so do you, said Kay. Obviously. Is it that you don’t trust your own analyses well enough to take as workable theory without putting it on me?
We’re analyzing Cassian, she mentally snapped, not me.
The subjects are clearly inextricable. But fine. The records don’t address Cassian’s private life… but you already know he didn’t have one.
She thought of his duffel she’d rifled through on the U-wing. Nothing but gear. Weapons and portable medpacs and signal boosters. No holo-image of a dutiful wife or tattered childhood security blanket. He packed impersonal and he packed light. Good technique for a mission… but she suddenly saw the duffel as him. His body just a worn weathered casing, devoid of… oh wow this thought was turning painful and grotesque.
Yes, yes, said mental Kay, a bit insightful while hyperbolic, but focus. Given that, it’s entirely possible that most or all of his past intimate and sexual experience was done while undercover, or in strategic trade, or otherwise in service of a mission.
How like him.
Hmm. So how would that translate to the opportunity for a non-mandated intimate coupling?
I hate your word choices.
Your ability to deflect your own introspection-avatar, after your choosing to make one in the first place—
Okay, okay. Let me think. …That means he’s never had a… genuinely… chosen… experience. Even though… oh skies I wish you were real and could confirm… would you have known if…? no no I know he’s killed people but it’s different… he wouldn’t…
He wouldn’t, her imagined objectivity agreed grimly. He does bad things if they will achieve good results. There is no purpose for rape than to sow pain and fear. He fights against the Empire exactly for using such tools.
It wasn’t real confirmation. It wasn’t really Kay. It was still just her. …With the kyber pendant cutting into her palm perhaps the reason for that last thought sounding less like Kay and more like Lyra.
Swallowing, Jyn put herself back into the construct. …but it’s still the issue. If he’d had a partner who was enthusiastically willing but he knew he was lying. Or if the only one who wasn’t really consenting was himself.
Which means… he…
She needed imaginary Kay to articulate it for her.
He doesn’t know how to do anything without manipulation and pretend. He’s afraid he won’t be able not to do those things. Even when he doesn’t want to. He will never make the first move because he wouldn’t trust himself not to use or influence or force you, no matter how strongly he may feel, because he’s always denied and imagined himself away.
She’d laid very, very still in bed beside him, wondering if she’d just written this fiction to assuage her own resentment, terror, or pride.
Her fingers found the biggest scar Cassian had. Down along his ribs, curving around his pelvic bone. Jagged, raised, and mottled; and very worst of all: stretched. It had happened before he was in the Rebellion, with its scar-erasing bacta, and its med droids who’d only leave hair-fine symmetrical scars even without; …before he’d been done growing.
And knew she wasn’t fanciful.
That she had profiling abilities too.
That her record of being able to crack people where she needed to insofar as they might affect her was pretty good.
That… she couldn’t dismiss the possibility she might be right.
She still hadn’t asked him. Even when she’d confessed to hacking his file. Not knowing how she’d expected him to react. Only knowing she had not expected him to say, simply, “Okay.”
“It doesn’t bother you—I invaded your past like that?”
“I invaded yours,” he returned. “You hacked my file. I had yours handed to me. I still chose to read it. It… feels… better. You having as much on me as I have on you. I don’t want to have an advantage.”
I don’t want to have an advantage.
Following you let me go where I’d wanted to all along, but just for myself, never could.
He’d probably come around. For one thing, remember that he hadn’t been able to make her do what he wanted even when he had tried. (We're not here to make friends. Half hour later: Anyone who kills me or my friends…!)
But it meant choosing to start anything would probably be up to her.
…of course she appreciated. How much her being able to shape her own reality—when the rule was she didn’t get to because the universe and most people in it didn’t care—was sacred to him. How he trusted and wasn’t threatened and was genuinely engaged by and patient to follow her lead.
…was pretty sure she’d never asked for that burden.
Whether she proved right or not, they should talk about these things.
But it was so hard not just enjoying the…
When have you known such recognition
When she already understood
and felt his understanding too
the things they knew, they things they could guess, they things they didn’t need or care to guess or know.
Why try to disprove it while it was persisting…?
Dammit. I love
“Did Leia or Draven speak to you?” was what she said now. Mon Mothma had already gone on to the new base—which Jyn wasn’t necessarily supposed to know yet was…
“Frequently,” he said. “Which thing are you asking about?”
“The new base.”
…which she wasn’t necessarily supposed to know yet was on Hoth.
An ice planet. Where the med units didn’t recommend Cassian, still recuperating, yet go.
“Yeah,” he said. “Did they speak to you?”
“ ’course not,” said Jyn. “What do you think about their suggestion?”
He would have laughed if he weren’t so weighted.
“I don’t need a medical leave,” he said. “That’s not why they’re offering it. We ignore ideal med recs all the time. Not when reality isn’t ideal to match them. …But people don’t get rewarded for not dying in battle. By being freed from the war. Why the hell should I. Dying is what frees you out of the war.”
She closed her eyes, the ache in him permeating her brain. Though it would be different for each of them. Hers was more exasperated and resigned.
“There’s another way to think about it,” she said at last. “Soldiers get leaves. It’s not about what anybody deserves. It helps them do better work. Have you ever taken one?”
He said nothing.
“What would Kay say?” she dared after a moment.
A longer moment passed before she pulled slightly away, to look back after all.
His eyes had closed but there was that universe-shaking almost-smile. He opened his eyes at her movement to meet hers.
“…it’s a larger conversation, isn’t it?” he said softly.
She shifted fully free of him. To face him rightly. “Is it?”
He let her go without resistance. Of course he did. He would never.
“I can’t go back,” he said. “To how I was before.
“I still want to fight for the Rebellion.
“But I can’t. Not how I used to.
“…what you do need have nothing to do with me.
“But what I do… if you’ll let me… is gonna do with you.
“If I’d never gone to Scarif, now I’d go to Hoth.
“I went to Scarif.
“…I want to go where you go.
“But we haven’t talked about it. Where you might go. Forget about if you’d be happy to take a leave with me. If you’re gonna join up to have anything to take a leave from.”
…This conversation was happening? The most important, most dire of all the things they weren’t talking about, just like that…?
“I haven’t decided to enlist,” she said. “…Neither has Han Solo. They’re letting him stick around without doing it. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”
That was a lot… in some ways enough. It could be enough… already obviously more than he’d hoped and he’d let it stop at that. She could take that. She didn’t want to say the next thing.
But she was scared of it. So she rebelled against that. (Not scared off by a blaster. Not by a Death Star blast, which put anything else into remarkable perspective. Not gonna be karking scared off by words.)
“The question isn’t whether I’m going anywhere without you. And I definitely don’t see hanging around and functioning beside the Rebellion as the worst of my options. …It’s the best, actually. Even if not for you. Though I’d never have seen it, the best of it, without…”
…Sorry. She shakes herself. Glad he’s not trying to interrupt. She’d have to interrupt him back. And that’d be a waste of the energy already needed for getting this out in the first place. “The question is. If I ever see the Rebellion as not my best option. Disagree with something they’re doing. Not even if I wanted to leave… but just if I acted against them, even from among them.
“What would you do?”
Cassian hadn’t moved or failed to meet her eyes. Now… actually… more than fractionally… he smiled.
“Your profile needs updating, don’t you think?” he said quietly. “I already had that crisis. We both know, now, how I’d choose.”
Good answer… but not to everything. He wasn’t looking far enough. She shook her head. “It wouldn’t necessarily be if the Rebellion was on the point of not existing anymore.”
“The Rebellion,” he said, kinda cutting her off, but the difference was, now, she was glad of it. Not to have to say more down that line. (When she didn’t want to suggest she thought he’d only done it because his back was to the wall; even though that was how he’d framed it himself; even if that’s what tipped the scale, it had grown past that, and what he'd done, what he was, was more than that)
“—is not this organization. The cause we care about is a better universe. Even in spite of ourselves. I have faith that if you or I or both of us acted against the Rebellion, in a way that was right, it wouldn’t cost it from us. They’d come around. Or if not, there’s a lot between being enlisted and being enemies. You may not think so… for me, you don’t have to. They haven’t earned it for you. I might have given it to them for reasons that… That’s negotiable, both ways. I don’t care if you don’t. That’s already an easier choice than I thought might be on the table.
“If you were to act in a way I thought was wrong… okay, I’d argue with you. We’d fight about it. That’s okay too. I don’t want to be agreed with for the sake of being agreed with. I want to be right. Often opposing viewpoints is the way to figure out what’s right. Why do you think I never tried to alter Kay's reprogram.”
(Besides you obviously seeing him as an autonomous being not just something there for your benefit and probably liking honesty in the face of so many lies and who says you would have been good enough at slicing to do it anyway but also…)
She was drawn into his eyes. He finished, intently, “I also have seen that you tend to do what’s right. Even at cost to tactics. To logistics. To yourself. Never to the cause I really believe in.
“That could change. Everything could. Always. I can’t make decisions on anything that’s possible. Everything always is. I’m gonna decide on the information I have. And I’ve got more than enough on the Rebellion and on you—and, though I haven’t always, on me—not to be worried about what you describe.”
She let silence hang to digest all of that. Or just to take a teeny bit of the more certain footing away from him.
“That’s a much better argument than anyone usually makes,” she said. “Not relying on don’t you trust me or that pfassk.”
“Trust is a technical term,” he said. “I trust certain people to work certain ways. What value I put on that is a separate thing.”
“I see why your best friend is a droid,” she said.
…‘Is’ hung between them for the barest moment. Not because it was the wrong thing to say. It just… needed a moment.
“I didn’t want to have that conversation,” she said. “I never thought it would be so easy.”
“Me neither,” he said. “Is… what you just said what you mean to do?”
(Much as Jyn had come to like Leia, that was an example: how Leia—like pretty much everyone—was fundamentally a different species from Jyn and Cassian. He hadn’t stumbled on the right wording by affect or accident. They knew. ‘Mean to do’. Not ‘want to’. Definitely not ‘going to’. They had the same relationship to, understanding of, the universe.)
“I need,” said Cassian, as if this were the hardest thing for him to say, “to hear you say it explicitly.”
Projection! Interpretation! Confirmation bias! Ersos' daughter shouted at herself. But that wasn’t the most important thing right now.
Jyn reached for him. His hand met hers. Just like the beach. And every night since he really came back from it. Too long after she had. …If either of them ever really would.
“I mean,” she said, “to stay in your hair and in your bed and make everyone say lewd things about us ’cause that’s hilarious and ’cause you’re the only family I’ve had in so long and have left and want and I’m not stupid enough to throw that away before it’s taken away no matter how much I wish I wasn’t inviting that pain in the first place but I can’t control that anyway and it’s actually not less painful being without anyone all so what the hell we keep trying right?” Oh heavenly lizard. What was happening.
She got more back to archness. “And I mean to drag your ass to some shore leave. Doesn’t have to be relaxing. I don’t want to ‘sit with’ kriffing 'grief'… but it might be… to do something… y’know… like… …people. Not in jail or at war. For a second.” An unbelievable thought. Also not a gift to throw away. Also worth rebelling against the idea that getting it for a moment made losing it again harder. That was her version of I’ve had this crisis already. Over and over. It was hard either way, utterly stupid not to grab the good moment when it could be at all.
Finish up, Jyn. “Then I mean to go with you when you go back to the Rebellion. As long as I can be a freelancer and have it left to me when and if I do anything else. …I also… want to be in on the conversation on whatever kinds of work you mean to do now on. I know it isn’t up to me. But… it’d be nice to have a heads up.”
“Thank you for saying ‘when’,” Cassian said, in a voice not entirely there. “Don’t know I would.”
That admission was so cacophonous, they once again needed to leave it the space of a minute.
She knew he’d never lie to her again.
Omitting that, for all he probably wanted to, would have been a lie. He would have to himself. He wouldn't to her.
Equally momentous: her talking about the future. Even indulging in the thought that it might be plannable at all.
“My only rule,” she said quietly. “If you have to leave, tell me. Immediately. Outright. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t misguide or make me wonder or wait. And whyever you have to, it better not be to protect me.”
He reached for her, now. She moved back into the circle of his arm and pulled him close as much as he gathered her.
“I think I’d rather die,” he said quietly against her. “But I’ll try not to do that on you, either.”
She put her hand to his cheek.
Then put her face into his neck.
Wanted again to kiss him; but easy, definitive decision not to have that happen now. Not make it seem like a condition or… any part of this at all. If that were ever to happen, it couldn’t be any more tied into the other stuff than was inevitably part of being life. They’d both have to be able to trust it.
In accord with her, always. He slipped his fingers under her hair and bowed his face to her neck, too.
The sunlight had changed color by the time she said, a bit into his shoulder, “How does your trust metric work on how well that just went?”
“Does not compute,” he answered. “But you broke all my droid metaphors already.”
“There’s still a lot we should probably talk about.”
“I don’t care.”
“Oh thank the Force.”
He sat back. His eyes came to hers the way they’d been in that elevator. The way that made her flooded and filled and frightened to the core because it felt exquisite like nothing that had survived or maybe yet existed.
Slow, almost… something… his fingertips came up to touch her kyber pendant.
As they climbed back down, she imagined what anyone else would assume they’d been doing out here, and how tame it seemed compared to what he’d, they’d, just actually done.
I'm skeptical of myself giving Jyn a lot of protesting too much against what I'm actually having her do. Most of it, hopefully, is justified by the source material: that established and demonstrated the conditions before this moment of great transition. The one bit that should possibly be taken as exactly that: A lot of the giving this relationship additional e.g. sexual dimension couldn't possibly surprise me or be scarier or more intense or mean anything more than what's true right now thinking is simultaneously true and a bit …you sure about that? Will just have to see.
More sex positivity in future chapters, I promise. Not just between these two but in contrasting examples. There's not just one right way to think and want and be.
This was the first really frightening chapter for me 'cause it was so hard to let things just write themselves as the rest has without this time going "But is this really the direction to commit to?!?!?" —most definitely including how I seem to be fearing that more than they are, and how can that be right…?!?? But I also realized that, this is fanfiction, which is a glorious art form, and if I want to later, I can always do a dimensional divergence moment and explore other possible chapter sixes and how they move forward. So what the hell.
I haven't been citing when I quote the film, on the assumption everyone reading this fic has seen it, but I'll keep trying to stay on top of citing supplementary material like, in this case, the novelization:
Left alone in the cabin, she took the opportunity to examine Cassian's duffel and its content: nothing but gear. Weapons and portable medpacs and signal boosters. No holo-image of a dutiful wife or tattered childhood security blanket. He packed impersonal and he packed light. ~ from Rogue One by Alexander Freed ©2016, hardcover edition p44
Last: the scene isn't based on this artwork, I'd had the thought of Cassian loving the view atop the ziggurat before I was overjoyed to discover that this artist agreed about that; but it's BEAUTIFUL so you should look at it too: https://78.media.tumblr.com/3db5db873eeb0629f6207c9631ec9e80/tumblr_ovu5pjmYvs1u0o68wo1_1280.png (by Taevyn Astra: https://i-am-drowning-in-the-rain.tumblr.com )
They crashed together, feverishly; every cell ravenous to be met. They kissed like delivery from thirst. She pushed her hands under his clothes, along his muscles and scars. He pulled her into his arms and fitted their every corner and curve. Wrestling one another free of restraint, they found a moment where her palms cupped his jaw, his framed her eyes, and, startled, they both fell still, staring.
Their searching eyes: black above, green below… wasn’t there some myth, on some planet or many, about sky and sea being parents of the world…?
He breathed a smile. Hers was like a comet. His lips moved to her throat. Her hands moved down past his waist. They sank into each other, and she gently pressed him, pulled him, into—
An awful jolt. Eyes went glassy with shock. Structural collapse, crumbling in, sinking away. S/He looked down and saw
—her hand punched through his side, re-breaking his ribs
—his hand on a blaster fired into her stomach
—his lips going blue because she was asphyxiation
—her lips going black because he was poison
—her kyber crystal stabbed into his neck
—his fist on the pendant strangling her with the cord
The one who dreamed it woke up screaming.
* * *
It was all they’d often imagined someone else’s life could be. Building things instead of breaking them. Helping things grow instead of the… other. Problems that had to be solved with patience and deliberation and nonviolence. Planning for [a] tomorrow. Sharing a space with people who weren’t trying to kill or steal from them, and already knew their allegiance—and real names.
What was scariest was how much less alien and unsettling it felt than they’d thought it would. Like the years of combat and isolation had been the active strain. And living like this—with each other—was a piece [/peace] restored. Less and less would Jyn slip away when no one was looking. She’d be gone fewer hours, to more often to return on her own, rather than Cassian finally finding her somewhere alone. Staring at nothing.
But. More and more, there would come a moment when Cassian would… stop. At the silhouettes of two people so arranged. At an object or product of offworld make. At a radio or vidscreen—even if it was dead. Body tensed, eyes refocused. Staring at the sky.
I’m alive. I’m all right. I’m here.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Time to go, huh?
…I’m so sorry
At least she knew how, at this moment, she felt like she might be killing him. And it could be remedied.
They’d have to figure out how he could stop mentally killing her.
They had a bad feeling it would take the war ending. …To start.
* * *
It was the coat he’d last worn on Jedha and Eadu. He wished he’d burned it. But even when the Rebellion had wealthy friends like Bail Organa, it was sacrilege to waste gear. Now Bail Organa was dead. They were shorter on such friends all around.
He’d shaken his ‘guide’ almost at once and been familiarizing himself with this base on his own. The layout kept as closely to the Yavin base as it could. …Or rather, the Yavin base had kept close as it could to this. It had been an anomaly to set up in an existing structure. Most bases were prefab and dropped down. Even those were modeled after the transport ships that had been used first—grounded, cannibalized, or crashed.
Hoth sported no preexisting structures they could find. Maybe there’d once been something that had been reabsorbed by ice. Their base was well camouflaged already and they’d been here less than a year.
With a will, Cassian set Yavins 4 and 12 out of his mind.
He was obeying the first rule of any new posting: familiarize himself with the terrain. He was also re-flexing old skills: how well he could blend in. That served double duty: use level of difficulty staying invisible to gauge state of Rebellion, and their legacy—how many people here could or would recognize him now.
He was having no difficulty staying invisible.
Melshi. Basteren. Calfor. Farsin. Jav. Casrich. Stordan. Rostok. Sefla. Pao. Bodhi. Baze. Chirrut.
They’d never left him. No one ever did. But the awful, rhythmic roster had, for a little while. On Yavin 12. With Jyn.
Cassian found a corner, turned it, and put his back against the wall, fighting hyperventilation.
Seriously? Stop that. Stop
His head was spinning. He groped for a hard edge of… anything, to get a hold on, before the planet bucked him off.
Something came down on his shoulder.
Cassian was half a meter to the left of where he’d started in full combat crouch before his mind came back online. He refocused his eyes as fast as he could.
2.28 meters of full-grown Wookiee was looming before him, tilting its head to look at Cassian in a way that could be only described as…
“I’m sorry,” Cassian breathed, working blood back into his hands. “I meant no…”
The Wookiee said something.
Cassian shook his head. “I’m sorry,” again. “My Shyriiwook is really bad.”
The Wookiee urfed, chuckling, and said it again, exaggeratedly slowly.
Cassian frowned. (As his body finally cooperated, unlocking his hands and straightening his legs.) “Yeah,” he said. Reminding himself that just because it was new, it was still their Base and he could confirm. “That’s me.”
The Wookiee moved toward him. Cassian tensed but stayed put. The Wookiee came close enough that it had to tilt its head down, and Cassian tilt his head up, to maintain eye contact. They stood that way for a long moment. Then the Wookiee’s enormous paw came down, again, on Cassian’s shoulder.
Then the other paw, on the other shoulder.
Then the Wookiee bowed his head all the way down to touch to Cassian’s.
The Wookiee’s fur was warm and smelled rich in worlds and ecosystems far away from this frozen waste. His massive heartbeat was slower and stronger than Cassian’s own. Cassian held very, very still; deepened his breath to keep it steady, not to keep himself from panicking but from (really?!) breaking down.
The Wookiee straightened and stepped back, his paws lightening on Cassian’s shoulder.
Carefully, Cassian raised his face to look back into the taller being’s. Placed his own hand over his heart; then held it out, arm extended fully, to touch the air just over the Wookiee’s heart.
The Wookiee made a rumbling sound of confirmation. The weight of his paws lifted from Cassian’s shoulders as he stepped finally away.
…Years ago, Kaytuesso had found Cassian sitting on a crate on Jenoport, blaster in hands, silently crying. Kay had picked Cassian up and carried him back to the ship; dragged the bedroll from the bunk to the deck, laid Cassian down on it, then went to the cockpit alone to get them the hell offplanet. He came back only when they were safe in hyperspace, to—as no one would believe of a KX droid but Kay had proved over and over again—gently take the blaster from Cassian’s hand. Insist Cassian let Kay see his injuries. And offer to undergo a memory wipe if Cassian needed him to.
No one is touching your memory, Cassian’d whispered. I need you the way you are.
Cassian could never remember what he’d done on Jenoport. Kay had never told him. And Cassian hadn’t been able to cry ever since.
Until waking up after Scarif.
Now it seemed… his reputation of being able to stay stony with grenades going off around him, to be mediocre at Sabacc but win anyway because of his unreadability, was gonna go the way of NiJedha. First a panic attack in the middle of a hangar. Now he looked again into the Wookiee’s eyes and wondered if his own were about to…
Dams don’t break selectively.
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
The Wookiee nodded. Then said something Cassian didn’t catch—didn’t actually seem to be directed at him.
“Chewie’s curious where you learned that ritual,” came a voice in Basic. Cassian glanced over his shoulder to see another Human—male, light-skinned and -haired, dressed like Cassian in Corellian style, but unlike Cassian seem to match it himself—straighten from where he’d been leaning against some crates and start toward them.
The Wookiee—Chewie, presumably—rumbled something else.
The Human rolled his eyes. “And other stuff but one thing at a time.”
Chewie huffed, seeming amused.
“Uh…” Cassian looked between them, trying to figure out what was going on here, less because it was needed and more to reorient himself. C’mon. Get with it. “My partner and I. Years ago. We did a raid on an Imperial freighter and found some Wookiees, enslaved. We were able to get them out and back to Kashyyyk.”
Chewie made a sound of satisfaction.
The Human closed the rest of the distance between them, finding a new surface to brace one shoulder against, stripping off his gloves. “Makes sense. Not just the hero of Scarif, then.”
Cassian winced. “No,” he concurred. Less to the just as to the not.
The other Human clearly got it—and, thankfully, didn’t pursue it. “Well, it’s refreshing. Not a lot of people think about talking to a Wookiee directly. And not just ‘cause they need a translator.”
Chewie growled in agreement.
Cassian, trying not to see glowing oculars blotting everything else, nodded. “I understand.”
The Human, in an adept mood-lightening move, stuck out his hand. “Han Solo. You’ve met Chewbacca.”
His brain was finally whirring back to life. Cassian bowed his head to Chewie, then clasped Solo’s offered hand. “Cassian Andor.”
Solo smirked. “We know.”
Cassian gave better-than-a-semblance of a smile back. “And you’re the heroes of the Battle of Yavin.”
“Well,” said Solo, affecting modesty, “some of them.”
“Thank you,” said Cassian, not hiding his intensity, which he focused on both of them in turns. “For making it worth it.”
Chewie tilted his head again, looking grave.
Solo, already building a reputation for this sort of thing in Cassian’s mind, deflected. “So is the other one here too? I’ve got money on whether she chooses to join up.”
Chewbecca guffawed a response, and Cassian could actually catch more of what he said, because it was along the lines of Cassian’s thinking too. Something about comparable bets on Solo himself.
“Yes,” Cassian said, before Solo could speak, returning the favor of moving it along. “Jyn’s on base. I don’t know where at the moment. We went through processing separately.”
They’d made it their own idea, figuring it would be best to get up to speed in their own ways, and compare notes after to offset blind spots. Also to be less conspicuous… and probably so Jyn could talk to the med droids however she damn pleased without worrying about Cassian’s loyalty or droid-protective tripwires.
(He did feel more amused than she did, but also respected her indignation, that the droids seemed skeptical of both Jyn’s and Cassian’s insistence that they hadn’t been sexually active. He’d accepted such eval as part of his status assessments. She hadn’t.
Whatever active status would be next.
In a way he was grateful for what had happened in the last five minutes. It was more tangible evidence for what he couldn’t help second-guess if…)
“Sorry,” said Cassian, frowning slightly and turning to Chewie again, who’d just finished saying something. “I couldn’t…?” He glanced at Solo. Speaking of interpreters.
Solo frowned too. “I have no idea. What are you talking about?”
Chewie urfed and strode past them, toward an exit.
Solo blinked, then turned to Cassian in some exasperation. “Um… he said to wait on the Falcon. …You free?”
“I… uh… yes.” Cassian was interested to see the ship he’d heard about. “Though I have to meet with Command in two hours.”
“Fun,” said Solo, rolling his eyes. “Well, I don’t plan on sitting on my hands for two hours, so either he’ll be back before that, or we’ll both wander off. C’mon. It’s warmer on board than anywhere else on this rock, anyway. You play dejarik?”
* * *
From Alexander Freed's Rogue One novelization:The Wookiee rescue is from Star Wars Adventures issue 3: Tales from Wild Space (see note in chapter 4)
On Jenoport, he'd found Cassian staring at his blaster with tears on his face. K-2 had volunteered for a memory wipe in case Cassian's "continued dignity and service demanded it."
Only about halfway through what I thought should be the next segment, but I don't feel like sitting on it, after having had a dry/indecisive spell. ^_^ Will continue soon!
Hoth was blue, white, and flat.
There were no peaks here to climb. If there were, he wondered if it would look more expansive. Less… how he felt in hyperspace. Stifled. Squashed. True infinity couldn’t be held in an organic mind. Limits were required to perceive vastness. So was differentiation. And perhaps the illusion you could walk away.
The woman in white was a shadow against the blinding nothingness. Silhouettes were indistinguishable in their low temp gear; but no one else had that stance. Cassian moved at a diagonal, to avoid coming at her from behind.
Mon Mothma continued looking out, as he came to stand at her side.
“I wonder how long it takes to get used to it,” she said. Her tone made him feel recognized and welcomed. Even knowing it was well honed to make everyone feel that way. “It’s an excellent location and the transition went well. It’s mainly the psychology that’s been difficult.”
Cassian had given up pretending he didn’t think of Yavin 4 as a home. He remembered Mon Mothma’s exile, now, and realized she had probably felt the same way.
She broke the companionable silence to look over at him. “I wondered if I would see you this time.”
Cassian spoke with a familiarity she’d granted him repeatedly and he’d never taken before. “I wondered if you’d be disappointed.”
“Yes,” she said. The lack of accusation in her voice made it worse. “Draven and I would have considered your duty fulfilled.”
In fact, Draven had been outright scowling. “Andor. Not pleased to see you.”
Cassian kept his hands clasped behind his back.
“You could have stayed on Yavin 12. Gone on anywere. Duty bloody served. What the hell are you doing back here?”
Cassian wondered if Draven actually expected him to answer. Draven wondered if Cassian could.
Mon Mothma finished: “We hoped you could do so as well.”
They could wish the damage reversible but he couldn’t live like that. Tolerate himself knowing terrible things were happening and he wasn’t doing anything about it. Not while the Empire remained. Or at all—
Finally, Draven heaved a sigh, and swept the moment aside. “Are you back? To your commission. Your prior work.”
Cassian still hadn’t quite made the choice, but the evidence was unambiguous. Panic attack in the safety of the hangar and in front of others. Strangers had been able to get close enough to touch him before he noticed them.
“No,” said Cassian. “I’m presently unfit for combat or espionage.”
Draven folded his arms across his chest. Leaning back in his chair like that: a dominance move with anyone else. With Cassian: simply grumpy. “If you did consider yourself fit. How would you answer?”
The moment they passed from preemptive to reflective, Cassian stopped entertaining hypotheticals. He had no time or use for them. He’d never been able to afford—survived them. He couldn’t do it now. He almost growled: Stop trying to make me.
Unlike Draven, (this time,) Mon Mothma didn’t wait him out for reponse. “But I’m not surprised. And we’d be foolish to turn you away. It would only deprive us of an asset, and deprive you of resource.”
Though she gave a whisper of a sigh. “I wish you could find peace.”
Cassian wouldn’t be courtmartialled. Just have to stand still against Draven’s and Mothma’s resignation.
Very occasionally, grouches could be merciful. Draven sighed again and unfolded his arms. “What do you think comes next?”
Hands clasped. Shoulders square. “Am I discharged?” (Honorably or not.)
What would you do if you were?
“But I knew,” Mon Mothma said, “you’d keep fighting.”
Fight anyway. Keep fighting.
“No.” Draven swung his feet and stood from the chair. “Not discharged. Not demoted either. You’ll retain the rank of captain, and will, as situations demand, make the calls accordingly.”
Continuing around the table, Draven crossed to a console, punched a button, and gestured Cassian over. “We’re in a lull. The Empire’s not going to spend the resources or draw further attention to their defeat at Yavin to relocate us right away. They’re going to regroup, and so are we. We have three objectives. One: maintain vigilance for if the Empire does seek reengagement sooner than expected.
“Two: train fresh recruits. Between Yavin and Alderaan, we have our highest influx of those to date. But also our greatest deficit of veterans to train them.”
…between Yavin and Scarif.
“Three: Planetary survey. We’ve got our new base fully operational. There are still Jedhan evacuees and offworld Alderaanians to rehome.” Draven switched off the display and crossed his arms once more. “You have qualifications that would be useful to all three. I’m presently disinclined to put you on stakeout. That leaves training or surveying. Would you like to submit a preference at this time?”
Training. Pros: extensive experience with consistent high results. Continued rehabilitation and reassessment for Cassian himself re: restored/adjusted baselines and his own future field readiness. Cons: his strengths as trainer were more specialized and one-on-one. But mainly: Draven’s omission implied he didn’t blame Cassian for Scarif, but there were others who would. Including… even if Cassian could still inspire such trust…
(A kind of atonement and a kind of punishment. Training more beings to take the places of those he’d led to death.)
Surveying. Pros: adequate cross-applicable experience—assessing and adapting to fresh environments. Using skillset (for a change) for something purely constructive and in service of peace. Cons: no direct experience—survivalism not the same. But mainly: possibly more isolation than…
(He’d known all along, why he’d worked so hard to fight it his whole life: once he let that casing crack, he might not be able to go back. He’d been right. It was split in two now.)
Cassian unclasped his hands from behind his back. They were tingling with how tight they’d been. He sat in the nearest chair, working the fingers of one with the other.
“I’m better qualified to being a trainer,” said Cassian. “But after Scarif—”
It could equally be if his reputation for it interfered, either in distortion/distraction or undermining of faith/authority. Or, start taking into account…
“What I want,” he’d heard himself say to Mon Mothma, “and ‘the right move’ have almost never been the same. I assumed they never could be.”
“—I would choose surveying. If I could… not do it alone.”
Something flickered onto Draven’s face. “Noted. Thank you, Captain. Continue physical therapy and acquainting yourself with the base until you’re informed of your next assignment. It won’t be more than a few days. Any questions?”
He should take it gratefully and ask for no more. Cassian didn’t want to ask. Especially when he wasn’t entitled to an answer. …But… “Jyn?”
Mon Mothma actually, if slightly, smiled. “And that’s changing. With good tutelage. The influence goes both ways. …You should hang onto that.”
Observe Draven’s lack of surprise. “Is a free agent. If you wish to retain her as a contractor, I’ve no objection. If she wishes to volunteer for other assignments, she can do so through you, but submit for my approval.” The faintest glimmer of humor. “If possible.”
Cassian wasn’t so far gone from his old discipline as to show emotion. He was lightyears gone from his old self, that wouldn’t have felt the urge to. He knew, if he raised his eyes to Draven and let himself say multiple syllables… But of course Draven already knew. Cassian retained the skills, but not the immunity to them. That which had been severed had, against all effort and odds, returned.
“Thank you,” said Cassian. The more intimate for leaving off …sir.
Draven’s mouth barely twitched. No matter how brief and gruff, he chose to say the words.
As had Mon Mothma.
* * *
(They had ended up spending two hours after all, and it had been interesting. Han Solo gave the impression of having too little patience for dejarik, but had surprisingly strong tactical skills. Cassian didn’t have the passion to excel at sabacc, when he wasn’t cheating, but was grimly satisfied to discover he still had the inscrutability. At both, they’d been disconcertingly well matched. Several narrow wins for each, one draw, and an irrational sense of familiarity as of having served a campaign together.)
All Cassian wanted right now was to find Jyn. Lie down against her, fit his face into her throat. Maybe fit more and this time this once not stop… —But he obeyed his instinct to swing through the hangar again to check back at the Falcon.
“Hey!” Han shouted. “Look who’s back.”
Cassian couldn’t tell if Han was talking to him, or to the massive furred head that poked out of a hatch. Either way, Chewie roared and promptly vanished. Cassian caught the meaning, Stay there. Moments later, Chewie reemerged down the gangplank proper. Walking beside him…
At the time, years ago, Cassian hadn’t been prepared to give himself the credit to assume he’d recognize them if he ever saw them again.
There was a second Wookiee now at Chewbacca’s side. Cassian knew her at once.
* * *
Yet she’d been offered private quarters at Echo Base. And asked instead to room with Cassian.
She arrived at those quarters first, feeling thoroughly irritated… in a way that also felt oddly… attended to. The med droids insisting they knew better than she did, re: what she might know or need—or have done: a refusal to believe her that she fully expected from organics but not from droids, even with her record—made her want to do very droidphobic things to them. But at the same time… how long had it been since anyone had cared, not left her entirely responsible for her own… everything?
(At least she knew that if she and Cassian ever did do what everyone, apparently including the droids, decided they already had, any infections or diseases either might have been exposed to would stand no chance. The barrage of antibiotics and antivirals that had been par for the course for Cassian for years, Jyn was on record as having consented to on Yavin 4, even if she couldn’t remember doing so now. What would the Partisans have done, she wondered, if they could have so thoroughly escaped infection and disease…?)
Despite this assurance that she was physically healthier than she may had been since childhood, and really not much physical invasiveness, she couldn’t help feeling… …skincrawly. She’d finished her cursory prowl of the base. She didn’t know when Cassian might arrive, but she could relax into the privacy of the ’fresher.
Any shower had long ago become luxury for Jyn. But a hot water one… Even on the Yavin 4 rainforest, availability of water amenities was seasonal. Showers were usually kept on sonic setting, like aboard ship. On Hoth, though, there was no shortage of meltable snow, apparently easier to heat than the air of their rooms.
She stayed in it far longer than she ever thought she would have been able to stand, just letting it gently pummel her shoulders and back and scalp. It didn’t matter it was a different base. It didn’t matter they’d been through full medical and a long shore leave since. Arriving here was echoing too strongly of first arriving again from Scarif. The water swirling around her feet from off her body was clear, but she imagined it full of sand.
It was hard to remember that she didn’t have to conserve water here. Nonetheless, she felt a bit horrified at herself hearing the outer door open, and she was still standing under the stream. She turned it off, blasted herself with the dryer, and layered back up to avoid freezing when she stepped out of the steam-filled ’fresher.
She emerged at last—hair untied and puffed up like a weed spore, body wrapped in several thermal layers that were standard issue with the quarters and all too big for her; a look she might not have allowed Cassian to see even now except she refused to humour any grimmer or more dignified impulse. But she emerged to see Cassian sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at something in his hands.
Jyn quickly pushed back her hair, flattening it against her scalp, and pulling it toward the base of her neck. Whatever was playing across his face… “Hey,” she said. “What is it?”
He tried to look up at her, but only a managed a partial glance. “She heard I was… she came all this way to find me.”
Jyn came closer to look down at his hands. A datacard lay across them. Jyn forced back the tension that rose in her throat and spine. “I can make myself scarce,” she said, “if you want to—”
Cassian shook his head. “Stay. Please.”
Another silence. Jyn tried to read his mind the way he sometimes could read hers. She couldn’t… but she could trust, as she wouldn’t with anyone else, their similarities. Projecting what her intent would be onto anyone else was an impulse she’d killed years and years ago… but with Cassian…
She turned, scanned the room, crossed to the data station, and found a reader. She brought it back over, sat on the bed beside Cassian, and offered it to him.
Silently, he accepted it, and inserted the card.
There was no hologram. Just a vid. Which flickered on instantly to show the “face” of K-2SO.
Jyn’s mouth dropped open. She kept her peripheral vision on Cassian’s face.
“Cassian,” came the familiar vocoding at once. Disconcerting for not being distorted, as organic voices inevitably were over electronic playback. Kay’s voice was already consistent. “If you are viewing this, it means that despite your best efforts to predecease me, the opposite has occurred. It is an unlikely eventuality, but one I wish to prepare for nevertheless.
“The datacard you are viewing contains not only this message, but a full backup of my current self.”
Only extensive combat training kept Jyn from leaping straight off the bed. She didn’t know what was keeping Cassian so perfectly still. She could feel his heart thudding through their touching shoulders.
“I know I expressed disinterest in this practice when we discussed it in the past,” continued the late Kaytoo. “I have extensive files on the Clone Wars, cross referenced with restrictions on my present existence within the Alliance due to remaining stigma. I didn’t feel the need to risk seeming to perpetuate a kind of cloning. I do not feel the need either to attempt to ‘immortalize’ my programming. My presence in the universe is not invalidated with being finite. I am secure with my singularity. I have no impulse to procreate. Should my present form be destroyed, the likelihood of finding another KX chassis within the communities currently matching my sympathies are low, and I find the prospect of being housed in another model ludicrous. None of these are active disinclinations, as I have projected how I would feel were I the backup rather than the original, and that doesn’t bother me. They are why I didn’t feel the need to pursue it for my own benefit.
“We also discussed any motivation for your benefit. You rejected the premise that I could ‘owe’ you more than a single ‘lifespan’. I will not repeat all the assumptions and inapplicabilities contained within those terms, but it was sufficient for me, how strongly you felt on the subject.
“I have changed my mind. Though I doubt you remember the conversation that caused me to reevaluate.
“When I extracted you from Jelucan, the circumstances for your cover identity had made it impossible for you to avoid a high intake of intoxicants. Once secured, with objective fulfilled, you were uniquely unfiltered in your expressiveness. You confided that the very first time we spoke—or rather, when you first spoke to my reprogrammed consciousness, a new individual from my previous Imperial existence—your dominant thought had been What have I done?”
Jyn could feel more than hear Cassian’s whisper: “Kay… no.”
“Don’t do what I’m sure you just did,” scolded recorded Kay. “I knew this was no comment on my value or my state of welcomeness. I knew you were regretting what you felt to be irresponsibility or failure of care on your part, in imposing a certain existence upon me.
“Again, all else being equal, I was content not to pursue this course.
“I did not reevaluate in this direction until Jenoport. That was when I gave more weight to my desire to know that even were I destroyed, you would be looked after by someone I trusted. Since the only being I trust to do it properly is myself.”
Jyn couldn’t help grinning, and imagined she felt a shiver of almost-laughter from Cassian where their shoulders touched.
“That synchronized with my realization how I could efficiently debunk your ridiculous guilt about this.
“You torture yourself, quite stupidly, that you didn’t give me a choice. You know that no matter how you look at it, that’s exactly what you did in performing the jailbreak reprogram. You expressed dismay you’d only given me one good option rather than several. Join you in the Rebellion, or choose between likely scenarios of destruction. Your assessment then was that joining you couldn’t really be my ‘choice’. Even accepting this oversimplification: you gave me one choice when before I’d had zero. Organics understand the difference between 1 and 0 in mechanical matters. You insist on discounting that difference when it comes to abstracts over which organics claim monopoly—feelings and judgment. Given your ignorance of or refusal to accept your own mathematical determinism, no less than binary for droids… Whatever. You’re wrong. And now I can prove it.
“I do choose the existence you offered. For myself, even if the variable in acting on it this way is you. I choose it in the form of this backup.
“I trust you still remember your abjectly terrible plan in the F’tzner System, and my resultant victory on Charissia.”
Cassian explained to Jyn later: “We boarded an Imperial freighter to set it up as diversion for a raid. We found three Wookiee cubs aboard. We couldn’t leave them imprisoned. We couldn’t bring children into combat either. I dropped them onto an unsettled moon with Kaytu to watch over them, until the raid was over. Kay was skeptical about his suitability for the job. But it was fine. They loved him. Afterward, we were able to help them get home.”
Recorded Kay went on: “I’ve remained in correspondence with D’koetaa since then. She and her siblings still consider themselves under a life debt to us, having freed them from slave trafficking, and were troubled feeling they had not satisfied it. It is mutually satisfying to her and to myself to enter this arrangement. I am entrusting this backup to her, knowing my 2.0 will be safe in her care, and she is genuinely content to stay aware of our trajectory. Should she learn of my destruction and your survival, she will see that this datacard gets to you.”
Also later, Cassian would say in half a voice, “D’koetaa was killed two years ago. Her sister D’lylaa is the one with Chewbacca here.”
There was a pause in the recording. When they resumed, Kaytu’s rhythm and tone were altered. “You will be able to intuit much of this. But I also know your insistence on explicit consent.”
That chill through Jyn again.
“I am making the backup immediately following the recording of this message. However primary and secondary me diverge from here onward, this is the same being speaking to you, with the same decisions and instructions.
“On behalf of myself, I insist: tell second me everything you and primary me experienced together subsequent to this backup. Including my destruction. It will be my desire and my privilege and greatly useful in moving forward. Do not think to ‘spare’ me of any of it. That will only annoy me and I’ll just find out elsewhere.
“I will temporarily accept whatever housing is available. With the confidence, of course, that you will do your best to upgrade me to my own tastes, as possible.
“If this backup is never activated, it will never be aware of it. It isn’t in a state of waiting, it’s entirely dormant and so comfortable either way. You know I’m not that patient.”
Until now, Jyn had forgotten her own presence. She was focused only on lending strength to Cassian, keeping their shoulders pressed together; being another witness to Kay’s existence, another confirmation of his sacrifice. This next bit… spoken more softly and haltingly than Jyn had ever heard Kay sound, a way he must only have spoken with Cassian when they were alone… She was suddenly aware of her intrusion on Kay and Cassian’s… not just friendship. The two of them as family.
Yet, that was exactly when Cassian’s hand found hers and tightly interwove their fingers. When Kay started:
“…I hope you know, Cassian.
“That another element of my doing this… is… I guess you'd say: 'hope'.
“Predeceasing you is how I want it to go.
“If it does, I’m sure I do it splendidly and spectacularly.”
“You did,” Jyn heard herself murmur. Cassian’s shoulder pressed a little more deeply into hers.
“You carry the burdens of others at all times,” said Kay. “The one thing I demand is not to be one of them. …You couldn’t carry me physically. Don’t try any other way either.
Kay in the recording… hesitated. Tilted his head as if in thought. Then raised a fist to thump against the wall. Through it: past Cassian’s recording-flattened voice. “What, Kay?”
Kay’s oculars shifted, in a way that even Jyn interpreted as a kind of smile.
“See you soon,” said Kay.
The recording clicked off.
With her free hand, Jyn reached over and gently took the datapad from Cassian’s limp one. She set it carefully, almost reverently, on the table.
She sat with Cassian in stillness and silence, not trying to embrace him, not leaving him alone.
She didn’t ask questions when finally he stood, one-handedly ejected the datacard, kept it tight in that hand while his other stayed in Jyn’s, and led her back out of the room. (She decided she didn’t care that she was in oversized gear. Nobody else looked particularly fitted in theirs either, bar maybe Leia.)
He took her to the hangar. She got her first look at the Millennium Falcon—which made it finally seem less ridiculous that Joma’s U-wing had cleared atmo. If the Falcon could do it, anything could. She sort of met Han Solo, but it wouldn't mean much until she got to know him later. This time, they just nodded at each other and stood aside while Cassian gripped D’lylaa’s forearms, and she bowed almost double to touch foreheads with him. Then Cassian handed the datacard to Chewbacca.
Most of the ensuing conversation was between the Wookiees. Cassian gave some specs and confirmations. Then he reclaimed Jyn’s hand and they retreated again to their quarters.
Only then, Cassian unlocked—sounds ripping themselves from his throat even she hadn’t ever heard before. When he finally quieted and stilled, and could bear to be touched again, she pulled him close and kissed his face… and somewhere in there his hand found her cheek and he kissed her mouth.
Somehow, it didn’t feel like the seismic shift she expected it to be. It was only right. What he needed, what she wanted, allegiance and gratitude and everything they'd shared and everything they hadn't but were willing to—wanted to—now, expressed and manifested and…
The nature of the kiss could have changed if they’d let it go on too long. But they disengaged before it did, pushing each other’s hair back out of their faces. His was tense, lined with loss, but almost smiling. Jyn said, already knowing the answer, “You weren’t giving it back, were you?”
“No,” said Cassian. “I heard on good authority Chewbacca's a mechanical genius. He’s gonna… do what Kay asked.”
That answered Jyn’s second question: how Cassian could make the decision that quickly. It wasn’t about what he wanted or judged to be… right or fair or… It was following Kay’s instructions.
“What kind of body will he be able to find for Kay here?” asked Jyn. It was an easier thing to focus on than the prospect of having Kay with them again, but a Kay who didn’t share so many crucial memories—so much moreso for Cassian than herself. Even though it meant he wouldn't know her at all.
…Actually, that could work better. Let them start things off on better footing. Except for that part about full disclosure 'cause he'd find out anyway. …But surely, then, in addition to her record before meeting them, he'd be able to see… what her impact on Cassian had actually been… …oh skies… what would Kay think of…?
“Empty med unit casing, maybe,” said Cassian. “Anything more complex than a mouse droid would do, to start. And like he said. We’ll upgrade.”
Jyn had been trying to pull her attention back, and that did the trick. She burst out laughing at the thought of Kay’s voice and attitude coming out of a mouse droid. Cassian, resting against her, let out a laughlike breath too. She kissed his face again, wondering again at their having walked through another crucial door with such unexpected ease. Wondering what the next one might be like. When it wasn’t about loss and relief… or if it ever could be with all the griefs they carried, separately and shared… but at least when it wasn’t about Kay.
“I think I’m looking forward to meeting this one,” said Jyn.
“I can’t think,” said Cassian.
“Okay.” She smoothed his hair, kissed him again, and lay them both down. “Notes on Echo Base? Or sleep? …Or find something brainless on the holonet? What would you watch when you were alone in hyperspace that wasn’t static?”
“Children’s programming,” he answered, surprisingly matter-of-fact. “Only thing reliably free of… what I got enough of at work.”
Jyn's mouth dropped open, somewhere between laughing and confirming—then at the sudden thought: “Oh, kriff, is The Octave Stairway still run?!”
He passed her the datapad, this time, so they could find out.
Once again, probably for the last time, all the citations from Star Wars Adventures issue 3: Tales from Wild Space (aka "Adventures in Wookiee-sitting") by Alan Tudyk & Shannon Eric Denton © & TM 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.
Continued thanks for responses. I think a lot about one of my heroes, Douglas Adams: how much he loved writing for radio because of the collaborative give-and-take, and how much he hated writing novels because it was so solitary. I'll bet he would have loved AO3 for the great way to incorporate some of both.
Re: my assertion about Chewie's mechanical genius: I am thinking about "Empire Strikes Back", which contains arguments against that… Han shouting "This one goes there, that one goes there!" and Chewie repairing Threepio bass-ackwards. ^_^ I think it's okay anyway… the Falcon being so patchworked yet Han being so particular that it probably couldn't keep flying without Chewie full stop but they're always having to negotiate its nonsensicality and their own theories; and I think he probably had his own reasons for not fixing Threepio up to full autonomy again until they were safely off Bespin. Whatcha think… reconcilable? I hope?
Chapter 9: Hoth via Eadu
Jyn bolted upright and screamed. “Father!”
What had happened? Her vision had gone black. The explosion…? the fire…? had she been blinded temporarily or for good? How could she save Papa or kill Krennic if she couldn’t see—? The direction had been… number of paces… enemies in her way… she wouldn’t make it. But—
Something—a hand—brushed her arm.
Without a second’s thought, she struck out in the direction likeliest to be her assailant’s throat.
Her hand was blocked in the air. She whirled and snapped her arm to capture the other’s in turn, bringing her other hand up to strike.
She perceived the next few moments—countermoves—aeons—in fever flashes. Her body taking into account that she was seated, even while her mind was standing on that platform; twisting to pull them both to the floor, pinning and scuffling and repinning, getting to feet, whirling kicks and blows… infuriating lack of contact, her opponent evading, not landing strikes either… seemingly trying just to… what… capture her? Try just try…!
The crack of skull against wall woke her for real.
She blinked, staring… at her own hands pinning Cassian to the wall. At him unresisting, no longer trying to contain or wake her, not trying to fight her. But his hand going to the back of his own head, to stopper the shock and check for blood.
Jyn’s hands leapt back from him. The rest of her followed. She stumbled backward… and for the first time since she was eight, tripped over her own feet. She landed with a thud on the floor.
Cassian was at her side again and she recoiled from him.
She hadn’t understood. Why, when it was his turn to grapple with the thing that they both knew and never stopped having to face, he would withdraw from her. That he’d never quite been able to explain (to her satisfaction) how he felt… like a grenade. That letting her get too close wouldn’t stop him exploding. It would just hurt her the worse.
She’d given him a black eye their first week (both consciously) sharing a bed. Other nights, his fingers had left bruisemarks gripping her arm. Neither had blamed the other, and both had been able to follow the other’s urging to forgive themselves.
Nothing like this had happened in months. And never this extreme.
She understood finally feeling too dangerous to be touched.
—Except. With Cassian, she knew it was always because he hated himself.
In that moment, as she hadn’t since before Scarif…
For a moment, again, she hated him. She knew what she could do to people she hated. When she got the chance.
“Get back!” she snarl-warned-pled.
“It’s me, Jyn,” said Cassian.
“I know,” she snapped. “Stay away.”
A look more shocked and pained than when his head hit the wall, as Cassian sat back.
Jyn saw and began to sob.
You lied to me. You went up there to kill my father. I’ll bet you have.
They’d done this. We’ve done this! Don’t… don’t bring this back now… don’t run… don’t steal everything now… no
What do you mean does he look like a killer
You lied about why we came here
You lied about why you went up alone
Even though you know they’re wrong
Alliance bombs that killed him
“I have to go,” she gasped. Pushing herself to her feet, whirling around, grabbing for whatever gear was nearest to hand.
Cassian had always said he didn’t want to test which of them would win in unarmed combat. His bet would be on her. Hard to say if they’d just done so at last—he hadn’t been trying to defeat her, but she hadn’t been fully aware… so maybe it evened out? …but then, hadn’t she beat him, regardless…?
He came for her anyway. Springing to his feet, surging forward, and grabbing her in his arms.
He’d never touched nor held her in a way she couldn’t have easily stopped, left, the instant she wanted to.
He restrained her now. Using not skill or dexterity but simple, brute force in his superior height, arm length, shoulder width. Maybe not weight or strength, but still enough to make the difference. When he’d caught her at that angle, and braced himself to withstand countermove. She strained against him… but she didn’t want to hurt him… was frantic at touching him and any attempt to escape from this particular hold would involve sinking further into him and going limp… and she couldn’t… she couldn’t… She let out almost an animal howl, shaking and seizing.
But he didn’t let her go. Until finally she did go still.
It still could have been, belatedly, the escape bid. The moment she stopped resisting, he might loosen or alter his hold, at which point she could break away, or break him.
They both knew it.
And he did it anyway. Loosened his arms.
She could have left or hurt him then.
She stayed against him.
Both shook as they breathed. His hand came up, hesitant, to touch her hair.
She didn’t turn to press her face to his chest. Didn’t embrace him back. Just closed her eyes and didn’t try to break away.
He dropped his hand. But didn’t move away either.
“Why didn’t you?” she whispered, throat too raw for full voice. You went up there to kill my father. They’d been together for months and months. They’d held each other through grief, shed tears neither had been able to alone, heard each other’s screams in the night. Orders that I disobeyed. They hadn’t talked about any of it by choice. I had every chance. Months and months. But did I? “Why didn’t you?”
His heart thudded under her ear.
Slowly, his arms fell away from her.
She wrapped her arms around herself to make up for the loss. Hadn’t she wanted to be free…?
As the silence dragged, she finally looked at him. She wasn’t entirely aware of what she’d screamed on waking. Without that puzzle piece… He might not, after all, know what she was talking about.
He was bowed forward, eyes alternately closed and staring at the floor. Yes, he knew.
“I wish it was because I realized you were right,” he said. “That I saw what was happening on that platform and. Realized Draven’s theory didn’t account for it. But. Yours. Did. I wish it was because… I was able to… break from… having taught myself… that what I wanted to be true… what I wanted to do, and what was… … the right move… couldn’t ever be the same. That maybe I wasn’t compromised… I was just… seeing it.”
His hand went of its own accord to the back of his head again. It changed direction a second before arriving there, to instead dig his knuckles against his eyes. Worried about manipulating her even now. Don’t indulge in pain. Not when she caused it. But it wasn’t her fault because…
“It’s not a good enough reason,” he said, voice thick and unhappy. “But…
“I couldn’t shoot because he…
“Because you look like him. Have the same eyes.
“I looked at him and saw you.”
The silence hung for a moment. As Jyn tried to untangle how she could possibly feel about that.
Cassian sat back to cover his face.
He looked over his own hand a few moments later at her, as Jyn’s breathing changing gently again to crying.
“His last words to me,” she whispered. “Were ‘I have so much to tell you.’”
Then her voice left her and she openly wept.
Cassian gave her space. Until she blindly reached out, wondering if he would be there at all, and her hand was instantly met and held by his. Her crying doubled: grief plus relief. Cassian’s hand closed, strong, understanding, around hers.
Her sobs at last slowed. She could breathe and hear. She shifted to rest her hand, still joined with Cassian’s, onto her own knee, and rest her flushed forehead against the back of his hand. Even while holding hers, his hand was so cold.
She couldn’t be held by him right now… even if he could bring himself to hold her. With… this… with… Galen… with Cassian’s… with this between them.
But it also bound them. So they sat apart but their hands held firm.
She didn’t know how she’d get out of this moment. Especially so long after it should have been killed dead. She didn’t know when she’d be up to figuring out.
She hadn’t expected Cassian’s voice, soft and steady, to suddenly cut through the dark.
“Did you hear? What was happening?”
She blinked sightlessly. “…When?”
“On the platform. Before you got to the top. Could you hear anything?”
“No,” she said, at a loss. “The wind…”
Cassian’s voice was… she couldn’t have found the words, but even in the dark, she knew exactly what look would be in his eyes and on his face. “I did. I saw.
“The man in white… Krennic. Had his troopers aim on the scientists. Galen put himself between them. They killed the rest of the scientists anyway. Krennic struck Galen to the ground.”
It was nothing Jyn couldn’t have expected of Krennic, certainly no worse than what came moments later. But Jyn felt her chest coldly contract. I hate you I hate you I hate you
—to Krennic. Not Galen. Not Cassian. Once to all three but only Krennic stayed there.
“I didn’t trust myself to interpret,” said Cassian. “But there’s no other way to look at it. The leak was discovered. Galen tried to give himself up to spare his team. It didn’t work because Krennic was going to torture your father before he killed him. I couldn’t read lips at that distance, in that weather. But whatever Krennic said to Galen before you… and the squadron… arrived… Krennic killed the team anyway. So anything he said would also have been designed to make Galen despair before he died.”
Jyn couldn’t tell if the convulsion of her hand and body were meant to pull Cassian closer to her or push herself clear of him. Maybe both. But they offset themselves to neither.
In any case. Cassian wasn’t going to stop now. His voice had taken on a timbre she’d heard before. Long ago, and not often. …When he felt a sense of… selfless… purpose. He was telling her not as a confession or justification for himself. He was telling her something he thought she needed or deserved to hear.
“ ‘I have so much to tell you.’ Those are words of hope, Jyn. You transformed his last moments from despair to hope.
“It’s not enough to make up for how it happened at all. How we failed you.
“But you did not fail him. You changed everything for him. You saved him.
“It’s what you did for me, too.”
…She was in his arms, then, and if she couldn’t quite remember deciding to put herself there, she was completely fine with the result. She kissed him and drank him kissing her, back.
And she was so lightheaded from the shock of violent waking, from gasping tears, from overdue revelation after a lifetime of rejecting them, from everything she’d been suppressing with Cassian after years of suppressing Galen and everything and everyone else, she found herself straddling his lap, grinding down against the response she felt in him, a breath away from ripping away the fabric between them. She just wanted to feel warmed and filled and good and alive.
…And in that moment, she knew, he would have given it to her… given himself to her…
…but not because he wanted it too, even if he did…
…because he didn’t want to add insult to injury… didn’t want to reject her or make the moment about him…
…felt he owed her.
She went very still… only the painful throbbing where they so close touched, a tide unto itself…
Not like this.
She’d started wondering if it could ever be right, be good and peaceful and right enough, for it…
And maybe it wouldn’t, and maybe she hated that, and maybe she didn’t want that to be true and would have to settle for less than the perfection she wanted for him, and maybe for herself too…
But definitely not like this.
Slowly, she eased herself back. She knew what he meant, just then, about being unable to trust one’s own judgment because you wanted too badly… not knowing whether she was right or projecting that the breath he let out… strained and uncertain… mightn’t also be…
(disappointed or relieved?)
She didn’t change course. She slid to her knees, both together, beside him. Put her face against his for a moment. Then pulled back and murmured, “Turn on the lights so I can check your head?”
…He did as she asked. He always would.
Though it set her heart thudding again that, first, he pulled her close, so gently, his hand cupping her face with fingertips combed into her hair, for one more kiss.
Then reached back, from where she couldn’t have guessed they still were, to turn on the light.
Chapter 10: Hoth -> Zyll Zeta
“You’ve been requested,” said Draven. That was an unusual start to an assignment delivery. “To Planetary Survey Team Orenth.” …Still unusual…? “By team members Dameron and Bey.” …Aha. “You are permitted to draft one other team member,” added Draven, pointedly not rolling his eyes. “Including freelancers.” Oh just say her name.
His phrasing was sharper than he meant to be: “Will there be anybody qualified on this mission?”
More qualified for surveying than a pilot, a soldier, a spy, and… actually, for all he knew, Jyn could have relevant expertise. They were sharing their pasts a little. Very, very little. It was less unwillingness for the other to know as for themselves to revisit.
Draven lifted an eyebrow. “Bey and Dameron have fulfilled their training and several such missions. I believe they’ve picked their own homestead on Yavin 4, should the planet continue to be left alone.” The look gentled into something more dry. “But yes. You’ll have geology tech, a botanist and a zoologist.”
Chastened, Cassian nodded and stood. “When do I report?”
“If you accept,” said Draven, “I’ll notify Bey and she’ll be in contact directly.”
The automatic [of course] I accept died in Cassian’s throat. He was done with that part of his life—where he had no priority but the next mission. He didn’t want to speak only for himself, and wasn’t going to speak for her too before talking to Jyn. Good as the assignment sounded, sure as he was she’d be as up for it as he was, he didn’t want to go anywhere without her. He didn’t even mind admitting as much to himself. He’d lived the other way long enough.
He also wanted to touch base with Chewbacca and D’lylaa before taking off. In case D’lylaa wouldn’t still be here when he returned; and to get a progress report on… Kay… Two.
But Cassian was unaccustomed to giving Draven any answer but yes. He had a hard time imagining himself formulating another. For now, again, he just nodded. Draven, telepathic as ever when it came to his agent (protege), allowed it.
…Except to add, his voice pausing Cassian on his way to the door, “It probably won’t stay this way forever. We should all take advantage of it while we can.”
Cassian might be the last person who needed to be told that. But he took no offense, recognizing the… lingering… sadness, underlying Draven’s gruffness. Sadness that Cassian was unable to choose another life even now. He couldn't rule out more varied futures, as he once had. Still. This might be as close as he got.
* * *
Eventually, Jyn thought (wanting to find it funny and instead feeling nervous), she and Cassian would have a conversation that did prove difficult. He’d approached her with the assignment proposal reluctantly, as if it wasn’t the bread-and-butter practically-a-vacation doing-tangible-direct-good-for-others easy-yes that it was.
As they crossed the tarmac now, packs slung over their shoulders, she got another chill remembering the two times they’d strode across the Yavin 4 landing pad. The first time, to Cassian and Kaytu’s U-Wing; the second, to Rogue One. It was Hoth, now; they were in different clothes, the contents of their packs were almost entirely dissimilar, and they weren’t alone; Kes Dameron led the way a few paces ahead.
Cassian had foregone a blaster. In fact, he hadn’t touched a weapon since he’d left the bacta tank. Jyn was so far from arguing that he should, she’d fight anyone who suggested it. She would, though, assign herself to security detail in his stead; and had equipped herself with both blaster and batons.
It was not a U-Wing at which they arrived. Made sense to go with a civilian craft, not to tie up the military asset if the planet they arrived on was truly unsettled; better for first impressions if it wasn’t, either to pass themselves off as tourists or be convincing as the non-conquerers they were. Jyn was also glad for this other dissimilarity. As long as they could, they would try to perpetuate the fantasy of never again.
(As they also were, possibly, their own interpersonal forever.)
…Apparently, despite the good assignment, she seemed to be in a dismal mood. She could occasionally feel Cassian’s eyes, sidelong, on her. Good for him, he didn’t comment.
“Here we are!” said Dameron, both to Jyn and Cassian, and to the rest of the team waiting at the ship. It was comprised of another Human—Shara Bey—and two strangers.
The first, a Togorian who Bey would introduce as Ffas’va, took one look at the team and rolled her ears. “Typical.”
“Here we go,” said Bey with the facial version of nudging you in the ribs.
“It would be refreshing if just once,” retorted Ffas’va, “Humans were the minority. Or there were more than one of anyone else.”
“Huh,” said Dameron, either genuinely having not thought of it before, or going along with it. “Is it because the Rebellion was founded by Humans?”
“And Humans are the most spread-out species,” said Bey. “We’re not the most populous, but we populate the most separate planets. And we don’t stick to them as exclusively, so we dominate spacefaring enterprises. Like the Rebellion.”
And the Empire thought Jyn darkly, but didn't want to equate the two like that in front of Shara, Kes, and especially Cassian.
“Human disposition to expand?” suggested the other stranger, a Rishii, name later given as Qorrek.
“Or conquer,” muttered Jyn, aloud this time.
“And to bridge between other communities?” Qorrek seemed more inclined to be charitable.
“No home,” said Cassian.
All eyes turned toward him, variously curious, surprised, and wounded.
“-Planet,” he clarified, expression closed. “No homeworld.”
No external nonchalance on his part quite silenced the echo; but those least connected to it moved on quickly.
“That could be it,” said Qorrek thoughtfully.
“Hmmmaybe,” said Ffas’va.
“It is,” said Cassian. “No matter where we settle, there are always those not satisfied; who keep looking. Who will always be more interested in the wider universe than any intraplanetary cause.”
Jyn gazed at his now-familiar features and remembered how they’d looked when he’d said Welcome home. (The first glimpse of the universe in his eyes.) She thought of those people, who insisted on something more historic: Idiots. When you found your home, if you knew what that really meant, none of that mattered.
Cassian looked, though, at Ffas’va and added, “I agree with you. The more differences a group contains, the stronger and wiser it can be. If it pays attention.”
“But great majority will grow complacent,” said Ffas’va with a nod. “Well, that’ll have to be refreshing enough for now.”
“Humans don’t tend to agree with you, I take it,” said Jyn, needing to turn focus elsewhere. Also feeling more kinship with Ffas’va in that moment than she had a right to. She didn’t really get along with Humans either. But then, Jyn historically didn’t get on with anyone.
“They don’t get far enough to think about it,” said Ffas’va, shaking her fur. “Just twitchy and derailed.” She blinked at Bey. “But I’m appreciating your choices this time, Commander.”
Bey grinned. “I thought you might.” She winked at Jyn and Cassian, as if to say, What, thought we requested you just ‘cause we like you?
(Or want you to get together)
* * *
Zyll Zeta was a Class M planet, which Dameron immediately dubbed “Zelly”. Ffas’va and Jyn looked appalled until Bey confirmed no documentation would ever be filled with that on it.
Day one was spent in environmental protect suits, looking around and taking readings. Just because the air was breathable didn’t mean there wasn’t deadly stuff floating around in it. Day two, they were able to take off the entect masks and pullovers and walk around in more comfortable jumpsuits, still doing their best to leave as little impact on the planet. Day five or six would be, finally, seeing how they and it interacted with each other. But meantime there were more readings to take, from atmospheric to geologic to botanic, all the while keeping eyes, ears, sensors, and radiowaves primed to confirm that this planet was indeed unsettled by any sentients. To Jyn’s obvious surprise, Cassian attached himself immediately to Qorrek in assessing the nonsentient fauna. To Cassian’s obvious admiration—he seemed to enjoy watching her scan things; admittedly, it was more still and serene than Jyn usually stayed for any amount of time—Jyn herself teamed up with Ffas’va to explore areas deemed geologically notable from space, see if they presented any current issues, were remnants of long past phenomena, or could house hidden assets. Dameron and Bey stuck nearer to basecamp to test the flora and monitor the radio and ’net for unexpected readings.
There were stories to tell around the heaters when the teams reconvened for dinner. Every one of the beings around her, Jyn was finding, was fascinating. Bey and Dameron, she’d gotten to know a little already, to tell their reputations barely scratched the surface. Ffas’va and Qorrek were both of species with whom she’d had little dealings, but that faded quickly to the least interesting thing about them when they got to talking about their areas of expertise and prominent roles in their fields—before the Empire started forcing nonhumans out of major institutions.
And Cassian. They’d shared so little of their pasts with one another. She was pretty sure it was because they felt the same way: not that they didn’t want the other to know. Just that, in moments of peace, as they had with each other, they wanted to enjoy that peace rather than force themselves back into something more volatile.
But when Qorrek recounted how a local quadruped had leaped out, snarling, and Qorrek had been ready to kill it, Cassian had interposed himself between them, approached the animal at an angle, not making direct eye contact, and holding out a hand, until the animal came to him. And in short order was purring and rubbing its head into Cassian’s hand like a loth-cat. Which in turn led to Cassian admitting to his time during the Lothal Blockade tracking Imperial Probe droids, where most of his days were spent lying so still and silent in the long grasses, wild loth-cats would saunter over, climb on top of him, and fall asleep.
“Guess cats find you irresistible,” Dameron chuckled.
Ffas’va snorted. “You did good, but hope you won’t expect me to crawl into your tent.”
“Oh, no,” said Qorrek cheerily, “surely Siandor’s coupling with Nerso.”
Bey and Dameron both did perfect spit-takes. Jyn laughed and Cassian grinned.
“Or not?” said Qorrek while Ffas’va guffawed.
“It’s okay,” said Cassian.
“Everyone thinks so,” said Jyn.
“You don’t mind them thinking so?” said Ffas’va.
Jyn shrugged. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing regardless. So might as well find it funny.”
“And neither of us is interested in such things with anyone else right now,” said Cassian, “so might as well have a cover for it.”
…He’d obviously regretted speaking for Jyn as soon as he’d done it, but had pressed forward so no one would notice. No one except Jyn herself. Was she interested with anyone else? She knew the answer. She wondered how she felt that Cassian didn’t. (Or, most likely, did but feared to presume.)
“Well,” said Ffas’va, stretching languorously, then collecting her scant barely-touched dinner rations, “having cleared the requisite levels of examination, I’m finally going to go on a hunt. Any objections?”
“Only if I can’t do the same,” said Qorrek. “But…” Both their eyes turned to the mission’s leader, Shara.
Shara considered them both, gnawing her lip slightly. “It’s not technically against regs at this phase,” she said. “But I’d prefer we not completely disrupt the local ecosystem.”
“Single kill at most,” said Ffas’va.
“Forage only,” said Qorrek.
“Stay inside the demarkations?” asked Shara, already knowing the answer.
“Where the environment has been significantly disrupted by us, if only by scentmarking?” said Ffas’va. “There won’t be any game going near there.”
Bey glanced over—at Cassian. Neither Jyn nor Dameron minded, Cassian had fallen easily into unofficial first officer status immediately, and everyone was content to have him there. He too had a considering look on his face, but nodded. “Can call it graduation to the ‘test interaction’ phase. Just because the system was designed with Humans in mind doesn’t mean it should be, when there are nonhuman sentients in need of resettling too.”
Ffas’va shot him a grin, sharp teeth glinting in the heaterlight. “Good 'Man. Shall we, then?”
“All right,” said Bey. “Have a good night, everyone. Just make sure to get some sleep eventually. We pick back up at oh-six-hundred, meeting back here."
Everyone variously saluted. Then Qorrek and Ffas’va took off, by unspoken agreement, in different directions. Bey and Dameron settled back against the heaters, digging out more intoxicating drinks. Jyn, knowing Cassian hated partaking, stood and held out her hand for him. “Then why don’t we take a walk? If Qorrek and Ffas’va are avoiding the offworld-smelling pre-lit path and field.”
Cassian exchanged a look with Shara, who nodded more easily, smiline. Easily too, Cassian took Jyn’s hand to get to his feet.
“Stick to the demarkations,” Bey said by rote, knowing they knew but obliged to say it. Before adding, “We’ll hold down the fort.” aka won’t bother you.
“Have fun!” added Dameron. Before Jyn or Cassian could react to either of them, Dameron very quickly ducked his head to share a drink and continue swapping silly stories with Shara—no matter that, of all the team, the two of them were the ones to know each others’ stories already and best.
Jyn met Cassian’s eye, rolled her eyes, but also smiled and tightened her hand on his. He returned the smile and they stepped onto the tiny-light-lined path.
* * *
They walked mostly in silence. It didn’t feel like it. Zyll was symphonic in the night. Cassian could probably now—he’d better, it was what they were there—name most of the insects singing, and more of the vertebrates. Jyn could guess which plants were making which rustlings and sighs in the gentle wind. The climate was pleasant only without additional layers to their shipwear. She mentally added it to the list she never thought she’d revisit: planets she liked. Yavin 4. Yavin 12. Zyll. Lah’mu. Skuhl. No matter how things had ended, the planets themselves…
…she might even, maybe someday, think the same of Scarif…
Thinking of Skuhl, and the campfire stories, and Cassian and the loth-cats, Jyn wondered if she should tell him. Now, at all… tell him about Hadder. There wasn’t a “need”, really. That relationship had nothing to do with this one. But people shared their past experiences, didn’t they…? Only that might make Cassian feel obligated to share his.
Jyn didn’t mind knowing, she didn’t think. That is, she wouldn’t mind for herself. If it caused Cassian pain (which, per his file, seemed not unlikely enough) she minded that, for his sake. But she was starting to feel the need to share more with him. On several levels.
She didn’t say it. Instead, as they stepped into the starswept field, moving clear of the lanterned path to where they could be bathed more by the sky, she said, “You really think the local wildlife will stay away from here?”
“I’ll believe Qorrek and Ffas’va,” he said. “Both their species have superior olfactory capacity to Humans. It’s probably a wrench for them just to hang around the rest of us.”
“What are you saying?” joked Jyn. “I smell wonderful, thank you.”
“And I don’t?” he retorted with the same smile.
“You don’t want me to answer,” she said, smirking. (Even though, privately, the answer was You smell amazing I want to fill my lungs with you only…)
And somehow they were wrestling, laughing, pretending to try and get one another into a headlock as if to surround them with this theoretical aroma.
Until they found themselves on the ground instead, bedded gently in the grass, Jyn on her back with the stars in her stardust eyes, looking into Cassian’s, whose chest and heart (…and…) pounded onto hers, his face shadowed but still luminous, staring into her eyes.
Their hands found one another’s faces. Jyn found her body straining of its own accord to rub gently against him, another pulse.
Cassian’s eyes were universes as he looked searchingly at her. Her fingers curled in his hair. She couldn’t imagine what her face was saying. Oh kiss me fuck me wait I’m sorry I don’t mean god push inside me right now…
Far away from the lights of the path. Only in starlight, wind and grass. Hyperaware of their bodies together. Jyn wanted him so badly she couldn’t begin to figure out what to say.
Then Cassian spoke. His voice so soft. “Have you been holding back for you, or for me?”
Jyn stared. Blinked. Forced moisture back into her mouth, to her lips—which she couldn’t not see him look down at. “I’m… I thought…” Honest. Stop dancing. Sparing can be lying. “…for you.”
A look passed over his face that she had a hard time reading. Want too badly to trust interpretation… Was it… anger or… exasperation or… … … …Relief? …Loving…
“I mean…” Jyn hastily added. “I’m pretty sure I… I thought… should—?”
Cassian kissed her.
He rolled with her, easing her back. His hands running over her body, opening the spaces between her clothes to slip inside and find her skin.
Barely started, already she was gasping, head spinning, core throbbing to be touched, to be filled. —Shit, wait, he… wait… that he was good was an effect of… how and why he’d been taught, and what for…
“Oh,” she gasped at his lips on her throat and his hands in her clothes. She found her hands in his hair, her thighs tight around him, her calves holding him in as she arched off the ground to bear down on him deeper, drawing an answering sound from the back of his throat.
She didn’t want to stop but oh pfassk…
“You have to want to,” she choked, fingertips finding his face. “Don’t for me. Don’t if you don’t mean it.”
He drew back his head, to gaze down, meet her eyes.
“I want it. I mean it.” There wasn’t going to be more but suddenly there was also— “I love you.”
She blinked in astonishment. His eyes were steady. The rest of him wasn’t.
How often had she thought it… if she didn’t say it back now, would he…?
She took his shoulders; settled him onto his elbows around her, ran her hands down his arms, so she could find his hands. They were shaking. She drew them up, kissed each of them in turn, placed one on her heart, the other on her breast. Looked back into his eyes. “Love me, then,” she whispered. “Please.”
It was a far cry from the standard of ‘explicit consent’ Kay had established in the recording.
But it was enough. It was more them, anyway.
Cassian’s breath edged into a groan as he leaned forward and kissed her again.
His hands on her breasts were exquisite. His breath hitched further as she rode him from below. He was so hard and she was so wet, the fabric between them softened so much. He furrowed her through their clothes, which rippled with her folds, parting all, making both gasp and shake…
They both swore simultaneously in different languages; she, Core; he, Rim… which paused them, to laugh, which moved them more, which made them arch. Oh just tear them off—!
…no. this wasn’t going to be frantic. Nor violent. Not to any part of this, not even to their clothes. Nowhere near this. This was going to be the opposite of violence no matter what violent creatures they’d had to become. Not with each other. Not in this. They would make this peaceful.
The planet cradled them. The wind murmured them. The stars watered them. An ocean in her ears of beating hearts, of breath; wind, grass, and sky; and what bound it all together: the wordless sounds that were his voice (and her own).
As they had before, they paused; his hands gently pushing back her hair to frame her face. Her fingertips so light on the tendons of his neck, the hinges of his jaw. Their eyes again locked.
Parents of the world. Sea and sky.
Not frantic. Not violent. This wasn’t going to turn into anything involuntary, bad or good. They wanted every moment to be chosen. And present. Here. Now. This.
…so she’d been almost right. only it was his consent that she needed.
He was trembling. She blinked, cupped his face in her palm, craned her neck up, kissed him long and deep. Running her fingers along his cheek and through his hair, loving him back with her mouth, holding him against her until the shaking subsided. You’re here with me. Just me.
“You don’t have to,” she whispered again.
“You don’t have to protect me,” he whispered back. “Not from you. I promise I’ll stop if I need to. Only stop if you need to. Not for me. Okay?”
Whyever you have to, it better not be to protect me.
Wordlessly, she nodded.
Slowly, her hands slipped down his chest. One moved around his ribs, his waist to hold him close upon her, even as the other began opening his shirt.
Slowly, he braced himself down on one arm beside her, keeping the full imprint of her body against his, as his free hand followed the example of hers.
They bared one another’s skin. Didn’t move apart for an instant. When he had to sit back to pull free of his shirt, she rose up with him. He held her suspended with his arm so she could stay pressed to him from belly to chest; arc her back off the ground to pull off her own.
He laid her back as her hand found his jaw again, to kiss each other. She took his full weight onto her so they could stay fully joined while beginning to work each other’s belts.
It was so much more complicated than moving apart to do it each themselves would be. So inefficient and ludicrous. Several times their kisses dissolved into laughing against each other’s lips. But separating was unacceptable. (Never going to happen again.) And settling for separation by any width, even cloth, was not enough. So let it be slow. We’ve drawn it out so long. Maybe not all that was worth it. But this is.
…but yes it was worth it… you’re safe with me… i trust you… i believe you… i want you… love… i…
She pushed his fatigues down his narrow hips, her hands following his body’s every line, muscle and sinew and scar. He slid his hand between her and everything, loosing and opening the space between her and cloth until the latter slipped down; his fingers, his palm pressing and caressing her like he was moulding her from clay. She hooked her foot in the fabric to push clear, pull him fully free.
She moaned to be foiled when finally they couldn’t figure out a way to get her pants off without her rolling her legs together, rather than stay around him. At least he was taller, his arms longer than hers; he could reach to pull her free even as one arm stayed tight around her and they kissed each other’s eyes, throats, lips…
Then his hand was sliding up the inside of her ankle, her calf, her thigh, and she felt a surge of impatience at the thought of (more) foreplay, they didn’t need it, she wanted them together, molecules interlocking, atomizing into each other as on Scarif, filling one another’s spaces, not just gratifying her but seeing what their joining did to him… later she wanted to have him against a wall, a tree, atop shipping crates, make his chest heave and pulse pound in his throat, tilt him back, watch every moment of it, in positions she favored more; but here, in the rustling sea of this meadow, she would stay lying against the tilting, shifting earth because that was how to keep all of him against all of her, every inch, every fiber… she wanted his whole body on hers… and much as she enjoyed knowing he knew what would actually make her come, that wasn’t what this…
oh but all right, got to yield to… unh… that was… oh god…
Don’t think about how he knows this. How to be so good… do things so well… avoid the traps and mistakes most made… he understood continuous and waterlike and cumulation… he understood where she would feel… the most…
…She opened her eyes to look, with sudden naked fear, into his.
There was the galaxy in his eyes, just as it had been in the elevator. Even as his hand stilled and his brow furrowed, matching hers, she relaxed again. It didn’t matter how he’d come to learn. In that moment, all it meant was there was less impediment to making reality match desire. Be able to fulfill choice. Do exactly what he, they, wanted, which was find most quickly what would give her the reactions that shivered back through him… she couldn’t even worry she didn’t know as well to reciprocate. It didn’t matter. Past experience, for both of them—intimacy without breadth, technique without intimacy—didn’t matter.
Neither of them needed to do anything. Be anyone. To be exactly what was wanted. To do what was the most breathtakingly…
Her hand found his, then found him. “Here, now,” she whispered. Both their hands stayed together, barely joined, guiding him sliding into her.
He whispered a groan. She gladly gasped.
Their hands slowly worked out from between their pressed bodies. Then… though this was… maybe more unprecedented for both of them than any of the rest (…physically…)
…instead of moving to other… parts, once more; their hands turned together, pressing palms, twining fingers. Pulsing, searching… while his body on hers, in her, stayed, momentarily, perfectly still.
“I love you,” he whispered again.
She parted her lips. He stopped her with a kiss. Don’t say it back for a cue. Only when you want to. Only when you mean it.
She meant it. But yes. Every instant chosen. Together and separately.
As their lips parted, her free hand ran up his back. The vertebrae and tendons she could feel in his arched neck. Up to tingle his scalp, running through his hair. Kissing his cheek, the hollow where a muscle strained from his jaw reacting to the exquisite agony of keeping the stillness; his damp temple, his lips again.
Then she breathed back, “I love you.”
He cupped the back of her neck, her head, in his empty hand. Kissed her deep.
And began to move.
She let her head fall back, exposing her throat to him, bracing her legs and curving, deepening the cradle of her stomach, pelvis, and thighs, to take him in, drink him further, let his slow pushing strokes slide up, moving where his hand had done from the other side, rolling her with and against him, pulsing them together, pulling and relaxing at once. He was solid inside her, she was velvet around him, gliding together in soft tissues and singing nerves, her muscles rippling and gently gripping him in, there. Inexorable as the rustling grass like an ocean and their tidal breath…
“Cassian,” she whispered. Not to tell him anything. Not to communicate anything at all. Just… there was no other word, no other set of sounds, to satisfy the need of her chest and throat to express, release, relieve. Relieve me. Release. Me.
He buried his face beside hers, into the curve of her shoulder and neck, into her labor-loosened hair. And with another shock she realized there were tears running from his skin to hers.
She stilled her hips, tightening them to still him, too. Bringing their still-joined hands up in the grass beside her face. Restoring her other hand, which had strayed down his scarmuscled back, to his hair. Gently brought their joint hands to her face and freed her fingers from his, to cup his face. Whispered aloud this time, “It’s just me.” And raised his face to look at her.
For the first time, in any of this, he almost resisted her.
“I don’t want to stop,” he whispered.
“Okay,” she whispered back. “But if we do, that’s okay. It’s all okay. We have time. Cassian. We have time.”
His hands closed on her back, her shoulder, and he pressed his face again to her and the earth below her and let himself shake apart.
She hooked her leg around his again, but not this time to deepen sensation or… accomplish anything at all. Just furthering her arms around him, her neck arching to put her face against his, even her soft flesh folded tight and warm around him; embracing him with all of her.
“You don’t need to do anything,” she whispered. “For me to be glad of you.”
“You don’t need to do anything,” he whispered back. “To have all of me. Jyn. …I’ve always been yours.”
I missed you before I met you. How could a real, flawed, singular person be what was needed all along…?
She kissed him. He returned it.
And finally he returned in full, moving in her again. She didn’t restrain her moan, digging her fingers deeper into his hair, flexing her arms to pull his face tighter into her throat, rising her shoulders up off the ground for his hands to move beneath them, holding her from below as he worked in her from above.
Then one of his hands left her shoulderblade to run down and do the same to the curve of her thigh. Equal, opposite impulsion… suspension… angle altered just… so…
The feeling was so sweet—so unexpected from interruption and slowness—that she gasped and arched, rolling and pulling him, not feeling the ground beneath her, rather hanging on to his body as if to stop herself falling away. His fingers dug into her shoulder and thigh, too hard, perfect, working her muscles, floating her away from gravity itself. What meadow, what planet…? the galaxy above and in their eyes and inside where they joined was all she felt now. Around her and inside her around him.
“Cassian,” she groaned again at just the same instant as he exhaled, “Jyn—”
Was it the first time either had been tempted to say their partner’s name
Was it the first time they fully welcomed the sound of their own
Even with Hadder, she’d found the reminder of herself strange
There was no time, no person, where he’d not imagined himself away
In perfect unison (as always, over and over) their pace quickened.
For the first time in her life, without instant rejection, Jyn suddenly imagined impregnation. Pulling him into her in every last way, transforming what they made, no thoughts of what she could ever be like as a parent and whether she trusted the world enough to give it a child, only that she and him were so good (oh this is… keep going…) and what could grow of that and maybe this drive had purpose and power and oh what the kark Erso it’s just endorphins and hormones and epithelials and nectared membranes and fuck god yes and she was plateauing and primordial impulse from the intensity of pleasure that it’s Cassian Cassian with me inside me that’s him there and oh god yes this is quickening we’re in labor get it out of me bring to birth let it crown… and she climbed it and hovered just at the edge, so close to the peak… oh god so close… Cassian Cassian it’s you this is real I feel I have you, there, oh there, you’re, oh…
Cassian’s lips were suddenly brushing her ear. And around pulsing, driving breaths, he whispered a word she didn’t know—“Dámelo. Jyn. Give it. To me.”
She came, so hard, contracting so tight, her body rose clear off the ground, shuddering and rippling around him. She felt it run from her, something that had never happened before, and perhaps she should be confused or humiliated but not even a bit, she felt only moonlight and nectar. And she drifted down, shivering with perfect aftershocks, glad beyond belief he was still inside her, and coming to rest.
And felt his thudding heart and the gentler pulse of him buried, spending, deep.
No… yes, love, into me yes… but no… she’d so badly wanted to see his face when he came…
…But time. They had time. She sank again into the cradling earth, and cradled him in turn, and let herself sigh and breath and pull his head to her throat, letting their hearts pound and chests breathe together as the earth rolled them through it, helping them down.
“I love you,” she murmured again, almost tasting it. How long since she’d said it. And meant it. And wanted it. “Fuck. Cassian. I love you.”
He was breathing too hard to answer. But turned his face to kiss the sweat from her neck.
She tilted her head to feel his hair on her cheek. Her body curled ever so slightly… and at the feel of him still in her… She contracted again, pulling him hard and deep, making him nearly double inward, but still staying. She shivered with a second orgasm, taking her enormously by surprise (never so easy… because it’s… you there, you), and he kissed her heaving breasts as she came back down.
“Shit,” she gasped. “Pfassk. Kark. Fuck.”
“Good?” he murmured, breath like laughter, voice changed by release. He made no move to slide out from her. Which… didn’t men…?
“Did you…?” Could she be wrong about the pulse…? was it only her?
Another laugh of breath. “How much control do you think I have?”
“So we both…?”
“You sound disappointed…?”
“I didn’t want to miss it,” she said.
The faintest tension through him. Which suddenly told her what she needed to know. She had brought him over with her, not just ’cause he got off on how she felt, but… because… he could only let go, himself, under cover of hers. …Which… wasn’t the worst way, all things considered.
But she was already scheming how to get him to lose control when she’d be able to focus on it.
“Okay,” she murmured, tightening her arms around him. (And elsewhere, causing him to shiver with overstimulation. Though still, no attempt to pull out.) “I… am… so sorry we haven’t been doing that all along. And… really glad… we waited until…”
“…I know,” he murmured as she trailed off. Agreeing.
It might not have been… as… unrestrained or… as… ecstatic? as she had a feeling it could (will) be. But it made sense for that to come later. No amount of technique fully replaced knowing one another, more abandon would come with established trust… When they already knew. I trust you. I believe you. …I’m me. And I’m with you. And yes that was what to build on.
Everything against them. But they’d gotten there. They’d insisted. And they’d made it.
Love me she’d said… she didn’t think she’d ever wanted or received exactly that before. So perfectly. So completely.
“I don’t want to wait so long before doing that more,” she murmured, wondering if she should be even trying to monitor her words. Too relaxed to quite care.
He did laugh, sending a shiver through her now from inside out. “My mental pile of blueprints might be way ahead of you.”
“Blueprints!” she laughed, and the echoing ripple of her around him made his abdominal muscles joltingly contact, almost a cringe. And much as she wanted him there forever, fall asleep with him inside her, she took pity and gently shifted to slide him free.
…But he stopped her, with a hand on her waist.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered.
…And she knew he didn’t want to stay in her just for the symbolism, but at the same time… in the face of the universe… the pledge no one else had managed to keep.
But if anyone could. If anyone already had beyond all others.
She folded her legs and her body around him more closely, shifted them to be on their sides, content not to give this a decided parting but let it happen whenever it would on its own. And rested her head in the hollow of his shoulder.
Tomorrow morning, they might care about how Shara and Kes would know they’d been gone. (Not that they hadn’t been quite obviously rooting for this. But nobody else, no matter how liked, was welcome here; this was them, this was theirs.) Tomorrow morning, they might talk about the logistics they hadn’t already discussed, precautions taken, others not—moment of primordial passion elapsed, Jyn was far from sure she was willing to be pregnant, so if need be, they’d discuss the next step. (Thank the Alliance for options.) Sometime in the night, his body would slip from hers of its own accord—but first harden again and they’d see where that led.
Right now, as they’d been on that beach, they were together. And that, unlike the rest of their lives—eternally grating against and shocked by being outside the electromagnetic fields of how life was supposed to go, ions painfully hanging together but being forcefully shed; only together, finally, was stillness and just being, effortlessly, the fields enfolding them, stabilized, the internal gravity settled, finally… With each other, inside each other, was peace.
Chapter 11: Interstitial: Zyll Zeta
A quick (relatively fluffy?) interstitial. More meaty (and smutty) stuff later. :-)
The stars were still out when Cassian stirred beneath her. His hand came up to brush his fingers along her jawline, beneath her hair; his palm to her face, his lips to her temple.
She understood. She didn’t want to. She wanted to stay lying here in this field, pillowed on and inside of him, his warmth all through and around her, for the rest of her life.
But yes, with the stars beginning to fade, it was time to go back.
Their clothes had been scattered. They hunted for one another’s as much as their own, passing items back and forth. The air was chillier with their skin devoid of each other’s. Jyn’s shiver was something else. She suddenly couldn’t shake it: an echo of the little Partisan girl and the little Separatist boy… foraging for food all alone or for gear among the dead…
That mood was broken as they held out utility vests to one another and couldn’t tell which was whose. They both grinned and had to open some pockets to check the contents. Those likewise were uniformly utilitarian—and obviously they’d arranged the contents for best efficiency, so also the same. At last they pulled on whichever they already had.
She watched his body as they moved around. She’d been so aware of his form from almost the hour they met. The way he held himself, the threat of it, but also the magneticism; infuriating precisely for knowing she was not the only one who felt it; his body language always just so… suspended… held back… latent danger, innate authority… braintwistingly sexy, but not for anyone’s sake, rather for everyone’s… (warning? distraction?) galvanization.
All that was stripped away now. And he was more of those things than ever. Stooping and stumbling, not flexing or posing, less muscular than he seemed when clothed, more thin, so scarred. She found it warmed and thrilled and hurt her all the harder because this was just him, and he was allowing it just for her. She’d just had that part of him within her, run her hands over there, had those against hers… and she wanted it all again, now, again, and she loved all of it, loved all of
She didn’t want to pull the clothes back on. Felt strange watching him cover up, too. It felt like… leaving somewhere. They’d gone someworld apart, idyllic and at peace. Accepting the old skins (—was that why he’d changed jackets so much on mission? shedding a skin when he couldn’t otherwise escape?) meant returning to the universe that had done them both so wrong.
She reached for his hand. He was already reaching back.
They held on tightly as they started back into the woods.
A crick of a twig snapped them into opposing directions, back-to-back. They sabotaged their defense by keeping their hands tightly grasped.
Ffas’va dropped to the ground near them. Her flattened ears lifted, signalling peace.
“I thought we could head back together.” Her voice was dry, even with Togorian overtones.
Jyn felt a stab of… well, panic, but that always went straight to fury. “You were watching?”
“I was hunting,” Ffas’va said. “If part of it was to keep a perimeter, stop anything from intruding on your area…”
Jyn wanted to strangle her.
Cassian’s hand on hers, whether by intent or accident, stopped her. “Thank you,” he said. “We’re not used to being looked out for.”
That was a better spin to put on it. And… true. Anyway. Ffas’va could doubtless smell it on them. Whether she’d been previously aware or not. Indeed, she might not have been aware, just run into them now, and decided to give them a hard time. …Yes. That was likeliest. And explained Cassian’s tack. Jyn forced herself to relax. Everyone already assumed anyway. It was funny then. Let it stay so now. The reality was still hers, still Cassian’s—theirs, alone.
Ffas’va gave a purring sound. “Good choices indeed.” Like everything else in this exchange, too many ways to interpret, but Jyn decided to take it as a reprise of her comment on Shara’s team building. “The day waits.”
* * *
In a way, though, it just meant… not having to bother. No resisting. Like when they went off together and Jyn suddenly pushed Cassian against the bole of a tree. They ended up with Jyn balanced on a bough that gave with Cassian’s thrusts, making them laugh after the fact with the thought that if they’d gone too far, they could have flung themselves back to camp like a slingshot.
There was less privacy in camp and on the ship. Somehow… where Cassian would have thought he’d need full, secure seclusion to be fully amenable… nope, not at all. Jyn would press against his back in the dark; he’d roll over and they’d mould against each other, hands slipping to part layers just enough to slip slick together, able naturally to stay silent despite apparent efforts on both their parts to make the other not be. Jyn pulling Cassian between her thighs as she leaned back on her elbows on a pyramid of equipment crates, no matter there was only a narrow corridor and no locking panel between them and the main cabin. Standing in the woods, Cassian running his hands beneath her anorak until she reached behind her to dextrously extricate him and bend to take him in. It was freeing. Everyone knew so they had nothing to hide.
And he wanted her. He thought he could do nothing else with the rest of his life. Watch the splendor of her riding him like Yavá on the sea; lie down to kiss and rest in that valley and make love to her there forever.
* * *
Qorrek blinked enormously at her. “What did I what?”
“Did you give Dameron my clippers?!” shouted Ffas’va.
“I… said you probably wouldn’t mind if he used—?”
“Well stop him! He’s using them on Bey—!!”
Not another second needed: Jyn and Cassian ran. They’d spared no moment to stare in horror at each other. For all they thought they’d had any such impulse trained, betrayed, and beaten out of them, somehow they still both felt it: No - not him - not Kes
But outward gentleness was no indicator… love was no preventer…
They burst into the clearing that was base camp, skidding to a halt half a metre behind where Qorrek, who’d taken flight, hard landed in an explosion of dirt.
As it cleared, it revealed a mildly surprised looking Shara Bey, sitting on a log, and behind her Kes Dameron, wielding Ffas’va’s shears, in the final stages of trimming Shara’s hair.
Qorrek let out a howl of terrible despair.
At the same moment, Ffas’va could be heard hysterically laughing.
“It’s all right,” shouted Cassian over both of them, reaching out to seize Qorrek’s wing joint before he could launched himself at Dameron. “Ffas’va tricked you.”
“He’s mauling her!” screeched Qorrek in disagreement.
“It’s a social grooming ritual!” Cassian yelled back. “There’s no pain, no impairment, and it’ll grow back.”
Catching on, Bey rose from the log as Dameron exaggeratedly handed her the shears. “It’s totally consensual, Qorrek,” Shara called over, as Kes added, “We promise.”
Everyone else focused on Qorrek, it was clearly Jyn’s job to turn on Ffas’va and grab her by the ear.
“OW!” yelped Ffas’va.
“How was that supposed to be funny?” shouted Jyn.
And what stopped you doing it with us?
—obviously that Qorrek would more readily recognize copulation than body modification. But probably only that.
“Initiation, baldface!” Ffas’va snarled back. “C’mon, you’ve never?”
Of course Jyn had. It haunted her as much as some other things. She growled, very Togorianlike, back.
Qorrek was calmer but still unconvinced as he turned his worried gaze to Shara. “You’re really—?”
“I’m fine,” she reassured him. “No pain whatsoever. It was my request, actually. Kes gives good haircuts.” She raised a retaliatory brow at Ffas’va. “He can demonstrate elsewhere if you want to see.”
Ffas’va obviously instantly hated that idea—exactly as much as Jyn loved it.
But Cassian said, “Hey, Kes. Can you do me?”
Between bacta growth acceleration on Yavin 4, farm grooming standards on Yavin 12, and the chill of Hoth, Cassian’s hair had been far beyond regulation crop for a while. He’d always been exempt from certain aesthetics for the job’s sake: where he walked, being too clean cut made you conspicuous. But it was more than that. He could have gotten fully pampered at his physical eval on return to duty. …Which was the crux, really. It wasn’t quite a return to duty. At least, he wasn’t sure he wanted it to be. So he wasn’t taking any perks, requirements, symbols or other transitional markers.
And just as he’d refused to pick up a weapon since returning (…to life), he refused to make decisions based on combat. (e.g. Longer hair could be grabbed/weaponized by adversaries)
But he was tired of his hair falling in his eyes. And having Kes Dameron cut his hair with botanical sampling shears on a strange planet to demonstrate mammalian social primate behavior to a Rishii was a bantha of a different wool. It felt, for a new life, kinda right.
Kes was agreeable. Shara’s trim finished, she took Ffas’va aside for… whatever she was going to do: discipline or otherwise. Cassian took her place. As Kes went to work, Cassian got to watch Qorrek, who seemed queasy but fascinated. And Jyn… whose eyes, as ever, blinded him.
Her hair, come to think of it, had gotten very, very long indeed. He found himself hoping she did not choose to follow his example.
She didn’t. That night he ran his fingers through it, and left them there, marvelling at the trust she showed letting her hair get long enough to grab—then letting him grab it, knowing he would never use it against her.
Chapter 12: Hoth via Five Points Station
"Rebel Rising" handwaved like whoa
After the mildness of Zyll Zeta, Jyn hadn’t looked forward to reacclimating to Hoth. The reality proved easier than imagination. More exotic was what she found herself doing now: sitting in the quarters of… a… friend—there was no other word for what Princess Leia had made herself—sipping a warm drink, talking.
“No politics,” Leia groaned almost at once. “No reports. And preferably your life, not mine.”
“That bad, huh?” said Jyn.
Leia slightly smiled. The weight of Alderaan hung between them. But all she said was, “Just want a break from tedium. So. You. Anything. Hit me.”
Jyn went with: “Do you know if Kay Mark Two is close to operational?” Cassian was off talking to Chewbacca just then.
“Ugh, yes,” said Leia. Jyn blinked at her in surprise and Leia laughed. “Sorry. I’m looking forward to meeting him. It’s just that with Chewie so preoccupied, Han’s been—”
Jyn chorused with her: “—insufferable?”
Leia, making a face at being predictable: “More than usual.” Your life not mine. “How are you feeling about it?”
“Kaytu. Cassian. Whatever.”
Evading questions like that was Jyn’s forte. Except she found just now…
Why did she want to talk to someone about it? She’d had sex before. She’d always kept it ferociously to herself—for herself: owned solely by her. But for some reason, with Cassian… she wanted it out in the universe in a different way.
Or just sharing with a friend?
“I guess you’ve heard?” said Jyn noncommittally.
“No,” said Leia. “Which is how I guessed. When people stop complaining that you haven’t gotten together…”
Jyn grimaced without rancor. “Kes and Shara?”
“Some credit for trying to be discreet?” suggested Leia.
“Ffas’va and Qorrek?”
Leia sipped and shook her head. “He’s on a different wavelength from gossip. She… seems afraid of you. Or respects you. Probably the same thing.”
Jyn grinned. She liked understanding people, and in this case what she understood, she also liked.
Her smile fell as she tried to think. There wasn’t much she wanted to talk about along these lines with anyone other than Cassian. But there was something. Or she wouldn’t be thinking twice about the opening Leia had just given her. What on Hoth could she want to say to Leia about Cassian, rather than to Cassian himself…? or was it something about Jyn…?
“I’m… worried,” said Jyn slowly. “That everything’s… been… too easy.”
Leia choked on her drink.
“Obviously not…” Jyn flapped a hand to encompass the Rebellion, the universe, her and Cassian’s entire lives.
“Sorry,” agreed Leia, wiping her face.
“But between us,” granted Jyn. “We don’t argue. We don’t… ’communicate’; but things go fine. We keep doing what we both want… together and… it’s too easy.”
Leia’s raised eyebrow wasn’t dismissive or judgmental. Just needing more to go on. “Okay?”
“It’s not supposed to go that way,” said Jyn, with a bit more color. “Even for people who haven’t…” (Had pasts like theirs. Abandonment. Isolation. Betrayal. Repeat.) “…I mean… Bey and Dameron argue.” Two of the most easy-going and communicative people she’d ever met.
“Yeah,” said Leia, mouth curving. “About the kinds of things I can’t picture you or Captain Andor putting the least bit of value on.” As Jyn swallowed that (and a bit of hot beverage), “I mean… with the lives you’ve both had, I have a hard time envisioning you squabbling over holovids.”
Jyn rested the drink between her hands, where the steam could bathe her face. “So… our relationship might seem easy compared to…”
“Everything else you’ve both lived through,” agreed Leia. “Wouldn’t surprise me.”
It was true how many things had been rendered unimportant. And the only ones that really mattered were exactly what they both uniquely but kindredly understood. And had proven to each other, before even…
“Or,” said Jyn, very quietly “maybe it’s just an illusion. We’re content letting it stay intact so we don’t poke at it. But if we did… it’d break.”
“Is that how it is for you? Avoiding poking at it?”
“…No.” Cassian did seem able to read her mind. And the things he did, if any of them bothered her, didn’t really … only on the levels of things like mortality bothering her. Nothing he could control. …The opposite, precisely. And she’d never get mad at him for that. And where they might be able to control things… she wouldn’t bring up before feeling he was ready, because no one could understand one another’s pasts the way they could. When he was ready she trusted… oh gods and skies, yes. She trusted. Him. …So no. She didn’t feel she was stifling or avoiding anything. Just respecting a natural course, and one that pretty well matched her own. But what if…?
“Good,” said Leia. “Good start. If you’re worried that’s how it is for him… even if it were true, he’d be caring enough to do it in the first place, so I’ll bet talking wouldn’t… be disadvantageous.”
…Ugh. That was it, too. Jyn the overabandoned never able to yell that one corner of her former-child-brain into submission: always blamed itself for everyone leaving even while the rest of her knew that was Bantha spittle. Worried he was being self-sacrificing for her.
She knew that was ludicrous. So she looked for something maybe a little less stupid to say next. “Maybe it’s about Kay-point-Two.”
…That was less stupid? Jyn tried to figure out how by talking it out. “…They knew everything about each other. Cassian knew Kay literally Kay’s whole existence. Maybe I want to be able to compete. …And Kay saw parts of Cassian no one else ever has.”
“Ever did,” suggested Leia.
Jyn blanched slightly. Cassian’s SpecForce file had been sparse, a lot of redactions, but his medical files… details like… sometimes transcriptions of recordings Kay had made, including helplessly listening via a hidden commlink while Cassian was…
She shook her head. “I haven’t seen things Kay saw.”
“Things Cassian would want you to?”
No. Of course not. Jyn wouldn’t argue with that. It was the things Cassian wouldn’t want anyone to. Kay had only been reluctantly exempted for being a droid.
So she shifted back to the original subject. “Why do I compelled to ask him? …About any of this? Or his past? Or tell him mine? We don’t want to relive it for ourselves. We definitely don’t want the other person to have to carry it.”
Leia cupped her mug in both hands, as Jyn had hers; her expression thoughtful, a little sorrowful. “Don’t you, though?”
“You do relive it. All the time. In things that remind you, in dreams, in strengths, in fears. And in those ways, the other person does carry it. When you open up to someone so much, you do share their burdens. The trick is to want to. And if you both want to… there are so many reasons to go with the feeling and no good ones to resist it. …One of the good ones, by the way, is that in being shared, they become less burdensome.”
Jyn stared into her drink for a while after that one.
She still felt its warmth on her hands as she found her way to Cassian’s… to their quarters. Palming the door panel, which was coded to her print too; standing still just inside as it closed behind her.
Cassian was at the data station, looking intently at a pad. He looked up as she entered.
“What’s wrong?” he said at once.
As if on autopilot, she moved into the room, crossing to him; put her hands on his shoulders to kiss him, ran her hands down his arms, replacing the datapad with her palms, drawing him toward the bed.
He stopped her as her hands started toward his belt. “Jyn?”
“Don’t wanna talk,” she mumbled. “Just want…”
Another fumble for his belt made him take her hands more firmly in his. She begrudgingly looked up at him.
“What?” he said. Those crinkle-cornered eyes and warm, quiet voice.
She pressed her body against him, both belligerent and melting, half hoping to overbalance him so they staggered back to the bed; mostly just wanting his solidity, his warmth.
“I do want to talk,” she growled. “But I don’t know why. What point could it serve?”
His lack of response drew her eyes to his again. As they met, he tentatively shrugged. “Closeness?”
…Oh, pfassk you, Cassian.
“We both have awful life stories,” she said. “Boo hoo. And you know mine anyway. And I’m not trying to pressurize you to barter for yours. I don’t want to… I don’t know why it should…”
His hands were still in, on, around hers. By them, he drew them both to sit on the bed after all.
“I know some details,” he said. “It’s nothing compared to having you tell me. There doesn’t need to be another point. It’s better when there isn’t. The point is in of itself. If you want to. That means something. That you want to.”
Meant something… to him. She could see it in his eyes and the way he said, “And I’m listening.”
So she did.
Her earliest memories in prison. Her parents, Coruscant, B’ankor, Alpinn, Lah’mu, Tamseye Prime, Skuhl; Mac Vee, Has and Nari, Krennic, Maia and Saw and the Partisans… Akshaya and Hadder. That was the hardest somehow.
…Because if any of the others had lived… whereas if Hadder had lived… would that mean no room, in whatever magical fantasy was pushing this thought, for Cassian? No other relationship in her life would have precluded this one. Only Hadder. It’s not like Cassian hasn’t… But forget it. Because Hadder hadn’t lived. What ifs were, always have been, always would be, worse than useless.
And she’d want them both. …She'd had both. That was something to be grateful for, wasn’t it…?
There were parts where keeping her eyes fixed on his kept her going. That was one of the other times.
Only after Hadder’s and Akshaya’s death and her escape did she look up again…
And for the first time, his eyes were not there for her. He was staring somewhere away.
She felt suddenly sick with panic. This was a mistake. She shouldn’t have told him. What part had done it? Wanting Akshaya and Hadder to be her family—her home? Making love to Hadder? On reaching Five Points Station and discovering their death, thinking, It didn’t matter if it was the Empire or the Rebellion and deciding to hate and shun both…
They’d altered positions several times, from sitting on the edge of the bed, to leaning back against the wall, to lying down together, to sitting upright again. All that moment, their hands had been tightly clasped.
She started to pull her hands free now.
He looked up at a loss. Normally, he would loosen his hold to release her. Right now…
“Keep going?” he said.
She shook her head. “I shouldn’t have started.”
“What—? I want to hear.”
“Tell that to your face. Seriously… what’s that look?”
He went a bit white.
Finally he repeated: “Five Points Station?”
It was the last thing she’d expected him to pick out of that. She forgot to finish pulling away.
“…Yes,” she said, hurting and wary.
His eyes returned to her. He instantly saw what he’d done. She saw his eyes flicker, the equivalent of someone rifling furiously through a Sabacc hand, looking for the right play. It was the closest thing he had to a tell. And it hadn’t been directed at her since…
“This was a mistake,” she said, pulling away her hand.
His hand consciously tightened on her remaining one now.
“No, Jyn, no, wait.” His breathing had quickened too.
“You’re trying to decide something,” she said, as other exits were denied her—or she rejected them as too excruciating. If her voice was biting, she didn’t have the will to stop it. “Without me. Stop that. Just say it?”
About Hadder or my making the opposite decision you did, instead of choosing a side to reject them both… but probably Hadder… in which case what right have you—but no because probably you never… had I loved…? oh damn you
Cassian saw the maelstrom in her eyes. But there was one in his too. He seemed caught between impulses. At last he said, “I think I met you there.”
Everything in Jyn stopped dead. She blinked. Slow, emptying out… blinked again.
“…What?” she said.
Cassian was slowing himself too. Modulating breath, making pulse follow, but his eyes were still flickering. …Except Jyn understood it now. The decisions he was trying to make had nothing to do with jealousy or judgment or disdain. Nothing bad about her. How could she have thought it. They were, as usual, worried about making the wrong move on his part, to hurt her… fear of interrupting the story, making it about him, maybe unnecessarily without getting more information first, but since she’d noticed how could he not reveal something that he seemed to fear as much as she did Hadder… his fear of hurting her was what had hurt her…
What was that about things being too easy?
But, again, there were much, much worse ways to go. And it had all elapsed in… what… a hundred seconds…?
“Tell me more of the story?” he said at last. Choosing a hand. “I don’t know if I’m right.”
Slowly, experimentally, she put her shoulder in the hollow of his, putting them both against the wall. He folded himself around her more tightly. For all he’d slowed his breathing, his heart thudded like a captured thing.
Somehow she was convinced. No longer angry or betrayed, just now aching and agitated as he was to know what had happened that had escaped her at the time. She kept going.
It wasn’t until after the barfight she’d picked with a Gigoran and a Caldonian to get back a knife they’d stolen from her—the last Saw had ever given her—that she suddenly froze too. Strained away to turn and look at him.
After the barfight where she’d been beaten to a pulp and would have been killed but for…
“That was you?” she whispered.
“That was you,” he whispered back.
She stared. She was good with faces, but didn’t have Intelligence training of looking through ephemera like hairstyle. She tried to imagine Cassian clean-shaven with hair shorn Imperial style. She didn’t have to imagine him in the uniform. You’ve done this before?
“The first time I saw you,” Jyn said, her turn for voice to tremble, “on Yavin 4, I thought you looked familiar. But I thought… it was just superficial resemblance to Hadder.”
Remembering running her hands through Hadder’s dark hair, and wondering what it might be like to do that to Cassian Andor.
Slowly, voice coming from somewhere far away, Cassian took over the story. “I was at Five Points to establish a data trail for a cover identity. Highest profile assignment of my life: aide to an Imperial Admiral. No way should I have joined in a bar fight. I did. I hit the Gigoran with a chair. Threatened the Caldonian off with my blaster. Carried the Human they’d beaten up away.”
“I dunno,” said Jyn, hearing herself go for humor and wondering what the hell “Saving a human from ‘aliens’ without finding out the sides. Pretty Imperial.”
He didn’t even wince. “You wanted to die. You were holding your own until I saw the moment where you stopped fighting and let them take you down. They would have obliged. I couldn’t leave you alone to that.” His eyes turned slowly to hers, though they were still far away. “I was putting you before the mission even earlier than I thought…”
His face still frightened her. But she understood it, so she could cope. She turned in his arms, to face him fully, put her hand to his cheek. “I never remembered this next part very well,” she said quietly. “I take it you…?”
“…took you to my quarters,” said Cassian, still flat and distant. “You were so… I didn’t understand then but…”
“Grief-struck,” said Jyn quietly.
Cassian nodded. His voice, when it came back, was so quiet. “I patched you up. With med supplies from my emergency pac. You were so damaged… I couldn’t tell what you would have looked like. You just let me do it. …I think you would have let me do anything.” He sounds more unsettled by saying it than she felt remembering the reality. Yes, if he’d chosen to take from her, she wouldn’t have stopped it. But he hadn’t. He would never. “I tucked you into bed and watched you all night. I paid up the room for another day and ordered food and… left you there.”
“That bastard landlord,” Jyn found herself laughing breathlessly. “He kicked me out around noon saying that was all you’d paid for.”
Cassian looked fit to murder.
More slowly than before, Jyn’s hand moved to close on his.
“You don’t even know,” she said quietly, “what you did for me. How many levels… you saved my life. Getting me out of the fight. Resetting my wounds. Giving me a sanctuary. To just… collapse and… and hurt. And be watched over.”
His hand closed back in hers.
“I’ve met so many people,” he said. “Put so many of them out of my head. I always wondered what happened to that girl. When I first saw you on Yavin 4… I might have wondered… but figured it was just wishful thinking. You’d been too beat up to recognize.”
Her hand shaking, she cupped his cheek. Cassian tilted his face into her hand… then buried his face there, to hide his eyes. She let him, not quite understanding, but aching. When he raised his eyes to hers again, she understood.
His eyes were furious.
“I should have stayed,” he said quietly. “We could have had years. …I should have known you all my life."
Five Points Station was hardly ‘all their lives’. But she thought she understood. Of everything that had been stolen from them… the only thieves, in that moment, were themselves.
“It wouldn’t have… nothing could have happened between us, then,” she said. “Probably not friendship, not anything. I was too hurt.”
“I couldn’t recognize body language,” he agreed, voice still a bit strangled. “You were so twisted with grief. I left without saying goodbye because I knew if I waited…”
“You couldn’t abandon your assignment,” Jyn guessed. Cassian would not have been ready to deprogram yet.
“Or abandon Kay,” said Cassian. “He was going ahead to rendezvous on Coruscant. Set up base station.”
Jyn shook her head slightly, not breaking eye contact. “There you go. It couldn’t have gone differently. …Even say… we’d miraculously put all that aside, recognized each other too soon, swept each other away somewhere… how long would that have lasted? You couldn’t last three months on Yavin 12.”
Cassian hung his head. Jyn felt a stab wondering again if she’d gone too far, but then he murmured in agreement, “Have to be able to live with yourself before… I couldn’t. You’re right. Could you have?”
“No,” said Jyn. “I wanted revenge. I’d tried civilian life. I guess I figured I could never choose the life I wanted. So I’d go for a chosen death.”
Even before seeing the look in his eyes, she realized: that was his entire story, right there.
She grabbed his face in both hands, her fingers digging into his dark hair, and kissed him.
He kissed her back. Suddenly with a ferocity she’d never felt from him before, he grabbed her in his arms, picked her straight up off the bed, bore her back against the wall. She gasped in surprise but held onto him the harder, not to seem for an instant to be protesting or trying to break away.
Then, to her surprise, he broke away. Chest heaving, visibly in need, but putting himself at arm’s length from her.
“I want to hear everything else,” he said. “If you can go on. Finish the story.”
Almost bewildered, her hands plucked at his clothes, but he stepped back and sat again on the edge of the bed.
After a moment, Jyn decided she agreed with him. And sat again, too.
“There’s not very much more,” she said quietly. And told the rest. Blue’s team. Then Wobani. Then extraction by Melshi and Kaytu.
That was it.
She glanced again at him, but there was nothing now in his body language or expression to confuse or humiliate her. Only the hollowness of stolen time. Only, just the once, stolen from them only by themselves. If only they’d known. If only they could.
“We’re alive, Cassian,” Jyn said quietly. “We missed those years then but we get some now. We’re alive. We’re together now. We weren’t ready then but…”
…but what? Where was she going with that sentence? She hadn’t planned it out before she started saying it. Everywhere that now came to mind, she wasn’t sure she agreed with or dared.
’Til Cassian turned abruptly to face her and took her face in both his hands.
“I’m ready now,” he said quietly. “Tell me you want to leave the war and I’ll go with you.”
She stared at him.
“…No,” she said.
“I mean it,” he said.
“You mean it now,” she said.
“You don’t believe me.”
“I believe you now,” she repeated. “Do you speak for you in a year? A month? A week?”
“I can find out,” he said.
She opened her mouth and closed it again. No one ever knew anything with certainty. She didn’t want to undermine how vast that was in of itself. Whether he’d still mean it in an hour; that he—he—could mean it even for a minute was momentous.
“We’ll talk about it later,” she said. “…Not right now. I’m done with talking now.”
In fluent agreement, he’d swept her back into his arms and had her again against the wall. She wrapped her legs around him, grinding them together, pulling him to her by his hair and kissing him hard. His hands dug under her clothes as she yanked him free of his, and he was inside her in so swift a motion she cried out. He froze, but she made it clear the cry had been a euphoric one, and began to ride him and he began to push in her. Long, rolling strokes, moving her further up the wall, moving along her sweetest membranes, nerve endings warmed with friction outside and in; she put her head back against the wall, threw one hand over her head to grasp the doorjamb, groaning with exquisite strain. His profile traced her throat, his lips parted to breathe, his palms pressing to the wall either side of her, his body doing the caressing of her clitoris, stomach, breasts. She rode his hip bones, heels braced against his leg muscles, rolling and digging him deeper, cry-gasping in delight as she drew identical staccato sounds from him. She was coming already and didn’t care and didn’t want to stop… it was the first time sex had had nothing to do with orgasm so of course the pleasure had never been so quick to achieve… because it was rightness, it was restoration, she was addicted to having him inside her, where he belonged, where they belonged together, it was so good oh good oh to be coupled with him and… oh…
She arched so violently, she nearly cracked her head against the wall—but his hand caught the back of her head, gently cradled it as he turned them rapidly aboutface, and laid her head, then the rest of her, gently on the bed…
…but the gentleness stopped… for suddenly he was upon her again and something was different and new. He didn’t let her come down, but rode her through her climax and then kept going, thrusting hard, mouth almost biting down on her throat. She gasped in surprise, but kept her hands fisted on his shoulders and in his hair, pulling him, saying wordlessly yes keep going
It was roughest he’d yet been with her. Which was hardly rough at all. But he’d been so careful…
Closeness, huh…? They’d had to establish this level of familiarity and trust before… doesn’t have to be gentle to be loving… and for the first time instead of his focus seeming to be on serving her, now there was a focus on him needing… and it was making her come so hard it was nearly continuous.
“What the hell,” she gasped, jerking and humping with him.
“No?” he managed.
“YES” she gasped, clasping him to her hard, “oh don’t stop don’t you dare…”
He grabbed her shoulder and her ass and crushed both to him, his mouth attacking the hollow of clavicle and neck, his cock pushing and stroking and stirring inside her with continuous, inexorable, tidal—
“OH” she came again, going abruptly limp, hands slipping from him and body falling back into his arms and the bed. She spasmed and gripped him, her inner muscles with a mind to pull his own orgasm out of him. His breath stuttered as she almost succeeded.
“One more,” he whispered, gathering her damp hair from the nape of her neck, his other hand smoothing, shifting under her muscular thigh. Compression and compulsion, pulsing her to use him as he pushed and worked… his hand on her thigh almost modeling for her inner muscles how to grip and stroke him best… and she was an eager pupil and had him panting and sinking in deep so fast…
For all we’re alive, we have time, and both their abilities to make it last, this was fast and hard and almost brutal and no less adoring and in perfect accord. And Jyn suddenly grabbed Cassian’s ass in both hands and clenched him hard from both sides, and a cry tore from his throat as he spasmed and came inside her. And it was glorious. The pulsing warmth of his release, the hard body coming apart into shivers, fitting to hers like fluid, the catches in his throat that made every breath a cry. Only then did she give herself the requested one more, easily—too easy… did I say that was a problem? wow, what a nerfbrain…—just feeling and knowing the tiny shivers and throbs of his penis spilling in her and that alone bringing her to come along.
She wrapped one leg around him to lock him in with her knee, stay… keeping you… mine… and otherwise went limp, panting and breathing and folding him into her like they were fabric.
“Hell yes,” she whispered, and let herself fall completely into the bedding and his body. His muscles unfolded upon and around her and he turned his face to avoid smothering himself in the pillow as he too sank, one landscape, indistinguishable from the bedclothes and from her.
They lay entwined, only breathing, so long, she may have drifted in and out of sleep a few times before either thought to speak.
And it was Jyn, at last.
“Closeness, huh,” she said. “Sold.”
“Your turn whenever you want it,” she murmured. “Which can be never.”
He turned his face to kiss hers.
“Not right now,” he murmured. Thanking her. “But not never.”
Five Points Station (headcanon) story found in *Quiero Saber*, with thanks again to kestreldawn, inspired by the lines from *Rebel Rising*:
There was movement to Mon Mothma's left, and a captain emerged from the shadows. He had dark hair and eyes that crinkled pleasantly even though his expression was grave. There was something about him that reminded her of ... she couldn't quite place it.
Chapter 13: Hoth -> unnamed world via Jenoport
CONTENT WARNING: pregnancy horror, graphic violence/injury, suicide attempts, allusions to past noncon
I'm scared of this chapter in a lot of ways, not all of which are the ones that make sense. But... here it is.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dams don’t burst selectively.
Jyn hated doing this kind of character analysis on someone who wasn’t a mark but… she thought something had been different, and something now changed. Maybe that Cassian had widened his focus a little. Just enough to stop fixating solely on her, and allow some of himself.
It had been thrilling. Ever since, every look between them, every touch, had a new electricity, like that touch over Scarif. Before this new life.
But then the night terrors came back too. A possibly new recurrent dream.
He’d wake up screaming her name, or tearing and punching at invisible forces around him—so badly he wanted to sleep in separate beds until he could be sure he wouldn’t hit her. She flatly refused. His strength of will not to strike her seemed to carry over subconsciously; the awakening attacks stopped. Instead he’d double over on himself and shake off any touch. She may have preferred it when he was throwing punches. Eventually, she was able to move him, still doubling over but instead of bunkering into himself, he’d press his face to her stomach and close his eyes until the shaking passed.
She knew it was a new nightmare because he refused to talk about it. No matter how (angrily) she pointed out that that might be the best way to stop it.
Dams don’t break selectively.
Allow things you thought you’d killed
wants you thought were robbed
things you knew you’d never
of course there were many things he’d known he’d never that
Too easy. Well done, Jyn. Challenge the universe—it always wins.
They hadn’t had sex since the new nightmare started recurring. Jyn missed it but wasn’t going to push… but it started to become frustrating… and then started to hurt. Whatever had come up between them was hurting, like something sticking into you, cutting you off from part of yourself, does.
To top it off, there was the sense of a ticking clock. Kay-point-two was nearly finished. It had never been a question for Jyn that Kay should be resurrected, but the closer the reality got, the more stressed it made her. She didn’t know why and didn’t want to self-fulfillingly prophesize… but one thing she was sure of was that she wanted this second first impression to go differently. So. Whatever was going on with her and Cassian… it was getting dealt with before Chewie woke Kay up.
She’d geared herself up for a fight. Only to return to their quarters and find him already pacing in agitation looking furious.
“What on Hoth—?”
Cassian rounded on her, eyes afire. “Why have you never asked me?”
She blinked. All that work she’d been doing getting ready to fight. He was going to beat her to it? She didn’t know whether to be furious, relieved, or start laughing. “Asked you what?”
“We’ve been coupling with no precautions,” he said. “Aren’t you worried about pregnancy, disease… anything? You know my past. I’ve probably been a carrier for everything.”
Jyn frowned. They were going to have an argument without actually disagreeing about anything…? “I’ve seen your file, I’ve been through the same med processing you have, I know we’ve both been cured of old things, inoculated against new ones, and as far as pregnancy, you…”
Cassian’s hands abruptly fisted, making Jyn cut herself off. “You should still care!” Cassian barked. “I’ve done terrible things. I don’t just get to… you don’t… there are choices people… should get to make…”
Jyn blinked a few more times. Revised the situation once again. She wasn’t going to have to fight. He was having the argument all by himself.
She recalled his file. She’d sliced the redactions and memorized it.
Preexisting conditions corrected as of [REDACTED]
• reset broken right arm
• grafted broken right clavicle
• reset broken right leg
• grafted broken ribs right fifth sixth seventh eighth
• scarring and shrapnel (removed) right shoulder and back
• past head trauma, minor brain tissue scarring, no physical or cognitive impairment, possible mood dysfunction
• deep tissue scarring left hip to abdomen
• nerve damage left lower abdomen
• immunocompromization from untreated infections - cured [REDACTED]
3266 LYby Alliance med unit #48237
Significant injuries treated/procedures performed by Alliance Medtech
3266—3267 LY• mid level strains and fractures (training-common)
• blaster burns
• lacerations superficial to severe
• dislocated shoulder
• ruptured eardrum
• Stress-Trauma electroreconditioning procedure performed by MU #12947 - secondary treatments to continue
3269 LY• Lt. Andor logged request for sterilization procedure - Gn. Draven denied
• internal bruising
• broken toes
• sprained ankles
• shin splints
• fractured phalanges and metacarpals right hand - nerve repair by MU #61218
sedative overdose 3273 LY
• Ct. Andor logged request for sterilization procedure - Gn. Draven approved
• sterilization procedure performed by MU #32399
• panskeletal fractures including skull and vertebrae
• detached retinas
• internal hemorrhaging
• ruptured kidney
• medical coma induced by MU #88434
• third-degree burns left arm and leg
• broken left arm
• STERC procedure performed by MU #12951
• Mucosal tears, rectal perforations
• severe abrasions and bruising: neck, wrists, ribs, ankles
• cracked right false ribs
• severe burns left arm and leg
• arm broken
• blaster burn upper right pectoral
• cosmetic surgery (broken nose straightened, facial scarring diminished, teeth straightened) - match Coruscant aesthetics
• deep tissue laceration lower left arm
• muscle puncture lower left arm
3277 LY/0 BBY
- killed in action - [REDACTED]
revived by bacta injection MU #48i53
Yes… there were things in there she’d meant to ask about. Had never gotten the nerve. Hadn’t realized he might have… needed her to.
Like how his survival had been redacted, despite the fact he was being sent on missions right now.
But to this particular point: the one elective procedure.
“I know we can’t have kids, Cassian,” she said quietly. “I don’t want them. I’ve never wanted them.”
Cassian sat abruptly on the bed and buried his face.
She stared as it hit. “But you did. You wanted them. Why did you…?” Steal that from yourself? Could the Alliance possibly have ordered him to… for his work…? but then why had Draven denied it at first…?
“I was never supposed to live,” came Cassian’s voice from behind his hands. “I was never supposed to… have… any of this.”
Cautiously, Jyn came forward. She stopped, standing, just in front of him. Reached out a hand to touch his hair.
He leaned forward to rest his forehead against her stomach, hyperventilating, trying to come down.
It was so like the night-terror position…
“What have you been dreaming about?” she asked again.
He shook his head. His hair was ruffled by her shirt.
“I’m sorry,” he groaned.
Jyn, too dumbfounded to be angry, slipped her hands to his shoulders, kissed his hair, and held him tight.
You do share it though
The trick is to want to
* * *
Cassian’s Shyriiwook had improved rapidly working with Chewie over Kay. So now it was Jyn standing off to the side, trying to pick up context from half the conversation and periodically tilting her head toward Han for translation.
Who murmured obligingly, “Chewie is ready to do a first boot up and isn’t sure whether Cassian should be there for it or not.”
Han probably needed as little translation of Cassian’s body language as Jyn did, but she provided anyway: “And Cassian’s insisting.”
“Yes,” said Cassian, looking over his shoulder and just nigh glaring at them both.“Mine is the first face he sees. If the being who wakes up isn’t the Kay I knew, I’ll cope better than he will if it is and I’m not there.”
Or than you will. But neither Han nor Jyn, nor presumably Chewie, said so.
Leia wanted to be there too for the big… what do you call it? Reboot? Resurrection? But Cassian was so tense, Jyn ended up kicking all of them, including herself, out to behind the same sort of observation window she’d stared through to watch Cassian’s resurrection after Scarif. Only Chewie, Cassian, and the black med unit that may or may not prove to be Kaytu were in the room.
Jyn found herself standing between Han and Leia, but couldn’t spare much interest for their dynamic. Her eyes and every fiber of her body were tautly fixed on the three in the room.
She’d known Chewie’s massive paws must be capable of delicacy, but it was still something to see. As he fused the final circuits, shut the access panel… and switched the unit on. And, more unlikely still, melted unobtrusively back into a shadow. If anyone could understand the dynamic between Cassian and K-2SO, it was Chewbacca and Solo.
The unit’s optics flickered on. They alternated, focused, refocused. Chewie had additionally kept the unit hooked up to a monitor that he could read in the room, and a copy scrolled for the observers to read as well. It would mean nothing to Leia, Jyn couldn’t guess how much Han could make of it, but she could understand it well enough to see how much more massively complex it was than anything she’d ever forged or hacked.
The bits she caught were self-diagnostics. // Chronometer failure. Last known date. Last known action. New chassis. Conclusion: //
The unit’s eyes fixed on Cassian. Who looked… like Jyn had first seen him on Yavin 4. So studiedly nonchalant, she could tell now it was as tense as he got.
“Cassian,” said the unit. It was Kay’s voice. (How had Chewbacca, who’d never heard him, done that…? Was vocoder output not just a matter of hardware but the program…?) “I take it I died?”
To Han and probably Leia, Cassian probably looked stoic as ever. To Jyn, he looked caught between wanting to recoil and throw himself at Kay to hug him.
“Spectacularly,” said Cassian. In a single word, confirmation of Kay’s recording, and thus the situation and their whole relationship. Jyn wondered how many more of those she’d never caught, would ever catch.
The med unit tilted its head in a way that suddenly made it look exactly like K-2SO. “You look like you’ve aged twenty years. So it’s been… what… five?”
Chewie chuckled. Kay instantly swiveled his head all the way around—possibly a new capability in this body, but perhaps he’d just never employed it last time.
“Kaytu, Chewbacca,” said Cassian. “He helped D’lylaa find me with… you.”
“And reinstalled me,” guessed Kaytu, “judging by some furlike matter left by my sensors.”
Chewbacca laughed harder. Han murmured a translation to Jyn and Leia, “He says it adds style.”
Kay’s oculars did that thing they’d always done, of a slight shift that on an organic would be an expression ranging from scowl to blink. “I won’t respond to that in gratitude for your assistance.” His focus returned to Cassian, whose affect had shifted… invisibly but, for Jyn, and doubtless for Kay, tangibly. “Are you all right?”
Cassian held himself back a moment longer. Then moved—slowly, for someone else, quickly for him—and touched Kay’s chestplate… then embraced the droid touching his forehead to a metal shoulder. Kay’s hands came up to Cassian’s back.
Leia was smiling, with eyes shining, and her hand actually slid gently up Han’s back as she ushered him away. She squeezed Jyn’s arm as they left. Chewbacca likewise was starting to unhook Kay from the monitor. Everyone seemed satisfied the new unit wasn’t about to kill Cassian. Jyn’s old reflexes and distrusts were harder to shake—they hadn’t exchanged sufficient information or… but she decided to trust, if no one else, Chewie.
Everyone else left, and Jyn… hesitating… did too. So Cassian and Kay could meet, again, for the first time. And Cassian could teach Kay the new universe and his updated life.
But Jyn couldn’t resist glancing back. And saw Kay and Cassian sitting side by side, Cassian slightly slumped in a way even she’d never seen before, being supported by Kay’s braced arm.
She was dismayed to find tears on her face.
She was relieved to find she was also smiling.
* * *
It felt like hours, but the chronometer claimed less, when her comm pinged.
“I didn’t mean for you to leave,” said Cassian, apologetic even over the staticky channel. (Hoth’s atmosphere interfered with everything. Great for a low interstellar profile. Lousy for intrabase communiques.)
“I know you didn’t,” said Jyn. “But I wanted you two to have some time.”
“Thank you. You wanna join the party now?”
No. Yes. In what sense. Questions they of course hadn’t discussed in advance. Would Kay be living in their quarters. How would this affect their partnership on levels even beyond sex life. Was she really so unfamiliar with friendship that it was hard to reconcile with another relationship…
Might depend a lot on if would Kay consider her a friend
“Does it have to be in med bay?” she asked, stalling.
“No,” he said. “We’ve actually moved onto the Falcon. Han offered. Neutral space, more privacy. You could join us?”
Somehow, his not suggesting they join her was reassuring. Their quarters was not ‘neutral space’. And aboard ship, even one they’d never flown, felt familiar.
“I’ll be right there.” And oh mothers of skies don’t let this go hideously.
It was not reassuring that Kay-point-Two was standing at the Falcon’s ramp to meet her.
“Uh… hi, Kay,” she said, deciding to pretend that Kay would recognize her back.
K-2SO—surprisingly easy to think of him that way despite the different body: posture and mannerisms, it turns out, may count for even more in droids than organics; plus Chewie had gone to the trouble of painting the med unit black and replacing its surgical appendage with a second Humaniform hand—looked her up and down, from a lesser but still considerable height.
“Cassian says you are a friend,” he said. “I will not kill you.”
Jyn stared. Was that… a better start than Congratulations—?
“That was sarcasm,” said Kay. “I don’t actually feel inclined to kill anyone in this chassis. Which… Chewbacca claims is no alteration to my program so… requires further examination.”
“…A friend?” said Jyn finally. “That’s the prep he gave you?”
“Friend,” said Kay, “lover, possible de facto fiancée pending anyone’s views on rituals, former prisoner, later co-commander, instigator of the mission that got me killed, also hero of it, saved his life multiple times, and quite obviously the reason he hasn’t aged even more than he has done, which means you’ve alleviated a significant degree of suffering. I have filed you in the minute category of persons beyond myself I trust with his wellbeing.”
There was too much in there to be anything but dumbfounded. But something was required… and since Kay had ended with trust… Jyn extended her hand to him. (Knowing that a med droid was no less capable, regardless of how inclined, than a security droid of taking her by the hand to snap her spine).
Kaytu regarded then gripped her hand with perfect, delicate pressure. Then released and extended his invitingly up the ramp. “He wanted us to meet on our terms but I’m sure he’s watching.”
“Can we kill him for that?” asked Jyn.
Kay did that headtilt that was unmistakably like a smirk. He ducked more than he now had to as they walked side by side into the Falcon.
* * *
Little as it had seemed like it on mission, Jyn should have realized that Kay and Cassian off duty (whenever that happened) had delineated their boundaries carefully. The nature of Cassian’s work and the efforts to keep Kay from utter boredom meant they spent about as much time apart as together—as did, for that matter, Cassian and Jyn. They fell into a pattern with an ease that disconcerted Jyn. Still, with Jyn being immediately categorized by Kay, this time, as good for Cassian, Kay not only never competed, but would sometimes insist on leaving Jyn and Cassian alone together.
(Jyn wondered what would happen if her and Kay’s motives ever parted on this issue—if what she needed to do caused Cassian pain. And whether or not Cassian knew Kay seemed to have categorized Jyn as subsidiary to Cassian—Kay thinking of her insofar as she impacted Cassian rather than necessarily as her own entity. For the first, the idea was too painful to Jyn herself to want to anticipate. So, as all of this had always been built on hope—ha, list the things they were rebelling against in being together like this—she would just hope it never came up. And if it did… Kay would hardly be the foremost of her problems. For the second: Cassian almost certainly didn’t know or he’d have something to yell about it. On the other hand, did Jyn want to be elevated to that conceptual equality if it meant being under Kay’s protection/scrutiny the same way he did for Cassian…? Not particularly. Cassian might benefit; she preferred more flexibility. So… for the moment, Droid Rights rhetoric aside, she’d keep the abstracts to herself and not bother the droid with them.)
Which was not to say Kay wasn’t around a lot. That day, as Jyn sat down next to Cassian in the cantina, Kay was already mid-soliloquy.
“It’s fascinating,” the droid observed. “It is known for organic functioning that the brain does not dictate to the body. Action or reaction may initiate physically or mentally and the systems feedback reciprocally. I’ve never had reason to test it before. But if my example is not anomalous, the same may be true of mechanicals. Within the constraints of trying to analyze my program with itself, which should at least be able to identify alteration, I have confirmed Chewbacca’s assertion that he did not affect my backup. And I have confidence in my prime iteration not to have allowed any accident or degrade in coding. Therefore, if there are different skills, impulses, modes of movement, and prioritizations occurring more, for lack of a less organo-centric term, ‘naturally’, especially as seem to follow certain related patterns, the active variable must be the housing.”
“What?” said Cassian.
“You reprogrammed him?” said Jyn. Her rudimentary slicing and more advanced forgery experience were enough to follow Kay’s monologue. “Really?”
“He had help,” said Kay.
Cassian frowningly rolled his eyes. “I understood what he said, but I don’t understand what he’s saying.”
“You mean you’re feeling less like a security droid, and more like a med droid?” Jyn said.
“Not exactly,” said Kay. “I do not have medical programming—beyond what I’d picked up for Cassian first time around—so could not fulfill a med droid’s full function. But what I ‘care’ about has certainly shifted. It’s a solution that hadn’t occurred to me before.”
“Solution?” said Cassian, who seemed almost alarmed.
“For my intended function within the Alliance,” said Kay, “and how we’d needed to constantly and creatively circumvent my original programming to minimize repression and boredom.”
Jyn looked between them. Kay at least demonstrated he was still the same personality by not waiting to see if Cassian would elaborate before explaining, himself, “Cassian rarely let me commit violence on organics, and never in his place, even though he would be affected by it and I would not. And my primary function was to keep Cassian alive, as much in caregiving function as strategic backup.”
“All right, Kay,” said Cassian quietly, obviously uncomfortable—with the implications of this Kay as a separate being after all; or just becoming the focus of conversation.
Through all this, the missions continued. A colony was being established on Zyll Zeta. With that success, the same team was reconvened, now with the addition of Kay. That was easily wrangled when he took no atmosphere or ration allocation, and could function, at least on paper, as med support as well as strategic backup.
Cassian and Qorrek worked particularly well together, but Jyn didn’t want to partner with Ffas’va, who likewise preferred to work alone, so she found herself spending much of her time with Kaytu. Once: a daunting prospect. Now…
“I’ve finished my research,” said Kay as he and Jyn manned the perimeter, where Qorrek and Cassian were excavating something, Ffas’va analyzing something, and Bey and Dameron making repairs to the ship and the camp equipment.
“Into?” said Jyn.
“Rogue One,” said Kaytu. “Bodhi Rook. Baze Malbus. Chirrut Îmwe. The others on whom the Alliance had more preexisting data.”
Jyn’s mouth dropped open but she said nothing.
“When Cassian first reprogrammed me,” said Kay, either oblivious or deciding the relevance was self-evident, “he started my Intelligence training with education, just as Draven had started him. I decided to get up to speed myself this time. I recognize your voice, syntactically, in some of the records.”
“…I’m surprised it took you this long,” said Jyn at last. “The whole thing went down in… days.”
“It didn’t and it did,” said Kay respectively, “but I wanted to review several times before bringing it up. There were many elements that were unprecedented. I mention it because I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of planets for Cassian’s private ambition, and yours. Focusing on Alderaanian sensibilities and neglecting the Jedhan.”
Huh. Had Jyn even mentioned it to herself, let alone to Cassian, definitely not Kay—wanting to find somewhere she thought Bodhi, Chirrut and Baze would have liked. My specialty is just analysis…
“Perhaps we can suggest parameters to Shara and Draven,” she said. “…I wonder if kyber crystals were wholly unique to Jedha, even. There were other Orders, other temples.”
“Good,” said Kay. “I have already composed a list. Item two: has my presence adversely affected your sexual activity with Cassian?”
Jyn stumbled over something that may or may not exist.
Not that she hadn’t thought about it but she kept Kay so firmly in a different category in her mind…
“That’s relevant to the records?” she said.
“Not directly,” said Kay, “but the unprecedented elements that didn’t have to do with the Death Star were all directly between Cassian and you. It’s plainly proved for his benefit. I want to make sure I am not a detrimental variable.”
What on Hoth would you do if you were? And would the old Kay have ever asked that? …Maybe if Cassian had ever come with another partner before, one of whom he approved…
Your behavior, Jyn Erso, is continually unexpected… She wanted to think she and Kay Prime could have gotten there. That it wouldn’t take transferring from KX to a 2-1B body.
“Um… no,” she said at last. “I don’t think so. We’d… stopped… being active… before you… were.” Ugh mother of skies.
“That’s weeks,” said Kay thoughtfully. “I would have thought at least one of you had a higher drive—”
They both did. They were just back to Cassian turning away.
“I’m not thrilled about it,” said Jyn, more bluntly than she would have intended, but when with Kaytu… “But I’m not going to push. Cassian’s been having nightmares that… I think have something to do with… that topic.”
“Hmmm,” said Kay. And dropped the subject as abruptly as he’d brought it up.
Until that night, when Ffas’va and Qorrek were making their usual nightly hunts, Bey and Dameron were doing a perimeter check, and the other three had decided to share a drink on board the ship where it was warmer. This planet was hardly Hoth at night, but it was no Zyll Zeta either.
Kay said, “I’ve been thinking about this decision.”
“That covers a lot of possibilities,” said Jyn.
“This decision,” said Kay, indicating himself. “To be backed up and revived.”
“Not regretting it?” said Cassian.
“No. What instigated it. And how what Kay Prime decided to do about it diverges from what I feel proper to do about it. But Kay Prime allowed for such a possibility as well, in allowing for divergence. Even though this chassis attribute transference is not something we anticipated and is woefully underreported. I suppose that’s a Droid’s Rights conversation to table for now.”
“Again, Kay…” Cassian gestured to indicate he should get to the point.
And Kay, who might be a divergence, was still fully willing to be blunt. “I think you should tell Jyn about Jenoport.”
Cassian’s body tensed so completely, Jyn practically felt a shockwave through the air.
“I don’t remember Jenoport, Kay,” said Cassian quietly. “Don’t you know that?”
“Have you tried to remember?” said Kay. “Have you tried to recount it?”
“I’m not doing this.” Cassian abruptly knocked back the remainder of his drink and stood from the table.
Jyn looked between them, not sure for whom to root.
Kay’s hand reached out and clasped Cassian’s forearm. Cassian fell still, Jyn knew more from his relationship with Kay than real restraint. Kay wouldn’t exert so much pressure on Cassian, but Cassian knew that Kay could. (And, paramount to both of them: was choosing not to.)
“My highest priority remains the same,” said Kay. “My loyalty to you and my dedication to your wellbeing.” Cassian was looking at neither of them. “But my theories of what tactics may best serve those ends have been affected by this housing. As a KX unit, I would follow your orders—”
Jyn let out an involuntary Pfffffftsh sound. Cassian almost smiled.
“—at the very least,” conceded Kay with trace annoyance, “regarding confidentiality. However. I now think keeping silent and repressed is worse.”
“I don’t remember,” Cassian repeated, more quietly. “I remember sitting on a crate looking down at my blaster. I remember tears in my eyes because I couldn’t cry any more until after Scarif. I remember you finding me. Taking my gun, picking me up, carrying me back to the ship, pulling my bedding to the deck, laying me down, flying us away. Then in hyperspace coming back to me and offering to undergo a memory wipe if my ‘continued service and dignity demanded it.’”
“And you said,” Kay answered, “‘No one is touching your memory. I need you the way you are.’”
Jyn was staring at them both. Feeling acutely what she was being let in on… something so intimate and precious and private… yet being talked about with her there…? because she was there.
“Well, I am not as I was when you said that,” said Kay. “Because I never told anyone. Including, apparently, you. But now I think that did you harm. May still be. Do you still dream about—”
“Yes,” said Jyn, hardly realizing she was speaking, not sure whether it was protectiveness toward Cassian or herself, sensing she may have betrayed a confidence, but knowing none of them wanted or needed Kay to finish the sentence. “He does.”
Cassian, arm still captive in Kay’s hand, looked for a moment between them. Then, with quiet, restrained anger—his most frightening kind—shook Kay off.
“Tell Jyn,” he said unkindly. “She can decide whether I need to know or not. While deciding whether she still wants anything to do with me. Her not knowing before sleeping with me at all probably constitutes false pretenses. Because that’s all I’ve ever known to do.”
He evaded Kay’s attempt to recapture his arm, avoided Jyn entirely, and they heard him slap the panel to lower the ship’s ramp. Moments later, it closed again.
Jyn and Kay sat silent for a moment, then stared at each other.
“I hate when I can’t tell if I’m being tested or not,” said Jyn.
“I know I’m being tested,” said Kay, “but I can’t tell by whom.”
“Jenoport,” said Jyn after another minute. “Would knowing really make me hate him?”
“Would you like the probability?” said Kay.
Jyn bitterly laughed. “Yes.”
“No,” said Kay. “Odds are significant you would not hate him. Odds are also it would help him for you to know. Ideally for him to see it himself as if through your eyes rather than his own. But I don’t know if I should show you without his presence.”
“‘Show’ me?” repeated Jyn, blood running cold. “You mean…”
“I kept a visual record,” said Kay. “I could play it back for either of you at any time. Now that he has given permission for you to see. Whatever his motive in giving it.”
Jyn tilted her head. Listening to the ship around them, the ambient sounds, the ambient silences. Ran back her memory of the last few minutes.
And chose a hand.
She said quietly, “Okay. Kay. Show me.”
Kay tilted his own head, now. “Have you considered the risks of—?”
“Yes. Show me now.”
Kay, having run the calculations already faster than she could, took another second to do so again. Then he lit a holographic projection onto the table between them.
The trench had started natural. It no longer looked it. Cassian was bent over with his shoulder to the mud wall as if he intended to push it. They could no longer see anyone else through the dust. Despite that, a telltale sound made Cassian shout to whoever might still hear: “GET DOWN!” …Knowing they already had the only cover they were going to get and it wasn’t enough. The calculations ran in the corner of Kay’s display. There was exactly one way for Cassian to survive.
Kay suddenly started at Cassian, in a way that startled Cassian enough to nearly bring his rifle to bear, but Kay impatiently bent it aside and folded himself down around Cassian, close enough to twist wrists and bruise ribs, but despite Cassian’s shout of astonished pain, Kay enveloped him tight.
A moment later, the world exploded around them. The air was on fire, and Cassian’s gasp could have killed him if Kay hadn’t suddenly popped a panel and blasted his own filtration in Cassian’s face, forming an intangible mask. Cassian’s body had shifted from resisting Kay to clinging to him, hard enough that would bruise flesh, which unfortunately meant bruising Cassian himself… but Kay could only focus on protecting Cassian, in this moment, from what was outside, not within himself.
The firestorm swirled away. What had been mud was baked and cracked. The murk in the air had burned away. Revealing bodies everywhere.
Cassian made a quiet sound, and even though Kay wanted to keep him from seeing their unit destroyed, the sound was enough of pain that he knew he couldn’t maintain this position. In fact, as he unfolded himself and looked down, he saw he’d partially failed. Cassian had survived what no other organic in that valley had. But Kay hadn’t been able to cover him completely; Cassian’s arm and leg were badly burned, and the arm looked broken. But bacta would heal that. He was alive.
And staring around him with a flatness in his eyes that Kay only saw now and then, and usually not on organics.
The plane was still dropping bombs. And by the sound, was coming back for another pass.
Cassian’s head instantly whipped ’round, but no good: Kay had accidentally cracked Cassian’s own rifle in half.
“Find me a long range weapon,” Cassian barked. No time to thank Kay or grieve the unit. Only time to avenge them and get themselves out of there. Kay, grateful Cassian wasn’t trying to do it himself, waded into the bodies and found a rifle just like Cassian’s and brought it back. Cassian looked for a vantage, then ordered Kay to kneel.
The usual argument scrolled across Kay’s readout but he didn’t waste time making them. Cassian would never let Kay take a shot for him. Even when Cassian’s ability was compromised. It was a line they would never cross.
Bracing himself against Kay’s back, at the perfect angle, Kay could only see the muzzle of Cassian’s rifle, shaking a little, then steadying. And they waited.
The bomber came back into range. Cassian fired.
He hit its fuel cells and the plane spectacularly exploded, dropping its remaining bombs.
Cassian sprang back in horror as Kay observed, “That was the inhabited block.”
They watched the fires burn themselves out, on this planet of metallic soil and no natural flora.
And Cassian was instantly up, on his injured leg, weapon in his uninjured hand, shouting for Kay to follow him. They abandoned their post and broke into a dead run for the crash zone.
All combat had died down with the fires. There seemed to be no one left. When any support craft would arrive was unknown. The surrounding areas had been evacuated, but that one residential area had refused to leave. Cassian was calling them idiots in a dozen languages with each gasping breath as they ran. But they were still running towards them. (Because who else would be coming? Would anyone? Would Kay and Cassian themselves be extracted or the whole area written off as lost?
They already knew. They’d have to find their own way offplanet. So what was left for those who’d never intended to?)
Cassian’s adrenaline levels were such that he wasn’t limping, but he remembered at least that he couldn’t lift stones. As they reached the blocked street, he leaned on the rifle as Kay threw aside the debris.
Amazingly, some houses were still partially standing.
Some were probably empty. The streets were not. Of those who’d maybe tried to run at the last moment. Or tried to crawl to cleaner air. Or heard other structures collapse and realized shelter was meaningless. Or…
Most were dead but…
Cassian and Kay walked in silence until a sound made them both stop.
Propped in the shadow of a partly standing wall, a man was cradling a woman in his arms. A piece of shrapnel had nearly bisected her. Between her torso and hips, her unborn child lay decapitated, spilled out of her with her viscera.
The sound had been the man groaning out. Pleading for them to stop. He looked up at Cassian now. He did not reach out for help. Only with his eyes… which turned to the gun in Cassian’s hand.
Cassian stood very, very still.
Then, heedless of his burned hand, which he tore with the movement, he clicked the blaster down from sniper rifle into handgun configuration.
And said quietly, “Kay. Go.”
“Cassian,” said Kay at the same level. “No.”
“Don’t do it.”
“It’s the only help I can give.”
“I know. Let me do it.”
“I won’t feel it.”
“Arakyd KX Vulpter 2SO, leave.”
When Cassian said those words in that order… he would never slave program Kaytu to do anything, but… Kay knew it was an order he must obey.
But as Kay turned away, Cassian added to it. “Go ahead of me. Clear the debris. Make sure no one dies suffocating or crushed.”
No other help was coming. They knew it for certain later when Kay managed to get them back to the spaceport and found it abandoned but for their own unit’s ship. Saw it confirmed from space, heard it confirmed over the holonet.
They didn’t know it for certain yet.
Kay circled back to look for Cassian after.
There were no survivors. Those who had not obviously died in the bombardment each sported a perfect, tiny blaster mark, in the precise place on their face that meant instantaneous and painless. Each sat or lay in an attitude of unresisting peace.
Just as Cassian had said. Kay found Cassian sitting on a crate with tears on his face.
The only difference was: Kay didn’t take the blaster away while Cassian was staring down at it. He took it when Cassian started to put it to his own head.
Jyn, on shaky legs, stood and turned. As she’d gambled, the spy hadn’t left the ship at all. Cassian’s arms were folded tightly across himself in the shadow of the archway. She moved to him. Put her hands over his arms. He was shaking. She rubbed his arms until he loosened them, then replaced them with hers.
“Did it work? Did you see it through my eyes?” she said. (As she’d seen it through Kay’s.)
“What did you see?”
“Mercy. That I didn’t have to take on. But no one else could. If I’d walked away their deaths would have been so much worse. Letting Kay do it would have been frightening for them, not just self-sacrificing of me.”
“Can you accept it?”
“No. …But if you believe it…”
“There’s nothing to believe,” said Jyn. “It’s true. Please stay.”
“I dream of making love to you,” he said. “And you get pregnant, going through all the stages in a matter of moments, and it’s painless and you seem at peace and happy… but then it’s knives and blood that come out and pull your insides out with it and I’m tied to it and can’t do anything but scream for you to fight but you only go white and the thing tearing you apart ties my hands so I’m just helping it rip you.”
“Is it because you’re afraid I will or regret we can’t—?”
“Because killing is the only help, the only care I’ve ever given. I haven’t told you about Tivik or—”
“Not with me.” She wanted him to talk, but not to reinforce that conviction. “You were supposed to kill me. Or leave me. Or betray me. You didn’t. You helped and saved me. More than anyone else in this universe. More than anyone who was supposed to. You’ve always saved me. You keep me alive. Tell your stupid subconscious that the next time it lies.”
He clasped her shoulder, buried his face in her hair, kissed her neck, and stayed locked there. She clung back, needing it too.
When at last they moved apart, K-2SO, still sitting motionless at the table, said quietly, “Did I make the right choice?”
Cassian, keeping hold of Jyn’s hand, moved back into the room to touch Kay’s head. Thank you. “Yes, Kay. Both of you.”
From Alexander Freed's novelization:
For all K-2's social dysfunction (or perhaps his disinterest in organic socialization—who could fathom the mind of a droid?), he knew Cassian better than anyone. He'd seen Cassian commit acts even Draven wasn't aware of.
On Jenoport, he'd found Cassian staring at his blaster with tears on his face. K-2 had volunteered for a memory wipe in case Cassian's "continued dignity and service demanded it."
Re: mind-body relationship: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91524-where-am-i/
Chapter 14: in bed
Some much needed Jyn appreciation. And smut.
Don't quite know how to articulate the asexual/autochorissexual discovery that it is NOT an abuse or betrayal of oneself to get one's enjoyment out of doing things for the other person, without necessarily feeling a need/drive oneself! Hope the distinction is clear for Cas and Jyn's particular case, where the drives are there and well matched, they just need some liberating.
Cassian woke up and stared into the darkness.
Jyn torn in half, inside out, white above and red below
The dream again… but this time…
neglected rejected his own mental health time after time. But as recruiter, as trainer, he’d helped others with theirs so many times. Rehabilitation, retraining… giving people strength, giving them choice… The goal, he’d teach them to teach themselves and others, was not to forget. Never to forget. It was to be able to remember without reliving.
Seeing Jenoport, what he’d never been able to confront or escape, outside himself like that… with Kay and Jyn seeing it too… it would never be less than terrible and he would never want to be at peace with it. But something had been reset. He'd been a piece of it, in the universe. It was not a piece of himself.
(A miracle to go with getting Kay back. And having Jyn alive and beside him.)
He’d had the dream and now he was awake, and it was only that. Only a dream.
He didn’t need the reminder of Jyn, warm and breathing, to convince him. Though he listened and felt it and let it wash over him.
Paths he’d never been able to walk for himself but had always wanted to. Then Jyn had led the way onto them and let him walk beside her.
He remembered the first time he saw her, handcuffed, scruffed by Kaytu, being led off the shuttle from Wobani. Cassian was usually an excellent profiler, yet looking at her in the flesh, not just her file, he couldn’t believe how wrong he’d been. So much smaller than her record would suggest. Jaw set and shoulders hunched against a world always ready to take another swing at her. Eyes steady even as they took in everything, suspicious and preparing. But there was also fire in her. A need, of such sharpness and gravity, the universe itself seemed bent in around her. Standing at Draven’s side, watching Kay bring her in, Cassian had wanted suddenly to turn to his superior and say, No. Not her. Don’t assign me to her. Put me on a different path. He’d stayed silent, thank the Force.
Feeling his chest rise and fall, evening out from waking adrenaline, Cassian waited until it was slow, then consciously matched the rhythm to Jyn’s. Only then, he turned onto his side and slipped his arms around her. Unconsciously, she pressed back against him, moulding them together, breathing and living and warm.
He remembered the look on her face and in her eyes as she looked up at him through the Jedhan sunglare. The skepticism, but also the searching, the wanting to believe him and not have to act ironic, as he said Rebellions are built on hope. And something seemed to have passed from her chest to his, though he as fluidly turned away and led them on. (As fluidly as he’d lied about Tivik having “gone missing”… Shhhhh no. No. It’s not just yourself you punish now by reliving. Stay with her. With her.)
Closing his eyes in the darkness, Cassian arched his neck to touch his face to the back of hers. Her hair was bunched between the side of her head and the pillow. So he could tingle the shortest hairs on the back of her neck with his breath and his lips. Her shoulders and hips shifted back against him, as she let out the tiniest, audibly smiling sigh.
He remembered staring at her before the bag was yanked over his face. How in the midst of the ’nockdump of the situation, he’d been startled to find some personal feelings in the midst. Including… pride. At being at the side of this woman who’d shout her deepest pain in an enemy’s face—Because I’m the daughter of Galen Erso—when it was the right move. Astonishment to be so easily included in her assignment of friends. Unquashable amusement that not twenty minutes (and a battle) ago, hadn’t he told her We’re not here to make friends
“Are you awake?” murmured Jyn. Her hips still shifted against him.
“Yes,” he murmured back.
“Yeah, I had it.”
“What?” She turned her head slightly to be able to see him. “You seem…?”
He touched his lips to her forehead, her cheek. “I’m okay.”
She blinked in… Hope? “…Good. That’s good!”
He remembered her hand like steel on Jedha, like ice in Saw’s tower, like broken glass on Eadu, like a live wire on Yavin. Like life on Scarif. And in between, the charge that passed between them in the shuttle. Where no matter how often they’d invaded one another’s space, this time was suddenly completely different… and they stared at each other and looked away in instant synchrony, recognition both of what that feeling was and how they could not allow it…
“Thank you,” he breathed.
“For what?” she breathed back.
“Not saying ‘I told you so’.”
“I would never. Except for usually. But I won’t.”
He laughed. And enjoyed how the exhalation made her skin shiver.
He remembered her in the Council chamber, then the tarmac, staring down everyone he’d lived for who was turning their back on him, and in that instant the universe did bend in and through her and all he needed to do was not get in its way; not convince anyone, just let them know of her existence because she perfectly embodied what they wanted too; to lay them and himself at her feet and ask only to walk with her where she was going to go. …And then seeing her look at him like she had on Jedha. Only now without any of the wryness or the doubt. Brighter than any star.
“Would it seem too ulterior,” he murmured, his hand beginning to caress her stomach… “too much like I thought I owed you something…”
“As long as you want to,” she murmured, arching back into him more deeply. “I like when we’re in it, wanting together… but for my sake is fine if you really want… but you’ve forced yourself so much before… Can I trust you to…? Before I want too badly to let you whether—?”
He kissed her throat. Her head fell back against his shoulder, her hand moving on his thigh.
She had a point… He’d trained himself so well to ignore and oppose his wants. But… “I’ll never have that problem with you. With you, I get in my way when I worry about wanting too much…”
“Pfassk,” she breathed, her hand finding his on her abdomen. “Show me ‘too much’ sometime…” Gliding with it as he trailed it down to where she radiated. Her hand slid up his arm and gripped it suddenly as his fingers found the place they sought, and began to lavish her there.
Her fingers dug into his hair, her throat against his mouth, her breath music in his ear. She curved into his hand and gently rode.
“I missed you so much,” they both whispered.
Her waves were deepening as he kissed her, from behind her ear, down the tendon of her neck, around her collarbone. The movement of her hips against him was so good, especially as her breath hitched and moaned with the flow of his hand, the pad of his finger rough, its motion smooth.
“I love you,” she sighed. He breathed it back into her skin as she came like a wave crest between his hips and his hand.
She fell limp against him, and he held her where she gently throbbed, soaking up the heat into his fingertips and palm, as he pulled the rest of her deeper against his chest and let himself relish the pressure against his lap. They draped shapelessly into each other, just breathing.
He felt her start to revive. And began to move his hands again, to shift her clothes. But she turned suddenly to face him.
“No,” she murmured, taking his hands and gently pinning them to the mattress on either side. He didn’t resist, though he raised an eyebrow at her.
“It’s okay if you want to do things for me,” she murmured. “But I agree with Kay. I don’t like you shutting yourself away.”
“I’m not,” he said softly.
Caught between What? and How? he only raised the other eyebrow to join the first.
Keeping his wrists pinned, Jyn leaned forward to kiss his chest. Then began to make her way down his body.
She barely reached his waist before Cassian’s stomach muscles abruptly contracted and he nearly sat upright. “I’m—”
She stopped at once, looking into his face. But there was still a challenge on hers.
“I want you to be with me,” she said quietly. “That means… having you with me. Not losing yourself in me… not imagining yourself away. Even if you want to do things for my sake without me doing anything back… okay, let yourself want that. Just let… yourself. Just be here with me, whatever we’re doing.”
“You saw what happened,” he said, “when I…”
“So let it happen,” she said. She’d released his hands. Both of hers were now on his chest, pressed to his thudding heart. “Over and over. Over and over until I’ve seen and heard it all. I want all of it. Stop right now and tell me something if you need to. I will never not listen. Just like you will always listen to me. You know it of you. Believe it of me too. Right now. What are you thinking about?”
“…I want you,” he said. “But… I don’t know… if I like the thought as much if… I’m a part of it.”
“I do,” she said. “I like it more.” She sat back, moving her mouth away from him… but running her hands closer. “I don’t have to do this. Nothing you don’t want. Just consider, for… sometime, maybe. That if you enjoyed what you just did for me…?”
His body expressed its agreement without him needing to verbalize. She couldn’t not notice, so situated; and smiled.
“Consider,” she finished quietly, “you weren't trying to isolate me, I was still close to you. It was still both of us… and I might enjoy playing like that too. Not if you wouldn’t enjoy it. Nothing you don’t want, ever. But if the only reason you wouldn’t is because you think that leaves you alone, less about both of us… it wouldn’t. You’re never without me. Ever.”
He remembered the way she’d looked at him on the citadel tower. When the computer said transmitting. When she closed her eyes and leaned her body against him and let Krennic go. When she said, I do. Someone’s out there.
“I love you,” she said quietly, then quickly: “Don’t say it back. Think about it. I love you. And I won’t have you thinking the kind of things you think about the person I love. Got that, Captain?”
“I don’t think I’m still a captain,” he murmured on reflex. But his mind had started spinning in a different direction.
He sat upright, suddenly, but without the convulsiveness of before. He took her hands in his so she wouldn’t misinterpret or move away.
“Sefla,” he said, surprising Jyn about as much as she’d surprised him by mentioning Kay. “He made you a sergeant, didn’t he?”
Jyn blinked. “Um… uh… yes?”
Cassian placed her hands on his knees and his on her shoulders. “Congratulations. I promote you to Commandant.”
She looked at him like she loved him and he was absolutely crazy.
He smiled slightly back. “You outrank me.”
She recoiled. “That’s the opposite of what I—”
“Jyn…” He kissed both of her palms, not letting her move away. Waited until she was still again. “I know you’ll never order me to do anything I don’t want to. But following you has always allowed me to go where I most wanted, but for myself, never could. Always. So when you ask me if I mean it… and tell me to believe you too…”
She tilted her head slightly, beginning to understand. Following orders was where Cassian was most comfortable. It was where he’d spent most of his life. It was where he had the least doubt. …When he trusted the one giving the orders.
Tentatively, one of her hands moved out of his, and back to his knee.
“I command you to tell me whether to stop or keep going,” she said quietly. “Repeatedly.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered, just as softly.
Slowly, so gently, she moved forward and kissed his neck. Her hands ran over his chest and ribs. One moved softly over his sleeping pants and, through them, took him in her hand.
She went still, face suspended millimetres from his skin.
He turned his face to brush his lips to her cheek. “Keep going,” he managed.
And kept obeying the order until he was lying back onto the pillows, heaving breaths at the feel of her taking him in her mouth, and his mind didn’t fall up into the chasms he feared would steal him too far from her.
He thought of the other times this had happened to him. But not the other people who’d done it. Yes, he remembered them, never forget… Xilo, Farir, d’Djiera, Aune. But he didn’t relive them. It was Jyn with him there: in the lights of Jelucan and Coruscant, in the sands of Ttaz under the stars… in a bed that didn’t matter if it was in a mountain or a bunker, made with silk or army blankets, he was there in it.
He groped for her hand. She clasped it back at once, twining their fingers, pressing their palms.
…And this wasn’t something happening to him. He didn’t have to allow it, there was no ulterior motive, no objective, no obligation, no blackmail, no imbalance, no trade, no force, no alias. And he wasn’t allowing it… though he knew she’d stop at the slightest sign… and he didn’t want her to. For the moment, maybe not the next moment but just for this one, it was… It wasn’t just about him, but he could be there, with all that came with him, and it didn’t take him away from her. And he was under orders not to think he should leave her untainted by him or himself unrewarded by her. Don't think that way about her choice of love.
She didn’t seem surprised or disappointed when, after not much longer, he stopped her. She just sat up, licking her lips like a loth-cat, and raised an eyebrow. “One more command?”
He tilted his head, breathing hard, waiting for it.
“I’m never going to do that again without you suggesting or initiating it,” she said. “That’s what I need to enjoy it.” For a moment her composure cracked and she looked nervous. “But… a good experiment?”
He took her face in both his hands and kissed her.
“Permission to set at ease,” he murmured against her lips.
She laughed. “Granted.” The laugh turned into a gasp, then back into a laugh, as he seized her in his arms and pulled her into his lap.
“Also yes,” he breathed. “A good experiment. I need all of you now.”
She agreed by grabbing him, moving him to her, and sinking down upon him, slipping him inside, taking his pulse into her own. She locked her legs around his waist, braced one hand on his shoulder, the other holding the back of his head, and began to rock herself upon him.
One of his hands went to the curve of her hip, the other her back; balance, suspension, letting her lean far, drawing her back to him, joining her rhythm, his muscles convulsing now euphorically as she bore down, their joined laps a caldera.
The ocean again. Always. The light. But it wasn’t Scarif, not ever again, and the light would never be green. It was an energy they were generating, birthing between them, and it suffused through them with heat and tide, surging, crest and trough… She pressed herself suddenly to him, pelvis to breasts, the muscles of her arms rippling around his shoulders; he slid his rough hands up her scarred back, cupping her shoulder blades, their kiss as hot and surging as their inner cores.
“Oh god,” gasped Jyn as she pulled on him hard inside her. He buried his face in her flexing neck, trying to kiss her while trying to breathe. Her hips, her heat… his own hips bucked making her gasp and laugh, and push him suddenly flat, to lie down with him, on him, and keep kissing and riding him even more.
“Forever,” she whispered. “I want you in me forever.”
He dug his fingers into her hair, along her spine, the small of her back, pressing her where it would resonate inside and through to the front, making her shiver and gasp with his hands and tongue and cock, stilling her hips so he could begin to shift and move in her from below, as she’d done with him.
“Always,” he gasped back, as she threw back her head and began to come. “All the way.”
Chapter 15: Part Three: Takodana -> Millennium Falcon
“I have a bad feeling about this,” grumbled Leia.
“C’mon,” said Han, “we have two of the best special agents in the galaxy helping out.”
“One of whom was never a special agent and the other doesn’t want to be anymore,” Leia pointed out.
“That’s undecided, isn’t it?” Han looked over his and Leia’s shoulders, as they walked arm-in-arm, at Jyn and Cassian, doing the same. “Guys?”
“You asked for help,” said Cassian. “You’ve given us a lot. Do we have to draw more conclusions than that?”
“See?” said Han, facing forward again. “They’re fine.”
Jyn had to admit there was something almost satisfying being back in an environment like this. She’d wondered if she ever would again. Being here, calmly, felt like reclaiming something. After they left, she’d never have to look back.
Plus. The pirate queen’s castle had a bit of the Massassi Temple to some of its spires. Jyn wondered if she’d find a chance to pull Cassian up one and…
“If this is just an excuse for some kind of double date,” muttered Leia in one last stab.
“Neutral watering hole,” Han said soothingly. “We want more info on the missing spies without Imperial engagement, this is your place.”
That was the other thing. When General Cracken had talked about retrieving two agents, even General Draven wouldn’t leave Cassian entirely out of it. Though Cassian walked now as the only one of the four of them not carrying a weapon. —His weapon was arguably the black droid already situated toward the back of the room, who only looked (and selectively thought) like a med unit. And was losing at sabacc to the Wookiee opposite.
“You must be cheating!” Jyn heard Kay complain. “I’m counting the cards very diligently.”
Chewie urfed with laughter.
A new voice: “Is that my boyfriend I hear?” A small orange humanoid made a beeline to wrap her tiny arm around Chewie’s massive one. The Wookiee gave a greeting roar, nuzzling her face. She laughed, scratched his head, then turned her hugely magnified eyes around.
“Han Solo,” she declared, a little loudly for everyone’s taste. (Only Leia outwardly winced.) “Why so stupid, coming to a smuggler’s den with a price on your head?”
“I know you keep the peace, Maz,” said Han, releasing Leia’s arm long enough to give Maz a hug.
“As much as I can,” grumbled Maz, “but I don’t aim for a challenge.” She turned her enormous eyes on the others. Her tone turned grave. “Your Highness. Greetings and condolences.” She bowed her head to Leia, who filled the role by nodding stoically back. Then Maz’s eyes fell on Jyn and Cassian.
“The traitor-heroes of Scarif,” Maz said under her breath. “Interesting. You’re supposed to be dead. Or don’t you want to continue that impression?”
Cassian went to one knee, as if bowing. Jyn heard him murmur back at the same volume, “Thank you for asking. We’re Gabrael Willix and Nari Pontha, here.”
Maz Kanata, the pirate queen, slyly smiled. Then, astonishing Jyn almost enough to grab her blaster, Maz planted a kiss on Cassian’s lips. Just as quickly, she was addressing all of them again. “And you’re just here for my Corellian brandy?”
They were taking turns being the discombobulated one; Leia was perfectly poised now. “We’re here to see if you know anything about a couple of missing Alliance agents. Han says you’re the hub of information in the galaxy.”
“Pfffffsht,” said Maz, jerking her thumb toward Cassian. “Don’t insult this one. Though I’ll grant I may get more of the petty stuff.”
She’d already demonstrated a hell of a lot more knowledge, just recognizing Jyn and Cassian, than anyone was supposed to have. …But perhaps not really. A person like this was usually a third insight, a third instinct, and a third swindler. Now that Jyn thought about it, Cassian had obviously passed through here before (unless Maz was just presumptuous as hell, which she wouldn’t rule out). Even so, Jyn’s and Cassian’s faces weren’t as undocumented as she tended to assume. Her arrest record combined with the legacy of Scarif plus Yavin… and even if Cassian had managed to avoid having his image captured all these years… But, yes, Cassian’s and Maz’s body language toward each other was at least as familiar as Han’s or Chewie’s. Jyn felt a lot of kinship with Leia in that moment in, despite thinking this a logistically good thing, also feeling acute dislike for it.
She also didn’t like how Maz kept being way ahead of them. As when she said: “What’ll be your play? Dragon Void Run?”
“That’s Cracken’s thinking,” said Han. Leia half-stared, half-glared at him. Jyn glanced at Cassian, gauged the looseness of his shoulders, and decided (partly out of disgust with both Maz and herself) to take her focus off their host. Pettiness aside, just as likely her instincts were shouting ‘cause of everyone else in this place. Familiarly, she assigned herself as bodyguard and shifted her body and gaze to have her friends—
whoa, wow, I mean, yes, obviously
—more behind her and her focus around them.
She felt Cassian follow her example. That was satisfying; that he was still in step with her and that he was going to leave the main engagement with Maz to Han.
Of course he is. This is nothing. The tiniest taste of his old life.
…Which was the crux, wasn’t it. Not just Maz. It was all of this. Everything Cassian had been so ready to leave behind. It had been discussed at length before coming here, of course. A waste of focus to dwell on it.
Maz was saying, “Come on, let’s all go somewhere more comfortable.” As they passed, she nodded discreetly to Chewie (content to let them go) and Kaytu (less happy about it) on the way.
She led them to a cushion-benched round table in an enclosed side area and let them arrange themselves. Han kept his arm courteously (a bit protectively) through Leia’s. Leia kept her hand regally (a bit warningly) on Han’s. Jyn and Cassian took the defensive positions across from each other on the outer seats. Somehow, Maz wound up between Leia and Cassian. Though Maz seemed intent to put Leia more at ease, she seemed equally intent to test Jyn. Though there did seem to be genuine regard as she put her tiny orange hand on Cassian’s forearm.
“It is good to see you in one piece, Fulcrum,” she said softly to him.
Cassian inclined his head, nearly touching hers. Then returned his focus to their surroundings.
Han, Leia, and Maz proceeded to talk.
Jyn didn’t want to admit to herself why she felt like her skin was crawling. She ferociously turned her attention back to everything and everyone who wasn’t their own party.
* * *
Jyn had continued to feel agitated under her skin. After a while it stopped feeling antagonistic toward Maz, or particularly worried about her clientele—they were truly nothing she hadn’t seen and handled before, and seemed, if not genuinely sedate, sincerely interested in being allowed to stay in (or come back to) Maz’s house, thus play by her rules. Even if someone didn’t, between Solo, Leia, Cassian, and the backup of Kay and Chewie, toward the end Jyn was feeling downright bored. Yet her skin had continued to crawl. And she realized… it was about watching someone else show intimacy with Cassian. It had become clear over the afternoon that Maz hadn’t actually been trying to compete with her. But she had gotten her riled up.
And screw it. She finally believed Han when he said this place was no big deal. And they should enjoy themselves.
The forest was a bit like Yavin 4 as well. This area was deserted of patrons and ships alike. As Jyn hoisted herself up the first steppe of the castle’s most zigguratlike spire, Cassian caught on and nervously smiled, looking around. “Are you sure this is—”
“I’ve dreamed,” she murmured, leaning back down with her face close to him, “of fucking you on that bloody Yavin temple every day since we left it. This is the closest we’re gonna get to it any time soon, right?”
He gave another look around, but his body visibly betrayed him, and a moment later he grabbed her hand to accept her help climbing up.
They made it halfway up the steppes, about the level of the tree canopy, shielded from grounded view, when Jyn decided that was far enough. She hopped up onto one of the giant blocks, grabbed Cassian by the shoulders, and pulled him in for a kiss. He returned it, pushing his body up along her from below, until his arousal found hers. She moaned throatily and all-but ripped open his shirt, fumbling with his belt.
“This is—” he whispered hoarsely, even as his hands alternated between helping hers free him from his pants and undoing hers, “—the most ridiculous, dangerous—”
“Dangerous?” she demanded, slipping her hand into his waistband and making him arch.
“—mid-assignment,” he managed raggedly, hands slipping inside her shirt, curling around her waist.
“Which,” Jyn murmured, pulling him in so her lips could tingle his throat, “Han said… to have fun with…” She pulled him into place, stimulated herself with him ’til they were both slick and groaning, and slid him into her. Her arms locked around his neck and her legs around his waist. A sigh escaped her as she was filled.
He began to thrust but she tightened her locked ankles and whispered, “No… Stay in me.” He fell still, moving his hands slowly, flat-palmed, reverent, inside her open shirt, over her breasts. She began to undulate, moving herself and rippling upon him. His hands fell to the rock edge on either side of her, going white-knuckled, holding himself there as his head fell back, and she pressed herself upon him, kissing and licking the pulse in his throat. He couldn’t bear it and began to move, but obeyed still: not moving in and out of her, but the gentlest of shifts inside, sliding along her frontal wall. She let out a groan and leaned back on her palms, rolling her hips, rubbing herself on him without as she pulsed him on within.
“That’s how long?” he whispered, voice broken by pants and thrusts. “Since Yavin?”
“Since always,” she gasped back. “I always wanted you. I just didn’t know.”
At another moment she might have avoided talking like that, embarrassed by it, not sure she could rationally stand behind it. But right now was only the rhythm and the rolling of him inside her and her hips around him and the baked stone just under their joining, their fulcrum of labor, and she let her legs fall further open and her head farther back, exposing her breasts and belly to the sun and the wind as she pulled and drank and milked him there and revelled in the music of the sounds she’d learned to draw out of him. His abdominal muscles shook with the effort of keeping his movement small, leaving her the work, and he learned forward to press his forehead to her breast, kissing it, his hands alternating between the rock’s edge and her sides. She humped him smooth and deep, revelling in plateau, his labored breath setting her pace.
“Cassian,” she breathed, his name releasing the catch in her chest.
He put his face beside hers, cheek to cheek, and whispered in her ear, “My Jyn…”
She let out a sound of gladness and stretched back, her walls pulling on him tight, and the change in angle slid and pressed him against so good a place in her that she fell in some surprise flat on her back, reaching out her hands for his. He met her grasp at once and their arms held taut between his thrusts and her pulls. She gasped and let the feeling suffuse her. He slipped against her inside her so exquisitely she nearly came from breathing. Let this go on for hours, for days…
“Come up here,” she whispered. He pulled himself by his arms and she levered him with her pelvis and legs until he was lying braced over her on the stone, deep, deep inside, his arms around her, kissing her like it was how he needed to breathe.
She was on the verge, rubbing and riding against him. When his lips were at her ear again, and his words made her pause. “Did we die?”
She stopped moving, feeling both their pulses pounding within her.
“What do you mean?” she managed, panting.
She met his eyes, pupils blown, so dark… so warm, so filled with her… yet…
“At Scarif,” he whispered. “If we were disintegrated together… into each other. Why I can’t feel complete out of you.”
The look in his eyes could break her heart.
She decided to act against it. She would never laugh, not at him, especially not at what he’d just said. But her breath hitched wryly as she ran a hand down his face. “Did you ever feel complete before?”
“No,” he conceded.
“Me neither.” She caught his ear in her mouth, worked down his chiseled jaw, over to his beloved lips. They kissed so completely, the throbbing of him in her felt as intense as any thrust.
As they parted for breath, she did laugh and added, “Or could it be we’re just really compatible? shaped?”
He expostulated a breath of embarrassed laughter, and gave a pointed thrust that made her gasp. (He was, to the tastes she hadn’t known she had, an excellent shape; slender, like the rest of him.) “How much basis for comparison did you say you have…?”
“You know how much,” she gasped back. “I don’t need… any… to feel… oh…” As he suddenly slid himself again, per orders, caressing inside her. She grabbed his face and kissed him hard, grinding herself upon him. And he replaced his mouth with his thumb, running it over her lips, dipping it in as they parted and touching it to her tongue… then moving it down between them and rubbing it over her center. She grabbed his muscles where he thrust and pulled him into her so hard.
They both cried out, each’s contractions inducing the other’s. They came together.
They lay breathless and boneless on the sun-baked rocks, feeling the breeze stir their hair and through open clothes, listening to the rustle of the tree canopy and one another’s resolution.
“I never slept with her, by the way,” murmured Cassian at last.
“Huh?” Jyn had forgotten anything that wasn’t up here on this tower.
“Maz. I know she was toying with you. I’m sorry I didn’t do anything about it. But… never.”
“Oh…” Jyn flushed to reflect that, yes, part of them being up here right now was possessiveness. “No, I mean… I’m sorry… I get it and didn’t need to let it get to me… I get why she was testing me. The peace keeping thing. Impulse control. My reputation. …And anyway. It would be fine if you had. It’s not like—”
“It’s part of why I trust her,” interrupted Cassian gently. “She had me in a position to demand it. Many times. She never did. She never took advantage. Not to trade for secrets or safety or patching me up. She always gave me a haven. If she took anything in trade, it was just some tech or intel I wasn’t betraying the Alliance to share back.”
Jyn turned her head to stare into his face. The matter-of-fact way he said things… her heart felt like it was blocking her throat. She rolled over to put her body over his, taking his face in her hands, meeting his sky-black eyes.
“I never had a time,” she said half-voiced, “where I didn’t consider my body my own. Even if it was the only thing I had. I wish… I’m so sorry.”
He brushed his fingers across her cheek. “But I had the Alliance,” he said softly. “You had yourself, but all alone.”
In an instant, years hit her, cold with isolation. She put her head to his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him, shivering and hanging on, and trying to drink in the warmth when his arms enfolded her back.
What a pair we are…
But her surviving for herself seemed at least to be serving her—both of them—now. One of them had to be grounded in themselves. His need to serve (be lost in) something external… she wondered if it should disturb her that he seemed to be serving her now. But he didn’t burden her, demand more of her than she simply was; and it seemed to bring him closer—whether he’d ever be able really—to serving himself. If it’s ever not okay, deal with it. Right now, it’s okay.
She said at last, into his chest, “You know what I’m saying.”
He brought up her face, kissed her, touched his forehead to hers; took a moment to jointly breathe.
“I saw sex slavery on Jelucan and Coruscant,” he said. She pressed against his chest to keep her face with his while trying to warm them both. “I don’t… I don’t want to compare… nothing I’ve been through was anything like… it’s another thing to talk about sometime.” He clearly hated the idea. But as his face tilted back, his eyes were warm on her. “It’s thanks to you we haven’t had to. You… thank you for… understanding.”
“I can’t, really,” she said. “But I try.” She held him tightly, his arms tightening around her in turn. “And no. You never have to. But you can.”
He kissed her hair and said, “I know.”
* * *
Leia’s eyes flickered to them, Chewie unobtrusively leaned back, but Kaytu fully turned and stood up. It occurred to Jyn, embarrassed, vaguely guilty, that perhaps the others had been waiting for them to reappear.
Kay closed the gap between them and lowered his head to address them both. “I think we should leave. The Devaronian has been asking some pointed questions. The Princess is handling her deftly but—”
—but Kay had defeated his own purpose by beelining directly for Jyn and Cassian. They looked around and suddenly found themselves cordoned by a group that struck Jyn as familiar, like an echo of…
The Devaronian stood and turned her back on Leia and Chewie, and Jyn instantly knew they’d made a big mistake not getting immediately back to the Falcon.
“Liana,” said Blue.
“Blue,” said Jyn. “I thought Rocwyn was going to execute you.”
“She was,” said Blue. “I got out. Did you? Or were you let out?”
Jyn found herself very aware of Cassian and Kaytu at her back. “I was rescued. By your lot, actually.”
There was too much she didn’t want to say outright, standing in the middle of a smuggler’s den, which of course had gone annoyingly quiet as too many people openly watched.
“So I see.” Blue raised her chin to Cassian. “Fulcrum. Please tell me she’s your prisoner.”
“She started that way,” said Cassian. “She proved herself. She’s one of us.”
“Really,” said Blue. “She tell you how she’s been one of us before, but was really working for the Empire?”
“Yes, actually,” said Cassian.
“And betrayed us to them?”
“You might be interested to hear what she’s done since.”
Leia and Chewbacca had stood up. Blue angled herself not to have her back toward any of them. She’d closed some of the distance from her people, but looked back at Leia as the princess said, “Perhaps this is a conversation we could take somewhere more private?”
“No,” said Blue calmly, “I don’t think so.” She turned her eyes back on Jyn. “Actually, I have some idea what’s happened since. You’re famous now, did you know? …Well, not you individually, but it’s not too hard to put the pieces together if you know what to look for. You gave it back to them, I’ll give you that. …And you’re supposed to be dead.”
“Yes, I am,” agreed Jyn. “I was rescued again.”
“How nice for you,” said Blue. “Would’ve been nice for my crew.”
It definitely hurt. She’d liked them. And she’d always known she’d probably gotten them all killled; now she knew she had.
Jyn’s eyes flickered around the circle. This was going to come out callously—especially having liked their predecessors—but she had to confirm. “Looks like you’ve found a new one?”
“Doesn’t really make up for what you did to the old one,” said Blue icily. She raised her hands palms-outward, one toward Leia, one toward Cassian. “Look. Obviously I know who you are. I’m freelancing now but I’m still sympathetic. I don’t have a quarrel with you.”
Cassian moved slightly to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Jyn. “Then what are you after, here?”
Blue shrugged slightly. “Confirmation, at first. I guess that is your droid, Fulcrum? He’s gotten a makeover. Still pretty bad at subtlety.” She met Jyn’s eyes. “Maybe some recompense.”
Cassian tensed, but Jyn put out a hand to hold him back.
“Our organization is less resourced than it has been,” said Leia, joining the others’ unwillingness to name the Alliance here. The Alliance was less unfriendly to smugglers than the Empire was, but Admiral Ackbar wasn’t fond of them, and you never knew who’d had a run-in with whom. Plus, Maz’s House Rules: no outright partisanship. “But I’m empowered to negotiate if—”
“Thanks,” said Blue, likewise doing the courtesy of leaving off explicit identifiers like Your Highness. “But this is neutral ground. Right, Maz? Not gonna violate anything. This is just between Hallick and me.” She waved aside one of her cordon, who stepped aside and let Blue enter the circle.
Giving a slight hand signal to Cassian, Jyn also stepped forward to meet her in the empty space.
“It’s not enough,” said Jyn. “But… I was wrong, I’ve paid, I’ve changed, I tried to do better, and I am so, so sorry, Blue.”
Blue regarded her, almost with the familiarity they’d once had. She almost, almost smiled.
“Yes,” Blue agreed. “It’s not enough.” And suddenly there was a blade in her hand, and in Jyn’s side.
“NO!” The scream was so harsh, so anguished as to be inhuman. Jyn followed its source to see Cassian fighting to free himself of Kaytu’s restraint. She wished she could tell him not to. But her eyes squeezed shut of their own accord and she wrested the blade from Blue’s hand in time to sink to her knees. She was able, at least, to pick an angle of collapse that wouldn’t drive the blade in deeper, but she also grasped its hilt tightly to keep it in place. Pulling it out, she knew, would do worse damage, not just in ripping her further, but it was the only thing keeping her injuries right now from spilling out.
As she started to black out, she found her last thought was to Cassian: I’m so sorry
* * *
It’ll always be both of us
* * *
The melee that ensued was confusing but quick. Cassian got free of Kay just in time to see the rest of Maz’s patrons having overpowered Blue’s people and shoved every single one of them, Blue included, to the wall.
Solo and Chewie had Jyn cradled between them and were making their way toward the exit nearest the Falcon.
“You have violated the pact of nonpartisanship and nonviolence of my home,” Maz said imperiously, seeming larger with anger, to the crew against the wall. “Those who get out alive will never be allowed back in. As to that…” She turned her head to Cassian. “Your privilege, Fulcrum.” She gestured to something at his side.
Cassian looked down. He had no memory of how it had gotten there. But Han’s blaster was in his hand.
He hadn’t held a blaster since Scarif. This one sat there now like it had always been there.
“Andor,” hissed another voice. He peripherally saw Leia beside him, her own blaster drawn and covering them. “Let me finish up here. Go to the ship.”
Chewbacca and Solo would save Jyn from leaving him. Leia and Kay were trying to save Cassian from leaving her.
Cassian could feel none of it.
He leveled his sights at the Devaronian called Blue. A former Rebel he’d known of and briefly dealt with on Five Points Station. He’d known from Jyn’s file that Jyn had joined her crew as an undercover agent of the Empire and sold them out, resulting in Blue’s theoretical execution and Jyn’s imprisonment on Wobani. (How the Empire rewarded its own double-agents.)
Blue raised her chin, meeting Cassian’s eyes, remorseless. Ejection from Maz’s castle, possibly her own death, had been worth it to her.
When Blue opened her eyes, she turned her head to the scorchmark in the wall, perfectly beside her ear.
Cassian fired off a volley. It went exactly over or between every member of her crew’s heads. Some of them whimpered. None of them were hit.
Cassian looked at Maz. “I'm sorry.” He handed the blaster to Leia and turned to follow the others onto the Falcon.
* * *
Somewhere, in the direction of the common area—Kay and Chewie must be manning the cockpit—Leia and Han were yelling at each other for going to that place to begin with. Jyn hoped this wouldn’t result in another spell of them not speaking to each other for a month. It wasn’t Han’s fault.
It was hers. All and only hers.
Her breathing must have changed, for Cassian was suddenly all alertness beside her, raising his head to look at her face.
“Hnenllo,” she slur-murmured. That was enough for him to make that sound in his throat; whatever emotion that would have been had it not been forced to the back. He cradled her face in his hand and kissed her forehead and temples and beside her eyes.
“How do you feel?” he whispered.
The bacta was magical stuff. She barely hurt. She just felt stiff and stilted and unutterably stupid and humiliated and guilty and unhappy and wanting something to wipe all thought from her head.
“Could do with some distraction,” she murmured, running her hand over his rough cheek, gently impelling him downward.
“You shouldn’t move,” he said, running his hand down her face in turn.
She managed a half-awake smirk. “So I won’t.”
In short order, with meticulous care, he’d slid off her lower clothes, avoiding the bandaged bacta patches along her side, and settled himself between her legs.
She lay back her head, letting herself sink into the pallet and his warmth in a way she hadn’t been able a moment ago, and let the warm sweetness of his mouth upon her smooth away the pain and tension in the rest of her body.
She didn’t care, and he didn’t stop, when they heard the hatchway open of someone coming to check on them, then more quickly backing out and reclosing the door.
His lips, his tongue, were perfect, swirling her like honey… an unbroken kiss, enveloping her, warmth and wet and breath, inside which his tongue did its worship… tip, flat, velvet underside, laving and caressing her, steady continuity, lapping like water… and she did find herself wanting to scoop and dig into it… but she followed instructions and stayed still, though her chest started heaving and breath groan with the effort of not moving.
He compensated for her. Slipping his arms gently under her, until his biceps were flush to her hips, and he gently pressed her and rocked her so none of her muscles needed to come to bear. The pain of her injury spasmed a few times, but just as much, as the nectar of Cassian’s kiss spread from her center to everywhere, it felt like it spread the bacta too, penetrating deeper to where the knife had gone and soothing and knitting her back up, all the widening warmth working and fusing together.
She wondered if Kay could confirm that endorphins could stimulate bacta. But didn’t care too much. Couldn’t care about much of anything while being so thoroughly stimulated herself.
As he’d done once, she reached for his hand. He obligingly gripped hers back, to be her tether: gentle suspension, pulling back, so she could hang from him, her throat arched to the air, her back stretched yet relaxed, all the movement she had to resist in her hips and pelvis going into the tension of her arm. He countered and balanced it perfectly. He murmured something into the delicate cluster of nerve endings, and pressed his free hand to her uninjured hip to keep her from arching into him.
“I don’t know if I can co—” she began, when his hand slipped between her and the pallet, pressing warm and flat into the small of her back, supporting and rubbing her there, so gently, that she felt the pleasure ride through her as surely as if he’d entered her, stimulating her from both sides, and she sank back as she experienced the most muscle-loosening orgasm of her life. As she came down, she found the pain of her side was no longer impeding her ability to lie flat. And Cassian trailed final kisses around her there, before dragging a sheet down from another bunk and pulling it up to sheathe her.
“Didn’t deserve that,” she murmured. “I’m awful.”
He touched his face to hers, eyes closed. “Don’t talk that way about the woman I love,” he said softly.
She let out either a laugh or a sob at the reuse of her order to him. “Yes, sir.” But she still felt it, and willfully misplaced the humiliation. “Is it strange to want that after injury…?”
“No,” he murmured back. “Context and expectation are big for pain management. Relaxation can help a lot.”
“I wanna hurry up and heal so I can fuck you senseless,” she whispered.
“Okay,” he answered with a laughed breath, kissing her cheek, the side of her neck. “Sleep now.”
Sleep. How. It was easier post-orgasm, not just to let her body unlock, but for her mind to relax a little too—enough to start to piece things together, too. And realize how easy it would have been for Blue to kill her outright. This wound was placed not to do so.
…So on some level. To some degree. Blue, however wanting her own last piece, must have thought Jyn’s debt sufficiently paid, too.
That was enough. Almost absolution.
Still hurting for the past, but managing to stay in the present, Jyn slept.
* * *
“That do the trick?” asked Han wryly, not caring if either a droid or a Wookiee would care about Human sexual privacy. “She feeling better?”
Cassian didn’t answer. He looked over at Kay, who put out an arm around Cassian’s shoulders. Cassian sank back against the support and closed his eyes.
And to his own disgust, began to weep.
Han didn’t notice and was about to remark on something else, but Chewie, who had, punched him in the arm. Han barked, “What?” then glanced back and fall silent.
Kaytu said, “Was this your first combat since being revived?”
It had hardly been combat… but Cassian must have nodded.
“You didn’t shoot anyone,” Kay said.
Cassian blinked, looked down at his hands, realizing he had no idea what had become of Han’s blaster.
“You gave it to Leia,” said Han, more subdued. “She gave it back to me. Don’t know how you got it off me in the first place.”
Chewie suggested something about spy skills, but also about dropping it.
“Why are you here?” said Kay. “Rather than with Jyn? Did you not want to discomfit her with tears?”
Cassian thought, distantly, that he would have thought he wouldn’t want to discuss this, anything, in front of anyone. Han and Chewie were right here. Yet he said it to Kay anyway. “Once again. I didn’t think it through.”
“You. The first time and now.”
“This one was my choice, not yours.”
“Yes. I wanted to honor it. But it means I gave up my way out.”
If possible, Solo and Chewbacca went more conspicuously silent.
“Way out,” repeated Kay. Either not getting it or refusing to let Cassian off without saying it.
“I’m alive for Jyn,” said Cassian. Eyes still closed. The lifelong spy, intelligence agent, close-lipped, casual liar. Speaking an unspeakable truth aloud and not caring who was there for it. “If I lose her, I won’t want to stay alive. Being able to follow her is the only thing that makes me cope with the possibility that she could die. But now you’re back. The one being I’d truly hurt by dying. And I don’t know how to free you of me.”
Somewhere, on a slightly different dimension, Solo seemed stunned and Chewbacca grave. Somewhere similar, Leia had appeared and was silent in the archway. All of them were unable to get to where Cassian and Kaytu were, but they hung there, as near as they could, like a force shield.
“Perhaps it’s the 2-1B housing again,” said Kaytu. His arm was still strong and unmoving around Cassian’s shoulders. “I don’t think I ever would have suggested this in my KX housing. But… if that’s what you needed to do, I would help you.”
As Cassian looked at him in dulled surprise, Kay added, “Promise me if that’s what you needed to do, you’d have me help you. Not do it all alone. That’s the condition by which you could leave me free.”
Numbly, Cassian nodded. Then doubled over, covering his face, and breaking fully down. He could almost feel Leia come forward to put her hand over his. Chewie turning in the copilot seat to touch a paw to Cassian’s head. Most tangibly, he felt Kay’s arm, strong and tight, never leaving his shoulders. Even Solo, keeping his focus on the controls, with a reangle of a shoulder, was sending energy back his way.
Like a family.
Leave them, said his mind immediately. Before they go the way of every family before Rogue One down.
Such voices were only good for ignoring.
When he’d wracked himself out, he moved gently free of them all, returning light touches for thanks, and made his way back to the sleeping Jyn. Put himself down beside her, fitted himself back around her, and also slept.
Knowing he needn’t outlive her was the only thing that let him do this. But it let him do this.
Please, merciful Force, whether or not either of us deserve it. A little longer. Let us do this.
Credit to Force Awakens and Rebel Rising; and to Timothy Zahn for Ackbar's aversion to smugglers.
Chapter 16: Hoth - on two planes
Maybe I'll introduce a plot of some sort eventually. Maybe. For now, more of this.
Jyn was in a cave.
Its walls were smooth and gently domed up to a ceiling that sparkled with what she knew to be kyber crystals. They reflected perfectly in a still, round pool. She touched it with her fingertips. The water was invitingly warm.
It was as opposite from the cave of her childhood as any cave could be.
“I didn’t know we had this on Hoth,” she said to no one.
“We don’t, really,” someone answered unexpectedly. “This isn’t real.”
A Human unfolded himself from sitting cross-legged and stood to look at her.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” said Jyn warily back. “This isn’t real?”
“Well drat,” Jyn didn’t mean to say aloud. “I want to take Cassian here.”
She’d meant to ask questions. But apparently this was a dream, and the thought must have been too strong not to let out—of getting Cassian with her into that pool…
The stranger tilted his head to one side. “So you’re on Hoth and you’re friends with Cassian… Andor? right? Does that make you Jyn Erso?”
“Um…” she said. This was an odd dream. Usually if she was identified by someone in one, it was someone she already recognized, and it was not a good thing. She said lamely but pointedly, “Depends who you are?”
He answered readily, “Luke Skywalker.”
The final member of Leia’s team. Hero of Yavin 4. The one who’d fired the actual shot that destroyed the Death Star; that made the sacrifices of all of them—from Lyra to Saw to Galen to Bodhi, Baze, Chirrut, Kay—worth it. Plus the difference between her and Cassian being heroes not criminals. All she could say was, “Oh.”
“Does that help?” he asked. He seemed to actually care.
“I… yes,” she said. “And yes, I’m Jyn Erso.”
Luke grinned, almost triumphantly. “I asked people if you were Force-sensitive. No one knew. But I had a feeling.”
“Why would you think I was?” Jyn wasn’t sure if she felt offended, but her tone sounded it and she decided to let it.
Luke started to respond, rethought, then admitted, “I could be thinking wishfully. It’s always nice not to be alone.”
Jyn softened. The answer was still, “Well, I’m not.”
Luke raised an eyebrow, indicating their surroundings.
“If this isn’t a dream,” which Jyn was sure it wasn’t, “I don’t know. Nothing like this has happened to me before.”
“Most people think only Jedi—” Luke began.
“No,” Jyn interrupted, “I know the Force isn’t exclusive to Jedi. My friend Chirrut was sensitive. So was my mum.”
Luke looked impressed. “You know more about it than I did, starting out.”
Jyn felt around to see if dream-her was wearing her kyber crystal. She was. She drew it out by its cord and held it up. “My father and I didn’t share it, but I was brought up with Mum’s faith.”
Luke nodded. “I was brought up being kept away from all of it.”
Inverse legends. The farmboy: shielded from faith then chose[n by] it; not knowing his family and always seeking it; yearning for adventure and giving up everything to dive into it. The criminal: raised in faith then abandoned [by] it; knew her family too well and always running from it; trapped in adventure and would have given anything to escape from it. If Jyn and Cassian were one another’s mirror, this man, Luke, was… Well, Jyn would be his shadow. He was so thoroughly Light.
“So if this isn’t real…?” Jyn said at last.
“Oh,” said Luke. “Sorry. Yes. I was—I am meditating. This is one of the spaces I visualize, to help me.”
“Okay. How am I here?” she said. “I’m really not Force sensitive. Or I’ve never been before.”
Luke considered her. “Leia told me you came back injured. Maybe you’re in the bacta tank. Sensory deprivation can amplify—make one particularly receptive.”
“I shouldn’t be in the bacta tank—I wasn’t that badly hurt.” Jyn started to look around as if she could spacially exit a dream/hallucination/Force projection.
“Maybe the injury threatened to get worse instead of better,” Luke suggested. “Or maybe someone pulled rank. Does it matter? You deserve it.”
Jyn’s mouth fell open and she couldn’t think what to say.
“Sorry,” said Luke, head atilt again, studying her face. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Debatable,” said Jyn at last. You deserve it. Who had ever said that to her? …And even if true, when in the universe did anyone get what they deserved?
…Me when Blue stabbed me. Kay when Chewie revived him. Krennic when Cassian shot him.
She suddenly missed Cassian terribly. That’s ridiculous. Bacta tank or not, he’s probably nearby, hovering. You’ll see him when you wake up. …but this place is so beautiful…
Jyn breathed, then turned to face Luke Skywalker.
“Thanks for your hospitality, or something,” she said, “and this is very pretty, and no offense, but… is there a way to… speed up my getting out of here?”
Luke looked deeply apologetic, wincing a bit. “My training was cut short. For whatever it’s worth, being here might count something like a healing trance. Help the bacta.” He seemed to be listening to something, then gestured toward the pool. “Try that. Unify the experiences.”
“Is the Force talking to you?” asked Jyn, unable not to sound a bit mocking. She still took the suggestion started toward the pool.
“Not anthropomorphically,” said Luke. He was continuing to take her skepticism with smiling. “But… yes, I think it’s a guided instinct.”
“I once would have called that wishful thinking,” said Jyn. “I can’t anymore.”
“Your friend?” guessed Luke.
“Chirrut,” agreed Jyn. “Yes.” She didn’t envision removing any clothes, and she didn’t imagine herself naked in front of Luke, but there didn’t feel like any intermediary between her and the warm water as she stepped into it. If this was just a dream, it had remarkable sensory vividness. The water felt amazing. …She wished Luke wasn’t probably her host and she could imagine him away, replace him with Cassian, and get naked after all… but she avoided thinking too far along those lines in case that projection likewise appeared. Luke struck her as a bit… well… pure. Far be it for the likes of her to sully him.
“This is nice,” said Jyn at last. Her feet didn’t touch any bottom, but her head stayed easily above the surface. She felt both buoyed and protectively immersed. Maybe it would help the bacta after all. Maybe it would help her wake up by being similar to whatever the bacta probably felt like. Either way… she wasn’t inclined to fight it. “Thank you. …Has this sort of thing happened to you before?”
“Not exactly like this,” said Luke, “but it doesn’t seem too strange, alongside other things I’ve seen, and things Ben told me.”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi. My teacher.”
Maybe if awake this wouldn’t be her first question, but Jyn didn’t try to resist this either: “How do you get ‘Ben’ from ‘Obi-Wan’?”
Jyn reflected again that maybe they should continue not to meet in person. Han and Leia both had hard edges to them that made Jyn feel they were somehow defended against the darkness in Cassian and herself. Luke seemed to have none of that.
…Oh skies she hoped that wasn’t her own version of a ‘guided instinct’. Luke was everything that should annoy the pfassk out of her. Instead she found herself feeling protective of him. She wished Bodhi could have met him.
Jyn swirled the water with her arms, trying to swirl to a different thought. “If I’m Force-sensitive,” she said, “what exactly does that entail?”
Luke shrugged. “Again, I wish I was more of an expert. You could be right… that this is a one-off.”
“It better be,” Jyn heard herself say. “’Cause if the Force was fine with how it handled everything else in my life…”
But she knew it didn’t work that way. And let herself fall silent.
Luke, showing more wisdom than she might have credited a moment ago, didn’t try to respond.
After a moment he said, “I’m sorry we haven’t met in person yet. I know Leia likes you a lot.”
That wasn’t new information, but it had been so long since Jyn had had a friend like that… by choice not just circumstance, bound by things other than having fought side by side…
“I like her, too,” said Jyn. “I…” …still felt hesitant, somehow, to meet Luke, though surely meeting in person could hardly show him anything worse than meeting her on a spiritual plane could do. “…would definitely be interested to confirm this isn’t a dream.”
Luke smiled. “I’ll talk to her. …Momentarily, I think.”
Before Jyn could ask him what he meant, she woke up.
She caught a glimpse of the others as they fished her out of the tank, but, miraculous as the stuff was, the feeling of the bacta clinging to her was unpleasant that all she could focus on was wanting it washed off. The med droids brought her to a sort of tray with hoses, but she found herself asking if there was such a thing as a cave with a spring or a pool here on Hoth.
“The closest we’ve got is a bathtub,” said the med droid (who, disconcertingly now to Jyn, reminded her of K-2SO), “and the only one’s here in medical. Would you like to use that instead?”
“Yes, please,” said Jyn, with relief. Even knowing there wasn’t a queue of unclean wounded, it felt so indulgent, she wouldn’t have found a way to ask.
The droid insisted on carrying her to it. She decided not to argue. If it was fine getting the drying, itching bacta all over itself… not that droids itched…
“Captain Andor has requested to see you,” said the droid. “Would you like to admit him before or after you’ve washed?”
Um… “We can talk while I wash,” said Jyn, in a tone of voice that asserted it to be a matter of course. “Otherwise, we’re not to be disturbed.”
“Of course,” said the droid. Jyn had a brief moment of appreciation she usually didn’t feel for droids: its answer was no more than confirmation. No verbal winkage or judgment, or any of the shadings an organic might throw in.
Jyn was forcing herself to forget about the reflecting pool and get more realistic expectations. This was already more amenities than she would expect of a military base. She only half needed bother. The tub was massive—which stood to reason given the range of species it was meant to accommodate. Jyn could submerge her whole body, just like in the dreamed pool, if horizontal rather than vertical. The droid started to fill it for her. She sent it away and took over to get it to about the same temperature. The surroundings weren’t as beautiful or private as a secret cave, but at least she was recessed, walled on three sides.
The curtain on the fourth suddenly sported a shadow—which, adorably, tapped on it.
“Come in,” said Jyn, amused.
Cassian ducked inside. He let the curtain fall fully closed again behind him, and had barely taken in the sight of her in the tub before he’d closed the space between them, taken her face in both his hands, and was kissing her like coming up from underwater himself. His cheek was so rough. His mouth was not.
In all the borrowed tranquility from Luke, Jyn had forgotten. How awful this must have been for Cassian. She remembered now; was back above Scarif on Joma’s ship, cradling his head in her lap as his face drained to white… on Yavin 4, watching him broken, torn and lifeless in the bacta tank…
Jyn hoisted herself up, gripped him by the collar, and pulled him over the lip into the tub.
His surprise changed the tempo of the kiss, but he didn’t break it. He literally rolled with it. With minimal splash, he let himself be pulled in her wake and be submerged, fully clothed. Then, both suspended, wrapping her in his arms and his whole body and as the kiss resumed full fervor.
Underwater was the opposite of space. It was full. It was all connected. Things floated but there was weightiness. You could move in any direction but there was resistance. Cassian’s clothes drifted on his body in a way they wouldn’t in the air, but also clung to him as Jyn tried to pull off his jacket.
The kiss stalled for him to laugh. “Would have been easier,” managed Cassian, between kisses, shifting to help her peel off the sodden, independently moving second skin, “with a warning… out of the water…”
“Who wants ‘easy’,” Jyn growled fondly back. And then she was only focused on getting the clothing off of him, wrestling where it had a mind of its own, ultimately finding and channeling the right currents; to be thrown clear and left sodden on the floor, dripping over the side of the tub, or floating around them.
And then, far easier, cutting a smooth current through the water, getting him inside her. They simultaneously breathed with the smoothness of joining, filling and being filled. Molecules sifting together, filling each other’s spaces, as they’d always belonged…
Their bodies were held in the warm water. Buoyed up: only her head, back against the curve of the basin; the back of his neck, his shrapnel-marked shoulders, so he could move upon her, caress his lips to her throat.
She wasn’t sure who’d read whose mind. If he was worried about aggravating her wounds. Or if it was just trying to stay quiet behind the curtain in case anyone else came into medical. Or if he’d somehow tapped into her mental image of the perfect, reflective, unbroken pool. But they didn’t splash or make waves. Around their heads, the surface of the water stayed smooth. He braced his feet and she wrapped herself around him. Both stayed outwardly still as, muscles flexing, legs and pelvises contracting, they made him move inside her.
Her hands rested on his ribs, the scars she’d learned to read and could now recreate from memory. His flowed over her back, rereading her own history carved there. They held tight, the swells of her breasts pressed to his lean chest. They breathed together. For a moment in her mind, his penis in her became his whole body—hard, angular, narrow and long, underfed and overworked and muscled and scarred and beautiful—filling her from between her legs to between her lungs. She had him throughout all of her. Jyn’s sight faltered and she could swear she was back in that glistening cave, cathedraled with crystal.
She thought suddenly of Hadder. Not him instead of Cassian. Any doubts as to what she might now choose… she would never regret and never relinquish what she’d had with Hadder, but all she wanted now, what she should have had forever, was Cassian… But she thought of something Hadder’d shown her, something he’d told her, back on Skuhl. There was a small animal there called a bulba: a delicate soft rodent with something green visible under its translucent fur and skin. Infants developed in a nest made from a vine, that grew into and through their bodies, strengthening their overdelicate bones, and matured with them, forever together: the vine becoming a backbone that, unlike the brittle one bulbas were born with, allowed them to walk and to run.
Hadder called it symbiosis. For Jyn, the animal seemed to be getting all the benefit—making up for a deficit, lengthening life and strength. She’d wondered what the vine got out of it.
Cassian was in and through her like the vine. And she suddenly understood. The bulba got strength. The vine got mobility. Both got freedom.
She sealed all space between them with her pelvis and legs and kissing his mouth. He sealed any space between them with his arms and his chest, kissing her back.
Neither made to move. They stayed perfectly still, utterly joined.
Such stillness, breathing, just feeling one another, totally submerged: water and flesh.
Without: every inch of skin felt electric where they met; both of them tight muscles and hard bones and rough skin and smooth scars. They traced and smoothed one another’s, every one: shrapnel, knife, blunt impact; callouses—both his wrists, one of her arms, both their trigger fingers; surgical, self-inflicted; the taut burn between his shoulder and chest, now pressing her breast, where Krennic had shot him too near the heart. Their outward movements were so small, the water currents stayed submerged, the surface placid.
Within: she drank herself upon him, flexing and gripping, rubbing and pressing his hard flesh to her inner clitoral nerves, and relished the involuntary contractions from his thighs to his back, failing to stay still, deepening and shifting himself inside her.Jyn looked into his eyes. He met hers fully open, without flinch or shield.
In that elevator, on that planet, at the end of their last lives. They’d looked at each other and seen everything they’d never have, everything they’d never taken for themselves, everything they wanted with and for each other. They’d searched each other’s eyes for the universe neither would ever have again.
They found it now, stardust and full dark, and they held the gaze as she came, breathing and shivering around him; and still neither moved, but for his hand sliding quietly up her neck to comb into her hair, her hand coming up to hold the back of his head… and without outer movement, just the sensation of their union and rippling within, she came around him more times than she tried to count, almost continuous, feeling like a long unbroken breath.
Cassian held her through it, kissing her as fluid as water himself, in the water and in her; the unbroken, unadulterated feel of her upon him, around him, on his face and in his heartbeat and his breath, as he held himself so carefully motionless, but electrified, a building charge. Until at last, long last, he shuddered and curved deeply, his face to her throat, his breath a breaking wave, and thrust and ground up inside, and throbbed into her his release.
The surface of the water finally trembled with their heaving to catch their breaths.
Jyn pressed her cheek to his, closed her eyes, and held the back of his head, that most precious casing in the universe, her most essential charge, and didn’t care if it was bathwater or tears on her smiling face. His body lost all tautness and sank against her, resting in her, with so much trust she could weep. I love you. I love you.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
It took him a moment long before he could speak. But when he did, it was to whisper: “What for?”
She tightened her body on his and her hand in his hair. “Getting hurt. I know how I felt when it was you.”
He turned his head without moving free of her hand, pressing his closed eyes to the side of her face. “Never be sorry,” he murmured. “We’ll just both try not to get hurt.”
She bit her lip to avoid laughing or screaming. Just turned her face to meet his and pressed their lips.
They fished the remainder of his clothes out of the tub. Though they only tossed them to the floor, to stay in one another’s embrace. They wound up with Cassian leaning back into the basin with Jyn in his arms against his chest, just as they’d been up the Massassi Temple. And though probably she should ask what she’d missed, first she told him about her dream/vision with Luke.
“So maybe I’m a Jedi in the bath,” she finished jokingly.
Cassian shook his head like he was trying to get water out of his ears. “Please don’t give the word ‘Jedi’ sexual connotations for me. It’s complicated enough.”
She laughed and turned her head to kiss his jaw.
Cassian lowered his face to meet the kiss fully. Then he murmured, “I knew the Jedi had powers. But when people talked about the ‘Force’ as a guiding power of the universe… I thought it was superstition or… wishful thinking or… confirmation bias or… I don’t know. I didn’t think about it not being separate from us… as part of it and the universe too… until you. I never really believed in the Force before you.”
Stunned, Jyn looked up into his face, her hand resting on his chest. Then she buried her own face in his throat.
“You would’ve just made my mother happy,” she said, muffled into his skin.
He covered her hand with his, held her head with the other, kissed her wet hair. Then made a sound of remembering and shifted her gently free, leaning over the edge of the tub to grasp for his jacket.
“They took this off you before putting you in the tank.” Dextrously wrestling with the clinging sodden fabric, he managed to get open the breast pocket, and pulled out her kyber pendant. Slipping back into the tub beneath her, he brushed back her hair and fixed it around her neck.
She touched it with her fingertips. Despite having dreamed of it with Luke, she hadn’t even thought about where it might be, awake. Perhaps she’d just known Cassian would keep it safe.
They’d unspokenly meant for Cassian to vacate the area before Jyn called back a med droid for a robe. But they realized that for him to try and make the trip from med bay (heated) to their quarters (less heated) down half a mile of (totally unheated) passages sopping wet would result in his literally freezing solid. So. Did they submit to possibly having violated some protocols, or… Jyn got to watch Cassian gather his clothes into a dripping bundle and snap into spy mode, peering through the curtains to make sure the coast was clear, before vanishing into the drying chamber. She was torn between finding him almost unbearably adorable, such stealth, grace, and focus while naked and soaked, and it making her heart ache; past talents, past burdens. She missed him inside her already. It was like an addiction. But one that, she hoped, gave them more life rather than stole it…?
Her fingers found her pendant again.
I never believed in the Force before you
Trust the Force
Suddenly, convulsively, she found herself weeping. For Blue and her crew that she’d betrayed. For Hadder and Akshaya killed by a war they weren’t part of. For Saw who’d been changed by it into what he hated about it. For Chirrut and Baze who would never meet Luke Skywalker and see the Jedi revived. For Bodhi who would never know they’d succeeded or be enfolded into this new family he more than anyone deserved. For, always, her parents. For Cassian and herself, who behaved as if now that they’d found each other they were somehow protected, but could lose one another as easily as ever.
The only good thing about breaking down was that when the med droid parted the curtains in response, and began to drain the tub and wrap her in towels, if it noticed the puddles on the floor and Cassian’s wet footprints and fluids rinsed into the water other than bacta, it commented on none of them. Just on getting her warm and dry through her quiet wracking.
“It’s not uncommon,” the droid said, she could swear gently, “for bacta to induce a state of calm followed by an emotional crash. Is there someone who can accompany you back to your quarters?”
“Yes.” Cassian’s voice came from… she couldn’t tell where; when he’d emerged from the drying chamber, and where he’d been standing in the meantime. But, clothed and dried, he moved between her and the droid and wrapped his arms around her, and, for all she’d abandoned all pride clinging to him when they were alone and had dreamed, for the first time in front of another being, she openly buried her face in his chest now.
He would have carried her outright to their apartment, but that was a bit too much for Jyn Erso to allow anyone to do for her, or anyone else to see. But they walked wrapped tightly together, her eyes half-closed to ignore any who might see them and want to speak. And the moment they reached their room—their haven—their home? no, the place that protected their togetherness which was her home—and the door sealed behind them, she broke again into sobs. And he gathered her tightly and they lay on the bed, fiercely entwined, pressed as close as they’d been while coupling, but with opposite feeling now. When hearing others talking about sex, before she'd had it herself, Jyn had assumed that all focus would just be on the parts being brought uniquely to bear. Her first few times with Hadder, that had been somewhat true. Making love to Cassian, Jyn was continually aware of all of them. Her full self, his whole self: bodies, hands, faces, voices, minds, histories, breath and blood. Right now, Jyn was only an assortment of pieces: aching heart and lungs and eyes and wanting to vanish into his embrace. He seemed to understand, and wrapped her up in himself, both lying fully clothed in the bed—he even hooked the blankets with his foot and dragged them up to wrap around her and then himself, further cocooning them together.
“I don’t want to go back,” Jyn sobbed.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Cassian answered.
“You can’t promise that,” she gasped. “You can’t control… neither of us can… either of us could die, Cassian. Any time. What if it isn’t together this time? How does anyone do this?”
Lyra and Galen. Saw and Steela. Baze and Chirrut. Akshaya, Tanith, Hadder. No one got out of it alive. And too many had to go first or second, alone.
Cassian dug his hand into her hair, held her head to the pulse in his throat, arm and chest tight around her absorbing her sobs, the thudding of his heart with them in time.
“Maybe it is superstition,” he whispered into her hair, “or wishful thinking. I don’t care. I choose to believe. If we’re part of the Force, then we are always. Part of the whole. Together.”
He slowed his breath to guide hers. Eventually she was able to join him in the murmured echo of Chirrut’s chant. “I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”
Chapter 17: Hyperspace, Sullust, and Jelucan
* * *
His hands pressed up the curve of her back: nates to small, ribs to shoulderblades. He pulled her tight, pressed his face to her breasts. His abs contracted and hips pushed up. They felt him against her frontal wall, the inside of her flat belly, expressing her nectar as she drank of his. She ground herself against him, clitoris to pubis, cushioned and softened by both their dark down.
He raised his face to her. They locked eyes. Breathed in unison. Straining to keep their eyes open and joined, to sustain synchrony against the bucking of their bodies. Her mouth curved in a smile. His parted, silent, around the shape of her name. She lowered herself the last impossible distance. Both gaspingly sighed. Fully joined, circuits closed, filled, quantum entangled as they belonged, she began to rock upon him.
* * *
“I try not to think about old times,” said Cassian, flipping a switch. Then flashed a crinkle-eyed smile at Kaytu. “Except for this part.”
“ ‘This part’?”
“Shipboard with you.”
Jyn, in the passenger seat behind them (against medical advise of course), examined Kay as Cassian strapped himself in. It was as hard to tell in the 2-1B casing as it had been the KX, but Kay’s not-a-face was tilted such that seemed to indicate he was moved. His affection for Cassian was probably the easiest emotion to read on him. …After sarcasm.
Which: “Except for the different ship and the presence of Jyn. And something bothering you more than your recent normal.”
“O-kay,” said Cassian, finishing his preflight procedure. “Ready to get a move on?”
Thanks, Kay; Jyn had thought there’d been a new tension in Cassian ever since this morning. …No. Since his meeting with Draven. He’d just gotten increasingly worse at hiding it. Not from the rest of the world, of course; from Jyn and Kaytu.
Kay, if not always inclined to do it, did know how to take a cue. He said, “Affirmative,” and didn’t speak again until they were well into the flight.
“Interface with controls satisfactory,” he then announced. “No problematic dissimilarities from KX operations.” He twisted slightly to include Jyn. This entire resurrection, he’d been taking strategic care to include Jyn in his and Cassian’s partnership. (Quite a contrast from last time. But then, last time she’d been a threat to Cassian. This time, by Kay’s own assessment, she was beneficial. …She was privately heartened by that.) “This is the same mission we undertook to test my suitability the first time. After the initial reprogram.”
Jyn also knew how to take a cue. “Really?”
“Yes,” said Kay. “And for Cassian to assess my baselines and propensities for future missions.”
“Ah,” said Jyn, her eyes flickering to Cassian. This wasn’t just Kay sharing. It was him cluing her in. Kay was thinking that this mission was Draven testing Cassian’s new baselines, for an adjusted placement within the Alliance. Which could be why Cassian was so tense. The most committed man Jyn had ever met had been avoiding full recommitment to his cause, ever since he’d been brought back to the life. They all knew that wasn’t going to be able to last indefinitely. Perhaps the meeting with Draven had been ‘indefinitely’ starting to run out.
Cassian said stubbornly, “We’re just checking in with my old contacts. Testing the waters, seeing where everyone stands. And hear if there are less direct hints of anything starting to move again out there.”
“Mmmhmmm.” Kay repeated over his shoulder to Jyn: “Same mission.”
Cassian glared. “Just for that, we’ll start with Lyyxo and Surat.”
Nobody explained to Jyn what that meant, but she got the point of it with Kaytu’s moan.
* * *
I love you, whispered Jyn as she moved upon him. Angling gently down then scooping him inside her, up and again.
He clasped her shoulders and back. Her muscles rippled beneath his hands. He kissed her breasts, her collar, her throat. She lifted her closed-eyed face, consumed with the pleasure—orgastic, ambrosial—of him—so hard and strong, his vulnerability—inside her, which spread from their cores to the arch of her feet and the back of her tongue, spread by his hands upon her, his hair in her fingers. One of his hands found her face and drew her down to kiss her mouth.
I love you, he shaped the words against her skin.
* * *
He’d done this before.
This time, Jyn and Kay stood beside him. It didn’t help. Both knew better than to touch him.
“It doesn’t mean that,” Kay said, almost before Cassian said, “It’s because of me.”
This wasn’t Fest. It was Sullust.
This wasn’t a volcanic crater. It was targeted.
“You said they’re nomads,” said Jyn. “If anyone’s equipped to get away—”
“What,” said Cassian bitterly, “and that—” he jerked his chin toward the signal beacon, still covered in ash, now in Kay’s hand, “—is just to see who else might come after them?”
“You’re getting slow in your old age,” said a new voice behind them, “but you get there.”
All three turned. Cassian’s hand went reflexively for the blaster that wasn’t there. Jyn’s hand went to a blaster that was. Kay didn’t go for anything.
A Rodian stood near the bottom of the crater, arms deliberately folded, hands free of weapons, looking up at them. Her body language was wry on any species.
A sound got out from the back of Cassian’s throat. He walked/slid down the side of the crater, reached for the Rodian’s arm, then grabbed her in a hug.
Jyn and Kay made their way more carefully down the crater wall. Jyn leaned over to whisper to Kay, “Surat or Lyyxo?”
“Lyyxo,” answered the Rodian before Kay could. She stepped back from Cassian—though her hand didn’t leave his arm. Her multifaceted eyes flickered to Cassian then away. “Surat’s dead.”
A similar kind of breathlessness descended on them as when they’d first discovered the crater. This one had no confusion. Though Jyn and Kay couldn’t hear it, they could almost feel the echo in Cassian’s and Lyyxo’s minds: three child soldiers drilling near this spot.
Cass-see-aaaan, am I dead?
I didn’t see.
I don’t wanna be.
Nobody wants to be. Form up.
“Reprisals?” asked Cassian at last. His voice had a thickness to it Jyn hadn’t heard in a while. Anger. “For the Death Star?”
“Don’t be so full of yourself,” said Lyyxo. “They’ve been trying to get us as long as we’ve been here. They just did, this time.”
“With a Star Destroyer?” demanded Cassian.
Lyyxo shrugged. “Okay. Maybe reprisals for the Death Star. Who the kark knows.”
Jyn wouldn’t have known to be surprised if Kay’s surprise weren’t so tangible: when Lyyxo reached out and grabbed Cassian into a second hug.
“We were listening,” she said with kindred thickness. “Hacked into channels. You shouldn’t have given us those codes.”
“Yes, I should,” said Cassian, muffled.
Lyyxo pressed her face a moment to his shoulder—an incredibly human gesture.
“It had to go,” she said. “But… thought you were gone too.”
Lyyxo, Surat, and Cassian. The only ash rabbits, children of CIS (Separatist) Sullust insurgent team Nebula, who’d lived to adulthood. Now Surat gone.
Thought I was the last of us.
Cassian wrapped his arms tightly around Lyyxo and held on.
Unlike on Takodano, Jyn didn’t feel intruded on. She felt like the intruder. She wanted to leave them their space.
But, like Kaytu, Lyyxo was the one who looked up and turned her eyes to Jyn; made room for her. “You’re the one who did it?”
“We all did,” said Jyn. Bodhi. Baze. Chirrut. Sefla. Kay and Cassian. All the ones whose names she’d never known. Then at last, Leia, Luke, Han, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo. “But I’m Jyn.”
Lyyxo didn’t try to hug or touch her. But her slow nod felt as intimate as any of that.
“Not exactly a base to bring you back to, now,” said Lyyxo, to all of them. “And even if there was…” Eyes flickered, again; the facets reflecting like a galaxy. “Might not be safe.”
“Come with us,” said Cassian. Obviously taking himself by as much surprise as anyone.
Lyyxo’s look at him was meant to be exasperated. Instead, it was fond. “You know I won’t.”
“You’re not doing anything you really believe in, here,” said Cassian. “Sabotaging, scrapping and black marketing—”
“I don’t want to believe in anything as much as I did in the CIS,” said Lyyxo. “And I don’t want to have this conversation again.” Taking herself by surprise as much as Cassian just had: “…Ever.”
Into the long silence that followed, Kaytu finally lifted one of his hands. “It’s me, by the way. Different body.”
Jyn started laughing. A beat later, Lyyxo and Cassian did too.
* * *
His hips faltered, then stopped. She managed to still herself, throbbing with need, kicking herself for saying anything.
But then he was looking up at her. Pushing her hair back from her face and her throat. And, not releasing her eyes, with incredible deliberation, began to move.
It took him a while… but his eyes never left hers, staring up as if in… pleading, or worship… but no, not either… reminding: that she was there, that it was her, and it was him, and she was fine with that, and they were together… not alone, never again alone
and when he shivered and bucked, thrusting harder into her than he usually allowed, lips silently parted, brow creased, temple pounding, his eyes never left hers. And the feel of his pulse, spending inside her, was as euphoric, as fulfilling as coming herself. She kissed his face from sharp jaw to soft lips, and folded herself over onto him, hugging him tightly, nearly weeping or laughing with glad relief.
* * *
“I thought we could divide and conquer, this one,” he said. “The main shopping drag tends to have lots of droid parts. Kay could finally make some personalizations.”
“It’s unsafe for a droid to go unaccompanied in such places, even were this not an Imperial-held world,” said Kay. “You wouldn’t send Jyn to talk to your contact for you, so you’re suggesting she go with me. Which I suspect means—”
“Must you?” growled Cassian.
“You don’t want us to meet this contact?” Jyn finished for them.
“No,” agreed Cassian, glaring at Kay.
“They’re that skittish?” said Jyn. “You can just say—”
“It’s us he’s trying to protect,” said Kay. “Or himself.”
Cassian’s voice was so strange in its anger, Kay fell silent and Jyn blinked.
“Okay,” she said. “Seriously. Now you have to explain.”
Cassian shut his eyes. Then, shaking his head, made a resigned gesture to Kaytu. “Farir.”
“Ah,” said Kay. He turned his oculars to Jyn. “The contact is the prostitute who trained him for work requiring sexual elements.”
Jyn sat back in her seat. The silence was hanging heavily and she let it.
“Okay,” she said. “We’re definitely going in together.”
“Nothing’s going to happen,” said Cassian.
Jyn made a derisive, impatient sound. “I know that.”
“I’m not worried about what you’ll think—”
“I don’t want to think about you in connection with this place,” said Cassian tightly.
“Tough,” said Jyn. “Has it occurred to you that leaving that detail of your life up to my imagination has been awful for me?”
Mutely, Cassian shook his head. No, master of anticipating human behavior, it hadn’t.
“Things more powerful not integrated,” Jyn reminded him, tilting her head toward Kay.
“Me?” demanded Kay.
“Jenoport,” supplied Cassian, subdued.
“For both of us,” finished Jyn.
Another silence before Cassian nodded. Didn’t say it, but it was there: You’re right. If you want to. Of course.
Jyn reached over and touched his hand. Cassian threaded his fingers with hers. We agree.
“Are you going to tell me to wait on the ship?” said Kay.
“Yes,” said Cassian just as Jyn said, “No.”
“Oh come on,” groaned Cassian.
“Things lose power in the open,” said Jyn. “We can always count on Kay to say the things aloud that neither of us will.”
“Thank you!” said Kay.
Cassian groaned again. But didn’t remove his hand from Jyn’s.
“Then parts shopping,” said Kay cheerfully.
* * *
“Thank you,” she murmured.
He turned his face to kiss her hair.
Then suddenly seized her in his arms, making her yelp in surprise, and lifted her as he stood from the pilot’s chair; turned them both around, laid her gently back into it, took hold of the chair itself and turn it to face the front viewscreen. He went down on his knees on the deck before her, his hands on her knees, parting her legs and beginning to make love to her with his mouth.
She arched up from the chair, up against his lips, his tongue, gripping the armrests, her feet on the console, trying to keep part of her mind attentive to not kicking any important controls. The starlines dazzled her eyes. It occurred to her he’d turned them exactly for this… so she could brace her feet and see the sky. The surge of love she felt for him was so strong it was nearly an orgasm in of itself, and she bucked against his mouth, moaning, wanting badly to come the rest of the way. Gods and skies, yes, love, make me
* * *
…Well… the last one had been Jedha…
Jelucan, in this region, may once have had natural mountainous beauty not entirely unlike Lah’mu, in second wave development probably had aspirations of being closer to Coruscant… but in mining pollution and mechanical presence, felt more like Sullust.
“It wasn’t always like this,” said Cassian under his breath, as he and Jyn huddled behind her scarf to get through a particularly thick cloud of smog. “When they were with the CIS…” But he stopped himself and Jyn didn’t try to make him continue.
The building they arrived at was built into a rockface, like most others, with little to identify it to an offworlder.
Once inside, it was unmistakable. Even to Jyn, who’d managed to avoid ever setting foot in such a place.
She muttered in disgust to Cassian, “You know why they decorate all in red drapery, right…?”
Cassian reacted as befitting a rhetorical question.
Kay, of course, didn’t. “To evoke the female ge—?”
“That sounds like my cue,” someone artfully interrupted. A woman dressed about as drapily as the room pushed aside a curtain and made her way sinuously toward them. “Will you be seeking service together or separately?”
Jyn, making no effort to police her reactions, had a coughing fit of sputtering.
“Is Farir in?” said Cassian.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, still smiling despite Jyn, “I don’t know that name.”
Another voice said, “Will?”
A tall, tall woman appeared, passing her fellow and going straight to Cassian. She took both his hands in both of hers and smiled radiantly. “I’ll handle this,” she said to the other woman, who merely smiled even more, and gracefully disappeared back through the curtains.
Like being born backwards no way in hell was Jyn going to say aloud. She wanted to cut the place down to size, for Cassian, for herself, and for everyone else here.
The tall woman—nearly a head taller than Cassian—had a more genuine smile, and bent to kiss his cheek. “Sorry,” she said. “We’ve moved on from certain names. Farir is in. He no longer offers his own services. He looks after us.”
“Will you tell him—?”
“That you’re here. Of course.”
“Thank you, Ilin.”
She winked. “You can keep calling me that, though no one else does anymore. You?”
Cassian’s smile was smaller. “Stick with Willix.”
* * *
She threw back her head as if in labor, but her sounds were glad and she sighed him on. And as she pushed herself suddenly into his kiss, arching with climax, he abruptly stood, grabbed her to his chest and thrust himself inside her. She let out a shout, sounding almost like victory, and pushed her feet to the console and her palms to the arm-grips, suspended higher, welcoming him deeper, clenching on him hard and feeling satisfied when it forced out of him a cry of his own.
* * *
“More or less,” said the man. He released Cassian with a smile of his own then turned to the others. “Hello. I am Farir.” He offered Jyn his hand.
Since everyone else seemed to be using an alias, she gave him her hand and the name, “Kestrel. This is Kay.”
Farir repeated their names back to them with a warmth and a regard that made Jyn find it harder to dislike him. And made her feel a little better at the idea that this man had once had Cassian so at his mercy.
“I think I must apologize for my manner of greeting,” said Farir, looking between Jyn and Cassian. He seemed to have an endless repertoire of smiles: this one was apologetic while also… approving? “I did not seek consent where it might have been withheld.”
Cassian glanced at Jyn, who wasn’t sure what to say. It was all right with her, but did that matter?
Kaytu took it upon himself to fill the silence. “Most likely. ‘Willix’ and ‘Kestrel’—” Oh, Kay, you’re a spy, haven’t you shaken the audible quotation marks “—have settled firmly into monogamous mating patterns.”
Farir’s smile broadened into outright beaming. “How wonderful.” He held out his hands to Jyn, this time with an air of request. Wondering if she was about to be kissed, she stepped forward. He similarly clasped her face but only kissed her cheek. “I’m very glad.” He looked again to Cassian. “I was always sorry that we hadn’t met under other circumstances. And hoped I was giving you more not fewer options in life.”
“You seemed to in their sexual activity,” said Kay helpfully. “Which is loud and frequent.”
Jyn and Cassian both flushed and looked murderous. Farir laughed. “Not what I meant but excellent to hear.”
“We always agreed the point of all training was to expand options,” said Cassian, pretending Kay hadn’t spoken. After the barest instant’s hesitation, he touched Jyn’s shoulder. “I was always safe here. It’s not always true. Certainly not on this planet. But in this establishment… no one is ever here against their will.”
Farir raised a sad eyebrow at Cassian. “I wish that were perfectly true. But in terms of my fellow employees, yes, our own protection and agency is a high priority. —Is this the purpose of your visit? To share with Kestrel this part of your past?”
“Not the original intent, no,” said Cassian.
“Would you like to pursue it nonetheless?” Farir gestured into the room. “You and I can attend to whatever business you have, and if Kestrel wishes to have a fuller tour, I can call back Ilin. Kay can accompany whichever of you as you three please.”
It was Farir Jyn would most want to talk to, and the things she’d want to ask might not be things she had the right to ask…
Farir, too perceptive by ten thirds, added, “Since Ilin conducted some of your training too?”
Cassian, obviously wanting to climb out of his skin, nonetheless nodded—and went so far as to touch Jyn’s hand. He was hating every minute of this, but not because of her, maybe not even that much more than he always hated being the subject of focus. And she had his blessing to do whatever she needed.
Both these things decided her. “I don’t need an escort,” said Jyn, looking at Kay. “But thank you,” she looked at Farir, wondering how someone could be so exudingly likeable and not trip her distrust wires. “I’ll accept that offer.”
It was almost immediately clear that Jyn didn’t care about seeing the establishment. Not after she was able, from what she did see, to confirm Cassian’s and Farir’s assertions. These workers, of all five universally coined genders and some of the less recognized ones, were not trafficked or enslaved. They were the rarer kind of escort who chose the career and could also choose to leave it. That was good. And relieved her feelings of conflict as to whether she could even be here without trying to tear the place down. Not to mention how much she could believe or even seek from these people.
And… she did want to seek something. What, she wasn’t sure. But Ilin seemed to, perhaps better than Jyn, as she took Jyn to her own rooms and laid out a fairly elaborate-looking tea.
“I’m not sure I’ve been served like this since I lived on Coruscant,” said Jyn. It was not sensitive information to share; Ilin could almost certainly recognize Jyn’s accent.
Ilin laughed. “I don’t always have to do so little to get such praise. But we don’t have to go through any rituals of small talk. Do you have questions? About Willix’s time with us?”
Put that way… Jyn swallowed against her suddenly dry throat and felt her Sabacc face fall like a curtain. “Did he work here?”
“No.” Ilin poured them both tea. “He was the client. If a recurring one. He had recruited Farir, who brought in select of us others, to be informants for the Alliance. When the Alliance decided Willix needed raven training, we offered it without charge, for gratitude to Willix for bringing us to the cause.”
Jyn’s own experience and training had been more guerilla than espionage, so she hadn’t heard that term in this context before. But she didn’t need it explained.
“What… um…” Jyn felt her face heat and hoped she wasn’t flushing too much. Ilin waited patiently.
“…If I were to seek such training,” said Jyn at last. Not because she was, which she hoped Ilin understood, but because this felt like a more acceptable way of getting the information. “What would that entail?”
The taller woman seemed to get it, and nodded slightly before taking a sip of tea. “Your first sessions would be with a trainer of comparable physical sex to your own. Mastery of own’s body, anatomy and pleasure, thresholds and stamina, is prerequisite. Then you would move on to partners of other genders and species, as many as required, to learn their anatomy, and the techniques to achieve whatever ends were required. How to bring them to fruition quickly, how to prolong, how to satisfy, how to deny, how to make pliant, how ensure sleep after, to make silent or to loosen speech…”
Jyn caught her teacup. She’d nearly spilled it. Why?
The idea that Cassian had had to sleep with so many people before even starting the job, when he hadn’t actually wanted to.
Ilin passed her a napkin… and the look on her face was terribly compassionate.
“Willix’s only trainers, in the end,” she said, “were Farir and myself. We quickly determined his genius to render much more to be unnecessary.”
“His genius?” repeated Jyn, trying not to make such a physical show of reaction as the last. …Not that she disagreed, but…
Ilin grinned. “At improvisation. But also at… getting himself out of the way. Letting his clients—” not necessarily an accurate term but kinder than targets or victims, especially when Jyn would lay more of the blame at the feet of the Alliance than Cassian himself “—make him whatever they wanted him to be, and him knowing, by instinct and by what technique we could provide, not to contradict them. That is a talent few achieve, and many other techniques are to make up for the lack of it. He had it so we could bypass the more strenuous regimen.”
Ilin tilted her head to regard Jyn. “Do you mind if I say I’m impressed?” she said quietly. “And grateful?”
Jyn said eloquently, “Huh?”
“You really aren’t doing this out of jealousy or possessiveness,” Ilin said. “But out of concern for him. That is very rare and difficult, especially when the first is understandable. I am incredibly glad he’s found a connection with someone like that. With everything against the chance.”
“I’m… not…” If Jyn had Ilin’s elegance training, she would have taken a sip of tea. But she didn’t feel like techniquing on any level here, so didn’t try to hide her loss. “I can’t say I’m not jealous. Or possessive. But… those things don’t really matter. And I know him. So…”
Ilin smiled further, nodding, and Jyn decided she didn’t have to say any more.
…Or ask any more.
"I should check," said Ilin though before bringing Jyn back to the others. "You don't want to learn any tricks, do you? It's your choice, of course, but if for Willix’s sake, I think he’d rather trust to unfeigned—”
"No," agreed Jyn with a smile. "We're fine."
* * *
Jyn and Cassian paused, trembling with suppressed laughter. Cassian opened his mouth to answer. Jyn arched up to throw one arm around him and drag her body against his, stopping his voice with the feeling.
“…Fine!” Cassian got out a beat too late.
Jyn, expression utterly wicked, began to use her arm around his shoulders and her feet on the console to ride him where he stood.
His hand clasped to the back of the chair and the other to her thigh, holding them both up. But finally it was too much to take and he seized her again, pulling her clear of the chair entirely, lowered her with incredible care, pausing only to grab his discarded jacket and yank it under her, and laid her down on the deck and himself on top of her. And, gently once more, they resumed their dance, rolling like waves, until they crested and broke.
* * *
But as soon as they cleared the building, Cassian’s hand lit on Jyn’s arm, and she glanced at him. He had the same tense urgency she’d once identified on Jedha.
“Parts shopping?” she asked for Kay’s sake, though she already knew the answer.
“Another time,” said Cassian tightly. “And we’re not completing the contact circuit. We need to get back to base now.”
* * *
“Now will you tell us what Farir told you?” said Kay.
Cassian shook his head. “I… give us a few minutes, Kay?”
Kay’s oculars shifted a bit, but he cleared the co-pilot’s chair without further comment and headed aft.
Jyn, not mystified enough, silently slipped into the chair in his place. She only looked at Cassian briefly, then turned her face away to watch the starlines. Giving him space.
At last Cassian said, “Kay was right, of course. They’re easing me back in. And I don’t know whether to accept it.”
“Things are different now,” said Jyn, in general agreement.
But Cassian’s face was suddenly as prematurely aged and lined as she’d ever seen it. “Not enough,” he said hoarsely. “Farir was always one of our best sources. His establishment services many off-duty Imperial officers.”
“Who use shore leave to do the sorts of things they arrest others for,” said Jyn.
Cassian nodded. “There are whispers. Something starting to move again. I need to talk to Draven immediately.” Cassian leaned back in the chair as if it were made of spikes, and his spine of steel. “But it’ll be two hours.” He made a sound of frustration. “You might want to take a nap or something. Better to be calm and focused when we get there.”
"What will you do?" she asked.
A muscle in his jaw jumped. He shrugged. Translation: force himself by will to shove all feelings down.
Jyn left the co-pilot’s chair. Leaned over Cassian’s shoulder as he set autopilot, then reached over and hit the last controls herself. He craned back his head to look at her, flexing a tendon in his neck that made her want to run her mouth over it. She turned the chair, with him in it, to face her, and sank down to straddle him.
“I can think of another way,” she murmured.
Chapter 18: Hyperspace, Hoth, and Everywhere Else
They sat naked in the pilot’s chair, wrapped together in a navy blanket, watching the hyperspace starlines.
“I’ve never understood,” said Jyn softly. “People like Han and Shara. They talk about flying as freedom. They seem more comfortable in space than anywhere else. Not like it’s being in a box that kills you if it breaks. Or if you don’t get to somewhere else not long enough from when you started.”
The topography of Cassian’s chest shifted along her back as he tightened his arms around her. He pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “I’ve only ever felt safe in hyperspace,” he said. “But never free.”
She leaned back her head to turn it and almost see him. He rested his cheek against hers. She arched her neck, nuzzling to savor the scratch of his shadow.
He ran his hands along her beneath the blanket, meeting under her breasts. “Hyperspace is the one state no one can catch you. Or see you. Or listen to you. It’s the one time you’re truly alone. But it’s always running out. Always leading to something else. I thought I’d feel freer on a single planet. Not just going from spaceport to rendezvous; getting to be on it.” A tension rippled through his muscles around her. “Except it didn’t work that way.”
“It will,” said Jyn, with a certainty that appalled her. No one can promise—The universe doesn’t work like— “When the war is over.”
The war will never be over
He lowered his head further to touch his forehead into the curve of her neck, the tendon line from ear to hollow. His closing eyes brushed her skin. “There’s always war. Some people… can take it out of themselves.”
The echoed whisper: I’m ready now.
Jyn started to pull back to look at him.
The comm pinged.
Both of them sank a bit into each other. Her look at him was aggravated. His at her was rueful. Always leading to something else. His chest flexed again under her as he levered them both forward and hit the switch. “Yeah, Kay?”
“We will be exiting hyperspace in twenty minutes,” said Kay, “after which it will take another forty to land on Hoth. Might I suggest we start preparing to land now. …Plus I’ve reorganized all the supplies on the ship three times and can’t improve the system any further.”
Jyn pressed her face against Cassian’s clavicle to dampen her laughter. Cassian’s mouth was twitching too as he hit the switch to respond: “Thanks. We’ll head aft if you wanna take over up here.”
“I’ll bring cleaning supplies,” said Kay and clicked off the line before Cassian could protest.
Jyn’s body shook in Cassian’s arms as she stopped trying to muffle her laughing.
* * *
“General,” said Cassian, sounding frustrated to those who knew him enough—which was no one else in the universe but everyone in the room, “the Jelucan source has always given good intel. If it says the Empire has requisitioned a massive complement of probe droids—”
“I only wonder,” said Mon Mothma, with her unfailing gentleness, “how the Jelucan source could get a hint of this ahead of the Sullustans.”
“They were a bit busy,” said Jyn, providing the anger before Cassian had to, “what with being firebombed by Star Destroyers.”
“Probe droids are more likely to be manufactured somewhere like Vulpter than Sullust,” added Kaytu, before that line of conversation could escalate. “And more likely to come up in innuendo in an establishment like Jelucan’s.”
Far from shushing him, Cassian pointedly gestured agreement.
“It’s a big universe,” said Draven. “I don’t care how massive an order it is, sending them out randomly does not put the odds in their favor. Is there any indication Hoth would be among their destinations?”
“Do you want to wait to find out?” shot back Cassian. “My guess is: they have something or they wouldn’t dedicate the resources.”
“But if they had something specific,” returned Draven, “the complement needn’t be so massive.”
“I wouldn’t wager our security to either of our guesses,” said Cassian. Glancing at Mon Mothma, “Would you?”
She inclined her head, sober as ever. “I think it premature to initiate evacuation. But we will double our patrols and keep our eyes open, especially for atmospheric disturbance. Meanwhile, I think it best to send you back out, along with a few others, to finish your contact sweep. While you’re at it, check on other possible bases. Some of the old ones that have gone static long enough might be viable to return to.”
Cassian didn’t seem entirely happy with the order—Jyn sure wasn’t—but he nodded his assent.
Before they could turn to leave, Draven added, “You did good work. But you should be aware, Erso—”
He didn’t use either of the ranks Sefla or Cassian had given her, and no one tried to correct him.
“—not everyone is as comfortable staying with this noncommittal arrangement as we are.”
The we had his eyes flicker to Mon Mothma. The noncommittal… to Cassian.
“You will not be the only team sent out,” said Draven. “Not everyone trusts you won’t just run off together. In this instance, more allocation of resources is warranted. It won’t always be.”
Cassian and Jyn stood silent. Kay looked from one to everyone.
Mon Mothma was the one at last to say, “Thank you, General. Everyone else, dismissed.”
To nobody’s shock, Jyn stopped at the door and turned back.
“Which would you prefer we do?” she asked Draven and Mothma. It was something she’d wanted to ask since she’d turned down Leia’s request to join them on the mission to Jedha, figuring any surviving Partisans would only see Jyn as a deserter. “Commit fully or run off together?”
“You’ve been dismissed,” repeated Draven flatly.
“No, wait.” Mothma turned to meet Jyn’s eyes squarely. “Here is something for you to consider. Were at any point in your missions, something were to go wrong, you were to go missing, what would we be forced to make of it? Would we launch a rescue team or assume you’d gone—”
“—freely? If you were in trouble, there might be no help for you. No protection, no extraction. It’s not just a controversial position for us. It’s a more perilous position for you.”
Jyn opened her mouth to respond but found nothing in it. She was keenly aware of Cassian, silent and unmoving, at her back.
Kaytu started to suggest something about codes to transmit. But Jyn couldn’t quite pay attention. The traitor heroes of Scarif. | I won’t forget what we did to you.
“That is also something to consider,” said Mon Mothma, to Kaytu. “Keeping in mind, there are those who would consider that a privilege reserved for the fully enlisted. At the same time, many would argue… you’ve already figuratively and literally given your lives for the cause.”
I won’t forget.
“It’s something we all must think about.” Why, always, did all eyes tend to turn to Cassian? It made Jyn bristle. For the third time, with a sense of finality, Mothma said gently, “Dismissed.”
Before Jyn could disobey again, she felt Cassian’s hand on her elbow, and allowed herself to be shepherded out of the room.
They’d barely made it two steps down the hall before Kaytu nearly collided with Qorek.
“Sorry!” said Qorek automatically, even though regardless of who’d run into whom, colliding with Kaytu would be far worse for the other party. “We’ve been looking for you.”
“ ‘We’?” said Jyn.
“Ffas’va, Joma, Organa… they’re somewhere,” said Qorek waving a wing. “Bey and Dameron are requesting you in medical wing.”
“What?” demanded Jyn, as she and Cassian fell without hesitation in step beside him; Kay with a bit of a hesitation behind them. “What happened? Are they okay?”
“Yes,” said Qorek, “but I’m not allowed to say. You’ll see.”
* * *
“What?!” Jyn came fully into the room, noticing but deprioritizing how Cassian hung back in the doorway. “I didn’t even know you were—did anybody—? you kept this quiet!”
“We didn’t plan him,” said Shara, her face transformed into a smile so relaxed and natural and brilliant it was like it could never be any other way. “And decided to keep the news between ourselves. Flight jumpsuits can be handy for shapelessness.”
“But why not tell anyone?” Jyn blinked between the two of them. “Is it against regulations or something?”
“Not for her,” said Kes. “I couldn’t be here unless we were married.” He held up a hand to reveal a shining band. Shara wiggled her fingers against the baby’s head to show a matching one. “Sorry we didn’t invite you… we decided to keep that kinda quiet too. It felt… weird… being so happy while…”
“I understand,” said Jyn. “And… I mean… thank you? congratulations? But why even tell us now?”
Shara looked requestingly at the med units; Kes, at Qorek. All obligingly cleared the space and closed the curtains. They didn’t do so for Kaytu, who’d gently propelled Cassian into the inner circle of the bed.
Despite the radiance of their gladness, there was a deep, deep sadness that ran through Kes and Shara’s presences now.
“We’re…” Kes trailed off, looked at Shara.
Shara closed her eyes into her baby’s head, embracing him, kissing him. Then lifting her eyes again. Still peaceful, still glorious, but now with tears in her eyes.
“We’re so happy and grateful for him,” she said quietly. “We wouldn’t wish him away for anything and he’s going to know we love him. But we’re… not keeping him. Not with us.”
Somewhere very, very far away, Kaytu was literally holding Cassian in place.
“We’re not going AWOL or seeking discharge,” explained Kes, his eyes flickering to Cassian and very quickly back to Jyn. “We can’t stop serving. The Empire is moving… it never stopped doing what it’s doing to people, to planets… we can’t sit by while that’s happening. But we don’t want our kid raised in that.”
“We’re thinking my family on Yavin 12,” said Shara. “His grandfather would be an amazing guardian. And he’ll have a normal childhood, surrounded by nature and steady family. And maybe,” she glanced at Kes, both of them obviously not quite daring to hope, “in not too long, we’ll be able to join them for good. Build our own homestead like we want on Yavin 4.”
“But not yet,” said Kes, finishing for her.
Both their eyes went to both Jyn and Cassian now. “We want someone to know,” said Kes.
“In case anything happens to us,” said Shara.
“Someone who was… part of it. Could… explain,” said Kes. “What we were trying to do.”
Jyn didn’t know what happened next. Part of her mind just shut down. She felt blankness descend down her face like a wash of stone. She turned and walked out of the room.
* * *
“I knew she’d react badly but I didn’t expect that,” said Kay, sounding surprised.
Cassian wasn’t. His face felt so tight, he was tempted to turn on his heel and walk out after her.
But, when not strictly necessary, he was more willing than Jyn to lie.
He turned back to look at Kes and Shara.
They looked neither shocked nor horrified. If anything, they looked… understanding. Compassionate. Maybe a bit shamefaced. But unsurprised.
“We… don’t expect an answer right away,” said Kes.
“No,” agreed Shara. “Part of why we thought of you two… we knew it would be a double-edged blade.”
Cassian wondered how pale his face had gone. If he still had enough control of his autonomic processes that it hadn’t. He wasn’t clenching his hands into fists. That was something. And his facial muscles were loose enough, expression would be… if not friendly exactly, at least mutually understanding.
But he knew why Jyn had left. He knew exactly.
He wanted to smash everything in the room.
“I’ll talk to Jyn,” he said. He turned, pressed a hand to Kay’s chestplate for support, and paused.
He should thank them for the trust. For the recognition. For the… honor.
But all he heard himself say was, “What’s his name?”
Shara and Kes glanced at each other, at the baby, then back at Cassian.
“Poe,” said Shara.
Cassian nodded. He grabbed Kay’s arm to propel them both out and make sure Kay didn’t stay there to postmortem.
* * *
She could tell how upset Cassian was, too, by how he didn’t come to sit beside her. He found the restraint to lean against the edge of the desk.
“Where’s Kay?” Jyn asked on autopilot.
“I gave him something to do on the ship.” It was telling that Cassian didn’t say what. But Jyn wasn’t going to judge anything from Cassian right now. Just as she already knew and was grimly satisfied he wasn’t here to judge her. Their anger wasn’t at each other. There was no reproach. There was just…
“I sat in that cave for hours,” said Jyn quietly. It was months since she’d thought about it, after a lifetime unable to get out. “Saving my parents over and over again. Having them save me over and over again. None of it became real. None of it undid what was done. Then Saw found me and I had another family and then I didn’t again. And I thought about Saw, and my father, and my mother.
“And I wondered why Father didn’t stick with the plan. And I wondered why Mother didn’t choose me, survival, instead of dying for him. I know now that Saw was trying to protect me from those who would ‘use me for being the daughter of an Imperial science officer.’ Though he could have bloody well told me that then. I think Father had helped make the plan for my sake, so we could enjoy our life while it lasted without always worrying, because we had a sense of control. But that was the real purpose. He knew it would never actually work. Krennic would never give up, unless he had Papa. So he gave himself up so we could get away.
“I think Mama knew the bigger stakes involved, better than either Papa or me. She didn’t want to allow that future to happen for any of us. At the same time… loved my father too much to abandon him to that life. I think when she pulled that blaster, she was aiming at him. At Papa. I think she meant to kill him. Rather than let him become a destroyer of worlds. But at the last minute, she just couldn’t do it. I don’t know if she knew I was watching. But she couldn’t do it. Brave as she was. Brave as they all were. Cowardly as they all were.”
The crystal slipped from her fingers, stopped falling at the end of its cord, and hung there suspended, as her fingertips, cats cradling it, worked at each other.
“They gave up everything,” she said. “I would have given anything. All any of us wanted was to live in peace with our families. Not let the war tear us apart. Let it leave us alone.”
She lifted her face to Cassian slightly, the light hitting it as it had once before: on the U-wing, on Yavin 4, before Jedha. “After I met you, I thought maybe we’d all been selfish.”
Cassian shook his head at once. “You weren’t.”
His arms were crossed over his chest like he was trying to hold himself in. He forced himself to release them. But his knuckles were white on the edge of the desk.
“Mon Mothma once tried to get me to take care of myself,” said Cassian. “I said I wasn’t worth her time. She asked me, ‘What is it you think we’re fighting for?’”
His dark lashes obscured his eyes; Jyn couldn’t tell if he was looking down or not looking at anything. “When I demanded the sterilization procedure, Draven asked me how I could hope to make a better future for others if I excised the one I most wanted for myself. I said it would make me a better agent. He said it would make me a dead one. I was making myself not have anything to lose in the future, as well as in the present.”
Jyn felt numb and cold. The cave consumed both of them. “Why did he let you?”
“I threatened to have it done by non-Alliance on a black market world. I threatened to do it to myself. In the end he agreed at least our own med droids were the safest option. …And it was the one thing I’d ever asked for for myself. The only other I ever would, would be Kay.”
Jyn felt hollowness where she wished she could cry. She nodded.
“I chose service,” said Cassian. “I would always choose service. So I made sure I would never have to choose it over anything. Made sure there would never be something that could be more important. A thing that was the reason any of us served.”
“Until the war was over,” said Jyn quietly in bitter agreement. “Which it never would be.”
“Not for us,” said Cassian, low.
Both were still and silent.
Both lost it at once.
Jyn tore everything off the bed, threw it as far as it would go—and then, not entirely on purpose, threw her kyber crystal across the room. It sparked and made a resounding thud against the wall.
The sound was so disproportionate to the size of the projectile, she stared in confusion. Then turned around and saw that it hadn’t been the kyber at all. Simultaneously, into the opposite wall, Cassian had put his fist.
Both went to the other at once. Bent their faces together. Cassian reached for her cheek with his uninjured hand. She grasped his bleeding one in both of hers.
“Let’s—” get you to med bay died in her throat. The backup get you some ice did too, because that gave her a better idea.
“Get your coat,” she said instead, even as she ripped off her scarf and bound his knuckles with it. “Full weather gear.”
He didn’t even waste the energy to look questioning. Just, as he’d always do, followed her order.
Before lastly pulling on his gloves, he picked up her kyber crystal and held it out to her. She took it, looked down at it for a moment, then stood up on her toes and hung it around Cassian’s neck. He looked at her, stunned, as she tucked it inside his shirt. He looked either like he could kiss her or hit the wall again. She pressed a hand to his chest, over the crystal, and fastened up his coat before he could do either.
They left their room and the complex.
Just outside the pedestrian exit, they put up their hoods, but the wind was as mild as it got, so they could leave their faces uncovered. Jyn gently pulled off Cassian’s glove and packed his injured hand with snow around her scarf before pulling the glove back on.
“It’s just going to soak through,” he said, though with the crinkled edges of an actual smile.
“Would you rather go back to med bay right now?” she shot back. “Besides, I’ve still got some aggression to work out. And there’s stuff to hit out here that doesn’t hurt. Much.”
She suddenly tackled him into the snow bank, used his chest to push herself up and off and dash for cover. A snowball whacked her in the back of the head, causing her to trip and fall facefirst into a drift.
Neither had ever lived somewhere with snow as a child. So it was their first snowball fight. Some primitive groundwork of a fort even developed as they ran through tactics. But it didn’t feel like fighting, nor sparring. They flung out all their aggression yet they laughed.
Until at last Jyn found herself deep in the hollow of one of Cassian’s defensive dugouts, pulling him in on top of her, and when they kissed no amount of snowmelt on their clothes could cool their bodies. Shielded from the wind and flaking drift, it felt less like a snowbank and more like a nest. Cassian’s gloved hands ran between Jyn’s cushioned back and the snow. She craved him closer to her skin. She also realized he hadn’t winced. Pulling his hand free, she removed the glove and the scarf. The bleeding had stopped and the hand was barely bruised. She laughed in surprise at how well that had worked. He smiled in that way that made the planet shift its axis. They began to kiss again.
Their snowsuits were designed for species of any genital apparatus to relieve themselves with the least amount of exposure. So whatever the odds Kay might have given on embarrassing frostbite from making love in the snow… their suits protected the rest of them, while Jyn sheathed Cassian in the gap of them. They were so molten where they joined, and rocked so broadly over the cushioning of their suits, it was amazing the hollow didn’t collapse in on them, or become a melted pool. Neither could care less. This was where they fitted, this was where they belonged, this was no accident and never would be, everything was chosen, they were chosen by each other. She kissed him with lips and labia, he held her with solidity outside and in. And the harshest world they’d cohabited felt like the sweetest cradle, rocking them through plateau to completion, of all.
As they lay in the snow and each other’s arms, Jyn murmured, “You’re family enough for me.”
Cassian pressed his lips to her temple and repeated it fervently back.
They made it back inside just before the doors were sealed for the night. Went back to med bay, and told Kes and Shara yes.
* * *
She touched his chest as she hadn’t in the situation room of Base One.
His chest pressed to hers as they kissed and he leaned her back
He traced her face as he hadn’t on the tarmac on Yavin 4.
His hand cupped the back of her head, easing her down
She leaned against him to rest as she hadn’t in the U-wing.
She put her arms around him to pull him against her and link her knee behind his
He kissed her face to wake her as he hadn’t over Jedha.
Their mouths made love to one another as their hands began loosening clothes
She kissed him against a wall as she hadn’t in NiJedha.
She kicked away her pants and rubbed herself against him bedewing his
He folded her in his arms as he hadn’t in Saw’s fortress.
He slipped his hand between them, simultaneously fumbling and dextrous, to free himself, slipping between her sweet wet lips
They touched foreheads as they hadn’t in hyperspace.
They touched foreheads as she pushed gently upward and took him inside her
They threw down their guns together on Eadu.
He grabbed her in his arms as they began to rock together
They wept together in the Zeta shuttle.
Her feet arched, heels digging into his calves, his thighs, as she rode him in
They reconciled and rested in one another’s bodies on Yavin.
His forehead lowered to rest upon her sternum, his lips and tongue laving her nipples and breasts
They fucked against the wall of the engine room on Rogue One.
She clasped him tight in her pelvis and thighs and turned them onto their sides, so they could hump into each other in synchrony
She held him when Kay died.
He embraced her at Stardust in the data vault.
She caught him when he was shot.
There was no war atop the citadel tower, no fighter planes, no ground battle, no Krennic, no Deathstar, only the plans sent like a beacon to the Alliance
bearing his shaft through her like an energy beam
likewise, no kyber beam, no mushroom cloud, no evaporating ocean as they held each other in the sand
their arms and lips reclasped one another, holding so tightly, their pelvises scooped and rode as one without parting
but no fantasies were needed then, because they were here, with the living Alliance, the cause and people they’d saved, as surely as they’d saved one another, over and over
when he’d pulled her from Wobani
he’d shot the Partisan who would have bombed her
she shielded his body from a grenade
she called him “friend” to Saw’s rebels
he pulled back her mind and helped her run from the crumbling fortress
she (though she hadn’t known it) stopped him from assassinating an innocent man
he shot stormtroopers off her back on the mining platform
she saved all of them and everything refusing to let them throw themselves away
and beyond all that:
She’d lived all her life in that cave. He’d lived all his life in a cage. Over the course of two days, they’d broken each other free.
He thrust in her, she scooped him in. They gasped out together. He was ambrosia inside her. She was nectar enveloping him. Ichor flowed through and between them as their necks arched in plateau. Mine. My own. I love you. There. Oh there. Stay. Yes. Stay. His flesh on her nerves, her muscles flowing his blood, orgasms passing between them like currents no more to be stopped than the sea.
They made love and gave each other pleasure for the entire night. Only some of it was nerves and cells and bodies. More was what they gave each other, that the universe had never given before. And should it ever try to take it away, it still couldn’t be undone. And embraced that it was their cause from now on.
In the morning, sleepless and profoundly awake, Cassian went to Mon Mothma and General Draven and resigned his commission.
* * *
“Congratulations,” she said, “on the right decision, and it’s wonderful you’re both going to help establish the colony on Zyll Zeta. But you cannot leave for another six days.”
Jyn, sophisticated and articulate as befit the presence of the Princess, said, “Huh?”
Leia barked, “Six days! Promise!” and didn’t let go of Jyn’s arm until she nodded.
* * *
There was only so much sex even they could have, though once having so much time to themselves in their bunk would have been the most restorative ideal. They resorted to some children’s show viewing, Jyn’s childhood favorite The Octave Staircase reruns and Cassian’s post-Kay favorite involving anthropomorphized loth-cats. They even agreed to a massive sabacc tournament with Han and half of X-squadron, and considered their objective achieved when they weaseled out of playing more than a few hands and just watched. It was easier being with these people now that they knew they were leaving, which was itself difficult. Damn human emotion anyway. Spending as much time as they could [bear] with Han and Leia (whose current relations were fraught but they’d decided to put that aside for Jyn and Cassian), Jyn remembered that she’d meant to meet Luke Skywalker in the physical world. Probably too late for that now.
The sixth day finally came. They’d already said all their goodbyes and meant to leave quietly and privately, as befitted Cassian’s whole Alliance career and Jyn’s… being Jyn. But then Han, Leia, and Chewie were standing with Kaytu on their minor landing platform, and frog-marched them back toward the heart of the complex.
The main hangar had been transformed, not just by vessels and chairs in ceremonial configuration, but by the vessels being a fleet of brand new X-wing fighters.
Leia shoved Jyn, and Han, Cassian, into seats right at the front, and sat between them with Chewie and Kaytu on either outer side. The rest of the crowd had just about taken their seats. In front of them all stepped a young man with sandy hair, who Jyn knew at once, and not just by reputation.
“Thank you, Mon Mothma, for selecting me as presenter today,” said Luke Skywalker. “As you can see around you, our X-wing fleet is finally back up to full complement.” The cheering from the pilots was enormous, and sounded so much more victorious than Jyn could have quite managed, thinking about why, how, and where almost all of them had been wiped out before this.
Luke was right there with her. “The losses of Blue and Gold Squadrons and most of Red Squadron were terrible tragedies. But those pilots all died heroes. It’s because of their sacrifice that we were able to destroy the Death Star. These new ships are all a testament to them, and to the new friends and allies who came to us because of that victory, and literally made this, on every level, possible.” More cheering.
“So we are here today,” said Luke. He obviously wasn’t used to public speaking, but made up for it with guilelessness and passion. Oh, how far likeability could get you when backed up with heroism. “—to name and dedicate our new fleet. The honor,” he looked over at Leia, Han, and Chewbacca, who all stood and came to join him. Artoo and Threepio, who’d been standing somewhere to the side, came over as well. “—was given to us. I think you’ll all approve of our choice.”
Luke looked over all of the room. And then, to Jyn’s utter disconcertedness, he looked straight at her and Cassian.
“Rebel Alliance,” he said, his voice filling the room, “I present to you: Rogue Squadron.”
Jyn thought perhaps her senses had just blacked out. It felt like she was hearing an ocean roaring. It took her a moment to realize it was the crowd, who were suddenly on their feet and applauding and cheering like the two times before had been nothing. And all of them were somehow doing it in their direction. She turned to stare at Cassian, who was staring back… and for the first time she’d ever seen in public, there were tear tracks down his face. She felt too shocked to tell if she was crying or not.
Kaytu was suddenly taking both their hands and pulling them to their feet. It would have taken no one less than him or Chewie, they were so stunned. But then they were standing with the others and the crowd was lavishing them with adulation. Until suddenly they weren’t, but were looking at them silent and emotional and venerating and Jyn realized they were supposed to say something.
But her oration was long done. She’d done it in front of the Allied Council to make this happen. She turned to look at a loss at Luke, then at Cassian.
Cassian was as white as when he’d first been revived in med bay. Because he was remembering a thought he’d had then. He might be the only person left alive who knew every name on that list. Whether or not he ever shared it…
Slowly, he turned to Leia. Then to Luke. Both were smiling, so encouragingly and gently, at him, Jyn nearly did burst into tears. Cassian nodded microcosmically at both, then turned to face the crowd. Who, if they’d seemed quiet before, fell completely silent.
Cassian walked over to the first of the new X-Wings. He reached up to touch the undercarriage.
“Ruescott Melshi,” he said. His voice resonated through the massive hangar.
He moved to the next craft and likewise christened it with his hand. “Arro Basteren.”
He went to each craft in turn and no one made a sound but his footfalls and his voice. “Yosh Calfor.
He looked at Jyn. Of their own accord, her feet took her to the ship, her palm to its flank. She dubbed the final three.
Suddenly, but gently, Chewbacca was at Cassian’s side, his massive paw on his shoulder; and Mon Mothma touched Jyn’s arm. Luke, Leia, and Han took their places at the last three vehicles.
Luke touched one and said, “Kaytuesso.”
Han touched the next and said, “Cassian Andor.”
Leia touched the last and said, “Jyn Erso.”
Luke turned to Kay, Leia to Jyn, and Chewbacca to Cassian, and each put a medal on their chests.
The crowd was cheering again. (Shara was shouting dibs on the ship nicknamed for Kay and declaring intent to paint it black.) But Jyn only heard three voices, in her mind.
Cassian had said, I couldn’t tell what was true versus what I wanted to be true
Mon Mothma had said, Learn to trust what you want
Lyra had said, Trust the Force
And Cassian had said, I hadn’t understood that there’s no division between the Force and ourselves
Jyn touched her new medal, and the kyber pendant, back around her neck, hanging beside it.
And she knew that it was their turn now. Luke’s, Leia’s, Han’s, Chewie’s, Artoo’s, Threepio’s. They were the ones to do the next work. She, Cassian, and Kaytu were finished.
Cassian had been destroying since he was six years old. He’d been so good at it, he couldn’t imagine ever being good anything else. But there was a lot of building to do on Zyll Zeta and Cassian took to it like a mynock to a power coupling. He picked everything up after being shown barely once, did anything and everything that was asked of him, excelled at teaching others, and wanted do it all day without rest. He got addicted to seeing things take shape that held under his hands. Every new building he finished, he wanted to get on to the next one. It was joked around camp that everyone else should just take an indefinite break and let him build the whole colony by himself.
There were construction droids helping with the buildings. K-2SO wasn’t among them. Despite now having the body of a healing rather than security unit, some of his deepest imperatives persisted; so when told boulders needed to be broken up for path clearing, his oculars literally lit up. In perfect inverse of Cassian, who was finding freedom in creation, Kaytuesso was finally, for the first time since his reprogram—indeed, earlier; even Imperial security droids were not allowed unrestricted violence—finding freedom in (constructive) destruction. Also like Cassian, Kay would have happily smashed rocks night and day. —and worse than Cassian because Kay needed no sleep, food, or hydration. Only persuasion that others needed sleep had Kay adopt a not-strictly-necessary schedule of recharging every night.
Jyn had never considered it seriously before, but in the footsteps of Galen, (and perhaps with the teeniest willneveradmititdon’ttellher influence from Ffas’va), she started hanging around the botanists. She hadn’t thought she’d paid attention to Galen when she was a child, but she found herself picking things up quickly as well: botany, ecology, hydroponics and hydraulics. Soon she was no longer in a position to dissuade or make fun of Cassian or even Kay, because seeing things grow (rather than the other thing) under her fingers was as heady a thrill as anything she’d ever known.
The more they wore themselves out over the course of the day, exhausted and aching, covered in sweat, dust, and earth, the only thing that could bring them down at its end was his hard flesh inside her, the rigidity filling and somehow soothing her gently rippling muscles and soft, slick membranes; sating her, unlocking him. She would rub herself around him, moving upon his erection, releasing her waters ’til she felt she soaked the ground, nourishing the land, a channel between it and them, birthing them from the earth as they fed it in return. The pleasure of their contact inside her built steadily by the sheer miracle of it, of him, of her, alive, connected, in proven trust, with or without the friction of labor, until she contracted so tightly, her walls would have touched each other and instead closed on him, and squeezed him such that his body touched her every nerve, full circuit completion, and she would throw back, pulse and breasts kissed by air, arch him higher, deeper, as far as she could take him, far as he could go, cumming at such height, feeling she would never come back down. They had to find places increasingly far away from the settlement so that Jyn could outright scream. And, perhaps freed by her doing so, Cassian vocalize more full-voicedly than she ever thought anything, pleasure or pain, could drag out of him. It was relief and release and led to falling inside the safety and pleasure of one another and easing them, as if safe inside the earth itself, to sleep.
They had their own shelter in tent city, until the permanent shelters were done being built. They weren’t sure they’d spent any time in it. Every night, they found a place under the stars and rode each other until the stars were behind their eyes, under their backs and in their lungs.
While they lived in a state of perpetual exhaustion, it wasn’t weariness. It was fulfillment. Building and growing. Coupling and cumming. If they’d found this place, in themselves and in the universe, too soon after Scarif, they might have had to start believing in an afterlife after all.
This time it was working. This time
—unlike Galen on Lah’mu
—unlike themselves on Yavin 12
—they weren’t trying for themselves. There was something bigger, someone elses, to serve.
They were also wearing themselves out too completely to dream.
The blade pierced between his shoulderblades and came out his chest the other side
Piercing Jyn where she held him so she fell limp against him too
Cassian woke gasping, clawing at the mat, rolling out of the bed to avoid hitting Jyn, though she instantly leapt down to the ground with him, to hold his head and grapple with his hands and breathe him through as he wracked and retched
And he sobbed for them all over again because now he wasn’t fighting for them any more
Not any of them
He was truly letting them go
How do people do this
In a universe with death
On the fragile face of one planet
Galen and Lyra
Saw and Steela
Baze and Chirrut
Jyn and Cassian
How do you do it
Knowing any moment they could be taken away
Of course: Denial
enjoy the feeling that love makes you invincible
embrace believing that it makes you immortal
because relinquishing that faith only means never having it at all
actually less of a loss to lose it only if/when death rains down from the sky
It’s not a problem if you don’t look up
You can stand to know the war is going on out there without you?
What is it you think we’re fighting for?
They were done with the war
They could begin grieving it
One night, Jyn couldn’t find Cassian. It didn’t frighten her. Somehow, she knew. As if in a dream, she walked barefoot into the night and went directly for where she knew he’d be. In the grove where they’d first made love, back when they were surveying the planet with Shara and the others, he was leaning against a tree as if staunching a chest wound, wetted salt on his face. She went to him, equally silent, and he went down on his knees before her. She laid him down and took his head in her lap, the way she had when he was dying over Scarif.
When he quieted at last, Jyn leaned over. She kissed the tears from under his eyes, the salt trails down his sculpted cheeks. And said, “Your turn?”
He told her.
It spilled out of him in a single rush, taking blood and organs and bones with it. Until he lay at last empty and formless in her lap, eyes closed, limp, barely able to breathe… yet less tense that she’d ever felt him before, even having thought, in pleasure, she’d felt him completely relaxed.
Until at last he whispered, “If you leave me now I’ll understand.”
She laid his head back onto the soft earth; folded herself into his side, wrapped her arms around him; put her face close to his, kissed his eyes and mouth; and said nothing except, “Never.”
They didn’t unlock from their embrace as fell asleep together inside the shadow of the tree.
What he told her: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12128073/chapters/27508461
They crashed together, feverishly; every cell ravenous to be met. They kissed like delivery from thirst. She pushed her hands under his clothes, along his muscles and scars. He pulled her into his arms and fitted their every corner and curve. Wrestling one another free of restraint, they found a moment where her palms cupped his jaw, his framed her eyes, and, startled, they both fell still, staring.
Their searching eyes: black above, green below… wasn’t there some myth, on some planet or many, about sky and sea being parents of the world…?
He breathed a smile. Hers was like a comet. His lips moved to her throat. Her hands moved down past his waist. They sank into each other, and she gently pressed him, pulled him, into—
This was the point in the dream where one killed the other.
Neither had had that dream for a long time.
Instead, they waited, breathless; smiled, and kissed, and he slid inside her, and they rocked each other to completion and to sleep.
* * *
Both were capable of sleeping still and silent. Rather, they had been once. Starting to unlock with one another, they should probably never try sleeping on a stealth job again. Both had become restless sleepers when they dreamed. They always found one another again, but it wasn’t every morning she woke so perfectly spooned by him. She rested her head over his arm, pushed herself gently back against him, felt his free arm tighten reflexively around her, and closed her eyes again, soaking him in.
She didn’t know it was being taken into his arms that had wakened her. Cassian had woke and felt her against him—back-to-back, too reminiscent of necessity; so he quietly turned and slipped himself around her. Felt her flex like a lothcat against him and closed his eyes into her hair, drank her warmth into the hole in his chest that was always… not getting smaller but finding new filling, new covering. Closed his eyes again, breathing her in.
It was the first morning in a long, long time they hadn’t been up and working at first light.
So here came Kaytuesso’s voice through their thin door. “Cassian. Jyn.”
Both betrayed themselves to the other by muttering simultaneously, “Go ’way,/Not now, Kay.”
“I thought you’d like to know that the Princess just landed.”
Both opened their eyes, craned their necks to look at each other, exchanged a rueful look.
“Thanks, Kay,” said Cassian now, Jyn snapping her mouth shut before she could accidentally say this with him, too. He nuzzled the back of her neck, holding her tight, and she melted into it a moment longer. But each was as curious and eager to see Leia as the other, so, a bit woefully, they released.
* * *
Leaving Jyn alone with Luke for the first time in the real world.
He looked profoundly different, not just when they’d met in illusion but when he’d dedicated the X-fleet. Graver. Scarred. Too much older.
She wondered if this was what it looked like when war hit you mid-adulthood, rather than raising you.
“It’s good to see you,” Luke spoke first.
“Yes,” said Jyn, still feeling oddly thrown by his appearance. (Why? She’d seen—and looked—far worse.) “And in the real world.”
His faint smile confirmed her suspicions: the world had gotten too real for him, very abruptly.
Jyn realized why this was getting to her: she felt for a lightheaded moment that the scales had to remain balanced. That her succeeding in crawling toward the light was only possible if paid for by Luke Skywalker backing into shadow.
She wasn’t sure she wanted to know. It probably involved news of what she’d chosen to leave behind. And if she knew, could she avoid telling Cassian, and if he knew, could either of them remain out of the fight…?
“Where’s Han?” she asked instead.
* * *
Alone with a longtime compatriot, Leia Organa of Alderaan, after an obviously overprolonged suppression, broke into sobs.
Cassian put an arm around her and she turned her face into his collar. She let him hold her as she cried herself out, as she allowed so rarely: if she did all the grieving of Alderaan, she would weep out organs and bones with the tears.
“Sorry,” said Leia at last, sitting back from Cassian’s body and wiping her eyes.
He left a hand on her back. “Never be.”
She nodded with the faintest of unhappy smiles.
“I remember when I first saw you,” said Leia—still not answering. “You were standing behind my father’s chair at some official dinner. When I asked him who you were, afterward, it was conspicuous how little he told me. You were going by the name… Rilio, something.”
“Yes,” said Cassian, startled and impressed at her recall. “If I set foot on Alderaan normally I’d exchange a parcel with your father and leave again. That time, he wanted me to observe someone at the dinner. He thought it would be inconspicuous if I played bodyguard.”
“It was to anyone not of the household,” agreed Leia. “For us, we just knew not to try to talk to you. Though of course I was tempted.” She smiled a little less miserably and flicked his hair out of his face. Only with her, if someone not Jyn, he smiled like a blush.
“That’s not the first time I saw you,” he said.
“Oh?” said Leia. “Did I meet you as a child as I did Jyn?”
“It was earlier that day,” said Cassian. “There were young children running around the garden where I was speaking with the Senator. —your father.” Leia was a senator too, after all. “They were running past us. One of them tripped. He might have broken his head. Kaytu caught him and set him back on his feet so quickly, he just kept running. Didn’t notice anything had happened.”
(And Cassian had felt suddenly so cold and angry and desolate, that he hadn’t had Kaytu there to catch him when that small.)
“You were with a friend elsewhere in the garden. You caught the child and sent him back to Kay to say thank you.”
(And Cassian had fallen in love with the Core princess who did that for a droid. Not the kind of love to try and get closer to her, but to serve, as he did her father and their shared Cause; to revere; to die for.)
“That would have been one of the children of the estate,” said Leia. “Father always made sure that all stations of the palace mingled, especially below a certain age. So that we all fundamentally understood, wherever our adulthoods took us, that we had more in common than we had different.”
“I liked your father very much,” understated Cassian. “Before I met him, I’d had no idea that Core politicians could be… kind.”
Leia gave another wan smile. Some more tears flowed down her face. It was Cassian’s turn to reach over and brush them away.
“None of this answers my question,” he said softly.
Leia took Cassian’s hand, squeezed it, and moved it aside so she could finish drying her own tears. “The short version is, his bounty caught up with him,” she said. “He’s being held captive by Jabba the Hutt.”
Cassian’s old training allowed him not to wince. Stony faced, he said only, “I’m so sorry.”
Leia raised her chin and looked at him, equally hard. “I’m going to get him back. I’m here so you can help me plan it.”
* * *
Cassian half-turned to Jyn. He started to say, “I—” When Jyn grabbed his face in both her palms and kissed him feverishly. (Her hands cupping his jaw, his framing her eyes…) He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off her feet. Their kiss didn’t break or lose its voracity as he carried her upright against him, moved his knee between her legs to brace on the bed, lowered her onto it and himself onto her.
The days when they were careful with one another’s clothes were long gone. They’d learned all the short cuts to avoid actual damage while dispensing quickly, pulling off their own simultaneous with each other so no sooner had they leaned apart then they could come back together. And soon he was inside her, each blanketing the other with their warm flesh. And though she was on her back, she quickly took the control he was gladly willing to give. She rode him gently, cyclical, rubbing herself with him inside and out, hands still on his face, her mouth on his mouth. One of his hands slipped between her and the mattress low in the small of her back, following and aiding her exquisite movement, that sweetest valley pleasuring the whole center of him: penis, pelvis, stomach, spine, all suffused, sungold, orgastic… His other hand cupped the back of her head and her neck, fingers deeply gentle in her hair, electrifying and guiding their kiss as she guided them below.
Together. Let them, let us…
The anguish being visited on Han and Leia, Jyn and Cassian fought with their coupling, straining as if to generate the Force that would aid them too, bring all lovers back together, drag the universe into its better form. They’d been unable with other efforts, so why not this… this birthing of joy, of comfort, of finding, connecting… She broke their kiss to gasp and tightened around him; he jolted and curved up inside her; they grabbed each other in sudden urgency, cresting, there, and came together.
* * *
“Did Leia tell you?” said Jyn.
“Yes,” said Cassian. “She wanted my help figuring out how to retrieve him.”
“What did you tell her?”
“Don’t. At least, not on her own. But she wouldn’t hear it. So finally… I suggested going so frontal and audacious, she’d remind Jabba of himself. Perhaps pretend to be a bounty hunter and threaten to blow everyone up with a thermal detonator if she didn’t get the price she wanted for whatever accomplice she could persuade to be her prisoner. Jabba would be entertained and respect it. That would get her in to surveille at her leisure, as a guest, to be able to come back later with an extraction team. But I have a bad feeling she plans on also being the extraction team. Nothing I could say changed that.”
Jyn propped herself up on one elbow. “Luke asked for my help figuring out the same thing. I suggested he send in Artoo as if as a gift to embed himself; likewise get the layout, and smuggle in his lightsaber in advance of Luke coming himself as a big bad Jedi and trying intimidation before combat. I told him to share his plans with Leia.”
“And I her with Skywalker,” said Cassian. “Do you think they will?”
“No. Force, I hope they don’t try to do both.”
* * *
Rogue One: retconning debated bits of tOT since 2016?
Chapter 21: NeoJedha
Crossover with "Quiero Saber"
There’s a little rural colony on the backwater world of Zyll Zeta. It’s declared no allegiance, is on no major shipping routes, and calls no attention to itself. It self-sustains with farming and secondhand gear from anonymous friends. For those few who know of it, it’s a haven.
At its center, there’s another one.
NeoJedha is a round one-roomed building with large windows and portals open to the air. (Zyll Zeta itself was so much more like Alderaan, no Alderaanians found the naming imbalanced.) The walls were painted with strokes of many different artists ranging from professional to childlike. Among the murals, twined into leaves and vines and stylized cables and starlines, are some Aurebesh characters. One cluster of them spells the name Bodhi Rook. Another, Chirrut Îmwe. Another, Baze Malbus.
Inside, once a day, as many children of the colony as could squeeze themselves in came to watch Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor fight one another. Then teach the children how to fight.
They can’t remember whose idea it was. It had come out of the nightmares. How could two creatures so forged for violence and warfare ever serve growth and peace? Scrapping their extensive skillsets and starting from scratch seemed just wasteful, and a bit beyond imagining. Perhaps it had been Kaytu suggesting they repurpose the skills they already had.
So the two child soldiers, who’d had their lives seized and remade for them, have been teaching children how to defend their choices and themselves. Make sure they have as much power as they can to keep their lives and their bodies all their own.
The sparring demonstrations were wildly popular. Some children just showed up to watch. Jyn and Cassian feared this meant they were glamorizing violence, but Kay was quite certain the appeal was not in the intent of the moves being displayed, but the execution. Jyn and Cassian were so preternaturally in sync with one another.
Their respective “styles” couldn’t be narrowed down to a single discipline: they had both been trained in the “whatever the hell works” philosophy. Each lesson might focus on a different element of that patchwork.
NeoJedha was not used only for self-defense lessons. Other residents sometimes gave visiting lessons, on reading and writing, history, (mostly Alderaanian) meditation techniques, and even some meetings resembling those of the Church of the Force.
Kaytu was the guardian of the place; there was little to vandalize or steal, and no one seemingly inclined to do so, but he’d taken to recharging there overnight in case any child came seeking help. He also enjoyed the self-defense lessons, where he sometimes got to impersonate an attacker, or otherwise be a sparring partner, or simply watch select participants (those Jyn and Cassian knew would be fine with his style) and give helpful feedback.
No weapons were allowed except batons and no blood was ever deliberately shed. Cassian’s and Jyn’s watchful eyes and helping hands were so diligent, even bruising was rare.
They still worried sometimes. But it seemed to be working. For the children. For the rest of the colonists. For their own dreams. They were starting to sleep the night without remembering any.
The construction completed, the repair was continuing.
Cassian’s dreams had moved through his whole life. They were finally catching up to the present. Now he dreamed of those first days with Jyn.
Cassian looked up from dropping his duffle in the ship's hold. Past Erso, waiting to follow, now raising her eyebrow at him, Draven had crossed the landing platform. Cassian spared her a glance then left the ship to meet him out on the tarmac, where no one could hide behind anything to listen.
His C.O., former mentor, recruiter, converter, had his hands at his sides. Cassian's were clasped behind his back. Half a head taller, Draven bowed his head to make sure only Cassian heard him. And, perhaps, so that the back of Cassian's head would block Draven's lips moving from the vantage of the ship—from, potentially, Erso's eyes.
Draven said in a low voice, "Galen Erso is vital to the Empire's weapons program." Cassian's brief nod. Draven's grim look. "Forget what you heard in there. There will be no extraction. You find him…”
Clasping Tivik's shoulder, putting his body against the other man's to reassure him, the warmth, the intimacy, so gently touching moving his blaster behind Tivik's back to aim at his heart. (Don’t.)
(I'm sorry.) "…you kill him.”
Cassian looked away, mouth tightening. Of course. Of course it wasn't enough to put him on a volatile mission to an active war zone, seeking an imbalanced warlord with a chip on his shoulder. (Or maybe just a chip. The shoulder might be gone by now.) It wasn't enough to add the unwelcome x-factor of another sentient. It wasn't enough that that sentient was as undisciplined, anarchic, convictionless, unpredictable, provocative, and aggravating—and made Cassian’s chest hurt—as Jyn Erso. On top of all that… he would have to travel with her closely, into that morasse, keep her safe, keep her trust, and try to keep everything at some impossible equilibrium, while having to conceal from her the exact thing that most betrayed her, and would provoke the least predictable of reactions. (Any more explosives you want to add to that pile, Sir?)
Draven offered nothing—though Cassian's glance down would read between the two of them as clearly as a grimace. He only added, flatly, "Then and there."
Turn rebellion to resignation. Done. Cassian lifted his eyes back to Draven's. Didn't speak—no argument, no goodbye. Definitely no verbal confirmation for classified directives. Only a crisp nod. Then turned on his heel and strode back to the ship. Where he would proceed to speak with Erso as if nothing had changed. As if their purpose was still synchronized.
…and instantly compromised regulation, precedent, and his mission (for the first time, as far as he knows) to let her keep the blaster she'd stolen from his own pack.
"Some of us just decided to do something about it.”
Jyn’s mouth twisted. She was shaking her head. Cassian was too upset to get an accurate read but it was hard not to think that perhaps she was fighting off… understanding. That if she could afford (could bear) to see him as anything but an enemy right now, they might instead—
No. He felt a muscle in his face jump. Perhaps in a similar look of rejection, revulsion, rebellion as had just crossed hers. Not the same. We are not the same.
"You can't talk your away around this," she said, voice low.
He didn't like weaponizing body language. Not needlessly. Not so intimately. It was on a curve with the one thing he'd managed never—amid all the things he'd swore he wouldn't but had done—to do.
But he kept breaking all the rules with Jyn, didn't he?
He put his body practically against hers to circle them around
—as they had on Jedha—
—'Rebellions are built on hope'—
and let every fissure behind his glare show on through. The only way to meet the exact consistency of hers. As low-voiced as she, he growled back, "I don't have to."
He only broke her furious gaze to go to the ladder.
Paused. Looked back, leveled his own eyes at each of the others. Bodhi, staying determinedly useful at the console. Chirrut, impossible to read. Baze, openly glowering back. Cassian all-but shouted, "Anyone else?"
Bodhi either shook his head or just plain shook. Chirrut gave no sign. Baze exhaled a grunt and lay back like he was on a beach. Cassian didn't realize his eyes were going back to Jyn until it was too late and they locked again. He turned away and yanked himself up the ladder. To the cockpit, to Kaytoo, to sanctuary.
Except Cassian immediately slammed both fists—painfully, silently—into the bulkhead, and struck his forehead between them.
He felt Kay's oculars on him, but the droid was silent.
Cassian would never be immune to the psychology of his work. The addition of Kaytoo slowed the process. A lot of it was being able to come back from something terrible and have companionship. But there were some terrible things where Cassian wouldn't be able to come back. Would withdraw so far inside himself that it didn't matter if anyone else was there or not. Didn't matter how much he trusted Kay, pretty much alone in the rest of the universe, to have no duplicity, to be purely honest and accurate, not even compromising for niceties. Even Kay couldn't reach him. Cassian hated doing it to Kay. He knew how difficult it was, to be conscripted to help someone who wouldn't be helped. But Kay had learned when not to speak, when not to try and make Cassian speak. Not because it wouldn't be good. Because it simply wouldn't work.
Cassian's fists and face were pushed into the bulkhead and he tried to come back. Tried to get to the dimension where Kay was. He could see it abstractly: he would sit beside Kay; talk it through; run scenarios; draft the report; ask Kay to hit him (Kay wouldn't), push him (also probably not), hold him down (that one Kay had had to do many times) until the moment passed. Press his forehead against Kay's metal and let it cool his mind until it slowed. Otherwise try to do something constructive with this utter fourfold failure. With Kaytoo, in the cockpit, as so many times before. Whether the mission had succeeded or failed, sometimes what he needed to keep going was the two of them.
But it's not just the two of them. Cassian can't hit things or scream. He can't even speak. Not without the ones below hearing. Even if they didn't hear, he knew they were there. He can't retreat into Kay's sanctuary because they aren't alone.
A bulkhead between them, Jyn's eyes are boring into him even now.
He strikes his face to the wall one more time.
Stop it. Stop.
On so many levels. It had gone so wrong. And all for nothing.
And just when it seemed her story was being confirmed…
But just as he was too involved right now to read Jyn's expression, he'd been too involved to read whatever drama had been playing out on that platform.
He knew what it looked like. So clearly and obviously, so inescapably: what he wanted it to look like. Confirmation of Jyn's account. Justification for what he'd done—hadn't done. The way to both serve the Rebellion and…
…and… serve… her.
He couldn't trust his interpretations. It was moot now anyway. And they were left with worse than nothing. Because he knew exactly what happened next. How it would play out. After what he'd seen… what he'd done… and worse because now there were also the others. The three Jedhans whose world had buckled and broke. Bodhi who'd given up everything on faith and been betrayed—by Saw, by Cassian, and soon, inevitably, by the Council. Baze whose faith seemed to have shattered years ago and they kept confirming his resignation. Chirrut who would find a way and not be terribly concerned whether he survived it. And Jyn—
"He's gone," he'd said to her over Galen's body.
"He's gone," Khryw'd said to Cassian over Jeron’s.
Cassian pushed himself from the bulkhead and sat heavily beside Kaytoo.
He didn't take his controls. He shut his eyes. Felt the rain still on his face, like the tears he'd lost the ability to shed. Listened to—mostly imagined—Kay working the board.
You can't talk your way around this.
You lied to me.
I'll bet you have.
You might as well be a stormtrooper.
The worse shame, what he'd said to her: You don't know what you're talking about.
He didn't plan out what he would report. He didn't help fly. He just worked to keep himself beside Kay, keep himself sitting in that cockpit, not fall through the atoms of the ship into void. Made himself breathe.
I don't have to.
The first time Cassian saw Jyn, he’d thought, No, not her. Put me on a different path.
The first time Jyn had seen Cassian, she’d thought, He has nice eyes. He could be a problem.
The first time he saw her differently was when she saved the girl on Jedha.
The first time she saw him differently was when he said, Rebellions are built on hope.
The first time Cassian realized his life had changed for good was around the second or third time he betrayed his own laws, training, and precedent and put Jyn ahead of the mission.
The first time Jyn realized her life had changed was when Cassian laid himself at her mercy and a small army at her feet.
The first time they realized they were finally free of their pasts, they took the other’s hand on Scarif’s beach.
Their first kiss, their first making love, good as they were, were secondary to those other firsts.
He was staring up into the darkness when she stirred beside him and asked what was wrong.
“What if we met here? No Yavin. No Eadu. No Death Star. Just two colonists starting fresh.”
“…No. I wish away a lot of that time. But never you. I relearned the universe from you in those moments. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
They would never have kids. For the orphans and refugees of Alderaan and Jedha: they taught and protected hundreds.
Chapter 22: Zyll Zeta
Jyn eyed Cassian warily. If he feinted to the left, he’d probably go for a throw down. If to the right, she might be able to get him in the leg. They were circling each other on the mats in the center of NeoJedha, surrounded by slack-jawed children, and a handful of adults.
Jyn was so distracted by the glimpse of the man in black, Cassian was able to grab her and throw her to the ground. She rolled and flipped him in turn and they grappled, and for all the apparent ferocity of the sparring, for the briefest moment both exchanged a smirk knowing how easily they could turn this into a kiss. But then Jyn was back on her feet, Cassian a beat behind her, and it was back to business, and she’d have to look for the man in black later.
She didn’t have to. After the sparring was over, they split the audience into groups, and she saw all three of them against the wall. Han Solo dressed in brown; Leia Organa in red; Luke Skywalker in black. When Jyn had first met him, he’d been in white. With the perfect inversions of their lives, she’d thought of herself as his shadow. Now… though Jyn as ever was in grey—perhaps Luke lived in the extremes and Jyn the in-betweens—the inversion seemed complete. Jyn was, for this moment, for this life, repaired. Luke… She’d have to find out.
They finished the lesson, moving between the groups, adjusting stances and breaking down movements, and the children flowed out of the building talking excitedly. Cassian, who’d spotted them at some point as well, came to join Jyn in front of the three who’d been watching.
“This is wonderful,” said Leia, as she embraced them both. “It’s an Alderaanian temple and a Jedhan dojo in one. The sparring had a feeling of meditation.”
“The Jedi practice combative arts meditatively,” said Luke, “for control of the self rather than domination of others.”
“That’s what we hope we’re doing,” said Cassian.
“If any of my classes had been like this, maybe I wouldn’t have dropped out,” agreed Han. To Jyn, “Can you teach me that move with the—”
Leia interrupted, “Not that he’s comparing you to—”
“We got it,” said Cassian, still smiling from Han’s question. Far from being threatened or embarrassed by Jyn’s superior unarmed fighting ability, Cassian took more pride in her than she did. “Don’t worry.” As he gripped Han’s hand, “Glad to see the rescue worked out.”
Jyn turned to Luke. “But that must have been a while ago.”
“From Jabba’s?” said Han. “Yeah, blast him.” He exchanged a private smile with Leia. “And you did.”
“You’re all too busy just to drop by for the sake of it,” said Jyn, still looking at Luke. “What’s up?”
Leia looked around. There were cushions pushed to the periphery of the round room. “Shall we sit?”
“What is it?” repeated Jyn, with Cassian joining her, instantly. Both had tensed, ready for some terrible blow. Was Zyll Zeta to be attacked? Did they have to evacuate, abandon everything they’d built, lose some of their (finally had a) people…?
It didn’t come. The other three glanced at each other, then burst into smiles; Han’s triumphant, Leia’s relieved, Luke’s… aged.
“The Emperor is dead,” said Luke.
“The war’s over,” said Leia.
“We won,” said Han.
Jyn’s and Cassian’s lifetimes of the war flashed before their eyes. Lyra Erso in the field on Lah’mu, Jeron Andor on the steps at Carida; becoming a child soldier with the Partisans, becoming a child soldier with the Separatists; being abandoned by Saw, being recruited by the Rebellion; becoming a thief, becoming an assassin; the brief moment where their paths crossed at Five Points, unnoticed; the losses, the betrayals, the lives of isolation and distrust…
“Let’s sit down,” echoed Cassian finally.
They called for Kaytu, pulled cushions into the corner under Bodhi’s name, sat on them, and once the droid joined them, they heard the whole story. No one in the galaxy had put it all together yet—some of what Luke had to say was clearly news even to Han and Leia, and vice versa.
They finished and silence hung. Jyn felt… she didn’t know what she felt. It was over. What she thought she’d been hoping for. …Yet on some level had stopped waiting for. It didn’t feel real. Her head felt like it had detached from her body.
“So small,” said Cassian, at last, from somewhere far away. He sounded as stunned as she felt. “One family. That’s what brought him down in the end. After all the families he broke and destroyed. One family refusing to stay broken.”
Luke was silent. Han shifted his seat. Leia said, “I realize to you it may seem—”
“No,” said Cassian. “It’s right. It’s exactly right.”
Jyn finally almost looked at him and he almost looked back at her. But they reached for each other’s hands and found them.
Jyn, the overorphaned, the overabandoned, heard herself say something she never would have expected. “Do the others know? The rest of the colony?”
Han said, “We thought maybe you should tell them. You’re kind of the resident heroes of the place.”
Simultaneously, Jyn and Cassian shook their heads.
“We’ll stand with you when you do,” said Cassian, which Jyn found acceptable too.
In the end it was Leia, princess to them all, fellow survivor of a murdered planet, who broke the news to Zyll Zeta. Luke and Han stood on one side of her, Jyn, Kay and Cassian on the other.
Jyn wasn’t sure when that configuration was absorbed into the crowd, but there were hands clasping hers and tear-stained faces kissing her also dampened cheeks, and she felt suddenly, This is the last family I’ll ever have. They’ll never leave me. I’ll never leave them. And if they die, I’ll go with them.
* * *
That night, Jyn and Cassian walked to their first glade. Together, slowly, ceremonially, piece by piece, they undressed Cassian: Jyn undoing his fastenings, Cassian removing the clothes. Then they did the same for Jyn.
They stood naked together in the moonlight, just looking at each other.
Jyn put her hands to Cassian’s breast, the place between shoulder and pectoral that shone with the light: where Krennic had shot him. He turned where her hands guided him, giving her his back, and as she hadn’t in a long time, as one enumerates the stars, she counted and named his scars. Blaster. Knife. Shrapnel. Surgery. Torture. Self-inflicted. As she slowly turned him ’round again, his hands moved to her body, and gave her the same silent examination. Blaster. Knife. Shrapnel. Surgery. Labor camp. Punishment.
“It’s over,” said Jyn as she faced him.
“The Emperor’s dead,” Cassian said, either agreeing with or correcting her.
“Without us,” she said.
“We helped,” he said. He pushed back a strand of her hair in the starlight.
“Do you mind?” she heard herself ask. “That it ended without you?”
“It was always going to end without me,” he said. “I was so little in something vast. I just didn’t expect to still be alive when it did.”
“I wouldn’t want to be alive without you,” she said.
“I’m only alive because of you,” he said.
“You would have died because of me,” she said. “We’re alive because of Joma.”
He shook his head. “Do you know what would have happened to us without Rogue One? All of us? After the Council voted to disband and surrender?”
How had she never thought about that? She’d been too furious—she’d had to be, to get on with what needed doing next.
Cassian knew it and spoke without pausing. “The traitor Rook would have been turned over as part of the deal and made an example of. The Guardians would have refused to serve those who killed their world and found new allies or fought alone until they lost. In order to keep Kaytu from being restored to factory spec, and turned back into an Imperial weapon, I would have destroyed him myself. Before joining the Guardians and any other agent who refused to capitulate, in finding the best way to die.”
Jyn felt very cold. Part of her wanted to move forward into his arms and close her eyes into his heartbeat. The rest of her stayed still.
“You were the way forward we all wanted,” said Cassian. “I didn’t have to convince anyone to join you. I only had to let them know you existed and they saw what they’d been looking for themselves.”
“You put yourself at my mercy,” she said aloud the words she’d often thought, “and put an army at my feet. Me. A criminal.”
“You,” he said. “Jyn Erso.”
For the first time with him, it felt strange to hear her name. In the moonlight, they’d become figures unbound from themselves. The way he said her name suggested that always be true of her.
Softly, experimentally, she said, “Cassian Andor.”
We are luminous beings, Luke had said. Not this crude matter.
She disagreed. The matter was luminous.
As Cassian demonstrated by taking his name as a summoning, and moving forward, closing the space between them, and going down on his knees before her. She carded her fingers through his dark hair, silver in the moonlight, and he kissed her between her legs. She stood on her own power a bit longer, but soon she was being held up by his hands, her head thrown back, suspending herself by a death grip on his shoulders, as he made love to her with his mouth.
Something vast. The precipices they’d walked over together. She felt herself poised over one now. From the tremor in his arms, he felt it too. Something they hadn’t faced before and didn’t know if they were prepared for.
…But they had been preparing for it. As surely as they’d been stolen to prepare for war, they’d stolen themselves back to prepare for peace.
Jyn knelt down and gently pushed Cassian to lie on his back. His hand fisted into her hair, also dark, also silvered by moonlight, as she took him in her mouth in turn. He didn’t stop her and didn’t jerk away. His contracting muscles shivered him beneath her, but in the way he’d gone when he’d whispered Keep going.
At last she lay down and drew him up to her and he moved inside her, and she felt transcendent as Cassian made love in her, in labor together to birth the universe they’d once died for; the stars above and below and through her that were now free.
Chapter 23: Epilogue: Zyll Zeta
The X-Wing sank down through the atmospheric levels, coming to rest on a broad, grassy hill.
The transparisteel canopy popped open with a gentle hissing sound, from the equalization of atmosphere. The pilot braced his hand over his head for a few moments as he took the planet in. Then he hopped out of the cockpit, landing in a crouch, and straightened slowly, his palm against the fighter.
He'd heard of Zyll Zeta from his father, who'd said it was beautiful. The full reality of that was stirring to take in.
He felt eyes on him and turned to see a little boy staring at him from lower down the hill.
"Hi," he called over.
The boy blinked hugely, and started to back away.
"Hey, wait," the pilot called gently. "Maybe you can help me?"
The boy stopped backing away, but still looked poised to run.
"I'm looking for Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor," said the pilot. "You know where I can find them?"
The boy blinked again. Then looked doubtfully over his shoulder. But finally met the pilot's eyes again, nodded, and started walking down the hill.
The pilot quickly sealed the cockpit behind him, calling to his protesting droid, "I'll check in in ten. Just going to recon," and followed the boy.
The boy led him to a round stone building. He didn't let the pilot get too close to him, but pointed toward the entrance. Then he took off, leaving the pilot alone.
Cautiously, the pilot approached the building.
"Can I help you?" came an unexpected voice. The pilot managed not to jump, even as the owner of the voice, a black 2-1B droid, unfolded itself from the shadows beside the door.
"Hi, yeah," said the pilot, searching his brain for if this droid was one he should know of. "I'm looking for Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor."
The pilot shouldn't be surprised by the question. Though it was delivered much more brazenly unapologetic than he was used to from droids.
"My name's Poe Dameron," he said. "They were friends with my parents."
"Dameron," said the droid. "…Yes. That's correct." He regarded Poe for another moment. Then pointed over another hill. "This time of day, they should be over there."
"Thanks," said Poe, backing away with almost a bow before turning in the direction the droid had pointed.
Over the hill, the grass gave way to a narrow, sandy shoreline of a small sea or a large lake. Poe wondered if he'd have to go back to his X-wing for his macrobinoculars, or even have BB-8 run a scan of the area.
But then he saw them.
Sitting in the sand, looking out across the water, two shadowy figures were side-by-side, their arms around each other. Their heads, both dark-haired streaked with silver, were resting against one another.
Poe had heard the story; had a mental image of the legendary scene on Scarif: the two of them sitting on the shoreline watching the shock wave come for them.
They sat in just such a way now. But it was only the sunset that engulfed them on this beach.
Eventually, they'd stand and turn and see him, and he'd give them news of his father and the Alliance.
But for right now, this handful of moments, Poe just watched them. And thought that the galaxy couldn't be entirely cruel. Not if these two had finally found peace.