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Without You

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I'll keep on healing all the scars

That we've collected from the start

I'd rather this than live without you

For every wish upon a star

That goes unanswered in the dark

There is a dream, I've dreamt about you

Eddie Vedder

Together they ran, gasping for breath, towards their ship. Cassian’s longer legs made it hard for Jyn to keep up, but he kept glancing behind over his shoulder, looking out for her. Behind them the Imperial base seemed undisturbed by their illicit presence, but that didn't mean their subterfuge couldn’t be discovered at any moment. Her heart pounded in her ears as the adrenaline of their nighttime escape through the trees surrounding the base made her blood thick and warm. The jungle planet was oppressively humid and the only noises were the sounds of strange creatures hiding in the trees. Sweat dripped down her back and brow. They made it to their U-wing unscathed and unnoticed, and with a quick getaway they would be on their way back to Hoth in no time.

The ramp of the ship hissed open and they scrambled up. She stumbled into Cassian’s back in the initial darkness and he turned and steadied her with his hands holding her upper arms. They were both desperately trying to catch their breath, pressed too close together. As the ramp shut and the internal lights came on she could see that his cheeks were flushed and a shimmer of sweat glistened on his neck. The adrenaline running through her veins made her giddy and every part of him that touched her seemed to burn with excitement.

"Are you ok?” He asked, his voice rumbling through her. Oh stars, it would be so easy to press up and kiss him. Her body seemed to beg her to do just that, as it always did every time they were so close. The thrill of their escape only amplified her desire. His dark eyes shone with concern, with affection.

Fear roared inside of her and made her stomach flip. This wasn’t the time for her foolish mind to run away on some romantic tangent, not when she wasn't convinced he really cared, not when she was too scared to find out for sure. She had told herself before this mission started that her mind was made up and that she was going to keep him at a distance, but every second spent with him made her resolve waver.

“We need to get out of here,” she said as she pushed away from him and past him towards the cockpit. “We didn’t have much of a head start.”

Her cheeks burned hot and she cursed herself as they readied themselves for take-off in silence. Every time she pushed Cassian away part of her was filled with guilt for hurting him. But why, thought the voice that had kept her safe and alone for so many years, the one that was making her too kriffing scared to let him get any closer. How do you know everything since Scarif isn't another act? He's a spy and a liar. She sneaked a glance at him as he slipped out of his leather jacket and into his blue vest. His face was unreadable, the same blank mask as when they had first met.

She took her place in the co-pilot's chair as Cassian prepared them to leave. Her stomach dropped as the ship lifted and accelerated sharply towards the atmosphere. She breathed a sigh of relief when Cassian finished his calculations and started the ship's lightspeed jump. Soon they would be back on base, and she could stop feeling so tempted and confused by being in the same room as him.

"That went well," he said into the silence that had dragged on too long between them. "We'll be home in a few hours."

"Can't wait," Jyn sighed, feeling tired right down to her bones. All her problems had started just before this mission, that night on Hoth when the power had cut out, when he made her tea and wrapped his arm around her to keep her warm and told her about growing up on Fest... cuddled in close with him sharing secrets in the dark, the realisation that she loved him had bloomed in her mind like a flower and she had been running from it ever since.

"Jyn, did I do something to upset you?" Cassian asked without looking at her. He looked so calm, yet there was a tremor in his voice that made her think he wasn’t much better than her at talking about feelings.

No, you didn’t. I’m the problem. I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you but I'm so used to people lying to me and leaving me that I can't let myself believe it. I trust you more than anyone in the galaxy and yet I can't let you get close to me because it will hurt too much if I lose you. You look at me like I'm the centre of your world and I want it to be real but I would never handle finding out that it was all an act. Her throat was dry and her voice cracked when she spoke. Her heart pounded with nerves because they were actually going to have this conversation and there was nowhere she could run to. "No, why do you ask?"

"It's just.. you've been... we were almost..."

He was interrupted by a loud bang from a panel above their heads. Black smoke seeped out around the edges as alarms blared, deafening in the small space. Outside the blue streaks of stars gave way to blackness and the ship stuttered and rattled out of lightspeed. Jyn struggled with her safety harness and jumped up beside Cassian as they battle
"Kriff!" Cassian shouted from her right, uncharacteristically shaken. "Are you alright?"

"What the hell happened?" she coughed the words out. Her mouth tasted of smoke and her eyes watered.

“Lost the hyperdrive," he sighed, gesturing at the melted, smoking mess of wires. "Probably because Solo got swindled on parts again. But we're still moving. It's just going to take a little longer." He turned back towards the control console and tapped the navigation screen.

"Can we still make it back as far as Hoth?" Jyn leaned alongside him, pressed in close so she could see the star chart on the screen. She shivered, but told herself it was just the fading adrenaline and nothing to do with their bodies being so close.

"Not before we run out of fuel. But we're not far from a manned outpost in the Nauras system which we can get to in two days. I'll send out an encrypted alert and let them know we're coming."

Two days, she thought with horror. Two days alone in a disabled ship, with nowhere to hide... the U-wing had only the cockpit, the tiny fresher cubicle, and the hold where they could sleep on the floor and be no more than an arm's distance away from each other. Her heart hurt. They had already spent three days together on this mission, and she had been wretchedly cold to him the entire time and she felt sick with guilt. She wanted him in so many ways - lust was something she knew, it was familiar and could be satisfied like any physical need. But it was all tangled up with affection and worry and fear and love, and that was completely new to her. Being near him made her heart beat faster and her cheeks warm and everything felt right in the universe, until she remembered what it was like to be abandoned.

She couldn't breathe when he turned to look at her. There was a crease between his brows and his lips were a tense line. She was standing too close to him, too close to be able to resist no matter how much Liana and Kestrel yelled in her mind that it wouldn’t be worth getting hurt.

"Jyn, what is it?" he reached out to her, took her by the upper arms. He smiled softly, but it didn't remove the lines of worry from his face. "Is it so bad to be stuck here with me? What's wrong?"

Her mind filled with white noise. The voices of doubt and fear were silenced by the heat and smell of him - blaster oil, soap, sweat, smoke. She pushed up onto her tiptoes and all thought stopped with the crush of her lips to his. He was everywhere around her and she couldn’t get enough. His body went tight with surprise but only for a brief moment before he melted against her and kissed her back with vigour. His arms wrapped around her, his hands were in her hair. It was as if she had been slowly suffocating for the longest time and he was her first breath of fresh air. She could feel him in her blood, she was both hot and shivering at the same time. She grabbed at his shirt and pulled him close.

He pulled away, barely, and rested his forehead against her hair. The words tumbled from him as if he was afraid to stop.

“Not that I’m complaining,” he panted, “but I’m very confused.”

Jyn swallowed. Her lips were tingling. She was torn between wanting to kiss him again, and wanting to throw herself out the airlock. Her knuckles were white where she gripped his shirt. “We were... we’ve been getting closer. More than just partners.” The words stuttered out into the hair’s breadth between them and she couldn’t look him in the eye. But the conversation had begun and there was no way to take the words back. Everything would be different from this moment on, their delicate dance on a knife edge finally tipped to one side.

“Yes, we have been,” he held her head in his hands and tilted her gaze up to meet his. His dark eyes were shining and so beautiful. His soul was bared to her, just like on Scarif. “So why change that? Why have you been pushing me away, Jyn?”

Her heart was so thick in her throat that she couldn’t speak. Silence was heavy between them for a long moment before she found her voice. “Because it’s easier that way,” She shook her head but couldn’t look away even though her eyes were burning. “Can’t lose something if you’ve never had it. Everyone leaves me in the end. The only thing I’ve known how to do for so long is protect myself.”

“We’re not so different, then.” He said it with a sad smile, one that was haunted by the memories of everyone he had lost.

Panic overwhelmed her. A cold sweat prickled on the back of her neck and she found the willpower to push away from him, moving a few steps away into the hold. “We-I can’t do this.”

She stared at the emptiness of the ship, her hands clenched tight into fists at her sides. She felt sick. She had said no, and closed the door to him, and her mind was at war with itself. She fought back tears as she breathed in and out in measured breaths to try and control the trembling of her body. Behind her he was silent, and there was nothing but the gentle hum of the ship’s engines for a long time.

“Jyn,” he spoke finally, his voice low and rough. “If you tell me that this is what you want, then I won’t fight it. But it’s too late for me. I would be lost without you. You’re already all I think about, you have been for a long time now. In this life we don’t get to hold on to much.” He cleared his throat, and continued softly. “But before I met you I never had hope that someone would be worth that risk. You are worth it to me, Jyn. I would rather have a short life with you than a long life without you.”

Jyn screwed her eyes shut. It’s too late for me. Wasn’t that true for her, too? Wasn’t she already hopelessly in love with him and consumed by wanting him? She loosened her fists, and wrapped her arms around herself.

“On Scarif, when we thought it was the end... I remember thinking that I wished we’d had more time. That I’d had more time with you. And now we have it and I’m running away from it, like a coward.”

“You’re no coward, Jyn, you never could be. But you’re right, we do have that time now.”

The future seemed to lay before her in two paths, one where she gave herself over to love completely, and the other where she locked her heart away forever. She gripped her kyber crystal and closed her eyes. She could see Scarif and remembered the regret she had felt while kneeling on that beach, the desperate wish that they could have met sooner. Her mother had once told her to trust in the Force, and when she focused on the crystal and let her mind go silent, she could no longer hear that scared voice in her head telling her to run and hide. Her heart fluttered instead, and in the silence it seemed that her decision was already made for her. She turned back to look at Cassian. He hadn’t stepped any closer to her, still giving her the space she needed. He wore no mask and hid nothing from her, his features soft but his shoulders tense.

“I’m not good at this,” she said as she stepped back towards him. “I might hurt you.”

“We can learn together.” He reached out to her, waited for her subtle nod before softly cupping her cheeks. Her nerves changed to excitement at the touch. He radiated joy and it thrilled her that she was the cause.

“So... two whole days alone?” She felt braver and lighter. Fear still whispered to her, screamed actually as she melted against him, but she would learn to ignore it.

“Could be more,” he murmured, his head tilted closer to hers. “We can take our time, go really slowly.”

She grinned. “We’ve gone slow enough. We can make up for a lot of time in two days.”

She kissed the smile off his face, and let him lift her up into his arms. Instead of feeling small and suffocating, the U-wing was the only place in the galaxy she wanted to be.