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take that risk, step with me ( kiss my lips )

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“Kay, I am not participating in the film. I already told you, I will help with lights, make certain people are where they need to be, organize the list… I will do anything you ask of me, but not this.” Cassian is not budging - he refuses to kiss a complete and total stranger on camera, even if it was for Kay’s final project. If he had needed another person so badly, he should have had extras… or he could kiss someone instead.

“The film is called Twenty First Kisses not nineteen , or eighteen , or any other number. I did have an extra, but no one is answering their phones - we need to leave immediately, if we are to finish the setup before the first group arrives. Come now, Cassian, it is only one kiss.”

Yeah, yeah. Just one kiss with a stranger, all for his best friend’s final film project, a piece of reality, that would pair up a group of strangers and have them share a first kiss. The idea had sounded interesting at the beginning, primarily because Cassian had laughed at Kay’s discomfort, because only his friend would choose something so intimate from a literal giant hat of topics. Now he was loathing the assignment, because of course he was having to get involved.

“You had a signup sheet! How is there not enough men signed up?” The list was pretty well split - he needed thirty of each gender, so that there would be five kisses between two men, five between two women, and ten between a man and a woman. All of them were college students, all of them had volunteered for this, and somehow, Cassian couldn’t grasp the concept that they were somehow short a man.

“It appears as though a number of the extra men are well known on campus. I attempted to organize everyone using social media and their majors, and the female that is left cannot be connected with any of them.” Of course . Kay had run the data, and background checks, and likely stalked every person that had signed up. It made sense. Perfect sense. Totally wasn’t weird at all.

“I’m not kissing a random stranger, Kay. Not even for you.” And that was final. He wasn’t going to argue this further.

“The woman without a partner is a double STEM major, and apparently gets into loud arguments with anyone that tells her she is wrong, including professors… I looked into her, Cassian. She’s exactly the sort of woman that you would be attracted to after a few shots of tequila, and me telling you to not pursue her.”

And that... that had Cassian pausing. He knew that, for the sake of the experiment to be authentic, they were not allowed to know anything about the person, for it to be entirely fresh, but hearing those words, to hear that the person he might be kissing was exactly his type, well… He didn’t have a type, but he was interested to know who Kay thought his type might be.

“If I do this, you have to help me finish my thesis, and help me practice presenting it. And you have to do it without complaint. And clean the kitchen for the next two weeks, after I cook.”

Kay seems to be seriously considering it - because of course , Cassian was never going to just agree to this, but whatever Kay had thought to bargain, it wasn’t this. In the end though, his taller friend offers out a hand to shake on it, and Cassian takes it.

He’ll kiss the stranger, both because he needs what he bargained for, and because he wants to meet her… but mostly for the help. He really does need it.

 


 

She feels awkward heading into the theater, because when she had signed up for this, it had only just been because she had to - the theater class had required that they view one play and participate in one project, and given that this one had been a one day participation project, she had signed up. There had only been one spot left, and she had forgotten to see what she would be doing, but at least she was going to get this out of the way - the play she had seen the first weekend of the semester had been atrocious, so this couldn’t be any worse than that.

She was confused, though, because when she had gotten the text message confirming her participation, he hadn’t exactly told her what she would be doing - just told her what time to be there, and to use a side entrance, which was odd, because why not just enter through the theater doors? And the time to show up - four forty-five was an oddly specific time, and rather late in the day as well. Still, she did as told, dressed in casual clothes, jeans and a hoodie, and she had even brushed her hair, and because it was late enough in the day, she hadn’t had to force herself to wake up early on a Saturday.

Opening up the side door, she’s greeted by a woman with a checklist, looking utterly bored. Jyn raises an eyebrow, surprised to see no one else… which tells her that something is probably off.

“Uh, I was told to be here at 4:45?”

“Jyn Erso?”

She gives a nod, and the woman hops down off of the seat she was on, pointing out a door behind her. “You’re the last one. You’re going to head through that door, and answer a few questions, and then you’ll go meet the other person. The camera will be on the entire time, and the director is asking that you refrain from cursing. Any questions?”

Only around a thousand run through her mind at this moment, and Jyn tries to remember what Mothma had said about the project, something about filming strangers meeting? She had definitely signed up on the sheet that said Crew , but perhaps not? She had been looking for a pen, just signed her name on a spot that was marked 30, and maybe… maybe she signed up for the wrong thing.

“Oh. Oh, okay.” So she has to meet a stranger. Cool. Well then.

“Do you need a breath mint or anything?”

Her brow furrows for a moment, and then the door opens, revealing an extraordinarily tall man. Jyn licks her lips, and she’s suddenly very aware that she really has no idea what she signed up for, that she’s entirely out of her element, and that the time to turn around and run away had long passed.

“Miss Erso? It will only be a few more minutes until you’re called back. I recommend you take them now, if you want them gone before your interview.”

She nods, and looks to the other woman, holding out her hand. Two breath mints are dropped into it, and Jyn tosses them into her mouth, because if they were being offered, it was for a reason. A reason she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to.

 


 

“Please state your first name and your major.”

“Kay-”

“Cassian. I will have to restart the recording if you do not act professional.”

Cassian took in a deep breath, and then gave a nod. Alright then.

“Please state your first name and your major.”

Cassian lifted his chin a little, licking his lips before he answered. “Cassian Andor. Spanish Literature and Creative Writing.”

Kay gave a nod behind the camera, then continued on.

“When is the last time you kissed someone?”

Cassian already knew all of the questions, as he had helped Kay write them - that didn’t really help him in the moment, though, as he had to think about it. “Ahh… six, seven months ago?”

He had been drunk, in the back seat of Kay’s car… they had both passed out before they made it back to his place, and Kay had taken the girl home, and needlessly prodded Cassian the next day, demanding to know why he had spent the night getting intoxicated, only to fall asleep before he filled his appetite. Cassian had been too hungover to try to explain that, while sex was enjoyable, it wasn’t his end goal… but meeting someone at a bar wasn’t exactly a good idea to get what he wanted either.

“When is the last time you were in a relationship that lasted longer than a month?”

He remembered that question as well, wanting to place a stipulation on it, so that it was more serious than a few hookups. He shifted in place a little, then supplied an answer. “Never. I have never had a relationship that lasted longer than a month.”

Because he had never had a relationship at all. He had been too busy, worrying about school, about learning English, about his mama, about college, and then about paying for it all. There was no time for a relationship when he had spent so much of his time taking care of himself. He knows what else is to come, the last question, and he doesn’t have a serious answer for it in the slightest.

“What do you look for in a first kiss in order to consider it good?”

“The right amount of tongue.”

“Cassian!”

“Kay!”

The two stared at one another, and Kay fiddled with the camera for a moment, then repeated the question, giving Cassian a moment to calm the grin off his face. He thought about it… really thought about it. Generally, he was just pleased if someone wanted to kiss him back, as he was often intoxicated, and normally asked first before approaching.

“The right connection,” he finally says, and he’s not looking at the camera, but instead off towards the door that he knows she will come through. Because, wasn’t that what he was always looking for, if he was looking at all? “A bit of give and take, where neither is the pursuer, but neither is the pursued. Where it’s more like a dance than a battle.”

There’s a moment of silence, and then Kay turns off the camera. Cassian relaxes, taking a few steps away from where he had been standing, heading towards the door he had originally come from. He would have to wait back there until after the girl’s interview, when they would then meet.

“I’m not sure if I’m more bothered by the fact that you possibly just told the truth, or the fact that you just made that up on the spot.”

Cassian gives him a shrug and a smirk, trying to cover up the answer - because he wasn’t really sure what it was. This wasn’t something he was willing to discuss with his best friend, though. Not when he didn’t want to face the truth himself.

 


 

“Miss Erso-”

“Jyn.”

“Jyn. Please, stand over the piece of tape on the floor.”

She does so, standing in the spot he had mentioned, and turned to look at the camera. This was definitely not what she had signed up for, but she was too embarrassed to say otherwise, now. There was no getting out of it, so better to just go along with it.

“There’s four questions, and then we’ll invite the other person to join us. He has already done is interview. After the kiss, he will-”

“I’m sorry, what? Kiss?” Now she does have questions, and her eyebrows raise, only leading to his doing the same.

“You are from Professor Mothma’s theater class, are you not?”

She blinks for a moment, then nods. “I mean, it’s a class on lighting, and scenery. I took it over having to sit through public speaking. I thought I was signing up to help, not to be… part of this.”

The noise that the man makes isn’t entirely human, something between a snort and a hum, and Jyn stands patiently as he fidgets with his glasses, pushing them up his nose, and looking at her with a glance that… isn’t necessarily readable.

“My name is Kay Tueso, and this is my Senior Project. It’s filming twenty first kisses, between two strangers. The questions all center around thoughts on romance. Not exactly a deep project, but it is the one I was assigned.”

That answers… everything, and yet nothing. Jyn isn’t the sort to snog just anyone, particularly a stranger, unless she has had more than enough alcohol and has someone she hates enough that she wants to channel it into a good fuck. She doesn’t kiss strangers just because, and certainly not on camera.

“No chance of getting out of here, is there?” she asks weakly, because really, she’s the one that put herself in this position, should have paid more attention, should have asked more questions. It was a little late if she wanted to change her mind.

“I would rather prefer if you did not. If it gives you any comfort, the man you are partnered with did not want to participate either… but I needed to fill the last spot. You can leave, of course, but after surveying your social media, I think that he would pique your curiosity. He was most interested, when he found out that you studied mathematics and physics, with a preference for engineering. And no, he is not one of your classmates.”

That didn’t give her any confidence, but the fact that someone was interested in her after hearing what she studied, well, that was strange. Maybe… maybe she might stay. She was already here. “Wait, you were looking at my social media? Everything is marked as priv-”

“I cannot tell you any more, as it might alter the experiment - and I ask that you not divulge what I have just told you on camera. Finding another couple would be exhausting, and I only have this space for the rest of today, so unless you have two friends that have never met that you would like to volunteer-”

“I’ll do it,” she says, straightening up in the spot that he had had her stand. She had a list of questions still, but… the most important one had already been answered. Maybe.



 

 

It took a few minutes for the camera to get set up, and for Jyn to relax enough that she stood in place, and then there was a beep, and Kay was giving her a nod before starting the line of questions.

“Please, state your first name, and your major.”

“Jyn Erso,” she begins, her accent very crisp. She’s standing a little taller than she had been before, appearing to be taller than her true height of five foot three. “Double major in Mathematics and Physics.”

“And, when is the last time you kissed someone.”

Given the subject matter, Jyn had expected these questions might be a bit personal, but they were apparently diving right in. She blinks for a moment, and calculates how long it has been. Arguably, she is a bit overdue. “It has been four months, two weeks, and three days.”

Yes, it had been since Thanksgiving break, because she didn’t celebrate the holiday, and had spent it in a bar.

“And, when is the last time that you were in a relationship that lasted for longer than a month?”

Really getting in deep there. She blinks again, then crispy answers. “Never.”

Kay, who is standing behind the camera, makes a bit of a noise, then seems to pause. He clearly shouldn’t have made the noise, and repeats the question so that she can answer it again, likely for later editing.

“Never. I have never been in any sort of a relationship.” And no, she would not explain further, because that would mean talking about things that she never told anyone, like the fact that her mother had died, and her father had lost himself in his work, and her adopted father had let her get away with far too much, and by the time she got her act together again so that she could pursue university, she had had no time for romantic affairs.

“What do you look for, when having a first kiss, to consider it good?”

She pauses at that one, genuinely pauses, because really, she has never considered a first kiss to be good . They were always messy, an awkward bumping of noses, and trying to figure out what to do with your hands. “I don’t think a first kiss can really be good. You’re still figuring out what you’re doing, what the other person wants. Generally, it’s the fourth or fifth kiss where you start to find a rhythm.”

There’s a pause, and then a beep, and she realizes the camera has been turned off. Jyn takes a step back, watching, waiting, knowing that the next part is meeting this stranger, the one that was interested in her based on what little he had been told, the one that would apparently pique her interest. Kay seems to have paused, as though he is deep in thought, and she refrains from asking, just watching as he seems to work through… whatever it is.

“Give me a moment, please,” he finally says, and he steps away, heading to a door on the opposite side of where she had entered. Jyn wanted to ask where he was going, what to expect, but he was gone before she could say anything, the door clicking shut behind him.



 

“Cassian, I am possibly ruining my own film project for this, so listen very carefully.”

Cassian jerks up from where he is leaning against the wall, half expecting to be called in now, to go and meet the stranger. He has still been pondering what he said, considering what he expects from this… and now, Kay is interrupting it, with with whatever clearly has him plagued.

“When you enter that room, you will most likely either attempt to be suave , which you are not, or you will attempt to remain mysterious, which you are not. You are to enter that room as yourself, and give her a smile. You do not try to say something funny, and you do not try to rush this. Let her make the first move, or encourage her a little, but let her have her own time. You can thank me at your wedding.”

He hasn’t even been allowed to speak, and when he goes to open his mouth, to ask what Kay is talking about, to defend his own honor, his friend holds up a hand, clearly not interested in hearing anything.

“For once in your life, listen to me. Don’t screw this up .”

If he wasn’t nervous before, well, he was now.



 

 

Jyn is still awkwardly standing in the same spot, waiting for Kay to return. She isn’t really sure if this is normal or not, because really, nothing about this entire situation is normal, but when Kay does reenter the room, he is nothing but professional, bowing his head slightly as he apologizes. She gives him a nod, and continues to look towards the door that he had disappeared into. She expects that the stranger is behind the door, but it’s closed again, leaving her with only the tall man and his camera.

“Are you ready to continue, Jyn?”

She gives another nod, and returns to the spot on the floor. He gestures for her to stand a step back from it, and she takes a step back so that the spot on the floor is in between her and where she expects the stranger will stand.

There’s a beep on the camera, and Jyn looks over to see that the light from earlier, that told her he was recording, had turned back on. She looks away from it quickly, down to the floor, and then it’s just awkward silence. At least thirty seconds, during which time she seriously considers the possibility of having a panic attack. It had been years, but this moment seems as good as any to have one. It’s pressing at all the points of her anxieties and fears, but then the door opens, and she’s looking up, a sudden distraction the exact thing she needs.

Only, the person that is entering the room is the last thing she expects. He looks as out of place and stiff as she feels, and she swallows a little before licking her lips. He’s looking at her for a moment, almost pausing at the touch of her tongue to her skin, and then looking to Kay before continuing. She knows the second that he’s in front of the camera with her, because he’s trying to force a smile, and then gives up.

“This is weird, right?” she blurts out without thinking, and he raises an eyebrow at her, and there - there is a smile, a genuine one, an easy one that tells her that, yes this is weird, and yes, he feels the same as she does. It relaxes her immediately, and then he’s offering his hand to her.

“Cassian.” There might have been an accent there that was not American, but she’s used to everyone sounding different, given that she’s the only person from the UK that she knows. He’s a little shorter than she expected, but that was likely because she expected him to be like his friend, who was nearly a giant compared to how tiny she is. He looks… well built, though, and the way his hair falls to the side, he doesn’t look intimidating, nor anything like anyone in her classes, who were all trying to emulate Tony Stark or were the quintessential nerd with glasses and a bow tie. He looks… relaxed.

“Jyn,” she says with a tight smile, reaching out to take his hand. She immediately notices how warm his hand is, and they shake once before he’s then pulling away, and she sees it, how his eyes flick down to their hands, quickly pulling away, and she looks as well - just in time to see him flex his hand, and she does the same.

It’s another awkward silence, and then he glances at the camera, and she looks to it as well - they’re here to kiss one another, but it seems so… so rude, without knowing anything about the other. Of course, she didn’t even need a name when out drinking, so what was the difference here?

Jyn takes a step closer, because if she’s here, she knows what she has to do, and so why not just do it, but he doesn’t move, just watches her, and somehow that intimidates her. Her weight shifts onto the leg further away from him, and he leans forward a little, taking a half step towards her.

And now, it’s a dance. She shifts her weight forward, and he shifts his weight to the other leg. One takes a slight movement forward, the other shifts away for a moment, then back towards. She’s edging closer, as is he - they’re close enough, now, that they could kiss, although it would take some effort - a hint of a smile appears on her lips, and he smiles in response, his eyes flicking to her lips and then back up to her eyes.

There it is. That’s the sign. She knows what it means, knows that he is thinking about kissing her, and she prepares herself for it, sucks in a breath - but he doesn’t move. The smile on his lips fades slightly, until he’s just looking down at her, studying her. Jyn’s own smile fades, and she sucks the middle of her bottom lip between her teeth before releasing it.

It’s only barely there, that little noise, but she thinks he sucked in a breath at the action. They’re not moving now, neither of them growing closer, neither of them drawing away. It’s pure silence, and in truth, she doesn’t think she has ever studied another person for so long before.

It takes a moment to realize, and then, Jyn notices that he’s no longer looking at her eyes… but neither is he looking at her lips. He’s studying her, painting her with his gaze, taking in every detail, and she does the same, looks to his trimmed beard, short and close to the skin, to the brightness of his eyes, looks at the laugh lines around his eyes, at how his eyes never stay still, constantly flicking about, as though he’s trying to read her entirely.

He makes the first move, but it’s not one she expects. His hand reaches out, and she thinks he might pull her close, might wrap her in his embrace, but instead, his fingers catch a small lock of hair that had fallen in front of her face. With it tucked behind her ear, both eyes can really look at him now, but his hand doesn’t move. Instead, his fingers are brushing at her ear, brushing more strands back out of the way, not that they were unruly.

She responds in kind, her own hand reaching up to his face. In much the same way, her fingers cradle his jaw, and she can feel the roughness of the short hair there, can feel the strength in his jaw, how he clenches his teeth for a brief moment before relaxing. Their bodies have moved closer, so that she can feel how close he is, the warmth, even her hip barely grazing against his leg. Neither of them are pulling away, and she knows that this is it, that this is…

She’s going to kiss him. It’s not that it’s a fact, it’s not that it’s something that they are here to do - she can tell that he wants to. She can see the way that he’s looking down into her eyes, like he’s reading her soul, how they flick to her lips, his own parting slightly in response. He wants to kiss her, he wants to pull her to him, his hand sliding from her hair down to the side of her neck, but he’s not pulling her closer.

No, he’s leading her to him, and she’s going, willingly. Jyn had heard of the idea of seducing someone with your eyes and body language, but she had never experienced it until now. She felt seduced by him, whether he means to or not, but she isn’t pulling away. She was being pulled in, and she wants to be pulled in. She wants to kiss him as well.

But she doesn’t want to make the first move. It’s not that she hasn’t before, or that she can’t now, but there’s something building between them, and the thought of kissing him, she doesn’t want to ruin this, whatever it is that’s building. They have to kiss… Well, they don’t have to, but they also still sort of have to kiss. She agreed to it, she won’t back away now, particularly because she wants to… but he’s a beautiful painting to her now, some beautiful foreign thing that she’s scared to ruin with her touch. It’s bad enough that her fingers are touching his throat, that her thumb is slowly running over his jawline, feeling the beard there…

She’ll ruin him, ruin this beautiful man. Ruin whatever image of her he has in his mind, because he can’t be seeing the real thing. She doesn’t want to disrupt him, to disrupt whatever’s going through his thoughts, and she’s afraid. Afraid that after the kiss, whatever this is, this flame, this fire between them… she’s afraid that it will have burned out.



 

 

Kay was wrong… and he was so very right. This was not the sort of woman that he would pursue in a bar, because if he saw her in a bar, he would know that he stood no chance with her, would simply be caught in her orbit, watching her all evening, wishing that he could be even a blip on her radar. She was above him, so high above him, a beautiful creature filled with passion and life that he could only cling to.

She was the sort of woman that he would write shitty poetry about, switching between languages in a search for exactly the right word. He might even be insane enough to pull out the guitar in the back of his closet that Kay had expressly forbidden him from attempting to play, but he would do it anyways, because she was some sort of goddess that should have songs written about her, a muse that he, the artist, would cling to.

It was the way she held herself, how he could tell she was nervous from her shaking hands, how she asserted herself anyways, raised her chin, straightened up her shoulders. She was the sort of person that slipped through, slipped by, much as he did, unassuming and utterly invisible, but in the moment, when the challenge arose, she went to it, prepared or not.

He knew how she carried herself, because he was much the same. He saw her, he recognized her, but she… she was out of her element, but here she stood, drawing him in with every breath. Anyone else would try to rush this, he thought, or would expect him to chase her, but instead, she was simply sliding into it, enjoying the moment. He was caught in her gaze, caught in her embrace, and as her hand went to his cheek, he had to resist the urge to turn his head, to kiss her wrist, to hold her there.

Cassian didn’t know what possessed him to reach up and touch her hair, to brush it back from her face, but he had, and now his hand was in her hair, fingers pulling the strands from the low bun it was in. He could spend hours just touching her hair, watching it fan out on his pillows, burying his face in it while he held her in bed-

Kay had likely been joking when he said that Cassian would thank him at their wedding, but that was exactly where his mind was going, a life of a woman just like this, that controlled her emotions, that kept herself reserved, but was overflowing with them, that needed to simply be allowed to open up, to be let free.

There’s not enough time. It smacks him hard in the face, and he’s horrified for a moment, not that he lets his face betray that. He sucks in a breath, because it’s hard to recognize, to realize that he doesn’t know her, that he wants to, but there isn’t enough time… and once he kisses her, once this is through, he will leave her life, and break free of him, leaving behind a man that would have followed her to the ends of the earth.

He needed to stop reading poetry at 4 in the morning.

His eyes close, because he’s breathing her in, trying to calm himself, to work up the courage to do this, and then he feels it, her forehead touching his. Had his head dropped low enough, that they were touching? One eye pulled open, the one away from the camera, and he saw just enough to see that her eyes were closed as well, that she was on tiptoes to reach him. Her breath was on his lips, their noses just barely bumping, and he was…

He was halfway to being in love with her already.

He should do it. Close the distance. It wouldn’t even take any effort, would take less than a half of a second, less than the time it takes to think, less time that it takes to even say the action - but he can’t, he can’t do it, he just can’t lean forward, he can’t - he can’t kiss her. And he wants to, more than anything else, but he just can’t do it.

His fingers tighten slightly in her hair, and she shifts a little, almost pulling away, and he knows she’s flat on her feet again. His eyes open, and she can see her gaze, can see that she’s watching him, can see the green with the flecks of gold, and he sucks in another breath, because they’re mesmerizing, a work of art. His tongue flicks out just enough to touch his lips, to separate them, to draw in a breath, because he feels like he can’t breathe, and her eyes flick down towards them.

She wants him to kiss her. He had guessed it before, given how she wasn’t pulling away, how she was moving in closer towards him, but now it was a fact, that she wanted this. She wanted him to pull her closer, she wanted him to close the gap, to press his lips to hers. She wanted this, maybe even as badly as he did.

And he’s frozen because of it. Because he can’t believe this is real, that she is real, that she wants this. Only a few minutes earlier, he had laughed at the prospect, had assumed he would simply laugh and kiss a girl, and then gladly collect his reward from Kay, but now, now he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t function, couldn’t think. He was going to learn her, if he had the time, explore her. It wasn’t a desire any longer - it was a necessity. He would spend the rest of his life needing her, if she would only give him a chance.

There’s a movement between them, and he can feel her hand on the inside of his arm, and then his chest, his neck - she now has both hands on his face, almost cradling  his jaw, his neck, and he takes a swallow. She’s reading him, now, much as he has been reading her, trying to understand her, and there’s this understanding in her eyes, like she gets it, that he’s scared of this, scared of whatever’s going on. Her eyebrows wrinkle, and he lets out a breath, wanting to reach up and soothe them.

The hand closes to the camera drops, and he wonders why she switched hands, but then he feels it, her fingers brushing against his, his free hand hovering near her waste, wanting to pull her closer, but not having closed the distance. He catches them, interlocking a few of their fingers, because he needs this. His fingers squeeze slightly, to let her know that he’s here, that he’s holding onto her, and she seems to gulp in response, because they can’t… they can’t keep this dance up.

 


 

They can’t keep this dance up. Jyn knows it, knows that whatever this seduction was, it’s coming to an end. They have to make a move, now, but she… she can’t bring herself to do it. Her eyes flick away from him for a moment, back to his lips, and she pushes herself onto her tiptoes, just enough that she can feel his hand shifting in her hair, sliding more onto the back of her neck, but she can’t… she’s still looking away from him, not looking up, because there has been this beautiful build up, and she’s scared.

She’s scared to kiss him, scared of him pulling away, scared that she has built this up in her mind, that it will all be for nothing, that whatever has happened, the kiss will fail to impress, to match whatever has been happening here - she’s scared she’ll never see him again, that she’ll never feel this way ever again. Jyn is scared that whatever power Cassian has over her, over this moment, it will one day just feel like a dream, a dream she chases after, but can never have.

His thumb is moving from beside her ear forward, rolling over her cheek, and under her jaw. He presses under her chin with the digit, lifting her eyes upwards, and his gaze is heavy, watching her, waiting for her… he’s waiting for her to pull away, to tell him no, to stop this, but she can’t, she won’t. Her eyes are back on his lips again, and she can’t even look away from them, now.

He’s going to kiss her, he’s going to kiss her, he’s going to -

Chapter Text

Cassian doesn’t know who closed the distance between them, because all that matters is that they are kissing each other. Both had frozen the second their lips had touched, but then she had squeezed his hand in hers, and that was all that he needed from her, one simple sign that she was in this with him, that she wanted this, that she wasn’t going to pull away. His fingers in her hair curled around the back of her neck and his thumb slid back up to her cheek, because now that she’s here, she isn’t pulling away, and he doesn’t have to try and draw her in. He wants to spend hours exploring her lips, pulling her body to his, but it’s one kiss-

He has one kiss, one kiss to tell her who he is, what he is, what he wants in life, and from her, and from this moment. His lips part and his tongue swipes at her bottom lip, and he doesn’t expect for her to respond, but somehow the touch of their lips has had her melting into him, because she allows him access, her lips parting for his. Her fingers leave his hand, and he wants to reach for them again, to grip onto her, like their hands touching was some beacon of hope, was a buoy he clung to, a bit of steadiness in that keeps him grounded, but then he feels her hand on his shirt, clinging to the fabric.

His hand goes straight to her back, pulling her body closer to his, fingers spreading out over her spine. She hadn’t released his hand to drop their connection - the connection hadn’t been enough, and Cassian entirely agreed. He needs her now more than ever, now that he has her in his arms. His hand on the back of her neck tightens, because he needs to hold her there - he’s not forcing her forward, but he is holding on, clinging to her, and she’s clinging back.

Now that the spell is broken, she’s almost wild. Her lips had parted for his easily, and she had melted for a moment, but after only seconds, Jyn had begun to take control, had fought him for it, even. The hand gripping in his shirt tightened, almost like she was pulling him down to her, rather than pulling herself up as she had been before. He went with it, but he wouldn’t let her have all of the control - his head tilted slightly towards her, almost forcing her back onto flat feet, but then she was coming into his space again, head tilting to gain more access.

He was done for. He was wrecked. He was ready to drop to one knee and ask now. This was a fight, one he wasn’t sure he could win, and he didn’t want to - He wanted to pick her up, carry her to the nearest hard surface, press her into it, let her press him into it, and continue the fight until they were both sated.

He never would have thought that a kiss could be both fierce and graceful, but it was. He had to wonder if she had any talent for fighting, or dancing, because she kissed like she did both, like she was aggressive, like she was attacking, but like it was a dance, with a rhythm and a tune, and he was simply… he was simply her partner in both, and he was done for.

Cassian knew he was done for. He didn’t need anyone pointing it out, didn’t need Kay to tell him what he was feeling, didn’t even need to see the film that was being shot. He was done, he was taken, he was - he was kissing her with everything he had, because when he let go of her, she could turn around and walk away out of his life, and he would go crawling after her, begging for just one chance.

He needed a breath, and it hurt, because that meant pulling away, but then Jyn was pulling from his lips, gasping for air, her head falling backwards. Cassian took it as a sign - that she needed air as well, but she wasn’t pulling away, only holding on tighter, her fingers now bunching up the fabric of his shirt in her hand. His mouth went to her throat, leaving kisses down it until he met shirt, and then he was back to her lips.

Cassian should stop. He knows that. He should slow this down, should pull away, should pepper her face with little kisses, should cling to her and savor these last few moments, but once he stops, she’ll leave, and she isn’t stopping. She isn’t stopping, and there’s no fucking way he’s stopping. Not as long as she’s willing to hold onto him.

Fuck, Kay was right, he was so right - she was just the kind of girl he would marry, because he was going to marry her, spend the rest of his life chasing after kisses like this. He couldn’t let her go, couldn’t stop -

 


 

If this was a dream, Jyn Erso was going to shoot the person that woke her up. Everything was unbelievably overwhelming, from the hand in her hair to the way his body pressed against hers, and how they seemed to be fighting, but neither of them trying that hard to take control. She was always the aggressor, always the one that took control, that pushed the guy into the wall, that made them beg for more from her, but he was… she might actually have to fight for control with him.

She might actually lose control, and that thought… that thought had her moaning as his mouth went to her throat, kissing down and then back up.

Fuck the camera, fuck whatever she was here for, she was going to kiss this man until he stopped, until the world ended, until some disaster came, because this wasn’t real. There was no way that anyone could really kiss like this, that someone could read her so easily. Every shift of her body, he seemed to catch, moving with her. She considers trying to just pin him right here and now against the nearest surface, but they’re in the middle of a stage with nothing else around except for a camera and his roommate, and she should-

She should stop, but instead, his hands are moving down to her hips, and fuck this, he was definitely strong enough. More than strong enough, and if Kay didn’t like it, well, she only stayed because he asked her to - this was his fault, in the end.

Cassian seemed to catch what she wanted, because suddenly his hands were sliding under her ass while her arms went around his neck, and he was lifting her up, up until she could wrap her legs around his waist. He wasn’t that much taller than her, and if she wore any sort of heeled shoes, it would be barely noticeable, but she liked this, liked that they were so connected, that their bodies were clinging to each other without any surface to press against. His hands were trapped under her, but she could feel him squeezing the flesh there.

Her hands were free to move, though, one hand into his hair, brushing through the strands. He seemed to like it, every time she tugged a little, and on instinct alone, she tugged at the roots slightly harder, pulling his lips from hers just enough that his eyes opened. He was breathless, his pupils blown wide open, and she smirked a little before going in to kiss him again.

Their lips reconnected and her eyes closed, and he was walking somewhere, she could tell, or maybe spinning them, but then she heard a cough, and it certainly hadn’t come from either of them. She made herself turn her head to look towards it, and realized that they were no longer in sight of the camera, as Cassian had been walking them towards the door he had come from.

Cold reality struck, then, and she sucked in a gasp of air as she looked from the camera, now turned off, towards Cassian. His eyes were closed, and more than that, they were pinched shut. Almost like he didn’t want to wake up… she sure didn’t.

So she wouldn’t. Not quite yet.

The next kiss is different - so different, it shocks her. Before it had been a test, and then a battle, and a struggle, and finally just pure desire. This was… this was something soft and precious, her lips catching his for a breath, lingering, and then her hand was on his face, caressing his cheek, his jaw, his ear, anywhere her hand could reach. His hold on her loosens, and she straightens her legs down, so that slowly, she reaches the ground.

He's still kissing her, though, long and slow, lingering, as though he's scared she'll disappear if they stop. She knows they have to, though, and when he pulls away for air, her eyes close as she bows her head forward slightly, blocking any attempts at continuing the kiss. He gets it, though, because then she can feel his forehead touching hers, and hears soft words in Spanish… she doesn't understand it, as she knows French and German, but she knows enough.

She knows enough to know he's calling her beautiful, a miracle, that he's praying… she's not sure what, but his hands are in her hair, keeping her close for a moment longer. Her hands have moved to his chest, and he’s running his hands into her hair, brushing it back from her face, from the mess he caused with his hands, and she - she can’t let go of him, because letting go means entering the rest of this world, leaving this bubble they’re in.

A moment of silence hits them both, and then she feels his lips pressing to her forehead, and his hands dropping from her entirely. The hand on his chest falls as he steps away, and she opens her eyes once more, looking up at him as he glances towards Kay, towards his roommate, towards the one that had brought them together… towards the camera that had been turned off.

Cassian gave the other man a nod, then looked back towards her - and she couldn’t look at him. Couldn’t do it, because if she did, she might… she might say something, might do something, like kiss him again, or demand to know what the hell that was, because that wasn’t - that wasn’t two strangers having an awkward first kiss. That was… that was two souls meeting and blooming together, that was… she didn’t have any sort of comparison in her brain, because none of it made sense. It didn’t make sense, that she was so…

She felt like she had known him for a lifetime, that their lives were so wrapped up and intertwined, that this was simply coming home, that he was welcoming her back, that he was… that he was the one that saved her, and she saved him. He kissed her like she was his saving grace, his absolution, and she… she had to get away from him, because she couldn’t… she didn’t… there wasn’t time, there was no time.

Licking her lips, she looks up from where her gaze is on the floor towards Kay and the camera, her eyes pleading, because she can’t… she needs a minute to compose herself, and if Cassian reaches out, touches her, she might - she might lose the strength she has in her to hold herself up, to keep from rushing after him.

 


 

He knows what comes next. Cassian knows he has to leave the room, knows that he has to step out, that he has to leave her here, leave her here to answer the rest of the questions, and then… and then she’ll be allowed to escape, to slip out of the door, out of his life, and he… he would have to chase after her, because he can’t just let her leave.

Kay looks ready to speak, but Cassian beats him to it - Jyn isn’t looking at him, and he… he’s crushed, because she has to look at him, has to see what she has done to him, has to see how open he is, vulnerable… his armor is dropped, and he’s exposed. All that there is is a man in awe of her.

“I know, the exit interview,” he fumbles through, and nods to his friend. Jyn is still refusing to look at him, her gaze back on the floor, and he… god help him, he steps forward, touching her hand. Her eyes jerk up to him, and she’s frozen, looking terrified, but not of him. More like… like she’s trying to keep a hold on herself.

“Wait for me,” he whispers, and his hand is wrapped around hers, squeezing it as he speaks. “In the hallway behind the stage. Please .”

He’s ready to beg, to fall to his knees, but he maintains some sort of dignity, his eyes doing the pleading for him. He doesn’t let go until she finally gives a nod, and then he raises her hand to his lips - and god, he would have mocked himself 24 hours ago for this - but he presses his kiss to her knuckles before finally dropping her hand.

Turning and walking away from her is the hardest thing he has ever done, but he does it anyways, forces one foot in front of the other as he leaves the room, the door shutting behind him. He doesn’t go any further, though, his whole body leaning against the door, as though if he has anything other than his own weight leaning against it, he might just force it open anyways.

He can’t hear through the door, won’t be able to hear what she’s saying, won’t know if she waits or leaves, and it’s the worst five minutes of his life, wondering if she’ll still be there, if… if she’ll even give him a chance.

 


 

Jyn is still quiet as the door shuts, and she can’t speak, can’t breathe, just stands there staring at the place where Cassian just disappeared - it’s only a few steps and a door between them, but it feels like they’re galaxies apart, the space between them crushing her. She finally sucks in a ragged breath and looks down at her hand, where he had just pressed his lips, and she realizes she’s shaking, that her hands are shaking in response.

This was… a mistake, all of this was a mistake. She couldn’t do this, she didn’t have the time - her father, her work, her studies, the company, there was - there was too much, she had too much pressure, and love, a love life, someone… some that - she didn’t have time, there wasn’t time. Life was too short as it was, and there was no space for someone else in it, but -

But he was already a part of it, before she even knew him. He was part of her soul, he was - she wanted to throw up, wanted to scream, to cry, to hit something, but instead, she stayed frozen, face blank, because if she let even a touch of what she was feeling out… she might just lose the precious hold she had on her emotions.

“Miss Erso?” came Kay’s voice, and she realized he had given her as much time as he could before bringing her back into this moment. She took in another breath, this one through her nose, and straightened her back before turning towards the man and giving a nod. She needed no direction to stand in the spot she had previously occupied, waiting until he was behind the camera.

It wasn’t turned on, however, when he asked his first question. “Are you alright?”

She had never heard anything so absurd in her life. Of course she was alright - she was here, she was breathing, her hands were no longer shaking - of course she wasn’t alright. Nothing would ever be alright again. She was broken, shattered, destroyed, empty without - this whole thing was a beautiful disaster, and she didn’t know what the hell anyone was talking about when they called it love at first sight. It was pain at first sight, and she was in agony.

“Just ask your questions so that I can go,” she said, her words short and crisp. Her voice betrayed nothing, and she should apologize, because clearly he was asking to at least be polite, but she… she couldn’t do this, she needed out of here, out of here now.

There was a moment of silence, and she wanted to apologize, but then the camera was turning on, and she was schooling herself, trying to calm her face, calm her nerves. Blinking, she licked her lips once more, and waited for the first question.

“Compared to what you had earlier stated, would you consider this to have been a good first kiss?”

Direct and to the point… and she didn’t have an answer for it. She was quiet for a moment, then sucked in a breath, her hands starting to shake again. Jyn couldn’t even remember what had happened before Cassian had walked into the room, before she had touched him, before she had kissed him - well, maybe she could. She had said that first kisses couldn’t be good - and she was so very wrong.

“I would say that I have to amend my previous response,” she said after a few slow breaths. “I guess it depends on the person, whether or not they can read you. It’s a give and take - if they can give what you need, and allow you to take what you desire.” That was the best she could offer, thinking about how… how he had read her so easily, knew what she needed before she did.

“But was it good?”

Hadn’t she just answered that? Her eyes thinned a little, and she wanted to step away, to hide in the shadows, to withdraw from all of this, but she finally gave a little nod. It was the best he would get from her.

“Would you want to see him again?”

She can’t answer that. She doesn’t want to answer that. Her hands are shaking so much that she knows it’s apparent even on camera, and she puts her hands together in front of her, fingers interlocking and clenching, but it doesn’t help. She can’t - She has to answer, to leave, but she can’t give him an answer, because he’s Cassian’s roommate, because Cassian will probably see this, and she can’t give him some sort of false hope, not when she -

“I don’t have time for any sort of relationship, given my field of study. There’s no time for relationships. My time is busy with studying, with being in the lab - my fields of study are similar, yes, but I take a full schedule, and spend time in the lab. I have had no relationships because it’s a choice - because I prefer to pursue higher education.” To follow in her father’s footsteps. “There’s no time for any such thing.”

Her hands move to behind her back, but they’re still shaking, and her lips press together, because she can’t breathe, can’t speak anymore than this, because… she’s open and exposed, and she can’t… she can’t do this.

“You didn’t answer the question,” Kay says, and his voice… it’s likely as soft as he can get, almost as though he’s now truly concerned, about her, about whatever just happened… about his friend.

“Please turn the camera off.” Her voice is just a whisper, and then the camera is off, and she… she backs away from the spot she was standing in, her hands going up to cover her mouth, because she has never let anyone in, not since her mama died, not since she had to grow up fast at the age of 8, not since - she has to study, has to take advantage of what time she has, however long she has. She has to help her father in his research, before his mind goes completely, she has to finish her mama’s research, she has to - there’s not enough time, not enough time at all, and she doesn’t have time for this, but he had seen her, he had read her, and she-

Jyn chokes back the sob that threatens to escape, and she can’t stay here any longer, can’t stay in this room with the camera and the door between her and him, and she can’t stay here with his roommate, who was now walking around the camera, concern on his face. She can’t do this, she just - she can’t explain herself, because it means letting out everything she kept burried inside.

“I can’t do this,” she told him, shaking her head, and she’s backing away from Kay, who stops, hands raised, as though he’s not going to attack, saying he’s just coming to check on her.

“You are clearly not alright,” he says, and he looks around the room, then finally beckoning towards a chair that’s off to one side. “Please, take a seat. I can get you a bottle of water, if you would like, but you need to catch your breath.”

A panic attack. That was what this was. She was having a panic attack - or at least, was on the verge of one. She sees the chair, knows and understands that he wants her to sit, but she has to escape - if she just removes herself from the situation, she can remove herself from everything that was triggering this, can remove herself from the entire situation. It’s what she has always done before - it’s always fight or flight, and she can’t fight this, so instead she has to fly.

“Tell him I’m sorry,” she chokes out, and she wants to explain more, but she can’t, because she can’t even face the truth herself, let alone explain it to a relative stranger. “I’m so… I’m so, so sorry, but I can’t. I wish-”

The concern on Kay’s face turns to a look of complete and total desperation, and she knows that he gets it, that she’s apologizing to Cassian, because she can’t face him. Her life is already so full, and this was all a drastic mistake that she has to run away from.

“He’s my best friend,” Kay says after a moment, and she knows that look, the pleading look, as though he’s begging her not to do this - but also won’t stop her. “Think about it - I’ll keep him here a few moments longer, so that you can… escape, or have time to think on it.”

She nods her head in a jerky motion, and she will take it, take the few minutes to escape, because then she’s turning, tugging open the door she had come through earlier, and running past the woman with the clipboard, out the side door of the theater, down the hallway, and out the door into the nearest parking lot.

She’s running away like she always does, because she’s a fighter, because she’s a survivor, because if she can’t punch her way through the problem, she runs from it. Because if she can’t face the truth, can’t face the pain, the agony, she has to disappear.

And whatever had just happened, she has to run, has to flee, because if she stays… he can read her like an open book, and her pages are filled with sorrow and loneliness and pain. Jyn had refused to look to the past, only looking forward, towards the next assignment, the next goal, because that was survival, and if she let Cassian in… every part of her that she was running from would come crashing down, and she couldn’t survive that. She didn’t know how to exist in a state of being open, being vulnerable.

She didn’t know how to let anyone in, because everyone that had ever gotten in disappeared.

 


 

He didn’t know how long time had passed, but when he felt the knock on the door, Cassian knew one thing - it had taken too long. Far too long. There was only two questions, after all, and Jyn was not the type to talk all that much. What would have kept Kay from coming to get him for so long? Furthermore, what had Jyn even said in there?

Opening the door, he saw the look on Kay’s face, and he knew. He just knew . Whatever had happened in here, whatever the questions were, she had run. He had felt it as well, all of his walls tumbling down, tumbling down nearly as fast as hers had, and now, she was running away from this, away from whatever had happened here.

“What did you say?” he practically hissed, and his eyes went towards the door heading outwards. It wasn’t running, but he was certainly jogging towards it.

“She was near to having a panic attack,” Kay explained, and Cassian felt a hand on his arm. He jerked away, but stopped all the same to turn and look at his friend. “I told her that I would give her a few minutes to compose herself, in hopes that she would come to her senses. You did not see the panic in her eyes.”

“Then you should have come and got me, let me… let me talk some sense, beg her, plead with her to-”

“To what, Cassian?” He didn’t have an answer for that, but he also didn’t like hearing the question, knowing that he didn’t have a solution. “Should I have let you chase her away? Push her further out the door than she already was? Whatever plagues her, they are her own demons that she must work through.”

Cassian was so frustrated, so angry, he wanted to turn and hit his friend, but instead, he went towards the door, yes, to chase after her - to beg with her, to plead that she give him a chance. He had to reach her, had to stop her from driving away.

“It’s too late,” Kay said, and he paused at the door, because it couldn’t be too late, he couldn’t accept that. “If she was going to leave, then she is already gone. If she is going to stay, then rushing after her in a mad panic solves nothing.”

He knew what his friend was trying to say, but Cassian couldn’t face it - he had to know, had to know if she had stayed. He needed her in his life, needed the answers, needed to know her more. It hadn’t been enough, there hadn’t been enough time. He wanted to learn her, to study her. He had never felt such peace, such openness in a moment a pure silence, and he needed her to be part of him, needed her calm, her patience, the way she looked at him with no expectations, how she saw through him and read every page of him.

“She’s worth chasing after,” he insisted, and the anti-romantic in Kay rolled his eyes, huffing.

“Honestly, you seem to be forgetting that I have her phone number.”

Cassian froze for a moment, because - Kay was right. It’s not like he was some sort of fairytale chasing after his lost Princess. She wouldn’t just disappear from his life. This wasn’t the biggest campus, Kay had been able to find her on social media, and he had texted her to confirm her time slot. This wasn’t some grand chase where, if he didn’t catch her, he would never see her again.

“I would run to her all the same.”

Chapter Text

And run he did, jerking open the door, past the woman on her phone, and out the theater doors. The hallway is empty, and he panics, looking for the nearest exit. If he didn’t catch her… he would call her, he would find her, he would - arguably, be considered a stalker, but he had to take the risk, take the chance. She wasn’t running from him, and that mattered. If she was running from him, it would be different, but she was running from herself. He could see her reservations, how closed off she was -

She wanted this too. There was no doubt in Cassian’s mind. If he found her, if she told him to his face to back away, then he would. It would crush him, destroy him, but he would bow out if so desired, but if she was denying them this, denying them both their happiness, all because she was afraid, he would fix this, he would show her, he would learn her - he had to. He had to do this.

The first door he burst through went out onto the green, but it was deserted. There was no way she could have gotten very far unless she was running - he could see across a long ways. Which meant - the parking lot. He turned around and ran the opposite direction, not even stopping until he was bursting out the doors, and nearly dripping over the person sitting on the top steps.

“Woah, sorry, I-” He froze as he righted himself two steps down, hand gripping onto the railing, turning to apologize to the person he had just gracefully missed. It was the very same person he was looking for, tears on her cheeks, hands pinched together in her lap, and eyes locked on him.

All of the fear that she had left, all of the worry that he had pushed her too far, that maybe she didn’t want him, that she didn’t want this, it all disappeared. All that was left was the pain, the pain of knowing that he had caused this reaction in her, that because of what they had shared, that beautiful moment, she was sitting here crying, had nearly had a panic attack, had run from him, from this, from them.

He understood, now, why Kay had kept him in that room, why he had given her time, why he had tried to make Cassian think this through, rather than charging ahead. What he had wanted, no, what he had been expecting , had been to burst through these doors, see her standing there with a smile and a snappy remark, and then for the two of them to kiss on these steps with the sun setting in the distance. It would have been something from a romantic comedy, or from his Abuela’s telenovelas.

The reality was, this wasn’t some beautiful comedic story for her. This was… this was dredging up something that had her seeking loneliness rather than happiness. Whatever it was that had caused the tears to run down her face, to have her run from him, it wasn’t the ending to a romantic story. It was another chapter in her life of pain.

“Jyn,” he whispered softly, and sunk down to sit in front of her. He wanted to touch her but didn’t, instead reaching out a hand towards her. He would let her make the first move, and quickly set it down onto the step that she was sitting on, only a few inches from her leg. She could reach out to touch it, if she wanted to. If she was ready to. “Please, tell me. Did I do something wrong? You can tell me. You can tell me anything.”

Her lips were quivering again and her gaze was back onto her hands, fingers shaking, and he wanted… he wanted to touch her, he had to touch her, to take her pain, to give her strength, but he realized, now, that he should always ask - it had been dubious consent earlier, given that they were on camera, and she was aware of what they were there to do, but now, out here, he had no right to her, no right to touch the bright star that was shining in his life, even if just her mere presence made his life better.

“Can I touch you?” he asked after a moment. The question was too broad, though, and he licked his lips, trying to find the right words to clarify. “Your hands, they are shaking. Can I just-?”

She was nodding and his hand moved from the step to hers, grasping them, first with one hand, and then the other, wrapping her clenched fingers in both of his. Her hands were like ice, and while the sun was setting behind him, it was not for that reason that she was cold.

As much as he wanted to speak, to ask her questions, to explain himself, Cassian knew that this was a time for silence. He had reached out to her, had offered her a branch, was now even sitting there comforting her, and now… all he could do was wait. There was no more pushing, no more prodding. The only option he had left to him was to wait until she was ready to speak, to share, to explain what was going through her head.

The silence crept over them, but somehow, it didn’t feel crushing. Instead, after a few moments, he felt peace. Her hands were no longer shaking, and with time, they warmed up. The tears in the corners of her eyes had fallen, and then they were clear, and eventually, she had even started moving again, not much, but a lick at her lips, turning her head to the side to rub her cheek against her sweatshirt, and eventually, pulling a hand from his to wipe under her eyes.

One hand remained in his hold, though, and he shifted their hands so that he was holding the one carefully, his other hand covering it. He wanted to kiss her knuckles again as he had done earlier, but instead, he refrained, watching her as she sucked in a deep breath, and then shifted a little where she sat. He wanted to offer that they go somewhere else, but if she was ready to talk now, he wouldn’t interrupt her.

She took another deep breath, and he knew . He knew she was going to speak, and his eyes went from where they were on her hand up to her face. She was watching him, watching his face, his gestures, even the way that his thumb was caressing her wrist, and he tried not to, but a curl of a smile was there in the corner of his lips. She smiled a little in response, and then her eyes were back on their hands. He still watched her, though, unable to pull his eyes away.

“My mother…” She stops, then licks her lips, and he waits. “I have always, no-” She lets out a deep breath, and then seems to try again. “I always thought- no, that’s not.”

“Just breathe,” he murmured, reaching up with one hand towards her face - he stopped, fingertips just barely brushing her jaw, but she didn’t pull away, instead looking up at him, into his eyes. She was struggling to find the right words, and he understood that on some level. Another deep breath, and then she closed her eyes. He waited, waited until they were open again, and she finally tried again.

“My father is a brilliant scientist, but he has never been very good with people. I got that from him, I think.” She could understand that, as she was clearly intelligent, and certainly seemed to have a hard time expressing herself. He could entirely agree with that statement already. “My mother, she always soothed away the rough edges. Not that she wasn’t brilliant herself, but she was the one that held us together, our family, helped my father to explain himself in his research. She died, when I was eight.”

His hand squeezes hers, and then she’s sitting upright a little, the fingers on her jaw falling free. He simply returns it to their hands, holding hers tight, and she sets her free hand on top of his, so they are layered together, holding each other tight. She’s sniffing again, and he wants to hold her, to hug her tight, but he won’t move a muscle, not until she’s ready, because she’s clearly not done. Not yet.

“After she died, my father lost himself in his work. My godfather stepped in, to help, but my father was never the same. He still isn’t, and the pain of losing my mother… it’s like he’s slowly losing any human part of himself, to the point he is simply his work, and nothing more. I tried... “ She’s licking her lips again, and he should stop her, because she doesn’t know him, not yet, doesn’t owe him anything - but god, he can’t stop her, because with walls as she has, there’s no telling if she’ll ever let them down again. “My godfather held me at a distance. He was dying as well. Slower, with time, but by the time I was 16… it was just me and my Papa.”

The tears are returning to her cheeks, and she’s trying to stop her crying, he can tell, but it’s an impossible task, given how choked up she is. Clearly, she has never properly dealt with this pain, but he gets it. His own pain is in heavy layers upon his heart, but he had risen through them.

“I keep everyone at a distance because everyone leaves me behind. My father is still alive, but he barely even talks to me, and my mother, my godfather… I’m not good with people, so I just never even tried. I just bottle it all up, as my father has, even though I know it’s not healthy, that it’s not right, but it’s all I can do to just keep myself together, and then you-”

He shook his head, because he couldn’t hear any more of this. He hadn’t caused her pain, but her walls were up for a reason, and he had forced himself in, had forced her to share a part of herself that she hadn’t wanted to. He should have just kissed her once, and walked away, but he - he had loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her.

“You do not owe me an explanation,” he promises, and she already has explained herself, but she didn’t have to go further. “I have known pain, and loss. My own father - my mother was stretched thin with my siblings. It has been Kay and I since I was six, raised by a man too harsh to call a father, but the only father we had all the same. You owe me nothing, and I must apologize for-”

“Don’t.” That one word was sharp, and he looked deep into her eyes, seeing the furrow of her brow, how she had practically snapped at him. “Don’t apologize for the kiss. Don’t you dare.”

He nodded once, gulping, and she… she seemed to settle a little, relax, if that was even possible, as he was finally quiet. Her eyes had drifted away from him, but he wouldn’t rush her. He knew better than that.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve never… I mean, I’ve been kissed, and I’ve had sex, but I never let anyone get close enough to see any part of me that I didn’t want them to. You…” He nodded, because he knew, because she had seen him as well. “It scares me.”

He nodded a little, ready to comfort her, to promise that he expected nothing of her, and then she was taking in a shaky breath, ready to say something more, and then choking on it.

“I just… I can’t… I can’t just let you in.” He nodded, because he knew, but she was speeding up in her words, trying to force them out, faster than he could stop her. “I can’t, because then you’ll disappear as well, and I can’t take that, Cassian. I can’t just take you coming in and fixing me and then leaving and destroying me, because I can’t take it. If I let someone in, it has to be for life, because there’s too many pieces of myself to hold together, so I can’t just kiss you, can’t just be in there with you and answer your roommate whether or not I thought the kiss was any good when I don’t even know how to drive out of the parking lot with the thought that I might not see you again.”

She had tears running down his face and he threw the asking rule out the window, reaching forward to grab her by her upper arms, to pull her forward, to pull her into his arms. She came willingly, and in seconds, he had her in his lap, legs dangling over his, her face pressed into his neck, and his arms wrapped around her. She was sobbing into his skin and he knew… knew this was long overdue, long overdue for the pain she had kept locked away for too long.

“It’s okay, it’s all okay,” he promised, his lips pressed into her hair, his arms tight around her. The sobs were wracking her body, and then he heard her taking in a shaky breath, one that was far too short, filled with rasping, almost as though she was struggling to take it. Panic attack - that was what Kay had said earlier, and she was facing another one now.

“Breathe with me,” he insisted, and he was trying to not panic himself, instead tilting her chin up to look at him. She went willingly, and their eyes locked, faces so close he could feel her struggling to breathe. “Breathe with me, Jyn. In and out. If you need up, then stand up, or hold my hand - whatever you need. Just breathe.”

She nodded and reached for his hand, grasping where he had a hold on her waist, and her fingers bit into his wrist, but he didn’t mind. They sat there, connected, her eyes locked on his, wide and panicked, until finally her breathing slowed, and her chest rose and fell at a normal level. He didn’t look away, though, instead just watching her, watching until she looked away, her eyes falling down to their hands, now interlocked, sitting on her knee in between them.

A tiny smile curled over her lips as she looked back up at him, one that spoke of gratitude more than anything else, and he smiled a tight bit in response. She let out a long breath, and then her head went back to his shoulder. His hold on her tightened some, and his lips went to her forehead, pressing a kiss there, where he had before. He didn’t know where they stood, but he knew he didn’t want to let go of her. Not now, not ever.

 


 

She had been ready to run. Every part of Jyn had told her to run, to keep running, and to not look back, to never look back. She could never stop, never linger, because that would mean facing what was lost, what could never be again. Instead, she always looked forwards - she had to look forwards, because if she looked back at everything she had lost, she would break down. She would lose whatever small bit of control over her life. She would be left with nothing but empty promises and broken dreams.

Jyn had gotten as far as her car, had unlocked it, climbed inside, even put the key into the ignition - but it wouldn’t turn. She couldn’t force herself to start her car, because then that would mean pulling out of the parking spot and leaving. Kay had told her to take the time to think, and given that Cassian hadn’t burst out the doors yet, which she could see perfectly from her parking spot, it meant she still had time.

She still had time to breathe, to think for one second, to think about the future, only the future - no looking back. Just a future, one that might include more than her books and her research and her father’s research. A future that might include long kisses, and holding hands, and beautiful eyes that could read her soul.

And then she thought about her future without him, thought about going home to an empty apartment, to studying, to drinking cheap beer in her underwear on the couch with cold pizza from the night before. She thought about waking up in bed alone, in speaking to no one except for her professors. She thought about the alternative, going to the bar, getting as drunk as she could, going home with a stranger who’s name she didn’t ask for and into a bed she wouldn’t sleep in.

In her attempts to escape the memories of her mother, she had become just like her father, nothing but her research and loneliness. She wasn’t really living, just existing, and she - she couldn’t leave this parking lot, couldn’t leave behind him. She couldn’t leave the first person that made her feel something, that made her want to have more, that made her want to love again.

Every step had hurt until she finally sunk down onto the top steps, waiting for him - maybe he wouldn’t come, but he had asked, practically begged , for her to stay. The tears had run down her cheeks as she waited, and then when he was there -

Everything had poured out of her in a mad rush, a mixture of tears, of anger, of pain and loneliness. All she was left with was the pain, heavy on her chest, and she could feel the panic attack from earlier building up within her again, but he was there - he was still there, he had heard every word, had seen her tears, and he was still hear, holding on tight to her. She would cling to him in response, if she could, but all of the energy had been drained from her.

His lips were on her skin, and she sucked in a breath, eyes closed as he held her. She couldn’t pull away from him not now that he was holding her tight, holding her upright. He was her strength, somehow, was holding together the mess she had become… and he wasn’t running away. He was still here .

Taking in another breath, her head rose from his shoulder, and she should probably move from where she was sitting, but getting up would be far from graceful - and the situation felt far too tense, even now, to try and laugh it off as she tumbled off of him. Besides, his hold on her was still tight, keeping her body tucked against his… and it had been a long time since she had simply let someone hold her. She was loathe to pull away.

“You’re not running away,” she says softly, and it’s not a question, but a statement. He wasn’t running away from her, he was still here, holding her tight.

He gave a nod in response, and she gulped a little, her tongue flicking over her lips. His eyes went to it in a quick motion, and then back to her eyes. He had told her some of himself, about how he had been alone as well, how he was alone, only having Kay… She didn’t know how he could lose everything and not be as broken as she felt, but that wasn’t the point. The point was… he got it. He knew loneliness.

And he was still here .

“I don’t expect anything from you,” he promised with a soft murmur, and she nodded, because she knew that, sort of. She knew there was no expectations, even if she could tell, already, that he certainly wanted something. She wanted it to, even if she didn’t know how to explain it, or even how to begin.

“I’m not exactly the kind of girl that you write poetry about,” she says with a tight smile and sad eyes. It was so horribly truthful - no one remembered her. She just slipped in and out, was only a footnote. Nothing worth mentioning. “Just the girl you take home when you’re drunk and lonely.”

When she was drunk and lonely… it was the only time she could let anyone even touch her. This, being held like this, was something entirely new for her… but she wasn’t pulling away now, and she wasn’t… she wasn’t going to think on it too much. She already knew he was different. She didn’t need to psychoanalyze herself, or him, to figure out why.

“You’re the kind of girl that I would spent the whole night writing songs for, pissing off my roommate, before calling my own mama before she has even woken up, to tell her every little detail about you. The kind of girl that would consume my every thought and dream.”

She didn’t know what to say to that, didn’t know how to respond when his hand pulled from hers, and ran into her hair. It was a disaster, now, her hairtie having gotten lost somewhere during the afternoon, and falling in her face. He was pushing it back, though, keeping the fringe from falling into her eyes, and she looked up at him with a new look, imagining him obsessing over her. Imagining him unable to get her from his mind.

“I don’t know how to love someone,” she whispers, and she means romantically , she means love him as he deserves.

“We’ll figure it out together,” he insists, and she nods a little in response, because that… that sounds good to her.

Her lips press together and her tongue flicks out between, wetting them slightly. His eyes are locked on hers, not even flicking away, and it makes her suck in a breath, waiting for him to say something, to do something. She thinks he might kiss her again, but instead he’s just watching, waiting.

“Do you want to come back to my place?” she asks in a rush, and he seems to freeze for a moment, blinking at her question. It was the only thing she could think to say, the only thing she knew, but he grinned a little at her, like he understood, understood that she really didn’t know where to go from here.

“I was thinking coffee,” he admitted with a laugh, but the way his cheeks were tinging pink, she knew that he wasn’t turning her down on going back to her place - just admitting that he wasn’t thinking that far ahead.

“Coffee at my place?” she offers instead, and she really means it, means coffee, means… “To talk, or to do this, or…”

She didn’t know what she wanted, what she expected, but she also wanted to kiss him again, wanted to learn him, wanted him to explore her soul like he explored her eyes.

“Whatever you’re willing to give me,” he promises, and his forehead presses to hers. Jyn closes her eyes, breathing him in as he holds her close, and she can feel his hand running through her hair, tucking it behind her ear, running down her neck, her shoulder, down her back to join the other. Whatever she was willing to give…

“I meant what I said,” she whispers, and she’s scared to repeat herself, scared that he ignored it earlier for a reason. “About… I can’t just do this and see where it goes. I don’t think I could do casual with you. Whatever it is between us, it can’t just be-”

“I want to love you,” he interrupted her words, her thoughts, and she sucked in a breath, because this was too fast, this was unrealistic, this was too soon. They knew nothing about each other, this wasn’t real, this was like some absurd teenage first love romance, but he was looking at her as though he meant it, as though he truly believed it.

I want to love you. Not that he did, not that he was starting to, but that he wanted to love her. He sounded so sure of himself, of what he was saying, and she was scared, so scared, but there was something between them, something nearly tangible, and it was… it was as sure as anything could ever be.

Jyn finally nodded, and her hand went up to touch his cheek, and she leaned forward, but stopped, lips a breath away from his. “I can’t take anymore broken promises. Promise me, if that ever changes, you’ll tell me. Don’t just disappear.”

Her lips press to his before he can respond, and she’s kissing him softly at first, as though she’s scared he might disappear, and then - and then he’s pulling her closer, the hand on her shoulder moving to the back of her head, keeping her close. It only lasts for a few seconds before he’s pulling away, and giving her a nod.

“I promise.”

 


 

 

It’s the easiest promise he’s never made, because Cassian has never felt anything so deeply in his life. He needs her, he needs to be part of her, and he can’t explain it, but it feels like it’s some sort of destiny, some creature of fate, that has led him to this point. She is meant to be in his life, to strengthen him, to give him direction, and he is meant to hold her up, not put her back together, because she’s strong enough to do that on her own, but he’ll gladly hand her every piece of tape. She’s perfect, she’s beautiful, and he wants her to be his, for as long as he can have her.

“You are stuck with me, lovely creature,” he murmurs against her lips, and he doesn’t give her time to respond before he’s kissing her again, breathing in every breath of her. A bit of his soul is being poured into each kiss, and now that she’s in his arms, she’s softening against him, allowing him to push pass whatever boundaries were left before him.

He should stop, should slow down, and he will, he knows he will, because they’re in public, because they’re outside, because the sun is going down, because they actually will have to very soon, but in this moment, he can’t let her go. He’ll go with her wherever she wants, spend the rest of the night learning everything about her, about the scars on her knuckles, about how she holds her pen in her hand while reading, wants to learn how she holds herself when she’s weary on her feet, how she takes her coffee - he wants to learn everything about her, because everything about her is already so fascinating, and he craves more.

She gasps into his mouth and he devours her lips again, slowing down for a moment until her teeth catch on his tongue, and then he’s responding in time. He can’t even stop long enough to look at the sunset, the mixtures of pinks and oranges on the sky, can’t slow long enough to look up to see who is coming out from the door behind them, doesn’t even -

No, he does stop when he hears the clearing of a throat, and his neck whips around to see who is standing there, and it’s none other than his best friend, the one he probably owes an explanation to, and his gratitude. It’s because of Kay that they had met, that he was even hear, that she had likely stayed, that he had even had the presence of mind to slow down, to hold her close, to wait for her.

Jyn’s face is pressed into his neck, and he shifts his hold slightly as he turns to look at his friend… who looks thoroughly annoyed with the pair of them.

“I will have you both know that the footage from the pair of you is unusable. I do not think I will be allowed to submit pornography for my final project, which means that my project is still incomplete.”

Jyn is laughing against his neck, which means Cassian has to laugh as well, because really, their kiss was far from pornography - or was it? He kind of wants to see it now. “We’ll make it up to you.”

Kay sniffs behind him, and Cassian turns his attention back to Jyn, smiling at her while she smiles up at him. “You most certainly will. I expect you both to provide a subject suitable for this experiment.”

Jyn’s brow wrinkled a little, and he imagined her trying to find someone from one of her classes… he already had someone in mind. “I have someone. I’ll get Leia to do it. She still owes me from the night I saved her from Professor Ackbar, when the printer wouldn’t print. Graduate student, has a temper. Think you know of anyone, Jyn?”

There’s a grin on her lips, and clearly she has someone in mind. “Does it have to be a student? I may have won a bet with the owner of the Millinium Falcon… he owes me one.”

Kay sniffs again, and Cassian gives a shrug, because no where was it ever mentioned that it had to be a student - it was just easier to have students sign up in class than reaching out to the community.

“Very well, then. We shall schedule it for some time next week.”

Cassian knows that Kay likely has something more to say, as he always has something more to say, but he takes a moment to press his lips to Jyn’s forehead before turning back towards him. Jyn’s eyes had closed in response, and he didn’t want to turn from her… but again, he did owe the man behind him his appreciation.

“Is there something else you wanted?” he asked, raising his eyebrows as he turned towards his friend.

Kay had his arms full with his equipment, and Cassian remembered that they had driven there together. Ah. Yes. That.

“Will Miss Erso be requiring a ride home…” The way that his words dropped off almost hinted that he was asking if, dreadfully, Jyn would be joining them in their apartment.

He could feel her laughing against his throat again, and remembered how she had invited him over. He could tease Kay for a moment, but would instead be kind.

“I have my own car,” she said before he could answer. “And I only just invited Cassian over for coffee at my apartment. Thank you for the offer.”

The man gave him a nod, and then went to begin heading home, only to pause a few steps down. He didn’t turn to look at them, which Cassian already knew to mean he was about to say something very personal and honest , not that he would explain that to Jyn. Not yet.

“I will not be using the footage for my project, but I did review it once. I intend on uploading it to a separate drive once I am home, and will place it into your care. I suspect that you will want to show the video at your wedding.”

Jyn had frozen in his arms, and Cassian knew he would… well, he would have to explain it to her now, then, tell her about the conversations he had had with Kay, about the reasons as to why he had agreed to this, how his friend had drawn him in with talks of a girl that, in truth, had amazed him from the very first moment they had met.

“Good night, Kay,” he said with a huff.

His friend walked away, leaving the couple there on the steps, watching him go, and then watching the sun disappear beyond the trees. It was getting dark, which meant they had to get up.

“He was being mildly serious,” Cassian finally muttered, and Jyn gave a nod against him in response.

“Our wedding, hmm?”

Cassian huffed a little in response, something always reserved for after conversations with his friend - he meant well, he really did. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t realize that speaking in such a manner wasn’t really acceptable .

“He knew before I did that I would be drawn in by you.”

“Mmm, so I’m your type?”

He didn’t really know how to respond to that, but the twinkle in her eyes told him that she was teasing him. “I’ve never had a type… but if I had one, I think it would be you.”

“Just me?” She had a smirk on her lips, and he grinned a little as his arms shifted, slipping one under her knees, the other going lower on her back.

It took every bit of his strength that he had, and he might actually feel sore about this tomorrow, but she didn’t weigh much, slight as she was, so when he stood up, he didn’t actually groan. She was laughing, though, as he took a few uneven steps down to the sidewalk, and then twirled in place. He loved it, the smile on her lips, the laughter falling from them - she was carefree, relaxed, all of her walls dropped for him.

He would never take advantage of this, never break her trust, never make her feel as though she had given him too much. He would give anything to see that smile on her lips every day, and he knew that it would be hard, that this wasn’t it for them, that they would have to figure it out along the way, would have to both learn to give and to wait, but - she was worth it. She was worth every second of it.

“Only you. Only you are worth the risk.”

She nodded, understanding, and they were still standing there beside the theater building, the street lights turning on, and needing to go to her car - but he wouldn’t put her down. Not yet. Not when she was still looking at him with stardust in her eyes and sunshine on her lips.

“You should probably kiss me again.”

And he did.

 


 

 

After much convincing, Jyn was able to convince Han to sort out their little bet by participating in the experiment, to the amusement of everyone in his bar.

Leia agreed as well, but only after hearing how well it worked out for Cassian.

They ended up fighting on camera for so long that Kay took a nap.

He resorted to submitting a project he called 19 Kisses and a Fight .

The drive with the first kiss was kept in a safety deposit box for three years before it was viewed. They had watched it all, from the interview, even the outtakes, through the kiss, and it turned out that Kay had been recording more than she had realized - because it even showed how Cassian had pressed his lips to her knuckles.

When Jyn had looked up from the laptop, Cassian had been on one knee, holding the same ring that her mother had once worn, with a ring of added diamonds around the green stone.

They showed the footage at their Reception Dinner, with their friends around them…

Yes, Han and Leia’s fight was shown as well. After watching Han say the word fuck sixteen times in a row, their son said his first word.

Kay thought it was hilarious.

Cassian and Jyn were too busy smiling at each other to even notice.