Chapter 1: Friday-night swiping
If Jyn had a type, “Kay, 31” wasn’t it. He was too “tidy”, his face too symmetrical for her taste, at least in his profile picture; and through his jet-black hair, olive skin and large glasses, he oozed something corporate and moneyed.
However, she was also pragmatic and they had a few friends in common – Baze was the one she especially took note of. They had also liked a bunch of the same pages on Facebook; the man was apparently interested in programming. So, with her legs propped up on the wall after a particularly hard day at work, swiping left much more than right, she decided to give him a chance. As it usually happened in these cases, when her cellphone vibrated afterwards, she was startled. She had a match. Huh.
In her estimate, he must have equally been bored that Friday night, because it was only a couple of minutes before the warning that she had a new message popped up.
He was also a Brit, in the United States doing post-doctoral work, unlike her, who had moved there when she was a child, because her parents both got tenure at Yale. He was acerbic, his sense of humor entirely too salty, just to her taste. She laughed even when she knew he wasn’t trying to be funny. They argued about sci-fi, Star Wars versus Star Trekk. She disdained the novels he liked reading; he disdained hers. He sent her a vomiting emoji when she said she liked football, the kind played with one’s feet. She called him a toff when he extolled the virtues of cricket.
I have no respect for you, he remarked, when she said she thought Philip K. Dick was overestimated.
let’s disrespect each other over dinner, she answered, feeling slightly bold.
They scheduled a date for the next day, to eat pizza at Pepe’s on Wooster Square, because Kay was a heathen who had been living in New Haven for six months and hadn’t tried the town’s delicacy yet.
And yes, she found out he really wasn’t her type when she measured him up for the first time, sitting in the pizzeria’s booth with his checkered shirt buttoned all the way up, his posture ram-rod straight. Jyn hated these sorts of situations. She knew – her therapist had explained to her over and over again – that even though she told herself she didn’t build expectations towards people she met in these dating apps, in a way she always did, and those expectations never really did match reality.
Jyn had always felt more of a townie than a gownie in New Haven. After spending part of her youth as the daughter of Yale professors, she struck out on her own and got her degree from Wellesley, only a few hours’ drive away, and was set on pursuing an academic life in the Humanities – a stark contrast to her parents’ careers in the hard sciences –, but then her world fell apart. Her mother’s diagnose of ALS threw her family for a loop. After raging arguments and a brief period she spent estranged from her parents, living on her own in London, she settled back in New Haven, her love of books and writing converting itself into a small bookshop close to Chapel Street, above which was her small apartment.
“You have no plans to return to academia?” asked Kay, methodically cutting his pizza in tiny little pieces.
She wrinkled her nose. “Not at the moment. If I were to try applying for grad school it would have to be around here somewhere or even at Yale proper… I’d have to hire someone to help me around the store, for one thing, and I haven’t reached that point yet.”
He hummed noncommittally.
“Why?” she asked, “you’re that kind of a snob?”
He opened his mouth, spluttered a bit, and denied vehemently that he saw that as a problem. She was delighted she had something else to tease him about. Everything about Kay Thompson screamed that he wanted to have his feathers ruffled.
They left the pizzeria walking on Chapel in the direction of Old Campus, Jyn pushing her bicycle along. They probably made a funny picture: Kay taller than 6 feet and she standing at 5’3”. She might as well look like she was pushing a tricycle. When they reached the corner of Orange Street, Kay stooped abruptly.
“Do you want to have coffee at my place?” he asked nervously.
She should have said no, but it had been such a long time since she had been with anyone, really, and she thought she shouldn’t just turn him down without fully giving him a chance, so she nodded, and after more blocks than she could count, they reached an old house, with a large porch, probably from the early 1900’s like most in that part of town.
“Nice place,” she said, strapping her bike to the porch.
“There’s a young Korean couple living in the apartment below; our landlady lives with her daughter in another part of town… The stairs are way too creaky for my taste, but I like having a yard. I’m taking up gardening even.”
“Huh, you don’t seem the gardening type.”
“I wasn’t. Cassian turned me into one.”
“Who’s Cassian?” she frowned.
“Housemate,” he replied, leading her into the house and on to a spacious kitchen.
Jyn let out a whistle that she noticed him wince at, “this is nice!”
“Cassian does most of the cooking. I really have no-“
“You’re forgetting we come from the same country.”
“Right,” he smiled, a little forced, but still, “tea, then?”
“Sure,” she said, pretending not to notice that he seemed to be going through the motions.
He put water into the kettle and she commended him on his water boiling skills, which she noticed made him relax a bit. Once they were settled with their respective mugs, perched on stools around the kitchen island, something seemed snap for him.
“Listen, I don’t do this often. I don’t even know if-“
“You’re not attracted to me,” she deadpanned.
He cringed, “is it so horrible that I’m not into the whole leather jacket thing-?”
She laughed, “it’s fine. I like nerds, but you’re too much one of them for me.”
He was the one to laugh now, surprisingly, because he had made noises in amusement before and cracked the occasional smile, but not outwardly laughed. “I liked arguing with you, though.”
“We can be arguing buddies,” she conceded, raising her mug so they could toast.
He touched his mug to hers and then they talked. Really talked: about his expectations regarding academic life, hers about wanting to write, but always finding herself exhausted running the store; his worries for Britain after Brexit and hers about America after Trump. They argued about movies and books and music. They were so caught up in their chatter than they didn’t notice someone climbing the backdoor staircase and suddenly slamming the door open.
“Shit,” the guy said, “la reputísima madre que-Oh!”
He was probably the most beautiful person Jyn had ever seen in her life, all gentle eyes and sharp features, with scruffiness that seemed to be contrived. His nose was crooked, his ears too large. He was also very drenched, because it had apparently started raining, and his shirt was doing things for his body that should come with a warning. At the same time she could see hardness there, she could guess at all the soft bits. He was… Well, perfect.
“Hey, Cassian. This is Jyn.”
He blinked, now definitely vexed at his entrance. “Hi.”
He was perfect, so Jyn reacted in the way she usually did in these situations: she bolted as soon as she could.
It meant waiting for the rain shower to pass, but they had only barely said hello before he ducked into the laundry room and then upstairs to his bedroom to change out of his sopping wet clothes. Kay seemed not to have noticed that she had thought his roommate was the most attractive man she had seen in her life, because he kept talking about the geraniums he was considering planting in the garden as soon as Cassian had shuffled upstairs in his bare feet. She had to admit, even his feet looked pretty. She checked.
So as soon as she noticed the rain had turned into a drizzle, Jyn said her excuses and biked out of their place as fast as she could
She didn’t even know what she was afraid of.
It seemed the universe had other ideas.
Okay, so New Haven in the summer was usually deserted, but that didn’t seem enough of an explanation as to why she started to run into Kay Thompson and his ridiculously good looking housemate everywhere she went. It flustered her. She wasn’t particularly good at interacting with people outside of the arrangement where they bought books from her. Kay was nice, she conceded, once they had given up on the thought of dating, but she didn’t know if he wanted to be friends with her. When they ran into each other, she limited herself to saying hi, making one or two quips that would garner her a comeback from him and that was it. No small talk, because they both abhorred it, and he didn’t actively seek her company after their date. If Cassian were with him, they would just politely greet each other; if they met alone, a nod sufficed. It would have been a perfectly adequate predicament if Jyn didn’t feel her heart start beating a hole out of her chest the minute she saw him; if she hadn’t started dreaming about him swearing in Spanish in a context very different to his being pissed off at being caught in a summer shower without an umbrella.
It was admittedly ridiculous.
“So you finally met someone whose bones you want to jump,” said her friend Leia, sprawled on her store’s armchair, legs propped over one of its arms, “finally.”
“You said finally twice. And you make him sound like a piece of meat,” Jyn mumbled in reply.
“You barely know the guy and you’re all hot and bothered.”
She leaned on the cashier counter, burying her face in her hands.
“Just ask him out,” said Leia, “stop acting like you’re in fifth grade.”
Leia frowned. “Why?”
“What if he says no?”
“It’s his loss. And I suspect you’re more afraid he’ll say yes.”
“Precisely! I’ll have to actually go out with him. And then I’ll-“
“You know. Be me. Run. Screw things up. Or he’ll be an idiot.”
“Jyn, you’re not making any sense. It seems you like this pining from far away thing because it’s safe.”
She froze. Then she groaned.
And then just as magically, Kay waltzed into the store. Thankfully, he was alone.
“Jyn,” he said smarmily, then turned towards the armchair Leia was on and nodded stiffly, “Jyn’s friend.”
“It’s Leia,” snorted the woman in question.
“Leia, this is Kay.”
If Kay were a cat, his fur would be standing up, “what do you mean ‘oh’?”
“She means nothing,” Jyn smiled, “what can I help you with?”
He was browsing the Philosophy shelf noncommittally, in a way that immediately told Jyn he wasn’t there to buy any books. It puzzled her, but he soon made his intentions known.
“We’re throwing a 4th of July barbecue. At our place. Cassian and I that is. I was wondering if you’d like to come? Unless of course, you already have plans.”
Jyn was English, like her mother. Her father was actually Danish. 4th of July hadn’t been anything for them other than a day off where they occasionally went to look at pretty fireworks. And Kay was obviously not the barbecue type.
“Not American, yes. Neither is Cassian. We decided to invite other people in our programs that aren’t from this country, are stuck working in New Haven and might not have any plans. It can be a boring holiday. And then I remembered you.”
“That’s very… kind. I have to check with my parents, but I doubt they’ll have anything planned.”
“Good!” he said, a little bit too enthusiastically. He turned to Leia as an afterthought, “you can come, too, if you want.”
Leia smiled, surprisingly warm, “no, thanks. My parents have a thing planned.”
“At the Hamptons,” Jyn snorted.
“Not my fault you’re a brilliant political scientist slash historian, but also a socialite.”
Kay seemed entirely indifferent to this exchange and feeling satisfied with the arrangement, left the shop. Leia followed him with her eyes and then actually got up to check that he was far away enough.
“His roommate is Cassian Andor?” Leia’s eyes were almost bulging out of her head.
“His roommate’s name is Cassian,” she said carefully, “don’t know his last name? Why?”
“You haven’t even looked the man up on Facebook?”
“And set myself up for disappointment?” she sighed.
“Who knew you were so melodramatic. Anyway, Cassian Andor. No one wonder you’re all so worked up over this guy.”
“What- I don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore, Leia.”
“Cassian Andor is in my PhD program. We were classmates. He’s all gorgeous and mysterious,” she waved her fingers at Jyn, her hands splayed up, sort of to emphasize the mysterious part.
“Oh, so you know him?” she tried very hard not to sound overeager.
“Not really. We’re acquaintances. He’s Mexican, he’s quiet, he’s really really intelligent. And as far as I know, he’s single and straight.”
“Well,” Jyn said, “that is good to know.”
“Anyway, you are so going to this barbecue. And if you don’t, I’ll make Celia spend the entire weekend annoying you. She said she's stuck working at the International Office this week. Oooh – that gives me an idea.”
It was Jyn’s turn to widen her eyes, “oh my God, what?”
“You said Kay’s single, looking for someone- by what you’ve said of him, Celia sound just like his type.”
“You mean someone who can’t shut up?” Jyn wrinkled her nose, recalling Leia’s friend – half Korean, half Dutch, who claimed to know the rules of etiquette of 147 countries, “that doesn’t seem like Kay’s type.”
“No, but Celia’s just as fastidious as you’ve said he was. Trust me. Ask Kay if you can bring a friend. That way you won’t be feeling all weird like I know you’ll be.”
Jyn let out a long-suffering sigh, “fine.”
I know you don’t have Messenger on your phone, so if you’re online it means you’re home.
Jyn sighed, shifted slightly so she could reach for her laptop on the table in front of her.
You’re at the library. Jyn, honestly.
She put down her book and reached for the computer, feeling it slightly burn her thighs where her shorts ended. Yale’s library on weekends and holidays during the summer were her guilty pleasure ever since she was a teenager, one she had made a habit of using one of her mom’s cards for. And obviously, Leia knew that.
don’t you have anything better to do at the frigging Hamptons?
I’m fake texting.
you’re texting me
only because it was becoming obvious that I was faking it. luke arrived with this friend of his who’s a buffoon. I’m avoiding them.
luke has impeccable taste in people
you have no idea what you’re talking about
She was about to reply when she heard the library doors snap open and closed and then heard what were definitely Oxford shoes walking across the hall and in her direction. Jyn closed her eyes.
I see you sent reinforcements
lol you’ll thank me for this, erso
She looked up when she noticed the person next to her had placed their hands on their hips, putting on a saccharine smile.
“Hey there, Celia.”
“Hi,” said the other girl brightly, “so it’s my understanding we have a barbecue to attend? You’re not wearing that, are you?”
Jyn looked at her cut off shorts and espadrilles, the better to endure the walk over from her apartment in the sweltering heat, knowing better than to feel offended with Celia. It was so hot, that even in the library’s air conditioning, she kept the sleeves of her t-shirt rolled over her shoulders.
“No, I’m going home to change.“
“Oh, all right. Let’s get moving then.”
Going home to change, in Jyn’s concept, mostly meant putting on a pair of shorts whose pockets weren’t about to give out and get her wallet lost. She was keeping her The Clash shirt on and pulling on a pair of boots, far more suitable to walk over to watch the fireworks later at East Rock, dressing down in an attempt to convince herself that she wasn’t going to this party because she was interested in Kay’s housemate. If she made a beeline for her bathroom on the way out to put on more make up on her eyes, it was only because she always did so. It had nothing to do with some man she found attractive.
When she came out, Celia twisted her nose in disapproval, “isn’t attracting the attention of some guy the purpose of your going to this party.”
Jyn fixed her friend with a stare, though she knew better than to take offence at her, “I never want to draw anyone’s attention. Ever.”
“Not even once?”
“Let’s go, Celia,” she laughed, gesturing toward her apartment’s front door.
They walked towards Kay’s house, Celia complaining of how the heat was going to get their make up smudged, though both women agreed that it made them feel drowsy and miserable most of the time. Jyn was carrying two six packs, which she lifted up in Kay’s direction as soon as she walked through the living room and kitchen and over to the back porch, where he was standing near a barbecue grill. There weren’t many people there – half a dozen, if she had counted right, most of whom looked to be computer scientists –two of them, though, were Baze Malbus and his boyfriend Chirrut. She felt something loosen in her chest at the sight of them talking down in the garden.
“Oh, Jyn!” Kay exclaimed, “how nice of you to come. I was just telling Cassian that you would definitely show up.”
She only raised her eyebrows in response, feeling her cheeks heat up, “where do I put these?”
“Just leave them back in the kitchen.”
“Right,” she said, “Kay, this is Celia. Celia, Kay. I’m going to drop these off.
And with that, she left her very high-wired friend, in her nude Oxfords, flowered shorts and white shirt to face their host, who looked like he had starched himself along with his clothes.
She walked back into the room in question and debated just leaving the beverages on the counter. However, it was so soggy and hot out, it wasn’t the most recommended course of action. She opened one of the two fridges there and found it full to its capacity. The other larger one was slightly better, but she found she couldn’t reach the top shelves that were empty.
“You need help?” it was a soft voice, accented, the same one she had heard letting out a litany of curses the night she had gone out with Kay.
Her stomach plunged. Keep it cool, Erso.
“Um, yes? I think,” she said, fumbling with the cardboard packaging around the beer bottles.
He took the package from her arms - careful not to touch her, she noticed - and stepped around and next to her to he could slide it easily into place. He turned to her expectantly and she had to blink and remind herself that she had brought another package that was still on the kitchen island. He repeated the procedure and she felt slightly dizzy standing so close to him, remembering what she had seen much more through his wet clothes the night they met. Now he was wearing practical, average guy clothes: t-shirt and shorts and she was not – really, she wasn’t! – looking at what she could infer of his chest from the way the tee was cut.
“How are you?” he asked, wiping his hands on his shorts.
“I’m good. You?”
“Same. Nice of you to come.”
“Thanks for inviting me,” she replied, crossing her arms in front of her as she leaned against the counter.
He blinked, then opened the fridge again and took out a can of beer that looked colder than the ones she had brought. He reached it in her direction.
“From what Kay mentioned of you, you didn’t seem the type to like this sort of thing,” he said carefully.
She opened the can, took a swig and debated on whether to lie to him or not, “I’m not.”
She smiled, just to emphasize the irony. His mouth twitched and something lit up at the corner of his eyes, “I’m not, either.”
“And yet this is your house.”
“Oh, this is all Kay. He says having a social life improves our odds of succeeding academically. We do Thanksgiving as well, for people who also don’t have where to go. We’ve done this since we’ve met; he’d just arrived in the U.S.”
“Where are you from?” she asked, head tilted to the side, pretending she didn’t already know.
“Mexico. But I’ve been here a long time.”
“I majored here at Yale, in Spanish.”
“Hasn’t there been a thing recently-?” she blurted out, before she could even think straight.
He looked slightly flummoxed, “yes. Not my advisor, thankfully, but the whole thing had me disgusted with academia in general for a while, to be honest. It took a lot of Kay convincing me into coming back.”
She nodded, not really knowing what to say to that. She hated not being enough of a conversationalist.
“I’m not getting my PhD there, though. Changed to History,” he added quickly, “Kay says you’re not in academia.“
“No, I’m not. My folks are professors here, though. Physics and Geology?” she felt like an idiot just mentioning it like that.
“That sounds like fun.”
She snorted, “you could say that.”
“Well, my parents are dead, so I bet it’s fun.”
Jyn felt like she had been kicked in the guts. He winced as well.
“That sounded a lot less- you know less –“ he gestured dramatically, “in my head. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m sorry about your parents. I didn’t mean to sound like I was complaining about mine.”
“No, no, you can complain,” he was still talking with his hands and if this weren’t the most awkward conversation she had had in her life, she would be finding it adorable, “I didn’t mean to guilt trip you.”
“It’s okay, really,” she said and opened her mouth to ask what he was researching.
“Kay says you own that little bookstore off Chapel,” he said in rush, “I always mean to go there, but-“
“Books are cheaper on Amazon,” she said humorously.
“No!” he exclaimed, eyes wide and earnest, “I work crazy hours at the library and never manage to get out.”
“Well, I’ve been meaning to start building a section in Spanish, so maybe you could help me out sometime.”
She was a little appalled at her own smoothness, after such a bumpy start.
“Oh, that sounds amazing,” and his saying ‘amazing’ was probably one of the most delicious things Jyn had ever heard.
She was pathetic.
“At which library do you work?”
“That’s my favorite,” she smiled.
“How come we’ve never bumped into each other?”
“Probably because I’m there on Sundays and holidays like today and that’s probably your day off... I use my mom’s card to get in – please don’t rat me out.”
“I won’t. And maybe I’ll see if I can change my schedule.”
“Maybe you’ll get to go to my store then.”
He smiled, a non-smile that had her ears burning, “maybe”.
Well, then. This felt marginally better.
Chapter 2: I feel lucky with the worst luck
Thanks to those who have been supportive of this whole thing. Who knew there was going to be !drama, but here it is.
Jyn woke with her legs feeling sweaty. They were stuck against each other where they were curled together under a comforter. She stuck her feet out from under it to find relief and then came to the horrifying realization that this was not her comforter and she was not wearing her own clothes. In fact, she was wearing one single article of clothing: a soft old t-shirt. She painfully opened her eyes and saw a neatly arranged bookshelf within her arms’ reach, pale wood contrasting with what looked to be faded blue wallpaper. She turned her eyes upwards; it was loaded with classics in paperback, a few hardcover recent releases and a lot of hardcover titles in Spanish.
She remembered bookshelves in the living room as well, which meant that this was what he kept closest to him. Her mind wandered as she started checking out the titles that she could actually see in the little light there was.
Then she heard Cassian stirring next to her in bed and she-
Cassian stirring next to her in bed.
Cassian stirring next to her in bed.
She closed her eyes, feeling a pained pressure behind them. The taste in her mouth was like she had eaten a sock for dinner and now that she had shut them again, her eyelids were sticking together with make-up and the fact that she was still wearing her contacts. She opened them again and tried, very gently, very subtly, to grab her cellphone, which she could see was on the floor next to her.
At least she could count on some of her neuroses when she was apparently blindingly drunk. She opted for just tapping on her screen, just to see what time it was.
3:30 in the morning.
The cell phone was saying it had 12% of its battery left.
She had work in less than six hours and here she was, wearing god knew what to bed, laying next to someone who had helped her load beers onto a refrigerator less than twelve hours before and who really liked Ricardo Piglia apparently and was that Violeta Parra? That was nice. She pretended to roll over in her sleep and took a peek at him out of one of her eyes.
Well, he was definitely naked. And so beautiful, with his hair all mussed, that her heart broke and then started beating inside her chest like it was meaning to go running down Orange Street all the way to Union Station. She saw that his eyes moved, almost imperceptibly, still closed. For that, Jyn could thank the fact that they hadn’t apparently bothered drawing down the blinds at night, through which a lamp pole in the street was shining its light right on his face.
Then his tongue came out through his lips and wet them.
He was waking up. Crap.
Or, as she realized when her brain went into overdrive, thinking all possible scenarios in this situation, this was actually good. It meant he would see her leaving and they could act like adults about this. She was in her thirties. She did not need to scamper out of a man’s house like she had done before, like she was pulling some jewel heist or something, just because she had trouble falling asleep in a bed that wasn’t hers.
Except that she had apparently had no trouble falling asleep at first. She stayed there, lying on her back, half under his comforter, looking at him out of the corner of her eyes until she decided that well, fuck this, and turned her head full onto him, because he was something worth looking at, after all.
He opened his eyes, didn’t seem jarred at all by the sight of her, but stayed looking at her, no expression whatsoever on his face.
“Hi,” he whispered.
And like something out of a movie, that jogged her memory, and she was back standing on the street where people had gathered at night, with all those red, white and blues lighting the sky, feeling a little tipsy from all the beer and from laughing so much, ever since the end of the afternoon, when his and Kay’s next door neighbor had plunked a box of fireworks on the sidewalk and just lit the thing like it wasn’t something that could explode right in his face. They had finished off one of her six-packs by that point, and he started telling her about an uncle’s particular enthusiasm for fireworks in religious festivals when he was little. She could relate: her mother’s brother had a penchant for violating health and safety rules every 5th of November. And after that awful moment by the fridge, that had been the entirety of their talking about family. Throughout the rest, they had just spouted off nonsense, mostly about literature, really. She had paid attention to the fireworks going off on East Rock only for a few minutes, because in a lull in the conversation, he had turned to look at her, his eyes soft and with a glint to them that sent something shooting down her back that she wished she didn’t acknowledge, and that was it. Somehow she found herself leaning in his direction and kissing him.
They had spent the rest of the fireworks display making out against a tree, something entirely novel to her, despite her practically being a New Haven native.
Jyn bit her lip and his eyes followed the action, even in the dark. She pretended that didn’t make her squeeze her thighs together.
For fuck’s sake.
“Hi,” she whispered back.
“Do you-“ he swallowed, “you all right? Do you want to go home?”
Something loosened in her chest. She ran away from people’s places for a reason, after all, and it was usually the entire opposite of his question. He seemed to become self-conscious about his state of undress, because he tugged on the comforter and slipped under it.
“I- I don’t know,” she replied, because her eyes were starting to hurt, but at the same time…
Well, at the same time, in a stream of thought she couldn’t believe was going through her head, he looked just so cuddly. If Leia heard her, she would fall off the edge of the world with laughter.
She cleared her throat, blinked and winced at the attempt, “I really need to go to the bathroom first…”
“Across the hall from us,” he whispered, “I could go and check if Kay has any contacts cleaner…”
She only raised her eyebrows at him.
“I know you wear glasses,” he said, adding in a rush, “one of the times we ran into each other at that coffee place on Elm?”
Oh, so he had been checking her out, too.
She tugged at the edge of her left eye, the one that usually bothered her the most, and managed to swallow half the panic she felt momentarily course through her veins.
“If you manage that, I’ll owe you.”
“Good,” he said, a hint of a smile on his mouth, as he slipped out of bed.
She pretended she had not watched that and admired all the pretty effects the streetlight coming through the window had on his body. Really, she hadn’t.
Jyn jumped, one hand half clutching the door of her shop, the other coming to rest at her heart. Leia was sprawled at her usual spot in the armchair, her impossibly ugly feet bared – the price of playing soccer with enough skills to be a pro if she wanted to. It was still unbearably hot, although Jyn could swear that when her brain had managed to operate and make her check the weather forecast, she saw that there was a good chance it would rain.
Nothing had pleased her more that morning.
Well, that was a lie, wasn’t it? Because in the end, from between rumpled sheets, hydrated and somewhat awake at 6 in the morning, she had texted Bodhi to see if he was already in from New York and luckily, he was. And so he had come at least to hang a sign on the door saying that the store would open later. Apparently, he had opened up for her. She could hear boxes being dragged in the back, there was a cup of tea with milk on the counter next to the register, and there was Leia on the couch.
Thankfully, Jyn didn’t look as though she had dressed in a rush. She had washed her face on Cassian’s sink and brushed her teeth using her index finger and his toothpaste, so she kept her time at her own place upstairs fairly short. She was desperately trying not to smile at the memory of how he had grabbed her by the belt hoops of her shorts after she was done in his bathroom, his mouth just a tad upturned, and kissed her, but not invasively and wanting to get her back into bed – or heaven help, back into the bathroom itself– just, you know, kissed her-
“My goodness, he must have been good. You haven’t even acknowledged I’m here,” Leia drawled from behind the latest issue of Jacobin.
“I thought my almost having a heart attack was enough.”
“Jyn? You there?” came Bodhi’s voice from the back.
She shuffled forwards, avoiding stumbling in her bootlaces, which she noticed were untied.
“If you think I’m done with you-“
“Yeah, yeah. We’ll grab lunch later,” she said in a conciliatory tone, “let me go check on Bodhi.”
She tried to genuinely smile at Leia, because she adored her friend, but right now, she was feeling more than a little anxious and overwhelmed, and she knew exactly who to talk to. He was elbow deep in new shipments, his hair in a messy bun, nose a little red from being in her dusty stockroom. Her heart filled with warmth to see him, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author that he was, doing something so menial because she had acted like some horny teenager the night before.
“Hey,” she said, blowing over the cup of tea he had grabbed for her, “thank you so much for this.”
He smiled fondly at her, “you do deserve a night out, you know.”
“You mean a night out where it’s not just me and you playing snooker and me picking a fight with some idiot?”
“When are you heading back to Princeton?”
“Day after tomorrow. I plan to drop by at Mum and Dad’s tonight” he was still sorting books, a little frown between his eyebrows. Then he smiled, “so who is this guy?”
“Eh- probably nothing.”
“You don’t have morning sex with nothing.”
“It was good, but who are we kidding? I don’t do this sort of thing. And he seemed not to either.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, just a general ‘vibe’,” she replied, even making frigging air quotes and everything.
She felt like an idiot.
“Well, you never know,” he said, “could be nice.”
“I know,” she said, “on, like, an intellectual level.”
He laughed, “this is a mess, by the way. Isn’t it time you hired someone to help you?”
She just sighed, sipped her tea and then rolled her neck.
“That would also be nice,” he was saying, moving a pile of copies of Lincoln in the Bardo so she could pick them up and move some of them upfront later, “because then you would have more free time, you know, to write and ride your bike, and punch things. Even date whoever it is that left that hickie on your jaw.”
“Are you fucking serious?” she could swear she felt her eyes almost pop out of their sockets and her hands flew to her face.
The corners of his large eyes crinkled, “no.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Bodhi.”
He was laughing once more, hands gesturing vaguely, “your face, though.”
They settled to work quietly after Bodhi refused all of Jyn’s entreaties that he stop helping her. Leia occasionally threw a comment from her spot in the armchair as both siblings shuffled back and forth and saw to the occasional client. She had pulled out her iPad and was furiously typing. It was around one when Leia left only to come back with three sandwiches and lemonade. Jyn smiled thankfully at her, to which she replied only with a raised eyebrow.
“So,” said Leia, resolutely after having a long pull at her drink.
“He’s nice. We slept together. It was good. Don’t know if it’s happening again,” Jyn replied from her place at the counter.
“Oh, come on,” Leia pushed, “you were mooning over him for weeks."
A quiet but intense “oh?” came from Bodhi’s general direction.
Leia turned to Jyn’s adopted brother, eyebrows decidedly waggling, “she met him through Tinder.”
“I did not!”
Bodhi put his hands up, “nothing wrong with Tinder. Might switch my preferences around just to see if I catch your profile.”
Jyn ignored him.
“I didn’t meet him on Tinder. I met his friend on Tinder. We went out and then I met him…” she didn’t know why she was sounding so defensive.
“This is scandalous,” said Bodhi in mock seriousness, “you dumped his friend for him?”
She huffed, “no, we’d already established it wasn’t going to work."
“Speaking of which,” said Leia, a triumphant smile breaking through her face, “I was right. You weren’t the only one who got laid last night.”
“Good,” said Jyn, “’cause then you can focus on Celia and leave me alone.”
“Aw, Jyn,” said Leia plaintively, “you know I only want to see you happy.”
“I don’t need a man for that,” she replied warningly.
“I know. But it’s-“ and she dramatically stage-whispered, “Cassian Andor.”
“And?” asked Bodhi, eyebrows nearly hitting his hairline.
“We’ve established he’s hot. Actually, the entire History Department has.”
Jyn rolled her eyes while she felt her cheeks burning.
Yes, Cassian was gorgeous. And nice. And he could kiss. And well, do other things... Also, he seemed to respect her crazy boundaries, but at the same time, she didn’t know- couldn’t tell, really – if it was rather because he had boundaries of his own and wanted her firmly outside their perimeter.
She also knew little about him, other than his good taste in literature and the fact that he was an orphan. They might as well have nothing in common in the end, she figured. Therefore, it was easy, on that basis, to dismiss him. Even if it did feel nice, having him between her legs as the sun rose and turned the recently closed blinds in his room a comfy color of pearl, edged with soft blues and grays.
By the end of the afternoon, Leia had scampered off back home and Bodhi, who had surprised her by spending the day there, reading and humming along to her Spotify playlists and generally being a good sport, turned to her when she was ready to flip the “open” sign at her door for the day.
“Come have dinner at Dad’s with me.”
Jyn sighed, crossed her arms defensively, “I can’t believe you spent the day here to try and goad me into this.”
She saw something flare in her brother’s eyes, anger at first and then betrayal.
“Why are you always thinking people are trying to trap you, Jyn? For fuck’s sake.”
She breathed, once and then twice, tried to remember the last sessions with her therapist.
“Just don’t, Bodhi. I’m not in the mood. Yesterday-“
“You met some guy yesterday. You slept with him. You said it yourself it wasn’t a big deal. And what does that have to do with going to see them?”
“You know-“ her voice shook, “you know it’s not easy for me, to do stuff like that.”
“Sleeping with someone? Or seeing Mum?”
“Both,” she whispered, defeated.
“It doesn’t have to be so hard,” he said, sounding less angry this time and she was almost angry in turn, that he let her treat him like that because she felt like shit on most days, “and it will be easier if we go together, won’t it? I don’t deal with it easily myself.”
She closed her eyes, arms still crossed.
“Let me go upstairs and take a shower,” she said, feeling deflated.
“All right,” he sounded relieved and she realized that the whole thing had been about him this whole time, “you’ll feel less shitty about it, you know.”
“What you’re saying is- we both will.”
He smiled sadly, “yes.”
Chapter 3: Got a curse I cannot lift
Ok, here. Have some mild angst.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jyn was the one who drove them back from Woodbridge after dinner. The sun hadn’t entirely set, but Bodhi fell asleep in the passenger seat, head thrown back and mouth open, just like when they were children and he would pass out during road trips. She was slightly miffed at him for it; she was expecting to talk to him about their parents, but she was left churning every little thing about the evening on her own.
Her mother’s illness hadn’t progressed as Jyn – well, all of them, to be honest – had expected it would. When she was first diagnosed, her doctors had apparently laid out what the worst-case scenario would be, but Lyra Erso was anything but resilient and from her wheelchair that night, upon Bodhi mentioning it, joked that maybe she would become Yale’s own Stephen Hawking. Her husband had rolled his eyes, her adopted son had chuckled and Jyn had made a noise that could pass for laughter but that was actually a sob.
In the end, they had eaten the roast Galen had thrown together while pretending that this was something they did all the time. Yes, they talked about Bodhi’s new hectic schedule, but no mention was made of the fact that it had been ages since Jyn had been to see them. Her father pretended that the fact that he had been to Jyn’s store just once – to help put up some shelves two years before – was because he was too busy with work and that was it.
As they turned onto a busier thoroughfare, Bodhi woke up with a snort, which ripped Jyn away from her maudlin thoughts and made her burst out laughing.
“God,” he croaked, “where are we?”
He suddenly lifted his hips up form his seat so he could reach his cellphone in his back pocket. Jyn threw him a quizzical look.
“Fuck,” he whispered.
“Did you butt dial someone?”
“No, I totally forgot,” he said.
“No, nothing like that. You remember Sabine?”
“She just moved here, because she’s lecturing at the School of Art next semester. I told her we’d go out for drinks.”
“Should I just drop you off somewhere, then?”
“You should come along,” Bodhi said, feigning nonchalance.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Jyn did not want to socialize anymore. She wanted her pajamas – or what passed for them in that goddamn heat – and her bed and to just forget.
“Bodhi, I want to sleep. You know. In my own bed.”
Her brother dared to laugh at her, “oh, right! This morning you were all-“
“I wasn’t all anything,” she interrupted in an even voice.
“-acting like you don’t care about what’s-his-name with whom you had – you know a roll in the hay-“
“There was no hay.”
“You know what?” he said, typing into his phone, “I’ll see Sabine tomorrow. I’ll stay home with you and watch something really lame on Netflix. And then maybe – maybe – I’ll try to convince you to come to Barcade with us.”
“You’re going to Barcade?” Jyn mock whispered.
“Ah ha!” Bodhi said triumphantly, “deep down you’re really easy to persuade.”
When she woke up the next morning, the sun breaking through the curtains in her bedroom, she swore she did not of think of brown eyes and gentle hands, of tousled dark hair curling against a pillow case and a barely there smile.
She didn’t. She swore.
Jyn parked herself on an Addams Family pinball machine, her drink forgotten by Bodhi’s elbow as he and his friend, a leather-clad purple haired woman who slightly intimidated her, delved into some rarefied discourse on contemporary art. Keeping the small metal ball from slipping between the flippers, though, wasn’t enough to restrain her thoughts, just as that day’s work hadn’t been.
She had tried reading. Then she tried writing. Then she tried swiping through Tinder.
After closing, she spent time unboxing new arrivals and then went on a run.
It all was useless.
Something in the back of her mind, strangely akin to Leia’s voice, kept telling her to just open Facebook and look him up. Maybe add him as friend. But she had the app on her phone and if he had sent her a friendship request, she would have received a notification. The only time her phone had chimed – the first notes of Bach’s toccata and fugue in D minor, Bodhi’s idea of a joke –, it had been the man himself to tell her what time she should meet him and Sabine, and later her father, thanking her in sweet words for her presence at dinner the night before. She had wiped her still dry eyes afterwards and slipped her phone back in her pocket, replying only with a single heart emoji. Nothing from Cassian or that remotely implied he wanted to get in touch.
So pinball it was and some angry downing of whisky, which she told herself had nothing to do with it.
“She sounds frustrated,” said a familiar voice, and she felt her shoulders deflate, even as she sent the steel ball flying over to the top of the table.
Baze just hummed in response to his boyfriend and she threw a greeting over her shoulder, but kept at her game until she lost the ball rather pathetically. After she wiped her hands on her jeans, she found her glass of whisky being offered her way.
She blinked up at Chirrut, “thanks.”
“You look like you need it,” smiled the blind man.
It was her time to hum, a near perfect impression of Baze, which made her friend laugh.
“What’s bugging you, little sister?” Baze asked, dark eyes with a shadow of concern on them.
She decided that lying was her best option, when she remembered that they were at Cassian’s and Kay’s party on the 4th, so, no she wasn’t going to go there, instead grumbling, “had dinner with my parents last night.”
“How is your mother?” Chirrut asked; they were the only two people Jyn had felt comfortable talking about her mother’s illness with before.
“She’s better than I expected? But I- I don’t know. I guess I underestimated how much of a grudge I can hold against people.”
“You should come to a class,” said Baze, who was a yoga instructor and with whom she had learned a bit about meditating when she had first moved back to New Haven.
“Perhaps I will,” she smiled weakly but then sipped her drink, the ice by now nearly all melted inside the glass, “anyway, what are you two doing here? I never pegged you for arcade enthusiasts.”
Chirrut blinked, “are you kidding me? I love this place.”
Baze shook his head, “we’re here at a birthday party, actually. Our friend Hera?”
Jyn had only marginally heard about the woman, to whom Baze was now gesturing towards. She could make her out in the back, her dark hair looking like it was interspersed with green rivulets, from where the lights in the bar hit it. There was a table set up in the back, filled with people whose silhouettes Jyn could barely make out.
“You should come meet her,” Chirrut suggested.
What was it with people and trying to make her socialize?
“Oh, no, guys,” she said, “maybe some other time. Yesterday- it was really hard and I don’t want to-“
“It’s okay,” Baze’s hand was on her shoulder, a smile on his usually shuttered face, “some other time.”
“It’s time we did a get-together with people from the studio,” Chirrut offered, feeling his boyfriend’s glare in his direction, “we’ll invite you along.”
Something loosened in Jyn’s chest at the suggestion and she actually smiled, “that would be nice.”
The couple left after that and she decided she had enough of pinball for one night. She sidled up to Bodhi and Sabine, sliding back onto her spot next to her brother and found herself having a good time chatting with him and his friend, until she felt like stepping outside to get some air.
Once she was in the little patio out in the back of the bar, her heart stilled when she made out someone in a flannel shirt, with hair that curled just above the collar, leaning against the pole from which fairy lights hung, crisscrossing what was a private area with tables for a more intimate setting. There was no one there tonight; the few patrons that were in the bar on that weeknight during the summer were all inside.
Her heart started thudding in her chest, because it made some sense that he would be at Hera’s birthday party. He knew Baze and Chirrut because he trained with the latter, after all. But she was not ready to face the person she had been insistently day dreaming about for the last 48 hours.
She was turning around to leave, praying that she would be able to get back inside undetected and then make quick work of paying and leaving without Bodhi pestering her to stay longer, when-
She hated that the she felt the way he said her name all the way down to- to her bones, let’s say.
“Hi,” she said in such a small voice, she felt the urge to repeat it, but didn’t.
“I’m here with my brother,” she blurted out.
She shoved her hands in her jacket’s pockets, “how- are you?”
“I’m good,” he breathed through his nose, “you?”
“I’m good, too.”
“You looked a bit- well, sad, when I saw you earlier.”
She blinked, “you saw me?”
“You looked busy.”
She had spent half the night playing pinball and the rest of the time leaning against Bodhi’s shoulder as he talked with Sabine. The fact that he didn’t come say hello made her feel all shades of rejected.
“I wasn’t,” she mumbled.
“That pinball machine would beg to differ, I bet,” he splayed his hands out, like he was surrendering, “I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“You wouldn’t have,” she said before she could stop herself.
He smiled, a small thing that made her heart treacherously do a little somersault, his hair falling over his eyes and her hand just itched to shove it back and step into his space and just breathe him in-
“Bodhi Rook is your brother?” his hands were suddenly in his pockets and his shoulders a little hunched.
She leaned against the wall next to the door that led back inside the bar, “adopted.”
“Huh,” he tilted his head, “didn’t know he was really adopted.”
“You know Bodhi?” it made sense, if he was once a lit student.
“Oh, no. I- I’ve read his novel,” Jyn couldn’t tell very well because of the dim lighting, but his neck looked like it had turned pink from where she could see it as he was looking at her like he was remembering something, “you’re- the main character in it has an English brother. Is it- gender-swapped?”
Jyn smiled, teeth out and everything, “the brother’s sort of me, yes.”
“Ah- and the academic parents. That makes sense now.”
Jyn smiled, a bit sad at the memories of the scared little boy her parents had brought home one day, a boy she always played football with, but who looked so different then from when they usually met at the little park back in Oxford, his eyes wide belying such lack of understanding at how his parents could just have been ripped away from him.
“Bodhi’s parents,” she said after clearing her throat, “they were colleagues of my father’s back in England. They died in a plane crash coming back from Pakistan. Mum and Dad were his godparents, so they were assigned legal guardianship.”
His eyes glimmered in the dark and she knew even as she was speaking how come maybe he had picked up Bodhi’s novel from a shelf. She recalled their conversation by the fridge two days before, the awkwardness, the way his words had hit home in such a violent way despite both her parents being alive and how they both struggled to get out of that conversation as fast as they could because it had no place at a party.
But now, though, she felt they were both unusually candid – or maybe it was the whisky –, but she found herself asking, “how old were you?”
He breathed out a sigh and leaned against the wall next to her, looking up at the star-studded sky above them.
“Six,” he replied in a low voice, “I was lucky like Bodhi, though. I had a godfather in Massachusetts. He took me in. Not a very loving man, but a good one. Made sure I got a decent education.”
She snorted, “you went to Yale.”
He propelled himself a bit forward and turned on his shoulder so he was facing her, “he wanted me to go to Berkeley, mostly because he went there, too.”
She inhaled sharply in mock horror, “you rebelled.”
He huffed in amusement, “yes, some rebellion.”
She didn’t know if it was because of the sound of his laughter or because she was tipsy and seeing things in his eyes that weren’t there, but either way, his hand had been reaching towards her sleeve anyway, and before she could think any further, she leaned up and kissed him. He inhaled sharply at the contact and rotated so he could lean back against the wall behind them, propping her up by her hips as she stood on the tiptoes of her combat boots. He tasted faintly of beer and smelled somewhat familiar by this point, and she threw her hands behind his neck for support and so she could feel his body further against hers. Her shirt rode up underneath her jacket with the movement and his fingers were suddenly on her bare skin and she breathed sharply through her nose at the contact, mouth still open under his, his tongue sliding against hers.
She felt like she was drowning and when he slid a hand up her back all the way to a sensitive spot at the nape of her neck, she was hit with wanting so powerful that she had to take a step back to breathe.
She blinked up at him, feeling her mouth swollen. He looked wrecked and was looking at her so intensely, panic surged through her.
“I- I need to find Bodhi,” she blurted out, her thoughts scattered, heart beating a hole through her chest.
She ran her hand over her mouth, pushed her hair behind her ears and he kept still, just watching her, something unreadable in his expression.
“Sorry,” she said and didn’t stay to hear a response.
She bolted out of there.
Please don't kill me.
Jyn bolted and never saw him again.
She buried herself in her store, biked at ungodly hours to blow off steam, and figured that if Cassian actually wanted to see her, he knew where to find her. But he never came to the store and neither did Kay. Leia turned sad but comprehending eyes her way and let her be, usually keeping her silent company as she read and worked most afternoons on Jyn’s couch, in what she called her own personal library. Bodhi, gone back to Princeton, only sent the occasional text.
Chirrut and Baze sent her an invite to a mixer type event at their studio some time later that month.
She politely declined.
July turned into August and weeks went by in that calm, peaceful New Haven, and Jyn functioned in a haze of stupid daydreams that made her sad, a pile of novels read by her nightstand and Netflix marathons. And then, finally, SUVs and small trucks started parking around the colleges on campus and the nearby neighborhoods; banners started appearing, welcoming the students into town. There was an uneasy buzz in the air – or at least, for Jyn, it was uneasy, like something else was beginning and therefore, for her, time was slipping away. Time she had avoided most people and her parents.
She felt bad, but she felt she couldn’t – really couldn’t – deal with them.
It was Saturday, during Labor Day weekend, that Leia marched into her apartment, wearing shorts, sneakers and carrying a ball.
A football, to be precise.
“We’re going out,” she said in lieu of a greeting, Jyn only glaring at her from over her mug of tea.
“No, seriously. You closed the store for the weekend, because you said you needed a rest before the school year started. Well. Staying cooped up in here isn’t resting enough. You’ve probably got Vitamin D deficiency.”
She took a deep a breath, told herself Leia was right and that she was being very silly, as her Mama would say.
“Fine,” she grumbled, because she wasn’t going to give Leia the satisfaction of knowing she agreed with her.
“-- seriously, I’m not – really not – interested in people judging me if I listen to Style by Taylor Swift 170 times in a row.”
Leia let the ball expertly bounce off the inside of her right thigh and onto the ground, using her left foot to get it up on the air again and neatly lobbying it back to Jyn with a precise kick.
“No one would dare-“ Jyn stopped talking as she used her head to send the ball back in Leia’s direction; she had run up too close, “no one would dare judge you.”
Leia kicked the ball back in her direction, just an easy kick for her to catch with the side of her foot and return it at a reasonable height.
“Who the hell is Han?”
“I’ve told you-“
“I know he’s Luke’s friend. What I mean is, who the hell is he to judge you? Why does his opinion matter?”
“He’s an idiot.”
She had kicked back the ball decidedly too low and Leia’s atrocious answer to that was hitting it with her right foot, only doing it from behind her left leg, the ball ended up perfectly poised for Jyn to just control it and easily kick it back.
“Easy there, Cristiano,” she scoffed.
“I prefer Messi,” Leia said with a faux glower.
“I will not get into this argument with you.”
“I’m not arguing. I like Messi, too, although- you have to admit that Ronaldo’s so outrageous at times, he’s fun.”
Leia shrugged, kicked the ball back to Jyn and pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes, “Truth is, ever since becoming a freaking PhD candidate I haven’t had time to watch soccer. Or do anything else, really.”
“And then I’m the hermit.”
Jyn bounced the ball on the tops of her feet as Leia settled down and got herself ready.
They’d worked up a sweat already and chose to focus for a while on just playing, taking up a corner of the New Haven Green. It was sunny out and not so warm as it had been a few days past, so they had slathered on some sunscreen and stopped caring about being in the shade. Leia at one point had decided that in response to Jyn’s teasing, she would basically just send the ball back to her after pulling the most outrageous tricks with it, always sending her into a run farther and farther out into the green
When she was close enough, Leia talked, which was kind of her, Jyn thought, because she didn’t feel like she had much to share other than rating the crime dramas she had binged through. Leia’s family was an endless source of ridiculous gossip, considering it comprised her biological mother, a senator from New York who had been a political wunderkind in the late ‘70’s until she ended up with an unplanned pregnancy; her adoptive parents, who were diplomats and the coolest people Jyn had ever met; and her twin brother, who she had grown up apart from so the press and her mother’s political rivals wouldn’t put two and two together. Leia had an array of people in her life that she called uncles and aunts without their actually being related to her and was the sort of person to have gone on dates with people who were in the Mickey Mouse Club in her teens. Next to that, Jyn’s status as the daughter of a frigging Nobel laureate was actually risible.
Leia was in the middle of telling her about some ridiculous faux pas Luke had managed in a reception in New York a couple weeks before when she sent the ball Jyn’s way a little too high, in a manner that was just too tempting to jump in the air kick it back as far as could with just the top of her foot. The ball sailed past Leia and towards one of the walkways that crisscrossed the green and she cringed after falling to the ground, thinking of how far it would go.
Leia hadn’t run after the ball, huffing that she was too dignified for that, so Jyn just watched it, slightly aghast because of what happened next.
It hit someone on a bike as they were crossing the Green, hard enough that they were sent sprawling on the ground. Jyn felt an involuntary, horrified scream push itself through her mouth and she sprinted in the person's direction, her lungs burning. If it hadn't been thundering inside her chest with exertion, her heart would have stopped beating when she saw that sitting up and looking at her with his eyebrows in an angry frown was Cassian.
Until he saw her and his face just shuttered into no expression at all.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she began and she honestly didn’t know if she was apologizing for hitting him with a football or for kissing him and then disappearing without an explanation.
“It’s okay,” he mumbled, “it was an accident.”
He was avoiding her eyes, getting up.
Fair enough, she thought.
Her brain did a ridiculous thing. It registered that she certainly looked like a goblin, in running shorts and a frumpy Fulham shirt of Bodhi’s, and that her face was all red and she was all sweaty. That red-faced part was good. That ought to disguise the fact that she was blushing to the point that if someone threw kerosene on her, she would burst into flames.
He, on other hand, had a new haircut. His hair was a bit shorter and not falling in his eyes as much, which he was probably wishing for now.
She lifted his bike off the floor, checked it to see that there was any damage. He dusted off his jeans and then made for the bike’s handle bar. She let go of it, once she saw it was fine, avoiding touching him, and when he put his left hand to grasp it, he hissed. He turned his hand, palm up, and little specks of blood shone on the paler skin of its heel. It was Jyn’s turn to hiss.
“This isn’t so bad,” he said, leaning the bike against his hip and turning his other hand to see if it was equally scraped. It wasn’t. He tried cleaning the dust off it, grimaced a bit.
“I’m really sorry,” she said again and she felt like such an idiot, “you didn’t have anything that breaks in your bag, right?”
“Nothing that Kay didn’t have a case that might protect it should something like this happen,” he mumbled.
“Good,” she said, relieved, for once.
Leia ran up to them, eyes wide and cheeks just as pink as Jyn’s, “oh my god, are you all right!?”
He shot her one of his non-smiles and Jyn felt something splinter in her chest that he hadn’t paid her the same courtesy, “I’m fine. I’ll just- I need to be on my way.”
He got on his bike, tried pedaling away and had moved less than 5 meters when he stopped abruptly, sliding the bike downwards at an angle until his feet were firmly on the ground.
“Cassian, what is it?” Jyn found herself asking, forgetting the awkwardness, just watching his shoulders tense up in a weird way.
They both rushed up to him before he could answer.
“I think I broke my wrist,” he replied in a low voice.
“Oh, fuck,” Leia said.
Leia picked up her cellphone from the pocket of her shorts and grumbled. Loudly.
“What is it?” Jyn asked, grateful for any distraction from the fact that an afternoon of fun in the sun kicking around a football had turned into a trip to the emergency room. With Cassian, no less.
“He’s added me on LinkedIn. He’s adding me on everything.”
“He added you on Spotify and LinkedIn?”
“And Facebook. And Instagram. And he’s following me on Twitter. I want to die. These are not accounts that I can just delete.”
“You’re not getting rid of an intense life of social media just because of some dude,” Jyn countered in mock-seriousness.
Leia glared at her.
“Maybe he likes you,” Jyn offered, “it actually does sound like it.”
“He’s got a weird way of showing it,” Leia grunted.
Jyn’s eyebrows almost hit her hairline, “would you like him to show you?”
The reply she got was a quizzical look from her best friend.
Suddenly, Cassian was back. His wrist was in a splint, hanging from a sling, and he had a bunch of papers in his other hand and what looked like an X-Ray.
She turned sharply to him, “please tell me you’ve just spra-“
“It’s broken,” he said, seemingly cringing while saving her the trouble and the high hopes, “but I won’t need surgery.”
“Yes, sometimes they have to put pins in.”
Leia gestured to her ankle, where a straight scar ran down and under her sock, “you know, like this.”
Jyn shook her head, “no, I know! I was just- I guess this is good?”
Cassian shrugged and she took the prescriptions, insurance forms and the X-Ray from his hand. She looked at him questioningly and he nodded, which made her open his messenger bag – without peering inside – and shoving everything in. She put the strap on her shoulder (her sweaty, sweaty shoulder) and looked at him square in the eye.
“Let’s go,” she said resolutely.
He looked at her quizzically as Leia had just done only minutes before.
“I’m taking you home,” she said, waving her car keys in front of his face.
She had jogged home when it was evident he needed a ride to the hospital, leaving Leia with him in the park. Her old Mustang for once worked and she had driven them with Cassian’s bike folded into the boot.
“I can call a Lyft or something,” he said, “you really don’t need-“
“She broke your wrist,” said Leia slowly fixing him with a level stare, “please alleviate her guilt otherwise I’m going to have to deal with it.”
He opened his mouth and rather like a fish, closed it again, nodding. Jyn felt something like relief run down her back. Once they had dropped Leia off somewhere she could just walk home, Jyn drove in silence over to his place. Until she saw his face and the broken wrist and that he would be helpless if Kay wasn’t around.
“Is Kay home?”
He swallowed, “he’s in England, actually. Decided to visit his folks before the semester starts.”
“So…” she said, not knowing how to ask this.
“I’ll have to learn to cook one-handed,” he said, putting her out of her misery, “or I could call Shara.”
Shara. Great. So he had a girlfriend. She was staring at the road in front of her so hard, she could barely hear him sigh.
“Ah, crap. Kes is here visiting.”
She did not feel relieved. Christ, what was wrong with her?
“Okay,” she said, when she pulled up in front of his house, “let me just pay for take-out then. Do you like Chinese?”
“Jyn, you really don’t need to.”
“I want to. Please. I feel awful,” and suddenly, she was fighting tears and she couldn’t believe herself, that she would lose it right there, possibly stinking in her football gear, in front of Cassian with his wrist in a splint.
She hid her state by moving to the back of the car and taking out his bike. She carried it towards the porch, to which he said she could just leave it there for now. He opened the door, gestured for her to walk in and she found no other option but to follow.
The living room didn’t look much different from when she had last seen it, which had been at the party. The morning after, she had left through the back door, from the kitchen, so she didn’t wake up Kay (which turned out was unnecessary, since he had apparently gone back to Celia’s). He moved into the kitchen and she fished out her wallet from her back pocket and gave him a stare so he wouldn’t even begin talking.
He didn’t say anything in return, just leveled her a bored, expressionless look and she sighed, felt the pinpricks in the back of her eyes, again.
“It’s okay,” he said, clearing his throat, “Chinese is fine.”
She sighed in relief, but before she could rifle through her wallet for money, he interrupted her again, “you should stay and have some. Well, I mean-“
“All right,” she blurted out.
“I mean, you don’t have to, I was going to say,” he pushed out, almost forcefully, “I’m not trying to make you stay so we could-“
“No!” she yelled, eyes wide, “I didn’t think so.”
A small smile then, the first, “all right, so-“
She remembered she probably smelled as if she had just played the Champions League Final.
“Will you be all right if I went home and showered, changed, you know? I feel like I’m-” she scrunched up her nose.
He blinked, “sure, don’t worry about it. I’m not really hungry right now – I’m just going to,” he gestured upstairs, “check my emails and stuff.”
“Good,” she said, a tentative smile on her lips.
It’s not a date. It’s not a date. It’s not a date.
Jyn went through her underwear drawer, picked simple, cotton underwear she would have picked in any other situation, and got dressed in the simplest outfit she had, because she was not trying to look pretty. She also didn’t tear through her bedroom like a hurricane, getting ready to go to a guy’s house, because it was not a date. She was trying to make amends. He was being nice. There was nothing romantic going on, much less sexual.
With her hair still dripping wet, she climbed back in her car and tried to drive at a reasonable speed. She tried to remember that as far as she could tell – and she was not remembering what gave her that knowledge -, he was right-handed, so he was fine. It had been his left wrist. So unless he did something really stupid and tried to do something dangerous that required both hands, he should have been fine. She picked up her cellphone, found the number he had typed into it under her insistence (her cheeks had been absolutely feeling on fire all through the process) and called.
“So, kung-pao chicken? Noodles? Sweet and sour pork?” She rattled off, her voice surprisingly even, as she parked in front of the Chinese restaurant closest to his place.
“All of that is fine,” he said, without saying hello, since she hadn’t said it either.
It was that easy and Jyn remembered laughing, honest to god laughing, in his bed that morning, before she went and decided to ruin everything.
It never struck her until much later that talking to him had been easier than she thought, right from the start.
I swear I'm not trying to kill Cassian.
Chapter 5: Sweet disaster
Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting this bit of silliness. I adore this fandom.
“You’ll make a mess out of your splint,” she said, mouth half-full already.
Cassian glanced down at his broken wrist, the hand of which was cradling the takeout box, chop sticks in the air in his other one. His face was neutral, jaw loose, but he glimpsed up at her with an eyebrow raised.
Jyn shrugged, a bit embarrassed, “just- I don’t know - be careful.”
“All right,” he replied, something like a smile lurking in his lips as he dug into the noodles she had handed over to him, “maybe I should get a fork.”
They ate in silence at first, their conversation having been restricted to the food when Jyn had arrived. Now she felt awkward, not really knowing how to conduct this situation at all. Her brain, for some stupid reason, decided to focus on the milimetrical changes that she could see in him. The shorter hair, the fuzz on his chin shaved just a touch closer to his skin. He looked somewhat thinner, his shirt bunching a bit across he sat down on the couch, cross-legged. They had spread the containers on the coffee table and she was on the floor, better to hand the boxes over to him to prevent any spillage.
“Your store is closed for the weekend then,” he said, not really a question.
She nodded while she finished chewing, “wanted to have a weekend off before the hordes hit the town.”
“Very wise of you. Um,” he licked his lower lip, “are you still doing the Spanish section thing?”
She felt something warm spread in her chest, “I think so. Just need to talk to a few distributors.”
“My offer to help still stands.”
Hadn’t she been the one to ask him for it?
She smiled, something tiny, “thanks.”
“I could perhaps,” his eyes were earnest, “put you in touch with a few publishers in Mexico.”
“You have contacts there?” she said, “I thought it’d be down to family.”
“Yes, well,” he cleared his throat, “my life’s sort of been- I’ve been going back and forth between here and there all my life. My godfather in Massachusetts is a busy man, so I’d spend a year here and then go back for another two and then come back and so forth.”
“That must have been hard.”
“I didn’t know any other life, so I was fine with it.”
“But your parents-“
“Oh, of course. I miss them. But-“ he just shrugged, “you sound like you’ve moved around a lot, too.”
“A bit,” she smiled, “but from some point onwards, I had Bodhi. You’re an only child?”
He shook his head as he started speaking of his older siblings from his father’s first marriage, a man and a woman, far older than him and that he saw once in a blue moon and who had been in college when his parents died, in no condition to raise a child like him. His sister had an office job and his brother worked for a bank and he had never felt like he belonged in their little unit. Their mother had always been a difficult person. They had their own families now, spouses and children whose pictures Cassian mostly saw through social media.
It seemed a wonder that they were able to talk about this without either of them making it awkward.
“Family is so hard,” she sighed, “I feel like such a teenager at times.”
“I shouldn’t complain about them, but I do. They’re- they had expectations and I didn’t exactly fulfill them.”
“They think you should have stayed in university?”
Jyn shrugged, “I think so. It was so hard for me to see myself doing anything else, really. And when-“
She stopped herself, looked at him warily, because she had never voiced this to anyone else. Leia knew her mother was sick, but they hadn’t met until she was back in New Haven and she had already been done with the spiraling out of control that followed her being told of her mother’s diagnosis. That bit in her life, back in London, with the drinking and the shitty boyfriend was something she wasn’t proud of.
Cassian was looking at her, expecting her to continue.
Maybe talking about this with someone who wasn’t involved in the situation was something she actually needed.
“We don’t need to talk about this if you don’t want to,” he said, lifting one of his shoulders in a dismissing gesture.
She shook her head, “no it’s alright.”
Jyn steeled herself.
“My mother was diagnosed with ALS when I was in college and they chose not to tell me until after I graduated. She was going through some pretty rough shit and I was oblivious to it, up in Wellesley. I was just so, so pissed off when I found out. And it wasn’t even through them. Bodhi told me, because he’d been home a week she felt ill and he just thought it was wrong that they were keeping it from me.”
Cassian’s eyes were mournful, his mouth forcing out words like he was figuring out what he could say, “that’s such- a shitty thing to do.”
She felt her eyes prickling in the corners, but found herself smiling at him.
“You’re the first one not to excuse them with some bullshit about how they love me and were trying to protect me.”
“Yeah and my therapist,” she sighed, “Bodhi’s been through a lot and I understand his need to always see the good side of every situation. I just- I don’t know. I’m not wired like him.”
He fiddled with his food, stabbing at stray onions and green peppers in his container, a frown on his face she found herself thinking was endearing.
“I can understand their reasoning,” he said, “but that’s no way to treat an adult. It’s not like-“
Cassian looked at her with an intensity that made her feel awkward, like looking back was akin to staring at the sun.
“It’s not like you’re made of glass,” he finished.
His words hit her in the chest, because most days she felt exactly like she was made of glass and that people around her were always going out of their way to make her feel like it. Her parents now acted like they had to step on eggshells around her, as if she would fly off the handle with barely any prompting. She didn’t know what was it about her that made them think she was so fragile and unstable.
Perhaps the fact that as soon as they disappointed her, she had moved across an ocean and drunk almost all of South London’s stock of whisky.
“Thank you for saying that, but sometimes- well, most times I feel like I really am.”
The edge of his mouth curled a bit, “for someone made of glass, you can surely kick a ball.”
Laughter bubbled out of her, because he was the one that was actually broken though she honestly didn’t know why it was so funny. Something in her face must have given away where her thoughts were headed, because he took care to interrupt her.
“If you apologize again, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he said calmly, but with mirth in his eyes, “I’m not made of glass either, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.”
She found herself smiling, “fair enough.”
They were storing away the leftovers in his and Kay’s fridge a little later, her heart sinking at the thought that she would have to go home soon, when he turned to her.
“You want tea?”
She felt something thrumming through her, but kept her cool, “sure. Tea would be nice.”
She helped him with the mugs and with putting water to boil and while it was steeping, she didn’t know what to do and had to shove her hands in the pockets of her hoodie jacket to keep herself from reaching out and touching him.
It had obviously been there all along, this urge, and the fact that he was so goddamn pretty she felt like biting onto the arm of his couch to keep herself from screaming in frustration. She perched herself on one of the stools in the kitchen, fiddled with the tea infuser in the large mug he had placed in front of her, the smell of white tea wafting up at her doing little to comfort her.
“What tea did Kay offer you that time you guys went out?” he asked.
“Green,” she smiled, took a small sip and felt her eyes widen, “this one is way nicer.”
“Because this is the good stuff,” he wrinkled his nose, “you know, the fancy expensive kind.”
“Cassian, that’s downright mean.”
He shrugged, “he’s going to come back with half a suitcase entirely of tea.”
“So he didn’t offer me his fancy tea. Does that mean anything?”
Cassian let out an amused huff, “actually it doesn’t. Kay’s just- he’s my best friend, we’ve known each other since we were teens because he was an exchange student in Mexico City, you know. He’s just very- particular.”
“My parents used to bring loads of tea back from England when we first moved here. Then they slowly became less attached. Same thing will happen if he decides to stay after his post-doc, probably.”
“I get him, actually,” he said, sipping from his own mug, “I had a hard time with the food here when I first came to stay with Davits. I just can’t help teasing him about it.”
“God, I had these horrible breakouts the first few months we were here and every time I would come back from England for like, five years at least. Just really weird.”
They smiled at each other and settled to enjoy their drinks in silence. She did not dare say to him out loud that she was glad that Kay and her had decided from the get-go that they weren’t attracted to each other, no matter how sensible it appeared through a dating app that they should date. She did not tell him she felt comfortable here in this kitchen, holding a mug of tea through the sleeves of her hoodie in the chill of an evening so close to autumn.
Something steadfast and tranquil had settled in her chest when he walked her to the door.
“Thank you for dinner,” he said, his voice unbearably soft.
She smiled, “please call me if you need anything.”
He leaned forwards and she felt her breath catch, but his lips landed instead on her cheek and she absently put out a hand to steady herself on his doorjamb.
“Will do,” there were crinkles in the edges of his eyes.
She turned around and walked over to her car.
It was a quiet afternoon, finally. She had a massive mug of tea by her elbow, something melancholy was coming from the speakers in the store, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart open in front of her. After Labor Day weekend her store had been extraordinarily busy. She had predicted an increase in costumers, yes, but nothing like this. It usually took her a little longer to get new customers as students, specially new ones, settled in town.
Two girls, sisters by the look of it, came up to the counter with Joan Didion books and as she was processing the purchases, they started talking amongst themselves.
“So not fair that he gets to be that good looking and have such a good taste in bookstores,” the oldest looking of them said.
Jyn's eyes shot up in their direction even as she fumbled with the registrar. The shorter of the two girls bit her lip a bit self-consciously as her eyes met Jyn’s before answering.
“No, not fair at all,” she smiled embarrassedly, “but then he does work in a library. He should know a thing or two about books… This place is really awesome, by the way.”
She didn’t know what was the hardest to deal with, the open praise or the fact that she had a hunch about who just might be the person they were talking about. So she tried to keep her cool even as she felt her cheeks burn and her heart do a little a stutter.
“Thank you… Should I ask who this expert is?” she inquired, eyebrows raised for good measure.
The girls giggled and the one who had spoken first smiled conspirationally, “you look like you enjoy a good mystery. Let’s just say your store has a fan.”
Jyn rolled her eyes to pretend that this happened all the time, “the fact that they’re cute doesn’t hurt apparently.”
“Oh, cute isn’t the word I’d use,” the oldest girl said, eyes widening for emphasis.
Jyn just raised her eyebrows further up. No, she didn’t think Cassian was cute. Cute wasn’t the word she thought of when she remembered what he could do with his mouth. But she feigned ignorance, opting for amusement instead as she finished putting the books in paper bags along with bookmarkers.
As the girls left, Jyn picked up her cell phone and tried to calm her heart as it beat like an orchestra’s percussion section in her chest.
have you been recommending my shop?
His response came almost instantly and consisted in the emoji with the angel halo. She choked on air, thankfully not having drunk her tea in the meanwhile.
you haven’t even been to my shop!
you’re right. I could actually be misleading this people. I’ll stop.
This time it was the emoji with the side-eyes and the smug little smile.
how did you figure it was me?
I thought at first that something must be going on because I’ve been getting a new batch of costumers. thank you. really.
and then what happened?
you said at first you thought
Oh, crap. Jyn pushed her hair away from her eyes and twisted it in a bun. She fumbled for a hair tie and bit her lip, thinking hard about what to say next. If it were anyone else, say, a guy like Lando who owned the record store on Park, she would keep what those girls thought to herself. But this was Cassian, someone whose ears went red when she had so much as said hello to him when they first spoke to each other.
well, a few customers were very vocal about who had told them to come here
This time it was the emoji with the wide eyes and the red cheeks.
I’m actually liking this marketing strategy
She winced for a few seconds, but honestly, he had been the one to start with the emojis. Emojis were flirty, right?
I'm thinking if I’m going to be your shop’s spokesperson I should at least know what I’m talking about
“What are you smiling at?” Leia asked as she burst inside the store and flung herself at her usual spot on her couch.
Jyn took a sip from her tea only to find it had gone horribly, horribly cold. She checked her phone one last time.
Cassian had sent her one last emoji, the winking one. She felt herself blush, but now that Leia was here, she tossed her phone to the side.
“Nothing,” she said, turning her attention back to the novel she was reading.
Chapter 6: Diabolic scheme
In case anyone's not noticed, most chapter titles are from Jyn's playlist on Spotify, which is pretty cool and you should definitely check out if you haven't yet.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They established a rather frequent habit of exchanging texts, most of the time during what she supposed were his work hours, something that made Leia roll her eyes whenever she caught Jyn typing away on her phone. In response, she usually shrugged, said it was innocuous, that they were “friends” now. Apparently.
The occasional new customer still stepped into her store and seemed to even look for her personally, but they were never the new customer she was expecting, with soft dark hair that wasn’t really all that dark and a smile that was almost always barely there, which made it more precious when one caught it on his face. As the leaves turned brown and made New Haven seem like a sort of fairy land out of a Pinterest post, Jyn decided that it was best to not expect too much from him, that if what Cassian wanted was a friend he could joke with and occasionally complain about grad school, she was happy to be that.
And it was ridiculous, that occupying such a tiny quadrant of a city that wasn’t that large, that they never ran into each other. Although, whenever Jyn had to go across campus, in the direction of the libraries, she usually walked the fastest she could, almost unconscionably. She did not want to be perceived as some stalker, even if every time the thought crossed her mind, she realized it was quite ridiculous.
Her therapist, a blue-eyed woman who seemed to glide through life with uncanny serenity, turned quite forceful during one particular session.
“Invite him over to your store if you want him to see it. It sounds like you want him to see it.”
Making that gesture, however, seemed to mean more exposure than taking her clothes off in front of him. Which she had done before, of course.
It all came down to Bodhi, in the end.
As he always seemed to do ever since he had left, he sort of stumbled back in New Haven without really telling her why, wide eyes a little preoccupied.
“You’re writing,” she said, when she caught the familiar sort of glazed look on his face as they drank tea late in the afternoon after he arrived.
He nodded and she had to pretend not to feel a small stab of envy of how prolific he was.
“I need to do some research,” he said distractedly, “at Beinecke, see if what I’m thinking of pans out.”
“What are you thinking of?”
“I’ve always wanted to write about New Haven,” was the answer he gave her.
She found it rather vague and unconvincing.
But Jyn hummed in agreement and the next day, sent him off with a portable mug filled with his favorite tea and a splash of milk, and promises to do something in the evening other than watch “lame stuff” on Netflix.
It was a pleasant morning, which turned into a pleasant afternoon and by the time dusk approached, she didn’t think it was all that chilly. Bodhi must have been thinking the same thing, because he texted her, asking her to come meet him at the library. He wanted to go on a walk.
It’s been a while since I’ve walked around these parts, you know, up Hillhouse and such.
Jyn sighed, because it meant going into the side of town that made her fidgety and at the same time filled her silly heart with stupid teenage expectation. So she mutely cursed and then went on to pick a nice blouse, nice trousers and retouch the line of kohl under her eyes. She couldn’t really blame Bodhi. The trees were probably beautiful and they did share a love of walking around those immense houses and imagining the lives inside, past and present.
Mentally, she supposed the fact that she had cleaned up could be ascribed to their going to dinner straight from their walk.
When she arrived at the plaza where the huge marble and granite building was located, there was no sign of Bodhi, of course. It hadn’t closed yet, so she sent him a text and settled nearby to wait for him a little far too near to the street where it was just a matter of making the way across a block to reach where Cassian worked.
Her cellphone vibrated.
I’m at Sterling, sorry
She was going to kill Bodhi with her bare, tiny little hands.
So of course she was making her way to the humongous, Cathedral-shaped library, still wearing her headphones and looking purposefully down at her phone to make her seem like she was casually just passing through (which, well, she was) when someone grabbed her by her shoulders.
It was Kay, who looked somewhat pleased to see her. She pulled her ear buds of while saying hi.
“I’m meeting my brother,” she said rapidly, “he’s doing research at the Library.”
“Oh, aren’t there libraries at Princeton?” she was a little impressed he remembered.
“He said it’s something to do with New Haven,” she replied with a smile at his snarky tone.
He may be aloof and so not her type, but she liked him.
“Well, I’m meeting Cassian, so I have to go,” he said quickly, “unless-“
He heart did a little funny thing, “unless what?”
“Well, it’s been a while since we’ve talked,” he said airily, in a weird way, “maybe we could all meet up.”
Jyn had to push through a barrage in her fucked-up brain but ultimately agreed.
Bodhi looked awfully amused as they waited in the hall of Yale’s main library.
“We can meet up and say you really feel like taking that walk up Hillhouse,” she was saying quickly, “and reschedule.”
“I can do that some other time,” he replied, “Jyn, let’s meet them. It’ll be fine. I won’t, like, act like a big brother or anything.”
She side-eyed him, “I didn’t tell you a little detail.”
She didn’t answer. Bodhi continued not to know about how she had grabbed Cassian and kissed him the night they were out with Sabine, because right at that moment Cassian and Kay emerged from the stairs that led to where the former worked. She was quick to notice he looked tired, the lines around his eyes just a tad more pronounced. His wrist was still in a splint, but he moved it around more freely now, without a sling.
Jyn made the introductions and she couldn’t help a little bit of a thrill when Cassian seemed a little discomfited at meeting Bodhi. It relieved her insecurities and then she spent the next ten minutes feeling like a crap, pathetic human being.
“We were going to walk up Hillhouse,” said Bodhi, “but I’d be down for grabbing something to drink closer to Jyn’s place instead, if that’s okay with you. It’s nice out.”
“We could still go,” Cassian replied, looking from one sibling to the other, “there are places on Whitney we could go.”
Jyn shrugged, “fine by me either way.”
Kay seemed to be considering something and then, “if we head that far, it’ll be too far to walk. Let’s go with Bodhi’s plan.”
And that was how Jyn ended up, a few hours and beers later, unlocking the door to her bookshop.
Her heart thudded in her chest as her companions stepped inside. She let the glass door close behind her, the “closed” signed smacking against it. Bodhi was talking to Kay, who was checking out her new releases display, and Cassian walked over to one of the closest bookcases, fingering one of the pieces of paper stuck to the wooden shelf, reading the text scribbled there in her handwriting.
She willed her cheeks not to flush with all of her might. He moved on to the next bit of paper.
“These are funny,” he said in her direction.
And here she thought she was being subtle about hovering near him.
“You can leave one or two if you want,” she moved to stand beside him, eyeing the recommendation she had written to one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Tetralogy novels, “Leia does when she’s bored.”
For all her trepidation in having him walk into it, Jyn felt proud of her little shop. It being small made it look snug, even if a bit cluttered. In spaces where the walls weren’t behind bookcases, she had a few posters – some she had brought from England, others she had picked up in other places. There was an armchair and a couch near the checkout counter, with colorful throws on them as if it were a living room rather than some sort of waiting area.
He perused more shelves, eyebrows raised in a curious little look, and she slowly felt herself relaxing and she let herself drop on the armchair, stretching her booted feet forward. Cassian soon appeared, carrying with him a couple of hardcover volumes.
“It’s very cool, Jyn, your shop.”
Cassian sat on the couch while Bodhi and Kay were getting into some sort of good- natured argument near the poetry section, books propped on his knees.
“What have you got there?” she stretched her neck to try and make out what he had picked up.
He handed them over and she looked down, not really knowing what to expect and found herself smiling that they were John Le Carré’s The Night Manager and The Constant Gardener.
“You like John Le Carré.”
He nodded, a curl in his lip, “I like spy novels. And, um, I actually have those, but they’re falling apart.” he faltered and frowned a bit, “I’m not making you work now.”
She had to admit that it would be a pain turning everything on so she could ring up his purchases.
“I’ll save them for you,” she found herself licking her lower lip, “you can come again some other time or- or send Kay to fetch them.”
“Some other time,” he said, something in the edge of his eyes that put her at ease, “I’d love to come here again.”
“So you’re relieved you weren’t sending people to shop in some kind of dump?”
“You do have a Facebook page, you know, with,” he gestured vaguely, “pictures.”
She swallowed the urge to crow a little bit at the fact that he had looked her store up at least, even if not making the time to come see it himself.
“Furthermore,” he added, “it’s your store, Jyn. It could never be anything other than amazing.”
Before she could open her mouth to reply, Kay and Bodhi walked back towards them, still arguing about- The Aeneid? Jyn just shook her head in confusion.
“Well, what now?”
She heard Cassian move on the couch and look sideways to see that he was stretching, his raised arms making his shirt ride up and she could have groaned at herself at the same time that she tried making it seem like she wasn’t ogling him.
“I have work tomorrow,” he moved briskly, standing up and dumping the books on her arms, “thank you for opening the store for us, Jyn. I’ll be back for these.”
He gave her arm a squeeze and walked towards the door.
Kay said his goodbyes and they left. As soon as their footsteps faded on the sidewalk outside, Bodhi looked at her blinking his huge eyes like he was fluttering his eyelashes.
“’I’ll be back for these’,” he parroted, “real smooth, our boy.”
“Oh come on, Jyn,” he said, splaying his large hands on her shoulders and making it seem like he was going to shake her, “this guy’s visibly into you.”
Her response was just to roll her eyes, “he’s just being nice.”
“And you’re visibly into him, too, by the way.”
She froze, feeling something cold spreading in her stomach, “am I that obvious?”
“You’re both obvious. Why do you think I let myself get lectured on Virgil by some toff I just met?”
Bodhi shook his head, “he’s all right. Just- you know, a bit intense. At least for me.”
Jyn smiled at her brother, glad to be reminded that for all of his literary fame and crazy schedule of readings and lectures, and how that had built into some form of confidence she still found mildly foreign, he was still the shy little boy with whom she had shared so much. For one moment, she felt bursting with affection and relief that he was there with her.
He walked toward the front door and locked it, closing the wooden door behind it as well. She decided she had had enough of standing there holding Cassian’s books like an idiot and went to deposit them behind the counter. Bodhi reached for her hand when they were both done.
“Come on, I’ll make us some rooibos before bed.”
She lay awake for a long time that night, replaying parts of the evening: their walk over to the pub, when Cassian had fallen into step with her (he did that so easily) and asked about her mother, and she in turn asked him about his wrist. He said something in the effect of the splint coming out in a few days and Jyn admitted she felt more than relieved.
When they had sat down, it was natural that Bodhi pulled up the chair next to hers, but Cassian plopped into the seat right in front of her and she didn’t quite know what was worse. Now she had no choice but to look at him, unless she really made an effort, which could be construed as rudeness. Kay, for all his usual social rigidity seemed comfortable around her and Bodhi, and when her brother had come up with the brilliant plan of their going to her store because he wanted to show Kay some Fernando Pessoa book he knew for a fact she had in stock, she had been so buzzed from all the beer and the dim pub light making Cassian’s eyes look like swirling coffee, she had shrugged and gone along with it.
It was hard, though, not cringing at things she had said, at how she had probably been mooning over him like some pathetic puppy. And you’re obviously into him.
The next day, she was biting into a sandwich when the bells in her door jingled and she was still trying to swallow when Cassian walked in, all flannel shirt under a hoodie jacket with another jacket on top, which made her want to instantly throw her arms around him and under those layers.
He seemed amused at her predicament – she was still chewing - but said cautiously, “I’m interrupting your lunch.”
She grimaced, looking at the poor excuse of it and shrugged, “you came for your books!”
“You seem surprised.”
“Eh. I thought maybe you were shopping drunk.”
He let out a little huffed laugh, “I’m too much of a control freak to do anything serious while drinking.”
Oh. So their making out against a tree while obviously drunk those months ago hadn’t been serious. Well, she had to admit she hadn’t thought so at the time, but now that she was obviously fucked up in her head over this guy, it kind of stung. It surprisingly stung.
Cassian must have seen the look on her face (and you’re so obviously into him, she heard Bodhi’s voice for the umpteenth time), because he immediately came fully up to the counter.
“I mean- I don’t let myself get so drunk I don’t know what I’m doing,” this was punctuated with a raised eyebrow, “or that people are actually- never mind.”
She put her hands up, not wanting to have that awful, awkward conversation, “I get it. I’m a bit the same, actually.”
Jyn reached down to the shelf in the inside of the counter and picked up his books. They remained quiet over their little exchange, but she smiled tightly at him while perfunctorily asking if he wanted a bag, which he refused at first, but then shook his head a little bit.
“Do you have paper ones?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think those will fit.”
“It’s not to carry them. I collect those. From cool bookstores.”
For that she couldn’t help but smiling fully at him while handing over one of her paper envelopes with the store’s logo on it. He then looked fixedly at her sandwich, with only a bite off it and she felt weirdly self-conscious about it.
“Are you going to eat that?”
What? She frowned.
“I- was planning to?”
He blinked, “never mind. Sorry. I have to go.”
It was her turn to blink, “all right. Bye?”
He looked at the sandwich again and at the counter and then finally turned backwards to look at her door? What the hell.
And that was it. He walked out.