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1653 DAYS WITHOUT LUCK

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1653

 

1653 DAYS WITHOUT LUCK

 

We signal in a moonbeam

I beg you to follow me

You say that I'll be surprised

At the codes in the sunrise

 

 

 

01. Nameless One

 

“This one! Get it open!” 

It was now a matter of minutes before the alarm caught up on them. They needed to be fast—faster than this. Under the corridor’s cold nightlight, the group of Pathfinders silently deployed into position, following the order of their officer. They were highly trained SpecForce commandos, carefully selected for the impossible mission. There wasn’t going to be another shot at the extraction—ever.

The fried-circuit plea of the door echoed into the stillness of the scene as the panel slid to the left with automatism. Taking a step forward, Major Cassian Andor penetrated the pitch-black cell. The mounted light on his blaster rifle provided him with a focal point to search the room. The cruel ray of light immediately fell on the prisoner’s face just as she jumped off of her bunk in fear, ready to take down the unknown threat. Commotion ensued. 

Cassian had to dodge a furious attack. He jumped on her. They both fell back into the metallic frame of her bunk. He grabbed her arms with force, blocking a fist ready to collide with his jaw. She didn’t like the restrain—fought even harder to smash his face with a sharp elbow and almost knocked him out.

“Jyn!” he growled in haste. “Jyn, stop! It’s me. It’s Cassian !” 

If he couldn’t quite see her face in the dark, he felt the painful protest of her body and the wave of shock that startled her. She stopped moving all at once, frozen in place, hard muscles and itching breath. Somewhere in the back of his brain, Cassian could still hear the ticking sound of each passing second—bleeding him with urgency.

“Cassian—?” 

Something deep inside of him tried to rebel at the sound of her voice. She was alienated, rasp, distant and unfamiliar. Yet, he had known that voice. Yes, he had. But he couldn't let emotions take over him now, the euphoria and sadness and desire all had to wait for a better place and time.

“Yes.” 

“Cassian?” she repeated bluntly, unresponsive. 

Then, suddenly, all things broke loose in the blink of an eye and her posture changed, caving in. Instead of fighting him, she reached out to him— desperately. Jyn held onto him in a tight embrace, a sound of misery ripping her voice apart. He wasn’t strong enough to deny her in spite of the timebomb waiting to crush them down and hugged her firmly.

Still, they had to move. 

Without breaking contact, Cassian dragged her to her feet once more. He hadn't known the condition he would find her in—if even he could find at all, and had been prepared to act accordingly. At least, she was in no need of immediate assistance and that was a small advantage weighing on their fragile balance. He would take it.

“Come! We have to go, now !”

He was already making a move to barge through the exit.

“No!” Jyn almost screamed. “Wait!” 

There was not a single reason in the entire galaxy he could fathom for waiting, and he almost dislocated her shoulder when he tried to stop her. Yet, Jyn was already turning around to reach her bunk. Whatever she wanted to retrieve wasn’t worth her life, nor the lives of the rescue team, and Cassian felt a surging wave of anger burning his throat. What's wrong with you? Obviously, he needed to take into consideration that after so much time in captivity, she might have been delusional. If he had to sedate her to force her into cooperation, he would do it without question.

“Come with me,” Cassian ordered as a final warning.

“Take her! Get her out!” 

Cassian’s mind blacked out for a nanosecond, completely disconnected. Why should he get her out when he wanted to get Jyn out? Who was even that her? Why didn’t he ask the question? Why didn’t he brush it off and tell Jyn he had come for her, not for anyone else? As cruel as it was, they couldn’t afford to rescue any other prisoner. They certainly couldn’t afford the dead weight either. But Cassian Andor blatantly kept his mouth shut and balanced the small child Jyn was shoving into his arms the next moment. 

Mother of the kriffing moons.

He exhaled once and felt a frightful pair of tiny arms trembling around his neck.

“Move it! Go!” he ordered.

And with that, Cassian accepted the responsibility when really—he should have not.

 

 

The extraction wasn’t going as smoothly as he had hoped for, but they could take it. The Pathfinders were determined to hold the line.

The prison facility was located on Shingra, near the rocking surface of the inhospitable territory. If they had to wander outside without protective gear, they would most likely be dead in a matter of hours. Humans couldn’t handle the harsh conditions of the Outer Rim’s planet, nor the deadly species populating it. Thus, the only salvation was the shuttle programmed to pick them up on their way out to escape to hyperspace. Their action window was short and tedious, and definitely not renewable. But first, they had to get out.

Cassian kept his attention focused on his surroundings, alert, efficient.

He was using one of his arms to hold the youngling against his chest, the other to fire back with the A-300 blaster rifle. He was glad for all the forced training and the broken arms and the numbness of his brain when he absorbed the recoil of the weapon in a way he should have not. Jyn was just ahead of him. He wasn’t letting her slip out of his field of view. 

She had been given a blaster to defend her own life, and she sure remembered how to use it. She glanced back at him a stressful amount of times, while she should’ve not because she was only setting herself vulnerable to a fatal shot. She did nonetheless, and Cassian knew she wasn’t really looking at him—which made him concerned. 

Not now. Not here.

To his left, one of the squad’s members caught a blaster shot and stumbled against a metallic wall with a grunt of acute pain. A pair of friendly hands forced him back up onto his feet, pushing the bleeding man with the rest of them without stopping. He struggled, looked down, but clutched to the other Pathfinder and kept on moving.

Cassian was panting under exhaustion. The low-pitched alarm was chilling to the bones, crude, cold, dooming—matching the pounding of his heart in his chest.

At the next corner, he dodged to the right and his back hit the wall full force. He barely felt the pressure around his neck, barely notice the panic of the small child—because he didn’t have time to think about it. Just keep Jyn alive. Exfil. Fly. Gone.

“Move forward! Move !”

“Melshi, cover!” 

Cassian pushed himself off the wall and started running again. Two meters away from him, Jyn took another glance over her shoulder instead of focusing on her own survival and he should’ve slapped her for being so kriffin’ stupid.

“Stop looking!” he yelled. “I got this!” 

We’ve done this before, I’ve been there for you when everything was going down. I’ll do this for you. Force be damned, I won’t fail you. Trust me.

He thought she did, maybe.

Through smoke and enemy fire and crimson shots, they blew their exit path off with an explosive device. Hot burning air got sucked into the facility like a vacuum chamber. The prison guards yelled more orders, trying to contain the spreading chaos. Melshi threw another set of grenades in their direction. Someone screamed a warning. They braced for impact.

Cassian turned his back to the detonation and absorbed the impact with a rapid shift of position. His eyes were watering in the abrasive air. He turned around and moved the child higher on his side without much care. Already, someone was forcing Jyn through the gaping hole opened in the prison’s outer wall. On the other side of it, only darkness was accounted for to greet them, unwelcomed. 

The moment her foot collided with foreign soil, she yet took another look at him. She was fearful, and she parted her lips with a pleading sound that never reached his ears. 

Fuck you, Jyn. Why can’t you allow me the faith? Why can’t you pretend I was there even when it took five doshing years to make it up. Fuck you, I’ll show you so I can keep lying to myself in shame.

“Straight ahead!” Melshi screamed over the swirling turmoil.

 

 

The wounded soldier collapsed onto the U-wing flooring, holding his flank with a painful grimace. Someone promptly kneeled next to him. He took a shot of anesthetic to the leg. They tried to control the bleeding, to assess the situation. Slowly, the urgency of the rescue was starting to dissipate to let them focus on damage control.

Cassian ran numbers in his head. No one had died just yet. No one had been left behind— not this time. He had Jyn. He had a plus one that wasn’t part of the initial plan.

The spacecraft jumped into hyperspace before he had time to reach the other side of the cargo area. On the pilot’s seat, Kaytoo had memorized Cassian’s orders with an indefectible inorganic rigor. White flashes of stars melted away on a black canvas through the frontal viewport, washing away any remanent memories of the Imperial prison. Cassian finally took another burning breath, despite the resistance of his body. He wasn’t ready to unravel the events—never would be, but she was quicker than him.

Jyn went straight to him. Not for me, really. She ripped the small weight out of his arms and he let her do so. There, standing still under the flying red light, Cassian took another look at her. A real, insightful, spy-trained one, and she looked back into his eyes like a ghost from another life—really looking at him for the first time today. She was very different from his memories, yet exactly the same. A contradiction that was only born from years of separation and guilt. So many things to discuss, so little strength to do it. 

Her chin shivered a little, but she didn’t say it. 

You left me behind

I hate you

You came back

Thank you

Are you with me

Fuck you

Go away

Stay.

“Andor.” 

“Yes,” Cassian turned around on impulse. Stern face, dark voice, stained heart.

“Transmitting report to the Alliance?” Melshi asked.

“Go ahead. Tell them we have secured our objective. Pulling back to base.” 

“Roger that.” 

When he looked back at her, with enough emotional distance to be able to handle it, Jyn had turned away from him. She settled back into one of the seats and tightly held the small girl on her lap, trying to ease out the silent cries he could barely hear. She closed her eyes with a painful frown of relief, something deep and wounded. Something he would’ve liked to mend, but wasn’t allowed to. She ran a trembling hand over the dark brown hair tucked into twin braids. No, not now. Cassian shut his brain off.

He made his way to the commands with a short and rapid walk and fell next to Kaytoo, getting a hold on the spaceship—even though he didn’t need to. 

“You have satisfactorily completed every objective,” his friend told him with a slow, lifeless voice. “Jyn Erso has been rescued from Imperial high-security detention facility after 1653 days and three hours twenty-two minutes of captivity. Congratulations, Cassian.”

“Yeah,” he grumbled with a dark tone. “What a hero.” 

“Pieces of evidence that you only refer to yourself as such in a derogatory manner lead me to believe it was a sarcastic remark. Which is quite misleading because, factually, you can be considered as a hero since—”

“Yes, Kay,” he cut out bitterly. “I got it.”

“Oh. It was sarcasm then.”

“Indeed,” the man snorted.

“Would you like me to tell you the probabilities of complete mission failure and/or gruesome death you just overcame to highlight the situation in a more pleasant way?”

“No, thank you .”

“Well, it was high,” Kaytoo told him nonetheless. “ Very high.”

 

 

A medical team was already waiting for them on the tarmac. They quickly took charge of the most critical patient and transported the blastershot Pathfinder towards the medbay. Others suffered from less serious injuries. Melshi had sustained a slight burn to the side of his face during the explosion, but he refused to be admitted just yet. Jyn Erso and the nameless girl she had brought back with her were both directed into the medical unit under close-range protection from Special Forces. 

Cassian didn't follow them—couldn't, wouldn't?

Instead, the major was required to debrief the classified mission with his CO. Melshi was still by his side when he finally found General Davits Draven inside of the Jagomir’s rebel HQ. This one was called Resolute Base—different name, same war.

“Casualties?” the man in his late forties asked.

“Basteren took a blaster shot, he’s still holding up.”

“Others?”

“Minor injuries.”

“Good,” Draven nodded, his attention entirely focused on the datapad in his hand. “What about Erso? How is she?”

Cassian put extra effort into modeling the tone of his voice, hands folded behind his back.

“Stable enough.”

“That girl is a tough one,” the general said. “But years without seeing a sunrise can fuck with anyone’s mind. Make sure to keep an eye on her during the first few weeks, we don’t need an incident. Guess you want to stay around for that?”

Cassian was still reflecting on the term incident, and the meaning behind it, when Draven let out a low growl of impatience.

Andor. Talking to you.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Alright. I’ll ask Cracken to send you to Counter-Intelligence. You’ll be put in charge of base surveillance so you can keep a foot on the ground until further notice. Now,” Draven trailed off, finally rising piercing blue eyes to meet Cassian. “What’s with the plus one?”

The crude light reflecting from the digital screen emphasized the general’s circumspect expression.

“Not entirely sure yet, Sir.”

“Did you take that initiative or was it Erso?”

“I—” Cassian paused, closed his mouth again, speculative. He knew why those questions were asked. “I did,” he finally answered. “The girl was in the same cell when I came in and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a witness behind.”

Draven snorted right into his fucking face. 

None of them were fooled, they knew better. Nonetheless, the general didn’t make any further comment and simply nodded, dismissing the subject—for now. Once they were registered into official Alliance reports, lies were no more than alternative truths and any event could be rewritten at convenience. Right now, Cassian was convinced he was rewriting it in Jyn’s best interest and he would fiercely defend it— her. 

He owed it to her.

“Erso’s presence on Resoba is declassified, but keep it quiet for now on. We don’t need more discontentment.” 

“With due respect,” Melshi suddenly growled. “Those cowards can suck it dry.”

“Duly noted, Lieutenant.”

Cassian was keen to share the opinion of his friend, but thought it was best not to mention it.

“Alright, rack out. I got shit to do,” Draven concluded with a solemn— tired —tone. “You’ll file me that report later, Andor.”

Cassian was glad for the delay. He needed it to sort through this.

The two men exited the HQ without a word. Outside the main commanding room, Cassian spotted the tall and towering silhouette of a single KX-series security droid waiting for him by the end of the dark hallway. 

Resolute Base had nothing to do with the Massassi outpost on Yavin 4. Here, practicality was the main and sole design of the infrastructures.

The base had been established after the Rebel Alliance was driven from Arda I by Imperial forces. The initial construction had been conducted in hast, mainly from modified pre-fab buildings. During the following years, more barracks had been added to the mix, rapidly developing into a larger maze of metal and recycled materials. The layout of Resoba was confusing for newcomers, but Cassian had spent the last two years on Jagomir, clad between cold rains and everlasting humid days.

Besides, it would’ve taken more than that to disorientate the master spy—and his infiltrator friend alike.

“Are you done with Operation Eventide?” Kaytoo asked when Cassian reached him.

“Yes.”

“Are we staying on base? Your gear is still on board of the UT-60D. Do you want me to retrieve it for you?”

“I’ll do it later. Draven is switching my posting to base surveillance.”

“Ah. That’s convenient,” Kaytoo noted with a genuine voice.

Cassian thought so himself. But of course, his droid wasn’t done with the subject.

“Are you going to see Jyn Erso now? I’d like to accompany you. My last interaction with her is very outdated, I think it’s customary to renew those type of demonstrations now and then.”

The following silence was unbearable, while the three of them finally walked out in the open under clouded skies, emerging not far from the main landing area. The ambient humidity penetrated Cassian’s uniform with a cold, chilling touch—only matched by the invisible anguish creeping over him.

“I need you to drop my rifle at the armory,” Cassian told Kaytoo, trying to dismiss the question. “The scope needs to be recalibrated.” 

His companion wasn’t enthusiastic about it, tilting his inexpressive head with somehow just enough spite piercing the glowing white orbs of his circuits to express his discontentment. He would still do as Cassian had asked, but Melshi picked up that exact same stick to poke over the wound.

“Aren’t you going to see her? I thought—” The man paused. “We both know how things really went down in there.”

Cassian let out a brutal sigh and ran a hand through his dark brown hair.

“If there is any reprisal from the Empire... I don’t want Jyn to be targeted by the Secessionists. Enough shit on our plate.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Melshi told him.

“I know what you’re saying and… I don’t know.”

The two men exchanged a telling look. Nearby, a spaceship was being prepped for departure, dragged onto the wet tarmac by a motorized engine. None of the people around had ever heard about Operation Eventide, because if they had—well, rumors on base were flying quicker than an X-wing. 

“Alright,” Melshi finally decided, shaking his head slightly. “Whatever you need, brother. You know where to find me.”

“Get that burn checked by a medic,” Cassian ordered. “And not tomorrow.”

“What about after tomorrow?” he smiled ironically. 

With that, the two rebels parted ways. Melshi—to SpecForce's meeting room. Cassian—to medbay alpha. Yes, he would go. Not tomorrow.

The walk was shorter than he would’ve liked. 

The alpha unit was situated below ground level, preventing it from being vulnerable in case of an aerial strike. When Cassian entered, the place was quietly running along with daily tasks. Not a lot of patients on sight. Two medics gave him a salute of acknowledgment as he was walking past them, alongside a green corridor illuminated by warm lights. A few doors down, he stumbled upon a smaller area who required higher security clearance, where he thought Jyn had been admitted. 

Surely enough, he was greeted by Doctor Lorren Morrick, who ran the place with his team. Cassian and he had met several times during the years, and had become accustomed to each other. They weren’t exactly cut to fit together, but they tried to maintain their level of interaction as somewhat cordial.  

“How is she?” Cassian asked without introduction.

Morrick was an intelligent man. He would know why Cassian was here.

“I’m sorry, Major. I’m not allowed to talk about the patient.”

Facing the grey hair medic with an unreadable expression, Cassian clenched a fist behind his back in a rigid posture. The aseptic, sterile odor of the place took him by the throat—triggering traumatic memories he would’ve gladly discharged from his brain. He hated medbay, and hated, even more, the fact that he wasn’t the one laying on the other side of that smokescreen panel today.

The only time—with her, in his arms—after Scarif… Seeking comfort, alive, by whatever odds, by whatever sun. That was the only time he had been relaxed enough around the white blouse medics. But now, Cassian was watching the scene from the outside and he hated it with every cell of his being. He wondered how Jyn was feeling in here, desperate to find out—and his voice hardened.

“General Draven just declassified the information. Don’t make me drag his ass down here.”

He could’ve been more polite. Not today, though.

Morrick didn’t take umbrage at it, which was nice enough of him. He reached for a datapad and replaced a pair of glasses over his strong nose.

“Not terrible, all considered,” he read to Cassian with a clinical tone. “We’re going to need to treat multiple deficiencies and rebuild her immune system. She suffers poorly healed fractures and we need to realign the fifth intercostal. Other than that… I’m confident she’s going to make a full recovery. Physically.” 

That last input weighted on Cassian’s shoulders heavily.

“She has received a light sedative while we were waiting for the initial scanning,” the man pursued. “Should be in the black for a few hours.”  

It was a small comfort, at least, to know that Jyn would be sleeping it off for a while. Her body probably needed the break as much as her mind. How did someone recover from years of deprivation? While she was knocked out, she couldn’t wonder about Cassian either, and that was… charitable. Don’t let her wake up alone in yet another strange place —not anymore.

Wouldn’t he? 

No, not alone. 

“What about the girl?”

Morrick drew his eyebrows higher towards his balding hairline, still eyeing his report.

“First blood results aren't great,” he said. “She needs to undergo extensive viral procedures before she can come in contact with a full crowd. She’s underweight and lacks muscle development. Shouldn't be irreversible given some time. We still need to access her cognitive functions but she’s out of it for now. She was very distraught and has been sedated as well.”

Cassian tried to remember the small, fragile arms clutching around his neck inside the prison.

“They’re both given IV fluids to compensate the dehydration and we’ll be pushing nutrients soon enough.”

“Good.” 

A short silence followed his tense voice and Morrick gave him an annoyed look, probably wondering if Cassian was about to do his job for him.

“Anything else, Major ?” 

Cassian knew he needed to ask the question, but the words were excruciating to articulate. It took all of his self-discipline to— just say it, be done with it.

“Did—Erso give birth to her?” 

“She did.” 

Somehow, he already knew. 

Cassian felt sick. He felt like someone had just stabbed him with a combat knife and was happily rearranging his guts without care. He clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white and barely managed to nod, one time. Without another word for Morrick, he then turned around and stormed out of the medbay.

He couldn't even reach his quarters before lashing out. 

In the middle of an empty corridor, Major Cassian Andor suddenly attacked the nearby wall. He threw a punch against the metal frame, earning a loud echoing bang, and then another—didn't stop. Before he knew it, he was raging and hyperventilating and bruising his fists. 

It had been over ten years since practical, collected, unemotional Cassian was gone this bad—so much that nearby people even stopped walking to watch him in concern, startled. But none of them gathered up the courage to interrupt his furious backlash. They would certainly mention his name over lunch, gossiping and speculating on the dreadful reason behind the soldier’s furry but blast, did he not care!

I should've found you sooner. I swear I've tried, but what does it matter? It didn't make a difference. All your life, still without a voice, and now I didn't leave you behind, I would've died to trade place. It should have been me on Yavin.

Cassian finally rested his forehead against the cold surface, eyes closed. His hands were now throbbing painfully, skin torn over his bleeding knuckles. He frowned in silence, muttered unintelligible Caridan curse words, silent pleas. He couldn’t bring up the last thought to the surface without mentally collapsing. Still, he had to.

Was she raped in there? Cassian wailed with a sound of pure despair, banging his head against the wall to release the pain somehow. — is it mine? Did it matter now? Did it change anything? They had done it that one time, after Scarif he barely remembered it through the blur of events followings and the dosage of painkillers flooding their systems. Then—six months of blockade on Yavin 4, another time. But she would’ve been three or four months along when she was captured. It didn’t add up—even so, the child looked too young for being his. 

Thus, Cassian discovered that, yes, the answer absolutely mattered. 

It would’ve been easier for him, knowing it wasn’t his child that he had never known even existed all of those years. And his chest was ripped apart by a blazing agony realizing how despicable of a person he was. How could he ever allow himself to feel relief if it meant she had been hurt?  

How low can you get and still pretend to care? Jyn would never. —I'm glad you came, she said. You're just garbage. You should shoot yourself dead in the face and it wouldn't be enough for all of your sins.

—Are you with me? 

—All the way.

Yes, yes, always. Except when it matters the most. Except when I'm scared. Please, put me out of it. It wouldn’t be so bad if you're the one pressing the trigger.

I'm sorry—

—Cassian?

—Take her! Get her out!

She trusted him with everything she had. She trusted him and he had to make up for it. He didn’t deserve any of it. Would never deserve the soul of Jyn Erso. But Force be damned, he would stand there and beg for it.

He had to make sure she was safe, that no one would try to get to her—those doshin' secessionists, no one. That he could do would do. He would protect her from anyone, anything, himself included.

1653 days to repay.

And I swear, never again you'll find yourself behind bars while I’m still breathing.  

Chapter Text

02. You're Here

 

 

Entry: Day 91

Location: S̶h̶i̶n̶g̶r̶a̶,̶ ̶O̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶i̶m̶ ̶T̶e̶r̶r̶i̶t̶o̶r̶i̶e̶s

 

Jyn thought she had it rough on Wobani, but this— this was something else.

There was no cellmate in here, and though she had been glad at first because, really, she didn’t need any other potential threat to her life, she had long changed her mind. The complete isolation was unbearable, pushing her to the edge of her sanity.

There was no working schedule either, no contact, no talking, and the only time she could hear another presence was when invisible hands were pushing a tray of tasteless proteinate rations under the locked door. Days and nights were merging into an infinite stream of bad dreams and Jyn couldn’t figure out hours anymore, deprived from any sign of daylight. She was simply left to rot in the darkness of her cell, forgotten, erased from the outside world. This place—that she could only call here in her mind, because she didn’t know where she was—was going to be the end of her.

She was back in the cave once more, trapped. And she was already falling behind, with nothing to hold on to.

Curled up in a ball on her cold bunk, she would cry and weep and wished it was already over. Could she be dead if she was still breathing? 

Jyn had bartered her life away just to offer hope to the galaxy. She went through hell and came back—saw the destruction of the Death Star with her own eyes and rejoiced for a time. But now, what hope did she have left? 

There was no escape. She couldn’t save herself from this, not this time. 

She missed Cassian the most.

She wished she had more time with him and it hurt. She would close her eyes and think of him for hours on hand, imagine a whole other reality in which they were together, somewhere far away from here. She would draft endless variations of the same scenario over and over again to soothe her mind—on Lah’mu, on the beach, in his arms.

Jyn would think about the spare moments they had shared alone and it was the only thing that could still find her in this prison, where the light wouldn’t. 

 

 

She didn’t dream of anything.

For the first time in forever, Jyn’s mind was blissfully blank while she was dosed up with sedatives. The void was peaceful, ethereal, but she couldn’t stay in the black forever. She knew she had to come back—not for her, but for someone else.

The second she emerged from it, a wave of burning panic crawled back to her. Confused and disoriented, Jyn opened her eyes just to find herself blinded by aggressive white lights all around her. She pressed a hand to her eyes, tears rolling down her face while her chest tighten in fear. This was so unfamiliar and that smell—it burnt her throat. 

Worse, she was alone. 

She panicked some more, delirious ideas swirling inside of her brain without sense. Jyn frantically tried to get a hold on her surroundings, to find the small hand back in her own. What had they done to her child? What if she couldn’t find her back? What if they were separated? Was she alone too? Was she afraid? They had never been apart, not a single time. And now, it was an emergency. Jyn couldn’t function without her.

“Easy! Easy !” an unknown voice suddenly tried to interject while Jyn was pushing her legs over the edge of a bed. 

She didn’t listen—scanned the room with more ease as her eyes started to adjust to the ambient luminosity. Everything was so white and bright. She didn’t remember the last time she had seen white.

Something was lodged in her right arm and was bothering her. A needle, an injection. Jyn lowered her gaze and reached for it with trembling fingers.

“No, don’t do that!” the male voice warned her.

Jyn was done taking orders. She ripped the IV from her arm with a painful frown. Arterial blood splattered from the puncture, clashing angrily against the pale blue material she was dressed in. Nothing she hadn’t seen before. 

With a furious move, she pushed back the gloved hands trying to reach for her and stood up on the other side of the bed, walking backward. Her body protested, which she ignored, fighting the dizziness. More people were quickly gathering in the room and she felt trapped like a wild animal. 

They weren’t—bad, were they? She didn’t feel strong enough to fight.

The Empire, the prison… She couldn’t recall. Were they scientists? Why was she here? Jyn turned around, feeling despair taking over her while she stumbled on her feet.

“Where is she?” she said with a strained, damaged voice.

“Calm down,” the man told her, rising his hands in front of him. “You’re alright. You’re safe.” 

Where is my child?” Jyn yelled back at him angrily. 

“Just next door. She’s sleeping.”

“Let me see her,” she immediately begged. 

“Alright, yes,” the man agreed with a pensive frown. “Come with me.”

He gestured for her to follow, holding a keycard that seemed important. 

“You’re bleeding—”

“Don’t touch me,” Jyn growled, yanking her arm away from reach. 

He seemed annoyed by her reaction, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. She was still unsure of the situation, but those people didn’t strike her as imperialists. So, maybe… 

They guided her to another secured room—identical, bright, silent. Relief bloomed in her chest when she spotted the brown hair splayed out around the familiar face of the young girl. She was resting on a bed under a grey blanket, sound asleep. Jyn sat next to her and bent down to hug the small form, listening to her steady breathing to still her mind.

“What’s that?” she then asked with concern, looking back to the man over her shoulder.

“IV Iron,” he patiently explained. “Same thing we were giving you before you ripped it off. You’re both anemic and underweight. We’ve also administered a booster shot to help her immune system but she shouldn’t be in direct contact with other people until at least a few weeks.”

Jyn was taking in the information in silence, stunned. 

A few weeks… She wasn’t back in yet another prison, was she? Her mind was starting to clear off from the fog. This man was a doctor. She was— outside. 

“Is she going to be alright?” 

There was an underlying plea in her tone and the middle-aged man softened a bit, looking at her over a pair of glasses.

“Yes. I’m going to need some information about her… so we can be sure to give her the best care possible. But that can wait for a bit.” 

The best care possible.

“As for you…” he continued. 

Jyn was barely listening to anything else he had to say. They were both out. They were free. Which meant this was a rebel installation. They had been rescued—that wall had been blown open by… Jyn’s brain was hammering against her skull, images flashing before her eyes—memories, she soon realized. Men, a lot of them. Military men. 

She remembered the run. She remembered… Jyn gasped and laid down next to her child, enveloping her with one arm, holding onto her tightly. 

—Jyn, stop! It’s me!

Lips firmly pressed together, Jyn managed to suppress the sob that was menacing to escape her throat. 

—It’s Cassian!

She closed her eyes. She was shaking.

Cassian was there. Cassian was the one to get her out— them. 

She remembered the flight now, she remembered looking into his eyes and—everything. She felt nauseous, her body protesting the violent wave of emotions taking over her all at once. She couldn’t even begin to express what she was feeling at that exact moment. Everything was dissolving around her. Everything bad, everything good. The terror and the joy and the hope and the weariness all came back together to crush her down. She was so done, walking out of a year-long nightmare to find herself reunited with him like that.

To know that he was the one taking the mission—it meant the world to Jyn. 

To see the look on his face when she turned around—she could have cried if she had any strength left to do so.

Cassian was not here right now and that did hurt, a lot. But she had spent all of her chance already and she couldn’t beg for more. Not for another lifetime. Yes, Jyn was lucky enough. She was out and alive, and she could make sure to protect the only person that really mattered.

“I’m going to update your files,” a distant voice told her. “What’s your daughter’s name?”

Jyn ran a light hand over the delicate face of the little girl. She had never seen before how dark her eyelashes really were, or how soft her skin was—so pale, yet unlike Jyn’s. 

“Felis,” she said. 

Footsteps finally walked away while Jyn was facing the other side of the room. She kept on stroking the brown hair softly, all of her resilience gone—for now. She would find a way to face everything later on. Right now, she just wanted to lie here and rest.

Ironically enough, Jyn realized that she still didn’t know where was this new here. But it didn’t matter, as long as she didn’t have to be alone.

Welcome to the real world, my love. Thank you for keeping me alive all this time.

 

 

 

Entry: Day 162

Location: S̶h̶i̶n̶g̶r̶a̶,̶ ̶O̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶i̶m̶ ̶T̶e̶r̶r̶i̶t̶o̶r̶i̶e̶s

   

Jyn was miserable. More than usual.

She hadn’t been allowed to leave her cell a single time since she had been thrown in there— some time ago. How much time? A long time. 

She hadn’t seen anyone. No one had checked on her besides the rations that were pushed under the door once a day. What if they stopped coming at some point? She would starve to death without anyone noticing. It would be slow and painful. Maybe she would stop drinking to get over with it faster. Not like she would miss the copper taste of water coming down that drain. It was like lipping rain from the ground and it made her stomach turn in disagreement.

Now, she was sicker than usual. She was in physical pain.

Jyn rolled over on her side, trying to find a better position, but she couldn’t escape it. Something was wrong with her and even though it wasn’t the first time she had to take care of herself, the prospect that she couldn’t find any help if she needed to was terrifying. What if she died from poisoning? It wouldn’t even surprise her at this point. Would she be glad? She didn’t mind to die, but she didn’t want to suffer.

She felt like her insides were on fire. She was feverish. A cold sweat ran along her back while she tucked the thin smelly blanket around her small frame for comfort. She tried to slow down her breathing, to focus her mind on something else—but there wasn’t anything to focus on. The darkness was too strong, too intense. It was pulling her under.

Jyn Erso wasn’t a fragile person. She had grown up learning how to take punches like a soldier, and how to throw them back. She was well used to the pain—the bruised skin, the torn flesh, the broken bones. She could tolerate a good amount of it, more than the vast majority of people. But she wasn’t handling this and a faint sob escaped her throat in the deafening silence. 

Maybe it was the circumstances. Maybe it made it worse than it really was, because—really, what could it be? 

Jyn placed a hand on her stomach and took another deep breath. Maybe a bacterial infection, or maybe they were really trying to poison her. For a thought so incoherent might have seemed stupid to anyone else, in the state she was in, she couldn’t think logically anymore. But blast, did she want it to stop! 

Just let me die and I wouldn’t have to see those black walls ever again. I could just be free. I want to see the ocean again. I want to see Cassian again.

Yes, Cassian.

She hoped he was fine. She hoped he was safe, somewhere, even so far away from her. Kaytoo would have rescued him that day, after they were separated. He would have made it out from Yavin 4. He had to. She wanted to see his warm brown eyes again, but not until he had lived so many more years and had time to do all those things she didn’t have the chance to. When his hair would’ve turned silver and the corners of his eyes marked with permanent wrinkles, then he could join her. They’d meet again, in another life. Or in the space in between. Jyn didn’t know what to expect from death, but she had hopes she would find them back—all the ones she had lost.

—Are you with me?

—All the way.

Somehow, she hoped it meant forever .

It felt like that when he was holding her.

Jyn tried to remember the first time they did it, while the sky was burning down and the night stolen from all its darkness. She remembered her heart so full of joy and the dreams she had allowed herself to brush just for a short moment in time. Cassian was one of them. It felt more real than anything she ever had. 

The warmth of his body lingered on her mind like a living echo. She held onto it while she was drifting into the deep black space, and for a brief moment, it helped her to forget where she was and why she was in so much pain.

Chapter Text

03. Give Me Warning

 

Cassian was trying to finalize his report on Operation Eventide. 

As an Intelligence officer, he had filed hundreds of those in the past, it wasn’t anything new to him. Yet somehow, his mind was—relentless, in a way he couldn’t fully interpret. There was just something about the whole picture that left him with a bitter taste. Maybe it was because of Jyn, because it was personal for the first time. Maybe not. 

Cassian couldn’t decide and he didn’t like it.

 

INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT OF OPERATIONS REPORT #8699A-7O

}} 

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “CASSANDR”> 

<Subject = “Operation EVENTIDE”>

<Primary objective = “Extraction of Sgt. J. ERSO”>

<Mission leader = “Mjr. C. ANDOR”>

<Final report>

}}

<IMPERIAL DETENTION CENTER, UNMAPPED>

<LOCATION: Shingra, Ordali system>

<PRISONER: Jyn Erso, #6525A>

<Arrival on scene as planned. Localization of TANGO ONE in the cell block. Cell door was forced open on the spot. Contact with TANGO ONE and unknown female human, designated as TANGO TWO. Mission leader decided to extract TANGO TWO alongside.>

}}

}}

}}

 

Behind his console, the man frowned pensively, all of his attention focused on the small black screen reverberating a green light to his face. 

The day shift of Intelligence had long emptied their quarters, leaving him to work in silence past 2700 hours, standard time. Two lone agents from the Analysis division were to be seated all night by the radio comm, listening to bits of random encrypted messages flying across the galaxy, scanning for something of significance into the void. They called it black noise. It was a daunting task, but information wasn’t given easily. They had to work it, piece by piece. Just like Cassian was trying to tie the loose ends back together. It wasn’t his field of expertise, being from the Coordinate division of Operations, but he had seen too much already to ignore the signals. Regardless, if Draven had effectively transferred him to Counter-Intelligence for the time being, Cassian could justify the investigation without raising any suspicion.

Three names were stated on the operation’s initial report. 

He had personally sought out one of those informants: a human male he had met on Takodana, while the pirate was seeking refuge from a burning chase across the Western Reaches. The exchange had been overly brief, as they both were at risk to attract Imperial forces right to Maz Kanata's castle. The meeting had nonetheless allowed Cassian to crosscheck his information about Shingra. It was a little over six months ago, right before the Battle of Endor.

The two other contacts were established by different operatives of the Rebellion. 

One was a Keteerian trafficker turned rebel ally by inadvertence, stumbling over a stolen cargo of food rations during the embargo against Yavin 4. He had been able to confirm the presence of the off-grid prison on the Ordali system, after he had found a lucrative business with its wardens. The last one was a Zabrak named Vega, well known to the Rebel Intelligence for being a mercenary—and quite frankly a pain in their ass.

With every piece of information they salvaged, Cassian got closer to locating Jyn—a four standard years-long process. The only thing that had occupied his mind, until yesterday.

Scanning over the various reports attached to his files, Cassian suddenly pressed his lips into a thin line with a tense expression. Two of the names had been updated with a red note [deceased] sometime during the past sixty hours. 

This couldn’t be just coincidental. It’s never a coincidence.

All of the logs were registered under a Black Space protocol, meaning it was impossible for him to know who had accessed and modified them. A safety measure designed to protect Intelligence agents, even within their own ranks. Only the Chief of Intelligence and higher chain of command would have access to those logs. Cassian wouldn’t be able to ask anyone just how come two of his assets were suddenly dead and redacted out of this clusterfuck. More good news.

He quickly logged off from the device and walked over to the comm station, even more tense than before. He wrote down Vega’s name on a piece of paper and placed it in front of the man, tapping it off with two fingers to get his attention.

“If this name comes up anywhere,” he told the Analysis agent. “I want to be informed within five. Got it?”

“Affirmative, Major.” 

The more he thought about it, the harder it was for him to dismiss that persistent alarm sounding in the back of his brain. Something was—terribly off.

Cassian left the room with the idea of getting four or five hours of sleep before looking into black noise again, hoping to find something of significance. His plans were somehow altered by the arrival of an Imperial droid, catching up on him with a slumpy walk.

“Ah, there you are!” Kaytoo said with his usual two-edges tone. “I have to say, you’re quite easy to locate for a master-spy, Cassian.”

“What is it, Kay?”

“Well, I thought you’d like to know that Jyn Erso has woken up. There was a lot of people shouting for a medical unit, thought. I don’t think they were very pleased with her.”

“No,” Cassian couldn’t help but smirk painfully. “Of course not.”

The only people ever pleased with Jyn Erso were the ones that thought she looked like walking troubles.

—This is a rebellion, isn’t it?

 

 

Entry: Evacuation of Base One

Location: Yavin 4, Outer Rim Territories

 

“Move it! We have to go!”

They were among the last ones. 

They had stayed behind to help the evacuation, to make sure everybody had escaped before abandoning ship. Why? Cassian surely had done his part already—more than that. As for Jyn, the Rebellion could never repay her enough for her actions. Yet, they had both stayed until the very last minute possible; because they were the heroes of Scarif, because people needed to see them fight alongside, because they were a symbol, because they were rebels.

Rebels fighting the Empire no matter the odds, no matter the cost. But that cost was way more than Cassian was ready to sacrifice, and he would come to regret his decision more than anything he had ever done in his life. 

The blow came from the left. 

The missile turrets of the Massassi outpost had long been destroyed, setting them vulnerable to aerial bombardment while the Empire was breaking their last defenses, after six months of an excruciating face-to-face. The force of the explosion threw Cassian off his feet. He violently fell back to the ground, a few meters away from where he had originally stood. Thankfully enough, the thick, moist grass covering the Yavin moon’s ground saved him from more serious injuries. 

Cassian pushed into his elbows and rolled back with a low groan of pain, blinking at the sky, disoriented. A burning smell reached his nose, strong and overpowering. The blast of an AT-ST had set ablaze a trail of fuel on the nearby runway. While the pounding in his eardrums started to dissipate, Cassian made a rapid evaluation of his surroundings, analyzing the situation with a solid routine. Years of training had conditioned his mind to work under the most stressful of situations. He forced himself up without hesitation. 

Melshi was reaching for a lone rifle on the ground, out in the open. 

Cassian couldn’t find Jyn. Fear crept back over him.

“Jyn!” 

He shouted her name with a broken voice, walking back towards the spot he had last seen her. She was just behind his shoulder a moment ago. She was just there.

Cassian raised his own blaster rifle and took down three white silhouettes coming his way without pausing, moving around the assieged base. Smoke was getting denser as he approached the source of the fire. A black screen was twirling in the cold air, impairing the once serene beauty of the Massassi Temple. Everything was going to ruin under the strike of the Empire, tainted and broken. But as tragic as it was, stones could be rebuilt. Jyn couldn’t be replaced.

“Jyn!” he shouted again. “ Jyn !”

He spotted her then, and his heart missed a beat or two.

She was lying on the ground, face down—not moving, on the other side of the gaping wound a TIE bomber had opened in the area. Cassian frantically searched for a way to get to her, feeling like time was running out quicker than he could think of a solution. What if she’s dead? His brain screamed in agony. Move, just move. Please, move.

“Andor!”

He ignored the interjection, already making his way to cross over a pilled of fuming stones that had crumbled from the top of the Great Temple. Someone caught his shoulder furiously and dragged him back with a firm grip. 

“Pinoora’s team is down!” Melshi told him. “We have to go! Now !”

“I’m not leaving her!” 

No way. Go fuck yourself. All of you!

“She’s dead!” 

Stormtroopers were closing in their position from the East flank. It was only a matter of seconds now before their last escape route was cut from under their feet. Those few seconds would make the difference between life and death. Yet, Cassian couldn’t make the decision. He wouldn’t leave—couldn’t leave without her. She was not dead.

Even if she was—then, he had no reason to stay alive anymore. 

“Go!” he ordered Melshi without looking back, but more arms came to circle him.

“C’mon, Captain! It’s too late!”

“Leave her!” his friend growled over the rumble of the raging battle. “She’s gone!”

Fuck you. Fuck every one of you! I’m not leaving without her!

“Kriffin’ let me go! Jyn !”

She still hadn’t moved. He couldn’t tell if she was breathing or not. She could still be alive. She could be in need of urgent medical care. She most definitely needed him. He couldn’t leave her behind, never.

Cassian threw his elbow into Melshi’s face without restraint, trying to break free. Those idiots were getting too strong for him. When had they decided that they were so loyal to him—to the point of disobedience? Probably a long time ago. He would’ve done the same, because it was the logical thing to do, the good call. 

He had already done it. 

—Listen to me! He’s gone. Nothing you can do. C’mon! Move!

Except that Galen Erso had been dead, while his daughter was not. She couldn’t be. And they were dragging him away from her.

“Let me go!” he screamed—yelled, furiously combatting his own men.

Melshi had a bloody nose but didn’t break his grip on Cassian. The captain’s boots scraped on the ground helplessly. He was thrown into the cargo hold of the last rebel freighter.

“No, no, no !” 

Below them, a cloud of dust and debris rose from the ground when the pilot—Kaytoo most probably—ignited the power.

Cassian contemplated the stupid idea of jumping from the still-open back slope. What gives? The fall might kill him for good, be done with it. Instead, he latched onto the last row of ceiling handles and frantically scanned for the ground, panting in fear—trying to discern something among the aftermath of the attack. 

The whole place was wreckage.

The enemy was gathering by the main airshed.

Jyn moved.

 

 

Medbay alpha was busier than his last visit, despite the late hour.

Upon entering, Cassian noticed that the operating room was occupied, a red light silently watching over the closed door. A mission might have gone astray for some rebels. Morrick was nowhere in sight, most likely busy with critical patients. The man hardly ever slept—which was at least something he had in common with Cassian.

“Major Andor!” someone called after him, as he was about to pass through another security gate. “I’m sorry, Doctor Morrick has left specific instructions until he comes back.”

Cassian frowned, waiting, his hand suspended above the numeric pad.

“Are you here for Jyn Erso?” the young assistant said just above a murmur.

She looked like she might’ve been scared that someone would overhear their conversation, which was telling in itself.

“Yes.”

Obviously .

“Well… I’ve been told to not let anyone enter the room,” the petite woman explained nervously.

“Say what ?” Cassian growled with irritation.

“Because of the child,” she quickly added, trying to deflect the bad mood of her interlocutor. 

Cassian paused to wonder, letting his hand fall back to his side. He wasn’t happy about it—for sure, but he couldn’t deny that a part of him was almost pleased to be turned down—just so he had an excuse to defect. It made him even more irritated in return. A coward move. What was he supposed to do now? Wait? Talk to her through a glass? The idea felt way worse than anything else.

“For Force’s sake,” an older medic rumbled, walking by with a tray of sterile equipment in hands. “He’s Intelligence. He’s been grilled up and down. There’s not a single pathogen that would survive into that one.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Anyway, she’s been exposed to you already, right?”

“Yes,” Cassian replied with a flat tone.

For once, he was glad for the insane amount of antigens he was periodically injected with in order to do his job—preventing him from coughing up his own blood somewhere in the middle of the Unknown Regions. It would have been a pitiful end. Not to mention that the sole idea of harming that girl just by breathing next to her would have been—horrifying.

“You’re good to go then,” the medic told him without breaking her walk. “Just wash your hands and leave that nasty jacket outside.”

A gush of anxiety stopped him from taking a look at his attire. He really couldn’t have cared less about his appearance right now. She’s been exposed to you already. The type of information that seemed innocent enough. Not to Cassian, though. 

How many people were aware of that? How deep did it run? How long until the medics would start to talk to their friends—until the circle grew bigger and bigger? 

Cassian couldn’t kill that sort of data, not here. Too many people. Too little control. Even though Draven had declassified it, he didn’t feel comfortable knowing the return of Jyn Erso would go around Resoba before he had a chance to investigate every one of his concerns—before others started to investigate it as well. 

Not only Jyn, but also… her child. 

You better suck it up real fast, Andor. This is not about you. You’re the one who failed her. You’re the one trying to make yourself feel better. Disgusting. 1653 days.

Cassian typed the security code like he wanted to punch the small datapad, and entered the isolation ward.

Most of the rooms were dark, synched with the natural rotation period of Jagomir. 

One was still fully lit.

Cassian viscerally came to wish the medbay would have been located above ground. He wanted for Jyn to see the sky again, to contemplate the infinity of the galaxy while it would reflect in her eyes. Would she ever again let the lights die down while sleeping? Probably not.

When he stopped outside the designated door (courtesy of Kaytoo's scouting) with freshly washed hands, his chest was only rocks and tremors. 

Jyn was silently watching over the little girl, unaware of his presence. Cassian took an insightful look at her through the glass, wondering what were the right words to say—if they even existed. Her brown hair fell over her chest, ragged and lifeless. Dark circles ran low under her eyes and her cheeks were carved too sharply, just like the rest of her—he imagined. Jyn was ripped at every edge, used by life, and what was once beautiful about her was now wounded. 

Still, Cassian’s heart agonized with longing. 

He knocked on the door softly, wondering if he should enter or leave her to decide. Jyn’s head instantly flung upward, still on high alert. When she recognized the intruder, her expression faltered. The breach in her eyes told him a million things. She was so tired, but even now, she couldn’t manage to let go. 

Carefully, Jyn detached herself from the sleeping child and made a move to stand up. Cassian took it at his cue to enter the room. He closed the door in silence behind him while Jyn was taking a few steps to meet him. Estrange, they stood face to face for a few seconds without any of them daring to even let a breath out in the impersonal theatre of their reunion.

“I thought you wouldn’t come,” Jyn finally whispered.

And the world started to spin around Cassian. 

Was it for today or for all of the other days? 

How deep were you waiting for me? 

Don’t let her wake up alone—no, for that too, you’re too late.

He could only give her an apologetic look.

“I’m here.”

That was far from the best he could have done, but it was sincere enough for her to accept it.

“You’re here.” 

Very slowly, as if she was unsure of her own body, Jyn moved even closer. She made a gesture to touch him, though her hands seemed afraid to actually reach for him. Cassian lowered his head to watch her in silence, not trusting himself enough to say anything else. She pressed her palms flat against his chest and shivered with a painful expression. 

“Hold me, please,” she said, half a question, half a demand.

Cassian wasn’t used to physical affection. He didn’t like it. It made him tense and itchy, triggering very unpleasant things in his mind. He always made sure to avoid it as best as he could—which was easy enough with a grand total of two friends, one of them being a reprogrammed droid. But it was a very different story with Jyn, always had been. He didn’t mind being close to her— wanted it, badly. 

He wanted her back in his arms.

Cassian slid a hand at her waist to draw her closer. The other came to rest behind her head, enveloping her in his embrace while he closed his eyes. 

Time—traitorous and sinister time stolen from them —was suspended, at last. Breathing in the scent of her skin again, he would try to merge them together, so they never had to part again. Never had to be alone again. Cassian remembered everything he had found in Jyn, everything he had left to fight for six months on Yavin 4, six months sleeping next to the same person every night for the first time in his life. And so, for the last, he had decided.

—We’re both stupid.

—I know.

—Do you?

—I do. But you can say it if you want.

Jyn locked her arms around his back, tugging at his clothes, trying to find an anchor somewhere with all the strength she had left. He felt all of her despair, all of her ache, the force she poured into that grasp. Then he realized—no one would have hugged her like that for years and he knew it was something she needed. It broke his heart all over again.

A single sob escaped her throat, muffled out into the rough fabric of his shirt, but she didn’t cry. Cassian ran a gentle hand into her hair, kissed her forehead and hugged her even tighter, pushing everything else away from his mind for just a moment. Maybe if he held her close enough, the right kind of close, she would be able to seek out some strength from him. Take it, take all of itit’s yours. I’ll give you all I have left. I’ll carry you until I can no longer stand.    

Cassian whispered caring words to her with a low voice, letting his mind fly back to Caridan without noticing. She couldn’t understand, maybe for the best. She still listened in silence during everlasting minutes, never made a move to leave his arms. If they could have stayed like this forever, rearranged all the ugly in the world… maybe it would have been enough and nothing else would have mattered anymore.

“I’m glad it was you,” she finally told him.

And he knew what she meant.

—I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad.

“Welcome home,” Cassian said, again.

Chapter Text

04. Waiting to Collide

 

Entry : Battle of the Death Star

Location : Yavin 4, Outer Rim Territories

 

The late evening sky had never been more bright, consumed by the light of a dying star.

No darkness could be powerful enough to ever eclipse the remaining sparks of the Death Star, as the planet killer was burning into million pieces in the void of space. Here on the ground, the clamors of victory were filling the Great Temple from every corner. Cassian could hear them in the distance, while he watched the unnatural sunset through the small opening of his room. 

After a whole lifetime of losses, the rebel captain was contemplating their first real victory—one he had helped to achieve, and for the first time ever, he was proud to be alive.

The door clicked behind him and Cassian turned around, meeting a pair of green eyes shining with so much life in them that it made him dizzy. 

Jyn quickly walked up to him, catching him by the arm when he stumbled on her. His stance was still rough and hesitant—his mind still plagued by the remains of anesthetics and antibiotics pushed into his body while they were trying to keep him alive. 

“We did it,” Jyn smiled, just like she did in the communication tower. “We won!” 

“Yeah…” Cassian whispered, drowning into her eyes.

Her arms circled him tighter around the waist. 

He would’ve broken away from anyone else at this point, but not from her. She was pulsing with unrestrained energy and warmth and joy, burning to share every last bit of it with him. It was intoxicating. She was everything Cassian had lost so long ago. Jyn was everything he was missing, and the fact he was the first person she would run to in a moment like this made him way more lucky than he should’ve been.

“It wasn’t for nothing,” Jyn told him, and he recognized that echo with a heavy heart.

He wasn’t so sure of what he was doing anymore, but placed both his hands around her face with a caring gesture—something he had so rarely done in his life, pouring his soul into it. Her smile changed, and if she had been reflecting on everything moments before, now she was only focused on him. A new tension was suddenly sinking into her, her gaze darker, heavier with meaningful promises. 

For once, it wasn’t something he wished to shy away from. To his own surprise, Cassian found himself wanting this as much as she seemed to.

“You're my favorite rebel, you know,” she told him while searching for his eyes.

“And you don't even like rebels.”

“I do,” Jyn whispered. “I like you.” 

Ti tengu cara, Jyn, ” he said in Caridan, though the words would have translated into something stronger, because there wasn’t a simple equivalent for the Basic sentence.

She could only figure out her name, but it was enough for her to understand. 

Jyn was the one to find his lips. 

She kissed him like she would’ve kissed a long-time lover, like she already knew him, without any second-guessing. Cassian’s hesitation only lasted for a handful of seconds. He discovered with a surge of relief he wasn’t apprehensive of being intimate with her. Something he had weird thoughts about, because he couldn’t bear the idea of rejecting her. Even less having to fake his desire and lust, to force his body into action as if she was nothing more than one of the undercover assignments he had to fuck and be done with. He would have never done such a degrading thing to her, but really—he didn’t have to.

When he kissed her back, he lowered his face a little so she wouldn’t have to stand so tall to match his height, still holding her face between his palms. She tugged at the fabric of his brown shirt firmly—urging him even closer. 

For what felt like a small eternity, Jyn followed the curves of his thin lips with her own, offering so much more kindness than he had ever received. It made him lose all of his landmarks, lost into unchartered territories, but it was far from unpleasant. He grasped a better understanding of why people loved to kiss so much because he loved to kiss her. 

Soon enough, Cassian parted his lips to match her, sensually caressing her tongue with a new rush of excitement. He was quickly rewarded with soft moans on her part. She was eager in the way she pressed herself against him, and that craving traveled down his body with a rush of blood.

She tasted like brown sugar and oranges, and he was so fucked.

Cassian realized she was brighter than the death of any star, and he desperately wanted to take that for himself—be a part of her world, just for a moment in time.

He must have been out of his doshing mind, because otherwise, he would have never allowed himself to push Jyn Erso back to his bed. But he did, and something violently unlocked inside of him.

He fell on top of her with a low groan, searching for her skin while they kissed like starving souls. All of a sudden, the promise of a future meant nothing to them anymore. Only now mattered. The internalized traumas and crushing tension were all set loose in one go, and the only way to get it off their systems was into one another—bodies colliding to suppress the dark void of loneliness. 

He wanted her badly, so much more than anyone he had ever known. For one of those rare moments, Cassian felt sexual drive and attraction being plugged into his brain like a lost transmission. Something he hadn’t encountered in almost ten years, and that was now begging him to make love to Jyn. He was hard and rubbing himself between her legs to ease the pain, taking every bit of comfort she would offer.

Jyn reached down and pushed the fatigues past his narrow hips with the same urgency. He was barely aware of what she was doing, too busy sucking on the pale skin of her neck like he had fantasized about a handful of times recently. Reality was way more rewarding. Her hands were all over him and the only thing that crossed his mind was pleasure —no pain, no disgust, or any form of guilt. This wasn’t a lie or a scheme. Jyn was for real. So much that he could have forgotten how to breathe.

She struggled under him, trying to get rid of her own trousers while kicking her shoes aside. When he made a move to lift himself up, she stopped him and drew him back to her. 

“Don’t leave me,” Jyn asked with a tone that didn’t suffer contradiction.

So he didn’t. 

It wasn’t practical, but somehow they managed. Her more than him. Cassian felt the soft touch of her naked skin when he ran his hands on her thighs, up and down, then on the inside. He was kissing her full lips repeatedly and the taste of her was igniting so many nerves under his skin. She had her fingers buried in his hair. She thrust her hips into him and they both moaned in frenzy, panting, sweating under the heat of their bodies intertwined, still half-clothed. 

She made it clear what she wanted. Foreplay wasn’t on the list. 

She arched her body towards him, molding herself into his own, guiding him to the right angle with a hand around him. Cassian only came to his senses when he realized he was pushing into her, but it was way too late to ask himself if he deserved to have her. He breathed down her neck heavily, his whole body shaking while trying to hold still just for a moment. The thought of having actual sex with Jyn Erso was doing a lot of things for him.

Jyn crossed her arms behind his neck, trailing her fingernails under the collar of his shirt with such gentleness. She kissed his ear and pushed inwards herself, taking what she wanted from him—and he was more than happy to let her.

She was incomprehensibly wet for him, and tight, and warm—so warm. Everything about her was warm. Her body, her smile, her soul. He never wanted to leave it. Then she was moaning his name and his stomach made weird loops at the sound of her voice. She didn’t just want sex, she wanted sex with him. She wanted him. His own breath got caught in his throat. Everything about that moment felt unreal.

“Cassian,” she asked between short pants. “Faster.”

He frowned in concentration, pushing in and out of her while her legs were rising higher on his hips, deepening the penetration. That felt way too good.

“I can’t,” he managed to say. “I can’t or I’m gonna come.” 

“Yes. Do that, it’s okay.” 

“Jyn—”

She shut him up with another kiss. And once again, she made it clear that she wanted this faster, and she would get it. Who was he to deny her anything?

He let her set the pace then, grabbing her hips so hard that he might’ve bruised her skin. She didn’t complain. She moaned between his lips and dug her nails on his back, meeting his thrusts with the same passion each and every time. Cassian was lost in her, in her scent, in her touch. He was unable to think about a single thing besides how much she wanted this/him and how full it made his heart. His blood was liquid fire. His whole body was tensing and protesting, urging him to find release. He didn't want to, but the pressure of her walls around him was just so good and the way she was pushing her stomach down, to make him slide deeper—it was almost painful to resist.

“Let go,” Jyn said. 

A soft cry escaped his throat. He came hard and found her hand, fingers clasped together while she held him down. His voice sounded strange to his own ears, breaking over a pleading moan. Maybe he had never felt free to let it out before—to let go.

Jyn waited for him to catch his breath. When he opened his eyes, she looked as flushed as him, unraveled, and he had done that to her. He could feel every single place where their bodies merged together into unison. He could feel her around him, under him, everywhere in his mind with each heartbeat. Cassian was so used to the cold and grime and rough of his life. He was so used to the taste of blood and the smell of blaster burns. She was like fresh air, like the dark blue ocean—she was freedom.

Jyn made him roll over and straddled him without breaking the intimate contact. She threw her head back, eyes closed, and he watched her as she was finishing herself off with one hand. That was the most erotic thing he had ever seen. Just—her, and the unnatural sunset burning in the night sky behind her dark silhouette. Everything else was a blur, but he could never unsee that. The way she bit her lip, the way she moved her hips, touching herself, still rocking him. 

Cassian grabbed her waist, his thumbs tracing the muscles of her abdomen. She reached for his right hand, dragged it down to replace her own between her legs. She balanced her weight on his torso with the other one and lowered herself closer to him. Some strands of hair had escaped her low bun, framing her face like dark silk. 

“Cassian—” she choked out. “Don’t stop. Don’t—”

The way her face contorted with every passing second was a reward in itself. She looked so serene with him, so trustful. He kept on stroking her with wet fingers, making a mess of their bodies. Just moments later, he felt her contracting around him and she cried out with a higher pitch than her usual voice. 

She let herself fall back against him, her head resting on the curve of his neck. Cassian protectively wrapped his arms around her and he wasn’t sure if he was ever going to let her go ever again. Their breathing slowly came down to a silent rhythm in the confinement of the small room. He ran a hand on her back, under the layer of the shirt no one had taken off. She gently traced the contour of his jaw, detailing him thoughtfully. They didn’t talk. His mind was dazed by what had just happened.

Maybe he should’ve thought about it some more. 

Maybe he should’ve asked himself if it was a smart move to let himself fall in love with Jyn. But for that too, he was surely a bit too late. 

 

 

“You should sleep.”

“I can’t,” Jyn barely whispered, dead-tired but refusing to close her eyes.

“They can give you another sedative,” Cassian offered. 

She dismissed it silently, which he didn’t understand but decided not to insist. Jyn was back on the bed, and neither the movement or the sound of their voices had disturbed the little one in her sleep. Cassian thought she still might’ve been knocked out by drugs, and wondered what would happen when she would wake up—inevitably.

He might have been back for Jyn, but neither of them had brought up the burning subject yet. Some much for bravery. Cassian loathed himself for his lack of courage. The last thing he wanted was for Jyn to get hurt because of him, but he also knew his attitude would lead to an impending disaster sooner or later. Rather sooner, than later.

Still, Jyn didn’t say anything and let him pretend like there wasn’t a child sleeping under a grey blanket with a peaceful expression.

Cassian had barely looked at her, fearful of what he would see, but he did see. He was trained to map people’s features at first glance, and to never forget them. She had the same face shape as Jyn, the same lips, the same round nose. If he would really look—

Jyn leaned back on the head of the bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. Cassian could've told her nothing would work unless she finally lay down and let herself drift back into sleep. He had been in her shoes before, past the point of exhaustion, and even he hadn’t had to come back from something like she had been through. But it was Jyn, and she wouldn’t listen—unless maybe, he found a way to convince her.

“Do you want me to stay?” 

He could offer that much if it made her cave in. She looked at him with a vulnerable expression, trying to hold on, trying not to show the cracks.

I’m doing this to you, aren't I? 

“Yes,” she finally said, defeated. “But…” 

She never spoke the end of her sentence. Cassian couldn’t pry the words from her without bruising, and wouldn’t do that to her right now.

“Alright,” he agreed with a soft voice. “Just go to sleep, Jyn. We'll talk later. We have time.”

Not that much time until another one is added to the deceased pile. But she doesn't need to know. This is your job, your ghosts. Your mission. 

Cassian dragged a lonely chair by the edge of the bed and sat down, sternly combating the alarm sounding in the back of his mind. Jyn seemed hesitant at first, but finally complied and lay herself down. She naturally rolled onto her side to scoop closer to her child, her long brown hair falling around her head loosely. 

Cassian watched closely as she moved an arm to hold the little girl, feeling like an acidic burn had spread inside of his chest. He crossed his arms tightly, kept himself in line. He listened to the sound of Jyn’s breathing for a few minutes, already knowing he wouldn’t be able to rest himself. It didn’t matter, he could go another round without sleep.

“Where are we?” she then asked with a pensive tone.

It occurred to him that no one had provided her with any sort of information.

“In the Esstran sector,” Cassian told her, trying to keep a low voice. “The planet’s called Jagomir.” 

“There isn’t an ocean, is there?”

Is that what you want, Jyn? An ocean? Do you want to be back on Lah’mu, or to see a new one? I could give you that. I could give you everything if you ask for it.

“No,” he had to tell her. “Only swamps and mountains, and an aggressive fauna. But there’s a silversun waiting for you outside… I'll find you a room in the barracks as soon as you're clear to be discharged.”

“Thank you.” 

Now that she had finally lay down, fatigue was taking over her. Her words were slower and quieter, but the edge of her mind was still on high alert. Cassian could tell by the way her shoulders were supporting her weight and the habit she had to clench her fist nervously. 

He bent forward and pressed a hand to her back, trying to ease her into sleep. Her body tensed for a second, then relaxed under his touch—maybe finding comfort in the memory of those nights together. Her shoulders loosen up and he pushed her hair away from the nape of her neck, gently rubbing it with a thumb. 

“I’ve missed you,” she barely said above a murmur, a tremor in her voice. “So much that I don’t have words for it. I’m still afraid I’ll wake up back in a cell—that I’ve just lost my mind and you’re not really here...”

“I’m here. You're safe, Jyn.” He paused, then forced himself to add, “... both of you.”

A suspended silence hovered about them, careful and attentive.

“Her name’s Felis,” Jyn finally said.

There was something about her voice that felt incredibly protective.

“I know. I have access to your files.” 

An automatic answer, defensive—he wasn’t pleased with himself. He couldn't play the unemotional card with her.

Cassian thought about the thing he really wanted to say, something he so rarely did in his life, but for her—he would. 

“It’s a beautiful name.”

 

MEDICAL REPORT #HF5879, ERSO FELIS

}}

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “CASSANDR”> 

<Subject = “ERSO, FELIS LYRA”>

<Species = “Human”>

<Gender = “Female”>

<Born = “1 ABY, Shingra”>

<Blood type = “O RhD-negative”>

<Height = “0.96 meters”>

<Hair color = “Brown”>

<Eye color = “Brown”>

<Skin color = “Light”>

}}

<Biological mother = “ERSO, JYN”>

<Biological father = “N/A”>

 

“Cassian—”

So this is it, he inevitably thought. Nevertheless, he gave her the get-go.

“Yes.”

“I can’t decide if you won’t ask because you already know, or if it’s because you don’t want to hear the answer.”

Cassian took in the impact without recoil, every part of him reflexively swelling to absorb the deadly blast in silence. He kept on stroking her with a gentle hand, his voice stayed as steady as it has been—and the truth wasn’t so hard to vocalize anymore.

“I can’t decide either.”

Chapter Text

 

05. My Own Blood

 

Entry: Day 166

Location: S̶h̶i̶n̶g̶r̶a̶,̶ ̶O̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶i̶m̶ ̶T̶e̶r̶r̶i̶t̶o̶r̶i̶e̶s

 

Pain was back. Worse this time.

Jyn couldn’t sleep anymore. She was exhausted and scared, alone between the shadows of those four oppressing walls. The cave was crushing her, suffocating. She was losing her mind—with no possible escape for her haunting terror. 

She could barely move, feeling like someone was stabbing her in the back repeatedly. And when she did, it was only to kneel down over the latrine to throw up the content of her empty stomach. Bile burnt her throat. She gasped for air, her forehead damp with sweat.

Jyn fell backward on the ground, pushing on her feet to crawl back to her bunk. Her back collided with the cold metal frame but she couldn’t manage to push herself on top of it. She just lay there without moving, trying to force some musty air down her lungs.

Her whole body was shaking and she was entirely convinced she was going to die.

She couldn’t take any more of it, but she would have to—somehow, because it was far from over.

A wave of acute pain came back to rip her in half. She cried out, shut her eyes, and dug her fingernails into her palms so hard that it might have left bloodstains on her skin. Then, she realized she wanted to do something absolutely uncalled for. Her body was acting on its own accord and she had no common sense left. Jyn realized she needed to—push. 

The burning shock almost caused her to faint in horror. 

This was not happening.

She was not.

She ripped the blanket from her bunk and lay back on the ground, clutching it to her chest while hysterical sobs parted her dry lips. She wanted Lyra to be here. She wanted Cassian, more than anyone. Hot tears rolled down her face, blinding her. Soon enough, Jyn was wailing in pain again and she placed both hands on her stomach. She couldn’t— because she would have known. Force fuck, she would’ve seen!

She was losing her goddamn mind.

Yet the pressure was unbearable and she couldn’t take it any longer. She just—blacked out, shut down her whole mind, every last bit of it. Just be done with it.

Jyn struggled to get out of her over-worn pants.

She didn’t really register what she was doing, unable to think, but she did it nonetheless. Because she had to.

The pain was overwhelming. The solitude made it so much worse, with no hand to reach for and no one to tell her she was going to be okay. But at least now, she was doing something and it was better than doing nothing at all. 

Jyn wasn’t prepared for this. How could she be? 

She kneeled down by the side of her bunk and clasped her fingers around the frame until her knuckles turned white. She couldn’t even manage to scream anymore, because she was too busy trying not to suffocate with the faint amount of air she could suck in. She grinned her teeth, eyes painfully shut and just—went with it. 

She knew nothing about giving birth.

But it was daunting and horrifying and messy. It felt like an invasion of her privacy, a violation of her own body. From the inside. She wanted it gone and over. She wanted to just wake up from yet another one of her nightmares.

It could’ve lasted hours and she wouldn’t have known. Her perception of time was long gone. She was sweating and burning up and her thighs were covered in fluids and most probably her own blood—because she could smell it. At least, that was familiar. 

When she thought she was going to pass out from the agony she was in, the burn finally eased out. She was lightheaded, violently shaking from head to toe. Weird impulses made her act more than she was possibly capable to acknowledge. She reached to it. It was incredibly dark around her, but she was still capable of discerning things—if only she would have wanted to. Jyn couldn’t look at it. She just couldn’t. 

Her whole sanity was broken in half. 

She lay there in silence, hugging herself like a frightened little girl—listening to the sound of her own difficult breathing while time didn’t wait for her. And in spite of all her despair, she still noticed that silence. Maybe it shouldn’t have been so silent after all. Maybe she didn’t want it to be. Maybe if she could get her mind to cooperate with her again… so she could take a grasp of what had just happened to her, violently, destructively.

Jyn slowly tried to push the emptiness away to come back to herself. An idea was starting to form under her brain. 

What if——she wasn’t alone anymore? 

What if she had someone else? 

What if she had a part of him?

She felt so many things at once that it was impossible for her to process any of it. She opened her eyes again and searched for it, cursing herself a thousand times.

Finally, her hands found back the small form lying over the blanket. Her heart painfully jumped in her chest, apprehensive and desperate. She felt the movement—the life of it. Something was alive, with her, in here. She cried some more heavy tears. Her gestures were unsteady and uncooperative. She had never held a baby before. Blast, she had never even known one! Jyn didn’t know a single thing about newborns, even less how to possibly care for it here. But she knew the cell was cold, and it needed warmth.

So she placed it on her chest, under her clothes, and hugged it tightly. 

It wasn’t crying, but it was definitely breathing. Some weight was lifted from the mountain of anxiety crushing her down. She could feel the small tickle of it on her skin, the way tiny hands were brushing over her, the sounds it made while discovering—well, its mother, she supposed.

She didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and she didn’t care to look right now. All she knew was that—she somehow had a child when she didn’t even know she was pregnant a few hours ago. She still didn’t understand how it could have happened, how her own body had managed to keep it secret for so long—even from herself. But she had that child now— Cassian’s child, and she would’ve done anything to protect it.

Everything seemed to finally click in her mind. She had a reason to stay alive. 

That fight was far from over.

 

 

“Mama, what’s that?” the little voice whispered to her.

Jyn pushed the plate closer to her child, sat in between her legs while trying very hard to be invisible to the other man standing in the room.

“Food,” she told Felis. “It’s very good, you should try it.”

“Hmm.”

Felis didn’t seem convinced by the argument and kept on eyeing the steaming bowl of stew suspiciously. 

“It’s not the same,” she whispered once again.

“I know. We can have different food now,” Jyn patiently said. “Just try a bit. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it.”

“I’m sure we’ll find you something you like,” Lorren Morrick told the little girl. “Maybe something sweeter. I think we still have some Jogan fruits from the last supplying.”

Felis ignored the doctor and sunk even closer on her mother’s lap, hiding behind a curtain of brown hair that curled at the ends. She was terrified of anyone trying to approach her since she had woken up, and wouldn’t leave Jyn’s personal space even for one second. The medic had told Jyn it was a normal reaction, giving the circumstances—and that she would adjust to her new life eventually. 

It wasn’t too late —for Felis to grow up and be a normal functioning person, despite the trauma. For Jyn… maybe it would take more effort.

But this isn’t about you, she recalled. It was always for her.

“Well, I’m gonna eat it because I’m very hungry,” she said with a luring tone. “Sure you don’t want some of it, Fei?”

Felis shook her head and buried her face into Jyn’s stomach, curling up into a ball without a sound. The young woman sighed, but didn’t insist. It would have achieved nothing anyhow, as this little one was almost as stubborn as someone else she knew. Hopefully, she would be too hungry to pass on another meal pretty soon, or would reconsider her options as soon as the two of them would be left alone.

It was a strange thing—waiting to be left alone. 

Jyn’s feelings had a hard time to integrate the notion. It was hurtful, reverberating on many other of her thoughts. The sole fact of letting Cassian walk out that door had been almost unbearable to her, but he had to go—unsurprisingly. At least, he pretended he had to.

She hadn’t seen him in over two days.

Don’t do that, Jyn. Don’t do that now.

“Sorry it took so long for me to catch up on you two,” Morrick said, drawing her out of her thoughts. “Busy time.”

“Did… something happen?” 

She couldn’t help but think about Cassian—again. Jyn didn’t know the state the Rebellion was in, or the war for that matter, but she was no idiot. The man considered his answer for a moment, studying her above a pair of small glasses.

“A scouting party has been attacked near the swamps,” he finally said. “Not by the enemy, though. Just a group of evarrians, but it was pretty bad and caused some confusion. Things were… tense for a little while.”

“I see.” 

“You should stay inside the base perimeter, the place is quite hostile. Especially for a child.”

“Does this mean we can go out?” Jyn asked with a sudden spark of hope.

“You certainly can be discharged, I see no reason to keep you down here. I’d like to keep Felis under my radar, but… reality is I don’t have that much resources. I would suggest you avoid hard daylight, though. We have a thirty hours clock on the cluster, so—try sunset. And keep her away from crowds.”

Excitement filled her chest at the prospect of stepping outside. She wanted for her child to see the real world, to know what the sky looked like, to see the stars and the infinite of their freedom. She could teach her so many more things now. She could let her run and climb and play in the dirt and just—be a child, as she had once been. 

Just a few days ago, all of this still seemed impossible to her and now… Everything had changed. Was it fate? Was it the will of the Force? Jyn didn’t believe in any of that, but Lyra had. Her mother had always been a fervent adept. She still remembered the red sash Lyra wore around the waist, it always smelled like her when little Jyn played with it and pretended to be a Jedi master. The memory felt like it belonged to another person, in another life.

Jyn too had been born in a prison—somewhere colder, on Vallt. She too, had been protected by her parents and the stories they had created for her to believe in. Thinking of them now, she only wished they had still been alive to meet Felis. Her father would’ve loved to teach her all sorts of valuable knowledge.

She briefly wondered what Galen Erso would’ve thought about Cassian—a man who had been sent to murder him, but didn’t. 

Jyn, trust the Force.

“I’m a neuroscientist, so I’m probably too blunt for this,” Morrick continued. “But if you need to talk…”

“I don’t need to,” she cut out. “I’m fine.”

She had said the words almost too quickly, eager to believe in it herself. Thankfully enough, the man didn’t press her on it. Jyn didn’t want to talk about it. And certainly not to a stranger. She just wanted to have her life back, or rather make a new one for Felis—and she didn’t know if someone else would be there to be part of it.

“Alright… On another topic, Andor’s droid has been bothering my team repeatedly, so I figured I’d ask if you want to see him.”

Jyn caught a breath in her throat and forgot all about her food.

“Kay’s here?”

“Is that his name? Well, yes. He’s quite… persistent.”

“He is,” she laughed so she didn’t have to crack. “I’d like to see him.” 

“Fine. Let Besany know if you need anything.”

 

 

The old man with the cracky voice was finally gone.

Felis gave a little scouting look around the room, just to be sure, before she sat up. Everything was so bright here, it still felt very weird and scary. She rested her head against Mama’s chest and played with her long hair, trying to braid it like Mama did with her own. She wasn’t very good at it yet. She couldn’t figure out how to cross it right and it bothered her.

Mama didn’t seem to notice. She was eating the weird food someone had given them. It smelled weird too, and looked like it was very hot. Felis didn’t think it was a good idea to eat that. She wondered if all the different food looked like that, because she didn’t want it. But she was a little hungry, too.

Suddenly, loud noises were happening again and the door moved. She really didn’t like that. Felis retreated behind Mama’s shoulder on the bed, and waited to see what would happen. She didn’t want to see anyone else today.

Her eyes opened wider when she noticed it wasn’t a person. Well, not a human one. It was a droid, taller than anyone she had ever seen, with very long legs and very long arms. His head looked so small on top of his body, but he had big white eyes and when he looked at her, Felis gasped and dug down behind Mama again. 

“Hello, Jyn Erso,” the droid said with a slow voice. “All those people were very rude to me, otherwise I would have come in sooner. But I’m glad to see you’re still alive, it’s been a long time. You’ve aged quite a bit, unlike me.”

“I’m glad to see you too,” Mama said.

Felis couldn’t tell if she was laughing or not. Trying to get another curious look at the droid, she moved on the bed a little bit.

“And you’re not alone,” the droid said. 

Felis gripped her hands around Mama’s arm. The white eyes were very strange and moving up and down to look at her.

“Human children are really small.”

Felis frowned. She wasn’t small at all. Not anymore. Not since she had been a baby. Well, Mama was taller but it was because she was a grown-up. Felis would be like her too, one day. But that droid was really tall, and big. It was a bit scary actually. She stayed behind Mama and tried to look at him discreetly while they spoke.

She had only seen another droid a few times when she had to follow bad people in another room, but he didn’t look like this one at all. There had been a scary man in grey, too, and he had the same needles as the old man with the glasses, so Felis didn’t like any of them. She didn’t like needles either. It burnt in her arms but Mama told her to be brave so she tried not to cry. Sometimes, she still cried a bit. Mama never did.

Felis was scared that she had to see bad people again. 

There was a big door in this room, too, but it opened a lot more. Maybe it was their new home. Mama had said they would go away someday, Felis just didn’t know when it would be because she couldn’t count very far yet. 

She looked at the droid again, tugging at Mama’s sleeve. Mama wasn’t afraid of him, she wasn’t afraid of anything. Felis wanted to be like her, so she held her necklace tightly and whispered her question to Mama.

“Does the droid of the story look like that, Mama? The one with the captain?” 

“Yes, Fei.” 

She opened her mouth with a silent sound of interest. She wanted to ask another question, but the droid spoke again.

“Excuse me, I find this very coincidental and worth of interest. How many KX-series security droids do you happen to know, Jyn Erso?”

Very coincidental,” Mama said.

Felis didn’t know what that word meant, but she kept on listening. She thought the droid was less scary if he was the friend of Mama in the story. She liked that story a lot, it was her favorite one. He knew Mama’s name too, and that was weird because no one called her like that. It was like a secret.

“I’d like for you to provide me with more information on the subject.”

“Another time, Kay.”

“I’ll make sure to remind you of it. Cassian asked me to bring you new clothes.”

The droid set down a bag on their bed and Felis looked at it curiously. She already had new clothes. She had woken up with them though, so she didn’t know where it came from. They were nice because they smelled clean, but she didn’t like the color of it. It was very light, like… She didn’t really know. But maybe there was a color she liked in the bag. 

“Where is he? Is he okay?”

Mama was sad again and Felis stopped thinking about what was inside the bag to look at her.

She thought it would be better if Cassian wasn’t too far then, so Mama could see him maybe and stopped being sad. She didn’t know who that was, but he had a nice name. It was funny on her tongue and she tried it a few times in silence. Maybe Cassian lived in another room. Maybe he couldn’t go outside and only droids could.

“Last time I had contact with him was a few hours ago and he was in good condition. He’s traveling to the Mid Rim to meet one of his informers. He hasn’t specified a date of return yet.”

“Is he alone?” Mama asked with a weird voice.

It was a bad thing and Felis agreed. She couldn’t imagine being without Mama. Cassian really should've been with someone too or it could get scary.

“Against my best efforts. I offered to go with him but he said I had to stay here and look after you—which I thought was unnecessary and quite useless since I’m not a med droid. He was very specific about it and very stubborn. You would know about that.”

“Yes… I would.”  

Mama smiled a little and Felis felt better.

“Anyway, this is for you,” the droid said. “And this—is for you .”

Felis gasped in surprise.

The droid had taken a small thing out of the bag that wasn’t clothing. It looked like the doll she used to make with her blanket, except it wasn't a blanket. And it had a weird shape. Felis had never seen anything like that. The ears were pointy and big, and funny. There were black stripes on it, but the rest was green. Felis liked green a lot. Mama had green eyes. And she liked the big tail and the weird mouth on its face.

“What is it?” she asked softly.

She wasn’t sure if she was allowed to have it and waited for Mama to nod before reaching out to it with small hands. She took it from the droid and sat back a little further on the bed. It was fuzzy and she thought she would like to hug it a little longer.

“It’s a Tooka-cat,” Mama explained. “Well, not a real one… A plush of it, so you can play with it. Do you like it?”

“Yes,” she whispered, running her fingers on it curiously. 

“Does it feel soft?”

Felis nodded and then timidly asked, “Can I keep it?”

She hoped Mama would say yes, because she liked it a lot.

“Yes. You should say thanks to Kay.”

Felis tried to say that, even though she was still a little unsure about the droid. But he didn’t let her.

“It wasn’t my idea,” he said. “Cassian said I had to.” 

Felis thought this Cassian person was from the nice people. She liked him because she liked the Tooka-cat… 

Mama seemed to like him too, and Felis wondered if he had ever given Mama a gift or just to her. She also wondered if she was going to see him soon.

Chapter Text

06. Black Noise

 

Walking across the docking bay, Cassian lowered his head, trying to blend in the scattered crowd of travelers. From their vantage point, Imperial soldiers were carefully supervising the spaceport, safely tucked behind reinforced glass. 

Situated between Rumitaka and Satotai, both inhabitable planets of the Five Points system, the space station coordinates made it one of the most outlawed in the galaxy in spite of the Empire’s presence—or maybe thanks to it. They weren’t even close to surrendering their hold on the strategic posting, no matter the ongoing political events flaring across the galaxy. As for the allies, priority wasn’t set in reclaiming an unstable ecosystem like this one.

Smugglers, resellers, spies, assassins—they all came to Five Points sooner or later. Usually, the transit didn’t last long. Either they would fly off with fewer credits in their pockets (Pso’s Palace was the place to go to test one’s luck, hookers and pick-pockets were another cause for credits deficit), or they would simply end up dead in a back alley, no witness in sight. There wasn’t any other alternative. 

No one chose to stay on the space station by design, and the ones that couldn’t afford to go someplace else—well, life wasn’t kind in space, even less forgiving.

Cassian moved past the main square with a measured pace, following the line of shoddy constructions stacked on top of each other. From the beggars seated on the main street, one woman asked him for some credits with an open hand. He didn’t slow down or acknowledge her. 

With a quick look over his shoulder, Cassian made sure no one was following in his footsteps before he turned at the corner of the next side alley. A putrid smell arose around him between the narrow walls, attesting of the poor station maintenance. Blue smoke coming from the ground concealed a ventilation grid that he didn’t notice until the sole of his boots echoed on the metal. Just on the other side of it, a dark silhouette cladded in long robes suddenly emerged from the shadows. 

Cassian kept a steady hand near the blaster pistol strapped to his leg, ready to act. Under the heavy hood, a pair of black eyes greeted him with a nervous expression—which he registered as a menace for his own safety.

“You alone?” asked the Hylobon’s raspy voice. 

“Yes. You have my confirmation?”

His informer nodded. The grey of his skin appeared almost blue through the fog surrounding them.

“Payment first.” 

Cassian hadn’t come empty-handed, prepared to honor his part of the deal. 

Most of the time, resources such as monetary leverage were provided by the Alliance to their operatives—or rather by a party of generous benefactors members of the Rebel Alliance, keeping the war effort alive. For this one lead, Cassian was willing to pay with his own stack of credits, not trusting anyone but himself to handle his concerns. He didn’t want anyone to know what business he had on the space station, including any curious mind who might have overlooked Intelligence logs and wondered why a Fulcrum had retrieved a hundred credits without a mission order. 

It was a cheap deal anyway, barely the price of a broken ship in scrap metal. If he had known just how much Cassian needed the information, the Hylobon would’ve asked for way more. His loss. This is the price of ignorance.  

Something Cassian couldn’t afford. 

For the longest time, his informer closely inspected the credits, as if to make sure they weren’t forged. Cassian could’ve told him he wasn’t expert enough to bypass the chip security on Imperial credits—though he knew someone who likely was. 

A long time ago, standing right here on Five Points, Jyn Erso had made a perilous deal with an Imperial Commander over forged credits. A bad decision that led her to go down and to being sent to prison. Ultimately, that mistake of hers was the first real opportunity the Alliance had to gather solid Intel on her. If she hadn’t been caught and betrayed, she could’ve kept on wandering around a lot longer, not indefinitely—but she was good at survival, as she had proved so many times. 

Up until that particular event, the daughter of Imperial scientist Galen Erso had been nothing but a ghost on Cassian’s screen.

 

INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT OF INTENTIONS REPORT #4566A-7O

}}

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “CASSANDR”> 

<Subject = “Extraction of [redacted]  ̶J̶y̶n̶ ̶E̶r̶s̶o̶”>

<Primary objective = “Preliminary assessment forward to Bravo Team”>

<Imperial data intercepted as followed>

}}

<IMPERIAL DETENTION CENTER & LABOR CAMP LEG-817>

<LOCATION: Wobani>

<PRISONER: Liana Hallik, #6295A>

<CRIMES: Forgery of Imperial Documents, Resisting Arrest, Aggravated Assault, Possession of Unsanctioned Weapon (two counts), Escape from Custody>

}}

}}

 

Memories from a lifetime ago.

When he felt satisfied enough with his loot, the Hylobon made a move to grab something from one of his inner pockets. Cassian tensed on instincts, not leaving the man’s hands from sight, ready to act at the first indication of a concealed weapon. Instead, the Hyolobon handed him another stack of credits—which left him confused for a few seconds.

They weren’t real ones, though. Rather longer and three times as wide, the front decorated with the words PSO’S PALACE and a silhouette of a Twi’lek dancing. Cassian quickly picked up the direction of the exchange.

“He’ll be in the gambling halls,” the Hylobon said. “You’ll need this to enter. Go to the sabacc tables to find him.”

“Alright.”

“I’ll warn you,” the other growled, barely hiding a grimace of disgust. “He plays with Imperial scum.” 

Not the best news, but nothing that could surprise Cassian when it came to the mercenary. It would have to do. Regardless, no one knew that a rebel spy was on Five Points—with the exception of his informer. The risk of treason was low enough that Cassian would let him walk away unharmed. He needed to keep his stack of contacts in the game, especially if he wanted to protect Jyn from something he couldn’t see just yet.

As for Vega and his Imperial friends, Cassian would handle it no matter the outcome. Vaccinate, if he had to. He had done far more dangerous things in the past. This was nothing but a mere tease to his skills. Yet, the consequences would be way more painful if something were to go wrong, because this time—he had someone else to keep safe. 

Someone small and innocent. 

All the better parts of Jyn were secured into that child… he had realized sometimes on his way here. All of it, even her love— especially her love. It did include her love for him, too, or what might have been left of it after all those years, and he couldn't have one without the other. Not anymore. The price of truth, he thought.

Now, Cassian felt the urge to have it all.

 

 

Entry: Occupation of Echo Base

Location: Hoth, Outer Rim Territories

 

“That’s it ?” Cassian growled with a pissed-off attitude. “That’s all we got?”

In the cavernous ice hangar of their newly found settlement, the subzero temperature did nothing to cool down the man’s temper. With a furious kick of the boot on the metal crate, Cassian sought out a physical outlet to his stinging frustration. More bad news.

Next to him, the tired soldier left in charge of material supervision almost jumped from apprehension. Clearly, he was dreading to be the one standing in the captain’s line of fire—but Cassian had no time to waste with the how and why. 

“All the others are gone?” he asked again, somehow adamant.

“Affirmative, Captain,” the man said. “Either requisitioned or lost during the evac. This is all I have left.” 

“Requisitioned by who ?”   

Certainly not by Intel—because that was Cassian’s first pick, and it had proven to be fruitless. 

“High Command.”

Of course,” he snarled, bitter. 

With every word he spoke, Cassian could see his breath forming in the freezing air in front of him. His black tactical gloves weren’t thick enough to stop the penetrating cold from nipping at his fingers painfully. There wasn’t a single part of his body that wasn’t frozen solid by the remote, icy, merciless Hoth—not his hands, not his heart, not his soul. 

Cassian was cold from the loss of her.

The war, the fight, the survival, the hope—nothing had sense anymore if Jyn wasn’t part of it. Nothing mattered anymore if Jyn wasn’t here and Cassian was rendered empty. 

You should’ve found a way, you should’ve rescued her. She would have. She didn’t leave you behind, she fought for you when you couldn’t stand alone anymore. She carried you both out of Scarif and you failed her.

—Cassian, move! We’re not dying here!

With an expressionless stare, he weighed his options, looking over the few hyperspace transponders left at his disposition. Old models, way too big to be concealed under one’s garments, barely transportable in a backpack. But Cassian needed one, and with no other alternative in sight, that would have to do.

He could only pray and hope no one would come to search him thoroughly. For what he was about to do, and where he was about to go—on vacuum as they called it, those odds didn’t look too good. At least, the transponders were probably old enough that their frequencies had been decommissioned long ago—thus, the relays were unlikely to be spotted. A small mercy.   

Cassian grabbed one of the antique devices and shoved it inside his backpack. 

“You haven’t signed the roster, Captain,” the soldier then told him, uncertain.

“Maybe that one was lost on Yavin, too,” Cassian answered with a stone-cold voice. 

A small hesitation was left hanging in the air.

“Yes, maybe,” the man finally breathed out under the officer’s pressure.

Without more time to waste, Cassian turned on heel and walked away from the poor recruit. 

Truthfully, Cassian Andor was never a popular figure among his peers. Too silent, too secretive, too observant. He had forged himself a reputation among the other spy-trained operatives of the Coordinate division—one of a snarky scum doing everything that needed to be done, with unclean methods and tainted morals. They whispered behind his back that Cassian would be the only 23er to make it out from their batch, because he was so dehumanized. But even there and then, Captain Andor had never been as dreary and bleak as he was now.

This was the last of him, and everything standing in the way of his objective was to be discharged. Protocols or not.

“Cassian!” 

The sound of rapid, familiar footsteps ran after him long before someone finally came into his field of view. After all, the place wasn’t called Echo Base for no reason.

“Not now, Melshi,” he dismissed his friend without slowing down.

The sergeant wasn’t going to be deterred so easily, though. In the long artificial corridor carved into the glacier, he grabbed Cassian by the arm to stop him before they could reach the main hangar.

“Cassian, listen to me—”

Instinctively, Cassian broke from the grip with a swift parade, reversing their positions before he had the chance to think about it. Using more force than necessary, the captain pushed his forearm against Melshi’s throat and shoved the man back to the ice wall, with an unforeseen spark of fury—resentment? 

Special Forces officer Ruescott Melshi could have taken down Cassian, but chose not to, and both men acknowledged that fact—for another time. 

“No, you listen to me,” Cassian growled darkly. “I don’t care how close the Empire is! I don’t care what they do next, I don’t give a fuck what happens to the doshing galaxy! All I know—is that they have Jyn somewhere, and I’m the last chance she got! I’m not going to sit around and wait.” 

Finally releasing the pressure, Cassian took a step back. His resolve didn’t bulge. His voice was reverbered to him with the same spite he was pouring into it. 

“So either you shoot me dead right now—or you let me do my kriffin’ job because I won’t stop. I won’t stop until I find her. No matter how long, how far or how hard I need to go on this.” 

Looking into his friend’s eyes, Cassian felt remorse over the disregard for so many years of close support, but he said the words nonetheless.

“And I’ll fuck you up if you stand in my way. You—or anyone.”

“I won’t,” Melshi told him with a stern voice. “But we’re already scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I don't want you to become a burning target. Counter-Intel is going to orphan you if you spend resources without the HQ’s approval.”

“I don’t need resources,” Cassian snorted, arrogant. “I only need one man to do the dirty work, like I always did. Back to the old days crawling in the mud.” 

Melshi groaned in annoyance, every nervous tic passing on his exhausted face to inform Cassian of how stupid he thought the captain was acting. The dark circles under his eyes made his gaze appeared even more somber while he was scanning for Cassian’s attention.

“If you’re going dark right now, with no lead, no support, in the state the war is in—you might never surface again. And what then? Who’s gonna help Erso if you’re dead?”

He paused for a moment, then added: 

“Andor, this is suicide.” 

The other man took a sharp breath in, knowing full well this conversation could be the last one he had with the Pathfinder for a very long time—but nothing could have changed his mind. Just like no one had dared to acknowledge the possibility that Jyn Erso might have been already dead. 

“I’ve been fighting this war for twenty kriffin’ years,” Cassian said like a sentence. 

I told myself it was for a cause I believed in. A cause that was worth it. Without that, we're lost. Everything we've done would have been for nothing. 

“If I’m going to die for something, then it’s going to be for her.” 

I couldn't face myself if I gave up now.

 

 

Pso’s Palace wasn’t a place to look for trouble.

Upon entering, Cassian had to leave his blaster pistol and combat knife into a security locker, rendering him more vulnerable than he liked to be. Even as it was, he was still a deadly agent capable to defend his life, but close combat had never been his strong suit. Cassian was a sniper, not a fighter. He could only hope he wouldn’t have to test his luck today. He had no reason to suspect Vega would be hostile to his presence. Displeased—probably, but not uncooperative. 

Cassian knew how to be persuasive without resorting to physical threats, and he hoped he had enough leverage on the mercenary to go in and out of this place without delay.

He wasn’t prepared, though, for Vega to pull leverage on him.

“Look at that, my friends!” the Zabrak suddenly exclaimed with a sarcastic voice. “If this isn’t a rebel spy joining for a game!”

The introduction surely enough caught everyone's attention around the circular table. For a handful of seconds, Cassian froze in high alert—not knowing what to expect. He had spotted at least two Imperial officers in the small private area, separated from the main room by some colorful rags hanging from the ceiling. Relaxed in his chair, the tan-skinned mercenary grinned at him, the distinctive horns of his species forming a crown on his head to compliment his arrogant attitude.

“I’m not here to play,” Cassian finally answered with a flat tone.

Sit your ass,” Vega ordered. “Or I’ll sit it for you.” 

Sensing the shift of atmosphere around the table, Cassian decided to comply. Very carefully, he walked over an empty chair next to his interlocutor. His attention never completely left the other four players, while their hands stayed religiously on the table. 

“Here we are, isn’t it nice?” Vega smiled again, his guttural voice coming over the loud background of chatter filling the place. “All drinking the same overpriced circuit cider like brothers.”

To punctuate his words, he reached for a metal goblet and slammed it in front of Cassian, a rusted color liquid splashing on the grey concrete. 

“I wouldn’t say brothers,” the spy carefully said, eyeing the two human officers like a grenade ready to go off.

Vega scoffed at him, his hand of cards facing down the table between stacks of credits—the gambling ones.

“I’ll tell you what, people need to eat, you know. Even now, with all that mismatch, the Empire going down to ashes, you guys firing shots left and right… Not easy living in this galaxy for an honest soldier.” 

The sarcasm was biting on Cassian’s skin like sharp fangs, but he wasn’t here for rhetorics and kept his mouth shut.

“Greed makes them inoffensive,” Vega told him, as if he was speaking of a bunch of Akk dogs. “They know who they owe their credits to. It’s the people you can’t buy you should be worried about.” 

Cassian caught the hint like a case green. Secessionists. 

To prove his message further, the Zabrak suddenly gestured for the rest of them to leave the table. This meant business. Not without some hateful glances towards the rebel agent, the four players all walked out—proving to Cassian just how much power Vega held in this place.

“But don’t let me distract you,” the mercenary said. “Dying to know why you thought it was a good idea to show up here.”

“I need information.”

“Information. Information,” he snarled. “You guys only live for that, blast! Take it easy, man. Enjoy your New Republic, or whatever the shit it’s called, and stop busting my balls.” 

With an irritated smirk, Vega flipped his cards upside down, inspecting them pensively.

“Give me a price,” Cassian insisted, “and I’ll make the effort.” 

“Oh, I guess you have my attention then. What information are we speaking of?”

“A source.” 

“Could be dangerous for me, isn’t it? What if people think I’m a snitch ?” 

The fake smile he offered Cassian was revolting enough in itself, but the next words that came out of his mouth left the man extremely unnerved.

“A thousand.” 

“Are you kidding me?” Cassian growled. 

“You have my price, do what you want to do about it.” 

“I don’t have a thousand credits on me.” 

“Too bad, Sandfall. I hope it wasn’t important.” 

The call sign felt like a personal insult in his mouth, but Cassian didn’t flinch and contemplated his options. Or the lack of them. 

He couldn’t leave the station empty-handed, no matter what he had to do to obtain a lead. Jyn’s life was on the line. Therefore, Cassian was ready to go to any length to get Vega to talk. He might still try to bait him out of this corner, before he had to switch to other methods—way less forgiving.

“What if I could give you something more valuable?”

“What could be more valuable than credits?” the Zabrak mocked him. “You can keep your kriffin’ hope, rebel.”

“Clearance codes,” Cassian said. “For any Imperial ship you’d want. Would come in handy for someone of your profession.”

“What, you think my team can’t forge codes?” he snorted, unimpressed.

“Certainly nothing above a Lambda-class shuttle.” Cassian insisted.

“And you can? Don’t make me laugh.”

Still, the intonation in his voice had changed, betraying a slight curiosity. Interest, even. 

“I have someone who can.”

“You want me to believe I can have clearance codes for—let’s say a freighter —if I just ask nicely?”

“No. You have to give me that Intel first.” 

The two of them stared at each other in silence for an uncomfortable amount of seconds. Cassian’s mind registered the movements operating around the place, the people walking from table to table, the conversations in Basic, and in several other languages. He felt the hot brush of air when someone opened a nearby door with a sinister sound, but no blaster shot hit the rebel agent. Pso’s Palace remained as peaceful as could be, waiting for Vega to decide his own fate.

Cassian had already mentally mapped the best route to drag the mercenary back to a cache. He only had to decide on a way to take him down first. 

He had never seen the Zabrak fight, but as someone with a job as volatile as his own, Vega probably didn’t rely on his charm to keep his two hearts beating. Did he have any additional security in the place?  

“You’re bluffing.”

Cassian frowned, pushing the exact expression he wanted to mimic. 

“This is a one time deal. Take it or leave it, Vega.” 

Another pause. A clamor at the next table threatened to disrupt the grooving ambiance. Cassian didn’t avert his gaze from his interlocutor, watching as he was the one pulling the cards now.

“Fine. Ask away.” 

No fight then. The man sternly kept any sense of relief from showing on his posture, eager to have an answer.

“You gave us a lead on a rebel prisoner some months ago. Jyn Erso.”

If his voice didn’t betray any emotion over her name, his heart took the punch in silence.

“Oh yeah, I remember that one. Lucky bugslut, how she’s doing?” 

“Where did you get her name from?” 

“Right here, my friend,” Vega smirked, throwing an arm around in the air. “Playing cards with Imperial officers is a good business, you know. Not only they’re shit at sabacc, but they get to the talking easily if they’re drunk enough. Lots of information come out around my table.”

“Give me a name,” Cassian pushed, dangerously losing patience.

“Let me think… Long time no see, you might have killed her already in one of your battles.” 

Vega didn’t need to think about it, but put on a show just to remind Cassian of whom was in charge of their little conversation. The rebel agent didn’t react, knowing full well how to back down when he needed to. Only the result mattered to him, and that reward was thrown his way the very next minute. 

“Seyn Marana.” 

Cassian heard it loud and clear, burning the name into his brain. 

He nodded, once. He had no reason to stay here any longer and made a move to leave. 

“Don’t forget to forward that payment,” Vega called after him, rather aggressively. “Or I won’t be so generous next time.” 

“You’ll have it. And I’ll watch my six if I were you. Looks like someone is cleaning up the tables on that trail.” 

“Let them try,” the mercenary then smiled. “Let them try .” 

And with that, Cassian decided that it was time for him to take his leave, surprisingly unharmed. Yet another statistical miracle.

—Sandfall is pulling a 23er on us, while we all drop cold one by one.

He would go back to his ship and contact Kaytoo—maybe sending him Marana’s name if he could find a secured enough frequency to transmit with Resoba on his way back. He could only hope for Intelligence to have data on the individual—whoever she was, so he could get a lead somewhere.

Until then, anxiety would keep on bursting in his mind like a gravity storm, and for all he knew it was necessary for him to come all the way to Five Points to talk to Vega, Cassian was desperate to get back to Jyn.

He wanted nothing more than to stay with her until she wouldn’t be able to stand his presence anymore, but for that, he needed to make sure she was safe. Subsequently, he now also needed to explain to her why she would have to forge clearance codes for a mercenary she had never even met—but that was far from the worse of his concerns.

—I can’t decide if you won’t ask because you already know, or if it’s because you don’t want to hear the answer.

He asked himself that same question as he walked out of the gambling place with a rapid pace, a blaster back on his thigh and the weight of a metal blade on his belt.

If Cassian had one certitude, it was that he never fought for the New Republic to be his to enjoy. It was too late for him, and for all the people like him… Jyn? Maybe, as painful as it was. In the end, they all had accepted that brutal truth long ago. 

All of those years, Cassian had never thought he would live long enough to see the end of the conflict, never knew anything else than violence and war, never thought about an after. It never really mattered either, as long as he did enough on his part, got the job done, was helpful to the cause. It was always supposed to be for the ones that would come after; a new generation, free from the bloodshed and the horror of the war. 

Start anew, don’t do the same mistakes as us, be brave, be bright, be free.  

Now, they finally had that chance to make it right. With every battle they won, they came closer to win the last one—the final one. 

Now, he wanted to see an end to this, just so he could say: I have fought this war for the ones that will come after me. 

The one that, maybe, was already there.

He only had to ask to know, but really—he already did.

Chapter Text

 

07. Dots and Dashes

 

Jyn stood motionless under the cold drizzle. The light rain drip down her face in place of the tears she wasn’t able to cry anymore—or maybe she was just unable to notice them. 

Jagomir’s humid atmosphere filled her lungs while she contemplated her surroundings with unfathomable relief, just outside of the repair bay. 

Beyond the grey oxidizing barracks, she could discern the tall black line of vegetation that marked the end of the base perimeter. The Dionaryll trees were hovering high above their heads, and partially obstructing the mountains in the distance. Indistinct sounds of fauna originated from the outside of the compound. Jyn noticed flying shapes against the purple dying daylight, as her eyes painfully adjusted to flares of sun for the first time in years. 

The dark clouds of rain were tainted with a crimson glow on their bellies, reflecting the remanent light from two of the Jaga’s Cluster stars—striking her with one of the most beautiful things Jyn had ever experienced. The nearest planet visible scaled as twice as the size of Jedha, with similar color to the long destroyed moon.

Memories flooded Jyn’s mind when she didn’t expect them. 

Rebellions are built on hope.

I try to think of you only in the moments when I’m strong.

Save the Rebellion! Save the dream!    

The strongest stars have hearts of Kyber.

Her own heart painfully stung. 

Years later and all of those voices had died down, except for one. Or so she hoped, with all of her heart. Yet, Cassian was far from her reach once more and Jyn tried to persuade herself he wasn’t running away from her. The chances were slim. She thought she knew him well enough to know that much. Cassian wasn’t a talker—but he wasn’t a traitor.

“Mama, we are in space?” 

The soft voice of Felis ended her reflexions abruptly. This wasn’t a time to grieve—not when Felis was finally breathing free, out in the open.

Jyn lowered her gaze to her child, the small hand holding around her fingers tightly. She had waited so long for this moment, to see the look on her face, to say the words.

“No, we’re outside .”

Felis frowned with intense concentration, thinking about that new notion through her small understanding of the world. Meanwhile, Jyn tried her best to ignore just how much she looked like Cassian when she did that. Jyn’s mind was standing on the edge of a gravity well, ready to spiral out of control, dizzy with exertion and overstimulation. She was stunned from the sudden freedom and the burning hopefulness crushing her down, trying to get a hold on her and to dig the emptiness out of her system by force. It was a violent process, but she was happy to suffer from it—just so she could remember what it felt like to be alive.

“Outside is wet,” Felis finally decided, seemingly not too pleased. 

Jyn couldn’t help but laugh softly. 

“You’re right,” she told her. “Sometimes, it’s not. We can come back when it isn’t raining anymore. We can come back whenever we want now.”

That last bit was more for her own sake than anyone else, but it felt incredibly cathartic to say it out loud. Jyn thought it was enough outside for one day. As much as she would’ve like to stay here until Tatooine froze over, she didn’t want to risk Felis getting sick.

“C’mon, Fei. Let’s go back inside.” 

The young girl was more than happy to comply and Jyn couldn’t blame her. It was evident enough Felis didn’t like the loud noises and constant agitation of the base activity. She kept on rubbing her eyes with a small hand, trying to balance a green Tooka under her arm while she did. Felis hadn’t parted with the plush doll since she had received it from Kay, and Jyn was extremely good at pretending it didn’t affect her. But it did—immensely. 

The droid was waiting for them at the entrance of the main housing unit. Jyn had tried to memorize the layout of the barracks earlier, but Resolute Base wasn’t the most organized of places. She would need some more time to figure it out entirely. In the meantime, she could count on her guide to lead her where she needed to go. Additionally, Jyn had been quick to notice Kaytoo wasn’t just showing her around. 

For starters, he was a terrible liar—even by omission, and the droid was undoubtedly standing watch. Jyn needed information on that asap, though she believed that Cassian would have never left her here if she was in immediate danger length. Still, the general atmosphere around the base was—concerning, to say the least. Maybe she had spent too much time inside four walls. Maybe she was being paranoid. 

The way her tall friend stayed close to her each time they were crossing an isolated section was suggesting otherwise.

“Here,” Kaytoo told her, suddenly stopping in front of a plain door.

The panel slid to the left with a mechanical sound, revealing a small room on the other side. Jyn stepped inside with Felis, instinctively acknowledging the sleeping quarters. The lonely brown jacket hanging on the locker door was familiar enough to confirm her intuitions furthermore. This was Cassian’s place—with no Cassian on sight.

“Cassian said you could stay here until his return. Make yourself at home,” Kaytoo mimicked. “That’s what he said.”  

“Alright,” Jyn nodded. “Thanks.” 

“If you don’t need me anymore, I need to collect data from Intelligence,” the droid pursued. “May I suggest you stay in here in the meantime?”

“Yes… about that, I’m gonna need to talk to you, Kay.”

“We’re talking now,” he said logically.

“I want to know why you’re breathing down my neck so closely.”

“I’m not sure what you mean, Jyn Erso. I’m a droid, I do not breathe.” 

“Right,” she smirked with an annoyed expression. “Is there something I should know about this place? Who’s in charge?”

“General Davits Draven is the commanding officer.”

That wasn’t terrible. Jyn had known Draven and he was a reliable man, as far as she could tell. Rigid in his commands, yes—but not to the point to turn on anyone from his own side. He surely had walked away from higher authority when it had mattered the most, during the Battle of Scarif. She didn’t think she had anything to worry about from him.

“He has outranked Commander Qurno since we relocated from Hoth,” Kaytoo told her.

“Commander Qurno?” Jyn picked up attentively.

“He’s a Duros, so it’s easy enough to spot him. He’s not too friendly though, Cassian had some unpleasant encounters with him. I do not like him.”

“I see. I’ll remember that.” 

“Let me know if you need me,” Kaytoo decided, his round white eyes flicking upwards. “But only if it’s a serious issue.”

“Kay,” she called after him before he could step outside. “If you hear about Cassian… tell him to be safe.” 

“I can surely do that.” 

The door slid shut after the droid. 

Jyn took another look around, conflicting emotions rising into her chest. 

The room wasn’t big, but surely bigger than a cell. 

Anything was better than a cell. 

Everything from the ceiling to the floor, furniture alike, was made from a smooth metallic dark cast that reminded her of the interior of a ship. The bloc of sleeping quarters might have been snatched from an Imperial manufacturer, as most of the infrastructures on the base were. The bed was neatly made, a grey blanket tucked in all four corners with the same military rigor she remembered from her time on Yavin 4. It was large enough for Jyn and Felis to comfortably sleep in it, much more than the small prison bunk—which she wouldn’t come to regret.

While Felis was trying to get on top of the bed, a bit too high for her small legs, Jyn couldn’t help but reach for the jacket still hanging on the closet’s panel, her fingers tightening on the leather fabric. It felt as if Cassian was about to walk in anytime soon to retrieve it—or as if he had left in a rush, which she didn’t particularly like the implications of. 

Either way, the garments still smelled like him and she closed her eyes for a handful of seconds, indulging herself, her forehead leaning against the mesh grid with a painful expression. How many times will we need to mourn our goodbyes? And each time the Force pushes us apart, we’re pushing back like stubborn children. How long until we break our neck on it? We’re on a crash course collision but please, come back just one more time.

Soon enough, Jyn had to pull herself together. She couldn’t break down in front of Felis. Bravely doing so, she finally noticed the silver rank insignia pinned on the jacket. The once two vertical green dots had been replaced by a three dots pattern. 

This is Captain Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence.

Jyn took the hard blow in silence, stirred by such an insignificant detail just like she had been slapped dry on the face. 

Time hadn’t stopped on the outside while she was gone. Life didn’t wait for her, and neither did Cassian. Major Andor. She couldn’t expect to just pick up that story where she had left it. In many ways, she had lost the track of her own life back on Yavin 4.

“Mama, where is Cassian?”

The sudden question threw her off guard like nothing else. 

At the expanse of her own mental stability, Jyn still managed to compose herself as best as she could to face her child. Felis had climbed on top of the bed by herself, her new friend safely tucked between her arms. She looked at Jyn with a curious expression to articulate her familiar features, expectant, genuine of any malice.

By all means, she had heard her mother talking about Cassian with Kaytoo. Even if she had never met him—not really, it was only natural for her to follow up with her own set of questions. And Felis did have a lot of them, as always.

“He’s on a mission,” Jyn finally said, coming to sit beside the little girl.

“What mission?”

“I don’t know, Fei. It’s a secret mission.”

Jyn pushed a hand on the child’s hair to get it off her forehead. It was still damp from the light rain and she considered looking for a dry towel, but Felis wasn’t done with her investigation. She hugged the Tooka tighter, her brown eyes shining with high interest.

“Cassian is a spy?” 

Jyn thought about her answer for a while, but didn’t see any reason to lie. Besides, it was evident that Felis was intelligent enough to put some pieces back together.

“Yes, he is.” 

“Like the captain?”

“Yes,” Jyn confirmed softly. “Just like that.” 

It probably would have been confusing to acknowledge just how true the bedtime stories really were. She would have never imagined to find herself in that position one day. Back then, she needed the comfort of her memories possibly more than Felis needed the stories, but she had been glad to tell her about Cassian, even without naming him.

“But when it’s over, he comes back?”

Felis looked very persistent about her thoughts, and Jyn became suspicious.

“I suppose he will, yes,” she carefully said.

“Can you ask?”

“What, Fei?” 

Felis frowned again, deeply thinking, her chin resting on top of the large plush head. 

“Where the… the other tookats live.”

“You mean the Tookas.”

“Yes,” Felis nodded.

She was being extremely serious about it, which amused Jyn—and knotted her stomach all at once.

“Do you think he knows that?” she asked the little one with fake innocence.

“Yes.”

“Why is that?”

“Because… you said spies know lots of things,” Felis explained.

“Ah, yeah, I said that.”

“You can ask then?”

Jyn tilted her head, gently stroking Felis’ hair while she took a good measure of the hopefulness in those warm brown eyes.

“What about you ask him yourself, Fei?”

Immediately, the little girl recoiled. She didn’t like the idea of talking to anyone else besides her mother, even when she had such serious topics as to where the Tookas lived to discuss. It was still unclear to Jyn if Felis understood the difference between her toy and a real specimen, but she would have loved to witness an encounter.

Still pouting, Felis leaned on Jyn’s arm for comfort. She opened her arms and let her child sunk against her, her hands coming to rest over the small ones on the green Tooka.

“He’s your friend?” Felis finally asked, barely above a whisper.

—I’m glad you came.

You’re my favorite rebel, you know.

I’m in love with you.

“Yes, he is.”

“Before I was born?”

Jyn had to make sure her voice didn’t falter before answering. 

“Yes, before that. We have been on adventures together, Cassian, Kay and me.”

“I like his name,” Felis decided, playing with her mother’s hands.

“He likes yours, too,” Jyn said, kissing her hair. 

This time around, her voice might have faltered a little.

 

 

Entry: The Yavin Blockade

Location: Yavin 4, Outer Rim Territories

 

“How much time do you think we have left?”

“I don’t know…” Cassian answered in a low voice. “Not much.”

Jyn had thought so herself. 

The stunning raids on the Massassi base had slowly died down during the previous weeks. The usual combats occurring around the jungle had gone almost silent by now. From their observation post at the top of the ziggurat, Cassian and Jyn could only witnessed lone bolts of energy—green, red—illuminating the jungle under the cover of darkness from time to time. Almost all of the rebellion groups scattered around the assieged moon had been annihilated, asphyxiated by the Empire’s constant chokehold on them. Soon enough, it would be their turn, unless they could manage to escape before the arrival of the Super Star Destroyer. Skywalker had formulated a plan for that, but their odds still didn’t look encouraging. They never were.

Casually seated between Cassian’s legs, Jyn shivered—not entirely from the cold air. He hugged her tighter, the warmth of his body radiating against her back while she felt every breath under his chest. The next moment, she tore her eyes from the jungle fights to look at him, turning her head to the side. Shadows surrounded them closely, but she could still see the night sky reflecting in his dark eyes.

Jyn put a hand to the other side of his face, falling in closer. “I’m glad you’re here.”

She didn’t have to elaborate, because he already knew what she meant. 

It wasn’t poetic. It was depressing and soul-crushing to say yet again another goodbye. But as desperate and hurt and broken their time on Yavin 4 might have been, they got to live it with each other, and for that alone—Jyn was forever grateful. 

Give me just one more minute with you then.

She had six more months instead, and not a single night where she hadn’t been sleeping in the same bed as Cassian. At first, it was the only way to keep the night terrors away from her. The dormitories were busy enough that it was also convenient. Now, it was something else. 

People started to talk about them as partners. Tactful, because a lot of dynamics could fit under that generic term. It bothered Cassian initially. He didn't like the attention he was getting from that sort of gossips, something he wasn't used to. Jyn simply ignored the curious stares when they were caught together every so often, knowing that people needed a distraction from their dreadful routine on the base. 

It wasn't as if they didn't know about the shared bed situation anyway. The sleeping quarters didn’t allow for anyone to even think of stealing a moment of privacy. They just wanted to see it, or so she guessed.

Why wouldn't they kiss if they were together? And why would they share a bed if they were not? More exciting subjects to discuss at the cantina than the low stock of rations and the number of critically injured rebels unable to receive any help from medbay.

Although people were wrong about one thing: they did kiss—just not for everyone to see it.

“Home is where you lay your head,” Jyn said with a pensive tone. “Is that how rebels say it?”

“Yes.” Cassian leaned to her touch, almost with an inward pull, resting his forehead against hers with his eyes closed. She loved that sort of intimacy the most, because she never had something like that before. From what she had gathered—neither did he. And if none of them had been good at letting people in before, they had been good with each other. 

So good that Jyn started to forget what it felt like to be alone. 

She had panicked at first, after that one time, but the sex hadn’t made it more complicated between them—only brought them closer. And they probably couldn’t get any closer than this. Not when Cassian kept on telling her things in—what she had finally figured out was—Caridan. So many things she now knew the meaning of.

Jyn had always been a fast learner. Arguably, she hadn’t had many choices. You learn or it will get you killed. 

She had learned how to run first, how to practice the drill with Mama and Papa—until it wasn’t a drill anymore. She had learned how to stay silent then, how to observe, how to understand. She had learned how to be cautious of people when she was with Saw, how to defend herself, how to take a punch where it would cause less damages. When she was ready, she had learned how to punch back, how to fight, how to win—how to kill before she got killed. Jyn had learned how to forge documents so they wouldn’t get killed. 

She learned to lie, to cheat, to integrate any skill that would ensure her survival. Everything she had ever done up until that point was out of necessity and never once Jyn paused to ask herself if she wanted to learn any of it. If she liked it. When was the last time she had picked up a hobby without ulterior motives? Never. 

But now was maybe her last chance to do something just because she wanted to. The thing she chose to learn then—was Cassian Andor.

Cassian Jeron Andor. He told her so himself. He answered every one of her questions patiently in the dark of their sleepless nights, even the less pleasant ones. She was good at unraveling the layers one by one. He was good at letting her do so. 

He maybe thought he owned her the transparency, as he had long ago violated that same privacy from her—discovering Jyn through the prism of a file compiled by rebel Intelligence. Everything of relevance about her life had been consigned in it. Even the things she didn’t remember herself. Even the things she didn’t want to remember. 

But Jyn was more than just a file, and so was Cassian. 

She learned that he was twenty-six years old, making him four standard years older than her—though he often looked way older than that. 

She learned that his accent, despite being born on Fest, was Caridan—where Cassian had spent most years of his short childhood. She learned that his mother was named Celena and had died when he was three, leaving him with close to no memories of her, though he said to Jyn on one occasion that she was beautiful. His father, Jeronim Andor, was a geologist and a proud man, sparse of words but never of affection for his son—not unlike her own father. 

When Cassian was six, following a wave of insurgency in response to the increasing chokehold of the Galactic Republic on Carida and the Colonies, a protest took place at the Imperial Academy—inevitably turning into a bloodbath. The voices were silenced through violence, civilians and separatists alike. 

When they looked at it from their present perspective… they should've known better. 

Later that day, six-year-old Cassian was found in a state of shock by an operative of the CIS, shoved under the corpse of his father who protected him from the blaster fire. Then, very much like Jyn had to leave the pitch-black cave of Lah’mu, it was the end of innocence for young Cassian. Orphaned, he was enrolled in an insurrectionist cell and became a child-soldier, never putting down his weapons ever again. 

You’re not the only one who lost everything.

The more she uncovered, the more Jyn was baffled by the similarities of their lives. A broken mirror, shattered but still reflecting the same shapes around the edges where light stroke its surface. The differences hid in the fractures, as they had tried to put back the pieces together in a very different way. 

Jyn had shied away from her own reflection, trying to never look at it ever again, where Cassian had stared into it long enough to be able to see right past through it without distraction. 

No wonder they got off to such a rough start.

Would he have joined the fight if his father wasn’t killed that day? Would he have become a rebel either way or lived a civilian life on Carida? What if she had followed Idryssa instead of Saw, would she had met Cassian sooner? Did she ever forge a clearance for undercover agent Cassian Andor? They might have been way closer than they knew it at the time, crossing path blindly. Would they have become allies, friends? Would they have been lovers in their old selves, without Scarif? 

Probably not—and it made it less painful to deal with the trauma and the losses when she thought about it that way. 

Jyn rested her head on his shoulder, silently watching the endless constellations of stars burning in the night sky, way past the Imperial ships surrounding the small moon. It felt easy enough to say it then. 

“I’m in love with you.” 

He tensed at her words, while Jyn only felt a sense of deep relief. His hot breathing brushed over the skin of her neck as he lowered his head, very much in abandonment. Jyn only kept on mapping the stars, her fingers running into his hair softly. 

“I’m so in love with you,” she snorted. “I couldn’t do anything stupider than that.” 

“We’re both stupid,” Cassian mumbled with his usual accent. 

“I know.” 

“Do you?” he asked.

“I do. But you can say it if you want.” 

He kissed her neck gently and his posture relaxed again, still holding her between his arms, seated atop of the millenarian stones of the Great Temple.

“I love you,” he finally said—in Basic for a change.

 

 

The sheets smelled like him, too. It felt like sleeping with a ghost. 

Sometime around 3000 standard hours, just before the day clock was reset, she was jarred from her difficult sleep by the sound of the door. Footsteps echoed in the silence of the room while she turned around with a rapid motion, on alert again.

“It's me,” said a low voice to still her.

Cassian put a hand on her shoulder, kneeling beside the bed, still wearing his outdoor gear. The small night light she didn’t have enough courage to shut off welcomed him with a sheer glow. Her heartbeat quickened at the sight of his familiar face, relieved to see him unharmed and— here. The comfort of his presence was cut short, however, when she noticed his conflicted expression.

Jyn sat up to face him, worried, waiting. 

She didn’t have to ask.

“Jyn, listen to me,” he said with a dangerous inflection in his words. “I will only ask you once. I need the truth. I need it to protect you.”

Already, she didn’t like that conversation. Just by the way his lips were pressed together into a fine line, it was evident enough he didn’t want to say it. But he was about to, nonetheless—because whatever it was, it was apparently more important than them. 

Her own attitude hardened instinctively in response, but she kept her mouth shut, bracing for impact. 

“Did you accept any sort of agreement under coercion?”

All blood was drained from her face in an instant, shock hitting her harshly. 

“What?” she managed to whisper.

“Did you?” Cassian pressed firmly. 

It took her a few seconds to be able to snap out of her daze. Already, anger was rising in her chest to silence more vulnerable cries.

“What the—what's wrong with you?” 

“I need the truth, right now,” Cassian insisted.

She didn’t remember to have ever seen him so cold, impassible. Not even on their first meeting, not even on Eadu, because even then, she had been able to strike a nerve in him. Right now, Cassian felt like a complete stranger and it frightened her beyond words. 

“How kriffin’ dare you ask me—”

“You've done it before,” he cut with a merciless tone.

Jyn was stunned by the pain. 

There—she was talking to the spy, to the man who had read her file long before he met her. She was talking to Rebel Intelligence Cassian, who knew everything about Liana Hallik and Tanith Pontha and Kestrel Dawn. Who knew everything about Blue and her crew. Who knew everything about Jyn Erso, too, and the fact he was still capable to dissociate all emotions from her person so easily left her bitter and deeply hurt.

This is how you look like when you’re doing the work no one wants to do, I see.  

“Go fuck yourself,” she spat angrily. 

If only it could have been so simple. Cassian grabbed her wrist and dragged her closer, losing his temper in the moment.

Did you?” he asked again, his voice growing darker.

“Of course not!” 

The loud shout rippled between them, waking up Felis in panic. 

The little girl gasped in fear, seeing an unknown man holding her mother so close in the dark. She reached for Jyn with trembling hands, her eyes wide open. 

“It’s okay,” Jyn tried to pretend. “Don’t be scared.”

At least, Cassian released his grip on her wrist. Drops of rain were still running on the blue fabric of his coat when he finally made a move to get out of it. He let it fall on the ground carelessly, just so he could sit on his bed more freely. Clearly, he had something in mind.

“Get her undressed,” he then asked. 

What ?” Jyn choked out.

“Get her—undressed.”

Seeing that she wasn’t reacting fast enough to his liking, Cassian frowned and made a move towards Felis. Immediately, Jyn grabbed his forearms to stop him—which resulted in more confusion. But he wasn’t going to renounce.

“What are you doing—Cassian! Stop! Don't —touch my child!” she suddenly screamed at him, hitting his shoulder with a hard blow.

He stilled himself, hands clenched into tight fists. Jyn was so ready to slap him.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” he said. “So please. I’m not going to hurt her, trust me.” 

She considered his words for a hot minute. 

Trust goes both ways.

Even if she was still unsure about his intentions, she had to concede that— yes —she trusted him enough to not hurt Felis.

“Fine,” Jyn breathed out between her teeth. 

Turning around, she put a hand behind the little girl and made her sat on her lap. Her chest felt heavy, plagued with sadness and guilt, when she had to wipe some tears off of Felis’ face. She tried to smile at her, but wasn’t convincing enough—too anxious about Cassian’s behavior.

“C’mon, I’ll let you go back to sleep in just a minute,” she said with a soft tone. 

Jyn reached for the hem of the oversized brown t-shirt Felis was sleeping in. She pushed it over her head and shot a questioning look at Cassian.

He didn’t notice her, too focused on Felis. He placed a hand on her shoulder, made her turn towards the light and inspected her very closely. The skin on her arm was still bruised from all the injections she had received just a few days prior, but it wasn’t what Cassian was looking for. Still, Felis hadn’t forget all the needles and she tried to get her arm back with a soft plea.

“It's okay, Fei,” Jyn soothed her. “We're just looking at you.”

“Why?”

Cassian ran his fingers inside of the small wrists, then under her armpits. He moved along and pushed the long brown hair aside from her neck, touching the pale skin behind her ears with extreme concentration. At least, he was gentle about it.

“Does she have any scar?” he asked, still inspecting Felis up and down. “Do you see anything?”

“What are you looking for exactly ?”

“A data chip.”

“Are you insane?” Jyn groaned.

“I wish.”

The sharp edge of his voice made her skin crawled. 

“That's impossible,” Jyn told him, defensive. “She's never been without me. I would know.” 

“That's not something that requires a long procedure. We do it to our agents all the time, it only takes a minute to get a tracker in. They could have done it during a checkup, you said to Morrick you had those a few times.” 

“I would know,” Jyn obstinately objected with an ice-cold voice. 

Finally, Cassian let out an overwhelming sigh. 

His shoulders dropped lower, and he looked at her directly. She noticed then—just how much concern he held for her, how much fear he had, and that wasn’t something she had ever seen in his eyes. It wrecked her to the core, dissolving all of her animosity in a heartbeat. She hugged Felis against her chest, protective of the little girl, alarmed by the things she seemed to ignore. The things Cassian knew. Of course, he would be the one to know, that was why he was still alive—why he was so good at this.

“What is it?” Jyn whispered, anxious for an answer.

“Our Intel was ghosted,” he said, his voice bearing the trace of his revolt. “They wanted you out. That's all I'm certain right now… and I need to kriffin’ know why, because I’d rather die than let something happen to you ever again.”

Chapter Text

08. Are You With Me 

 

It took Jyn a long moment to be able to soothe Felis back to sleep. 

For starters, there was a strange man in ‘their’ room and Cassian had made quite an impression earlier, to say the least. Added to that, she was used to sleeping with the presence of Jyn next to her and she couldn’t understand why her mother wouldn’t stay in bed with her tonight. Everything was getting extremely unfamiliar and scary for Felis, once again, but she finally fell asleep, safely tucked under the heavy blanket with her Tooka friend smashed against her exhausted face. 

Carefully, Jyn maneuvered to stand up without waking up the little one. 

Cassian had changed out of his wet clothes, throwing on long-sleeved apparel, and came to sit on the ground, his back resting on the opposite wall. Jyn lowered herself next to him in silence, shoulder against shoulder, unable to stay away from him. It wasn’t long before she found his hand in her own, lacing their fingers together tightly. She could barely hear herself think. He might have felt her trembling but knew better than to mention it.

Outside, the rain hadn’t stopped, hitting the pre-fab metal structure with a continuous sound of droplets. It was rather peaceful to Jyn’s ears.

“How do you know?” she finally asked. 

Cassian picked up the conversation just like he was reading it directly from her mind. 

“I was on Five Points, got a name. Kay ran it while I was flying back.” He paused for a few seconds too long. “Imperial Intelligence. Not someone who spills leads by mistake. She’s suspected to be involved in the elimination of the last of Saw’s Partisans, after Jedha, but we’ve never been able to trace her back for certain.”

Jyn felt her stomach knotting in fear. All of a sudden, this seemed way too personal. She held onto his arm as if she was scared he would disappear into thin air. Cassian put an arm around her, their knees brushing together. She would have loved to lose herself in that protective gesture, but even there, even with Cassian by her side, she couldn’t bring herself to feel completely safe. 

She knew that voice.

“The MI threw us a damn bone,” he said sternly, “and waited for us to bite.”

“Why me? Why now ?” 

It didn’t make any sort of sense. They had all the opportunities to use her during those years, but they didn’t—because Jyn wasn’t important enough. Sure, she was a rebel, but so were so many other prisoners just like her. They couldn’t extract anything useful from her, they couldn’t trade her. No Imperial officer gave a shit about Jyn Erso rotting in a black cell for nearly five standard years. She was entirely convinced her insignificance was the only reason no one had bothered to separate her from her child when, eventually, the prison wardens had discovered the existence of Felis.

But what if she was wrong? What if there was something else ?

Cassian obviously thought so, and he wasn’t happy about it. So much that he came to doubt her, to think that she could have been turned. 

If someone like him, who had a tendency to know everything, couldn’t figure this out… Jyn had reasons to be anxious—no matter how far the Empire seemed to be at that moment. Even in their demise, it would only take one shot. This war wasn’t over, not until they won the last battle—not until the Empire’s flag was buried under piles of ashes.

“At least I got you back,” Cassian finally said, and there was more pain than relief in his voice. “I’m sorry it took so long.” 

The guilt in his words broke her heart a hundred times, and she realized—she might have been the one trapped between four walls, but there was more than one sort of prison. She had been Cassian’s one all along, walking the same hopeless nightmare from the other end of the galaxy.  

Jyn turned her head to meet his dark eyes. 

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said, confident enough for him to believe it. 

Could he? They were so similar, down to the way life hurt them, that she could map every of his self-destructive path—because she had the same flaws ingrained in herself. It was a game of fools, and they should have been toxic to one another, two stars colliding to form a black hole, but they weren’t . That one chance in a million. 

That one chance to have him—still, after all of this, after surviving yet another doomed journey.

“I left you…” Cassian said with a flat tone that was more somber than any cry. “That day, on Yavin. I should’ve stayed. I tried, I swear, but—I should’ve never left you.”

“So we would have both ended up in prison, and for what?” 

He frowned at her, perfectly matching her expression while searching for something in her eyes, trying to read her—trying to decide if she had truly forgiven him. Or if he could forgive himself. Cassian hadn’t changed one bit since Scarif, and if she had always known that part of him existed, she couldn’t bear to watch him martyr himself on her behalf. Not anymore.

“I wish it was me,” he whispered. “You have no idea.” 

“Don’t say that.”  

The rain was growing heavier on the outside, muffling every other sound around the base to envelop them into a confined atmosphere. They could have suffocated from it if she wasn’t careful enough. A distant lightning stroke the night sky, washing away any shadow from Cassian’s face for just a split second. But that overwhelming darkness pooling behind his irises couldn’t be illuminated from the outside, no matter how bright the sunrise he would look into. Jyn knew she had to break it down herself.

“You’re the only reason I’m still alive,” she scolded him with a spark of anger. “So don’t ever say shitty stuff like that to me.”

They had shifted so close to one another that Jyn was almost sitting on his lap. His forehead fell against hers with a heavy sigh, arms locked behind her back. She tangled her fingers in his hair and closed her eyes, her heartbeat protesting every sort of emotion at the contact. It felt so good to just be able to touch him. 

Never in a million years she would have thought she would miss someone like she had missed him. Now she was only afraid she would never find the right words to tell him just how much. Maybe he knew her enough to know. 

“I should have shipped your ass to Hoth with the first wave,” Cassian growled. 

Maybe he had missed her just as much.

“You could have tried,” she bravely attempted to joke. 

There was a silence, a hesitation, and Jyn caught a breath in her throat. She opened her eyes again the next second, pulling away just enough to search for his gaze, already anticipating his next words.

“You didn’t tell me you were pregnant.”

Not an accusation, but a genuine plea. 

Jyn’s heart painfully jumped into her chest, taking in the full impact of his phrasing. Cassian would be so gentle in the way he displayed his emotions, just so he didn’t disrupt hers. She hated it at first, because she had mistaken it for indifference. 

—You can’t talk your way around this.

—I don’t have to.

Now she was able to fill in the blanks for him, to hear the unspoken questions. 

So many things to talk about, yet it was so hard to voice them out loud—for both of them, she was sure. Maybe even more for him. 

All of those years, at least she got to be the one with Felis. Something he would never get back, and the stillness in his voice told her he was painfully aware of it. How can you take away from the boy who grew up without a father that choice to be one for so long? How is that fair? It wasn’t, just like everything else had ever been in their lives. No choice, no voice—only resilience.

“I didn’t know,” Jyn said, feeling her lips too dry for the words. “Of course I would’ve told you, I just didn’t know. At the outpost… I was running a pretty bad fever. I did an injection to myself just so I could be operational and come with you, so—I don’t know, I think it messed things up.”

Jyn paused to wonder. She had all the time in the world to think about the how. She wasn’t an expert but she thought that her contraceptive shot might have expired, or maybe that injection had jarred it. Maybe it would’ve happened regardless. Maybe she should have been more careful. It still didn't explain the most important part.

“Even after I was locked up… I never knew I was pregnant until she was born.” 

“How the hell is that even possible?”

The notion was hard enough for Jyn to integrate, but it was nothing compared to the confusion she could read on his face. 

She didn’t have the words to explain. At times, she felt shameful about it, but she honestly couldn’t recall a single occasion where the possibility had even crossed her mind. Not once. Sure, she was sick—but she was in prison drinking stale water and barely eating. She had stopped menstruating when she was imprisoned on Wobani—so it wasn’t anything new to her and frankly a blessing at this point. She never gained any weight (lose some instead), she never saw any change in her body. Where did that baby hide all this time? 

She didn’t know if Felis was born at term or before that, but as far as she could tell, she wasn’t that small. Surely, she should’ve known by then, at least suspected it.

She did not.

She hadn’t asked Morrick for his scientific clairvoyance either, because there was no use anymore (not like she could rewind the events to live her pregnancy in any other healthier way). Maybe because it felt too personal and she had already given too much of herself away to this war. She felt guilty about having to tell somebody that she almost refused to become the mother of her own child. She felt pain and anger. This was her story, and no one needed to know about it.

Cassian wasn’t no one, though.

“I don’t know,” she finally answered. “It’s like my body decided it was too dangerous to be pregnant in there. It just… shut everything down.”

He was still trying to catch up on that, clearly puzzled.

“But did you not… feel it?”

Jyn really had no desire to talk about it. She made that painful effort only for him.

“Yes, I felt it. I felt like something was wrong with me but I thought I was simply dying at first. I spent months being sick in there, I had no reason to think that—” She didn’t finish her sentence, searching for air. “I know it might sound horrible, but I don’t know what would’ve happened if I had realized I was going to have a baby in there. I don’t know if I could’ve taken it… and I think a part of me knew that.”

The memory was excruciating. Even years after, that trauma was still haunting her mind. The only reason she was able to force the words out today was that Cassian was right there, holding her, and because he believed her.

“I’ve never been more scared in my life than the moment I finally realized what was happening.”

“Did you… Were you alone?”

“Yes.”

He looked positively horrified now which was an emotion she hadn’t seen often in him. Gentle hands came to rest on her neck, cupping her face. His gaze trailed lower, lost in a silent storm of thoughts while he frowned with a pained expression. Jyn slowly pulled herself away from her own turmoil, closing that door behind her once again. Uncertainty had been killing her for days, but it was easier now that he knew now that he hadn’t asked the wrong question.

Of course, he wouldn’t.

“I wish I could’ve been with you, Jyn.” 

She felt like a knife had been removed from her lungs, at last, leaving her to take a full breath. 

“I wish you would have been with me,” she said, barely repressing a sob. “I was so ready to let go… But then I realized she was ours, and it felt as if you were there, too.”

That must’ve been the most vulnerable thing she had ever told anyone in her life. Jyn was baring her soul for him, like never before, but the things she was able to see in his eyes were everything she needed in return. She would never trust anyone as much as she trusted Cassian Andor, because no one else had ever gone this far with her and still stood by her side when everything else was crumbling down around them. 

—I wanted for you to kill me—so I can just let go. And now… you want me to stay.

—Don’t leave me alone now, not after all this. I can’t do it without you.

That kind of bond could be tested, but it couldn’t be brokenever.

“It hurt so bad,” Jyn whispered with a strained voice. “But I don’t want a life where I wouldn’t have her.”

She couldn’t imagine it anymore. It had taken Jyn so long to finally understand why Lyra went back that day, why she left her child behind even when she knew she might have been walking toward her own death. Now, Jyn understood. 

Unconditional love was more powerful than the fear of death, and if she had to stand in the line of fire for Felis, she too, would do it without any hesitation.

“We’re going to win the war,” Cassian told her. “There will be an after to this.”

There was almost a violence in his words. The lost soldier wanted to see an end to this so badly.

—I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old.

“No matter what happens, we need to keep her safe,” Jyn said.

“I know.”

“Promise me,” she insisted. 

“I do. I promise you.” 

And she believed him. 

Jyn felt her body relaxed against him, sinking into his embrace without restraint. She was so emotionally spent, with nothing else to keep away from him. 

It might have meant forever, after all.

Cassian pushed her hair behind her shoulders gently, stroking the nape of her neck. She thought she might want to cut it in the morning. The old Jyn was probably already gone, but she wanted to feel like herself at lastlike she had a control of some sort on her life again, on her decisions. It might have been only an illusion, but the idea felt nice to her.

Just like the idea of kissing him.

Her chest burst with anticipation just thinking about it. He would not have denied her, she knew that much of him. Although no matter how much she wanted it, it would have been a mistake to take that from him right now. She couldn’t walk back into his life after years and asked him to pick up the pieces in silence. 

She recognized his affection, and she understood just how special she had it with him. Cassian wasn’t someone to fall in love easily, but even for the thrill of it, he wasn’t the type of person to chase a one night stand. Which led Jyn to wonder if there had been anyone at all in his life while she was gone. The way he looked at her right now suggested there was none. Still, she couldn’t mend their story like that. Her love wasn’t an empty trade for safety or help, and she didn’t want for him to ever have any doubt about it.

If anything, Cassian seemed to acknowledge it as well. He was close enough that their noses would brush against each other, feeling his hot breath on her skin, but he wasn’t imposing his presence on her and he wasn’t going to take it any further. 

“Are you going to sleep on the ground with me?” he asked, the ghost of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

“We had worse nights.” 

Jyn listened for the sound of his low breathing, resting her head on his shoulder. The warmth of his body against her was magnetic, and so enticing, pulling her into sleep with more force than she could possibly resist. Cassian kept on stroking her hair with one hand, the whole scene appearing to be so domestic and anticlimactic that they couldn’t possibly just have talked about the child they had never planned on havingand never got to welcome in this world together.

“I need to have you operational tomorrow,” he said, practical again. “I have a job for you.”

“What job?” 

“You have to forge some codes for me. I bought a deal on your skills.”

“What type of codes are we talking about?” Jyn curiously asked.

“Imperial freighter clearance.” 

“I haven’t touched a code replicator in years,” she snorted. “You went a bit over-confident on this one.”

“I’m sure you can manage.” 

“I’ll do my best,” she agreed. 

It was surprising for Cassian to rely on her when she expected him to know people way more qualified than she was. Surely, Intelligence had some experts that could do as good of a job as her, especially when it had been so long since she had the opportunity to work on a job like this. The last time had literally earned her a direct flight to Wobani, and if it hadn’t been for some critical rebel agendas, she might have died on that dusty rock. 

The irony of her life wasn’t lost on her.  

Yet, Cassian was asking her— for what she could only think was a couple of reasons. She wondered which one was the right one.

“Does she know… about me?”

The sudden question pushed all other matters aside instantly. Jyn found herself too tired to open her eyes or to leave Cassian’s shoulder, so she couldn’t figure out his exact expression, but the mental image she had of it was probably an accurate one.

“I told her that her dad was fighting the bad guys far away from us, and that he would find her back one day. Which… you did.”

His chest raised higher before he let out a heavy sigh. She could almost hear his heartbeat matching the pace of her own, unruly, overworked.

“She doesn’t know it’s you,” Jyn explained. “She only knows you’re a friend.” 

“I’m your friend ?”

His accent cut heavier on his words while he repressed a small laugh with a trace of self-pity.

“I will tell her if you want,” she offered. “When you want. It doesn’t have to be now.”

“What if she hates me?” Cassian asked, distressed.

The most genuine fear of them all.

“She won’t.”

“I scared her.”

“She’s scared of everyone right now,” Jyn slowly answered, her speech getting delayed by fatigue. “She wants to ask you some questions about Tookas… Might take some time before she can find the courage but she managed to get three words out to Kay, so you might have your turn.”

“I can see why my droid is more popular than me,” Cassian joked in a very Cassian-like fashion. “C’mon, you’re falling asleep on me… Let me grab a bedroll.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” Jyn whispered to him, “you’re still my favorite rebel.”

She felt him smiling.

 

 

 

Entry: Battle of Scarif

Location: Scarif, Outer Rim Territories

 

“My riot control protocols are now active,” Kaytoo said. “But the situation is well in hand?”

Jyn winced at the self-conscious lie of a question. There was nothing she could do from the control room.

She spoke sternly, demanding Cassian’s attention as she read from the screen.

“Project code names: Stellasphere. Mark Omega. Pax Aurora… War Mantle. Cluster-Prism. Black-Saber.”

And she stopped.

The next name stood out with a burning intensity, so obvious she might have found it by touch.

“What?” Cassian asked.

“Stardust,” Jyn said, sparing a quick glance at him. “That’s it.”

“How do you know that?” Curiosity mixed with urgency in his voice, as if he wanted to say: be sure. 

Jyn was sure.

“I know because it’s me.”

Cassian looked at her with astonishment. Then he turned back to the console, gripped the controls fiercely. 

“Kay, we need the file for Stardust!”

The comm was full of noise, inchoate and intermixed, like a war zone filtered through a downpour. No sound came through the solid vault door. The arm, already stationed at its proper data bank, maneuvered among the cartridges and reached out needfully. Cassian still clutched the handles. Jyn couldn’t tell whether Cassian or Kaytoo was performing the final maneuver. 

“That’s it,” she said. “You almost have it…”

The arm’s manipulators closed around the cartridge and pulled.

The green light signaling for the plug-in file went dark as the piece of metal was removed from the gigantic column of data tapes. It took a full minute for it to travel down to the control room. By the time Jyn got her hands on it, she was almost out of breath, febrile. 

The cartridge was cold to the touch, where she had expected it to burn with the weight of information it contained. The legacy of her father, the sacrifice of a lifetime —the last hope, in the hands of Jyn Erso.

“C’mon, we have to go!” 

Cassian gestured for her, his brows twitching in concentration. 

She stripped off some layers of her security uniform, abandoning the helmet, bulky chest piece, and heavy overclothes. They were past the point of disguise and she didn’t need the extra weight in case they had to run for it. She hooked the device to her belt and double-checked the buckle, her blaster in the other hand. 

The sound of the alarm was sinister, chilling to the bone.

Cassian was trying to reach the rest of the team on the comlink.

“Bodhi! Bodhi, are you there ?”

Echoes of battle screamed through the comm, to the point where Jyn wasn’t sure if she was hearing it from outside the Citadel or just outside the data vault. Both, maybe.

“Cassian! Landing pad 9 is busted! I repeat! Don’t come here! You need to find another way out!” 

“We need a ship!” Cassian quickly said. “We have the plans, we just need to exfil!”

“LP7!” Bodhi yelled over the loud blast of an explosion. “Sending everyone to LP7! Melshi is cover

The pilot’s voice was cut abruptly.

The two of them exchanged a quick look of worry before deciding not to waste any more of their precious time. They exited the data vault like a single man and discovered that Kaytoo had made a magistral stand for it. White armors were piling on the ground left and right, motionless, and the air reeked of blaster burns. The Imperial droid was still operating the console with one arm, a fuming hole in the opposite shoulder plate. 

“Kay! Let’s go!” Cassian ordered, already running toward their getaway corridor.

Jyn was closely following in his footsteps, barely scanning the room behind her shoulder while she did. She was terrified to hear the sound of heavy boots coming to shoot them down any moment now. They were so close to make it, she couldn’t imagine to fail and to die here, with the plans in her possession she just couldn’t.

“Cassian,” called the droid with a weary voice. “There is a sixty-five percent chance of getting killed on sight if we follow the same route as we did earlier.”

Great,” he hissed with sarcasm. “Can you find us another one?” 

At the next intersection, the man stopped and Jyn almost ran into him. He ducked into a corner with her while a whole squad of stormtroopers was running just past them on the opposition direction. Instinctively, Jyn clutched on his sleeve, waiting to see their fate sealed. When the squad disappeared further down the building, she allowed herself to take another breath in, heart pounding heavily in her chest. Cassian gave her a quick nod of acknowledgment, and they resumed their escape attempt lead by Kaytoo.

“This is the one,” the droid said. “The elevator will get us close to the landing pad.”

“We’re going to seven!” Cassian informed him.

“Seven? But we were on nin

“You! Freeze !” 

Jyn was slammed on the elevator doors before she had any time to think. 

Cassian’s body had jumped in front of her while he pushed her back with an imperious arm, shielding her from a volley of blaster bolts. He fired back, out in the open like a golden target and Jyn was horrified to see the events unfolding in front of her. 

They were so close to make it out.

Never seconds had seem so agonizingly long before the metal doors opened. She stumbled backward, shooting at the enemies amassing at their opposite like an anonymous horde of rage and cruelty. She couldn’t fathom any empathy for the men she was trying to kill so urgently. She couldn’t even think of them as people anymore, for they were threatening to harm the one thing she was left to protect —the one hope she still had in her broken heart.

She reached out with one hand, trying to grab Cassian’s jacket and to drag him in the relative safety of the elevator. She wasn’t quick enough.

One bolt caught him in the midsection and he hit the wall behind him upon impact.

“Cassian!” Her scream muffled out his own cry of pain.

He desperately limped to stay on his feet, didn’t stop shooting. Already, a patch of bright red blood was soaking through the fabric of his torn uniform. 

Jyn provided suppressing fire and hit every of her targets one by one. She felt the movement of the doors more than she saw it, her vision channeled into a black tunnel. When the elevator finally engulfed the rebel trio into its own darkness, she was trembling from head to toe, disregarding everything about her to focus on Cassian. Instinctively, she lunged for him with both arms.

“Cassian, are you hurt?” asked Kaytoo’s distressed voice.

“It’s nothing” he painfully breathed out through gritted teeth. 

It wasn’t nothing.

Jyn knew because he was bleeding all over her as she held him into her arms to keep him from falling to the ground.

The elevator began its long descent to whatever odds they add left and they locked gazes with each other. His intense, raging, beautiful eyes were filled with pain and revolt. He was so angry mostly at himself, because he couldn’t afford to be a dead weight on their mission. He was already making decisions for what to come, and Jyn didn’t have a voice in it. She could follow the process on his face without a trace of doubt as he was deciding just what would be the most efficient way to go. It was terrifying because he was so damn calm about it.

Jyn was not. 

Jyn was dreading for everything that would come at the end of the ride. Her lips trembled while she bored into his eyes, white patches of light flickering around them during their descent towards the unknown. His expression softened then, if only for a bit. He might have caught the very heart of her agony.

Cassian looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time ever and all the rage was replaced with something entirely new to her —adoration.

Her embrace tightened around him, seemingly for support as the man was struggling to balance his own weight by himself. He clutched his bleeding wound with one hand, the other holding onto her shoulder with a painful grip. He smelled of blaster oil and Eadu’s dirt, but it was the scent of blood that made her eyes watered in fear.

“I’m not leaving you,” she whispered before he had to ask.

“Jyn

“I’m not,” she said with more impact. “You said you were with me.” 

An accusation broke into her words. 

If he understood, which he surely did, he kept his own thoughts quiet. Somehow, she still recognized that warm spark in his eyes. It had been there for a bit now, while they were so busy pretending to ignore the hungry connexion building between them at the most inconvenient moment of their livespast the point of enemies, past the point of allies. She couldn’t deny it any longer.

It wasn’t love just yet; but it was so much more. 

It was a promise of an after, and Jyn wasn’t ready to let go of it/him.

—All the way.

When the elevator stopped with a tremor at the base of the Citadel tower, her pulse was pounding in her ears.

The doors opened and Jyn caught a glimpse of the blazing chaos that had been raging on the beach. They stumbled outside in a daze. Hot smoke scorched her throat, her vision impaired by the sudden frenzy of activities. Battle sounds were filling the air from every direction, disorienting—blaster shots, explosions, dogfights. Jyn raised her head just enough to see X-wings looping over the clear blue sky, green plasma bolts, more damages, more deaths, more urgency. Then, she shivered in fear and her sweat ran cold.

The Death Star. 

It was here—and time was running out.

Pushing forward with a surge of desperation, she dragged Cassian with her, ignoring the pain in his labored breathing as best as she could. Jyn pushed her body into his own, trying to block the view of dead rebels lying on the beach—just so he didn’t have to recognize any of his friends. Her feet sank heavily into the sand. The effort to keep them both standing was highly unproductive. She knew she had to ask Kaytoo to take over for them to have a chance, but she couldn’t stand the idea to release her grip on Cassian. In all of this madness, he didn’t even suggest it himself.

If you let go now, you’ll lose him.

Still, that choice was ripped from her—just like all the others had.

They hadn’t made twenty meters before Cassian collapsed onto his knees with a dry cough, unable to keep up. Jyn kneeled down with him, an arm still wrapped around his waist. She watched in horror as his face was starting to lose colors, beads of sweat dripping from his forehead, his hair stuck to his burning skin.

“I can carry you,” Kay ostensibly said. 

“No—” Cassian abruptly cut, fighting to take another breath in. A grimace of pain struck his features, leaving him to clutch his fingers around Jyn’s jacket more tightly. The next second, she was looking into his eyes again, anticipation piercing her heart.

“Jyn, listen to me—” Now it was an order. “There’s no time. The plans. It’s more important than me, you know that. You have to go.”

“I will stay with Cassian then,” Kaytoo offered without a trace of doubt. “You go and finish the mission.” 

She could try by herself. She probably would’ve made it to the landing pad. Cassian and Kaytoo would’ve maybe even joined her in time. But what if they did not? What then? She had come to Scarif fully prepared to face the last chance. All of them did—Cassian more than any of them. He was longing for it, even. She had known that for quite a while now. Jyn was skilled at picking up the cues and the unspoken words.

She was skilled at picking up the traumas, too.

I told myself it was for a cause I believed in. A cause that was worth it. Without that, we're lost. 

But as an inferno was waiting to be unleashed on them, she could only listen to her own internal storm, shredding the last remains of the cave she had been trapped into for so long to dust. Cassian had become the spark running in her veins.

It would only take one try to turn it into wildfire. 

“You’re right,” Jyn said. “The plans are more important. Kay will get them to the Alliance. I’m staying with you.”

“No, no, you have to go! You have to make it out!” 

He frantically cupped her face with one hand, leaving a trace of fresh blood on her dirty skin. Jyn’s attitude only hardened in response, knowing she wouldn’t walk away without Cassian anymore—and she was okay with that decision. In fact, she only felt a sense of deep relief to finally admit it to herself. It was easier that way. 

Did he feel the same when he decided not to abandon her in Jedha—even when she had been expendable? Worse—a threat to his mission. 

Yet, Cassian had come back for her in spite of everything.

Then on Eadu. 

Then on Scarif. 

Three times Captain Cassian Andor hadn’t left Jyn Erso behind. 

Within a few days, he had proven himself to her more than anyone ever had in her entire life, quietly, earnestly. It wasn’t a play for reconnaissance either, never even demanded it, probably felt like he didn’t deserve the gratitude. Kept giving more of him instead. 

Now it was her turn.

“I’m not taking orders from you, Andor. Here,” she quickly handed the precious cartridge over to the droid. “Take it, go find a way out. It’ll be easier if we’re not with you.”

Kaytoo retrieved the plans but didn’t move, diligently waiting for Cassian to deny him. It wasn’t even a question in Jyn’s mind to know whether or not droids were capable of human emotions such as compassion, affection, love. 

Kaytoo loved Cassian beyond the simple loyalty of a programmable behavior. She was asking of him to endure the pain she wasn’t brave enough to accept herself, selfishly.

“Do it, Kay.”

The tall rebel looked down, his haunting white eyes flickering with a genuine sadness.

“Cassian—I don’t want to say goodbye.” 

“Don’t worry,” Jyn said. “It’s not.” 

Her words seemed to comfort him. Even though he might have been displeased by the task at hand, Kaytoo didn’t argue back—for once. He didn’t indulge in strategic analysis either, probably because they were too grim to voice out loud. Instead, the Imperial droid only wave a hand at them, as to say: I’ll see you after. 

Jyn didn’t find the courage to signal back, her throat closing under stress. She watched in silence as Kaytoo finally walked away, until the tall figure merged with the swirling black smoke that obstructed their horizon.

“You know,” Cassian coughed up with a weak smile, “it’s not nice lying to a droid.”

“I wasn’t lying, and I’m not giving up on you.”

She forced herself up with a new fire then, every one of her muscles strained under the effort of pulling an uncooperative body upwards. Cassian wasn’t the most imposing of men, but he was sure heavy enough when it behooved to Jyn to hold him onto his feet.

Breathing through her mouth, she managed to get them moving again, following in the traces of Kaytoo at a way slower pace. It wasn’t long before her back was drenched in sweat and her own legs started to shake in protest. She ignored it to focus on her objective instead—safety, help, rescue. 

If everything else failed; a last embrace. Together.

Jyn couldn’t support Cassian and hold a blaster at the same time. She could only hope and pray no one would cross their path in that particular moment. She wasn’t big on prayers though, but she considered the necklace around her neck and tried her best. 

With each step they were taking towards the landing area, Cassian was slumping even more on her, until he wasn’t even taking real steps anymore. The rhythm of his breathing was irregular and difficult, and his groans of pain soon transformed into quiet cries.

“Cassian, move! We’re not dying here!”

She refused to be gentle about it—because if she started to acknowledge just how much she was scared and panicked about his deteriorating condition, they would never make it out. Right now, Jyn was their last chance. Their last hope to reach a ship somehow and to find medical support for Cassian. That was the most urgent thing on her mind—the only thing.

“Even if we find a ship…” Cassian grunted weakly, “I don’t think I can pilot.”

“We’ll worry about that when we get there. Just keep moving.”

The noise of the battle had seemed to quiet around them, leaving them to march through a deadland. There was not a single moving soul in sight and Jyn wondered which side was still standing in the aftermath of the attack. Could all their forces have been annihilated already? The smoke and fire and smell of burnt flesh could have convinced her that she was walking on a beach of ashes.

Fearfully, Jyn circled Cassian’s arm with more force around her shoulders.

I just want more time. One more hour, one more day, one more week.

I just want more time with you, please give me more time.

Suddenly, the sky lit up ablaze without a sound, bathing everything into a green abyss for an everlasting moment. She looked up with a curious mixture of despair and morbid fascination, all of her resilience stretched to the core in the face of their impending doom. A single tear rolled down her face, leaving a trail on her dusty skin.

While you feel the memory of the sun, the blackest night is not wasted,” Cassian whispered painfully. 

She wasn’t sure if it was meant for her or rather himself, but she understood and nodded. Give me just one more minute with you then.

Jyn knew she had made the right choice. If she had to die for something—she didn’t want it to be for a war, an idea, or a legacy. She wanted it to hurt up close and personal, just like she had always lived. 

She wanted it to be for him.

Chapter Text

09. Twenty-eight of Them

 

Cassian never dreamed in his sleep.

An adaptation to his brutal way of life maybe. His mind stayed empty, locked, blissfully quiet. Subsequently, he also stayed aware of his surroundings more than the average person. It often proved useful—life saving in a few cases. Today, it was only rewarding to be able to feel Jyn’s presence next to him all through the night.

She was wrapped on his left side, her legs stretched over his like a familiar echo of a different timeline. No matter how they would start the night, she would always end up in that position somehow. Cassian had grown accustomed to lose sensibility in his left arm on Yavin 4, but would never remove it from under her waist even when it got uncomfortable.

It helped her sleep—and maybe it helped him too.

“Mama! Mama !”

Cassian woke up just as fast as Jyn left his arms. Probing herself from the ground, the young woman quickly joined Felis on the bed, trying to stop the heartbreaking sobs of the little girl with a soft voice.

“It's okay, I'm here. Don't cry. Did you have a bad dream?”   

Felis mumbled something in return that Cassian couldn't quite get. She had troubles to form some words correctly, but Jyn was familiar enough with her diction to understand despite her cries. Just like any parent.

That one did hurt.

“You don't have to be scared,” Jyn said. “Nobody will hurt you. I'm here to protect you, alright?”

The last remains of sleep out of his system, Cassian sat up in silence, watching Jyn as she wiped the tears off of Felis' little face. The young woman spared him a quick look. He caught the decision in her eyes without a single trace of doubt and a lot of emotions unravelled in his mind.

“Cassian is here to protect you, too,” she said. “Nothing bad can happen to you, Fei. Do you trust me?”

Felis had turned her attention to him at the mention of his name, indecisive. 

Seeing her like that—teary eyes and shivering chin—struck a nerve in him, so much that Cassian didn’t dare to move a single muscle while he waited for judgment. Jyn was trying to mend his poor behavior. He should’ve been thankful for that but couldn’t bypass his apprehension instead. 

For a few seconds, it seemed like Felis didn’t register her mother’s question. When she finally nodded, Cassian resumed his breathing like an escaped convict. 

“Good,” Jyn smiled. “Do you want to sleep a little more? It's still very early.”

Daylight was barely coming through the small window to give her reason; purple shades of a cold sunset. It couldn’t have been past 0600. Extending an arm to reach for his backpack, Cassian grabbed a small datapad to confirm his assumptions and checked for any urgent input on Resoba network.

“I wet the bed before,” he heard Felis explain. “It was an accident, I'm sorry.”

“That's alright, don't worry. Let's get you cleaned up and find some new clothes then.”

Jyn guided her child— your child —to the small fresher, perk of his major rank. Suddenly, Cassian was glad she didn’t have to drag Felis all the way to the communal showers with the rest of the base personnel. 

Soon enough, the sound of water splashing on the floor filtered through the half-closed door while Cassian was busy reading the security reports from the night prior.

“... the water is in the roof?” 

“Yeah, it’s nice, isn’t it?” Jyn laughed sarcastically.

Cassian didn’t feel like laughing—at all. 

He rubbed a heavy hand to his face to suppress the flow of cursing words waiting to escape his lips. If he thought too much about the fact that Felis had never even seen a real shower, he might lose it here and there. How Jyn was able to stay calm and effective in spite of— everything was way beyond him.

After all the traumatic events she had been through… he would have been too devastated to even try. But Jyn Erso was made of something else; that wasn’t news to him.

—I was so ready to let go… But then I realized she was ours, and it felt as if you were there too.

Maybe it was worth it, even with all that burning pain—to be a stranger to his own child, because nothing could have been worse than living a life where he would have no hope to ever see Jyn again.

Cassian logged off from the datapad and walked to his locker, retrieving some of his clothes with a busy mind. He then heard little sounds of laughter in the next room and froze with his boots half laced up, attentively listening. He picked up Jyn’s voice too, and could only imagine the scene from where he stood. The warm feeling blooming inside of his chest was born from gratitude, knowing that they both could still find the strength to simply laugh.

“... not in my eyes!” 

“It’s not in your eyes,” Jyn said, bossy-like. “Let me rinse your hair.”

Cassian slid his arms in the brown leather jacket, ready to roll, and knocked on the door panel when he heard the water being turned off.

“Do you need something?” 

“Yeah,” Jyn answered. “Could you grab those clothes for me?” 

Scanning the room, Cassian located a small traveling bag that didn’t belong to him. It must have been Kaytoo’s loot from the supplies left behind by Alderaanian refugees. Groups had transited through Jagomir after fleeing Sullust, and Cassian had hoped to find some apparels that would fit Felis better than his own clothes. He couldn’t tell if the operation had been a complete success, but he sure had noticed the Tooka plush sitting on his bed.

  —See if you can find anything comforting.

—What do you mean, Cassian? 

—Like a toy or something. Maybe there is some stuff left from the supply stock.

—How an inanimate object could be comforting? I do not get it.

—It's like… a friend.

—But it's not alive.

—Yeah, well, children like to pretend.

—Children are really strange. I've never known one before. Do you think I could be friends with this one? I think I should, I'm way more entertaining than a toy.

—You sure are.

—Is that sarcasm? Do human children take personality after their parents? Because in that case, I agree it might be a challenge. Jyn Erso and I didn't really get on the right wire at first, but we are now in good relation. Not to mention that you and—

—Kay, I really need to go. You can be friends with the child if you want to. Keep an eye on Jyn and try to be nice to her.

—Are you suggesting I'm not nice?

—No, but you're really you. Try to bring down the bluntness level just a little. She had a rough time.

—Just like you. I know how to address this.

—I don’t think that’s a good idea. Jyn’s not me. Just keep her safe until I come back.

—Alright, Cassian. Toy and safety.

 

 

“C’mon, you need to eat something. Aren’t you hungry?”

Felis didn’t know what to say.

She was starting to get really hungry, but she was scared to eat the weird things Mama was trying to give her. Mama always made sure she was feeling good, but what if Felis wasn’t strong enough to eat the new food? What if she got sick because of it? What if she was sent back to the old room because of itor had to see the man with the needles again?

That scared her the most, because she didn’t know if she would have to go alone.

“Felis,” Mama insisted with a firmer voice. “You need to try before you decide you don’t like it.” 

Felis looked at her timidly and noticed she had her serious face. This couldn’t be good. She didn’t want Mama to be angry at her. Was she angry already? 

She wanted to explain that she hadn’t decided yet, but she couldn’t say that she was afraid— because Mama was never afraid. It was really hard, though, to be like her. Especially in a strange place like this.

They were still inside , but there were so many insides that it was hard for Felis to remember them all. This one was the biggest one she had seen yet. People just entered and left without asking permission to anybody. Someone was making food for all of them and it probably was a very hard job because there were so many tables in here… more than she could count on her hands. 

“What does she like?”

Forgetting about the tables and the weird food, Felis returned her attention to Cassian .

She was unsure about him, too. 

Mama had said he was her friend, but Felis clearly remembered how he had been angry and had screamed at her yesterday. She didn’t like it. Although Cassian wasn’t screaming anymore now, andin fact, looked way more nice this way. 

He wasn’t old like the other men. He had funny hairs on his face and she wondered if it was itchy. He didn’t smile when he spoke, but she kind of liked how his voice sounded. He wasn’t saying the words like Mama did.

He wasn’t saying Mama’s name like the other people did, too. 

“She doesn’t know what she likes. She hasn’t eaten anything solid since we arrived.” Mama was annoyed now and Felis thought it was her fault. “She’s just so used to those kriffin’ proteinated rations, this doesn’t look like real food to her. I don’t want Morrick to hook her up on nutripills.” 

Once again, Felis looked over to the metal plate waiting in front of her, trying to be brave about it. She clutched her necklace with one small hand, the familiar form of the crystal digging into her palm. If she ate just a bit, maybe she wouldn’t get too sick and Mama would stop to be angry at her. She had to do it. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

“I have some emergency rations back in the room,” Cassian said. “Still not real food, but it’s better than nothing in the meantime.”

“Yeah, I suppose…” Mama told him, not very pleased.

“It hasn’t even been a full week yet. Give her some time to change her mind.” 

Felis knew they were talking about her, of course, but she felt as Cassian had just said something wrong. She thought so because Mama went very rigid next to her. So much that Felis sank closer on her side, worried that they would start screaming at each other again. 

If Cassian wanted to be angry again and tried to hurt Mama, she wouldn’t let himFelis decided with a pensive frown.

“I know you’re trying to help but just, don’t do that .”

“Jyn,” he said with a weird voice.

“Don’t do that. I’m not ready.” 

“I’m not doing anything.”

“You know exactly what I mean, please don’t —”

Mama didn’t finish her sentence.

Felis finally noticed that two men had walked up to their table, where everyone else was just ignoring them and keeping their distances. That seemed odd. They didn’t have any food with them either, and they didn’t smile at all. She didn’t like them.

“Sergeant Erso?” 

“Yes,” Mama said with a tone she only used with bad people. 

Felis could barely manage to look at them, anxious. She didn’t want to go to any more room with strangers. She wanted to be back to the other one with the green Tookat. She should have taken it with her. What if she had to go someplace else and she couldn’t find it back? It would be sad without her. What if no one gave her anything else ever again because she had lost this one? 

“We’ve been asked to escort you to HQ, if you would like to follow us please.”

“Why should I be escorted to HQ?” Mama frowned.

Felis didn’t know what eitchqiu was, but she didn’t want Mama to go there with those people anyway. Mama looked like she didn’t want to go either. Felis grabbed her arm firmly, as if she could have prevented the bad men to drag her away.

“What is this about?” Cassian asked them.

He, too, sounded very annoyed. While all the grown-ups were too busy to pay her any attention, Felis closely looked at Cassian from the other side of the table. 

“This isn’t any of your concerns, Major.”

“It is now,” he said with a very cold voice. 

The two men ignored Cassian. The short one gestured for Mama with one hand and Felis then notice he had something at his belt. She had seen weapons before. Soldiers had weapons. It didn’t look like the same but she remembered how scary and loud it had been when people had come for Mama and her. What if those men were there to bring them back ?

Felis only felt terrified now, but she couldn’t hide anywhere. 

“Please. Come with us.” 

“What about my child?”

“We’ll take care of that.”

“I don’t like it,” Mama groaned. 

“This is not an invitation, Sergeant.” 

Felis fearfully gasped when the man made a move in their direction. 

Cassian jumped to his feet at the same time. His stool fell to the ground with a loud echoey noise and everyone else seemed very silent around them all of a sudden. Before Felis knew it, he was standing next to Mama and she noticed how tall he was compared to the other man. Maybe those people weren’t strong enough to hurt him.

“What the hell you think you’re doing?” Cassian said angrily. “Stand down. That’s an order.” 

“I’m not taking orders from you.” 

“You fucking do now! I’ve been transferred to Counter-Intel, so you have exactly two secs to tell me what this is about before I demote your ass.”

Felis didn’t understand half the words he had just spoken, but she knew he was trying to stop those men. She really hoped he could. 

She trusted Mama nowwhen she said that Cassian was her friend, because only a real friend would have defended her against bad people. Just like in the stories.

“Sergeant Erso is to be interviewed.”

“Interviewed,” Cassian said, and it sounded almost as if he wanted to laugh. “For what ?”

“Background check, on Commander Qurno’s orders.”

“This is bullshit. Since when does Qurno run the Retrieval division? I’m going to speak to Draven.”

“You can speak to whomever you want, I have my orders. I need to take Sergeant Erso to HQ. Don’t make me use unpleasant methods in front of a youngling.”

Whatever that man had just said, Cassian was very very angry about it. 

He took another step forward, almost pushing into the other person. He didn’t look like he was scared that they had soldier weapons while he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t look like he was scared at all. Cassian was a spy, Felis remembered. That was a dangerous job, or so she thought. He must have been courageous then, and never been scaredjust like Mama. 

Felis felt very happy that he was here to protect her.

“Keep threatening her and I’m sending you straight to medbay.” 

If he had spoken to her like that, Felis would’ve been afraid for sure. She had heard Mama being really angry against the bad people before, but Cassian’s voice felt so very cold that it was even scarier than when he was screaming last night.

“Cassian,” Mama said, grabbing his arm like a warning. “Please I’ve tried so hard to make it different for her. She doesn’t need to see that side of you.”

Mama stood up next to him, still holding his arm, and only then did he look at her.

“I’m not letting those dweezers taking you anywhere.”

“You said we were safe,” Mama insisted. “You promised me.”

Felis had learned that promises were very important and she should never break it if she made one. Mama had promised her to never give up and even though she wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, it was important. Cassian knew it was important too.

“I know,” he said.

“Then you have to stay with her. I don’t want those guys anywhere near her. How bad is it? This is Eadu all over again, isn’t it?”

He seemed to hesitate and Felis bit her lip nervously. 

“It won’t be long. I’m going to make sure of it.”

Mama nodded and turned to face her, putting her hands around her face gently. Felis had a very bad feeling about this, but she couldn’t cry. She wasn’t a baby anymore. She didn’t want to cry in front of Cassian. She had to be brave. It was still very hard.

“Fei, listen to me. I need to go somewhere. You’re going to stay with Cassian for a little while.” 

“I wanna stay with you,” she whispered hopefully.

“No, not this time.”

“Why?”

This wasn’t right. She had never been anywhere without Mama. 

“Because it’s only for grown-ups, but I won’t be long. You stay with Cassian until I come back and you be good, okay? Remember what you wanted to ask him?”

Felis couldn’t remember, way too distressed by the idea of being all alone. Not alone —but not with Mama. What if she got lost and couldn’t find her back after? Would Cassian be nice to her? Maybe he could help her to find her Tookat back.

“I’ll be back soon, and I’ll tell you a secret.” 

For just a second, her curiosity took over her.

“What secret?”

“I’ll tell you when I come back,” Mama winked. “I love you.”

“I love you, Mama.” 

Felis liked to hug her, because it felt nice to be in her arms. She had seen Mama hugging Cassian this morningand she thought that Mama liked to hug him, too. But not this time. Felis wondered if it wasn’t allowed.

Cassian looked like he would have liked to hug her before she left.

 

 

Qurno ,” Cassian growled as an introduction.

Barging into the officers’ debriefing room (where Kaytoo had located the Duros much quicker than he could), he noticed that he wasn’t the only one seeking the attention of the commander this morning. Apparently, news traveled faster than lightspeed on Resoba.

“And here we go,” Draven said like a man in need of a permanent vacation. “Stay out of it, Andor. You’re going to make things worse.”

“The hell I will,” he muttered under his breath.

Coming around an unmanned communication grid console, Cassian sat down Felis on an empty chair.

“Stay here,” he told the little girl, gesturing for Kaytoo to keep an eye on her. She didn’t respond, eyeing the dark room with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. For the time being, Cassian had at least the certitude she wasn’t in physical dangermore than he was confident to say about Jyn. The thought made him nauseous.

He aggressively walked towards the two other men, purposefully ignoring the conversation he was most likely disturbing. There was no need to dance around the black hole. Everyone knew why he was hereif the presence of Felis hadn’t made it obvious enough even to the most stupid onlooker.

“She’s already been assessed by Intel,” Cassian barked, “so why are you sending your men after her like that?”

“What makes you think I need to explain myself to you, Major ?” Qurno’s tone was more than unpleasant,it was presumptuous.  

Cassian knew everything there was to know about presumptuous men. He had worked enough undercover assignments for that. The arrogance was never the real danger, only the conviction that they were morally justified in their actionsit meant that they couldn’t see their own lack of judgment, and were willing to go to any length in pursuit of their objective. Regardless of collateral damages.

It took him a great deal of effort to keep his voice from shouting.

“Because I’m the one working Intel for fifteen years while you were still a lawman on Ralgos, that’s fucking why .”

The blow set a dramatic pause in the exchange. While the Duros tried to recover, he glanced sideways at Draven, challenging him with a scoff. “Are you going to stand here and tolerate this behavior among your men?”

“I told you this would happen,” Draven spat back, unsympathetic. “But you went over my head to get Cracken on board like a bugslut.”

Cassian wasn’t happy about the information. This was playing way over his rank now.

“Because you wouldn’t give the order!” 

“Order of what ?” the general said, hands on his hips. “Erso has been cleared after evaluation, what do you want more? Keep poking at her until she gives you something you wanna hear? Jump straight to torture then!” 

“Things have changed.”

“Have they, really?” 

“You should be glad I notified Cracken!” Qurno cut dryly. “Gonna save us from a disaster. I’m not here to win a popularity contest, I’m here to do my job. They shouldn’t even be here, we can barely feed our own troops as it is!”

Cassian felt a cold sweat running down his spine. Desperation didn’t even begin to express the dark web of emotions swirling in his chest as he realized just how bad this could turn out.

“Erso is military,” he said with a blank voice.

Please,” Qurno snarled. The spiteful expression in his eyes almost begged for Cassian to slam a fist in the man’s noseless blue face.

“Are you suggesting… what exactly?” Draven snorted without humor. “Pack them up and send them back?”

Though he knew sarcasm when he heard it, Cassian’s skin crawled at the idea.

“My duty is to protect this base,” Qurno said without backing down. “If Jyn Erso is a threat to the rest of my personnel, she should be relocated somewhere else.”

The other man growled in annoyance. Cassian had worked under Draven for too long to ignore the nervous tells on his features. The line of his mouth sunk downward with a disdainful expression while he spoke. 

“Relocated where? Have you taken a good look at the galaxy recently? This is a doshing war! And you want to send a former war prisoner away? What about her child, you think she's a spy too?”

Though many had said of Davits Draven that he was a pragmatic man—maybe to a fault, thus leading him to disregard human variables at time, this was only half of the man. If he hadn’t embraced the Imperial military after the Clone Wars, while numerous of his former colleagues had, it was precisely in search of something more humane. Sending an escaped youngling off base in this age of great instability wasn’t the answer he sought—even under Cracken’s pressure.

For that, Cassian felt grateful.

“You really want to know what I think?” Qurno asked vehemently.

Humor me.” Now the general was being aggressive about it.

“You made a mistake the moment you authorized this nonsense mission! You have no idea what went down with Erso in that prison and if it was up to me, the girl would be under locked surveillance as a guarantee!”

“You're talking about a four-year-old child, for Force’s sake!”

“This is war,” Qurno snarled like an echo. “And for all we know, she might be the offspring of some Imperial officer. Not your best genetic pool there.”

“Oh, but she isn’t.” 

Startled, the three men turned their attention to the tall Imperial droid standing just a few steps behind them. Cassian hadn’t even noticed Kaytoo approaching and he looked past him eagerly, making sure Felis was still in his field of view. She hadn’t moved from her chair, inspecting the holographic green map of some random Mid Rim territories displayed above the console with undivided attention. 

“What?” Qurno finally picked up after a too-long silence. 

Cassian snapped from his own internal turmoil and relocated his focus on the Duros with a cold stare. “She isn't .” 

“Even so,” Draven cut off with an imperious hand, “that's irrelevant to the matter. We're fighting to be the good guys here.”

“There's no good guys in war. Only winners and losers. And we cannot afford to lose. If it means making hard decisions to spare us another wave of separatism, then so be it! I'll do it for you if you don't have the guts.”

Cassian took a menacing step forward—instinctively placing his body between Qurno and Felis. 

“Don't even think about touching that child.”

The tension in the room went straight up the roof in one blow. From the few people starting to walk by with the early hours' shift, tense silence and unsure movements witnessed the exchange of the three men. Onlookers could probably hear Cassian’s voice by now, even from afar, as the major started to show cracks in his temper.

“Jyn Erso is the only reason the Rebellion is still alive right now,” he furiously spat. “Without her, we would all be dry ashes—just like Jedha. Just like Alderaan! She took the decision that no one else had the courage to take. Not you, not Cracken, not High Command, her. And I know a dozen people that would gladly punch your face if they weren’t kriffin’ dead on Scarif!”

Following the sudden outburst, even Draven was left unsettled. 

Something in Cassian’s words had been too violent, too desecrate, tearing an old wound at the edges. Or maybe it was simply the fact that it came from him—the empty, cold, silent spy. The man that kept on walking away from death each and every time while the other Intel operatives kept on dying. What made him so lucky, people wondered. 

It wasn’t luck, it was a twisted curse.

“Did you know that Rebel Intelligence agents are trained to use seven different types of poison?” Kaytoo suddenly asked with an innocent droid voice. “Well, Cassian knows twenty-eight of them.”

The information seemed so out of place that Qurno parted his lipless mouth with a sound of outrage.

“What the—”

“Fascinating,” Kaytoo punctuated, his white eyes flicking up upwards with an almost comic delivery.

“Is your droid threatening me?”

“No,” Cassian growled. “He’s not allowed to—but I am.”

“Andor!” Draven interjected. “Shut your damn mouth!”

One could have argued it was a direct order from his superior, therefore insubordination was dangerously nagging at him. Cassian couldn’t even find the will to care in the heat of the moment. Those lines were already crossed.

“If you try anything —I can promise you that no one will find your body.”

Enough !” the general ordered again. 

Cassian didn’t bother, only stepping closer into the Dorus' personal space with a menacing posture. His voice dropped down to a cold, frightening tone. “Come near my child and I'll kill you.”

The shocking realization on Qurno’s face wasn’t matched by Draven’s unexpressive composure. If he thought something about it, he kept it out of the equation.

“Am I under arrest?” Cassian reluctantly asked. 

“Not yet,” the general made sure to emphasize without compassion.

“Good.”

Turning his back to the two officers in one beat, Cassian went back to Felis, Kaytoo on his footsteps. She was waving a little hand in the green holographic pattern floating above the console, trying to understand the magic behind the projecting device—but stopped all at once when she noticed him.

“C’mon, let’s go,” Cassian told her with too much punch. 

He was still on high alert from the confrontation, his heart furiously pounding in his chest. Still, he wished he hadn’t used such a commanding tone with her. Felis wasn’t one of his rebels, and she was too young to understand the subtones. Cassian was certainly reminded of it when she looked at him with an anxious frown—probably wondering if she had done something wrong. Great job, Andor. It took you three minutes to be a failure.

Trying to shut down his self-loathing brain, Cassian offered her his hand. The gesture encouraged her more than the words, and Felis grabbed it without too much reluctance. She climbed down the chair, her tiny hand cladded in his palm, and followed him outside the room. While they walked down the nearby corridor, Cassian noticed how she kept on looking sideways with worried eyes each time someone was crossing their route. 

She seemed completely lost without Jyn’s presence around. And so was Cassian. 

“Take her to my room,” he told Kaytoo. “I need to do something.”

“Are you sure, Cassian?”

The droid’s ability to read some of the higher stakes—while simultaneously being impermeable to the most basic of social cues—never failed to amaze him.

“I just need a couple of minutes, I’ll catch up to you. Don’t let anyone approach her. Don’t be nice about it.”

“Roger that.”

Cassian kneeled down next to Felis to get her attention. “Listen, I’ll be right back. Kay here—is a friend of your mom.”

She looked at him with uncertainty, but he couldn’t tell if it was about him, the droid, or the whole situation. 

“Are you doing a secret mission?” 

That must have been the first real words she had spoken to him with that little voice of her. Surprise left Cassian unresponsive for a few seconds. He then remembered that Felis actually did know about him. He just hadn’t pictured the details Jyn might have told her about his occupation. 

“Something like that.”

The little girl seemed to hesitate, and it was easy enough to catch the fear in her warm brown eyes. “Can I come with you… if I’m very quiet?”

Cassian felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. He knew exactly why she was asking this of him. She was scared to be left all alone. And the fact that she would rather go with him, because her mother had already left, wasn’t comforting either.

He could only make it as quick and effective as possible.

“Not this time. But I’ll take you on another mission if you want.”

“Okay,” she barely whispered to him.

“I won’t be long, go.”

With a nervous stare, he watched Felis timidly walking away under Kaytoo’s protection. He also tried not to think of how Jyn would have ripped his guts apart if she had known. She had entrusted him with her child— your child —and he was already sending her away. But Cassian had a more urgent agenda to tackle, and he couldn’t do it with Felis. Not without attracting unwanted attention. She wouldn’t have been authorized in Intelligence’s headquarters anyway, and that was precisely where Cassian was set to go.

To run, even.

When he entered the large, dark, busy room a few minutes later, Cassian ignored the other operatives and went straight ahead to log on one of the terminals. He had his access codes typed before he could even remember to breathe out and pulled up the desired files. The black screen displayed the exact same report he had completed before leaving to Five Points.

 

INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT OF OPERATIONS REPORT #8699A-7O

}}

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “CASSANDR”> 

<Subject = “Operation EVENTIDE”>

<Primary objective = “Extraction of Sgt. J. ERSO”>

<Mission leader = “Mjr. C. ANDOR”>

<Final report>

}}

<IMPERIAL DETENTION CENTER, UNMAPPED>

<LOCATION: Shingra, Ordali system>

<PRISONER: Jyn Erso, #6525A>

<Arrival on scene as planned. Localisation of TANGO ONE in the cell block. Cell door was forced open on the spot. Contact with TANGO ONE and unknown female human, designated as TANGO TWO. Mission leader decided to extract TANGO TWO alongside. The retreat was chaotic and the team engaged with the enemy. Shot fired on the scene. The far East wall was rigged with an explosive device to allow the extraction. The team was picked up by airborne transport at rendez-vous point. TANGO ONE and TANGO TWO were both relocated to a secured location on [redacted]  ̶R̶e̶s̶o̶l̶u̶t̶e̶ ̶B̶a̶s̶e̶,̶ ̶J̶a̶g̶o̶m̶i̶r̶. During the assault, one member of the extraction team was critically injured, later survived. No casualty to deplore following the operation.>

<TANGO ONE positively identified as JYN ERSO by medical personnel L. Morrick>

<TANGO TWO positively identified as FELIS ERSO by medical personnel L. Morrick>

}}

Attached file: <MEDICAL REPORT #HF22879, ERSO JYN>

Attached file: <MEDICAL REPORT #HF5879, ERSO FELIS>

 

Cassian loaded the next file without pausing. That dreadful, anxious feeling wouldn’t leave his chest while he did. The white noise in the room seemed to ring too high on his brain, hyper-aware of every change hitting his senses. 

Cassian was on the edge like never before, but he wouldn’t back down. That wasn’t even an option on his mind—never had. Jyn had waited long enough for this. 1653 days.

He started typing.

 

MEDICAL REPORT #HF5879, ERSO FELIS

}}

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “CASSANDR”> 

<Subject = “ERSO, FELIS LYRA”>

}} new entry //0 seconds ago <Subject = “ANDOR ERSO, FELIS LYRA”>

}}

<Species = “Human”>

<Gender = “Female”>

<Born = “1 ABY, Shingra”>

<Blood type = “O RhD-negative”>

<Height = “0.96 meters”>

<Hair color = “Brown”>

<Eye color = “Brown”>

<Skin color = “Light”>

}}

<Biological mother = “ERSO, JYN”>

<Biological father = “N/A”>

}} new entry //0 seconds ago <Biological father = “ANDOR, CASSIAN JERON”>

Chapter Text

10. Your Birthright

 

    Entry: Day 1488

    Location: S̶h̶i̶n̶g̶r̶a̶,̶ ̶O̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶i̶m̶ ̶T̶e̶r̶r̶i̶t̶o̶r̶i̶e̶s

 

Felis wanted to play. 

She thought it was time to play, too, because it had been a long time since the food came in. It was always the same. First, waking up. Washing up. Eating. Learning. Playing. And then sleeping again. But today, Mama didn’t want to play, or learn, or eat.

In fact, she was still asleep and Felis felt lonely. 

It happened sometimes. Mama would be too tired to wake up and would sleep all day long. Sometimes several days. Then, she would feel better and start to play with Felis again.

Trying not to bother her, the little girl kept waving her hands in the air to catch imaginary spaceships. It was something people use to travel from room to room. Maybe she would see one someday. Mama had said so. In her mind, it was very big and very fast. But how could people get on spaceships if it wasn’t inside a room? And why didn’t people just live there instead? Maybe because they wouldn’t have any food coming then. 

Felis decided it was the reason and stopped chasing after her imagination. 

Turning around, she looked curiously at Mama. She hadn’t moved yet. Felis silently walked up to the bed and stood next to Mama without moving, hesitant. She was really bored. Maybe if Mama woke up, then they could play together again.

With a small hand, Felis reached for Mama’s shoulder and pushed a little. “Mama, you awake?”

Felis couldn’t see her face because she was turned on her other side, but she heard the little sound that escaped her. Mama was crying. She never cried. Felis hated today now. She felt sad and anxious, not knowing what to do to help Mama. 

When she was crying, Mama would give her a hug—so Felis climbed next to her to do the same. She lay down next to Mama and saw the tears on her face for the first time.

“You hurt?” she asked in fear. 

“No,” Mama whispered.

When she opened her eyes, Mama looked at Felis and gently brushed her hair away from her face. Felis snuggled closer to her, trying to fit her small arms around Mama.

“Are you sad?” she asked again.

“Yes… I guess I am.” 

“Why?” 

For a long moment, Mama didn’t answer. Felis, too, was feeling extremely sad now. This wasn’t right. She didn’t want Mama to cry. She wanted to understand so she can make it better.

“I miss some people,” Mama finally explained.

“What people?” 

Felis didn’t know any people—except for the bad people. Mama wouldn’t miss them, she was sure of that. So it must have been other people.

“I miss people that are with the Force now,” Mama said, “so I can’t see them anymore.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s what happens when we die. We all become one with the Force someday.”

Felis tried to understand, but it seemed very difficult. She wondered why people would die to go with the Force and if they really had to.

“Me, too?”

“Yes, you too. But not for a very, very long time, and then you’ll get to see all the people that are waiting for you. You’ll see my Mama and Papa. They will love you very much.”

Felis was more interested now. She knew about them, and about the cave. She knew how Mama had been a little girl and had trained to become stronger. She was teaching Felis to be stronger too—so she wasn’t afraid of the dark. Still, there were things that Felis didn’t know, and she thought about asking.

“And my Papa, too?”

She had never asked before. Of course, she knew she had one, because everybody had one. Maybe. She wasn’t exactly sure, but she knew she had one even if she had never met him. Mama never talked about him and Felis was a bit nervous now.

“Yes… but your Papa isn’t with the Force,” Mama explained. “And I miss him the most, it makes me very sad sometimes.” 

So that’s why Mama was crying. 

“Where is he?”

“He’s making sure that the bad people don’t hurt anyone and when he’s done, we will go away from here.”

“In another room?” Felis frowned, uncertain. 

“No, in a much bigger place. It will be very different, Fei. Everything will be different.”

Felis thought about spaceships again—that could be their much bigger place maybe.

“But you will stay with me?”

“Yes, always.”

“I want to go,” Felis agreed. “And you can stop being sad when you see my Papa again.”

Felis thought it made perfect sense, but Mama didn’t say anything else. 

 

 

Cassian entered his room in a worried state of mind, a million thoughts trying to connect down the line to unravel the layers of fog he was blindly navigating. He had taken more time than he would’ve liked to put some of the pieces in order. Luckily, he could entrust Kaytoo with his own life—and that also included the lives of the few people he cared about. From now on, it would include Felis Andor.

This is your child, your blood. Do you even remember what a family feels like? No, you don’t. This is what you have with Jyn. This is the absolution she couldn't give you and the love you have selfishly taken.

Felis was lying on the bed in silence, the green Tooka back in her arms with a firm grip. He didn’t fail to notice how she drew a breath of relief upon his arrival, even without moving or acknowledging him. She probably would’ve hoped for Jyn, but he was all she had instead. She looked unsettled, but thankfully unharmed. Right now, that was the top priority on his list of concerns.

“I think something is wrong with her.”

Cassian almost dropped the bag he was picking up from his locker on his right foot. Setting it on the ground with a loud bump, he turned to face Kaytoo with a frown of concern. “What do you mean?”

“She’s really not making a lot of noise. Is this normal for a human child? I can’t imagine Jyn Erso being this quiet— ever .” 

“She’s missing Jyn,” Cassian said, because that was probably true. Yet, he took another good look at Felis for a few seconds. She looked back at him and it became increasingly difficult for Cassian to stay focused. He finally lowered his gaze, uneasy, and crouched down next to the standard issued military bag, pulling out a blaster rifle and a thermal scope.

“Are we going somewhere?” Kaytoo suspiciously asked.

“We might. I need you to go to the SpecForce's quarters and find me the new Pathfinders schedule for outpost rotation and off-world transport.”

“You mean— hacking it from their datas terminal.”

“Yes, exactly that,” Cassian nodded. 

“That sounds like something I would enjoy! This place is way too humid for my liking anyway and the inventory rosters are extremely boring to execute—though I’m certain I’m doing an impressive work on the task. Not like anybody would acknowledge it or even show some gratitude… certainly not that rude commander always complaining about resources management.” Already Kaytoo was making his move to leave the room. “Cassian, I do not like him.”

“He’s certainly not liking you either, now,” Cassian snorted. 

Good .”

On that particularly unusual note, the droid finally disappeared, leaving Cassian alone with a young child for the first time in his life. He hadn't seen that one coming. And now he had to play the part.

For a few more minutes, Cassian allowed himself to keep organizing supplies with a trained efficiency as if it was nothing more than another one of his missions. He had his weapons packed away in no time and fastened a holster to his thigh, just in case. For the time being, the blaster remained on the small end table, next to his comlink and an unregistered transponder. Don’t fuck this up. This is not about you anymore.

When he finally stopped his prep and came to sit on the bed with caution, a lump had formed in his throat. Felis was eaten away by the brown hair falling in her face, but he didn’t make a move to brush it back—though he thought about it.

“How do you feel?”

“I want Mama,” she whispered with a weird mixture of sadness and annoyance. 

“I’m working on that.” 

She didn’t acknowledge his response. Cassian wondered if she believed him at all. She probably didn’t care for efforts if she couldn’t see her mother in front of her.

In the awkward silence ripping him apart piece by piece, sadness finally seemed to win the battle over Felis. She tucked her chin behind her plush toy with a defeated expression and gave a quick glance over to Cassian, trying to find her voice.

“My tummy hurts.”

She looked miserable about it. Thankfully enough, Cassian had a very concrete solution to—at least—this one problem, and that kept him from overthinking in panic.

“That’s because you haven’t eaten. What do you think about survival rations?” He leaned over to grab his backpack from the ground and searched the front pocket. “Here, try that.”

Felis sat up next to him and took the nutrient bar from his hand, just to look at it in dismay. She then mumbled something too low for him to understand.

“What?”

“I don’t want to go back,” she whispered a bit louder.

A dark feeling crushed his heart in silence, suffocating and unbearable. Did it feel like that for you, too, Jyn? Did it feel like that during all those years? How did you make it? How did you protect her for so long? This time, Cassian brushed her hair aside with one hand and grab her chin to get her attention.

“You’re never going back,” he said with a factual tone.

Felis searched for something into his eyes, not unlike Jyn had done in the past. 

Small fingers curled around his wrist and she parted her lips way before she found the courage to speak.

“Promise?”

“Yes, I promise,” Cassian said truthfully. 

Why would she even believe him? He had no idea, but he sure hoped she would. She obviously knew the meaning of such promise, because she kept on staring at him pensively with glassy brown eyes and a fragile resolution.

“Go on, eat,” he told her to escape her Jyn-like examination. “That’s what you get when you’re on a secret mission.”

That definitely pushed the right button. 

Felis tried to open the sealed package while keeping the toy in her arms. It proved to be a challenge but Cassian refrained from helping her, seeing that she could do it on her own. After some struggles, she finally took a first bite of the reddish brown nutritive block.

“Good?”

She nodded and slowly chewed on the ration bar while Cassian looked at her in satisfaction. The oversized blue sweater she was wearing belonged to him and didn’t do her any favor to hide the fact she was too small and fragile for her age.  

“You’ll feel better after that.”

Maybe he would feel better himself.

“You have soldier weapons.”

The remark surprised and worried him all at once, not knowing what she thought about it. He didn’t have any luxury to pretend being someone he was not, even if he would have liked to.

“Yes,” Cassian answered with a blank voice.

“You fight bad people?”

Felis looked hopeful about it. So much that Cassian felt the weight of his unsanctified actions burning into his heart more painfully than he could possibly endure. Would she have liked him if she had known everything? Would she have thought he was a good guy— still? Would she have been afraid of him? All the crimes he had done, all the lies and the betrayals, he never wanted her to find out, just so she could keep on looking at him with such innocent eyes. Just so she could feel safe with him. 

“I try.” 

No, it’s not for her. It’s for you. You're a coward, Andor.

“When you’re done… are you going away again?” 

Cassian stared at her in complete silence, feeling punctures into his soul like never before. She was obviously waiting for a definitive answer to that question, although he couldn't tell what she really wanted to hear. It frightened him to no end.  

“Do you want me to go away?” 

Felis dug her head down and caught his wrist again, playing with the hem of his sleeve or his fingers alternately. It felt so strangely good to earn that touch from her—a sensation so alien to Cassian that he didn't dare to move a single muscle in fear that she would shy away from him. She didn't, and he briefly wondered what it would be like to receive a hug from small Felis. The only person he liked to hug was Jyn. Until he started to hope that his own child wouldn't reject him, apparently.

“You can stay only if you’re nice with Mama.”

He might have missed a heartbeat or two. Felis took another mouthful of her ration while Cassian thankfully managed to stay composed in spite of the raging storm tearing his brain apart. 

“Your mom is very important to me,” he slowly said. “I will never hurt her.” 

“I saw when she hugged you.” 

Cassian was now treading on very thin ice and his level of comfort took a critical hit.

“I know she likes you,” Felis kept explaining logically. “You like her, too?” 

Someone put me out of my misery, for Force’s sake.

“Yes… I like her very much.”

“How much?”

Her insistence wore down on Cassian like rough cloth against a wound. What was he supposed to answer? Why was she even asking that kind of question? I love her so much that I'm your father. How about that, little one?  

The sole idea of letting those words slip from his tongue gave him a cold sweat. He couldn’t do that now. Not without Jyn.   

“How much do you like her?” he asked instead.

Felis frowned, and that spark of annoyance was back in the pit of her brown eyes. She suddenly looked rebellious and somewhat way more familiar to him. The kind of Jyn Erso not taking any shit from you familiar.

“I can’t count because it’s too big. I’m still learning.”

“You will never learn to count that far. That’s how much I like her.”

“Oh.”

She reflected on that for a while, finishing her meal in silence. Cassian had most likely provided a satisfying enough conclusion to her investigation—for now. He couldn't decide if he should've been glad to have her talking to him or terrified from what she would ask next. Both maybe. Definitely.

Choking her Tooka plush between small arms, Felis shifted on her knees and moved closer to him with a shy reserve. Should he have hugged her? She looked like she might have been looking for that, but how could he really tell? How could anyone tell? 

When Jyn wanted comfort, she was clear about it. She knew she had to be, because Cassian couldn’t play that sort of games like the rest of them. He had ventured into strangers’ personal space for so long, with such twisted motivations, that he couldn’t bring himself to invite those shadows between them. She had to be the one to ask for him. She had to be the one to initiate even the most innocent display of affection, and she didn't mind doing it. Things weren't so straightforward with a four year old. That was terrifying to him.

“Cassian… do you know the secrets of… everybody?”

Felis rubbed a hand over her hypersensitive eyes and waited attentively. 

“I know some of them.”

“You know Mama’s secret?” 

Blast, she had really decided to make this difficult for him. You're a damn spy, Andor. Get your shit together. If you can't misdirect a child, you really should switch divisions.

“I’m not sure,” he reluctantly said. “Why?”

“I think I know.”

At this point, Cassian was almost tempted to ask her about it, just so he could cut short that feeling of blunt panic bursting inside of his chest. How would she have reacted to learn he wasn't just a friend? No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t picture it. 

A low sound sequence interrupted the scene to put his thoughts on hold. Cassian quickly stood up and went to retrieve the hand-sized comlink from his belongings, shamefully glad for the distraction. 

“Go on,” he instructed after picking up the communication.

Looking behind him, he noticed that Felis had dropped down from the bed and stood next to the wall with a slightly worried expression. She kept on looking at him without a word, but he could hear her thoughts from ten klics away regardless. I'm not leaving you.  

That's what he should have told her.

“Andor?” asked a female voice through residual interferences. “Major Cassian Andor?” 

“Yes.” 

“This is Commander Iden Versio, Inferno Squad. I just got your relay… Is this frequency secured?”

Cassian took a short breath, his mind jumping on that track eagerly. 

“Affirmative. Can you confirm that information to me?”

Apprehension flared up in his brain, causing him to tense on his feet while he waited for an answer.

“Seyn Marana is dead,” Versio told him. “Has been for years.”

He couldn’t say he was surprised, but he was definitely not happy about it. 

“Are you positive ?” 

“I am. I killed her myself.” The heavy pause following that declaration wasn’t meant for grief. It told him a lot of things about Versio's character. “Whoever is using her name is a ghost agent. I guess this is not what you wanted to hear.”

“Not really.” 

He had his doubts, as he had been unable to trace the name back to any reliable Intel. It was a current practice for operative to use an alias, even taking someone else's identity for various reasons. Cassian wasn't a stranger to that sort of method himself. But he couldn't stop thinking about the connection between Marana and the Partisans. This had been a deliberate choice—to send a message. The real question was to whom, and what for.

“I don’t know what you’re dealing with…” Versio said, “but you have to understand, Marana was an undercover agent for the NavInt at the time. So was I. She was under orders to infiltrate the last cell of Gerrera’s Partisans, and she blew her cover. The particular circumstances of her death made it classified information, even for high-rank officers.”

Cassian knew about Versio’s defection from Imperial ranks. She was highly trained, both in and out of the field, Special Forces commando. That was precisely the reason why he had sought out her insights in the first place, but he hadn’t anticipated that she would be so closely linked to Marana.

“This isn’t coming from the Intel division then.”    

“No, much higher,” she replied. “We’re talking unwritten orders. Adjustments division.” 

More great news. 

Cassian could deal with a lot of things on his own. He was practical, was quick to react and to form decisions on the field, and possessed a high range of adaptability. Still, Cassian was just one man. And he sure didn't have access to the same resources as an elite spy operative from Imperial Military Intelligence would have.

“Any advice?”

“Yes, don’t trust anyone. If they let you get that name, it wasn’t a mistake. Break the trail if you can. I can’t say for sure… but the destabilization propaganda must have been bigger than Operation Cinder, on many levels.”

The probabilities were quite high, as Kaytoo would have put it. Cassian paced the room while he spoke, a nervous frown on his tired face. Why does it have to be Jyn? Why can’t she be safe anywhere? Why can’t this stop?  

“Mothma is facing a lot of opposition right now… Some people aren’t so keen to continue the war effort now that Palpatine is dead. People are starving. Secessionists want to see an end to the crisis and undermine her authority in the Senate to cut on military founding.”

“I can see why the internal agitation would be profitable to the opposite side,” Versio agreed. “Distracting from real concerns.”

Cassian paused again, his lips pressed into a thin line. “I’ve heard black noise about that.”

“Then you know why the MI would want to plague you with fake leads while they move.”

His voice came down to a low groan. “Yes.”

“I guess if you’ve taken the risk to contact me, you’re in a dead corner. So take it from me; loyalty is only meant to serve people—not flags.” Somewhere in Versio’s surroundings, the sound of distant X-wings flared up. “We fight so that others can live. And if we die, it better be for the same reason.”

The force behind her words poured into Cassian like liquid fire.

“Acknowledged.”

While he was taking tactical 101 classes from Commander Versio, Felis had timidly made her way up to him. She could barely stand any closer without touching him, though she didn't dare to do it. She just looked at him expectantly and he could have sworn that this little human was picking up the gravity in his voice way too distinctly. 

It might have been Versio's words that ultimately pushed Cassian to react without second guessing his instincts. He grabbed Felis under the arms and pull her up until she rested against his chest. Those small arms had even abandoned the plush toy on the ground to loop around his neck instead—flashing back to Shingra. She lay her head on Cassian’s shoulder without a sound, simply seeking physical reassurance where she could find it. 

“I hope I’ll hear from you again when this is over,” Versio said. 

“Likewise. But if you don’t, it was to keep someone else alive.”

The communication went dark and Cassian put the comlink back in the pocket of his pants before he tangled his free hand into Felis’ hair. The weight of her body in his arms caused his heartbeat to pick up the pace without much reason. It still didn’t feel like he was holding his own daughter, but he was holding Jyn’s one—and that was enough, or much of the same to him.

“I'm scared,” Felis mumbled over a sob.

“I'm scared, too, sometimes. You want to know what I do then?”

Felis turned her head to face him, still resting on his shoulder, and nodded. 

“I tell myself a special thing until I feel better.”

“What thing?” 

While you feel the memory of the sun, the blackest night is not wasted,” Cassian translated for her from a Caridan proverb. “It means that even in scary situations, you must remember one moment you were happy… because when the time comes, you will be again.” 

A very hopeful interpretation. But Felis was just a child, not a dying soldier sinking on a beach of ashes.

“I have seen the sun,” Felis proudly said.

“I know, so you can remember that when you're afraid.”

 

 

Felis liked to play. Cassian didn’t know any games, though—had stopped playing when he was six—so she proceeded to teach him some of hers instead.

The harsh reality of her childhood quickly struck a nerve in Cassian, as he realized her games weren’t so much as games as they were survival lessons. The same ones, he imagined, Jyn had received from Gerrera. Jyn had tried to shield her child as best as she could, but she hadn’t left her oblivious either. Something Jyn Erso would do, of course. Something she thought was necessary if she were going to be separated from Felis, or—killed. 

“Cassian,” a little voice called for him. “Do you know when Mama will come back?” 

He considered lying for a moment.

“No, I don’t.” 

Felis stopped her game of pretending, having efficiently taught Cassian how to provide first aid to an injured Tooka. She was relatively good at it, to the point of concern—because he didn’t want to think about the fact that Jyn had taught her those things in case she needed to do it to herself, without anyone else around.

“We can’t go see her?” 

“No.” 

“Why?” Felis looked at him with a sad expression, legs crossed on the floor, next to him.

“It’s complicated.” 

She didn’t like that answer—at all. She gave him a frowning look and sat up on her knees, fighting to pull the too-long hem of the sweatshirt from under her.

“I’m not a baby,” Felis said like a scold.

“I know you’re not.” Sort of. Because realistically, Cassian had some trouble adjusting to her age. He wasn’t used to being around younglings, and the vast realm of knowing what to do and what to say was still unclear to him. Blast, he didn’t even know just how old she really was. Felis didn’t have a birthday, barely a vague age estimate provided by Morrick. 

She deserved more than that. Much more. 

There was no point in wasting energy wishing to rewrite the events, but it didn’t make it any easier on Cassian. The things he would have given to get off Yavin with Jyn that day… The darkness feeding on those feelings dangerously swelled into his soul, leaving him the hard task to suffocate it in silence.

Although looking at Felis was greatly helping. Each time she spoke, each time she moved around and touched him, she became more real. She became the daughter of the man he wasn’t sure he could be, but he knew he had to try.  

I love you, Jyn.

“Can you do my braids?” 

Cassian blinked at her, adding that to the list of things no one had ever asked of him.

“I’m not sure I can do it well,” he said. 

Felis pressed her lips together, holding strands of hair into her small palms while she looked at it with a puzzled expression. “I don’t know how. Mama does it all the time.” 

The distress in her voice made her chin quiver a little. A terrible thing to see.

“I can try. Come here.” Cassian patted the space in front of him with one hand. Almost immediately, Felis moved to sit in between his legs and turned her head to the side, most likely like she was used to doing with Jyn. Thinking about the best way to proceed, Cassian awkwardly started to part her hair in two sections. “Two braids, right?” 

The little girl nodded. She sat still and followed the lines of the leather holster with her fingers. Meanwhile, Cassian ran his hands into the long brown hair in a surreal silence. She smelled of Alliance issue soap, just like him, with a sweet twist at the end. His brain wrapped around that scent protectively.

C’mon, Andor. You know how to reconfigure an A280 rifle in complete darkness, you can figure out how to do a damn braid.

Not so easy, though. 

While Cassian crossed and uncrossed her hair, Felis patiently waited without a sound of complaint. She kept rubbing her eyes from time to time, the direct midday sunlight hitting the small viewport of the room with a deep orange shade.

Probably not as good as Jyn, but Cassian managed to get to the end of her hair.

“I need something to tie it up.” 

Felis pointed at her plush toy next to them, and Cassian then noticed the pieces of cord wrapped around one of the Tooka’s pointy ears. 

“Hold this for me.” 

Felis kept her braid secured in one hand, shifting her position around so that her legs hung over Cassian’s one on the ground. Tying knots was at least a competence he mastered way more efficiently than braiding. 

“Other side?” he asked.

She was more than happy to comply. She pushed on his chest to fumble around and Cassian didn’t fail to notice the rapidity with which she went from not even talking to him to laying on his lap at her own initiative. He wondered if he was just lucky about that major progress or—if it was something else. Either way, it surprised him just how much he liked to have her nearby. She was easier to protect that way, he thought.

“Alright, what do you think?” 

Felis lowered her nose to inspect the two braids hanging on her chest, almost reaching her waist line. She looked happy about it and gave him a timid smile—the first one he had ever seen from her.

“Thanks,” she whispered pensively.

“You’re welcome.” 

“Cassian…” she called again. 

“What?” 

“Do you know stories?” 

“What do you mean?” he asked with a confused twitch of his brows. 

“Like… Mama’s stories.” 

He was almost anxious to ask.

“What kind of stories does she tell you?” 

“The story with Kestrel,” Felis began to explain, gesturing with her hand in front of her. “She’s a pirate and she fights bad people in space. She can go everywhere she wants! And she goes with her friends, too. There is the droid but it’s a nice droid like your friend, not the same from before. And the captain, too. He’s the captain of the… thespaceship. I don’t remember his name…”

I bet I could help you with that one. 

Cassian had picked up Jyn’s alias the second she mentioned it. He had no doubts as to how exciting the adventures of Kestrel Dawn must have been.

“They’re in love,” Felis said. “The pirate and the captain.” 

Of course they are.

“What happens to them?” Cassian heard himself asking, as if he needed to know.

“They go in a lot of places, they help the nice people. Then they go to their home and it’s like… a very big place with a lot of water. Everyone is nice there. And at the end, they get married and they have a baby.”

The bittersweet taste in his throat made it difficult for Cassian to speak, or to even breathe at all. That perfect narrative was a stark contrast with their reality. He could only imagine how hard it must have been for Jyn to juxtapose these feelings for so long, with so little hope to ever get that sort of ending for herself. Did she think about marrying him? Was it what she would have wanted if they had been given the opportunity? 

Cassian had never even considered the possibility. He never thought he would live long enough to find someone he would love that much. In all honesty, he knew next to nothing about romantic love before Jyn. Now, he finally understood what all that fuss was about, because he sure as hell would have given her everything she wanted.

“Do you have… a spaceship?” 

The question brought him back to Felis, who seemed eager for an answer. She stood on her knees in between his legs, her hands holding on his shoulders for support.

“I don’t have one now, but sometimes I do.” 

Felis gasped and looked at him with wide open eyes, clearly impressed by that statement. “Really?” 

A smug smile tugged one side of his mouth upward.

“Yes, I’m a pilot. I can bring you somewhere with me.” 

“What if we go somewhere with Mama?” 

Cassian put a gentle hand behind her when she leaned to rest on his chest. “We might do that.”

When ?” 

“When it’s safe.”

Felis let out a frustrated sigh against his shoulder. She then proceeded to trace the side of his jaw with the tip of her fingers. She was actively inspecting him, it seemed. He felt the scratch of his unkempt beard against her small palm when she stroked it curiously. Had it been anyone else, he would have already jumped ten meters away from that type of familiarity by now. 

But she's your child.

How many times would he have to repeat that to himself before it started to feel real? Would it ever? An important piece seemed to be still missing from that module. 

“I want to get your mom back, too, you know.”

Felis raised her head again and she looked back into his eyes without hesitation.

“I know, because you want to hug her.” 

Cassian had zero comeback for that. Luckily for him, the knock on the door panel provided a much-needed distraction. He expected Kaytoo to enter the room shortly after, but the visitor was ostensibly waiting for an invitation—which meant it wasn’t the droid.

After detangling himself from Felis, Cassian stood up and went to open the door, not without a slight apprehension. On the other side, he discovered than Melshi was back on Resoba, and that Kaytoo was—indeed—accompanying the lieutenant.

“I’ve found your droid sneaking around in the SpecForce’s room,” Melshi said while pointing at the culprit with a thumb. “You know something about that?” 

“I wasn’t sneaking around,” Kaytoo objected fiercely. “I was working, thank you very much.” 

“I’m sure you were,” Melshi mocked him with sarcasm. 

Cassian resisted the impulse to argue with them and simply stepped aside to invite them in. It didn’t take long for the other man to notice the equipment neatly gathered by the end of the bed. Melshi turned to him and crossed his arms over his chest, as he always did when he was unsure of the adequate behavior. 

“Going somewhere, Andor?” 

“Just in case…” Cassian reluctantly answered. “I’m the one who sent Kay to SpecForce.” 

Obviously. Did I screw up your escape plan?”

There was a hint of accusation in his voice, and Cassian looked down for a few seconds—checking his own temper. He had to remember that he had asked his friend to take that mission with him. He had asked him to take the risk, for Jyn. And the result wasn’t anything they could have predicted.

“I’m not leaving without Jyn,” he said. As if it could have explained everything. 

“Yeah… I figured. Still in debrief?”

“She’s been put under extraction protocol.”

“That’s fucked up,” Melshi frowned. “Who’s cooking her? Andreya?” 

“Thirk, apparently.”

“Thirk? I thought that guy was in the Anoat sector.”   

Cassian shrugged. It didn’t make any difference to him. Anyone acting as if Jyn was a damn criminal was unsympathetic to him, regardless of orders. With people like Iden Versio joining their side, he thought that they would know better by now—that they would have learned something from this war. Maybe not.

Breaking the nervous tension growing in the crowded room, Melshi finally lowered his gaze to Felis, who was anxiously standing as far as she could from the three of them. With the new presence of the Pathfinder, she demonstrated no intention whatsoever to return to Cassian. Back to square one. In her defense, Melshi was a whole other level of intimidating. Probably more than Cassian, if you would ask him. His buzzcut and black beard gave him a severe appearance. Not to mention that the heavy hyperspace uniform he was wearing made him appeared twice as large as he really was.

“Look at that,” the man teased with a half smile. “You got a little Jyn.” 

Felis almost reacted to her mother’s name and Cassian could’ve sworn she wanted to say: that’s not my name.

“I’ve also heard you and Qurno had a date this morning. You went full on?”

“I might have threatened to kill him or something,” Cassian grumbled in a low voice.  

“I can absolutely confirm you did,” Kaytoo input with a cheerful tone. “ Come near my child and I’ll kill you, that’s what you said.” 

Neat. Cassian wouldn’t have to have that conversation with his friend apparently. Although, arguably, Melshi probably had his mind already made up about Felis. He had known Cassian way too long for him not to read his reactions accurately, like Melshi had proven to him countless times already. His major concern was for Felis, but after a quick and nervous glance at her, she didn’t seem to have registered the real meaning of that sentence.

“I see,” Melshi said after a few thoughtful seconds, settling the whole ordeal in two words. “She’s cute.” 

What was he supposed to say to that? ‘Thanks, I made her myself.’

“She took that from Erso, clearly,” his friend snorted. “Can’t wait to see if she punches like her mother, too. I’d give a shit-ton of credits to see you in ten years.” 

Cassian made a conscious effort to slow down his heartbeat. He couldn’t bring himself to project the events that far away when the immediate future seemed so unpredictable. What about tomorrow? What about next week? What about next month? What about his relationship with Jyn? What about Felis? All of a sudden, Cassian had to take in the reality of her existence and he couldn’t even think about the fact that she would continue to grow up. He couldn’t think about the questions she would ask and the resentment she would maybe harvest towards him because— why weren’t you there? And why weren’t you my father all of this time?

His chest tightened with a burning pain at the idea.

“What’s your plan then?” Melshi asked. “Breaking her out from your own base?” 

He had used that same derisive tone as if he was scolding a bunch of new recruits making poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Until he realized the painfully obvious, and the corners of his mouth dropped inwards with a somber grimace. “Shit.” 

“Someone is working very hard on it,” Cassian said, “but I will not let them frame her for fucking politics.” 

“Going rogue. Sounds familiar.” 

“It worked out the first time,” Cassian managed to reply with a straight face.

“I was helping you that first time.”

Cassian looked at Felis again, then back to his friend, weighing his next words carefully. He knew full well the extent of that vow. Behind Melshi’s shoulder, Kaytoo was being unusually silent about the whole conversation. Cassian suspected this had something to do with the lieutenant—and the charming conversation the two of them most probably had while they were walking back to his room.

You don’t find friends like that just anywhere, do you? Why did you stick with me for so long, Rue? You hated that nosy Intel agent that wouldn’t die like the rest of them at first. You hated that I made you care. Each mission, each failure, each visit to medbay. You cared each time a little more. And you kept me grounded through it all. Look at us now.

I’m still not dead. You’re still caring.

“They gave forgiveness once because we looked pretty with a medal around the neck, but it won’t happen twice.”

Melshi gave him a defiant look, from a man that had seen it all and couldn’t be bothered anymore. “Oh, trust me—I know.”

“You don’t owe me this,” Cassian insisted.

“No,” Melshi carefully answered. “Not to you.”

Although Cassian thought his friend was referring to Jyn, he later considered that—maybe—he might have been talking about Felis.

Chapter Text

 

11. Beacon In The Rain

 

Entry: The Yavin Blockade

Location: Yavin 4, Outer Rim Territories

 

“Are you busy?”

Jyn recognized the sound of his footsteps before he even spoke. She lowered her legs from the pilot’s seat and turned around to greet him. In the shadows of the grounded spaceship, Cassian gave her a friendly smile. Well, his personal version of a smile—which barely classified as a smirk for less knowledgeable people.

“I’m trying to bypass Imperial security to see if we can launch a decoy.” Jyn momentarily moved the code replicator from her lap to illustrate her point. “Maybe to have a shuttle make it through the blocus.”

She had spent her entire day in the stolen cockpit, lost between cable wires going in and out of the main console and the sheer glow of her blue screen, figuring out the best way to crack the complicated algorithm on the ship transponder.

“Sounds like a nice easy flight,” Cassian said with depressing sarcasm.

“Better than the alternative…” Jyn returned her attention on the device, not wanting for him to pick up the dread she was carrying within herself these days. “The bacta tanks are running dry. We really need that medevac to fly off world.”

“I know.” Cassian placed a hand on her seat almost casually. “You’ve done this for a long time, you might have a shot at it.”

She should’ve focused on the comfort he put into his words, but it was a hard task when so much depended on her abilities.

She shrugged, cynical. “If it fails, they’re dead either way.”

Jyn took a moment to realize just how she sounded. The bliss and hopefulness from their victory over the Death Star was long gone. Months of constant tension, hardship and ground fights had made sure of it. With each passing day, the Alliance was counting their losses. Rations were stretched to an unhealthy point, medical and military supplies hitting a critical low. The status quo of the Yavin’s moon was about to come to an end, one way or another, and Jyn wasn’t eager to see it all burn down to ashes.

She set her code replicator aside and buried her face between her hands for a few seconds, trying to leave her fatigue behind. “Sorry.” 

“There’s no need to make it pretty with me,” Cassian said, “you know that.”

She nodded and reached for his hand, not pulling him any closer—but still seeking his touch during those rare moments of intimacy they could salvage. Not easily done on an assieged base. Privacy wasn’t a top priority on their survival checklist.

“Yeah,” she agreed with a softer voice. “Are you going out?”

Jyn had noticed the green utility uniform he was wearing. Since been cleared for active duty (or so he had forced the lead medic to do as such), Cassian had been joining Pathfinders and SpecOps on various occasions. There wasn’t as much work as an Intelligence officer than there was for a good sniper. Cassian went where the numbers were needed, going out with tactical units on dangerous raids to buy them some time. Or hijacked Imperial ships.

“Outpost Beta,” he informed her. “They need reinforcements and I thought I could see if there is any opening on the East line.”

“Scouting party?”

“Maybe go to contact depending on the recce. Snipe a few targets. Wouldn’t hurt too bad to drop their number.”

Jyn nodded reluctantly. “When?” 

“We’re leaving tonight.”

“I want to go with you,” she said with a practical tone

“What about the medevac?”

“I’ll be finished by then. There’s nothing I can do once they’re up there.”

Unless I go with them.

She had briefly considered the option. No one would ask her to do so, of course. It would be incredibly dangerous, and Jyn had done her fair share of suicide missions already. But it could increase their chances of success if she was there to make sure the identification codes held up long enough to fool anyone looking at them.

Still, she wouldn’t jump on that chance and she couldn’t lie to herself—pretending the reason wasn’t because she didn’t want to leave Cassian. She had become selfish like that, and she wasn’t planning on doing anything to change it. She wouldn’t go anywhere without him anymore. He knew that just as well as her. 

“Alright,” Cassian agreed without even trying. “I’ll pack your weight with our supplies. Meet me on the main hangar at 0200.”

“Jungle night, uh?” Jyn smiled ironically. “Can’t wait.”

“Weather’s gonna be terrible. Pack a raincoat.”

“Is Kay coming?” 

“No. Draven needs help trying to secure the remaining supply lines without losing blue perimeter so, you know…”

“Strategic analysis,” Jyn finished for him. 

“He’s doing great. Pissing everybody off. The usual.” 

“As charming as you,” she teased.

Cassian laughed quietly and held her fingers tighter in his palm, as a mean to say: I’m glad you’re coming. He surely felt guilty about it, but Cassian, too, was looking for her presence every chance he had. Right now, they found themselves truly alone for the first time in days and Jyn knew it wasn’t going to last very long. She took the opportunity to shred some distance off.

“How’s your shoulder?” she asked softly. 

Cassian didn’t like to talk about that, always pushing the subject aside when she brought it up. Today wasn’t going to be very different, as she quickly realized.

“How’s your fever?” he answered in the same manner.

She tilted her head to the side, scrunching her nose in defeat. “I thought I was fooling you.” 

Cassian let out a small laugh and his face lit up for just a heartbeat, his deep brown eyes filled with something more than the instant before.

“I’m sleeping with you, Jyn. I can tell when you’re not your usual ice cube.”

“It’s not that bad,” she assured him. “I’m still operational.”

He looked like he wanted to argue with her, but decided against it. Instead, he briefly brushed his fingers on her cheek and then, they were apart again.

“I’ll catch you tonight,” Cassian said before walking away.

 

 

“When was the last time you were in contact with a member of the Alliance prior to your extraction from Shingra?”

Jyn did her best to stay unexpressive.

She already went through the whole process of this ‘interview’—the questions, the silent implications, even the untrusty stares. But this time was different. These people weren’t keen, even less faking it as a mean to insure her cooperation. They didn’t remind her of her first meeting with Cassian. They were—sharper, and the only word that came through her mind to describe it was ‘Imperial’.

Jyn was in deep shit.

Forcing some moisture back on her lips, she tried to mask her increasing anxiety. There was a reasonable chance for them to see right past through it if they were any good at their job, but she wouldn’t make it more easy than it already was.

“Back on Yavin 4,” she stated. In the center of the table, ostensibly placed in her field of view—to let her know just how serious this was—a recording device beeped with a steady red glow through the whole conversation. “During the evacuation of Base One.” 

Hell was in the details, or so she had learned. 

“What happened after that?” 

Again, something she had already answered. 

“I was apprehended by Imperial forces.” 

It hurt just to say it all over again.

“Did they question you?” 

“Yes.”

“On what topics?” 

Would she have to restate every single of her words to this guy? Jyn was failing to see the point of the exchange when she couldn’t possibly give them anything that they didn’t already know. It was either a show of intimidation or they were trying to catch some dissonance in her retelling of the events. Both terrible options for her.

“My name and occupation in the Rebellion.”

“What was your answer?” The cold blue stare of her interlocutor made it difficult to not spat at him in anger. He was the one doing all the talking, while another man stood next to the door with both arms crossed behind his back.

Jyn couldn’t tell which one was in charge.

“I gave them a false identity and pretended I was a coding operative.” 

“You were registered under your real name on Shingra.”

“Yeah,” Jyn said dryly. “Shit happens when you’ve already been arrested. Didn’t take them too long to cross check with Wobani samples.” 

“But they kept you around.”

“I guess so.” An ugly pause made her shift uncomfortably on her chair. All four walls around them were dull, solid concrete, no window. 

Stay here, Jyn. Stay here. You’re alright. You’re breathing. You’re fine.

“Were they angry about the deception?”

Jyn didn’t understand the point of the question. Did it matter? Was it relevant in any way? She was imprisoned by an enemy she had actively helped on fighting. They weren’t going to be accommodating about it. Everyone knew that much. Still, the Intel agent was waiting for a verbal answer with adamant patience.

“They weren’t delicate about it.”

She thought it would be sufficient. Apparently not.

“Did they torture you?”

“What do you think?” she snapped back at him, though she regretted the outburst almost immediately. She couldn’t let that man slip under her skin, no matter how frustrated and helpless she felt in that moment.

“There was some of that, yes,” she added unwillingly.

“What did it take to make them stop?”

Jyn snorted. “Nothing in my power.”

“You’re still alive to this day.” A clinical observation, barely even considering her as a real person. She had almost forgotten how it felt to hate both sides of the war equally. Jyn loathed that hurtful echo and everything that came with it. The cave, Saw, the Partisans, Akshaya, Hadder… She hadn’t thought about them in years, not since Scarif, and all that pain came back to slap her right in the face. 

“Only because I wasn’t valuable enough for them to waste more time on me.” Her own bitterness cut through her tongue. “As you might know, I was pretty new in the Rebellion. I had no names to drop, no more insights than the fight I was caught upon.”

“You were on Scarif,” the man said. “It makes you significant to a lot of people.”

There was an insult buried somewhere between those lines, she was sure of it.

“The Empire doesn’t have a record of the rebels that went and died on that beach.”

“So they ignored your role in it?”

“As far as I can tell,” Jyn cautiously replied.

“Yet, they didn’t kill you.” 

It was the second time already the agent implied she should’ve been dead, and frankly enough, Jyn started to tire. The cold and the dark were closing on her just as the walls seemed to oppress her even harder. Yes, I should be dead. I know that by now.

How many times did she have followed that same exact line of thought? Too many. But staring at this man like a dead soul, an unbearable agony spread into her chest with an acidic burn. She would’ve been killed without ever knowing she was pregnant with Cassian’s child. She would’ve never seen Felis smiling at her like she was the most important person in the galaxy. She would’ve never learned to love this deeply.

Trying to maintain composure became increasingly difficult. Jyn was walking on the edge of her mind and nails dug deep into her palms to keep herself present. To not give way under the cracks. To keep the darkness away.

“How do you explain it?” the man pursued.

“I’m not the one you need to ask that.”

“They must’ve been interested in you somewhat, to keep you alive for years—you and the child.” He paused, taking a dramatic look at the datapad clawded between his hands, as if he needed to review his information. He didn’t. “You gave birth during captivity, is that correct?”

“Yes,” Jyn barely said. Her mind was flashing all sorts of warning signals to her by now.

“How did you manage that?”

“What do you mean how ?” Jyn couldn’t help but instinctively fight back the grip he was trying to push on her. “You want anatomical details?” 

He didn’t even flinch in response to her aggressivity, making her feel like a silly child.

“What I’m asking is: why wasn't the pregnancy terminated?” 

“They—didn’t notice. I had minimal contacts with the wardens.” 

Jyn couldn’t tell if he believed her. She had no intentions to go any deeper on the subject either way. That sudden interest in Felis’ birth was disturbing to her. 

“Let me rephrase it.” Already, she didn’t want to hear it. “You were captured by Imperial forces during a deadly military assault and transferred off world. Despite disclaiming an alias, they uncovered your real identity, then proceeded to interrogate you. Under torture, you didn’t trade any valuable Intel in exchange for your life. Yet, they decided not to dispose of you and sent you to an unregistered penitentiary—where you were able to pursue a pregnancy without repercussion for you or the child. Then, you were permitted to stay with that child for years—still without facing repercussions.”

Jyn shivered from a deep, cold, visceral fear. This was bad.

“From your medical report, you seem quite fine, too. No abuse.” 

“Where are you going with this?” Jyn finally bit back.

“In your position, bearing the child of someone in power could have given you leverage, a way to survive a particularly difficult situation. But could also result in conflicting interests.”

Jyn was appalled by the suggestion. She fought to find her voice back but couldn’t even force air down her throat. Her brain was hammering under her skull, all alarms sounding. 

The silence felt like a confession in itself, only fueling the investigator further down that chase.

“Maybe you had to make a difficult choice for your child. Maybe you had to find an unwanted alliance with the father.”

“Her father isn’t a fucking Imperial fanatic.”

“Isn’t he? You mean you were pregnant already?” 

Jyn clenched her fists harder, realizing she had taken the bait too easily. “Yes.”

“What a terrible timing, if I may say.” 

“Indeed,” she snarled at him.

“Then why wouldn't you register his identity upon assess?”

“That’s not your fucking problem.” She was done playing nice. “What does it have to do with the Rebellion? What does it even matter to you if I was raped and forced to have her? This has nothing to do with my child! She’s innocent of any crime, and I won’t let you drag her in the middle of your sick play. So quit it!” 

Jyn purposely left out any specification regarding as to whose crimes she was referring to.

“My job is to find the irregularities,” the man finally told her. “And I must say, your story is somewhat… setting some people off.”

“Too bad,” she spat vehemently. 

“Just for the record, a name on a file is still private but would do you some favor.”

“I don’t want to.” 

Jyn couldn’t drag Cassian in this mess, not anymore. She was too scared to see the events backfiring on them. If something were to happen to her, she needed to have Cassian free to act and to take care of Felis. No matter what this meant for her own status on Resolute Base. Was Draven okay with this? Would they throw her into yet another cell? Jyn wasn’t so sure she could take it this time and it terrified her.

“You’re a very stubborn person, Sergeant Erso.” 

“I’ve been told.”

“I’m not sure what you try to protect here.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” she said with a blank voice.

“You’re right, I don’t get why you won’t clear this up. Notably when you have such a good piece to fit in your story.”

“What?” Confusion must have been written all over her face. The man slid the datapad in her direction and let her have a look for herself. After a brief hesitation, her eyes scanned over the displayed file with apprehension. She almost gasped when she reached the end of the medical report. She felt dangerously close to cardiac arrest, her hands shaking from emotions. 

“It has been updated one hour ago. Andor didn’t strike me as the father type.”

Pushing the datapad away, Jyn gave the man another conspicuous look. “If you already knew…” she began almost as a threat, “why are you asking me all those questions?” 

“I want to know what it looks like when I touch the truth, so that I can tell when you lie.”

She instinctively noticed how his posture changed then, straight back, high chin, cold stare. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen that look in someone’s eyes. Someone taking advantage of the power imbalance. 

Now, Jyn truly wanted to get out of here.

“Tell me, when was the last time you touched a code replicator?” 

 

 

Entry: The Yavin Blockade

Location: Yavin 4, Outer Rim Territories

 

The heavy tropical rain was beating her up. After some hours spent walking through the dense vegetation under a continuous rainstorm, Jyn’s boots and pants were completely soaked up. A cold sweat ran down her back while she pushed her sticky hair away, trying to discern something in the pitch black darkness surrounding them.

Their small team consisted of a grand total of six rebels, Cassian and herself included. Not that much of an army. 

Melshi was walking in front of her, right behind Cassian. She only knew the three others by name, as Cassian mentioned them on occasions. Sakas—a Mikkian female with bright pink skin and a blunt personality—didn’t seem too pleased with Jyn’s addition to the mission. She hadn’t spoken a single world to her upon leaving Base One. The rest of the unit—two human males going by Kes Dameron and Nik Sant—most likely didn’t give a damn about her presence altogether. 

Ignoring the protests of her sore muscles, Jyn kept on walking at a steady pace, a blaster rifle cradled in her arms. A few minutes later, Sant signaled for them to slow down in front of their column. He was the oldest among them and a veteran at scouting, moving around better than the rest of them despite the roughness of the terrain.

“Outpost is just ahead,” he said when they had gathered closer.

Cassian grabbed the night vision binoculars from Sant’s hands to have a look for himself.

“Where is their perimeter?” Melshi groaned, dissatisfied.

“We’ve passed their perimeter.” 

Dameron was voicing the thoughts of everyone around, but it still didn’t feel right to hear it out loud. The mission was to relieve the unit and send them back to Base One— alive, not to dig more graves. 

A new tension fell upon them while they waited in the storm, the sound of heavy raindrops crashing around them to cover nightlife.

“Let’s move,” Cassian decided. 

Two dark green canvas quickly came into view as the team cautiously approached the compound, erected in the middle of a less dense patch of vegetation, behind the slope of a low hill. A few metal crates were juxtaposed to the small campement and a fire dent had been dug into the ground. The sturdy tents could’ve accommodated six people each, at least, but for some reason, the place looked abandoned. No sign of vigie either.

“Look for sentients,” Cassian said, the cross of his rifle lodged into his right collarbone.

Sakas picked up the order with Dameron. The two of them progressed towards the tents while the rest of the team stayed behind, on alert. Jyn took a sharp breath in, her boots sinking into the mud. She tried to discern something through the barrier of rain and her grip tightened on her slippery weapon. 

Dameron gestured in silence and opened one of the tent flaps with an extended arm. Immediately, Sakas disappeared inside. No blaster shot disturbed the jungle atmosphere, which was an encouraging sign. Before long, the Mikkian reappeared outside. She shook her head and formed a circle with her fingers before moving to the next tent.

Jyn battled to keep her vision from blurring. Her mind felt dizzy and she hated it. She couldn’t afford this type of inconvenient right now, even less if it put her unit at risk. That anti-infectious shot should’ve been effective by now, and she realized she might have underestimated her condition. Bad timing to reflect on that.

Sudden shouts interrupted the quiet waiting. 

On the outside, everyone tensed at once. Sant took a step forward, his custom weapon perfectly aligned with his line of sight. The ongoing confusion quickly turned into low grumbles and Sakas made it back outside unharmed, two more individuals right behind her. A woman, with short blonde hair and a red scar on the side of the mouth, gave them an unsympathetic look. Next to her was an even grumpier soldier with tan skin and large shoulders. Both seemed to have been jarred from sleep by their arrival.

“Who’s in charge?” the woman asked with a hoarse voice.

Cassian finally lowered his rifle and stepped forward. “Captain Andor.” 

She inspected him up and down, as to decide what type of person she was dealing with.

“Major Seertay,” she then introduced herself with an apparent detachment. “This is Jorm. What the hell are you doing here?” 

The question left them unsettled. Cassian looked over to Melshi before returning to Seertay, a frown on his face. “You asked for reinforcements.” 

She snorted, hands on her hips, unbothered by the pouring rain penetrating her overworked uniform. “I did. Ten days ago.” 

A spark of resentment pierced through her words, putting everyone on a tough spot.

“Well, we’re here now,” Cassian said. 

“How nice of you.” 

Jyn could taste the dark signature of that story. Something tragic had taken place during those ten days, as it always did during warfare. More deaths, more losses, more goodbyes. There was no mystery as to why this outpost was only manned by two souls and it kept Cassian from reacting to her taunt. 

Melshi—on the other hand—was having none of it.

“Where is your sentry?” he asked with a flat out tone.

“So, you see,” Seertay articulated like she was speaking to a bunch of five-year-old, “this is all my forces.” She pointed to said Jorm and herself with two fingers. “One. Two. And I’m not going crazy from sleep deprivation so, sentry had to fuck off. There’s nothing left on that trail anyway, no need to be so jumpy.” 

“What do you mean?” Cassian asked. 

“They moved the line further down East after their last raid—that was my last comm with the base. Radio has been killed.” 

“And you’ve been waiting here one on one?” 

“Orders were to sit and wait,” Seertay said. “So we did, Captain.” 

Jyn didn’t like the disdain in her voice.

“Don’t worry,” Jorm finally said with a hand gesture. “We’ve mined the whole perimeter on that flank. No one can approach without a wake-up call.” 

“Good thing you didn’t blow our asses up!” Dameron exclaimed in horror.

Seertay smiled to herself. “I guess so.” There was not telling whether she was joking or not. “So what, are you here to join our camp crew?” 

“We’re here to send you back to base. Packing first thing in the morning.” 

She didn’t seem pleased or relieved in any sort of way by the information. Instead, the woman just nodded towards the empty barracks. “Make yourself at home then.”

“I’m taking first shift,” Melshi informed the group.

“There’s no need. Impies are ten klics away.” 

“I like to breathe,” he said dryly.

Seertay cocked an eyebrow at him, unimpressed. “Suit yourself.” She then turned around and disappeared once more under the tent, leaving her partner to socialize with the rest of them.

“You don’t happen to have a smoke, do you?”

The question seemed to dissolve part of the remaining tension.

“Actually,” Dameron said, “I do.” 

Already searching his pockets, Dameron finally followed the rebel inside of the tent to take cover from the pouring rain. He was quickly imitated by Sant and Sakas. Deciding that stepping on the Mikkian’s personal space wasn’t such a good idea, Jyn chose to opt for the second team option. She joined Melshi while he walked towards the other tent, a few meters away. The inside consisted of a few supply crates, piled up without logic in the dark, and a lonely metallic stretcher rising from the humid ground.

Melshi shot her a glance over his shoulder. “Should the youngest get the bed then?” 

Jyn didn’t answer and walked to the other end of the tent, setting her backpack on the ground—with plenty of space to choose from. She didn't mind the bedroll. Besides, she wasn't going to accept any sort of special treatment, no matter how innocent it might have seemed. She wasn’t a teen in Saw’s team anymore. She knew better. 

“I take that as a no,” Melshi said, putting his own equipment on the small stretcher bed. As he was doing so, Cassian joined them under the coated fabric in turn. He paused momentarily near the entrance and took a look at the sergeant.

“I don’t get the bed?” 

“You’re not cute enough,” Melshi bit back, focused on mounting a thermal scope on his weapon. That was the only hint at their friendship that they allowed themselves tonight. Without minutes, Melshi had vanished again without a word, leaving the rest of his package behind while he took the first watch. 

The heavy rain ate the sound of his footsteps eagerly, filling the empty space of their new settlement. After picking a somewhat dry spot, Jyn lay herself down on her bedroll with a low grunt of satisfaction. She couldn’t even manage to unlace her boots before closing her eyes, pressing a hand to her forehead to contain her pounding brain.

She felt Cassian crouching down next to her, familiar to the way he carried his body around. He moved her hand aside without force, replacing it with his own.

“You’re burning up.” 

“I’m fine,” Jyn growled. 

“I need to know if you’re not.”

Practical, collected. Jyn opened her eyes to look at Captain Cassian Andor. “I’m fine,” she said again. “Just a fever. I’ve got it worse.” 

They both had. Cassian knew that better than anyone, especially when he was constantly forcing the weight of his sniper rifle on a poorly healed shoulder. Still, he stared at her for a few more minutes, trying to decide if Jyn was a liability on his team. After some indecision, he nodded for himself and settled down next to her, reaching for her boots.

“I can do it myself,” Jyn tried to argue.

“I know.” 

There was no point in fighting him over it. She decided to let Cassian take care of that for her. The cold air reached her wet socks with an unpleasant feeling, sending a shiver through her entire body. She was fairly certain the night would be terrible, but she didn’t mind it as long as she could sleep next to him. At least for a few hours.

Cassian settled his own bedroll down while Jyn slipped under the thermal layers of the thin sleeping bag. The earthy smell carried from the pouring rain reached her nose, just as she rolled over to face him. The fabric of his uniform rustled against the sturdy canvas and a short sigh escaped his lips when his head finally hit the ground. 

“Are we still doing a recce in the morning?” Jyn asked. 

“I might just go with Sant and let you take them back to base.”

Jyn didn’t like that perspective but kept her mouth shut. 

A few more minutes passed in the same tempered silence, listening to the echoes of the night. When Jyn finally made a move to scoop closer to him, because that was where she wanted to be, he welcomed her with an open arm and no questions asked. They struggled to readjust their sleeping arrangement, fitting both of their bodies under the same thermal cover, but she eventually found herself safely pressed against Cassian’s chest and wrapped an arm around his waist.

“If this was all over,” Jyn whispered, “would you still let me sleep with you?” 

She felt the tension running through his body in reaction to her words. Cassian took a deep breath along her face, his stubble brushing over her cheek. When he moved his head, his nose came to rest on the side of her own.

“What do you think?” 

“I hope you would.”

“But somewhere more comfortable,” Cassian said in a low voice. “And more dry.” 

“Also with less people,” Jyn smirked.

“That too.” 

Although, they were out of the over-cramped dormitories of Base One for the first time in months and an idea started to form into Jyn’s mind. Her fever might have impacted her common sense because Jyn couldn’t stop her brain from going to some places. Interesting places. That seemed like a terrible timing.

“There’s no people now,” she whispered nonetheless.

She waited for a reaction of some sort with a bit of an uncertainty, wondering what he thought about her in that particular moment. 

She knew Cassian wasn't big on physical affection, but it actually surprised her that he never made a move on her in months. Although not particularly encouraged, fraternization was still happening around base. It could be done—with some logistic efforts, an empty storage room, and ten minutes. Still, Cassian didn't seem to even think about touching her. 

She was fairly certain he had enjoyed that time on medbay, so maybe he just wasn't in the mood for sex. Would have been easily understandable given the circumstances. Well, Jyn thought differently tonight, and she wasn't going to feel bad for wanting him.

“There’s no people now,” Cassian finally answered.

A light heat bloomed into her chest pleasantly. That sounded like a green case to her.

Tentatively, Jyn closed the distance to his lips. She tasted the last remains of the cold rain on his skin, before it was replaced by the warmth of his breath when he kissed her back with the same affection. Eyes closed, Jyn let herself drifting away from reality to focus on Cassian alone. They both deserved that small break. He certainly seemed to agree on that.

Cassian put a hand over the side of her neck, taking ownership of her body—and she realized that, really, he was just that good at making it seemed like he didn’t want it.

She pushed a leg between his own to be able to fit closer to him. He responded with a deeper kiss, catching the breath in her throat when his tongue softly caressed the curves of her lips before meeting hers. Being half drowsy as she was, Jyn felt herself being completely short-circuited by his touch. The ripples of that long kiss sent goosebumps down her entire body, to her toes. 

Already, Jyn was searching for the clasps of his uniform, eager to feel his naked chest under her palms. She needed the contact. She needed the connexion, even though she could hardly allow herself to undress him completely in the present situation. That slight inconvenience wouldn't be enough to bother her.

Jyn gently nipped at his lower lip and then moved on to his jawline, and to his neck. The skin was soft over his pulse point, just below the ear. His smell was stronger too, mixed with humidity and the leather of his attire. She loved it. She felt safe in his arms. She felt loved, and she had so much of that same love to give back to him. 

I wish I could say it. I wish you could hear it. Would you hear it, Cassian? Not now. Not here. I’m afraid to let you know all those things I see between us. I’m afraid to tell you solitude doesn’t suit me anymore, and it’s all your fault—because you gave me that time with you. I’m in love with you. 

Jyn clutched her fingers around his uniform and attentively kissed every spot she could reach between his collar and his hair. Cassian's hands gripped her more firmly, pulling her to his body. She halfway rolled over him with a soft groan, and that gave her a nice angle to open the front of his field jacket and to kiss his neck at the same time. What a great way to work. A low sound of pleasure breached his lips when she freed the undershirt from his pants the next minute, and slipped her hands under it.

Please, tell me you don’t want to be alone anymore—

Jyn shifted her weight so that she would straddle him properly. She followed the thin trail of dark hairs from his chest to his abdomen, feeling his muscles contracting under her touch. Her thumbs traced the sidelines of his abs before reaching the cold metal of his belt. She stopped there for a while and bent forward to kiss him again.

Please, tell me you love me too—

Cassian was taking care of her own uniform jacket, massaging her back while he was at it. The tired muscles of her shoulders almost dissolved under his touch. She moaned against his lips and moved around to follow his hands. Cassian smiled under her. He pushed down to relieve her lower back, which had Jyn considering that maybe she just wanted a massage instead. That thought only lasted for a brief second.

She involuntarily grinded on him when his thumbs dug below the line of her own belt and her already heated body flared up.

Just moments ago, Jyn didn't feel like she was in such need of physical love. Scratch that, I suppose. Having Cassian reacting to her was driving her insane. Her tensed body made sure to catch up on all those months of waiting. She quickly became hyper-aware of the intense pressure pooling between her legs, with desire and excitation. Trying to ease it somehow, she let her hips move a little more on him.

“Jyn,” he called with an intimate voice.

She broke upon hearing her name on his lips. “Please, be my home,” Jyn asked without realizing it.

Cassian quickly sat up to pull her into his arms, one of his hands pressed behind her neck. She rested her forehead against him, just as he was telling her something she couldn’t understand. He would do that from time to time, because saying it in Caridan was easier for him. And although the frustration was nagging at her sometimes, she could wait until he’d shred that distance off, just like he did with all the other ones. She could wait until she understood—until she, too, could say it in Basic.

Jyn had the certitude there wasn’t a single version of this universe where they would be strangers to each other again, and that was all the comfort she needed. 

As minutes passed, they soon had to figure out how to get rid of an efficient amount of clothing without being completely exposed to the humid atmosphere of the night. Jyn wasn’t so thrilled to feel the bite of the cold on her feverish skin. Her bare legs trembled when she lay down next to Cassian again, trying to bury herself into the warm of his own body.

“We don’t have to do this if you’re not feeling well.” 

“Shut up,” she groaned, eyes closed. 

No way they would stop now not when he had his fingers gliding between her legs at such an agonizing steady pace. Cassian couldn’t ignore just how extremely well that made her feel. If he needed any more inputs on the matter, her hips involuntarily jerked up to follow the movements of his right hand. All she wanted was for his fingers to slip inside of her and to help that throbbing pain. It was unbearable feeling so vacant without him.  

Cassian seemed to catch up on her thoughts, because he finally stopped teasing and pushed two fingers inside of her, extremely easily with that. Jyn had to bite on her lip to stop herself from being way too vocal about it. Her head fell backward, exposing the side of her neck to the sensual touch of his lips. There wasn’t much she was still capable of thinking, and focused her attention on where her own hands were busy caressing him.

“You’re literally shivering,” he paused again.

Yes,” Jyn winced in annoyance. “That’s called an orgasm. Don’t you dare to stop.” 

She gripped the fabric of his jacket more firmly, her right leg resting over his hips while they faced each other. Sweat started to pearl on her burning skin, lose hair sticking to her temples and the nape of her neck, below her disheveled bun. 

She opened her eyes again, just to look at the man at her sides. Even in the dark, she could see that spark of heat silently dancing in his gazethe want, the urge, the longing. It would have been obscene to leave that need unanswered. 

“Cassian, I swear, you’re gonna be in so much trouble if you don’t fuck me.”  

He might have laughed, but Jyn meant every word of it.

“You’re extremely bossy, you know that?” 

“You like it,” she breathed out, pushing past the barrier of his underwear. 

Cassian kissed her again, as if he hadn’t tasted her lips in years, and left her gasping for air. “I do.” 

He really did, which was perfectly fine by Jyn. She was more than happy to tell him what she wanted, and right now, she wanted to hear more of those sounds he was making while she was giving him a handjob. She had thoughts of doing other things with her mouth, but it might have been a little too much if someone were to inadvertently walk up on them. Not like there would be many doubts left as to what they were doing anyway, but still.

“You think… we could do that naked sometimes,” Jyn asked with a pleading voice.

She wanted nothing more than to see him naked from head to toe. Something so mundane that most couples could just enjoy whenever they pleased. Not them, not here. Jyn brutally realized this was the first time she thought about them as a couple, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She had never been part of a couple before. 

We’re partners. Partners who kiss, and have sex occasionally, and love each other—I believe. That might make us a couple, isn’t it? Am I your girlfriend? That sounds so stupid and laughable, I'm not sure I want that. Maybe we don't need a word for it. All I know is that I never want to be without you ever again.

“Yes,” Cassian said, sucking on the skin of her neck. “Will be so fucking easy without all those clothes in the middle.” 

“Can’t wait.” 

In the present situation, there weren't that many options to get the logistic going. They had to deal with both their pants mainly in the way and a limited amount of bedroll to move around. 

Jyn was getting extremely close to hitting that orgasm building up inside of her and she grabbed Cassian’s wrist with trembling fingers. She managed to turn around before he could wonder about it and pressed her body flat against his own. 

“Please,” she whispered avidly. 

It didn't take too long for Cassian to grab her hips and tentatively rubbed himself between her legs. She felt his hard length thrusting just below her entrance and she couldn't possibly take any more of that. 

“Cassian, please,” she moaned in annoyance. “I want you so bad.” 

She was almost ashamed to hear it out loud. She had no idea she could say stuff like that. Jyn didn't have a lot of experience when it came to sexa true understatement. Her only other partner before Cassian had been Hadder, years ago, that one time when they both did it for the first time. From what she remembered, it had been nice enough, but it wasn't great either. It certainly didn't have her begging for it.

Cassian had the knowledge. He knew how and where to touch her. In a deeper part of her brain, Jyn understood it was another one of his skills, but she vowed to never have that discussion unless he brought it up himself. She didn’t need to know the before. 

“Like that?”

Gripping her ass with one hand, Cassian slowly pushed his erection inside of her, stretching her way more than his fingers previously had. Jyn moaned, feeling that pleasant burn, and arched her back to give him a better angle. She was still trying to get rid of the pants hanging around her ankles but quickly forgot about it. She reached behind her with one hand and held onto Cassian’s hair while he was breathing down her neck. 

He gently moved his hips back and forth, almost pulling out each time. Jyn’s body reacted with a mixture of amazement and frustration. Just when she thought the frustration was winning over, Cassian started to thrust a bit faster. His hand left her ass to slid over her stomach and move to her chest. She was drenched in sweat under the uniform, but it didn't stop him from massaging one of her breasts with a firm grip. 

Jyn shivered even more when he pinched her nipple and she wished it was his teeth. She quickly couldn't think about anything else but Cassian Andor sucking on her breasts. That mental image was truly something she couldn’t have anticipated. To be fair, neither was the rest of it.

—This is Captain Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence. 

She remembered what she thought of him that day. She remembered how she couldn't take her eyes off him the minute she saw him, how she thought he had a familiar sort of face. It infuriated her because she wanted to trust himeven though she knew it was an awful mistake. The kind of deadly mistake. She thought that they would never get along because he was with them. She thought he was the enemy. She thought he would walk away or try to discard her once she wouldn't be of any sort of interest to him anymore, once he would be done using her, just like everyone else always had.

But Cassian never walked away. And now, he was fucking her in the middle of a silent outpost in the deep jungle and that felt every bit of a revenge on her life. 

A soft cry escaped her lips and she pressed the back of her hand to her mouth to keep quiet. The chances for someone to hear them over the heavy sound of rain was unlikely, but she didn't want to try it. A good initiative, because she straight up screamed into her hand when Cassian thrust deeper.

“Good?”

“Do that… again,” she asked without breathing. 

Jyn finally managed to set one ankle free and she moved her knees apart. It was easier for him to get the right angle and it felt way too good. His left hand brushed her inner thigh repeatedly. Jyn felt all of her nerves burning while her insides were throbbing and wanting more of him. His middle finger parted her folds to add more pressure and Jyn was a hot mess in his arms. It took him a few more thrusts to get her there but soon enough, her entire body was trembling and screaming from pleasure. Even coming down from her orgasm, she didn’t want it to end.

“Don't stop.”

“I want to look at you,” Cassian whispered in her ear. 

Jyn unintentionally winced when he slipped outside. She rolled on her back and welcomed him back in her arms the next second. He kissed her eagerly. Jyn could feel the rapid heartbeat through his chest. She buried her fingers in his hair once more and bit his lip when he entered her again. 

“Cassian.”

She had nothing else to say, just the possessive feeling of his name on her lips. She was the only one calling his name like that, and she didn’t want it to change. No one could have what she had with him, ever.

I love you so much. 

“You know,” he said with a hoarse voice, “it was cold…”

He didn't finish the sentence, but she thought she knew what he meant. 

‘It was cold without you.’ Yes, it was. But now we have each other. We never have to feel that cold taking over us again. I'll always fight for you. I'll always be waiting for you to come back. Maybe we can create a new fire, just for us. Maybe we can make our own world, our own home. Maybe we can have our own sun. 

If we're lucky enough, that sun will never die.

Jyn loved to hear when he was losing control. She loved to hear the low notes of his voice and the irregular sound of his breathing when he came inside her. That strange source of warmth lingered in her body way after he had parted with her. She didn't even mind the need to clean herself up without access to a fresher.

They put some orders in their attires without a word, tired and somewhat more alive than they had been. When they were fully dressed once again, Jyn took her spot back in his arms without asking. He kissed her gently, a hand stroking the nape of her neck in slow circles. 

“How's your fever now?”

“Way better.”

Cassian laughed softly.

“Please don’t die on me,” Jyn suddenly said, losing the last traces of her smile.

“I won’t.”

“Please don’t die, Cassian,” she said once again with a heavy heart.

“I won’t, Jyn. I’m with you. All the way.”

Chapter Text

12. All The Way

 

Entry: Battle of Scarif

Location: Scarif, Outer Rim Territories

 

“I can take them.”

Jyn ran a few variations of moves in her head, trying to come up with the most successful scenario. She was outnumbered by half a dozen white silhouettes quickly progressing towards the landing pad, but she had faced worse ratios than that. Besides, she got no other choice. The stormtroopers were preparing to board the last ship she could see around. She had to move or they would be stuck down here, left to die in the aftermath. 

The sole fact that they had made it this far and found a possible way out was already a miracle in itself. She wasn’t going to pass on it.

Crouched down behind a concrete barricade, Jyn made a move to stand up. Immediately, Cassian grabbed her wrist with more force than she had expected, forcing her to stop.

“No, you can’t…,” he grumbled. “Let me… I can distract them and you—”

“I’m not leaving without you.”

She didn’t have time for that stupid conversation. This doom parade was only minutes away now, and Cassian knew it as well as her. She yanked her wrist free from his grip, increasingly annoyed by his attitude. But even her menacing stare didn’t deter him from trying again. A damn persistent rebel.

“Jyn,” he pleaded in despair. “They’re too many.”

“Yeah, watch me.”

Already, Jyn tightened the grip around her blaster, prepared to fight—that same blaster she had stolen from Cassian right before they went to Jedha, a lifetime ago. She was a different person then.

“I can't watch you die for me!”

“That’s not your choice,” she firmly replied.

“Do you want me to beg for it? I fucking will.” 

For only a few seconds, Jyn felt the painful impact of his words in her chest. She had to close herself off before she could think about it some more.

“Do something more useful,” she said, “and cover me if you can still shoot.” Jyn shoved a sniper rifle they had recovered from the ground into his hands. She wasn’t positive Cassian could manage to hold it steadily enough for a shot, but she would gladly take the extra help if that was an option. Before he could argue again, she turned around and started to run towards the nearest stack of supply crates. Her treacherous brain protested with a high rush of anxiety while she did, trying to have her going back to Cassian. 

You cluster together, you die, she recalled. 

Breathing became difficult. Air wouldn’t go past her dry throat. She felt like she was choking on her own saliva, inhaling smoke and sand. A few seconds later, Jyn miraculously reached the new cover point without being gunned down. She raised her head and glanced ahead. She had ten—maybe fifteen—meters left before she could board the ramp of an Imperial shuttle. But she wasn’t the only one.

All the painful inputs of her tired and mistreated body seemed to die down, leaving her to concentrate on one thing only: survival. She took a sharp breath in, eyed the distance.

The stormtroopers were walking (running) in a column of two. Not all of them had weapons ready, probably more busy trying to escape the inferno unfurling on Scarif. Just like… everyone else. Jyn spotted some personnel in dark overalls behind the column, unarmed, from the communications center she imagined. Or from whatever the hell they came from—didn’t change anything. They looked as panicked as she felt. 

Wrong side of the line.

It was now or never. Jyn barreled forwards and her limbs reacted before she could even think of it. She was glad for the endless hours of training now. If Saw didn’t have her sparring until her knuckles turned red and her fingernails bloody, she would have never been capable to push past the terrible exhaustion. But until she fell on the ground puking her insides out, she knew she wasn’t done just yet.

Jyn shot at the closest one, knocked the rifle of his partner with her shoulder at the same time, stopping him from taking a deadly aim. She stood too close for them, disturbing their reflexes. Jyn fired again, trying to be efficient. She had five seconds before they would cut her down to pieces. She needed to do the maximum damage in that timeframe, to make it count. She targeted throats, into the joints of the stormtrooper armor. She wasn’t sure she had hit the right spot each time, but she couldn’t pause to look. 

She wished she had her truncheons for that fight. Instead, she broke the guard of her next opponent with a sharp elbow and used his rifle as an improvised melee weapon on the next individual. She kept on shooting with her other hand, trying to conserve a balance, trying to ignore the overwhelming pain when a hot pulse grazed her left arm. 

She thought the space looked more open. She reached into the air with the rifle-made-truncheon, let it fall to the ground. She turned around, both hands on her blaster. Her brain caught the menace of a barrel pointed at her, but her arms were too low, too tired, too heavy to take aim in time. Always keep your guard up. Fucking shit.

Jyn instinctively twisted her torso, trying to shield the vital areas, trying to take the blast where it would leave her standing for a few more seconds. The lesser of two evils.

The stormtrooper recoiled at the impact of a long-range blaster bolt with a morbid sound of suction. He hit the ground like a dead weight and Jyn shot him another time for good measure, making sure he wouldn’t go up again. She didn’t have time to look at Cassian. From the three Imperial workers standing in front of her, one picked up a weapon from a dead body, quickly mirrored by another man. A stupid decision.

Jyn fired at him without warning. The shot hit him in the face, gruesomely so. He didn’t wear a mask like the rest of them. He wasn’t a faceless target. He wasn’t a lifeless stormtrooper’s armor hanging on a gallows on Wrea anymore. 

—If you’re going to shoot a blaster, you always shoot to kill. Always.

A lesson Jyn had learned with sickening success. She was too far gone for remorse now.

The fate of his colleague had probably discouraged the almost-brave worker. He let the rifle fall back to the ground and raised his hands to surrender, eyes wide with fear. Jyn glanced at him for a few seconds, panting heavily, hot and sweaty from her actions. She then turned her attention to the other woman with a menacing expression, keeping them both at gunpoint.

“No!” the man yelled in panic. “Don’t shoot her! She’s the pilot!” 

Jyn hadn’t considered it, and was glad for the information. Cassian remained in no shape for flying them anywhere. They could have used some luck for a change.

“Either we all go,” she finally managed to say, “or no one flies off from this.”

A weird silence followed her words, only disturbed by the distant sound of on-going thunder growing more ravenous by the minute. Although there wasn't a single drop of rain falling on Scarif that day, and they couldn't take cover from that kind of storm.

The pair of Imperials looked at each other in horror, unsure of what to do, unwilling to trust anything she had to offer. But, like Jyn, they had no other choice if they intended to live. Escaping with her was their only way out of the condemned beach. Time was running out without mercy, and they reluctantly compliedunder the menace of Jyn’s blaster. 

She grabbed the pilot by the arm and pushed her towards the access ramp of the shuttle, gesturing with her right hand to the man.

“You,” she ordered, “get him on board! Move your ass! Move !”

Finally noticing the presence of Cassian at the edge of the landing pad, the man who looked more and more like a comm technician the longer she stared at him started to jog to meet him. Jyn watched from afar, blood pounding in her ears as her heart was hammering in her ribcage. She forgot to breathe when the man awkwardly swung an arm around Cassian to get him moving again. The two of them struggled to negotiate the short distance. From where she stood, the blood-soaked patch on Cassian’s shirt was even more horrifying to Jyn. Her grip on the woman’s arm may have faltered for just a second, hopefully not enough that she would notice it.

A hot and abrasive wind kept getting stronger and stronger around them, carrying sand and debris in their direction. Jyn had to squint, diverting her teary eyes from the two men until they had reached the end of the slope. She started to back up with the pilot carefully and her hair suddenly fell flat around her face. Before long, Cassian collapsed to the ground when he set a foot inside of the cargo area. Jyn had to consciously stop herself from reaching to him. He had kept the rifle all along. She quickly yanked it away from the reach of the other man with the tip of her boot.

“Get away from him.” 

The tech obeyed her, hands up in the air, ostensibly happy to put distance between them.

“Sit,” Jyn instructed harshly. She scanned the interior of the ship for a means of constriction, but found none.

“You touch one inch of his hair and I’m putting a hole in your skull. Got it?”

“You’re gonna kill us anyways…” he replied, full of animosity, “just like you killed those stormtroopers!”

“Only if you make me.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t give a shit what you believe,” Jyn spat with an ice-cold voice. “C’mon!” 

She manoeuvered with the pilot until they both reached the empty cockpit, and a new urgency grew within her. Through the windshield, she saw the warning signs of the deadly wave racing to meet them. The horizon was ablaze with a warmish yellow glow, unnatural sunset ready to engulf everything into the stellar night. 

“Get us to hyperspace,” she said to the pilot, “right now.”

The black haired woman was already strapping herself into the main seat. She flipped commands upwards with hands that betrayed her own internal fears, and started her take-off checklist. Jyn had spent enough time in space to be familiar with such protocols. Yet, she hoped the pilot wouldn’t try something stupid .

Jyn looked above her shoulder nervously. The ship was small enough that she could still keep an eye on what was going on at the other end of the cargo area, and saw that the technician hadn’t moved, immobile on a row of transport seats.  

“There is a fleet of—”

“I know,” Jyn cut the woman, returning her attention to her. “Jump it!”

Immediately, the pilot gave her a maddening look.

“Listen. This is an alpha-class security shuttle we just boarded without any authorization, it will inevitably draw attention if I do that. We can’t outrun them. They will track the ship anywhere and fire up!”

“I’ll take care of that.” 

“How?”

“Stop talking,” Jyn hissed.

She was losing her patience, still looking over her shoulder with an increasing itch to run back to Cassian. This was no time for caution.

“I don’t want to get blown up by a TIE fighter!” the pilot argued again.

“That's exactly why you should hurry up.”

Sensing her reluctance, Jyn furiously pointed at the beach—or whatever was left of it. “Fucking do it!” she yelled. “Or would you rather stay here and die?” 

Muttering something under her breath, the pilot took the commands in hands. Instinctively, Jyn grabbed the back of the seat to steady herself. The take-off was one of the most brutal she had ever experienced, and almost threw her off her feet (which wasn’t probably entirely unintentional). Her stomach jumped to her throat. Jyn watched the burning menace of the approaching blast, as they tried to outrace it. The beach of Scarif disappeared into a white maelstrom of chaos, only made of deafening sounds and blazing light. For a moment, Jyn thought she was looking into nothingness. Pure void. The rumbling brightness seemed to envelop them from all directions, washing away all colors, all shapes, all sounds, all concepts of reality. Until there was nothing left. The horizon was no more. 

During that everlasting moment in time, Jyn wondered if she was dead—at last.

The ghastly vibration of the fuselage, the loud protest of the ship commands as the shuttle fought its way up desperately, all brought her back.

“Shield’s open!” the pilot exclaimed with a mixture of relief and surprise.

“I know,” Jyn whispered to herself. They did that. We did that.

“C’mon, up up up .” 

There was despair in that voice. Jyn circled her fingers around her necklace, the familiar weight of the small kyber crystal secured into her palm. If she was ever going to believe, it would have to be now. It would have to be today. After everything she had lost, and everything she had suffered—she needed that small push from the Force.

The shuttle soon pierced the upper atmosphere of the planet and a dark canvas of stars came into view, the beauty of it only eclipsed by the remaining signs of a costly battle. While damaged ships burnt into space, Jyn fought back the tears of guilt and sorrow—thinking about Rogue One. She still hoped some of them had made it, but she knew most of her hopes wouldn’t be met down the road. Her last prayer was for Kaytoo to have successfully transmitted the plans to any rebel forces, anywhere in the galaxy. 

I really hope you’re out there.

“They’re scanning us,” the pilot’s voice called, eyes on her instruments.

“Can you jump?” 

“I need fifty more seconds.” 

How long can fifty seconds prove to be when you’re at weapon range with a Star Destroyer? Jyn watched in fear the impossible large battle station now facing them—the largest she had ever seen, not knowing when it had appeared in the middle of the celestial battlefield.

“Kriffin’ hell. This is Imperial pilot Honi Marana, does anyone copy?” 

She was met with no response from the destroyer, but the onboard defense radars were quick to detect the menace of an incoming blaster missile locked onto their signal. A red warning message began to flash on a screen, right in front of the two women.

“This is Imperial pilot Marana, do you copy ?” 

“They don’t give a shit who you are,” Jyn snarled. “They killed hundreds of their own just to make sure ten rebels wouldn’t make it out. Don’t you get it now?” 

Marana didn’t pick up the comm after that. 

It probably came as a life-altering shock to her to see the lives of the people she had worked with, including her own, being nothing but expendable on the bigger scale of war. She didn’t look like someone who had been on the front line. She might have transported personnel, maybe cargo shipments. She reminded Jyn of Bodhi, of who he was before Galen Erso. Just like him, Marana surely thought she was fighting against dangerous extremists, terrorists threatening the stability and the peace of the Empire. She thought she was doing the right thing, helping to remove cancerous cells before it spread wider and could corrupt the entire galaxy. After all, rebels were no good to anyone, a bunch of hot-headed criminals lurking after power for themselves. Jyn knew—because she had for so long thought the exact same thing about them. The only difference between Marana and her lay on the fact Jyn had been extracted young enough to not be indoctrinated by the Empire.

—Suddenly the Rebellion is real for you? 

“If you gotta do something, do it now!” Jyn pressed. 

She almost felt the turbolaser fire, imagined it reducing their small shuttle to nothing more than molten metal. She had thought about death so many times, made peace with the idea long before she found herself at the heart of everything. And when she had thought she was the most ready, she suddenly wasn’t anymore. 

Jyn didn’t want to die anymore. 

A vertigo threw her balance off and she held tight as their ship was violently pulled forwards into a stream of lightspeed travel. Galaxies melted away from their sight, fusing together into a blue abyss. The alarm on the main console finally died down after what felt like dreadful hours. It had merely been a handful of minutes since their take-off.

Marana stiffened on her seat, far from the relief she should have felt to still be alive. “Now what?” 

“Keep us moving until I give you new coordinates, and don’t do anything stupid. I’ve killed enough people already.” 

Jyn didn’t wait for an answer. 

She ran back to the main deck, frantically searching for something useful among the supplies latched onto the metallic railings. She finally found what she was looking for. She pulled a medkit out with trembling hands and fell to her knees next to Cassian, short of breath. Alas, she wasn’t trained to use half of the emergency inventory. She grabbed what she was familiar with: an orange dispenser labeled as anesthetic, and shot it on Cassian’s upper leg. He didn’t even react to the uncomfortable puncture, which concerned her.

“You’re gonna feel better in a sec.” 

Or so she hoped. 

Jyn had to move his hands aside so she could push his shirt out of the way to work. The thick fabric stuck to his torn skin around the wound. This time, Cassian whimpered and Jyn felt like throwing up from fear and desperation. She forced herself to stay focused, sharp, because he needed her to be. Her best bet was to apply a patch of synthflesh on his left flank and bandage it, hoping it would keep him alive long enough for someone more capable to take over. The operation wasn’t smooth. Cassian went rigid from pain, trying his hardest not to move. He gripped one side of her jacket, didn’t let go of it.

“I’m sorry,” Jyn whispered, disheartened. 

She still knew it had to be done. 

By the time she was almost finished, her own hands were stained red with his blood. Thankfully enough, the anesthetic finally kicked in. Cassian’s fingers loosened up around her jacket, but didn’t leave her. 

“Jyn…,” he mumbled with a raspy voice. “We can’t go… back to base. Too dangerous, if they” 

“Don’t worry about that,” she interrupted. “I’m going to reinitialize the ship transponder so they can’t track it back. It’s gonna be fine, trust me.”

She brushed damp hair away from his sticky forehead and rested her hand on it, unbothered by her audience. 

“I’m so done,” Cassian confessed to her over a murmur.

Jyn’s heart sank lower, panicked at the idea that it might be too late. After all the blood he had already lost, his face looked ashen and his pulse felt weak. For the first time since she had met him, Jyn looked at a man who had reached his breaking point. And when she eventually realized the heartbreaking realitythat he was asking her permission to let go, silent tears started to fall on her cheeks. Cassian almost seemed at peace with himself, laying on the floor with his eyes closed. It probably tasted like a victory to himbeing able to die on his own terms, with the hope they might have succeeded in their mission, with the certitude he wasn’t alone, with someone here to cry for him. 

It might have been more than he thought he would ever be granted. It was a good death to Cassian Andor. One she shouldn’t have taken away from him.

But the idea of losing him —after losing everybody— was unbearable to Jyn. In all of her selfishness, she couldn’t lose Cassian, because if she did what would be left for her? 

“No, you’re not!” She almost choked on her words. “If you die on me, I swear to the Force, I will never forgive you! You hear me? Just hold on a little longer, I’m gonna get you some help.”

The quietness of his breathing sent Jyn into a frantic pleading. One that sounded more like orders than wishes. “Cassian! Stay awake! Stay with me! You’re stronger than this, I know it. It’s gonna be OK soon.”

His voice betrayed every bit of the stress his body was under. Each word seemed to be articulated at the price of a painful inhalation. “I wanted for you to kill me—” he confessed miserably, “so I can just let go. And now… you want me to stay.”

There was a time when I might have wanted to kill you. But the cold was too deep and the dark too frightening. Jyn wasn’t that person anymore. She had fought her way out of the cave, and couldn’t bear to look back. “Yes! Don’t leave me alone now, not after all this. Don’t you dare.”

Jyn Erso didn’t beg for anything in her life—until she started to beg for him.

“I can’t do it without you. Please, Cassian. Please.”

The air around them still smelled like smoke and death, as if they had never left Scarif. For a short moment, Cassian fell completely silent. Jyn knew she had to get up to work on the transponder, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave him like that. Not when she feared it would be the last time she would hear his voice. 

She wished there was something more she could have done to help him, to take the pain away. She kept on stroking his hair instead, like her mother used to do before bedtime. The only mean of comfort she could offer him, as to say: I’m with you.

“Do you know… what they call me?”

“Who?” Jyn asked in confusion.

“The other operatives,” he explained after a pause. “They call me a 23er because… I survived the twenty-three percent chance of dying… of dying before retirement.” 

Jyn gently cupped his face and leaned forwards to make sure he would hear her next words.

“Keep doing that. You’re going to retire from this fucking war and go home with me.” 

 

 

When the lights went out, Jyn didn’t scream. Not because she wasn’t scared, but because she couldn’t breathe anymore. 

Her rational brain knew there was nothing to be afraid of in this room. She knew no one would hurt her, not physically. She knew they would put the lights back on, eventually, when they came with more questions and more accusations. But as soon as she couldn’t see the oppressing grey walls around her, every bit of coherence that she had left violently gave way. The impenetrable darkness came as a shock to her system. The damage in her soul hadn’t had time to heal. She hadn’t even had the time to admit to herself just how much she was hurt, and it all became unbearable in that instant.

Jyn reached her breaking point, her psyche collapsed on itself like a sandcastle on the shore. She found nothing to hold on, nothing to keep her present. Curled up in a corner of the cell, Jyn broke into tears—like the little girl trapped in the cave of Lah’mu. She pressed her hands onto her face, knees on her chest, terrified once more by the pull of the darkness. She began to shake uncontrollably as she cried out her misery. And no matter how hard she tried to shut her eyes, she couldn’t suppress the flow of images flooding her mind.

It painfully flashed in her brain—memories, traumas, haunting years of isolation, the last edge of her sanity. She couldn’t go on any longer. She wanted it over. She was done.

No one needed her anymore. Felis was safer with Cassian than she would ever be with her. She trusted him to take care of their child. She trusted him to know what to do. He always did. And after all, it was all because of Jyn that Felis had been born in such a horrible place. She didn’t deserve to be her mother, not like that. Felis deserved better than her. Cassian deserved better, too.

She had trapped him into that excruciating prison with her, chaining him to her ghost for so long. She had stolen that precious time from him, all because he kept on mourning the loss of a person she wasn’t anymore. And even knowing it, how could she ever bring herself to let go of him? Cassian was everything she had ever known of a lover. There wouldn’t be anything better than him, no one capable to emulate that kind of bond between them. She had fought so hard to keep their paths intertwined in the face of death. But not once did she pause to wonder if she had that sort of right—to want him, to keep him for herself. 

Everything good dies, Saw had taught her.

She didn’t want for that love to die, so it was best if she died herself.

 

 

Felis didn’t feel good. She didn’t want to stay here anymore, not without Mama. It was too long since she had gone away and now the outside was dark again.

Cassian was nice to her, but he wasn’t Mama. 

Felis looked at him in silence. He had been busy with his friends. She had seen them moving around and talking in a serious tone. She was scared that he would leave her alone, too. She didn’t want to go to bed and sleep alone, but no one told her to. And even if Felis was tired and sleepy, she stayed put in her corner, hoping to see Mama finally coming back.

She never did, and Felis was about to burst into tears when Cassian crouched down in front of her.

“Listen to me,” he said. “I’m going to take you someplace else, and I need you to be very quiet. Do you understand?” 

“Where?” Felis asked with apprehension.

“You wanted to see a spaceship, right? We’re doing that now.”

Yes, she wanted to. But right now, Felis wasn’t interested in spaceships. She was only interested in seeing Mama again. Tears started to burn her eyes and she couldn’t see anymore, crying her emotions out because she didn’t know what else to do.

“I don’t… don’t w—want… I— see Mama,” she tried to explain between her sobs. 

Maybe Cassian would be mad at her. He had said to be quiet. 

But Felis couldn’t stop the tears.

“I know you’re having a really bad time,” he said with a nice voice. “But we need to move to see your mom again. It’s gonna be okay. Stop crying.” 

Cassian kept on stroking her cheeks for a long time, long enough for Felis to dry her tears. She was feeling a little better now, because he had said that they were going to see Mama. But mainly because she sank into his arms for a hug. Cassian gave nice hugs. It felt safe. She liked how he kissed her head (even if that itched a little). She liked how he called her little one, because it sounded funny. Maybe he would call her Fei sometimes.

“You’re ready? We don’t have much time.” 

Felis nodded timidly. 

“Remember what I said, we need to stay quiet. Like a secret mission, okay?”

“Okay,” she whispered. 

“Good. It’s very cold outside, so I’m giving you my jacket.” 

It was a very big and heavy jacket. Felis raised her arms and looked at the long blue sleeves with a pensive frown. “Cassian, my hands are gone.”

He zipped up the jacket all the way to her chin and rolled up the sleeves until Felis could see her fingertips again. She liked it better now. It was warm and fluffy, but she couldn’t really walk without getting her feet tangles into it. It didn’t matter in the end, because Cassian pulled her up into his arms and she watched everything from over his shoulder. Cassian was very tall. More than Mama. But not as much as his droid friend.

He was there, too, with them, when they went outside the room to go on their secret mission. Felis was tired from the crying and anxious because she had to put her Tookat in a big bag, but Cassian had said she would get it back soon and she trusted him. 

She wondered where they were going. She didn’t ask though, because she remembered she wasn’t supposed to make any noise. It seemed… important. Everything was dark around them. Felis liked it better because it didn’t hurt her eyes like the sun and it sounded more quiet. She could see tall walls and constructions. She looked up to the sky, and watched all the stars… and the… space. 

Then the walls disappeared and the stars disappeared, and it was only big trees everywhere. It smelled different, too, and Cassian was right: it was very cold. Her nose got tingly from the cold air and she rubbed it with a small hand. From time to time, her head bobbed up and down, hanging over Cassian’s shoulder. It seemed like a really long walk to go where they were going. So long that Felis started to feel very sleepy in his arms. 

She closed her eyes just for a little bit. When she opened them again, there was still a lot of trees around them and nothing else to see, so she closed them for a bit longer.

The next time, she wasn’t in Cassian’s arms anymore and she got scared. Felis quickly sat up on the big chair, looking around with worried eyes. The little lights in front of her blinded her at first—red, green, all arranged on a big table. Then she saw the droid friend next to her. He was in a big chair like her, doing… something. She wanted to ask, but what if she wasn’t allowed to speak yet? 

“...what do you mean ‘ in shock ’?” 

That grumpy voice was Cassian’s. Felis turned around, standing on her knees, and she saw the back of his head. He was talking to his sleeve, which was very strange. Felis looked at her own sleeve, just to make sure, then looked back at him. 

“I’m coming,” he said. “Make sure to avoid sentry.” 

Before he had finished talking, he disappeared in the back of the new room. Felis gasped. She turned her head and reached for the nice droid, trying to tap on his arm. She had to extend her hand very far for that, but she managed without falling. Immediately, two big white eyes turned to her and Felis looked back at him with her own eyes wide open.

“Can we go with Cassian?” she whispered. 

“Why would I do that?” the droid said. “I have to complete the pre-flight checklist and make sure we have enough power to reach destination, plus an additional standard thirty-three percent of emergency backup, would our journey be disrupted. Given my past experiences with Cassian, I’d say this is highly likely to occur. Thus, I’ve raised it to forty-six percent, because the man can’t stay out of trouble. Looks like I’m right, as always. Not to mention Jyn Erso. They’re a statistic disaster together, I have backup data on that.”

“That’s Mama,” Felis picked up in the middle of the long explanation.

She waited to see if Cassian was coming back, but the waiting became too long for Felis. She wiggled around to get out of the big jacket and get down from the seat carefully. She wanted to go after him, to see what he was doing. Taking one step at a time, Felis slowly made her way to the door to have a look. It was left open, and she soon realized there was another room behind it. Or maybe… it wasn’t really a room.

She looked at the big opening and saw the outside. Another outside, with no trees. Then she heard voices in the distance. Something was happening quickly. The voices got closer and Felis took a step back, staying near the wall to look for Cassian.

“Your access code was denied, I had to use mine.” 

“You can come with us.” 

“No. Doesn’t make much difference, it’s about to blow up. I’ll see what happens here.” 

“You’re sure?” It sounded like Cassian’s voice. 

“I’ll take my chances. Go, she’s fucking blacking out.” 

For a second, no one spoke anymore. Then, Felis finally caught sight of the man talking. It was the same person as before—the tall soldier with the serious face and no hair. He raised his hand and gave a little salute.

“See you on the dark side, Andor.” 

Heavy footsteps came her way. Cassian was suddenly back in the inside, but it took Felis a moment to understand what was happening. He was carrying someone else with him, not like he carried Felis. It was a grown up in his arms this time. Someone with long hair.

Cassian punched his shoulder on a red button and hurried away from the big opening at the back of the room. It began to close with a loud metallic noise. 

“Talk to me, Jyn.” 

“Mama!” 

Cassian looked at her in a hurry and raised his voice without warning. “No, no, no! Go back to Kay, right now!” 

Felis didn’t dare to move, completely lost. She wondered if she had done something bad, because he seemed very angry all of a sudden. She didn’t like when he talked like that, it was scary. All she wanted to do was run to Mama, but Cassian wouldn’t let her.

“Felis!” he called again. “I said, right now .”

Worried she would get into more trouble, Felis started to back up one step at a time. She didn’t really want to, but Cassian wasn’t nice anymore. Even doing so, she still couldn’t stop looking at Mama. Something was wrong with her. Cassian laid her down on a row of red seats. When he tried to stand up, she kept her arms around his shoulders to stop him. 

“Calm down, you need to breathe.” 

Cassian kneeled down next to Mama and she hugged him even tighter. He did the same to her. Felis couldn’t hear what she was saying, but it sounded… not good. She was very afraid of something. Mama wasn’t afraid of anything, so it was even more scary. What happened to her when she was alone? Felis bit her lip nervously. She should have gone with her to protect her.

“Listen to me,” Cassian said with a big voice. “You’re fine, Jyn. You’re alright. But we need to go, I need to pilot this thing.” 

“I need to know,” Mama said with tears in her voice. “Do you—still—” 

“Yes.” 

Felis stopped moving and opened her mouth in surprise. She attentively watched while Cassian kissed Mama. It was a weird kiss, not like the ones she would get from Mama. It was a sort of kiss for people in love, maybe. 

It made sense in her mind now—that Mama would be in love with Cassian, and Felis started to wonder if they had been in love for forever. From before she was born.

Just like in the stories.

Chapter Text

13. Under Covered Skies


“You have controls.” 

“I have controls,” Kaytoo mirrored with a flat toned voice born of habit. 

Immediately, Cassian unstrapped himself from the pilot’s seat and walked out of the cockpit at a nervous pace. This wasn’t how he had envisioned any of it. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He should have fought harder for her. He should have acted faster. And because he didn't, Jyn Erso had been betrayed by the Rebel Alliance once again—in the worst way possible. A vicious and nefarious betrayal, barely disguised as legitimate concerns. 

Cassian couldn’t believe he had let it slip out of his hands this far. He, of all people, should have known better than to let it happen. Those games of shadows were the core of his darkest sides. Spy, analyst, interrogator, ghost agent—he had done it all. He knew the line between empathy and cognizance. He knew.  

He knew what would happen. And it did, inevitably.

On the main deck of the unarmed civilian spaceship, Cassian entered the crew corridor. 'Corridor' was a generous word to describe the small space left between two walls of human-sized bunks. The sleeping compartment was so narrow that Cassian could have reached both ends with his elbows. Out of the six beds available, one and a half was currently used.

Cassian had tried to keep Felis away from Jyn long enough that it wouldn’t do her more harm than anything else, but it was a lost battle. He found the little girl protectively curled up over her mother’s shoulder in one of the alcoves, and although he wasn’t sure whether or not Jyn was conscious, Felis was. 

“Do you have more medicine?” 

Cassian crouched down next to them, feeling the weight of Felis’ innocence crushing his soul painfully. The ‘medicine’ she was referring to was no medicine, but diluted zolall he had administered to Jyn to ease the state of deep panic the young woman was in. 

Did you catch that, Andor? Think about it again. You had to drug the woman who saved your life, all because you couldn’t protect her. Think about it some more, and don’t ever ask where’s the line again. Those days are gone.

“Aren’t you tired?” 

He already knew the answer, but Felis was rebellious. Despite the circumstances, Cassian put his best play at work and gave her a little smirk.

“I think your friend up there is lonely.”

The other half bunk accounted for was occupied by a lonely Tooka cat, abandoned on the higher bunk.

“Mama is sick,” Felis said with a worried frown. 

“We just need to let her rest for a bit.” 

“And she’ll be better after?” 

“Yes.” 

Felis seemed relieved to be told as much. She might have put a lot of trust into Cassian’s words, for better or for worse. 

“Do you want to sleep?” he tried to coerce the little one, softly stroking her hair. 

She was barely keeping her eyes open by now. She rubbed a hand on her face a few times, but finally nodded at him in defeat. Cassian extended a hand for her to grab, and helped her to climb on the top bunk. She had picked the spot herself, because she liked the view from up there. A surprising development. Cassian thought she would have insisted on sleeping with Jyn, but proved to be highly intuitive when it came to her mother’s well-being. Felis lay down under the covers with her plush friend in arms. The sheer blue light of the corridor cast a shadow over her dark eyelashes.

“Where do you sleep?” she whispered to him unprompted. An odd question. 

“I”m not sleeping for a while,” Cassian explained. “I have to keep an eye on the ship.”

“But what about when you’re tired?” 

“Don’t worry, I’ve got Kay to help if I’m too tired.” 

“Oh.” 

She didn’t say anything else after that, and simply closed her eyes while Cassian kept on stroking her hair silently. The treatment proved to be terribly effective. She was sound asleep in no time, unsurprisingly so, after the day she’d had.

Cassian pushed himself off the metal railing of her bunk and went back to Jyn, his face suddenly void of any futile attempt at composure. Jyn was lying on her side, turning her back to him—unconsciously doing her best to protect herself from the harsh world out there. He brushed her hair out of the way and pressed two fingers on her carotid, checking for her pulse. Cassian didn’t feel like dealing with any emergency payback on top of everything else. Thankfully enough, Jyn appeared to be stable. However, she wasn’t asleep.

Cold fingers brushed Cassian’s hand on her neck, pulling his arm over her without much strength—almost hesitantly. She wanted to wrap herself in his embrace, it seemed. He complied without protest and breathed into her hair eagerly.

“Stay… with me,” Jyn said, her voice deeper and slower than usual.

“Until next sector.” 

Cassian grabbed a handle on the wall to lay himself down next to her. While he tried to adjust his posture to fit the limited space, Jyn turned around with a visible effort. She buried her face into his neck with a silent sigh, and Cassian placed a protective hand behind her head, the other resting on her back. 

“What's wrong with me?” she barely breathed out.

“Nothing.”

“I don't want to feel like this forever.”

“You won't. It'll get better.”

An unwise statement. He had vowed—maybe as a penitence to himself, maybe as a testament of loyalty—to never lie to her ever again, no matter how brutal, how harsh it had to be. And Force knows, Cassian had his fair share of fucked up things it would have been easier to lie about. But that wasn’t the deal between them. So now, it had to be true or—

“You kissed me.”

From all the things she could have said.

“Yes.”

“You've never been… the one to kiss… before.”

Cassian looked back into her clouded eyes with a difficult expression, wondering when she had first noticed—what intention she had put behind it. He feared her judgment sometimes, until he remembered there was no power imbalance in their relationship; the only reason he was able to be close to her, while he had rejected everyone else for so long. He slowly traced her jawline with a thumb and eventually lowered his voice to shape the words into the space between them.

“It gets better.”

He wouldn’t say anything else, because he couldn't, even then, even to her. And the shame to keep her behind glass like that ( ...it's Jyn, you can't keep her away. That's the only one you always have to let in… Jyn’s the only one your soul can ever touched …) ripped his heart apart for a hot minute, but Jyn seemed to understand. Because somehow, she always did, always had. He couldn't explain it, but he knew he was obscenely lucky—didn't deserve any of the connection running between them, almost telepathic at times. 

Cassian thought that bond had been forged from Scarif, or maybe from Eadu, although it seemed that someone like him shouldn't have been granted something so valuable. But if anything—and Cassian didn't believe in soulmates, not particularly in the vast concept of love either—Cassian believed in his love for Jyn, and believed he hadn't pulled the trigger because his subconscious had been wanting to love her before he could even register it. She doesn’t look like the one responsible for Melshi’s face, he thought that day. That makes her dangerous. Never take your eyes off her, or you won’t see it coming.

He certainly didn’t.

Jyn raised her chin to brush over his lips then, offering him a kiss just as much as she demanded it. Cassian hesitated, hampered in his own head, unwilling to give her the wrong kind of support when she needed it the most. But it would have been cruel to reject her, so he gave in to her touch and pressed his lips against hers, curling his fingers into her brown hair. Her skin was cold, colder than the ship atmosphere—side effect of the zolall—cynically reminding Cassian what he had done to her, and what she had just walked away from.

The wish to protect her ran deeper than his bones. 

Major Cassian Andor. Of what use was that rank to him if he was still rendered powerless in his actions? If people like kriffing Qurno had more power than him. Cassian wasn't a good man, but he was a more capable one than the commander. 

Arguably, circumstances and merit didn't matter much, now that he had rebelled in the wrong type of way. That would be court-martial for him, should he ever choose to go back. For Melshi, who had helped him over a blacklisted access code (not so stupid in the end, were they?). For Jyn probably, too, regardless of past actions. Because the Alliance could be broken like that. On the flipside of their bright hope roamed the tainted foundations victories had been built upon for decades. Foundations Cassian had actively helped in building. He was far from innocent, even less ignorant. 

Cassian Andor—call sign Sandfall, child soldier groomed by the CIS, recruited by Davits Draven into the dark web of spy operatives, agent of the Operations department, Coordinate division, Rebel Alliance Intelligence—had been paving the way for someone just like him to come and prey on Jyn Erso. 

He had been the one doing harm to others countless times, with more brutality, more inflexibility—never tearing his gaze away from the flag of the Empire, because vengeance could be draped into the velvet glove of doing the right thing, and it felt numbing enough to his blind moral. He could try to tell himself this was different, Cassian knew it wasn't. And maybe that was the reason it hurt so much, as if he had been the one to personally trigger a stress disorder in Jyn. I've broken you, and now I'm trying to put you back together.

She didn't mind, she didn't hate him. Another stroke of blind luck.

She wasn't aware maybe, or chose to ignore his crimes altogether. Jyn only sought solace in their kiss, the taste of her lips just as powerful as the last time he remembered kissing her—somewhere deep inside the Massassi Temple, during the last hours of the evacuation. Her breathing fell short, she whimpered in his arms—not from pain (although maybe another sort of pain) but from something… demanding of her, conflicting. Because Jyn’s mind was numb itself and her reason told her not to chase that feeling, even when her lips wanted more of him and so did her soul. She asked without words, not that Cassian would have needed them.

And suddenly, he was the one in conflict. 

Give her what she wants… no, wait, don't fool yourself into thinking you can make it better like that… but she's asking for you. You can't push her away when she needs you… what if acknowledging the feelings is enough, even if not able to fix them? You can't fix them… you can't fix her just by fucking her, goddamn hell, Andor. 

“Jyn,” he said between compassion and regret. 

“I know,” she whispered, taking him by surprise. “I just want to remember the feeling. I just want to… think about it. The way you used to want me.”

“I still want you.”

She shivered at the words, pressed more of herself against his lean body. Not like she used to. Not with the same assurance.

“I just want to pretend,” Jyn said. And maybe she was the only one to really understand what she meant by that, but Cassian thought he had a pretty good idea of it.

“You're the same to me.”

She hid her profile along his face, and now she was the one reluctant, retracting away. Cassian reached for her cheek, guided her head back, kissed her mouth. Her cold hands curled around his wrists, not to stop him, only to keep him close. Cassian stole a breath from her and made her part her lips, his hand holding her face still.

He tasted her like the familiar lover he was to her, without reserve, without thinking about how fragile she felt under his touch. His heartbeat started to pound slightly faster when Jyn responded to his kiss with more passion, molding her lips into his own, brushing his skin, breathing his oxygen. A shy, barely audible moan escaped her throat to let him know how she felt about it. Cassian was pleased to hear it. She circled his shoulders, and even though Jyn was pressed against his body, he still felt the distance left between them.  

It’s okay. I know you’ll come closer again. That place is left for you to take.

That was the reason she wanted to pretend—that nothing had changed, even though she had, and wasn’t ready to admit it to herself. Cassian was willing to hold her, making out with her as many times as she wanted to if it eased her angst out, until she would look into herself again, facing upfront—like she always did.

“Tell me,” she asked with that same groggy voice.

Cassian intertwined their fingers together and gently pushed her on her back. He rested over her, the weight of his body shifted on one elbow, and kissed her lips again. Really, a thrilling telepathic disaster between you and me.

“Home is where you lay your head,” Cassian said.

 

 

He thought she would be sleeping for at least a solid ten hours. She was up after six.

Jyn walked into the cockpit in the middle of Miv'rah system, a thin blanket wrapped around her small frame, still drowsy from sleep, barefoot and bloodshot eyes. Without a word, she naturally came to sit on Cassian’s lap and fell against his chest with a soft humpf. He pushed her legs over one ledge to keep his commands within reach and Jyn buried her face into his chest, where she resumed her sleeping, completely unbothered.

“I don’t think the Travel and Transport Bureau would ever approve of someone sleeping on the captain’s seat,” Kaytoo said with dead-set pragmatism, “or on the captain .” 

“It’s fine,” Cassian chuckled. 

“It seems quite irregular to me. Impeding the navigating personnel in charge… possibly preventing any further action on the control of said ship. I’m fairly certain this falls under wider issues of piracy, if you would take a look at the situational enforcement guidelines. Cassian, you might be under a boarding attempt.”

“You can have the pleasure to inform her she’s a pirate,” Cassian sneered, “as soon as she wakes up.”   

“I would gladly do that.” 

But for now, Jyn would stay right where she was—safely tucked into the captain’s arms while they navigated through a beautiful sight of cosmic dust storm.

 

 

Have you ever had to take a young child to pee aboard a spacecraft? Chances are you didn’t. Cassian certainly didn’t, and he quickly realized the challenge laying there. Spacecrafts generally weren’t designed to accommodate younglings. This one wasn’t. And as space was a valuable resource on ship engineering, freshers were often shoved into the most unwelcoming parts of the layout, especially on short distance transports. In this instance, right below the roaring compartment of power cells and onboard generators fueling the ion drive, leaving the small, narrow fresher to feel somewhat like a death trap. 

Felis was having none of it.

“I don’t want to go.” A recurring theme for the past ten minutes or so.

“It’s safe, I promise.”

“No,” she pleaded, reluctantly eying her mother. 

“It’s just a loud room,” Jyn tried to counter back. “I’m coming with you, Fei.”

“No.”

“Felis, I’m not asking. Come with me.” 

“I don’t want to!” 

That might have been the first time Cassian heard her shout. Granted he only knew the little girl for a few days (re: his core problem), but it seemed deeply out of character. Turning around with a questioning eyebrow, he intercepted the pair. His concern only grew deeper while taking notice of Jyn’s expression. Something was just about to snap in her; maybe because of the stress she had been put under, maybe because of the exertion, maybe because of all the other reasons she had to be on edge. She seemed painfully aware of it, catching herself right before she was thrown into that dark place.

Jyn briefly looked at him, sorrow and guilt shining in the pit of her eyes. And she broke off, almost running away because she couldn’t stand here anymore and let herself be consumed by the things she feared the most. 

“Keep an eye on her,” Cassian quickly asked of his friend, running after Jyn. 

Running wasn’t a real sport on a spacecraft this size, nor was hiding away. He caught Jyn in the cargo hold and press a panel to slide the metal door behind him, giving them some sort of privacy—even if only conceptual. 

“What’s wrong?” 

“What’s wrong ?” Jyn snarled at him. “Everything's wrong! I’m what’s wrong!”

“Jyn—”

“No!” she suddenly yelled, waving an accusatory arm between them. “Don’t you say it! You don’t know… how I feel. I never scream at my child, I’m never mean to her! And now, I just have all this anger to deal with and I hate it. I hate that I should be so grateful and I’m not! I’m going fucking crazy!”

“You’re not crazy, you’re processing the trauma. It takes time to adjust.” 

Jyn blinked at him, momentarily stunned. Her arms rested by her sides like a diligent soldier, barely breathing alive.

“I’m not one of your assessments, Captain Andor,” she bitterly said. “I’m sorry, Major, wasn’t it? Well, I don’t have time to adjust because I have a child to take care of! It’s not a part-time job. What do you think? That I can put her on standby while I deal with my fucked up mind? Hell, what do you know? You’ve been playing dad for five minutes, tell me again when it’s been five years!”

She meant to hurt him, her brain’s logical response to distress, to push everything away from reach. The words cut deep, stinging, but Cassian was made of something more sturdy than that. Words couldn't do more damage than his own ghosts, nor the punches on his chest when he roughly caught her by the arms to stop her from walking away. Jyn tried to break free, hating the idea of being trapped, even in his arms. 

“Get the fuck off me!” 

She put a lot of resistance into it, and despite the fact she wasn’t the same woman capable of smashing his face to the ground in close combat, she fought hard against him—first with rage, then with despair, then with tears.

Only after her cries had gone silent and her hands dropped did she accept Cassian's embrace for support. She held onto him in turn, her fingers curling around the fabric of his tunic like claws digging in his back.

“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,” she whispered a few times, fearing he wouldn’t believe her.

“I've been there, Jyn.”

His words echoed into the cold air as if someone else had spoken them. Eyes wide open, Cassian fixed the far end of the dark cargo area, holding Jyn still on his chest. He wondered if it was the last of retributions: watching Jyn going through the same struggles, the same suffering—to just breathe.

“She's so small… I can't hurt her like that. Cassian, I can't— I can't hurt you .”

Her remorse felt raw, more than before, despite knowing all the history between them ( ...we’ve been at each other’s throat before, you know that. And we've never apologized for it. You wanted to kill me, I know you did… I wanted to hurt you, the egoistic, apathetic Partisant girl who couldn’t bother to pick a side. How fucking wrong… of me), she was the one holding back. 

“C'mon,” Cassian smirked, his tone entirely fabricated for the occasion. “You know I can take more than a punch. Plus you're hitting like you want to make friends.”

Jyn delivered a sad laugh that could have been equally faked. He couldn’t tell without looking at her, but felt her breathing on his neck, still upset—doubtless with herself. 

“I feel like shit… I didn’t mean what I said.” 

She might have even believed that. Should I tell you, my sweet love? Should I show you the ugly and low-down truth? You’ve not been far enough with people, Jyn. I hope you never have to. Cassian had lost that sense of delusional thinking. 

There wasn’t anything such as angry lies, the accusations rooted in the heart of everything. Always. When the control was lost, when the emotions were fractured—then the truth could flare up, and it wasn’t pretty. But it was freeing, in a sense.

“I think you did,” Cassian carefully answered, not wanting to push her too far off. “And you’re right, it’s been five minutes and I’m already exhausted. But she doesn’t hate me so far, and that’s… nice.” 

The need for better words was mocking his poor labeling. But Cassian never bothered to label his own feelings, only those of others—so he could use it like assets. Not with Jyn, not since he went back for her, running through the Catacombs of Cadera, fighting and tossing young rebels against a wall just to know: 

—Where’s Jyn Erso? Where was she taken?

Barely knowing her, already so eager to get her back—while he had left others behind countless times. ‘Left behind’. People he had known for years; on Eiloroseint, on Chemvau, on Kafrene. They would say: ‘only spies can see it coming’ but it was far from the truth. A lot of people did; that’s why Cassian would never look them in the eyes. His first mistake was to look into Jyn’s eyes, for he witnessed stardust in them—all born in a wake of astral storms.

“Of course she doesn’t, she’s smart.” 

“I noticed,” Cassian smiled, genuinely so this time.

“I think we should tell her.”

Jyn parted with him. He almost wanted to protest, felt the alien sensation in his limbs screaming to reach for her. He wasn’t sure if it came from a place of longing or rather insecurity. He didn’t want to find out. Undisrupted, his silence sparked a frightful reaction in Jyn—more sorrowful than frightened, if he had to be honest.

“Don’t you want to? I mean… you said— I assumed that… you wanted to be her dad.”

“I am her dad,” he corrected with a deep frown. Unlabelled feelings.

“Yes,” Jyn nodded, maybe melancholic. “So, we tell her?”

“Yes.”

“What about… us?”

Cassian paused. There was no denial of their ‘us’, so what she was asking was… something else. He wasn’t quite sure, but it meant something to her. The way her eyes scanned him, attentive, ready to retreat at the first sign of imbalance. Rather than assuming, Cassian chose to inquire, his voice quiet: 

“What do you mean?” 

“She’s going to ask a million of very intrusive questions, trust me.” 

Alright, not this time, Jyn. 

He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, wondering if she would resist the urge to cut it, constantly pushing back a single braid over her shoulder each time she moved around, and seemed to hate it. He almost hoped she would keep it long. She looked more mature, more—imperative. Cassian was thirty-one years old, standard time, soon to be thirty-two. He liked the idea of seeing Jyn growing older by his side. Just like he liked the thought of messing up that perfect braid, spreading it under him, lacing his fingers into her hair and telling her… how much he loved… her.

“Well, we tell the truth. We say that it’s always you and me.” 

 

 

INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT OF INTENTIONS REPORT #9568C-5O

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<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “HARESS”> 

<Subject = “Confirmation of prisoner transfer to Base One”>

<Supervisor = “Cpt. H. BESS”>

}}

<Established as follow: Two (2) Imperial individuals apprehended>

<Provenance: Scarif, Abrion sector, Outer Rim Territories>

<Human. Male. Blond hair. Light skin. ID: unknown. DEAD ON ARRIVAL. Cause of death: blaster shot to the chest. FATAL. Has been shot during transport by J. ERSO after demonstrating violent behavior that endangered Rebel Alliance personnel.>

<Human. Female. Black hair. Light skin. ID (TBC): Honi Marana. Has displayed cooperative behavior thus far. Has been placed under arrest and transported to the prison sector. Soon to be handed to Interrogation.>

}}

}}

 

[archived six months ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: LESREYA

RECEIVER ID: CASSANDR

TRANSCRIPT: ---so listen---I think I found noise about your partner---we got to talk with a merc on Five Points---name’s Vega---nasty one---he has a contact that said she’s alive--- CORRUPT AUDIO ---not sure about that prison---if it’s legit then it’s unregistered---it won’t be easy to find but I’ll let you know if I got more food---and by the way it’s--- CORRUPT AUDIO ---found suspicious so don’t go chasing shadows---until then---keep the sun alive---

 

[archived one month ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: MASIQ

RECEIVER ID: CASSANDR

TRANSCRIPT: ---positive target identification---repeat---positive ID---system location confirmed---request green case to begin surveillance op at once---agent on site standing by---entry point already worked out ready for recce---please transmit to Father---

 

[archived one month ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: DDVEN

RECEIVER ID: MASIQ

TRANSCRIPT: ---this is Father singing---you’re clear for action---ROE no contact allowed---lullaby mandated---report back in twenty hours---over---

 

[archived three days ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: MASIQ

RECEIVER ID: LESREYA

TRANSCRIPT: ---it stinks---I’ve run the report over and over---it’s crystal clear---I mean---if you know what to look for---not saying anyone’s stupid but---yeah maybe I do say that---you know what they taught us first right---if it flies like a crier and sounds like a crier---kill the kriffing shit before it impales you---I think we’re being impaled without lube Lesle and honestly I’m not down for that shit---we got bigger problems on the horizon---

 

[archived three days ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: LESREYA

RECEIVER ID: MASIQ

TRANSCRIPT: ---Sandfall isn't stupid---but I still need to deliver my original report to Father and it just looks bad---I need more inputs--- CORRUPT AUDIO ---if it’s not her--- CORRUPT AUDIO ---we need a silent talk---comm me when you’re back on Resoba---

 

[archived five hours ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: UNREGISTERED

RECEIVER ID: MASIQ

TRANSCRIPT:  ---kill comm---we have a birdwatcher---

 

[archived two hours ago]

INCOM. TRANSMISSION

SOURCE ID: UNREGISTERED

RECEIVER ID: UNREGISTERED

TRANSCRIPT: ---Blackrune transmitting---I don’t know if you still got that stolen transponder but if you get this---you’ve got problems on your ass---I know you’ve read my last report before you went rogue---black noise was corrupted---birdwatcher on the nest---we are disinfecting---looks like it’s something personal with your partner---I’ve cracked the original signal and I don’t think they’ve bothered to change it---good but not extra work---could be wrong---but I’ve got a ping on Gaulus sector---Miv’rah---if you’re not there---just disregard---otherwise---well I guess you won’t trust me now but I’ll say it---comm if you need a hand---use a silent relay---same ID as pre-training---keep the sun alive---

Chapter Text

 

14. Long Gone The Echo

 

Home wasn’t where she had thought she would find it. 

Jyn had never considered coming back to Wrea, not since she turned seventeen. She had no reason to, and too many memories to run away from. She would have settled for any location in the galaxy with little complaint, but ten years had passed and suddenly Jyn wasn’t alone anymore. 

Where her parents could have accommodated themselves with pretty much anything, Felis needed more than a mercenary spaceport. She needed a safe place, with heat, resources, and a decent environment. The outpost established by Saw Gererra on the inhabited ocean planet checked all of those requirements, not to mention the former Partisans’ base was located on an extremely hard-to-reach area (due to the dangerous Smuggler's Run asteroid belt they had escaped with little commotion, thanks to Cassian's piloting skills). 

There was a reason why Jyn had spent so many years shielded from the rest of the galaxy while she grew up on the isolated spot. Wrea was their best bet. They would make it work, she told herself, as long as they were together. After all, home wasn’t a place; home was with her… family.

“I’m going to do a quick recce,” Cassian announced, sliding the long strap of his rifle over his left shoulder. Already, he was about to disengage the ship lateral door to step outside. 

“I’m coming with you,” Jyn said, following suit. 

He paused and turned to her with a frown, hair tickling his line of sight. “No, stay with Felis. In case something goes wrong… We don’t know who might have claimed the outpost.” 

“That’s why I need to come with you,” Jyn insisted, “in case something goes wrong. I know the place, you don’t. Don’t be a thickhead.” 

Cassian tensed on his feet, rewarding Jyn with a clear look of disapproval. She didn’t care, her attention shifted to the blaster in her hands (Cassian’s… as the echoes kept on getting louder in her mind) and she switched the security off. 

Jyn had already made her choice, convincing Felis to wait for them in the pilot seat while the little girl had all the freedom to discover the infinite deep blue water running towards the bright horizon, above the island’s East cliff. She was already half-way through a story when Jyn left her there, counting an adventure of her own to her Tooka friend.

“Don’t give me your death glare,” Jyn scoffed. “I’m coming with you, Andor, suck it up.” 

“Fine,” he growled, all not too pleased, before turning to Kaytoo. “Lock the ship. Shouldn’t be long. And if we’re not back in one piece… take Felis to Ord Pardron.”

“Roger that.” 

“This is really stupid,” Cassian muttered under his breath, before he stepped outside, closely followed by Jyn.

Yes, maybe. Or maybe Jyn understood why Lyra ran back to her husband that day, what she tried to do; the same reason why Jyn wouldn’t let Cassian walk alone into an unknown situation like this one. And if anything, they had proven countless times they had better chances of survival when they stuck together. Jyn would not make an exception today.

Wrea was cold, colder than Jagomir, and the air still smelled like salt.

Under a chill sky, the pair of them approached a broken communication tower, vestige of the Clone War, sitting atop of a greyish hill. They scouted the perimeter from a safe distance, Cassian looking ahead with thermal binoculars, but it quickly became apparent they were the only living creatures on the small island—or so it seemed. A few meters from their position, a single blaster-proof door was carved into the rock, secured with a biometric lock. 

As they crossed the distance to the entrance, Jyn wondered if the mechanism was still powered… or if she still possessed the adequate clearance. It was a stupid gambling, and when she pressed her palm to the cold surface, her heart rate was alarmingly high. 

The metal squeaked when it slid open. Jyn sucked in a rasping breath. 

—You left me behind.

—You were already the best soldier in my cadre. You were ready, and I saw that, even if you did not.

—I was sixteen.

—I was protecting you.

—You dumped me.

—You were the daughter of an Imperial science officer. People were starting to figure that out. People who wanted to—to use you as a hostage. Not a day goes by I don’t think of you…

Lights cascaded down a long hallway bored directly into the stone. Jyn took a step forwards, greeted by all of her ghosts. A thin layer of dust and grit crackled under the sole of her boots; the air was stale inside the installation. Pushing past her shoulder with a swift move, Cassian walked to the end of the corridor, the collapsible stock of his rifle lodged into his right collarbone. He peeked inside the lateral rooms along the way and they both reached the main living quarters made of a dark monochrome, encountering nothing more than a frightened mouse. 

No one had disturbed the contemplative silence of the decaying base in years. 

“All clear,” Jyn said with a flat tone. 

Cassian turned to her, lowering his blaster carefully, and she was glad he didn’t ask. Someone else would have, but not Cassian. 

He gave her the space she needed while she stood in the middle of the communal area, carved under a stone ceiling, inspecting the clues left behind by the last occupants. Some stacks of canned rations on the shelves, a set of sabacc cards disappearing under a layer of dust, a lonely pair of gloves forgotten on the long table. Jyn wondered if Saw came back after Tamsye Prime. She also wondered if her room was still the way she had left it.

Part of her wanted to check, part of her wanted to forget about it.

Before she could decide which part was the loudest, a buzzing noise announced the dying of the lights and the whole complex went dark. 

Jyn froze on her feet, all muscles cramped. This was a terrible, terrible idea. She fought her aching brain to take a breath in, suddenly suffocating. Her fingers spasmed in the void of darkness and she dug her nails into her palms instead. Eyes wide open, Jyn desperately tried to map the contours of the room to keep the panic at bay. 

“Jyn.” 

She extended her hands toward that calm, familiar voice like a lifeline. Her fingers gripped the leather of Cassian’s jacket and she sunk to his side instinctively. The next second, a cold white light emerged from the darkness and the mounted flashlight beam pointed to the ground as Cassian slid both arms around her.

She let herself breathe a quick sigh of relief, feeling the solid mass of his body against her, grounding her. You’re not trapped. You’re not alone.

“Maybe that wasn’t the best of ideas,” Cassian mumbled into her hair. 

“It’s the…” Jyn tried to plug her brain back in. “The power cells must have run dry after so many years. I’m sure Kay can fix it.” 

Her voice sounded too hoarse for her own liking. She didn’t want to be a liability. She didn’t want to put her child in harm’s length just because she couldn’t deal with a little blackout. From all the safe worlds Cassian had listed to her, this was the safest (the list had dramatically shrunk when Major Andor betrayed the Alliance). She wouldn’t have them go anywhere else just for her sake. 

Jyn forced her breathing to slow down, focusing on all the places Cassian was firmly pressed against her. It felt both amazing and terrifying. 

Amazing because the warmth of his body pushed against the darkness and spread into her chest with a shivering hope, coaxing her closer and closer into his arms. Terrifying because she didn’t want to slide down that dangerous slope, to let herself welcome those thoughts of them together… She felt vulnerable and inadequate. She felt different (knew she was, both mentally and physically) and couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing him.

Cassian had been gentle enough to mend her insecurities because he was Cassian, but he deserved better than a broken version of her.

Jyn granted herself another handful of seconds to enjoy the weight of his touch, her face resting on his chest and her arms around his waist. She relished in the sensation of his hands on her back and the light stroke of his breathing on her forehead. It had been so long; she could have let herself drown into his care, spineless. 

With a gentle resolve, she pushed herself off of him before it was too late. Jyn could barely discern his expression under the dark ceiling of the artificial cave, but his voice stayed the same as he casually asked: “Are you okay?” 

Jyn wasn’t quite sure how to respond to a question seemingly so simple, as the answer he was seeking was nothing of the sort. She found that his presence next to her was still enough to overshadow most of the fear and the ugliness left rotten between those walls. 

There were happier times buried under the dust, too. Some little memories dancing in the back of her mind, belonging to another Jyn, a softer, younger Jyn—a Jyn still waiting for her father to return, a Jyn cherishing the privacy of her own room, a Jyn finding another father in Saw, a Jyn discovering she loved to experiment with a code replicator stolen from Xosad, a Jyn wondering if she could be friends with Idrissa. All those moments belonged to the person she was before ( before what? ). Before Cassian Andor. 

“I’m good,” she finally answered, “giving some margin of error.” 

“How critical?”

“Right now… about fifteen percent.” 

“That’s pretty decent,” Cassian said with a straight face, reminding her why she couldn’t trust anyone but this man with her feelings. “Let’s get the kids, then.” 

For the first time in forever, it seemed, Jyn smiled. 

 

 

“...what about now?” she heard Cassian asking from the end of the hallway. 

Sat atop of the stairs, Jyn listened to the conversation while keeping an eye on Felis, who paced the terrain just outside of the base with acute curiosity. 

From time to time, the little one would pick something up from the ground and slide it into the large pockets of Cassian's blue coat, carefully walking around despite the excess of fabric trailing behind her. She was going to ruin it. A shame if you'd think about everything that coat had survived along the years, but Cassian couldn't care less and Felis needed to stay warm. Especially when nightfall started to set around them with a rapid drop of temperature.

“Enough juice to power the maintenance system and the air vents,” Kaytoo diagnosed without a flinch, “but the auxiliaries won’t work even if we switch to a closed circuit.”

“Comms?” asked a distant voice.

“Comms and surveillance are definitely not working until I can configure a new power spin. Have you seen the fuses on that generator, Cassian? It’s all corroded from salt. It will grill up if I plug anything more than a holopad on that voltage. That is—unless I kill lighting and water recycling.”

A pause. Felis had found something else on the ground.

“No, let’s forget about the comms for today. We’ll try to repair those solar panels tomorrow.”   

“I can  try to get a relay down here from the ship if you want.”

“I’d rather have Jyn working an encrypted signal before that,” Cassian said, “just in case. There’s no hurry to contact anyone.” 

“Mama, look!”

Felis was running to her now, demanding Jyn’s full attention. She almost tripped over the hem of her coat but braced herself on her mother’s shoulder with one hand. Her cheeks were of a darker pink than the rest of her face and her breathing a little fast. Jyn brushed back some short hair away from her eyes and looked down.

“I found this,” Felis said, showing her the opalescent golden spiral object resting in her small palm. 

“It's a seashell. It comes from the ocean.”

“It's pretty.”

“It is, isn't it? Did you put all those seashells inside Cassian's pockets?” Jyn teased with a little laugh. 

“Uh,” Felis blushed. 

“How many do you have?”

“Lots.” 

“Let's go inside and you can show me,” Jyn decided. 

She stood up and offered a hand to Felis, carefully helping the little girl to negotiate the set of old and dusty stairs. 

“I want to show Cassian, too.”

Jyn couldn’t resist letting a shy smile peak at the corners of her mouth with a surprised sort of endearment. “You like him, don't you?”

“Yes.” 

Well, that’s convenient , she thought to herself with a slight sarcasm. 

Passing by the alimentation panel, next to the two water tanks built into a low alcove, Jyn brushed Cassian’s shoulder with a light hand. He turned his head to her, his brows twitched in concentration and his hair partially grey from the dust. 

“Come with us?” Jyn asked. 

“Yeah, give me a sec,” he nodded.

The living quarters were slowly waking up from their long, dead sleep. With Kaytoo figuring out energy distribution around the base, Jyn had spent some time cleaning as many surfaces as she could while trying not to suffocate into a turmoil of dusty particles. As soon as the air vents went back in service, quickly purifying the atmosphere from that stale, acrid smell, the place felt more welcoming. 

Jyn had dragged two mattresses from the adjacent dormitory and stacked them on top of one another, pushed against the far end of the communal room. She had figured it would be the warmest place to sleep tonight, since the other rooms would take longer to heat. It was also a good spot to monitor the main hallway, even though she didn’t really need to (her brain insisted she did anyway).

Jyn bent to reach her inner thigh and unstrapped the lower end of her holster, then the buckle around her waist. She checked that the blaster’s security was still on and set it on the ground, within reach, before she sat on the padded surface with her back to the wall.

“Come here, Fei. I want to talk about something.” 

The little girl climbed next to her, coming to straddle her legs and fighting to get out of the oversized coat at the same time. “What?” 

Jyn helped her to wiggle off the outerwear and pushed it next to them. Now free, Felis leaned against her mother’s chest and circled her neck. Jyn wrapped her arms around the small frame of her child, her hands gently tracing absent patterns on her back through wrinkles of fabric. She caught the end of a braid and swiped it under Felis’ nose, which made her laugh, and she buried her face into Jyn’s stomach to escape it.

“You remember when I told you I had a secret?”

Instantly, a little head popped back up. “Yes.”

“Do you want to know what it is?” 

Felis nodded eagerly, her dark brown eyes shining with an innocent glare. She sat back on Jyn’s thighs and listen with her undivided attention. 

Jyn took a deep breath, already tasting the words she was about to say in a surge of apprehension and deliverance. She had waited so long for this moment; constantly punishing herself for letting that crushing spark of hope resurface, again and again, no matter how deep she tried to bury it. She simply couldn’t live without it.

—Hope? Is that the best Rebel Intelligence can do?

—Rebellions are built on hope.

She couldn’t live without hoping to one day finally be allowed to say:

“I’ve known Cassian for a long timefrom before you were born. And he’s not just my friend…” Jyn paused, her voice meaningful. “I love him in a special way.” 

She scrutinized Felis for a reaction, trying to gauge her understanding of the statement. Jyn wasn’t sure just how much the little girl could conceptualize of romantic love. There was so much about sentient interaction Felis had never witnessed, and Jyn didn’t want to tear apart that little nucleus of the world the both of them shared. But Jyn wasn’t just her mother, and she needed to explain that to Felis.

“I’m in love with Cassian,” Jyn confessed softly. “Do you know what I mean?” 

Felis frowned and started to fidget with her necklace, deep in her thoughts. She opened her mouth a few times, but the intent seemed to escape her just as quickly, until she finally asked: “Like in the stories?”

Jyn’s surprise left her unresponsive at first, soon replaced by an encouraging smile. Why didn’t she think about that herself? 

“Yes, just like that,” she told Felis. “I love Cassian like Kestrel and Jeron.” 

And that’s another conversation we’ll have, later on. Or maybe I’ll let you keep the fantasy forever. Those stories have a too nice ending to be anything but my dreams. They can live safe inside your brain and you’ll cherish them for me.

“But I know,” Felis suddenly exclaimed, standing up on her knees, “because he kissed you on the lips.”

Jyn’s eyebrows almost disappeared under the shorter strands of her hair. She couldn’t think of anything to say, taken aback, and simply kissed the small fingers Felis pressed onto her lips. The little girl sat back on her lap and Jyn took her hand in her own, pressing it over her chest to keep it warm. 

Jyn tilted her head to the left and looked closely at her child, just as she noticed Cassian exiting the hallway to join them. “Is that okay if you see us kissing sometimes?” 

She should have phrased it differently because she wasn’t trying to ask her child permission to kiss a man she loved. She was the adult, and she was making the decisions. Yes, theoretically. But it would have been much easier to have Felis on board with this, and when Jyn caught a glimpse of distress on her small face, she almost stopped breathing already expecting a soul-crushing rejection.

“You love him more than me?”

There wasn’t anything in this world more painful than the pain of her own child, Jyn had learned. 

She placed her hands around Felis’ face and gently stroke her cheeks with her thumbs. “No, of course not. I love you both the same, but you’re my child and you’ll always be the more important person in my life.”

Felis seemed happy to hear it, but only half-reassured. Jyn wondered if she should have given her a different answertold her she loved her more than anyone. Wasn’t it what a mother was supposed to say? Jyn wished she was better at the job; she wished she was more of a Lyra and less of a Galen. Expressing her feelings had never been her strong suit. No one had bothered to teach her that skill (easier to punch than to speak, always). 

She probably wouldn’t have bothered if she hadn’t met someone even more closed off than she ever was. 

“Hey,” Cassian carefully said, reading the room with all of his spy-trained censors.

Jyn shifted to the side, making room for him like an invitation. He lowered himself next to her, bracing with a hand against the wall, and let a small sigh escaped him when his shoulder rested against hers. Cassian was tired , Jyn noticed, physically (and most probably mentally). It pained her to know she was the reason for his exhaustion. She placed a hand on his leg as a simple gesture of encouragement. He was probably dreading the moment, but there was no way around it and Cassian had been clear about his decision. 

“We’re having a little discussion about you and me…,” Jyn explained while looking at him. “And apparently someone saw us kissing. So there is that, I guess.” 

“Ah.”

Cassian seemed to search his memory to find the incriminating moment. The flex of his jaw told Jyn he found it rather quickly. He forced his face to relax again, his eyes scanning over Felis, and Jyn wondered if he was using his spy mask to get through it. She hoped not; hard to say, even for her. 

“What do you think?” he asked with a friendly tone. 

Felis didn’t answer right away, her head resting on Jyn’s chest, right below her chin, preventing her to take a look at the little girl’s expression. She watched Cassian instead, surprised to find a patient understanding in his gentle eyes, and way less anxiety than she would have thought (definitely partially a spy face). She couldn’t blame him for it.

When Felis stirred on Jyn’s lap, she felt the tense reaction of his body. The muscles of his leg hardened under her palm, as if he was preparing to take a blow. She squeezed it gently, trying to convey a sense of support to him.

“Can you still do my braids?” Felis finally said, not as neutrally as she usually sounded. 

Jyn had no idea how this was relevant to any of it, but he didn’t care to ask, bless him.

“If you want me to.” 

Felis moved around to reach Cassian’s coat and retrieved the small treasure hidden in his pocketstrying to escape part of the conversation. She toyed with a golden seashell between her hands, tracing the curves all around it in silent contemplation. 

Jyn refrained from inserting herself in the exchange (no matter how badly she wanted to), letting them go through this in their own terms. They would probably need a few tries to unravel the layers of emotions tangled around them. She might be small, but Felis wasn't stupid, and she was definitely more of a Cassian and less of a Jyn. 

Still a bit of a Jyn, though, when she unexpectedly gathered her courage and asked in a breathy whisper: 

“Are you my papa?”

“Yes.” 

Jyn had missed a heartbeat while Cassian’s answer didn’t suffer any delay or hesitation. She was the one tensing with a rigid posture now. That felt so sudden and… simple? That’s it, she knows. You can’t take it back anymore.

“Okay,” Felis nodded.  

Jyn raised her eyebrows, waiting for more questions to follow suit, but nothing came. It was highly unusual. She couldn’t figure what Felis’ reaction meant and her overworked brain worried about it in silence. Jyn kept on stroking her hair with a passive hand and her eyes scanned Cassian’s face, hunting for his reaction.

He looked… well, he looked like Cassian. No— he looked like Major Andor. 

In a perfect galaxy, in a life where the Insurrectionist boy and the Partisan girl had never grown up to be the stronghold of their adulthood, Cassian wouldn’t have needed the emotional distance from his own feelings. Jyn understood why he did. 

“Okay,” he said, so low that she barely heard it.

Jyn reached for his hand and wound their fingers together. He didn’t react at first, perfectly still and somewhat… frozen into himself, impassible. It took a moment for Cassian to flip his palm over, pressing against hers, and the warmth of his skin gently spread to her.

“Cassian, look. I found this.”

Felis leaned towards him and opened her fingers to show him the seashell. He offered her his free hand, and she pushed the small opalescent prize in the center of it. Cassian carefully twirled the seashell between his fingers, making it shimmer under the reflective rays of blue light built-in in the walls. The pale golden tint of the nacre almost dissolved into a silvery shade as he did so, and Felis stayed pressed to his side, attentive. “Nice color. Looks like the aurorae on Fest.” 

Jyn felt a rush of dizziness passing through her at the mention, almost like a subtle warming . Cassian so rarely spoke of his homeworld, never engaged about his childhood before he left Fest, purposely used Caridan or any other languages of his knowledge over his mother tongue each time he didn’t feel like talking Basic those few words of contemplation seemed important. And it was left to Jyn to mark them because Felis was as oblivious as any youngling could be. 

Cassian was telling her something, even when he didn’t say anything at all.

“You can keep it,” Felis happily decided, “I have more.”

“There’s a million more in your coat,” Jyn said with a mocking grin, testing the water.

“Interesting.” 

Cassian safely tucked the seashell in the front pocket of his shirt as Felis retracted to Jyn’s shoulder. He brushed his thumb over her cheek and looked at her like a man who had lived a thousand lives already. 

“Thanks, amata.”

His head fell back against the wall, eyes closed, and Jyn silently registered the sound of that voice. She turned her head, allowing her lips to brush along his shoulder, and waited there in silence, letting the vulnerability of that moment heal some of the suffering they had both carried for so long. Nothing in this bleak world was perfect, but this— this, right now, felt as close as a reparation Jyn would ever get. 

“Cassian, I’m done with water recycling. It’s back up and running.”

Jyn cursed Kaytoo in at least four Outer-Rim dialects. 

Her temper faltered just as quickly when Cassian took the handed opportunity to evade (making sure the water showers worked because someone needed to, right?). 

She let him go without a word, tried to give him the mental space he sought. He had done so much for her already; he had taken in so much during the last few days. Cassian needed the quiet of his own company sometimes, or so he liked to convince himself (if anything, that comment about Fest was a good enough indicator). 

Jyn truly did the best she could to respect it. But patience wasn’t something that came naturally to Jyn Erso. Although Felis had vastly improved her skills in the domain (along five years of imprisonment, but she wasn’t thinking of such a thing right now because it hurt just above the line of her pain tolerance), it still wasn’t enough to grant Cassian more than a ten minutes headstart before Jyn rose to her feet and came looking for him.

Just check on him and go, she lied to herself. Just to be sure. 

The air inside the long communal shower room was ice-cold, stealing a shiver from her spine that spread to the skin on her arms with a slight goosebumps. The angry stream of hot water hitting the carved-stone floor created a white fog to surround Cassian like a ghostly vision. He had properly folded his clothes atop of his boots and chosen the last shower spot, right in the opposite corner of the room, left flank protected by the end wall, right flank directly facing the door, only one angle exposed. The secure spot, the one Jyn always made sure to pick when she showered herelong after everyone else was done. Tactical decision ingrained into his subconscious.

She closed the distance without haste, making sure he heard her as she did. He didn’t turn around, his back to her, head down and water dripping all over him but he knew she was here. Jyn knew that he knew. 

“The desalinators are working,” he said with a slight hint of sarcasm.

“I can tell,” Jyn half-smiled.

She remained where she was, unmoving, fearing to make the wrong move. A growing apprehension had suddenly crept over her, making it difficult for Jyn to listen to her own thoughts. She let her gaze map the sight of his bare body, pale flesh colored by white strokes (old scars), pink lines (new scars), raised patches of skin where synthskin had been applied cut and rearranged together endlessly. Tear it down and make a new one, perpetual soldier, everlasting fighter. Doesn’t matter where the pieces come from, doesn’t matter where the soul is stranded. The memory of a blaster shot that almost ripped his left lung apart, on a beach of ashes. The impact of a fragmentation grenade to his shoulder that a dead friend didn’t entirely cover, in a deep jungle. A discoloration of burned tissues, not treated fast enough to completely blend in, right in between his shoulder blades this one was unknown to her. She hated it like all of the others.

She hated everything that had ever hurt Cassian, herself included. 

“You know, it’s the first time I’ve seen you naked,” Jyn said quietly. 

His head dropped a little along with his shoulders. “The longest tease in history,” Cassian sneered. “I hope you’re not disappointed.” 

Jyn hated the taste of self-deprecation he injected into his words the same he always used to talk about himself. Disappointed . Nothing seemed to be valuable enough to convince Cassian of his own worth, no matter how heroic the triumphs, how selfless his actions. She could have spent hours telling him he was the best man in the galaxy, he wouldn’t have believed her. 

Cassian wasn’t always kind to others, but he was brutal with himself.

“You’re an idiot.” 

“Yeah,” he chuckled low in his throat, “and a naked idiot.” 

Jyn slowly relaxed, letting the joke flow over her to ease her mind.

“With a nice ass.” 

He turned his head just enough that she could see his profile, a small river dripping from his nose, but didn’t look at her. “You can join if you want.”

Jyn stayed perfectly still. The sound of the continuous water conveniently masked that of her breathing, a little ragged. It wasn’t as much the thought of joining him that unsettled her as the fact he opened that invitation to her. Cassian never asked not for touch, not for her. 

At first, Jyn had thought it to be a product of the circumstances. It might have even been partially true (warfare wasn’t a friendly field for blossoming romance); she didn’t have much time to make up her mind. Regardless, Jyn could tell something else was buried underneath, something darker, and now … now he was asking for her. 

Cassian must have mistaken her silence for a refusal, because he made sure to tell her: “You know I won’t do anything that you don’t want. I didn’t mean” 

“I know.” 

Already, Jyn tugged at her boots with the heel of her foot. She unclasped her belt and get rid of the military issue pants, letting it fall on top of the neat clothing pile. The bite of stinging cold on her legs pushed her to work without pausing. She threw the thick sweater over her head and only then did Jyn waver in hesitation. She considered her options with a hint of guilt but decided against stripping out of the sleeveless shirt still covering her small frame.

Jyn took a step forward and joined Cassian under the hot water, letting it soak her hair and shirt pleasantly . She raised her palms and pressed on his back, skin warmer than the water. Jyn took another quick breath. He smelled of soap and rainstorms. Cassian smelled of freedom, she realized, and something snapped inside her chest like a ripple, urging her closer. 

Very slowly, Jyn ran her hands up and down his back, kneading over the tense muscles, feeling the topography of his body as if she was discovering him for the first time. His own breathing seemed to come out a bit louder but he didn’t display any intention to move. Jyn slid her arms toward his torso, enveloping him into a strong grip, and pressed herself behind him until not even water could crawl between them.

He reached for her, coming to hold her hands firmly against his chest. There, she could feel every beat his heart fought to take. 

“Come closer,” Cassian rasped. “Please, come closer.” 

“I’m here,” Jyn said, and kissed the wet skin between his shoulders. Sweet kisses. Heartfelt kisses. The more he dug his fingers over her hands, the more she kissed. This, too, shall heal, my love.

When his grip finally relaxed, Jyn trailed her hands down his torso with a gentle caress, following the soft line of dark hair until she reached his navel. She brought them back up again and sealed another kiss over his shoulder.

“Are you alright?” 

“Giving some…,” he growled to clear his voice. “Giving some margin of error.” 

“It’s good enough,” Jyn muttered. “You’re good enough, Cassian.” 

He lay his head back and his balance shifted, almost imperceptibly, so insignificant. But Jyn noticed it. She noticed the weight of his body on her as he let her hold him, let himself being held —Force, for the first time since when? 

“I thought it was about Felis,” Jyn said, “but it’s about you, isn't it?” 

Cassian pulled away without violence, turning around and sliding his arms behind her to keep her close. Jyn had to tilt her head up to meet his eyes, blood pounding in her ears just as she felt the safety of his embrace. Cassian’s hands stroke her back, mirroring her actions, gliding over the wet fabric of her shirtstuck to her like a second skin.

“I thought I needed… absolution, from you or to make it enough,” he said, fighting his words. “But I just wanted hope , and even… I wasI was a murderer long before I met you and today, today felt like hope. I just realized… I can live to be a traitor and a coward as long as I’m the traitor sleeping next to you.” 

“I’ve seen cowardly men,” Jyn argued with a dangerous frown, “and you’re not one of them. You’re not ! The man that came back for me on Jedha wasn't a coward. The man that said he believed me wasn't a traitor. We fought that war already. Let yourself have this…”

She cupped his face with unsteady hands, shaking from the emotions colliding inside of her broken body like tidal waves. If only he could have seen what she saw.  

“You’re allowed to want things, Cassian. You’re allowed to have them, too.”

“I just want you… I just want this , with the four of us. Blast, it feels like fucking peace.”

Cassian slumped on the last word, breaking the tension of his shoulders to sink closer to her. Jyn instinctively raised on her toes to meet him and dragged his mouth to hers. She tasted the warm touch of water on his lips and was thrown into a blinding loop of disorganized memories. On top of them: unnatural sunset, quiet room, hopefulness.

“You're my favorite rebel, you know,” she told him while searching for his eyes.

“And you don't even like rebels.”

“I do,” Jyn whispered. “I like you.”

“Ti tengu cara, Jyn, ” he said in a language she didn’t speak.

She could only figure out her name, but it was enough for her to understand. 

Jyn was the one to find his lips. 

Cassian kissed her back just like he had kissed her on Yavin 4, with the same adoration, the same eagerness to connect to her gentle at first, then demanding, loving . Jyn gasped for air, feeling the roughness of his growing beard to contrast the soft touch of his lips. She smiled, nipping at his lower lip, arms around his neck, and she almost forgot why she wouldn’t stand naked in front of him. He made her feel good enough .

His hands left her waist to work their way into her hair as Cassian slowly untangled her braid until he could slide his fingers between the long strand of wet hair.

“Better?” she whispered. 

Cassian lifted his head just enough that he could catch her gaze when she looked at him. “ Site bella tantu caru,” he muttered. 

Jyn locked her arms tighter around his shoulders to match his height, flat against his chest, fighting the lump in her throat. He captured her mouth again and the water started to feel cold compared to the warmth of his soul. 

“Caridan,” Jyn breathed out between two kisses. “I don’t speak it, remember?” 

“I know.”

“Cassian,” she whined impatiently, “translation.”  

Cassian leaned closer, sending her back on her heels, and buried his face in the hollow of her neck. Jyn closed her eyes when he started to kiss a soft spot right below her ear, but she registered the deep, hoarse voice speaking the next words to her.

Quiere decir: eres tan hermosa querida.” 

Jyn was glad he was holding her, because she might have collapsed otherwise. Past the initial shock, she still willed herself to rebel against the man and his endless stack of deception techniques. Date a spy they say, would be fun they say.

“Did you just

“I translated,” Cassian said, and she felt the mocking smile plastered on his lips. 

“I’m going to end you, Andor.” 

Jyn pushed on his chest with both hands, sending him back to the shower wall only half on intent. His grip pulled her with him, and she slid her leg between his to fit around the hard edges of his body. The sudden friction at the apex of her thighs drew a soft gasp from her chest, just as Cassian’s fingers dug a little harder on her hips.

“It feels like a good death to me,” he whispered slowly.

 

 

INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT OF INTENTIONS REPORT #11548A-7O

}}

<Operative = {logged ‘black space protocol’} “LESREYA”> 

<Subject = “Investigation of J. ERSO”>

<final report conducted by Intelligence agent L. Andreya, addressed to Chief of Intelligence General A. Cracken>

}}

<On request of Commander Qurno, I'm following parts of the assessment conducted by Interrogations while Erso was under monitored surveillance. Initial interview conducted by M. Thirk. To note that she didn't oppose the process, nor tried to impair it.>

<Eight days ago, Erso was retrieved by SpecForce from an Imperial facility on Shingra, Ordali system. To our best understanding, she has spent most of her captivity at this location, following her capture 0,5 ABY subsequent to the evacuation of Yavin. We first uncovered viable Intel about her survival about six months ago through an unrelated operation. I personally came in contact with one informer. Every source has been cross-checked by our agents and revealed to be organic. To this day, two of the initial leads have been reported as goners. I haven't been able to draw conclusions on that, as their deaths can either be ruled accidental or unfortunate. It is in my knowledge that Major Andor has made contact with the third individual on the Five Points station soon after Erso's retrieval. His motivations for the meeting stay unclear but he left the informer alive.>

<The rescue operation was approved by General Draven and executed under a classified mission order. As I guarantee the integrity of the agents selected, it would have been impossible for someone to anticipate Erso's breakout. Therefore, we can conclude that she was actively imprisoned on site.> 

<During her interview with Thirk, Erso has admitted providing them with information about her coding skills. As mentioned in her file, she has been previously arrested and convicted under the charges of forgery and resell of Imperial documents (which led to her imprisonment on Wobani). Erso has been trained by a Partisan cell from a very young age and has taken part in various terrorist actions alongside its members. Although we do not possess many samples of her production, she's believed to be extremely proficient and skilled at the task. She has also shown a high ability to undergo stressful and demanding situations while remaining focused on her objective. Erso has, in the past, accepted to implement imperialist agendas to obtain personal gains. In the line of those concerns, I’ve been tasked to analyze new incriminating materials and to statute on the likelihood of her involvement in it.> 

<Four days ago, Analysis issued a report from the Intel gathered of the raid at the Wretch of Tayron. It has been confirmed that various of the breaches sustained by the Alliance during the last two years result from an undercover agent operating through our circles. Although the identity isn’t currently known, their profile was expertly forged by someone with professional skills. Our techs have picked apart the coding algorithm and have found incriminating similarities in the baselines of Erso’s previous work. It is also confirmed that thirty three percent of the material fragments have been encoded using a ping location on Shingra.>

<Confronted with those facts, Erso has denied any involvement in the matter, either from her free will or under coercion. Although it is not impossible that she’s lying to protect herself, and moreover to remain with her child. Thirk has assessed Erso as stable and aware of the consequences of treason, if they were proven to be true. I disagree in the sense that Erso is in a volatile mental state. I suggested him to push forward.>

<The evidence we have at the moment are all pointing in the same direction and I recommend keeping her locked under surveillance until further notice. Treating her with too much leniency could cause a devastating backlash among our forces, as more and more division is felt at the bottom, endangering all of our current operations. I’m also obliged to report that Erso and Intel Major Cassian Andor are or have been involved romantically, and I believe he could act on impulses. I strongly suggest removing his clearance from the prison sector, and to have him evaluated by his senior officer ASAP.>

<Though I cannot to this day statute on the accusations against Erso, I advise treading with extreme caution. She has the potential to be a real threat to the New Republic and is not to be taken lightly.> 

}}

}}

 

 

“Lower it down,” Cassian groaned. “I don’t want to have that talk today.” 

“Those walls are two meters thick of solid rocks,” she pointed out. “We’re good.”

“I don’t think you locked the door.” 

She hadn’t. Oh well, too late now. Only a life-threatening situation could have convinced Jyn to move away from him. She felt flushed, her heartbeat irregular and the heat of his body radiating against her like a dark sun. His hands flexed around her waist, drawing slow circles on her sides, coming up to brush the swell of her breasts. Jyn moaned into their kiss and dug her fingers into his hair, forgetting about everything that wasn’t Cassian Andor.

He slid his hands back down and pinned her hips to him, digging hard right below her ass. Jyn braced herself on his chest with one hand, the other mirroring his previous action to trail on his left side until she reached the hard bone of his hip. She followed the natural line of his muscles to a patch of dark hair, lower where he was hardening under her touch. Jyn let her fingers gently stroke over him, the soapy film left on his skin making it effortless and causing for Cassian to bite hard on her lower lip. 

She sighed from content, his reaction rippling inside her like molten lava, burning right between her legs. Jyn moved her hips against him, helped by the firm grip of Cassian on her. The intersection of his strong leg between her thighs proved to be the cause of further moaning coming from Jyn. The tension building up just from that friction and the feel of his hands on her were overwhelming. She couldn’t stop her body from moving again, nor that he wanted her to stop.

That momentum felt too fast and too slow all at once. Jyn shuddered and increased the pressure around his erection, dragging long rhythmic movements until he was panting on her neck. She softly cried when he kissed her earlobe, and his hands roamed over her back until they caught on the hem of her shirtbut never lifted it without permission.

“Tell me what you want,” Cassian said, kissing her neck, her shoulder, her collarbone.

“I want to make you come.” 

Cassian tensed with a strangled sound she classified as pleasure. “That,” he choked out, “will be very easy if you keep doing that.”

“Good.” 

Jyn pressed her lips on him, remembering the bright hopefulness he could birth into her when they were close. Cassian felt warm, safe, strong. Ally . Friend. Partner. Lover. Cassian could take away all the pain, even temporarily. Cassian could make her forget about her deepest wounds, and even when she wished her legs were stronger, her arms fuller, her abdomen able to take a punch without flinching, even when she couldn’t look at herself without seeing the ghost of Jyn Erso, Cassian could make her feel beautiful.

And it was almost too much to take in to be this happy, again.

Jyn couldn’t help but moan when he dragged her hips upward, sliding against his bent leg, and Force, fuck, he kept doing that again and again. Her forehead fell on his shoulder, Cassian wounding his arms around her as they both started to fight for air. The water hitting her back now felt cold compared to the burning of her skin. Jyn almost reached to turn it off, but she couldn’t take her hands off of Cassian.   

Jyn,” he groaned, low in his throat. 

She hadn’t felt this clean in years washed away from the guilt, the shame, the pain, the misery. Jyn allowed herself to have this moment between them, free from the restraint she had pushed down on her sexual desires while she battled in a cave of darkness. Not to be alone again, not to be without him again . That was all she wanted and it ached wonderfully, deep within her.

Her legs tensed and twitched involuntarily, her body trembling against him. Jyn’s grip around him lost focus, her fingers harsher with a long stroke when she almost blacked out from the relief of her orgasm. Cassian held her with strong arms and whimpered in her neck, spilling over her as they both trembled against each other. 

 The shower ran down their entangled bodies, washing them clean again and Jyn slowly came down from her afterglow. She felt Cassian moving his head to drag his lips across her exposed shoulder, back to her jaw, cheek, lips. She curled around him, as much as was humanly possible, to keep him close until their breathing slow down enough to become silent again.

At last, Jyn dropped her full weight back on her feet and opened her eyes. Cassian smiled at her, the lines at the corners of his eyes enhancing the beauty of his face. Jyn brushed a thumb over his swollen lips, completely entranced, and said: “I see stars in your eyes.”

Chapter Text

15. Clearance: Fulcrum

 

Cassian woke up from his blank sleep to find himself protectively curled up around Jyn, his nose buried into her hair and the warmth of her body between his arms. He couldn’t remember the last time he had wished to freeze a moment into eternity more than this one. How nice it would have been to finally end the fight, right at this instant. 

Soon enough, Cassian had to extract himself from that empty echo chamber, realizing someone was pulling at his wrists. Felis was trying to… untangle him from Jyn. She pushed his arm aside, where it had been resting over Jyn’s waist, and took the spot back in her mother's arms with a muffled sound of victory. He assumed from the action she wasn't too pleased with him, but didn't dare to open his eyes to investigate. 

Pressed against his chest, Jyn chuckled quietly and Cassian felt a little more relaxed at her reaction. She rolled over to face him, pulling Felis with her, who laughed in surprise. Jyn rested a gentle hand over his neck and Cassian slid his arm back at her waist, hugging them both under the ragged cover. Between the two of them, Felis seemed way more happy about the arrangement. She snuggled closer to Cassian, her small feet digging into his thighs when she fumbled around to turn over on her stomach.

Never in a million years would he be able to describe what he felt that morning, but it seemed way too precious to be handed into his care. 

This is the one thing I will never walk out alive of. This is the last mission, the one that will end the 23er. I’ve been ready for a long time, it’s worth it if I get to hold you both. It’s worth it if I get to see an end to it into your arms, Jyn. 

A familiar thought.

 

 

Entry: Syron R’aya’s assignment 

Location: Jenoport, Unknown Regions

 

As he watched the spaceport going into lockdown, Cassian’s brain dug up the last conversation he had with his case-referent. It had been over three standard months since Cassian stood into the icy quarterdeck of the Bacrana’s cell, but he remembered the agent’s weary tone like it was yesterday. Probably his first time, because he ran Cassian through the entire process with just too much of a by-the-book protocol. Other, more experienced officers wouldn’t bother. Cassian wasn’t new to the task, his specificities hadn’t changed, but he let the man talk.

—Spouse? 

—Negative. 

—Children? 

—Negative. 

—Depositary of KIA disclosure? 

—Ruescott Melshi, 152nd Division, 2nd Regiment.

—Ceremonial, if possible?

—Festian burial. 

—Second thoughts about the mission? 

—Negative. 

—Anything to add before you go on vaccum? 

—Negative. 

—Alright… Starting off now, you’ll be operating undercover and no further contact will be established by Father. This is your official mission order, I haven’t been briefed on your persona to protect you. I assume you already got your credentials.

—I do.

—Good. If you're exposed, you'll be considered extinct. You understand that some choices must be made if anything else were to fail? 

—No capture, no surrender. 

—Good, good… Your clearance is… above mine, so I don't have a name, but I'll keep you in my prayers. Keep the sun alive. 

An old saying across the Unknown Regions, where people considered it bad luck to call upon the Force aloud. Cassian had learned that soldiers tent to be superstitious, even among Intel. He couldn't judge; he had his own set of prayers for times like this one. 

While you feel the memory of the sun… 

Now, three months later and the last of his burned identity ripping at the seams like a grotesque doll, he couldn’t quite remember it.

While you feel… 

The mission had been a success, because he had no other choice. Cassian Andor might have been a man capable of failure, but Fulcrum were not. Fulcrum always delivered, always got the job done, always found a way to give results to the cause no matter the odds. And where Cassian Andor might have felt conflict, there was no limit as to what Fulcrum were willing to sacrifice to ensure the prevalence of the Rebellion. It’s for a cause I believe in. It’s for the greater good. 

Mother of black moons, did he hate that saying. But Fulcrum—oh, Fulcrum loved it. 

Fulcrum, in fact, were the golden banner of the greater good, the higher moral, the relentless fighting hope. Fulcrum weren’t made of flesh and blood, they were made of ideas, and ideas couldn’t get hurt. Ideas couldn’t bleed or tire. Ideas couldn’t be tamed, couldn’t felt remorse, desperation or fear. Ideas simply existed, just like Fulcrum simply acted upon them with deadset efficacy and unchallenged focus. 

It wasn’t Cassian Andor who had to carefully slice his way up through a new network, it was Fulcrum (who called themself Syron R’aya for the occasion).

…you feel the memory…  

Syron R’aya was an average man, in all regards and aspects of his life. He liked his job, com-scan operator specialized in large bandwidth analysis, as to say: a busy work environment. He didn’t like his job to the point of doing extra hours on the clock, though. Syron R’aya wouldn’t be the first leaving, but not the last either—an average amount of work ethic, the right dose to integrate with the rest of his new colleagues without setting him apart from the mass. To not make him a zealot, but not invite anyone to question his professional interest either. After all, Syron R’aya was doing a good job.

…the memory… 

The workers of Pulsar Horizon Industries had an average opinion of him. He wasn’t an unpleasant man. He would occasionally joked with the com-scan technicians, but rarely interact with the other departments. Maybe he lacked confidence in the wider crowd, maybe he preferred the company of a few selected people. It gave some leverage to his close circle; people liked to be special in any way they could, whether they registered it or not. Clique mentality was strongly ingrained in most individuals, as it once was the heart of survival. Fulcrum liked to use it to their advantage, make them rally around Syron R’aya imperceptibly. The workers would forgive him for the occasional mistake (wasn’t it strange for a com-scan analyst with his background to make rookie mistakes? Nevermind, the error was sentient and it was their duty to help the team effort). After all, Syron R’aya was still new to the position—they would show him the ropes of working with Pulzon. 

…the memory… 

His appearance, too, was average—he was to blend in, to be looked at and forgotten the very next moment if needed to be. Yet, not so average that he wouldn’t be charming. Good looking individuals were less frequently suspected of illicit activities, and twice more likely to get away with troubles. It was a thin line to work with, something hard to point out for most people, but Fulcrum were an expert at the task. Syron R’aya—with an appearance as common as the next man—was subtly more charming than his pair. His beard neatly trimmed, not too short that he would impersonate the image of an Imperial officer, his brown hair slicked back over his temple, his dirt-brown uniform ironed and well sitting on his shoulders. It was a custom fit for him to have enough room to keep a vibroblade on the hollow of his back, another one on his right ankle above reinforced boots, an emergency lock set around his left. He couldn’t keep a blaster inside the facility, but there were things more useful than weapons on occasion.

Ultimately, it was his charming look and enjoyable personality that did the most for Syron R’aya during his time with Pulzon. It opened certain doors that might have been hidden to other agents. It certainly opened the door of Vianey Aloros: human female, thirty-two standard years, married, one child, head of the holo-security department—Fulcrum’s mark.

Aloros had worked with Pulzon for the past five years, but her contract was inherent to the Mining Guild (an arrangement ensuring both parties with mutual benefits). At least, it was the case until the Empire started to nationalize private companies with a more aggressive agenda. Pulsar Horizon Industries were next on the line, and with the Mining Guild openly supporting the Galactic Empire, Vianey Aloros was sitting on a tough spot. She had detractors. It gave Fulcrum an opening angle to collect the Intel the Alliance needed.

…memory of the sun…     

That night, Syron R’aya stirred in a bed that wasn’t his. The warm body pressed against him was soft, fragile. Aloros kept her eyes shut, her black hair fanning across her shoulder blades like the silk veil Alderaanian women wore to funerals. She didn’t react when Syron R’aya made a tentative gesture to free himself from her grip, gently pushing her arm away with the ghost of a caress, still smelling her flowery perfume on his skin. He monitored her breathing for a while, listening to the quiet silence muffling his own presence in the room. When he was certain, he put his clothes back on and walked to the door.

The apartment unit was plunged in darkness. Syron R’aya had mapped the layout of the place during his prior visits. He knew where to find Aloros’ office and slid behind her computer, retrieving a small datadrive from the front pocket of his jacket and inserting it into the device. Without a noise, the cracking tool loaded into the datadrive by the Cryptology department started to work on Aloros’ computer security, beginning a wordlist attack to retrieve her password and access deeper levels of information. 

Syron R’aya had collected enough details about her personal life to give successful directions to the cryptographic program. For the head of holo-security, her countermeasures were ridiculously lousy. It only took a few minutes for the screen to unlock with a blue backlight, signaling the first successful step of the operation. All he had to do now was to duplicate the encryption algorithm of Aloros’ identichip—which he planned on using to gain access to Pulzon’s databank first thing in the morning. Fulcrum were to retrieve shipment schedule and localization of what appeared to be massive transports of kyber crystals, to possibly lead them to high-priority Intel (Father had graded the mission as Esk class, Rules of Engagement: use of force, up to and including deadly force, to counter force used to interfere with the mission is permitted). A chase that required months of terrain work and many operatives involved, something the Rebellion needed at great cost. 

…the blackest night…  

Syron R’aya was almost done, ready to disappear and leave his ghost behind. The ident was fully loaded. He disconnected the datadrive and shut down the screen, leaving his eyes to blink into darkness for a second. 

…the memory of…  

“Who are you?” 

Syron R’aya froze behind the desk, his sight sharpened. 

Witness. Objective compromised. Assess new directives. Youngling. Espaa Aloros (human male, six standard years, son of Vianey and Kerse Aloros, private tutoring, possible asset, leverage value). Risk of mission failure critical. Cannot allow Aloros to flag her current ident codes before using them. Must suppress Aloros. Mogo. Risk of discovery. Her husband coming back in the morning. Too early. Must suppress the husband too. Two Mogo.

Sorry, child.

No, Fulcrum weren’t sorry. Fulcrum were practical.

“I’m a friend of your mother,” he smiled, empty. “You can’t sleep either? Come here.”

Get the child under control. Silenced. Deraformine. No, ingestion will take too long. Best option is neurotoxin: Malkite themfar. Small dose. Will dissipate in twenty hours. Use a palm dart. Target external carotid artery. Done. Catch Tango. Run mark’s checklist.

Syron R’aya’s entire focus had shifted. 

Do you have authority under ROE to conduct attack? If yes proceed to 2. Two.

His Intel digging mission was now a double assassination mission. He recalibrated his brain without trouble. He was used on taking initiative. Adaptable. Modulable. Practical. Qualities that made him a perfect candidate for undercover assignments. It was easy enough. Syron R’aya would get the child back into his bed and move on Aloros. 

Is the mark on a No Strike/Restricted List? If no proceed to 3. Three.

He had a vibroblade on him; she would never wake from her sleep. It would be quiet. Not peaceful, he thought. He wasn't allowed the association. It was a hateful act, but she wouldn’t see it coming. The mercy wasn’t for him. Syron R’aya didn’t deserve it. Fulcrum didn’t need it.

Does the mark make an effective contribution to enemy military action? If yes proceed to 4. Four.

The small body was limp in his arms, unconscious. 

Will its destruction or neutralization, in current circumstances, offer a definite military advantage? If yes proceed to 5. Five.

Syron R’aya walked out of the office and headed towards the door he had marked as the child’s room. He pushed it open with his shoulder, entering the darkness without a sound. He didn’t linger in contemplation, didn’t want to catch details of his surroundings, didn’t want to fix any permanent memory of this night into his brain. He was going to make an orphan but he didn’t want to take his ghost with him.

Is the attack expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof (i.e. collateral damage)? If yes proceed to 6. If no proceed to 11. Six.

Syron R’aya laid the child down on his bed. Something was off.

Do your ROE permit collateral damage? If yes proceed to 7. If no DO NOT ATTACK. Seven.

He hovered above him. Part of him didn’t want to know, part of him couldn’t move before he did. He couldn’t afford the dilemma, so he let Fulcrum take the decision for him. Their fingers were steady when they pressed it to the child’s neck, right along the artery. Pulse was gone. Dark became darker.

Is there an alternative military target available with the same military advantage, with less risk of collateral damage? If no proceed to 8. If yes return to 1 for new mark. Eight.

Shock syndrome. Allergy. Overdose, maybe. Causality was irrelevant; he didn’t waste his time on it. He could try to help, try to revive him. It was still time to act and make a difference to save his life. He would need medical assistance. He would need to be more than a shadow, and waking up his mark would put his mission at risk. Fulcrum couldn’t justify it, Syron R’aya couldn’t jeopardize the future of the Rebellion. It’s for the greater g kriffing hells, shut the fuck up! The mask was cracking. The edges were tearing. Under: the man. Cassian. 

No, don’t say it. Don’t think about it. Never when you go dark. Never when you’re this deep. Undercover, undercover—because it covers your soul.

Cassian wasn’t here. 

Syron R’aya was still holding the child, cradling it with one trembling hand. An acid taste burnt his throat, his chest heavy and agonizing, each breath he took as an insult to the ones the child wasn’t drawing anymore. He pictured his lips turning blue, his organs shutting down one after the other, the warmth of his skin dissipating in the night. You killed him. And then you looked away. He felt like wailing, a wounded sound of pain building in his throat. He clenched his jaws harder, bit on his tongue, sweat on his neck and fire in his heart. Irrelevant. Too late now. The man bent over the small form, pressed a hand to the static chest in mourning. Excruciating effort to stay silent while the agony jarred him.  

If he was unable to finish the mission, he should have handed it down.

…the blackest night…  

Slowly, Fulcrum rose to their feet. 

Have all feasible precautions to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects been taken? If yes proceed to 9. If no, do so, and then reassess 8. Nine.

Fulcrum didn’t turn around to have a final look at Espaa Aloros. Fulcrum didn’t bring ghosts with them. Cassian Andor would, and his ghosts were always walking with him when he was the most awake. But it wasn’t time just yet.

Where circumstances permit, has an effective advance warning been given of attacks that may affect the civilian population? If yes proceed to 10. If no, issue warning before proceeding to 10. Unable. Ten.

Fulcrum knelt to retrieve a small vibroblade with a short grip from their right boot.

Is the attack expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated? If yes DO NOT ATTACK. If no proceed to step 11. 

Eleven.

Fulcrum went back to Aloros’ bedroom. Now it was mercy, so she never had to wake up childless. That was the lie Fulcrum told Cassian when his breathing menaced to crumbled out of pattern. Cassian rebelled against them, sick to his stomach by the monstrosity he had become. It was still hate, it was still violence, it was still murder. 

Attack permitted. 

There was nothing merciful on the sharp of his blade; nothing glorious when he pressed a hand over her mouth and pushed the knife down her throat. He cut deep, on both sides. He wanted it to end quickly. Unconsciousness would take seconds; death would take minutes. Blood spilled from the carotids like small waves. It wasn’t clean. He would have to burn the clothes.

Burn the clothes, burn the ident, burn the memory. Burn it all.

Just like that, his mark was crossed. And now he would have to sit and wait for a few hours, surrounded by the dead bodies of his victims, until he could add another one to the pile. There was no escape from this type of nightmare. Nor that he deserved it, because war wasn’t an absolution of his crimes. But Cassian was shielded away, Syron R’aya wouldn’t weep and Fulcrum would stay silent. To complete the mission.

While you feel the memory of a sun… 

In the light of a new day, Syron R’aya was burned, his false existence left behind while he extracted critical Intel from Pulsar Horizon Industries. 

It was Cassian Andor who stood motionless in the hovering shadows of a landing bay, blaster in his right hand and tears rolling down his face freely. He contemplated the idea with as much eagerness as a man waiting for his next rush of spice. The exit door sounded promising, forgiving, peaceful. He was so fucking tired—just the shell of a man whose hands were too bloody to retain any more hopes. He didn’t have it in him to make room for more ghosts. He wanted the quick escape. A pull on the trigger and it would be over. It would never make it right, but at least it would make it even. 

…the blackest night is not wasted.

Still, Cassian had to deliver the Intel—so he waited until his extraction plan materialized itself. Kaytoo’s inorganic response to his agony was unsettling, but already nearing the dangerous limit of what Cassian could have tolerated (sentients and droids alike). He offered the damaged spy a memory wipe in case Cassian’s “continued dignity and service demanded it.” Cassian declined and kept the agony. 

When the time would come, it would make it easier to offer his pointless death to the Rebellion. That day, he would be ready and he would be content. 

 

 

Kaytoo was mildly pleased with Felis’ proximity as he had important things to do, yet unintentionally intrigued. It probably did him a favor that the little girl was oblivious to blatant droid sarcasm; most people would have been deterred away long ago. Not Felis. She kept on asking the endless flow of questions crossing her mind ( What’s that? Why do you talk to the wall? Where do you sleep? Are you a captain, too? Do you have a family? Do you know where the other Tookats are? I want to ask Cassian. ), seemingly without logic—which greatly puzzled Kaytoo and his sharp-set thinking algorithms.

Meanwhile, Cassian tried to muffle his mind, to keep his focus where it needed to be. Leaving his... daughter (it still did funny things to his stomach) under the surveillance of his partner, he went back inside, welcomed by the cool darkness of the base. The place didn't look merely as abandoned as the day before. Maintenance equipment was still in good working condition, the infrastructure was decent enough and the stock of rations generously left by Gerrera's party (although horribly blend) would keep them covered for at least a few years if they couldn’t manage an alternative. Far from the worst-case scenario Cassian could think of. He would make it work. 

He would make anything work as long as he was with Jyn.

She was doing better than he had thought she would. He already knew she was a strong one, stronger than most, but she had proven herself again—walking into her past after a lifetime of traumas, and still willing to look it dead in the eyes. 

He found her inside a small room, near the end of the main corridor, and stopped by the door with an inquisitive look. Jyn had her back turned to him, looking down at something resting on a small table with only three legs. She might have felt his presence because she put a rectangle holodisplay back on a dusty pile, its holographic imagery since long gone static—frozen in time. 

Separatists threaten the peace of the Galactic Empire,” Jyn said with a mocking voice. “Can you imagine?”  

Cassian took a step closer and his gaze skimmed over the antic news outlets. Jyn wasn't amused, but she tried to fake nonchalance. She straightened her back in a brave attempt to push something away from her. Cassian took a double-take at the room (a single mattress on the floor, a green backpack that had seen better days, a metal case full of code cylinders) and his suspicion grew stronger.

“Just like I left it,” Jyn confirmed before he had to ask. “I feel like I'm sixteen again…” 

There was nothing to say that could have made her feel better, so Cassian stay silent. He didn't dare to move closer either, nor to offer her a comforting hand. She might have liked it, he wasn't sure, but Cassian couldn't bring himself to act on his impulses when she was the one suffering. He trusted her to take what she needed, if she needed to. He wanted her to need it—to need him, but what he wanted was irrelevant. 

Still, Jyn turned to him, her bright green eyes filled with an unexpected revolt. 

“I don't know where those ten years went,” she said, “or if my life has ever been mine.” 

“I know the feeling.”

“Aren't you angry sometimes?” 

Cassian considered his words with a heavy heart, itching to do something of his hands. He pushed his thumbs inside his belt instead.   

“Not anymore. It was different for me. If I really wanted to, I could have left.”

“Could you really?” Jyn questioned with a bitter tone aimed at anything but him. She pressed her lips into a tight line, her small frame ready to fight the whole world on her own.

“I chose the Rebellion.” 

“They made you chose it,” she said—and now she was angry for him.

“Maybe...,” Cassian confessed without offense, “but I wasn't trapped. They didn't put a blaster to my head.”

“No, they put it into your hands and told you it was freedom.”

Intel operative Cassian Andor had enough experience to decipher levels of conversation, so he waited and gave her the space to express what was really bothering her. 

 Her loose hair fell just above her shoulders, freshly cut from the morning, and he could clearly see the ghost of Jyn Erso painfully fighting the pull the edges back together. She was winning, piece by piece, or fiercely pretending like she was. Sometimes, they were left with nothing more than false attempts to cope with the real horrors, and that screen of smoke would keep them standing long enough for strength to return. 

Because she trusted him, because he was Cassian and she was Jyn, she found the courage to allow the wounds to be torn open one more time by her vulnerability.

“I don't want that for Felis,” she said, and the admission pained her. “I know I should teach her how to fight... I think I was like, eight, when Saw started with me. I know we should do, too. It could save her life, it could— I know she can't be weak, but I just don't want that life for her. I want her to be a child. I want her to have that, because we never did, and I'm so scared I'm already making the worst mistake of my life.”

“No,” Cassian told her with a low voice. 

“How can you be sure? We both know we wouldn't have made it this far without training… It might come the day when she’ll need it—” 

“We can teach her some things, other things. No violence.”

And as he spoke, Cassian realized just how strongly he wanted to hold that line. 

“No violence,” Jyn muttered. 

Her expression softened, the fragile weariness back into her gestures. She moved closer, seeking physical touch without a word. He knew her body language well enough to anticipate her actions. Jyn circled him at the waist and rested her head against him. Cassian’s hands traveled along her arms, coming up to gently hold the base of her neck. He held her in silence, closing around her as much as he could.

“Are you sad about the hair?” she asked.

“It’s nice. If you put it into a bun…” Cassian suddenly paused, his smile dying just as quickly as it was born. Jyn let a small space swirled between their chests, tilting her head back so she could look at him. Her hands stayed curled around him, for that he was grateful.

“It would be as if I never left,” Jyn finished for him. 

Cassian’s heartrate spiked, full of guilt and sorrow. He was so wounded by the declaration that he had to close his eyes for a few seconds, breathing deep. He wished he wouldn’t have let it show, but it was too late now, reminding him a spy mask was the only defense. He had known that, once. Fulcrum had known that, for so long. But Fulcrum had never met Jyn Erso; Cassian hadn’t permitted it. 

It might have been a foolish mistake, but each time she had been with him—she had been with Cassian Andor. Not Fulcrum, not Willix, not Aach, not Sward, not R’aya. Cassian.

“Come back,” he heard a soft voice whispering to him. “You’re too far gone, come back.” 

Cassian opened his eyes again, just to find Jyn looking back at him without judgment. And then she smiled —so beautiful that his heart almost stopped at the sight, just as she said: “Welcome home.” 

Force kill him dead, he loved her.

Jyn tilted her head to the side, like an encouragement. He knew what she meant, but he was still suppressed in his impulses. It was still too hard for him to confront his own actions. Just like in the ship, he thought. You can kiss her, she’s giving permission. 

He couldn’t bypass that threshold by himself. Not today. It was the only thing setting Cassian asides from the rest of them, and they weren’t allowed to touch Jyn like they touched their mark. Never would.

“I want to give this room to her,” she said. 

“Okay.” Cassian listened patiently. 

“So she can have her own world, and she can learn to… sleep in here sometimes. Without me.” 

And you without her. Although, Cassian knew better than to say it out loud. 

“We can take the dorm or even another room. I just need to sort through some stuff before…”

“Whatever you feel like.”  

“I feel like you giving me that kiss I’m waiting for,” Jyn snorted.

Here, the magic words. He wouldn’t need to be told twice. 

Her lips were warm and welcoming, familiar, loved, loving. He supported her neck with one hand as she bent to meet him, her arms keeping him close ( closer ). Her mouth tasted like the strong black tea she had found this morning among dehydrated goods. He kissed her with intent, dragging his lips alongside the tender flesh, breathing her air, feeling her hands kneading at his shoulders as he teased a soft touch with his tongue. 

He still felt overwhelmed to have her back, not knowing what to do with all his emotions. Cassian had never taken anything for granted in his life, but what he had with Jyn was the most incredible (read: unbelievable) blessing he had been allowed. She had saved his life, then she had saved him.  

—Do you know… what they call me?

—Who?

—The other operatives. They call me a 23er because… I survived the twenty-three percent chance of dying… of dying before retirement.

—Keep doing that. You’re going to retire from this fucking war and go home with me.

When they parted, both taking a heavy breath in, Cassian chased after her gently. He lowered his face to kiss her neck once and she hummed from content, her hand buried in his hair.

“Can I do something to make it easier?” Jyn asked in a slow whisper.

Cassian tensed with a worried mind. He quickly straightened his back and frowned, hating the idea that she might have wrongly read into the situation.

“It’s not hard to be with you, Jyn. Please, don’t think—” 

“No, that’s not what I meant,” she explained. “I meant, you still wait for me to say something. Surely, you must know… Don’t you know by now?”

He hesitated, the words heavy in his throat and his chest suddenly too tight. He wasn't ready to have that conversation just yet. He thought Jyn wasn't ready, either. She barely had time to recover from her captivity, let alone everything else. But maybe he was just complacent in his own cowardice and shielded himself behind her traumas. 

“I… don’t think consent is a bad thing,” he managed to say with a frailing voice. “Does it bother you?” 

She shook her head. “It’s not —and it doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is if it’s because you see yourself as undeserving. That bothers me, because you don’t need to earn the right to kiss me. I’m not doing you a kriffin’ favor. I want you to kiss me.” 

She looked at him with such earnest eyes that he couldn't do anything but agree with her. Or at least he tried to (reconcile the idea of being deserving of her, which was a far more complex subject than his current state of mind could process unbiased.)

“I know you do. I just need… the green case. I’m working on that.” 

“You don’t have to work on anything,” Jyn added softly. “I can keep on the verbal cues, but I just want to make sure it’s for you and not for me.” 

“It’s for me.”

“Alright, then it’s all good.” She let out a heavy sigh and Cassian hardly felt like it was all good, but then she said: “More kissing, please?”

He was happy to oblige her. He wanted to show her instead of saying it. Even after all those years apart, Jyn was still the only person to get under his skin like that. She was the only one to understand, too, and Cassian truly thought about having that conversation with her (telling her all the dirty secrets he had set asides, the last bit of his darkness.) She wouldn’t walk away from him. She wouldn’t despise him for what he'd done. She wasn’t cruel, she wasn’t judging, and she loved him. She had loved him. 

No, she still does. You know it's true, don't try to make yourself a martyr. You can even say it and not be a coward about it for once. 

“Jyn…” 

His plan fell short as they both heard the distressed voice of Felis calling for her mother in the distance. Running steps came down the stairs and they broke apart instantly, quickly moving to the corridor to intercept the little girl. 

What ?” Jyn anxiously asked, kneeling to catch her in her arms. 

Cassian was relieved to see her unharmed. With one hand, Felis vaguely gestured to the main entrance, still catching on her breath. A crease appeared between her brows. “There other people.” 

Cassian’s hand instinctively flew to his blaster before she had finished her explanation. 

“They have a spaceship,” Felis seriously told her mother, but she was looking at Cassian now, seeing him running down the hall. 

Before he could get a visual for himself, Kaytoo appeared on top of the stairs, blocking his way out with a stopping beat.

“Single ship, VCX-350 light freighter, unregistered transponder frequencies. Most likely illegal. Costly modifications on the hyperdrive, two ion engines, dual laser cannons, and turbolasers—I believe. I would say there’s a significant chance of them being hostile. They aren’t Alliance, thought.”

“No,” Cassian growled with a cold sweat, “mercenaries.”