Heavy clouds gather above the barracks and the wind picks up, sending dust everywhere. Cassian adjusts the aim of his riffle, tightens his collar and pushes his scarf up to his nose. It would be very bad for him to sneeze when he has to take his shot.
In his ear, he hears the final check in of his team and the small lithe silhouette of a young woman in a mechanic jacket passes through his scope. As always, she moves easily in the crowd, sauntering lazily in the street like any other worker after a long day, she even manages to chat here and there with some of the late merchants who hasn't cleaned up their stand as if she really is one of them. They may be useful later, when the 'troopers ask if they saw anyone suspicious, but of course, that's why she does it. She always thinks of everything and Cassian should be happy to work with someone as skillful as Winter, not disappointed she wasn't Jyn.
To avoid this line of thoughts, he looks a bit up and sees Melshi comes in view too. His heavy boots way louder on the street but since he is pulling a huge cart of what seems to be scrap iron, no-one pays him any mind. He trips on something and his cart nearly pulls over, but a young couple comes to help. Tonc and Rodma bent together to steady the cargo and Cassian begins to count.
Five, the bell rings loudly in the facility, ending the evening shift.
Four, Rodma and Tonc push too hard on the cart as Melshi pulls and they all tumble in front of the barracks' gate.
Three, the troopers flood the entrance and are delayed by the mess his team made.
Two, anger spreads like wildfire and Melshi is rudely pushed out of the way but the harm is done. Tonc and Rodma are there to protect him and pretend to salvage his piles of junks, given the perfect opportunity for their thief to approach the commanding officer. She's light on her feet and swift as a bird.
Before the man realize what has happen, Winter's already on the other side of the road, her white hair floating gently with the wind.
One, Cassian gives the order and on the other side of the facility, the whole building blows up. The timing is perfect, just like their intel.
Zero, he fires just as the first soldiers begin the evacuation, the 'troopers drop one after the other and he feels a grim pleasure at killing them so easily. He doesn't take the whole squadron by himself, but he certainly has the higher kill count of the group.
A lifetime ago, he would have been proud of it. Five months ago, he would not have felt anything about it. Four months ago, when she was near him, he would have been ashamed of how easily he had ended life, of troopers of course but not only. Now, now, he tries his best to not think about her and at the same time, he tightens his half of the scarf she left for him.
One thing hasn't changed since he met her, he is still a very good liar. Sometimes, he even manages to convince himself it's not a problem.
Cassian has never been one to drown his sorrow, but as he waits for a contact in a shady cantina, he indulges some Corellian whiskey because it helps a bit. Winter is looming in the shadows, always the faithful soldier and really, he shouldn't resent her so much. She is good at her job. Hells, she even makes his job a lot easier and she's not intrusive in any way, barely talks and keeps to herself as much as he does.
But she's not the one he wants to work with and every time they have to cooperate, he is reminded of how he misses Jyn. Absentmindedly, he grips his scarf and wonders why he is so reluctant to push it away. It's too hot in this damn cantina to wear a scarf but not having it... he keeps it loosely wrap around his neck and finishes his glass too quickly but luckily for him, a huge Lasat sits next to him and puts something in his pocket before waving at the bartender.
“A refill for my friend here and one for me.”
Cassian is sure it's not a good idea to stay but the Lasat's hand doesn't move from his arm, so he doesn't really have a choice.
“To your troublesome partner,” cheers the Lasat as soon as they have their drink. Cassian tenses a bit and swallows his denial about Winter and his refusal to call her that way but the Lasat adds suddenly with a chuckle, “Quite a troublemaker, this little one. And for someone so small, she sure is fearsome.”
Cassian's heart becomes dangerously loud and he has to breath deep and slow to avoid making any
newbie mistake like gripping his glass too hard or asking anything.
Instead, he merely grunts and the Lasat seems satisfied with it. Their silence is weird in the loud cantina, but Cassian can't bring himself to make small talk. He sips his drink more slowly this time and resists the urge to check his pocket. He has to make sure the Lasat gave him everything he needed so finally, he remarks, “People seems awfully chill given the situation.”
His companion snorts in their drink but answers anyway, “They're mostly self-preserving. If anyone complain, the white buckets are quick to interfere.”
And as if to prove their point, a couple of 'troopers enter the cantina and come to chat to the bartender. Cassian looks at them with the same impassive and bored face as everyone else but the Lasat adds, “She wanted to come and see you herself, but she couldn't risk the exposure. She hopes you'll understand and as a compensation, she prepared a little something for you.”
With a weird show of teeth and some ears drop that must be a form of friendly greeting, the Lasat takes off, leaving Cassian more frustrated he thought possible. Winter refrains from saying anything when he storms past her but he can feel her questioning eyes every time he looks up. He really must be losing his touch at looking unaffected but thankfully, she remains silence all the way back to command.
Cassian focuses on the chips the Lasat left him and he tells himself that at least, in the cold void of hyperspace, it makes sense to muffle up into his scarf while slicing up into the weird encryptions his partner gave him.
The last time he saw her... he really shouldn't remember it now. He has a job to do, data to analyze and a heavy extraction to prepare but he keeps on thinking of that day. It was months ago, and it doesn't matter anymore. He knew she was leaving. Hell, he probably knew it before she made the decision herself. Actually, he was quite surprised she stayed that long after having been released from medbay. She had been badly hurt in Scarif but at least, contrary to him, she could move easily, so he would have understood she left right away. But she didn't. She waited and for a few weeks he hoped there were another way. Maybe that's why it hurt so much to watch her leave, to not have anything to offer that could make stay, to not being able to go with her.
He fumbles with his scarf and looks once more at the blueprint in front of him. The prison is small, with only two checking points. It will be easy to break in, especially with the full timing of the patrol shifts; a small team will do the job, Melshi and Rodma on the ground, maybe with a droid to help with facial recognition.
Cassian pushes his datapad away. Facial recognition, the worst and the best thing in the galaxy. It was thanks to it he managed to find her in the first place, and to find so many others too, prisoners, rebels, Imperials. But it is also a liability. Once your face is on the holonet, it never truly disappears. And that's why he knew she had to leave. He understood very well. Even if she endured heavy surgery, some algorithms are just too good. She had to vanish and make sure all her personae are dead. But it still hurts.
Picking up his datapad, he notes a few lines about escape routes because he needs to focus on the present, the now, the mission. Later, when all is good and ready, he will indulge and remember how the wind played in her hair that day, how she smiled at him and squeezed his hand.
“See you soon,” she mumbled against his lips and then all he had was a piece of scarf left on his bed to remember her by. Ripped in half, just like his heart.
It takes six more weeks before he hears about her again. He's not sure whether he prefers the silence or learning he once again missed an opportunity to see her. At least, he gets to know she's alive, and that's something but at the same time, being somewhere she was just two days before and not having a clue as to where she goes... Cassian picks up the files she left for him and listens absently to the smuggler who offers some good deals on his bacta shipments. Then Bodhi comes right between them, full of apologies and nervous twitches and Cassian refrains the urge to sigh. He already knows Bodhi saw her because he was there for a week and really, he didn't need him to rub it on his face, even with many excuses.
Realizing he may be interfering with something important, the pilot apologies again and leaves with an awkward half hug and the promise from Cassian to talk later. Maybe being with a friend will help. Cassian doesn't know anymore. He listens to the smuggler, to whom they supply from and how, to the places the deposit could be made, and Cassian has to admit that Jyn has a very good instinct, like always and manages to secure a very good deal with this group.
This base is small, barely more than an out-post for the Rebellion but the cell here is solid and efficient with very good medical supplies and even some med-droids. Cassian takes his time to meet everyone and reviews the equipment and he is quite pleased to note the good work of the cadre and at the same time, it deprives him of the possibility of loitering enough to avoid Bodhi. If he had found something to improve, he could have met the pilot so late he would have been asleep. That way, Cassian wouldn't have broken his promise, but he wouldn't have to deal with him either.
It isn't fair for Bodhi but really, it is difficult to face him, even on a good day. And today is not one, clearly. And having to listen to the pilot talking about Jyn, Jyn he could see when Cassian couldn't, really, it is not helping in any way. But Cassian refuses to explain that to Bodhi because he knows his friend has the best intention and, well... he doesn't want to hurt him. So, with heavy feet and heavier heart, he manages to find the pilot's quarters and walks in with the hint of a smile.
He must be losing his touch, or Bodhi begins to know him too much because he doesn't fool him for one second and the pilot apologies again two times before Cassian has a chance to sit down.
“She couldn't stay, and I know it hurts, because,” Bodhi gestures wildly like it explains anything and the worst is it does so Cassian nods and tries to ask why he is here when Bodhi shoves a small holo-recorder in his hand.
“I just wanted to give you this. It's not much, but I recorded some of our conversation before she left. She didn't...” Bodhi shakes his head with a demure smile. “She pretends to not see me, but the holo-recorder was there, just between us and I don't think she would have answered me if she didn't understand my intent. I'm not that good of a spy, sorry.”
Cassian frowns his brow and is about to asks what he means when Bodhi cuts in, “Just watch it. It's not much but I think it might help a bit. She misses you, at least as much as you miss her.”
“Then why couldn't she-”
“Watch. She explains. Sort of.”
And without another word, Bodhi grabs his jacket and leaves him alone in the room, so Cassian does as he was told and he is glad he's already sitting because his legs, as well as his heart, don't take the blow of seeing Jyn Erso, even a recorded version of her, very well.
The images are very low quality, blurry and unfocused and the angle is kind of wrong but still, it's better than anything he had in months and he's desperate enough to admit he's greedy like that when she's concerned. Jyn is there, sitting cross-legged against the hull of the shuttle, looking small and fragile while listening to Bodhi. She's toying with her scarf, the other half of the one he still has around his neck and Cassian wants so much to be with her he nearly misses the few words she said to Bodhi.
She's not looking directly at the recorder but every once in a while, she glances at it like it is some kind of enemy or the sign of a danger she couldn't escape. She tries to smile but her eyes are sad, so very sad and Cassian feels his heart clench. He should be with her.
“I'm nearly done,” she says as if she wants to convince someone, maybe herself. “Then I'll come back. I miss you all, but I have to erase all the tracks leading to me or my father.”
“It would be faster if we help,” remarks Bodhi, “and you know we'll do anything for you. Cassian has good networks and I'm sure he'll-”
“No. Don't ask Cassian for help. He already has so much to do and I won’t be another weigh on his shoulder.”
Bodhi seems like he has something to say but Jyn holds a hand up and he just sighs.
Cassian watches, helplessly as she drops her chin and squeezes her eyes shut and the record is only a few days old, but it feels like another life away, one he’ll never reach because she doesn't want his help, doesn't want to burden him with her problems because... He really mustn't go that road.
“If I see him now, if I come back,” she whispers, her voice so small, so broken, “I won't be able to leave again. I won't finish anything because I won't be able to do anything but wrap myself around him and never let go.”
She takes a deep breath and Cassian takes one too, clenching his scarf just like she does.
“I miss him so much, Bodhi. It has to be for something. I can't come back and be a danger for everyone because I didn't clean behind me properly. So, I'll go tonight, and you just tell him that I'm sorry. I can’t face him now.”
She faces the recorder and nods, once, eyes bright and sad, but very determinate. She had to finish this by herself and he understands that, even if he doesn't like it. He respects her for it.
Cassian turns it off and very slowly, leaves the room. He knows she's right, it's her fight and she can't take another one until this one is behind her. It also has nearly nothing to do with the Rebellion so he really doesn't have time to help her. Yet, he needs to break something because the pain inside his chest is screaming for release and he doesn't have the force to keep it down.
The Talin district of Taris is the perfect place to scavenge spaceships and find old pieces of equipment the Rebellion is severely lacking. Dameron had friends there and he is used to make quick runs when his squad is in dire need of transcore gears or ion drives so when he doesn't come back after three standard days, Cassian knows something went bad.
He picks up Melshi on the way and is not really happy to see Winter joining up but she's good on the ground and he needs help if he wants to salvage anything. Plus, Dameron is a good man and a good soldier and his wife will have his head if Cassian doesn't bring him back in one piece. So, he doesn't try for subtlety, doesn't negotiate anything and just uses a bit of stealth and mostly brute force when he meets resistance in his search of intel. Usually Cassian isn't a man known for gratuitous aggression, but he is on edge since he had the record of Jyn and Bodhi and he doesn't like dealing with disloyalty. So, if he breaks a few more fingers than necessary it's mostly because he knows Dameron was betrayed and he doesn't have time to understand why or how. He just wants to know where is hold and doesn't waste his breath making small talk to look friendly. And as soon as Cassian hears of the Son-tuul Pride syndicate, he decides destructions and sabotages are better friends than reasons and negociations.
When they finally find him, Kes is heavily beaten, but strangely nothing really serious. A few cuts and bruises, a broken wrist and probably some torn ligaments in the shoulders from trying to dislocate it and escape but all of it will heal easily. Cassian oversees the whole operation from his perch on the roof of another building and he secures the retreat of his team by setting bombs all around the warehouse before meeting them at the spacioport like any other worker.
As soon as he's sure everyone is on board and the shuttle leaves without any more trouble, he goes to the fresher to clean the blood and grim from his hands and maybe clean his head a bit too. It's been a wild since he's been that murderous and he's not sure it's a good sign for his mental state. He needs to calm down and the water helps even if it doesn't solve anything.
When he comes back in the galley, Kes is nursing a cup of caf, looking way more himself even in the too small shirt he borrows from Melshi and the two men frown at him but stay silent. He must not have made a very good job at getting his frustration under control then.
There's noise in the direction of the cabins but Cassian ignores it and goes to grab a cup of caf too when Winter comes in. She eyes him carefully, like she's assessing him but as always, she keeps her mouth shut and Cassian doesn't ask. He's tired and he really wants to be alone so since no-one says anything to him, he goes to his quarters with the firm intention of spending the next hours there to avoid any useless conversation.
He reaches his door and barely takes a sip of caf before he sees the form curled on his bunk and drops his mug.
Jyn wakes up with a start and Cassian mutters an apology as he bent down to pick his cup. Fortunately, the lid holds and only a few drops of caf splash on the durasteel floor of his quarters. He focuses on wiping it before it leaves a stain and refuses to face Jyn right now because he's not sure he can.
“I'm sorry for crashing here without...”
He doesn't let her finish because he can't let her go and she's already trying to get up. Kneeling by the bed, he reaches for her hand but she's quicker and wraps her arms around him in an awkward hug. He doesn't mind, especially when he feels her breathing so deep in his collar with a broken whisper of “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too,” he mumbles stupidly and she chuckles and he can feel it on his ribcage, like every breath she takes become, finally, she's here.
“I'm sorry it took me so long and thanks for the help with the Son-tuul Pride. I wouldn't have escaped alone.”
Cassian starts at that and tries to look at her, but she doesn’t let go of his shoulders so he drops the subject. Maybe she was the reason why Dameron was detained, maybe Kes himself got out of his way to help her and that was why he was in custody with the Son-tuul Pride when he knew Taris so much but honestly, Cassian doesn’t care. He is just glad she’s here, in this shuttle, in this cabin with him because he overly underestimates how much he needs her to keep his sanity.
Slowly, he extricates himself from her embrace, takes a deep breath and tries to smile. Her own smile is shy when he brushes her hair away from her face but she leans onto him with close eyes.
“You’re tired,” he says slowly. “I didn’t mean to wake you up, so sleep and- “
He must look very confused because she adds, “With me. You’re tired too and you didn’t just come here to escape your team.”
She moves back on the bunk and keeps his hand in hers as she lies down. He follows suit, lying careful at the edge of the bed but of course, Jyn doesn’t have it. She pulls at his arm and rolls him over until he’s flushed against her and she secures the position by wrapping her arm around his waist.
“If I’m becoming too invasive, just tell me.”
In the low light of the room, he isn’t sure she’s blushing, but he realizes he doesn’t care.
“Be as invasive as you want. I missed you too much to care.”
And to show his point, he kisses her head and grabs her thigh to put it over his legs. He may not sleep like that but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t mind, as long as she’s here, tightly wrapped around him, making him whole again.