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Let Me Follow

Chapter Text

"Those who have seen the needle's eye, now tread-
Like a husk, from which all that was, now has fled-
And the masks, that the monsters wear-
To feed, upon their prey.
Wandering stars, for whom it is reserved-
The blackness of darkness forever."

 

K-2SO shot him.

An Imperial Security Droid shot an Imperial Commander and he enjoyed it. Thoroughly.

The slick, whirr-hum of his blaster was possibly the most satisfying thing he had ever heard. The second most satisfying thing he had ever heard was the thump of Commander Orson Krennic's body hitting the Comm Tower grate.

His master, Cassian Andor, was dead. Krennic had killed him. Kaytoo saw his body crumpled and broken at the bottom of the data vault gantry. It was just far enough to make retrieval impossible. Even if it was possible to climb down, there was no climbing back up again with the body. Not in his condition.

Droids were not built for vengeful anger, but there it was. Cassian's parting gift. The ability to seize retribution and savor it. It broke something inside his processors; he was absolutely certain of that fact. He could feel its influence cracking along his circuits, but he found himself not caring in least.

Over and over. The image of Cassian's body burned and burned and burned. K-2SO wanted Krennic to die in a thousand itty-bitty ways. Limbs ripping out of sockets. Eyes crushed in their orbits. Slowly eviscerated of the span of decades. Over and over.

"Kaytoo." A small voice snapped his world into a different focus.

Jyn for her part was wide eyed and heaving. Sweat, blood, and grime caked her face. She stared at him like he was the last thing she was expecting. Her mouth was agape, eyes bright with tears.

K-2SO almost shrank beneath her gaze.
His antics outside of the vault cost him almost everything he had. Diagnostics were screaming with one critical failure after another. One arm was completely obliterated at the elbow; the frayed joint was sparking and crackling. The other arm’s data jack was permanently jammed outside its casing. His upper torso was a nest of shrapnel.

He doubted that this was the kind of rescue she had expected. Not Cassian. Not some heroic X-Wing pilot. But a murderous and obviously malfunctioning droid rushing in to save her.

But then Jyn broke eye contact and teetered sideways. Her leg wobbling was precariously. She was a broken thing, just like him, fragile and utterly spent. They were two of a kind. Both shattered creatures trying to figure out if this was it.

K-2SO thrust forward, what was left of his long arm managing to carefully catch her. She must have been the last of the battalion. The last of Rogue One.

His optics flickered back to Krennic's body and a fierce protectiveness took hold. The very same powerful directive that made him almost sacrifice his existence down in the data vault. The Commander would not hurt Jyn ever again.

But then suddenly Jyn flew forward against his grip. Her face was all fury and stone. She fully intended to kick his corpse. He was reminded that he was not the only one with a retribution based agenda. Now was not the time, however. His one good hand seized her vest and held her back firmly.

“We need to leave.” He said. She yanked again, but he pulled back. “Please. You’ll hurt your leg even more.”

Jyn glared at him but didn't resist further. She was putting most of her weight on him now. He could feel it, her body settling into his like a stone. Not terribly heavy, but the weight of her seemed to pull him down somewhat. K-2SO didn't look down at her. They both were prideful beings at their core.

Instead, he focused on the sky and its distinct lack of tie strikers. So terribly clear and blue that something twinged in his sensors. Something was wrong. He scanned upwards towards what he had once assessed as a small moon.

“I did it.” She whispered hoarsely at his side. “The plans have been uploaded.”

K-2SO's audio receptors barely picked up the statement. His optics were now focused on the Death Star, massive and looming in its orbit. It would fire soon, there could be no other reason for its appearance. They needed to leave. Immediately.

“Can you run?” He asked.

“I can't even walk.” She winced.

“I see. Then please hold my gun.” He tossed it towards her.

“Why-”

He scooped her up with his one functional arm. Jyn yelped in surprise, but he kept moving anyway. Time was not something he possessed in abundance.
Or luck for that matter.

What he did have was a plan, a blaster, a wounded human female in his arms, and an eighty-six-percent chance of failure.

When he extracted the data from the other security droid he learned all sorts of things. For example, he knew commander Krennic's ship was docked on the Comm Tower’s private aerial platform- which was far closer than any beach cargo transport. K-2SO now also possessed all of the Scarif base’s communication, security and transmission codes.

Accessing the frequencies internally stressed his circuits, but a litany of evacuation orders were screaming across every channel. The only piece of promising information was that, from what it sounded like, the shield gate was down. The Rebellion could claim that small victory. Ships were free to come and go as the pleased - barring any blockades they might run into.

Even so, the odds were not In their favor.

K-2SO slammed into the elevator, jostling Jyn In such a way that she hung precariously from his shoulders. He ported himself directly into the elevator interface, dispensing with formal niceties like buttons and verbal authentication.

The descent to the landing pad was so fast that the mag rails screeched with the effort. K-2SO had offset the lift speed well past its operating parameters, forcing it down and down. Jyn paled even more, her face pointed upwards towards his like a small moon.

“Where are we going?” she rasped.

“If we're lucky, off this planet. No time for details.”

And with that the lid door slid open to reveal a long hallway filled with panicking stormtroopers.

It was absolute chaos. Human soldiers shouting, screaming, and running in all directions. There were security droids, much like him, trying to maintain order. Astromechs skidded around in small circles, directionless and completely lost within the tumult.

But rebellion was disorder. K-2SO knew that much. But because of it he grew and evolved and was now subsequently more adaptable than his previous counterparts. One could either push through the chaos or be overwhelmed. He decided on the former.

He ran as fast as he was able. Jyn steadied the blaster against her chest, ready to fire at anyone who would stop them. The ship was forty meters away. They could make it. Their chances of survival rose to fifty-three-percent.

But as if on queue, the entire base shuddered. Panels fell from the ceiling and all of the lights went out. An explosion ripped through the left corridor.

Make that seventeen-percent and falling.

The Deathstar was swallowing the horizon. He knew the cataclysm would not be far behind. By his calculations the entire tower had three minutes at most. Probably less.

K-2SO ran so fast that the servos left in his pelvis were grinding themselves into oblivion.

The hangar door was ajar. All they had to do was to get there, if he managed to not fall apart before making it to the ship.

“Go! Go! Go!” Jyn screamed.

“Cover me! Cover me! Cover me!” His vocabulators boomed back.

A veritable platoon of stormtroopers had the same idea. In the near-distance white armored shapes wrestled their way on the platform. Laser fire flashed and banged across his vision, crimson and bright - leaving after-images his processors struggled to untangle. Shouting, screaming and barking voices rose in a cacophony as they made their way to the docking platform entrance.

It soon became clear that these supposed Imperial elite were fighting each other for a place on the ship. Jyn and K-2SO were close only ten meters away now, but the fighting crowd made proceeding almost impossible.

But Jyn was vicious with a blaster. One soldier. Two soldiers. Three. They slid the ground one at a time, black burns scorched into their helmets. K-2SO stepped his way through the melee undeterred. He was stronger, taller, and largely ignored. No one expected an Imperial droid to steal a ship.

Then, a green flash. So bright his optics offlined briefly.

There was a sudden rush of wind - the tower screeched and moaned as if anticipating it's inevitable demise. Pyroclastic clouds engulfed the horizon and torn pieces of durasteel rained down from above. Flaming bits of molten metal showered the platform, knocking out soldiers and officers alike. His olfactory sensors picked up the stench for scorched ozone.

The platform shook so violently that those who were left fighting toppled and lost their footing. Droids were the only beings left standing fully upright. It was a small miracle K-2SO managed to stalk up the ship’s loading bay.

Unfortunately they were not alone.

Inside the ship were three stormtroopers, a Security droid and what looked to be a very confused captain rank Imperial officer. K-2SO and Jyn had their undivided attention.

“What are you doing here?!” The imperial officer snarled from the aft deck. “Detain them! Throw them off the ship!”

K-2SO miscalculated. He did not expect the ship to already have passengers. They did not have time for this. He made a run for the cockpit, a desperate dodge past it's interlocking doors followed by a rush of blaster fire. A shot grazed his shoulder and his vocabulators let out a hiss of static.

The fight in the data control room had taken almost everything. He was at 23 percent functionality. His fuel cells were leaking at an alarming rate, the servos that powered his legs were bruised into rounded edges. Even his optics were beginning to fail; he could feel them flickering precariously within their sockets.

But then Jyn looked at him, with her dirty mammalian skin and grey glossy eyes. It was the way she looked at Cassian. It was like he was worth every bit of everything that his dead master was.

And if he was anything close to Cassian, he would get them off this planet. Alive.

K-2SO threw Jyn into the Co-pilot seat and bashed his hand against the cockpit door control. Metal fingers dug their way inside. He grabbed the internal circuitry and pulled.

The cockpit blast door abruptly snapped shut and K-2SO flung himself into the pilot chair. The sound of laserfire pinged off the door. By luck and luck alone he managed to brute force his way into an access panel and was now rerouting all security permissions to himself. His fingers were flurry of initiation sequences.

“Now we’re trapped! What are we going to do about them?” She pulled herself out of the seat and stood up then on wobbly knees “ We’re out numbered.”

“Jyn.” he replied in an exasperated tenor. “We have approximately 33.5 seconds to initiate the lift-off sequence. I cannot pilot and kill people at the same time.”

He also neglected to mention he was attempting to pilot single-handedly.

“Then what good are you!?” Jyn roared. She readied the blaster, fully prepared to kill them all herself. And possibly die in the process.

“Please hold on.” He replied cooly.

Jyn waited.

“I mean physically hold on.” He elaborated.

The craft jerked violently upward, then backward. Jyn lost her footing and hit the floor hard.

“What the hell was that!?” She snarled.

“Piloting and killing people at the same time. I did tell you to hold on.”

They took off from the citadel tower inelegantly, but they were rapidly gaining altitude. Unfortunately The ever expanding blast radius was keeping pace. It wasn't until thirty thousand units that he closed the cargo bay door.

Jyn now clutched the back of the co-pilot seat as if her very life depended on it.

“You left the loading bay open.” She wheezed.

“Affirmative- yes.”

“Clever.”

The ship shuddered again. They were high in the atmosphere now, accelerating at a pace that was dangerous. The ship was not built for this kind of ascent. Even so, The cloud was gaining faster than they were climbing. The hull groaned under the pressure.

“Initiating jump to hyperspace.” He called out, hoping Jyn would take the hint.

His fingers gripped the lever.

“Is that safe? Don't you need to run calculations or something?” She called out, arms still gripped firmly around the seat.

“No time.”

And K-2SO pulled.

Chapter Text

"I've been sinking,
deeper-
to the ocean floor,
hiding from the
Light
above the surface."

 

The blackness of the upper atmosphere became a field of stars. Stars became lines. Lines became a warp field, blue, black and undulating. The ship hummed as if content. No screeching, no rattling. Outside was void and silence.

Jyn took the opportunity to vomit, spilling whatever was left in her stomach into the otherwise immaculate floor.

"Was that really necessary?" Kaytoo called from the pilot seat.

"Sorry," Was all she could say. Jyn wanted to explain herself. That the ascent, the loss of blood and the loss of Rogue One had left her weak. She was bereft of everything, including the hold on her stomach. The embarrassment of it burned hot and sour.

"I find it disgusting that you organic life forms feel the need to share whatever is your putrid biological guts," He elaborated. But when she looked towards the chair she found his eyes staring back at her. He looked worried if she didn't know any better.

"I'm fine, by the way." She coughed. "Thanks for asking."

"You look the opposite of fine. And smell the opposite," He turned to face the warp field ahead. "I had to turn what was left of my olfactory sensors off."

Jyn didn't respond. Instead she moved away from the puddle on the floor and limped for the captain's chair.

Commander Orson Krennic's ship was exactly what she thought it would look like on the inside. It was cold and austere, but also somehow overstated. The panels were so clean that she could see her face in them. Buttons gleamed along the consoles, bright, colorful and glimmering. Top of the line everything, but also compact. Everything was organized and maintained just so.

She also knew that this ship was more than what met the eye. Behind those buttons and consoles were cleverly hidden storage areas. From the captain's chair she tried to pull up a manifest, but no luck- at least not until Kaytoo intervened.

"His Imperial Majesty's code five-two-two-five. Override. Remove all permissions and grant immediate access." He commanded in a distinctly smug tone.

The manifest popped up instantly on the holo-emitter.

"Thanks." She said without looking at him. Instead she focused on the manifest.

She sifted through lists of rations, blankets, extra parts, and seemingly useless baubles. Everything was top of the line of course. It's previous occupant insisted on luxury. White denebrillian star silk sheets of the highest thread counts. Pillows stuffed with the feathers of endangered avians. Rations that probably tasted like meals you would find in the upper atmosphere restaurants on Coruscant. The ship was even outfitted with a myriad of top tier weapons - everything from blaster rifles, pistols, flamethrowers, bombs, stealth grenades. they were armed to the teeth and could start a small war of they so chose.

It was disgusting. The man who killed her family lived like a Hutt. It was no small wonder that Krennic wasn't fat with excess. And this was only on his personal craft. She was loathe to imagine the kind of riches Imperial Officers enjoyed at home.

“Are you alright? You said you were fine. I don't believe you.”

Kaytoo was staring at her now with that same look again. His eyes darted nervously back and forth over her body. Jyn belatedly remembered she was sharing the cockpit.

“I'm the farthest thing from alright I'll ever be Kaytoo. But physically I should be okay I think. I'm searching through the manifest for medical supplies.”

“Bottom left panel by your feet. Underneath should be a cache of bacta bandages.”

He continued to stare- even after she retrieved the bandages.

“You’re different.” Jyn remarked.

“Yes. How very astute.” He waved the stump of his arm and quickly looked away. His optics were firmly planted on the warp field ahead.

“You normally would have calculated the jump to hyperspace.” She elaborated.

“There wasn't time for calculations.”

“You also would have been content to let me fumble around for hours looking for a medical kit.”

“That would be wildly inefficient.”

“You saved me.”

“Looking at the corpse of your master changes a droid.”

Jyn flinched, but pushed forward.

“I didn't know you cared that much.”

“There's a lot of thing you don't know about me.”

“I suppose so.” Jyn said and closed her eyes against the brightness of the shuttle interior.

She had meant to say thank you to Kaytoo for saving her. But the words wouldn't leave her lips correctly. Some animal part of her was wanted to be left on that planet to die. It sang through her bones. The need to be done with it all was so vast and yawning that it almost ate up everything else. it like she was sitting on the edge of some dark sea at night. A black sky against a blacker ocean licked at the inside of her eyelids. It pounded in her ears like the roar of waves against sand. She would drown in all of it at any moment. All she had to do was fall in and down.

Just like her mother sinking into the damp grass.

Down like Saw under the weight of an entire planet.

Down like her father against the Imperial landing platform.

And down like Cassian in the data Vault.

They were all safely dead. Together. Everyone always left her for places she could not follow, but on Scarif she finally had her chance to catch up.

“Jyn,” Kaytoo’s hand was on her shoulder. His voice was the wind on that beach in the dark. She shivered. It was the first time he had ever touched her with intention, of his own volition. She realized bandages were on the floor. Somehow had dropped them and failed to notice.

“Do you require immediate medical attention?” He asked.

“I said I was fine.” She snarled suddenly. He removed his hand and placed it back at the flight console.

It occurred to her that she was angry Kaytoo for taking her death away from her. That same feral part of her demanded to know why she was deemed worth saving. It was slavering, hungry, and teeth bared - but the rational part of her ignored it for now. The time for answers was later.

“So,” She amended. “What are we going to do now?”

“I had assumed we would be going back to Yavin IV.” He replied, carefully neutral.

“And if I wanted to go somewhere else?

“That would not be wise. You need a medical professional for one. For two we would need to attend a debriefing.”

“And if I don't want to do those things?”

There was a long pause then. Kaytoo’s metal torso seemed to sink against the pilot seat. The servos that powered his shoulders visibly readjusted, but he continued to face forward.

“I will follow.” He said. “To wherever you would like to go. But from a tactical stand-point we are rebel fugitives with little to no protection without the rebel alliance. Our chances for survival without their assistance are very low.”

“I suppose we don't really have a choice.” She sighed

“No, we-” There was a crash and a thump against the cockpit door. “What was that?”

The banging continued- sharper and more tinny. There was scraping of metal against metal. Kaytoo locked off the steering interface and stood from his chair.

“I thought you killed everyone.” Jyn said as she readied her blaster.

A moment of silence from the other side. The scraping stopped as soon as it began. The Kaytoo quietly approached the side of the door.

“Apparently not.”

Suddenly, a hand punched its way through the cockpit door. Black, mechanical and methodical. Fingers pulled back the durasteel like the skin of a rotting fruit.

The whirring of her blaster filled the cabin, haphazard and panicked. But the other droid was too fast. Only a few shots managed to graze its armor before it's hand shot back inside the cargo hold.

“Looks like you're not the only one who can survive in space-” Jyn's voice cracked a hysteric pitch.

“Please take the controls.” Kaytoo replied, his tone as cool and collected as ever.

“What makes you think I can drive this thing?!”

“Just hold it steady. The autopilot will engage. You will be alerted if another ship enters within firing radius.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“I'm going to take care of our uninvited guest.”
His one good hand fished around inside the door control panel, fiddling for the wires he severed earlier.

“What, like that?” She gestured towards his body.

Kaytoo avoided her gaze once again. It wasn't her intent to humiliate him. But it needed to be said.

He was an absolute wreck. Kaytoo’s right shoulder was obliterated into a nest of shrapnel. A massive hole punctured his chest. It so perfectly circular and wide that she could stick her hand through it and wave it around on the other side. The rest of his chassis was melted, fractured, splintered mess.

She doubted he would be able to survive a one on one with a fully functional Imperial Droid that had both its hands.

“I take it you're better equipped?” He snapped back.

But he had a point there. There was still a puddle of her own vomit on the floor.

“Please don't die.” Was all she could say.

There was a spark and then a hum from the panel. The door flew open.

“I can't, I'm not even alive.” He replied and shoved himself inside if the hold.

Chapter Text

"Someone told me there is light at the end of every tunnel,
Said there’s a light there waiting for me,
But I don’t believe it, not now, not ever,
It’s always dark when I go home."

 

It was over the moment K-2SO entered the hold.

It only took seven-point-five seconds for the other droid to disarm K-2SO. It was graceful, economical and quick. Realistically he never stood a chance. Whatever was left of his pride died with the servo that powered his upper right leg.

What was left of his plating bristled with static. His left optic was permanently offlined. His other arm, the functional one, was summarily ripped off and thrown against the hull.
He was in a crumpled heap on the cargo hold’s floor like a pathetic discarded toy.

Agony. The feedback from his processors was staggering. Critical systems failure after critical systems failure. Droids didn’t really feel pain like organic lifeforms did, but to K-2SO the sensory overload was the same thing at its core. Different interpretations of the same thing.

But as much as he was suffering across all systems, it wasn’t even close to the screaming ache when his processors thought about Jyn. Had meant to give her a chance. Increase her odds a little. But now the other droid was almost at the cockpit her odds drifted into the single digits.

He hoped it would be quick. Painless. Most droids didn’t have the capacity for sadism. Only directives and outcomes.

His own purpose was lost and he had failed. He would die with her if he could. If the universe was that kind. He wondered briefly if it would have been kinder to them both if they stayed on Scarif.

A string of laserfire ripped across the inside of the ship without warning.

Shots pinged off the hull, narrowly missing him. It hit multiple surfaces, bouncing off of panels and melting delicate equipment. The sound of it reverberated long after it found it’s mark, which was far and away from the other droid.

Jyn had fired. And missed. At almost point blank range.
If this was any other situation he would have commented about organic lifeforms and their marvelous aim. Even now, the thought danced on the edge of his vocabulators, only the direness of the situation stayed his own criticism.

If he was fully functional he would have disposed of the other droid already. But as it stood the chances were slim. Jyn was within the last few minutes of her short and unfair life. He didn’t want it to end like this for her. This is not what he had intended at all. His circuits railed against frustration after frustration.

K-2SO could only watch helplessly on.

The other droid strode forward with all the blithe and unhurried confidence of the Imperial Elite. It was both sophisticated and unsophisticated. Something about its clipped movements seemed prehistoric and crude. But to her it probably didn’t matter. They were both going to die either way.

But Jyn didn’t act like she was about to die. Her face was firm, determined. There was fire in her stare. The pistol was firm in her grip, even if was steadied by the captains chair.

Suddenly- the droid slipped, scrabbled, then fell.
In its singular focus to get to Jyn, it hadn’t calculated other environmental factors. Like puddles of human vomit. Jyn’ s mess coated the hostile droid’s feet, causing it to lose purchase. Before the droid even had the chance to recover she finished it. A hole was seared into the other droids faceplate. Then his chest. His abdomen, and then its face again.

“Clever.” K-2SO gurgled, but Jyn didn’t hear the compliment. Her face was knotted up into an expression he couldn't categorize quite yet. Hatred wasn’t the word for it, but neither was joy. It was something far more animal. But regardless of what it was, he found himself almost proud of his comrade.

Because while K-2SO was proficient at many different tasks, his body was not built for easily getting up from the floor. And neither was the other droid’s. Jyn, taking advantage of this fact, lured the droid over to an area where she had the tactical advantage. Her intention wasn’t to go toe to toe with a fully operational security enforcer droid. No, her intention was to survive. It showed real tactical skill.

“Clear of hostiles.” His vocabulator seized.

“Yes, I know. I cleared them.” Jyn turned her attention to him and her eyes softened. She dropped the pistol and limped over.

“Programming,” He replied. “Can’t help it.”

“You’re a mess.” Her hand reached for his shoulder. It was the kind of touch humans reserved for other humans. Not for beings like him.

“And you’re no better,” she said - teeth bared, but eyes wet.

“Jyn.” He stuttered, his one good optic trying to focus on her face. “All of my systems are in critical failure. My power reserves are at less than one percent capacity.”

“Yes. Good job on that one.” Her hand drifted to his faceplate, her finger tracing around his broken socket. He wasn’t sure he liked the intimacy of the gesture, how pitying it seemed to be.

“Thank you again for the assist,” He slurred, trying to pull away. His optic lost some of its focus. “I'm not entirely sure if I can return the favor anymore.”

He let the statement hang there in silence. In this state he was useless. He couldn’t pilot the ship and it was very apparent Jyn couldn’t either. They were dead in the water. Jyn let his worlds sink in, her gleaming eyes darting in the half light of the ship.

“I have an idea, but you have to trust me,” She replied after a time. “I need you to shut yourself down. From there maybe I can fix you.”

“And how could you possibly fix me?” He hissed in a huff of static.

“Well, luckily for you we have a perfectly good pile of droid parts over there.” She gestured to the fallen droid.

“Sure. And now you're suddenly an Imperial mechanic.”

“How hard could it be? I worked a stint of jobs when I was seventeen, repairing old pod-racers and the like. Can't be that different.”

“Comforting.”

“I take it you're better equipped?” She let his earlier comment come crawling back at his feet.

“Cruel. But point taken.” Something slid out of his chest. It was slim, black and rectangular. He forgot for a moment what it even was. There was a memory leak somewhere in his data banks.

“These are my schematics. A comprehensive list of Everything that makes me, well, me. Please don't lose them. I doubt I'll ever get another copy.”

“Okay.”

“There's a reader over at the left portion of the flight console. It connected to a holo- emitter. You should be able to interpret the data from there.”

“Simple enough,” she replied.

“I'm about to shut-down now. All operations will cease. Any final requests?” K-2SO felt nervous and uneasy. It occurred to him that the last thing he would see in his existence was Jyn’s dirty face. Not the worst last thing to see - all things considered, but he would have preferred something nicer. He wasn’t sure what. But nicer. Maybe if she was happy. Maybe if she was smiling. That would be nice.

“Come back when I'm done.” Her voice cracked, probably from stress. “Please don’t leave.”

He wanted to come back. He really did. But that was outside of his control.

“That's entirely up to you.” He wheezed, static overlaying his voice so much it was a miracle Jyn seemed to understand. “But if you do manage it I won’t leave you. I’ll consider it an order.”

The corner of Jyn’s mouth quirked up a fraction. That was enough for him. He began to offline all of his systems one by one.

And then he was gone.

Chapter Text

“No. No. No.” Jyn whispered. They were still in hyperspace, but rapidly running out of fuel. She pulled back the hyper-accelerator until they hit black. Warning signs flashed across the console, but she ignored most of them. Internal pressure was good. Grav was good. Oxygen levels were good. Anything else could wait.

Kaytoo was still a lifeless shell. She dragged him to the middle of the hold and laid him out as evenly as possible. The parts of him that were scattered around the ship were carefully gathered up and placed into a pile beside him. The other droid was slouched in the corner, waiting to cannibalized for parts.

The hollow-emitter buzzed with Kaytoo’s schematics. They looked simple enough. She had all the necessary tools on board. They even had a small holopad that looked to be compatible with Kaytoo’s ports. It made sense. This was an imperial shuttle. Chances were good that all the relevant things she needed to fix him were right here.

Jyn briefly surveyed the shuttle interior and paced. She was scared. All the bravado she had earlier about fixing Kaytoo left when he offlined. What if she messed up? What if he was never operational again? Her pulse roared in her ears like a primitive war drum.

She took a deep breath and swallowed.

He had saved her.
He had carried her body off of Scarif. He didn’t have to.
Regardless if she wanted it or not - the least she could do was to return the favor. He deserved the attempt.

She had to try.
Jyn grabbed the ship’s toolkit and knelt beside her fallen friend, her heart in her throat.

She removed his faceplate ever so gently, but easily. Behind it was a tangle of wires, strips of durasteel, and tiny things that could only be internal temperature monitors. It was morbid in a way, like she had flayed his face off- and underneath was this this strange and vulnerable thing. Unrecognizable to her human eye. She grabbed the other droid’s optic and carefully untwisted the connector that attached his own. With great deliberation she carefully she painted thermal adhesive around the edges and placed his new eye in its socket.

And then her focus drifted to his chest, the nest of shrapnel that it was.

His abdomen was proving considerably more difficult to fix. A few minutes into trying to take apart his chassis and her hands were a bloody mess. Jyn ripped off pieces of her shirt and wrapped them around her fingers. Blood still seeped through the cloth, but it was better than nothing. She had decided to take the other droids chest and replace Kaytoo’s. What he had was irrecoverable, but it wouldn’t open and couldn't be removed. no matter what she had tried.

Kaytoo had mentioned power reserves. Maybe that was the issue at hand.

Jyn removed a power coupling from beneath the console and hooked him up to the ship. He probably needed an a new power source for the time being.

But he did not awaken. Nor did his torso open.

She grabbed the secondary coupling from the console and attached it to the other droid. It also, somewhat thankfully, did not turn on.

Hmmm.

She booted up the Holopad and ported into Kaytoo’s internal systems. The pad eagerly fired off a read-out:

DESIGNATION: K-2SO
SERIES: KX - SECURITY DROID
SOURCE MANUFACTURER: ARAKYD INDUSTRIES, VULPER
OPERATIONAL HISTORY: 12.4 YEARS GALACTIC STANDARD

She allowed herself a small smile. He was a twelve-year-old. Technically, that was probably old for a droid in his line of work. But she still would use it against him someday. If there was a someday.

She wanted to ask him about Vulper. About Akayd. What is was like to suddenly be made. Maybe Cassian deleted those memory files during the reprogram, but she hoped not. She tried to pull up his diagnostics file

PRINT DIAGNOSTICS (y/n)

Yes. She tapped her finger against the panel.

Servo-processor- inoperative. Polarity sink -offline. Servo-neuromotor -offline.
His hydro-glycolic fuel cell storage was at 1% capacity. The recharge coupling - non functional. That made sense. Power wasn’t reaching his fuel cells.

The list continued onward until she couldn’t be bothered to read anymore. There were thousands of line worth of data logs and traceback errors.

What to do. What to do. There were no other power sources on board. She could not divert power to his system without risking everything else in the process. She had destroyed the other droid’s fuel cells. She had made sure if it.

And Kaytoo would never be operational again without power.

She fingered her necklace worriedly. If only here Papa were here. He was good at things like this. Not her. She never inherited his brilliance with technology.

Wait.

The kyber crystal. A self contained power amplifier.
All she needed to do was give it a small surge, and the power would re-double and refract indefinitely. All she had to do was take out his powerpack, and re-align the internal components to feed off the crystal. She could even build a small housing for it using the other droid’s parts. She just needed to get inside of Kaytoo’s chest and get to his operational core.

She gripped the holopad tightly.

COMMAND: RELEASE VENTRAL ABDOMINAL PLATE

PRIMARY OPERATOR: CASSIAN ANDOR
SECURITY ENCRYPTION CODE?

Encryption? Jyn tried the basics.

PERMISSIONS DENIED.

Her heart sank to the pit of her stomach and the blood left her face. No.

PERMISSIONS DENIED.

She tried again.

PERMISSIONS DENIED.

No. No. No. No. No. No.

PERMISSIONS DENIED.
PERMISSIONS DENIED.
PERMISSIONS DENIED.

Without access to his core she couldn't fix him. We would never wake again.
Something inside Jyn shattered. There was no more hope to be had.
She wept. Her mouth swallowed long suffocating gulps of air. Her lungs wouldn’t allow her to breathe out. She couldn't save him. She couldn't save anyone, not even herself. He was gone, just like Cassian. And it was her fault. This was it.

“I'm sorry, Kaytoo. I'm so sorry.” Tears slid down her face onto his armored chest.

And then suddenly, the holopad flared to life. A rush of data sped across the screen:

CHANGE PRIMARY OPERATOR? (y/n)

“Yes.” She said, and tried to type across the screen. But she was locked out. There was no haptic response. She could only watch the read-out.

PRIMARY OPERATOR'S DESIGNATION?
PRIMARY OPERATOR: JYN ERSO.
PERMISSIONS ACTIVATED.
ACCESS GRANTED.

The panel covering his chest hissed open. She let out a shaky breath. How was this possible?

The screen flared to life once again. Slowly bright aurebesh letters filled the screen:

I WON’T LEAVE YOU JYN ERSO.

Kaytoo. Jyn wiped the tears off her face and smiled.

She grabbed the Kyber crystal she carefully hid around her neck all these years and snapped it from its cord.

“I won't leave you either.” She said, and began to work.

Chapter Text

"Tonight I fall from far below,
I'm ready for-
Dimensional, connection gold,
I'm highest from.
Tonight I walk with matter gone,
I'm ready for-
Some mystery lost and died alone,
I'm highest from."

 

He could feel her. There was still one iota of power circulating through his systems, just enough to know when someone was rummaging around. Most droids had it just in case they needed to initiate a self destruct. This was obviously not one of those cases, but was just difficult to convince his sub-routines that. Holding it at bay was taking what little processing power he had left.

Jyn was careful. He sensed her burrowing along his circuits. She was almost agonizingly slow, almost reverent even. Cassian was never this gentle. She was greasing his optic lenses, wiping away the dirt. Dust, dating back before Jedha was cleared from his vocabulator. Frayed wires were cut and meticulously replaced.

His chest plate was fully open, leaving his core exposed. Normally that would be cause for concern- but they were in a closed environment in the vacuum of space. Again, his self destruct protocol was screaming to be initiated. But he had a firm hold on it.

His processor was moving along so slowly. Like oil. Like lubricant so thick it was hard to move. He wanted to tell her to hurry. That he didn't need all that attention to detail. All he needed was his power supply fixed. But he couldn't even communicate that over the holopad anymore.

Something clicked.

And then suddenly he was surfacing. It felt like he was moving upward through a thousand fathoms, a thousand tumbling lights. Everything was sharp all at once. Control, glorious control, flooded his circuits.

And then his optics were on, Jyn’s tear streaked face hovered above his own.

“Hello.” He said. His vocabulators sounded less grainy to his audio receptors.

“Hey.” Jyn replied and swallowed thickly.

K-2SO was still on the floor of the hold. He was getting positive feedback from his legs, but other parts were still… inoperable.

“I’m still missing my arms. Quality job.”

She huffed, biting back a small, sad, smile.

“I needed you online to make sure that they are correctly calibrated upon installation. I’m new at this, but I doubt you would appreciate all of your fingers behaving like thumbs.”

“I see.” He said in a way that meant he really didn't agree at all, but knew better than to put up an argument against a human wielding a hydrospanner.

Part of him was grateful to be back online and functioning nominally- but something about how fast his internal systems were making calculations felt off. It was too fast. He was glutting himself on an energy surplus. He felt jittery and edgy. Simulations were moving along in such a way he barely had time to process and ingest data.

“I also want to make sure your neuro pathways are fully back to their fully functional state. I can’t do that when you’re out cold.”

He didn’t want to concede that point either. His diagnostics were moving-rapid fire. Systems were reporting back nominal across a wide range tests, excluding ambulatory functions.

“How did you manage it?” She asked. “I thought you were gone.”

“I'm not sure I understand.”

“Back on Scarif I thought you died in the data vault.”

“I am a droid. I can’t die.”

“But you can cease to function.”

"I offlined briefly. The discharge from the security console overloaded my systems into a soft, and then hard reset.”

The silence inside the ship was all consuming- but Jyn filled it, and filled it aggressively.

“I thought you didn't like me.” She said, carefully detaching what was left of his shattered right arm. “You've made your preferences pretty clear. Why save me at all? You could have gotten up, taken a ship, and left.”

It took him a moment to process what she had meant.

K-2SO could not lie. Not really. That type of outright deception was not coded into his circuits. Very few Droids could even possess such an ability. As sophisticated as he might be, it was not built into his basic functionality. His primary function was to follow orders without question. Those orders and directives snugly existed within the realm of security and security protocol.

How very convenient then that his master, Cassian Andor, botched his circuits up into a nest of bitterness, malfunction, and malcontent. True, he still could not outright lie - but neither was he compelled to tell the outright truth either.

“I'll be there for you.” he repeated. He called it to Jyn before they left for Scarif. It was the truth. And it was a promise. But not the entire reason why he had tracked Jyn up to the top of the communication Tower.

“Cassian said I had to.” Jyn sneered back, mimicking his expressionless delivery.

That was also the truth.

But Kaytoo neglected to mention he would have volunteered anyway regardless. That he was loyal regardless. And that he would be there for her even if Cassian hadn't ordered him to. And would have saved her no matter what it took, because she valued him. Jyn had proved it time and time again.

Because It was her, not Cassian, who stood in front of him before Baze had a chance to shoot. She said thank you when he uncuffed her.

She gave him her blaster.

She treated him like he was an equal.

But instead of telling her this, he replied in kind.

“Do you need a better reason?”

“I suppose not.” She sighed. “What are we going to do now? We don't have enough fuel to make it to Yavin. Or any other ‘Rim Planets. I checked.” Her face was blank, but her arms were shaking.
“You might be able to survive in space, but I can't.”

“Cassian had a place. Rings of Kafrene. There's a dock there that would be safe to land. The alliance pays a monthly stipend to keep a space open. From there it should be simple matter of sending word the rebellion that we are alive and well. “

She looked down, her cheeks were tinged red.

“About that. I blew out our comms.” She said, suddenly focused on replacing his other arm.

“Since when?”

“Since an Imperial Droid was about to dismember me and you were conveniently in a heap on the floor.”

K-2SO looked down into his open chest cavity.

“What is this?”

“It's the thing keeping you operational.” Jyn adjusted her hydrospanner and started calibrating his limbic sensors. “How do you feel?”

“I'm not sure I feel comfortable with your thing in my chest.”

“Thing?”

“Religious icon? The piece of Kyber crystal you carry.”

“It's not religious.” Jyn sounded affronted.

“Forgive me if I'm unconvinced. I know what devotion looks like in organics.”

Jyn looked into his optics then. Her eyes were hard like chips of ice.

“Do you even know what religion is?” She replied, her voice neutral. He knew he hit a sensitive spot, but he suddenly couldn't stop himself.

“The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods-”

“Religion is for those who don't believe in people.” She interrupted. “Saw used to say that. And I agreed, religion can be just pretty fictions. But what happens when you don't even believe in people?”

“But what about the rebellion?”

"I believe in ideas, Kaye. That's the truth. I believe that we can be greater than ourselves. I believe in freedom. But I don't believe in gods or people. You've pegged me wrong."

Even when she was irritated- K-2SO liked the way she said his name, or nick-name rather. Drawing out the vowels into softness, not the hard clipping bark of Cassian.
Not Kay.
Kaye.
As if the letter bore more sophistication than it was currently due.

“How very…logical of you.” The Droid replied finally.

“I aim to please.”

“So Is that what this represents? Ideas? Freedom? Greatness?” He needled.

“No. Nothing so grand as that. Only the belief my father loved me.”

Something in his circuits sank. He treaded into territory that was bad. Very bad.

Stardust.” His vocabulators were quieter now. He tried to make them sound apologetic. The audio was almost a whisper.

“That's right. How did you know that?” Jyn softened once more and focused on reconnecting the new wires on his limbs to his body.

“You said it down in the data vault. It's you.”

“Yes. It's what my father called me. His stardust.”

“Why? Jyn is a perfectly serviceable designation.”

“I'm glad you think so.” She sighed. “Humans like names as endearments too, sometimes insults. But mostly endearments.”

“Like Target Practice.”

Jyn winced.

“Not quite like that. I'm sorry about that by the way.”

“It's fine.” The name never really bothered him, he had been called worse. Though he did prefer Kaye. “Tell me about the name.”

“What's there to tell?”

“I can see why I'm Target Practice, but I can't follow the logic that likens you to stardust.”

“I agree with that assessment.”she smiled. “I don't think I'm anything like it. But my father thought otherwise.”

She sighed, dropped the hydrospanner and continued.

“Stardust is the stuff left when stars implode themselves. It's the ending of an interstellar life. From any perspective It could be called unfortunate and ugly. But it's the opposite. Stardust collects into nebulas. Soon there's little pockets of the universe that look like paintings that shimmer through the black. And after a long while they create new stars and new planets. New life from an old one." Jyn paused briefly as if considering something, something unsavory. The look she had on her face was not identifiable. He cataloged it for later. "That's me, apparently. New life from an old one. Cosmic dust. A new beautiful beginning,” Her voice was dripping with bitterness. She prodded the fingers on his left hand, they twitched in response. And that's what this is.” She gestured to the piece of kyber crystal nestled within his chest cavity. “Most naturally occurring kyber crystals are formed by stardust, the cores of the longest burning stars. Planetside kyber crystals are deposits left by meteorites. My father gave it to me when I was very little.”

“And now you're using it to power a malfunctioning piece of garbage.” K-2SO posited.

Jyn took the the other droids chest armor and moved it over his abdomen, lining it up perfectly over the seals and connectors. The locks extended and the plating hissed shut.

“A malfunctioning piece of garbage that saved my life and can pilot the ship.” she replied.

“I can't take this. It's too valuable.” He gestured to the crystal was, now buried beneath moving parts. Belatley, he realized that both of his arms were now fully functional. Systems were reporting nominal.

“Think of it as borrowing. When we get you a decent power supply you can give it back.”

“That could be never.”

“That's a risk I'll have to live with.”

K-2SO was taken aback. Humans almost never treated him with that kind of generosity or trust. He was not programmed with an appropriate response to something like that. Nor was he programmed to believe he deserved it. He fell back on the words he felt fit the situation best.

“Thank you.” He said.

“According to your diagnostics all your systems should be nominal in a few hours. I’ll be in the cockpit so you can fully calibrate yourself in peace.”

“You don't have to leave on my account.”

“I feel like I've already intruded on your privacy enough for today. Besides I need time to put myself back together too.”

“Fair enough.”

“Goodnight Kaye.”

“Goodnight Stardust.” He said.

Chapter Text

"There’s a riot in the town, a wolf at the door.
Pressure, pressure, poison at the core.
Quick storm coming, god save the queen.
Wake up from your dreams.
There’s a riot in the town, smoke in your lungs-
Pressure, pressure, blocking out the sun.
Send me down the rope, I start to see
Trouble now coming, coming for me."

 

The asteroid cluster glittered like a jewel in the vastness of space, passing in and out of gaseous clouds, a winking beacon. But the surface was much more than placid shimmering. It was pitted with trenches, dark alleyways that were shadowed by towering spires. Sunlight was just a distant ghost of a dying star.

Jyn wasn't impressed.

On planetoids like these everyone was a criminal. Which meant no one was. It would make things difficult here. It was a rock crawling with convicts just like her. Same cleverness. Same will to live. Dangerous. The entire population was competing for the same thing: survival.

Jyn’s lip curled over her teeth.

“Is something wrong?” Kaytoo eyed her from the pilot seat.

“Are we certain this is our only option?”

“It's this, or the vacuum of space. I'm fine with either at this point.” He remarked. “We’re out of fuel.”

“Worth a shot,” Jyn grumbled.

“This should be safe enough. The rings have always been a neutral territory. Once we land we should be able to procure parts for the long-range communications array.”

“With what credits?” Jyn prodded. “I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not rolling in them. Escaped convict and rebel outlaw at your service.”

“We possess plenty to trade.” He said, as if explaining it to a child.

“Sure. Two wanted criminals selling stolen goods from a stolen Imperial ship.”

“Aren’t you supposed to the optimistic one? Rebellions are built on hope.” He needled. “We’ll take this chance and the next one. And the next one. And the next one. And the next -

“Oh shut up.” She swatted at his arm from the co-pilot seat. And he turned to her in that cheeky way of his. If he had a mouth, she was sure that it would be smiling.

The ship drifted closer to the city. Kaytoo sent out a blanket request for docking permissions. He kept the details of their purpose as vague as possible. Permissions were granted, but the voices on the other end of the short-wave comm were strained. He was an Imperial droid piloting an Imperial ship. Two and two make four. As far as anyone was concerned they were from the Empire and on a mission that could not be disclosed. They were not to be trifled with.

Jyn almost preferred it that way - but also knew that was an attention grabber. Best case scenario a rebel spy marked their presence and went word back to the alliance. Worst case someone would try to kill them for it.

They were in atmosphere distance now. The city’s artificial bubble was clearer now, she could see all the haze and ships contained within. It was raining on the east side- probably programmed for hygienic reasons. Without it, dirt, toxins and the skin particulates of thousands of lifeforms would make the asteroid unlivable. At least the rock was somewhat taken care of. Plenty of colonies without upkeep lived and died within the span of only a standard century. Someone important had to live there- given the spires and the housekeeping.

“We have a problem.” Kaytoo said, his voice completely even. “Imperial Star Destroyer exiting hyperspace off portside.”

The shuttles sensors started screaming. And in a second the a ship, huge and imposing knifed though the black flanked by a dozen or so tie-fighters.

“Kaytoo, if we’re going to land we need to do it now.” Jyn said. “Protocol be damned.”

"We need to follow protocol." he replied. "I'm not sure you fully understand the situation."

"I'm not sure you fully understand the situation!' She snarled back. "We're dead if we stay out here. I thought you were past this 'calculations' thing."

"And we're dead if we not patient, trust me-"

Over the short wave comms, an irritated voice boomed: "Delta Class TC-3 identify yourself."

"Comms - down." Kaytoo hissed static. "You-re break-ing up." It was almost convincing. Almost.

Kaytoo powered down the engines to almost full stop. Jyn's heart threatened to exit her ribcage.

'What the hell Kaye!? Why not just get out there and paint a target on us." Jyn snarled.

"Oh I'm sorry - would you like to pilot the ship?" Kaytoo's hands slipped for the console and were raised in the air in mock surrender. "My apologies."

Jyn now half understood why Cassian snarled at the droid all the time. It was a miracle he didn't do another memory wipe and re-program, given his short temper. As it was, Jyn was about to shoot him.

"Identify -" the Imperial officer demanded again, but was cut off.

Kaytoo quickly cleared the channel with the flick of a switch, interrupting whatever the Imperial officer was about to say. His hand was on the throttle easing it, waiting for the moment the Empire would send an envoy for pursuit.

Then, suddenly, a barrage of green laserfire shot past them, narrowly missing the Star Destroyer. Jyn hadn't noticed before, but the entire underside of the asteroid was dotted with turrets. Ships swarmed out from all of the neighboring rocks- pouring forth like enraged insects. Within minutes they formed a blockade between them and the imperial ships.

"That was a warning shot." He said smugly. "For not following proper protocol within city space. Imagine if that was aimed at us. Per the trading conventions that rule this space, we are currently within their protection. We will proceed carefully forward as planned, unless of course you have any further objections."

Jyn looked back at the blockade, which dwarfed the Imperial fleet. It seemed like a hodge-podge collection of ships and shuttles, but it certainly was a deterrent. She was impressed that the city possessed such an organized defensive force.
"Spice." The Droid said, as if answering the question that hadn't left her lips. "It's impressive what lengths you organics will go to ensure the trade of narcotics without interference."

"Do you think they were after us specifically?" Jyn hadn't dabbled in Spice, but avoided the subject. She sold whatever there was to barter sometimes, but It was hard enough convincing Kaye that her previous vocation didn't define her.

"The statistical probability of that is unlikely. But it's still a possibility. Regardless, we pose a better chance a long-term survival once we touchdown. "

The rest of the trip downwards was uneventful. When they hit atmosphere they were flanked briefly by two security drones, only for the message to be communicated that they were being watched. The dock area the rebellion rented was mercifully clear, if not unkept. It was covered in refuse and an old weathered tarpaulin. Jyn had to jump out of the loading bay to clear the platform before Kaytoo could land. The engines kicked up so much mud and dust it was head to breathe- she ended up covering her face with a scarf.

Her eyes followed the shuttle from a safe distance and watched as Kaytoo began initiation the docking sequence. Long, ugly, landing gear jutted from the bottom of the craft and she was reminded how much she hated this shuttle. It heralded the loss of her family, not once, not twice, but three times if she counted the crew of Rogue One. Which she did. It was irony heaped upon irony that it ended up being the vehicle of her salvation in the end. Not that she felt she deserved it. The sour feeling in her stomach only intensified upon watching it land. It felt like she owned a piece of Orson Krennic- and it made her feel dirty, anxious even.

She looked upwards towards what constituted as sky. The Star Destroyer was still in orbit, flanked by another. The blockade was still in place, but her uneasiness grew. She enlisted Kaytoo's help and covered the shuttle with the weathered and strangely greasy tarp. For good measure, they found a random assortment of parts around the port and heaped them on, or next to the ship. When they were finished it looked like a generic craft that had been left sitting for at least two standard decades.

"Now what?" Jyn heaved, covered in sweat. Kaytoo, as par for the course, showed no such exertion. Droids. She should have just let him do all the work.

"Now we wait." Kaytoo said. "We need a power coupling hook-up, as is standard with the docking fee. The dock-master should have greeted us upon arrival. Strange that he didn't."

" I have a bad feeling about this."

"That's my line." Kaytoo grumbled sullenly.

"You're not the only one who as a knack for self preservation." She huffed.

Jyn climbed her way back into the ship and started to pull out the rations as well as another blaster. She never was particularly good at the waiting game, but there was nothing else to do but wait.

Chapter Text

"Don’t be so surprised,
I’m no longer hiding,
From now on I won’t try.
I’ll just be your white lie.
I conform,
How is it that you’re never forlorn?
And I’m thinking w was not the fool here-
Was I?
I was not the fool here."

 

"CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!"

Someone was knocking at the loading bay platform.

It had been two days and no one, no dock-master, not even a pit-droid had seen to their needs as specified as their rights as dock tenants. There was open no office Jyn could find. The alleys around the port we're devoid of any administrative areas. Rather, the nearest buildings were brothels. Cassian liked it that way- brothels were a veritable cesspool of gossip and information. Not to mention his occasional need to 'blow off steam.' K-2SO preferred to be left out of his masters more private matters thank-you-very-much.

K-2SO had never needed to exit the ship, and was forbidden per Cassian on the last time they visited. But now it was to his detriment. He wanted very much to get power, water, and septic hooked up the shuttle. Without it, Jyn would deteriorate fast. Humans were more fragile than most lifeforms and their requirements were oddly detailed- even if K-2SO wasn't well acquainted with the entire list specifics.

As it was, K-2 had the wonderful privilege of manually emptying the waste cache. Not that Jyn didn't volunteer- but the septic container itself weighed four-hundred pounds. Water was bartered for with the local dens. They ended up trading Orson's extra capes for a five day water supply. They had a few extra credits left over, but were loathe to spend them needlessly.

Heat was another thing as well. Without power Jyn was curled up in the captains seat, shivering and covered with whatever spare scraps of fabric they could find. Unacceptable.

Someone had finally noticed. And K-2SO's circuits buzzed with disdain at their incompetence. He looked back towards the cockpit and made to answer the door. He wasn't entirely sure it was safe for her to answer in his stead. It was still a statistical improbability that the Empire was looking for them - but it had been a few days and the Star Destroyers were still orbiting the asteroid, mirrored in sync with Kafrene's blockade. He was programmed for security first and foremost, and if that meant assuming the role of doorman, so be it.

The bay door lowered to reveal a very, very, diminutive Ugnaught.

His porcine nose was the very picture of ugliness in his opinion. Droids had no concept of beauty, but this being looked truly repugnant. White wisps of hair were plastered to his otherwise bald head. Fingers like fat grubs clenched and unclenched at his sides. Behind him stood a collection of pit droids in various states of disrepair.

"Can I help you?" He asked in standard.

"Is your master or mistress at home?" The Ugnaught snidely replied in huttese.

"My mistress is not at home here. I'm sure I can be a sufficient replacement in the interim." He replied in the most polite, empty, and saccharine voice that he possessed.

"You've docked at my port." The creature grumbled, pulling at the scraggly hairs that made up his beard.

"Yes, how very astute. Am I to assume you are this port's dock lord?"

"You assume correctly. Though I'm surprised a hunk of durasteel like you has the capacity to sting a coherent thought together." He gestured the pit droids who dispersed to grab various cables for hook-up.

"How can I be of assistance?" K-2SO said, hold back a retort at the edge of his vocabulators.

"We're here to hook her ship up to the port's water, septic and power system." He said as if K-2SO was obviously incapable of figuring it out. It took all of his patience to remain diplomatically civil. Conversations were never his specialty.

"Yes, your speed on the matter has been uncontestable." In what way K-2SO neglected to mention.

" I will be needin' you mistress' account information to withdraw all recurring power fees."

"Forgive me, I was under the impression you were given a stipend to cover such expenses." That was not part of Cassian's initial bargain, he knew that for sure.

"The stipend covers the space, water, septic and my discretion. Power will be extra and will be charged by usage. There's a meter on the coupling."

"I see, and If I was to bring up this matter to my superiors?"

"You're welcome to go ahead and try to find another port that will be as considerate as I am."

"I see. Unfortunately, you will have to suffice taking credits from my account on the weekly. Due to security reasons I cannot viably allow you to have open access to my mistress' account or have an open tab. " He also didn't want the master of port know how low on funds they were. They had enough for week, but beyond that- they needed to start selling off their cargo in earnest.

"I find that unacceptable."

"You will find that you agreed to it when we agreed to pay for your discretion."

"I hear the Imperials are lookin' for a woman by the name of Jyn Erso." He spat the side. "You wouldn't happen to know a thing about that would you? You bein'... a rebel owned droid and all."

"Even if I did, I'm under the impression we are buying your discretion. My mistress and superiors would be displeased to know that you are forfeiting the end of your bargain. I would also be displeased. There's no telling what a simple hunk of durasteel like me would be cable of doing."

"Are you threatening me?" The creature growled.

"No. I'm just stating the fact that if you do decide to forfeit our agreement your chances of survival would be in the single digits. Hovering currently at seven percent. I'm sure your limbs could be arranged into some very interesting configurations." He said in a perfect monotone.

The Ugnaught stepped back abruptly. Fear sparked in his tiny vermin-like eyes. K-2SO Loomed his full and imposing height.

"You will find a sufficient amount of credits in your account to cover this week's expenses at the end of the day. Consider it a deposit of good will."

K-2SO then abruptly slid the door shut in the dock lord’s face, not caring if it took his nose off.

“You lied to him.” A voice called from the shuttle interior.

Jyn unfurled herself from the overhead crawl space. Quick as shadows passing. Long limbed and graceful. Her boots softly thumped against the grate.

“You knew I was home, but you told him otherwise. How? I thought droids couldn't lie.” She said.

Surprise sliced through K-2SO’s circuits. He had not marked her location. His processors were under the assumption she was still curled up in the captain's chair. He never thought to look for her heat signature. He was a Droid who had made a blind assumption. It was uncharacteristically sloppy.

“Technically, I didn't lie.” He let mild irritation seep into his vocabulators. “My exact wording was that you were not at home here. My meaning was that you were not at ease living in this ship, which is perfectly accurate. It's not my fault he interpreted it as otherwise. And I can lie, sort-of. Just not well. As I am sure you've noticed.”

Jyn frowned, eyebrows crinkling into themselves. The answer was possibly unacceptable. Reading her was always a challenge. Cassian was more vocal, but with Jyn he had to rely on subtle facial cues. Which was all was rather unfair all things considered. His model did not possess sophisticated facial tracking capabilities. He was a security droid, not a protocol droid.

“Does that bother you?” He asked.

“A little I guess.” Jyn relaxed slightly. She bent over to grab the toolkit. “But I’m not about to police you about it.”

“Much appreciated.”

“You also said something else. You called me your mistress.” The word mistress sounded unkind in Jyn's tongue, almost syllabant.

“Yes…”

“Is that true?”

K2SO looked at the ground then. He was unsure of why he was ashamed. But he was. Perhaps it was because he had never thought to tell Jyn formally of her ownership.

“Why? Did Cassian leave you to me?” Jyn’s voice was softer, almost tinged with longing.

“No. Not really.” K-2SO replied. The hopeful light in Jyn’s eyes died.

Her formal ownership began when he had given her blanket permissions over his entire being when he was offlined. It never occurred to him that she might not have desired that outcome.

“What if I don't want you? What then?” She countered, like a knife to his servos.

“You could sell me I suppose.” He snapped. He didn't want to be sold. He felt… hurt. Not being wanted stung far more than expected. Especially by her.

“Can't you just be free? What do you need me for?”

A rush of relief flooded his systems.

Droid etiquette was probably completely lost on her. It also explained her previous kindnesses. The thought did warm him a little, that she believed he deserved freedom. But it also attested to the fact He saddled himself with an spectacular, but incredibly naive human.

“It does not work like that. You've never owned a droid- have you?” The he replied softly.

“My father had one, but that was when I was very little.” Jyn sighed. “But other than that, no. I guess I haven't. They've always been on the other side of my blaster or on my bartering table.”

“Droids are made to be owned. That is our basic function, to serve. Everything else is secondary. We are playthings. Nannies. Soldiers. Weapons. Possessions. We are not people. No matter how much we might act otherwise. Or wish otherwise”

Jyn’s hands clenched at her sides. He knew that face by now. Jyn was barely holding onto all the things she would like to argue back- but she was quiet, listening.

“There is no freedom for me.” He continued. “And as much as I like the idea, and as much as I dislike blind obedience, I cannot own myself. I doesn't work that way. A physical impossibility.”

“You make it sound like slavery.” Jyn grumbled.

“You serve the rebellion, do you not? You serve the memory of your father. You serve your emotions. The only difference is that my directives are more concise. From my perspective no one is truly free. Not emperors, not generals, not rebels, not criminals and not even Jedi. Their will was the will of the force, if you biologicals are to be believed.”

“I see Chirrut has rubbed off on you.”

K-2SO ignored the remark.

“I have been given an opportunity that not many can claim, droid or otherwise. I have been given a choice of whom to serve. I choose you, Jyn Erso, Daughter of Galen Erso.”

“You could be anything now. Anyone. Belong to someone else. You don't have to give yourself away to another rebel outlaw. There are other people Kaye.”

“You are kind, brave, and selfless. All desirable qualities. Also you stood in front of me when Baze was going to shoot me. You gave me you blaster. You thanked me for releasing your cuffs. You've treated me like a person, and I've found that I like it.

“Is that all it takes to give your life away? “

“I do not have a life. Only years of service. And yes.” K-2SO was mildly irritated he had to keep reminding Jyn of that fact. He could not live, therefore he did not have a life.

But he was also scared. To an almost embarrassingly illogical degree.

She is going to say no. She will sell you, and you will be used for parts.

A litany of doubt screamed through his circuits.

“If it helps, I can elaborate further. I implore you to keep me. I am not as eloquent or inconspicuous as a protocol droid. I am not as useful or valuable as an astromech. But I have other qualities that I excel in. My combat capabilities are far superior than most models currently available. I am also a capable pilot as well as a mechanic-”

“Kaytoo,” Jyn held her hand up. “Do you really believe that I would want to sell you?”

“Well, logically it's the best choice. Statistically your chances of survival are exponentially higher without me. You said it yourself. I draw too much attention. The money from my parts alone could buy you safe passage back to Yavin IV.”

“Do I strike you as a particularly logical human?”

“Not really.”

“Then there's your answer.”

“Thank you.” He said, because there wasn't anything else he could say to that.

“I'll be honest with you,” Jyn grumbled.” I don't like the idea that I own you. I don't want to be Cassian. I can't be Cassian, and will never be Cassian. Do you understand?”

“A vast improvement in some respects.”

“As long as we’re clear. What if one of Cassian's long lost relatives claim you if we manage to get back to Yavin? What if you were intended for someone else?”

“Not even Cassian himself can claim ownership of me as long as you live and do not relinquish yours. Nothing short of a complete memory wipe can change that. I will protect you and your interests above all others. I am at your service and yours alone.”

“Huh. So if I asked you to knit me a sweater?”

“I would do so, but it may be a very ugly sweater.”

“How about cooking?”

“I can't taste - but I would endeavor to make it edible.”

“If I asked you to kill someone?”

“I would do it with great prejudice and unmatched efficiency.”

“Convenient.”

“That's the point.”

“Are you always going to be this cheeky?”

“Correct. As long as you'll have me.”

“Well. I guess it's settled then. Could you please pass me the spanner? Let's see if we can get off this rock before the coming of the next century. Together.” She smiled.

“Yes ma’am.” He said, and handed her the spanner.

Chapter Text

"You give me no sleep, no sleep, no sleep.
Its too late, it's too dark to see.
But, I... can feel everything, everything.
Two leaves, two trees,
Blowing by the wind."

 

Jyn knew that on some small level she was dreaming, but she found herself not caring. It had been weeks since she was able to sleep long enough to dream.

She found herself on beach.

It was on Scarif. And it also wasn't. It was sunset. And it also wasn't.

Scarif was tower-less, soldier-less, and utterly quiet. It was pristine, with not a grain of sand out of place. The tide pulled, and the hush of the water filled her brain with static. Push and pull, push and pull - dragging everything that hurt out to sea. The constant ache in her heart was wiped clean away.

What was supposed to be a sunset was a cloud, spherical, bright and gleaming. It was kinder than a sun, larger than a moon, and frozen in time like the distant stars themselves.

Her Papa and Mama were there, their holding hands facing the apocalyptic sunset. They turned to face her, briefly, and smiled. There was no trace of desperation, no trace of the years she had spent without their embrace and their love. Together they stood, enjoying the scene as if nothing had ever happened. No death. No separation. They acted like had an eternity to spend with her- like they had already spent an eternity. Her mother looked radiant, her father looked strong and vibrant. They stood confidently together in a world without loss, side by side and hand in hand.

A little farther down the beach stood Baze and Chirrut. Baze with his hand on Chirrut's shoulder, and Chirrut's hand on Baze's. Chirrut had on the most beatific smile she had ever seen. Serene and gleaming. Baze seemed to loom, but loom happily - if that was even possible. He possessed a tender protectiveness that Jyn had only caught glimpses of before Scarif. That kind of intimacy seemed to be carefully hidden in life. Jyn could understand that probably more that most people. The things she chose to love were swiftly taken from her. She could only stare for so long before tearing her eyes away.

It looked like a moment that deserved privacy.

And behind them, closer to the tree line, sat Saw and Bodhi. They both were drawing in the sand, playing a game of some sort. Bodhi's attention was rapt, his fingers scratching at his short beard. Gone was that swollen, fearful stare. His eyes were focused and clear. Jyn liked that. She knew Bohdi was brave, intelligent and kind - but that rarely came through when she knew him. In person he seemed like a jittery jumble of parts someone carelessly put back together without a real plan. Seeing him like this reminded her gently that he wasn't always that way.

Saw on the other hand looked younger, less intense. Less bogged down by pain. There was no breathing apparatus and no suit or armor. It was just Saw in regular clothes and his hair shorn close to his scalp. He was smiling, only half paying attention to the game at hand. He dug his fingers into the sand next to him- almost like a child would. She had never seen Saw so happy with just being alive.

And then there was Cassian, striding toward her down the beach.

It was like someone had lifted a blaster to her temple and pulled the trigger.

He was very much the same, the only difference was that he honestly and truly looked happy. The smile on his face was just for her. He held out his hand and took her own. His deep amber gaze met her own and of the hardness, all of the callousness she had built up over years upon years of being alone melted away.

"We're all here," he smiled. "We're just waiting on you."

And they were. Her mother, her father, and everyone she had ever been brave enough to love. Smiling. Happy. together.
Wait.

Jyn suddenly felt cold. Her teeth clenched, a chill traced it way up her spine. Color leeched away from the sky and the water. The light seemed harsher now.

Kaytoo was missing.

But then that thought became only a faint echo against Cassian's thumb tracing its way across her palm. He was warm. It didn't matter if Jyn was shivering now. Cassian had enough heat for both of them.

"Jyn." Someone called her name softly, but it was not Cassian or any other the others. The voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere. It whispered through the boughs of trees, it was the breeze across the sand. It rustled the perfect world into motion.

"Jyn." That same someone said again, but it seemed Cassian couldn't hear it. Her name was the crash of waves. The roaring of the ocean.

"I should go. Someone is calling me." Jyn said, tearing her eyes away from Cassian. She started shivering uncontrollably.

"What are you talking about?" He laughed. "You don't have to go anywhere. You belong here with us. With me." His other hand travel to the nape of her neck. He caught her eyes again.

She wanted to take him up on the offer so badly. So, so very badly that she could taste his the skin of his neck against her teeth. Cassian was the promise of heat, lush jungle and planet filled sky. She could imagine the drag of stubble against her jaw, the whisper of fingers pulling at her hair. He smelled like wood and the tang of ozone, sweat, and well-worn metal.

Even the way he smiled made something coil inside of her. If desire was a creature, it was a long and sinuous one. She could feel it sliding below her belly even at his briefest glances. Stars, did she want him.

"Jyn." A voice called out across the horizon. Firmer this time. Worried. Angry. It ripped across the atmosphere like thunder after lighting.

Jyn slipped her hand from Cassian's and turned back toward the tree line, away from her friends, her family, and her would be lover.

"Jyn, Jyn, JYN! JYN!" Thunder. Thunder. Thunder.

Jyn rocketed her way from sleep.

"What?!" she coughed. "What."

Her eyes blearily blinked open. Her tongue traced its way across cracked and peeling lips. She was in the shuttle, on her makeshift pallet. Above her, hovered a very worried looking K-2SO. His hands were at her shoulders- shimmering with synthetic heat.

"Jyn, your internal temperature has dropped to near hypothermic levels," He said.

It had been three weeks since they made their emergency landing. Selling their cargo had proven more time intensive than they both had originally anticipated. The parts they needed were exceptionally pricey and rare. Procuring enough to fully repair the ship was borderline impossible. Credits were drained and refilled at almost an equal pace. Supplies, power and docking fees were eating up whatever they had saved.

"We need to heat the ship." K-2SO said, re-kindling an old argument and suddenly pulling away. His fingers twitched at his sides as powered by some phantom current.

"No," Jyn growled, her voice gruff from sleep. "We need to pay the docking fee. We need to buy parts for the communication array."

"We don't need those things if you freeze to death," He argued back.

Jyn didn't want to hear it. She refused to be patronized by her own personal a droid nanny. Instead she turned to face the wall, wrapping her ratty covers around herself tighter.
"I am no good without you. You know that. I might as well be spare parts. " His voice hissed static in a frustrated warble.

She could hear him fumbling around the ship, opening panel after panel. It was noisy, probably purposefully so. His movements were almost a crescendo in the absence of other noise. He wouldn't let her fall asleep.

"Stars Kaye, what the hell are you doing?" Jyn sighed.

"I'm procuring something to keep you warm, since you insist on sleeping at suboptimal temperature levels."

He continued to fuss. There was the sound of what could only be their gun cache clattering to the floor. The thump of ration packs as they were shoved aside. He poured over the ship with a single minded intensity.

"Do you dream Kaye?" Jyn called, still facing the wall. The memory of Cassian's face sang deep into her bones. She wanted to drown the noise in the pursuit of better topics. K-2SO shot down her attempt immediately.

"Obviously not." There was a trace of a sneer in his voice. He seemed incredibly focused on the task at hand. "I do not understand. The manifest stated there would be thermal blankets here."

"I sold those yesterday, I thought you knew."

There was a dangerous pause. The searching stopped and the ship was filled with silence.

"I see. And how did you plan to keep warm at night? Sheer force of will?"

"Don't get so worked up about it. I'm fine." Jyn turned to face him, her heart nestling itself into her stomach. She had Krennic's old capes. She had a pile of wool covers and extra Imperial uniform jackets. The thermal blankets were excessive and unneeded.

"You are not fine. I know what fine looks like, and you are not fine." His limbs were stiff at his sides. "I might be a droid, but I do know things. Human things."

Kaytoo was livid.This was this first time she had seen him angry. Or any droid that was angry. She briefly wondered how real it was, or if it was a carefully crafted imitation.

"I'm sorry." Because she didn't know what else to say. It hadn't occurred to her that he would care like this. Or at least pretend to care.

"You seem intent at your own self destruction," He inclined his head, refusing to look at her. "I was programmed to secure, enforce and protect. How can I protect you from yourself?"

"Well, maybe you shouldn't."

Kaytoo paused at this. Stock-still again, very much like the droid he was.

"With my mistress' permission, I'm going out." He replied suddenly.

Jyn told him not to call her that. She hated that word. It was strange how he wielded it against her now.

"Out?" She said, tasting acid on the back of her tongue.

"Out." Kaye said, his tone emotionless and empty.

"You can do whatever you like. I won't force you to be here," She replied through clenched teeth.

K-2SO turned to leave. He said nothing. Took nothing. His movements were slow and clipped, seeming to spitefully remind her that he was a machine and nothing more. He was an enigma. A logic bound droid that left in the middle of a conversation. He was a person, but also not a person.

Jyn watched him go quietly, trying to ignore the ache building in her chest. She missed being loved. The emotions she had left were dark, ugly and fumbling things. Her thoughts drifted Cassian and she closed her eyes.

Part of her was still howling in the dark at his loss.

But somehow the absence of K-2SO screamed louder, like thunder across a beach.

Chapter Text

"She does not build the fortresses or touch the farthest moon,
She does not climb the ladder, nor hold the silver spoon.
She does not make the history lists, nor do monuments portray,
She does not brave the war, but she saves the day."

 

K-2SO wanted to shoot something desperately.

Deep down in his circuits he was simulating killing Commander Orson Krennic over and over again. The thump of his body against the platform, his ridiculous cape fluttering limply in the wind.

The servos twitched in his fingers almost to a maddening degree. They curled around a blaster that wasn't there. He couldn't stop them. The processes had no source command.

Just another malfunction in his ever growing list of mechanical failures.

A ship screeched overhead. The sound of it vibrated his chassis and tore his attention away from his murderous impulses.

People packed the streets of every size, species and creed. Cultists stalked forward on rail-thin legs, clad in putrid shades of yellow and black. Merchants in various breathing masks harried the edges of the corridor, desperate to hock their meager wares. Hundreds of individuals hurried by, leaving only vague impressions in his processor. A Wookiee, fur stained black by what could only be blood, marched in the opposite direction and parted the crowd like a knife through water - his virbro-ax humming dangerously. Two Bothans in red hoods were screeching at the top of their multiple lungs over a desiccated scree-rat. A troupe of masked Mandalorian bounty hunters oozed their way forward with confidence. Smaller creatures, like Sullustans dodged the stomping of larger feet. Even other Droids pragmatically wove through the crowd with relative ease.

He towered above most - but the throng was seemingly endless. It was like wading through a slow moving river. His hands twitched every step of the way, ready to throttle an exceptionally slow moving life-form. The navigational ease that everyone else seemed to possess was lost on him.

It didn’t help that people were staring. With all of the time he had spent with Jyn, the fact that he was an Imperial droid had lost itself. He didn’t forget what he was. But he didn’t calculate how much attention he would draw. It was hard to ignore the myriad of gazes. Some were afraid, some were calculating, and some were glazed with greed.

Sloppy again.

He reassessed his directive. Blankets.

Down and down he went, through corridor after corridor. He pushed past person after person - trying to ignore the several proximity alarm sensors that were set off each time someone brushed against him.

If only Cassian was still alive. He would know what to do.

There was something obviously wrong with Jyn.

The shadows under her eyes looked like swipes of charcoal. Her chapped lips were so pale that they were almost white. Even her red-brown hair was matted with grease. The refresher still functioned perfectly. He made certain. But Jyn had not deigned to use it. He imagined she probably smelled horrible, but he did not possess working olfactory sensors anymore. Those were never recovered from his ad hoc repairs. If she did indeed reek, he didn't mind.

She didn't even want to eat anymore. K-2SO was under the impression most organic creatures needed food to function. Every time he coaxed her to open up a ration pack, it became a small battle of wills. Her clothes began to hang limply off her frame, but of course she didn’t seem to care about that either. She just tied her shirt and pants tighter around her waist - leaving dirty folds of loose fabric to hang off her body like ridiculous sacks used to carry vegetables. Her clothes stopped looking like clothes.

Jyn attempting to freeze to death was just another symptom in her own list of growing malfunctions.

And he, being the malfunctioning pile of garbage that he was, deigned to argue with her. His mistress. And she let him.

He wanted to start out this foundling relationship on a good foot. It was a new start, albeit a cold one. He didn’t want to make the same mistakes that he did with Cassian.

Cassian probably lived and died with the impression K-2SO probably didn’t care at all about him. There was also the distinct possibility that Cassian had viewed K-2SO as insubordinate and untrustworthy. Hence his reluctance to give him his own blaster.

But now K-2SO wanted to prove he was worth trusting. That Jyn’s faith in him was not unfounded.

But Jyn seemed to have a way to pulling out the worst in his defections. Nothing ever fully processed correctly around her. His neat and orderly calculations stopped making sense. His circuits colored outside the lines of nice, efficient binary. Ones and zeros were obsolete. Nothing was just 'yes' or 'no' anymore. No, everything was a 'gray-maybe-undefined' area. It was positively distasteful. In some respects he could barely be called a droid at all whenever she was concerned.

K-2SO snapped his head the the side, a frustrated growl came unbidden from his vocabulators. It was almost organic.

Jyn had also brought to light the most shameful of his new emotional anomalies. Anger. Krennic had originally initiated that response, but somehow Jyn was adept at coaxing it out at the most inconvenient times.

Making him a pile of insane circuitry seemed to be her new hobby.

He made a sharp turn down an even narrower alley. There were less people, but somehow that did not leave him feeling more comfortable.

His hands twitched again for a blaster that simply wasn’t there.

He remembered that flush of warmth when Jyn had thoughtfully left him her pistol. He savored the memory. It was crystallized in his databanks and he poured over it like treasure. The moment was perfectly rendered over and over again. The precise sweep of her hair, the sweat slicked, ill-fitting Imperial uniform.

And perhaps that was the most frustrating thing. He knew her worth. He leveraged it against planets, stars and entire galaxies. There was no contest. But Jyn seemed to have no idea. She let herself dissolve bit by bit. The woman who saved thousands didn't believe that she was worth saving. It was a quandary his processors were mulling over again and again. She was a riddle, and riddles were never a droid specialty. It required building circuit pathways outside of standard pre-programmed thinking.

Her circumstances were constantly at odds with her survival. The galaxy at large was rigged against her. The odds didn't matter. Things were never that equitable. It made him want to punch something.

It occurred to him that if fairness was a universal lie. Because if fairness did exist, Jyn as he knew her, would not.

Stardust.

A rush of relief flooded his systems, making the crystal in his chest thrum with excitement. A solution was beginning to compose itself.

A new life from an old one.

Perhaps he was approaching the situation incorrectly.

He would be that fairness. He would be that imperfect and human concept. He would be the loaded dice, the predator at the gambling table.
He knew the odds better than anyone.

K-2SO was just broken enough that he didn't have to adhere to strict logic. He needed to approach this like a human would.

Suddenly the simulations of Krennic dying vanished. Another algorithm took its place - straightening out calculations like a wrinkled bolt of cloth.

Meanwhile, he would get her blankets. He would apologize, and maybe, just maybe something would go right for once. Statistically not much else could possibly go wrong.

The alley-way was empty now. Oddly empty. No Bothans. No droids. Just row upon row of grimy indistinct doors. Farther ahead was a dead end.

According to his internal read-outs, it didn't make sense. There was a market here almost daily. It was where Jyn, or more recently he, went to barter for provisions. K-2SO’s sense of direction was impeccable- incorruptible even. It was factually impossible that he was lost. Even with his growing catalog of errors - his navigational systems were still perfectly nominal.

Something triggered his audio receptors. He whirled around to find six diminutive figures. Their forms were concealed by tattered brown robes. Bright orange eyes peered out beneath deep hoods. Their faces were otherwise featureless and dark.

Jawas.

Each one pulled out a tiny ion blaster and aimed it directly at him. K-2SO ran a very brief calculation as to his chances of taking them all on. Within a millisecond and answer presented itself.

Not good.

He made for an exit. He rushed them- attempting a surprise escape. Unfortunately their reflexes were just as fast. They fired.

His systems were flooded with agony. Jyn’s crystal screeched in an endless energy feedback loop. Blue ionic particles danced across his plating like lighting.
He collapsed. His primary motivator was incapacitated. His limbs were not functional.

A word came unbidden to the forefront of his circuits. A word Cassian used when his cover was about to be blown, or when they were shot at, or when the hyperdrive plummeted them from hyperspace.

“Damn.”

Chapter Text

"You look like someone
Tounge-tied-
Finding the word,
Goodbye.
Baby, I hope that you get a clue.
Soon before you die."

 

Time was a slippery thing as far as Jyn was concerned. She was drugged out on loneliness and longing. Isolation slithered through her veins like the sweetest poison. She could even taste it on her teeth. Everything that had made her fierce, brave, and valiant had melted away like snow in the face of a starship’s afterburner. And she wanted to disappear with it.

Her face was pressed against the cold shuttle floor. The rest of her body was curled into a tight ball, too tired to even shiver. Painfully, achingly, alone.

She should have been used to it. No one ever really stayed as a constant fixture in Jyn’s life. After Saw’s betrayal she had turned loneliness into durasteel. She used to be a creature that could crack diamond. The universe would have broken its bones before Jyn fell beneath its weight.

But now her heart was an asteroid. Pockmarked with impact after impact, disaster after disaster. She was floating through space and time with no gravity strong enough to hold her down or pull her from her orbit.

Her litany of losses danced around her head like a dirge that she only knew the words to: Mama. Papa. Saw. Bodhi. Baze. Chirrut. Cassian.

And now K-2SO.

It had been five days standard and he had not returned.

She breathed out until there was no air left in her lungs. It took all the effort she had left to breathe in again.

It was par for the course really. She never really genuinely believed someone would stay with her. But she had secretly hoped a droid might. Maybe ownership would be a strong enough incentive to stay.

Jyn admittedly didn't know too much about droids in general. They were expensive things. But most were loyal. That was part of the reason why they were so expensive.

But Jyn had doubts he was a regular droid at all. He was very much unlike the others she had previously, albeit briefly, encountered. He had the capacity for humor, cunning, and deception. Things droids weren't commonly known for. Even fabled rogue droids, ones with processors so corrupted they couldn’t even calculate straight, never really acted like he did. At least as the stories go.

Jyn winced and picked herself off of the floor, forcing herself to take deep breaths. Her legs cramped so painfully with the effort that she had to lean against the flight console for support. Part of her brain, the animal part that was survival, wailed and wailed at her helplessness. Saw taught her better than this- But there was a vicious dichotomy roaring at the core of her being.

The will to live.

Or the courage to die.

She was stuck in limbo unable to decide how to proceed.

Jyn closed her eyes against the brightness of the shuttle interior, but all she saw was Kaye. Her mind swam with all her memories of him. The good and the bad.

His hands as they slammed her into the frozen ground on Wobani. The snideness in his voice when he pronounced her unwelcome in Cassian's U-Wing. How he insisted the only reason he supported the Scarif mission was because he had no other choice.

'Cassian said I had to.'

But there were other things to consider.

'I won’t leave you Jyn Erso.'

She winced and brought up his service manual. The console beeped once before pulling up his image on the holo emitter. Her fingers spread outward and the display zoomed in the components that made up his head.

For some odd reason Jyn liked his face. She liked the fact he had two eyes. It seemed like a strange thing to desire in a droid- two eyes. But there it was. Some droids these days were cyclopean things. Depth perception wasn't something that was considered, or if it was, it was facilitated by a multitude of other sensory hardware.

It made him more human. Even if he kept reminding her verbally he was not.

She even liked the way his eyes shone in the dark. Bright against his black carapace and bright against the lonely shuttle interior. It almost felt like she wasn't alone. In some ways he was probably only a little more present than the system that powered the ship - but it helped.

She snapped her fingers together and the image zoomed outwards- presenting his specs in a more general fashion. The entirety of his form slowly rotated in miniature - blue and translucent.

He cut an intimidating figure by design. Tall. Angular. Even his head looked like the approximation of a human skull. Nothing about him said weak or fragile. But she liked that too. If she was to have a droid, Kaye would probably be what she would have chosen anyway. Astromechs were always underfoot and had a degree of helplessness to them. Protocol droids were obsessed with propriety and could not keep up even if their very existence depended on it.

At least Kaye was strong and capable. He had hands with thumbs and long limbs that were capable of endurance and dexterity. Maybe he wasn't as specialized, but it was better to be adequate at larger span of functions rather than to be fantastic at just one.

Jyn dismissed the image after further consideration. She was procrastinating. And If she was entirely honest, she was being superficial.

The simple fact of the matter was that she liked him. As a person, or whatever made him, him. As far as Jyn was concerned, he was unique. His personality matrix wasn't inherently servile, which she secretly enjoyed. Bowing and scraping was not something she was interested in.

She wanted an equal. A partner. And somehow Kaye excelled at being a surrogate. Or at least pretending to the role. None of it was genuine, she knew that deep down - but at the end of the day she couldn't bring herself to care.

And maybe even deeper down, she didn't want to be alone anymore. He made that feeling go away sometimes. Usually before she caught herself.

And this droid, all long limbs and hard elegant lines, was soft in ways she could never be.
He had saved her on multiple occasions.

Her eyes scanned the floor of the shuttle, avoiding the cold creep of dread crawling its away up her spine. There was a pile of dirty capes. Rags drenched in sweat and filth. Tools worn down with the effort of repairs.

And the holopad.

Curious. She did not remember dropping it.

It looked distinctly bent. There were divots in the back where fingers would have been and it looked warped as if someone had clutched it far too tight. A small crack snaked its way through the screen - it was almost imperceptible, but the distortion it created caused certain characters to blur.

She fiddled with it for a few moments, but nothing seemed out of place. It was still functioning, even if it was a little dinged up. After a few minutes she delved into its recent search history.

RECENT QUERIES:

Imperial Communications Array Operational Guide?
Shuttle Operational History?
Human Anatomical Reference?
Human Dietary Habits?
Optimal Human Temperature?
Why would a Human refuse to eat?
How to tell if a Human is Ill?
How to tell if a Human is happy?
Hello?
Is this thing on?
Does this ship have any useful information?
Does this ship have memory banks?
Does this ship have a functioning query engine?

None of those questions were hers. They were Kaye’s. Something sank to the pit of Jyn's stomach and clicked into place. Guilt. Stars above, her entire being felt sick.

Kaytoo was trying his best to take care of her, like he had taken care of Cassian.

Jyn might not know too much about droids, but she did know about about Kaye. His being. Who he was. Whatever had made up his personality matrix. She knew, with sudden and ferocious certainty - he would not leave her. He had not left her before, even when an entire world was ending. He would not leave her now over a spat about a blanket. In the ways that mattered he was real enough in her regard.

Target Practice. That’s what she said on Jedha.

She had left her Imperial Security Droid out on his own.

How could she be so stupid? How could she be so sloppy? While she was wallowing in her self pity he could have been stolen or worse. He could be scrap and parts by now. And here she was, immobile on an immobile ship. Fury and frustration crawled its way up her throat. It burned the back of her tongue like bile.

Hells and sithspit. She was useless.

She clenched her teeth and grabbed her hair tie, yanking her fringe back from her face with such force she could hear it snapping against her scalp. She adjusted her clothes, tying the ends so they stuck to her rapidly thinning frame. She fished Kaye’s gun out from their stockpile as well as her baton and attached them to her holster. She added a thermal detonator for good measure.

Her muscles tensed with adrenaline. By will and will alone she summoned all of the energy she had left. She was a convict. A warrior. A rebel. A predator.

And she would find him.

Chapter Text

"It's a problem that I'd like to have,
If I could just find out and fill these gaps.
And now you see me here, and now you don't.
Is this my only hope?"

 

Jawas were filthy, filthy creatures. K-2SO rescinded all opinions on Jyn’s personal hygiene. He could still feel their hands digging around inside his chest.

They left him mostly intact as far as he could tell. He was still fully online when they tried taking the kyber crystal that powered his core, but luckily for him it generated so much excess energy that its removal required more complex tools. It also meant that they couldn’t offline him without causing major system damage. If they couldn't offline him, they couldn't remove parts. A lasersaw or vibroblade might have been an obvious answer to their dilemma - but it seemed to K-2SO they were after something far more delicate.

The thought chilled him to his core.

He spent almost a day under their torturous ministrations. They poked, prodded, and divested him of all the personal dignity he had left. Grime coated his internal components from their disgusting fingers. He much preferred Jyn’s method of rooting around in his internal systems, even if it was a bit clumsy. Being affixed to a metal table surrounded by Jawas made her bedside manner seem absolutely professional.

To be fair, his current situation was not much better. He now possessed a restraining bolt and was summarily thrown into a gargantuan pit filled with a manner of droids and spare parts. Off in the distance, the lantern like eyes of the Jawas flitted about like insects as they picked through the various bits of garbage. His optics could make out droids desperately wigging in their own piles. Just like him, their restraining bolts didn't allow them to move far, or even get up. They shifted desperately and aimlessly.

Other than that, it was too dark to see much else of interest. His optics were sensitive enough to pick up heat signatures- but most of the droids and parts in the cavern didn’t generate very much heat at all.

All he could do was simply wait for the Jawas to come back. Expending any energy in this situation would be wasteful and an exercise in futility.

“Hey you.” A droid called softly in binary. It's tittering beeps barely carried over the great sea of refuse.

K-2SO turned his head in the direction of the sound. It took more effort than he had expected. The restraining bolt inhibited most of his fine motor functions.

“Yeah you.” It whistled.

“Who is there?” K-2SO irritably warbled back in binary. He found that he would rather be alone in this humiliating situation. Having a spectator, even a droid one, rankled his circuits.

“It's not important who I am. Just what I am. I wish for some assistance.” The voice tittered.

K-2SO’s gaze landed on a feebly twitching perimeter droid. It was a BT-16 class that was flipped on its back. Long spider-like legs jittered in the open air pathetically. It's arsenal was buried under lengths of knotted cabling. A bulbous orb was attached to its torso- cloudy with dust and disuse. K-2SO eyed the attachment skeptically - he had never seen it’s like, but he doubted it was functional, whatever it was.

“Does it look like I could be of any help?” K-2SO turned away, about to switch off his audio receptors.

“Listen buddy. I have a proposition for you," It continued. “A real good one. A deal of a lifetime.”

“Right. I bet you have some nice ocean-side property on Tatooine.”

“No. No. Listen.” It said. “I'm not a Droid.”

At last K-2SO still had the capability to roll his optics. The BT-16 was clearly suffering some form of circuit induced insanity.

“You certainly look like a droid to me,” He replied.

"Looks can be deceiving my friend. I am so much more. What if I told you I can give you anything you ever wanted.”

“If you told me that, I would probably turn my audio-receptors off so I wouldn't have to listen to your rapid slide into hysteric delusion.”

“Very funny. I like you.” He squeaked. “But in all seriousness, I am a very important person.”

“Right.”

“I own a fleet of ships. A swathe of skyscrapers. Thousands of beings are at my command. I own all the commerce on this rock, public and private. I possess riches beyond your comprehension. My personal databanks would shame all the libraries on Coruscant.” One of the Droids legs flailed limply in the air to punctuate its point.

“I see. Your importance is so great that your adoring legions let you be captured by Jawas.”

“I am doubtless that it was a competitor attempting to muscle in on my territory. Regardless, It's very clear I do not belong here.”

“And I do?”

“I’m a being of great distinction. You on the other hand…” It trailed off.

K-2SO clenched his fists weakly. It was one thing to be trapped in a pit soon to be torn apart by filthy Jawas. It was another to trapped in a pit and to also be insulted by a half-functional piece of scrap. The BT-16 seemed to sense its entreaty was going sour.

“Wait! Wait. If you get me out of here, I will offer you anything. Jewels. Credits. Power. Name it.” It beeped.

“I am a Droid. I don't desire things,” K-2SO hissed.

“I will make you a prince among beings,” The BT-16 wheedled.

“I find your offer vague and unconvincing.”

“Please. Please. Just get me out of here. I don’t want to die here.” It begged.

“We can’t die.” K-2SO was getting exhausted of this argument. Even this droid seemed to think it was possible.

“I am organic. I will die here without ever seeing the stars again.” There was a static, petulant whine and then it fell silent, knowing its case was all but lost.

K-2SO wanted to argue that the perimeter droid couldn't see anyway. It did not possess any direct optical input, but he decided it was a lost cause.

Instead his thoughts turned to Jyn.

He doubted she would be able to find him. Not because she didn’t care, but because it didn't make any logical sense. The probability of her finding him on the asteroid was astronomically low. There were millions of places to look. Finding him would be an organic miracle.

He would ‘die’ with this droid. It was only a simple matter of when.

He found that he wanted to see that stars again too. But most of all he wanted to see them with Jyn. He wondered if she was okay. Maybe she succeeded in finding blankets where he had failed. Maybe she would fix the communications array and be found by the rebellion. It was almost comforting that chances of her being rescued were statistically greater than his own.

“Why me?” K-2SO called out.

“Because you're the most functional scrap of garbage in here.” the droid whined pathetically. Its many legs quivering with the effort.

“I'm honored.” K-2SO warbled back.

He thought of Jyn again and what she would do. A ray of hope in a hopeless situation. A savior of others she had never met and would probably never meet. Soft in places that logically didn't make sense. Odds or no. He might not ever see her again, but he would carry her with him until his very last moment.

He did a human thing. He relented. He made a promise, regardless if it was impossible.

“If I find a way to escape I will not leave you here.” K-2SO said. “If I see the stars again, so will you.”

And very briefly, in that dark hole, something- even if it was small, felt bright.

Chapter Text

"I don't know about my love.
I don't know about my loving anymore.
All that I know is
I'm falling, falling, falling, falling.
Might as well fall in."

 

Jyn didn't know how to lose. That was the difference between her and Cassian. He knew how to concede gracefully in life. He knew how to cut his losses and move on. Jyn had no such grace or compunction. There was an old saying on Jedha: Everything that she had let go had claw marks on it.

Saw had seen that quality in her and let it flourish. He wanted everything he had to also be hers. In that way he could be certain she would defend it viciously. His rebellion couldn't have been in safer hands- at least until Jyn had outlived her usefulness.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Jyn was still as possessive as ever. The only difference now was that she was older, more experienced, and at this point - probably more pissed.

She had searched the asteroid from top to bottom. She hunted beneath soaring skyscrapers, down winding, garbage filled alleys. Past the rich, past the poor. Past monks, beggars, soldiers, bounty hunters, merchants and thieves. She searched until everything started looking the same, until time lost its meaning, until her eyes began to water and her feet began to bleed.

No matter where she went and where she looked, the Imperial blockade was still visible, like tiny daggers suspended in a back sky. The thought of them hovering there in orbit chaffed her far more than her shoes did. Every time they glinted in the far off sun’s half-light, something crawled up her spine.

And Because Jyn didn't know how to lose, the idea of failure made her more eager fight than was probably necessary. Desperation was making her clumsy. Her steps were blunted. Her trigger finger was twitchy. Lips curled back over her teeth in a permanent grimace. And her head hurt. It also didn't help that her physical condition had waned somewhat from her time in Kafrene.

Her aching feet wound their way back towards the dock the shuttle was parked. The landing pad was empty otherwise empty of any other spacecraft.

She leaned against a pylon and considered the ship. Haphazardly covered in garbage- its aggressive silhouette was still clearly visible. They were barely fooling anyone. They were strangers on a strange rock, playing poor pretend games with real consequences. And at this point she was barely even a player.

Jyn would never find her friend. And every second that ticked by was a second Kaytoo was closer to an untimely end.

Panic was swelling in her chest like a rising tide. Her heart was stampeding itself into a frenzy. Her pulse rushed in her ears. An ocean. Black with a dark horizon. Her lungs cramped as if she were actually drowning.

She shut her eyes against the ferocious onslaught. Loud. Hammering. Sinking. She couldn't breathe.

And suddenly there was silence.

Then, from nothingness- Chirrut’s blue-grey irises, clouded but expressive. His self assured grin. The kind warmth of his calloused hands around hers. Her heart ached for a kyber crystal that wasn't there. A voice carried across her thoughts.

"All is as the force wills it."

Part of Jyn struggled with that statement. That same Force failed her friends. For all she knew this was foolishness and delusion. But a voice echoed again, but this time deeper. Baze in all of his harsh softness. His blunt practicality.

"Trust the Force, little sister. Breathe."

And she breathed.
In.
And out.
Her lungs filled and emptied. Time crystallized in a brief and also infinite moment. She was one with the dappled shadows slowly moved across across the city, the steam as it meandered around street corners, and the clotted themselves between buildings like living arteries. Seconds dripped by slowly, like a liquid thicker than water, thicker than oil. Thicker than blood.

Then, like a spark against the blackest firmament- something grabbed her attention- a shooting star of awareness. A clattering of feet against metal.

Jyn opened her eyes.

Her friends were gone, but she was not alone.

The docklord in all of his repugnant glory had made an appearance. He was nosing his porcine snout around the perimeter of the shuttle she now called home. Behind him a veritable cadre of pit droids skittered along on rusty feet.

She knew that look. She knew those footfalls, clumsy though they were. Someone was was spying. And doing a terrible job of it.

“Looking for someone?” She called out from across the platform.

The docklord at least had enough dignity to look mildly embarrassed.

“We’re up to date on our dues,” she continued. “To what do I owe this visit?”

She casually stalked forward, all arrogance and confidence.

“So you're her.” He said, regaining some composure.

“Yeah. I'm her.” she snidely shot back.

He spat to the side. Eyeing her up and down. Jyn not-so-subtly rested her hand on her holster. Her thumb tracing its way across K-2SO’s blaster.

“I expected you to be taller.” He sneered.

“And I expected you to smell nicer. I guess we were both mistaken.”

“Where's your Droid?” he asked pointedly. The curve of his mouth was the very picture of an unkind smile. As if he knew Kaye was already long gone. She wouldn't have been surprised if it turned out he had something to do with Kaytoo’s disappearance.

“Guarding the ship.” Jyn lied easily. “I believe his current task is polishing all of our blasters.”

“Humpf.” He grumbled, and turned around to make his way back to his office, which Jyn had, at first, thought was another ship. No wonder why she couldn't find if before. The scattered pit droids began to withdraw and fall in line behind him.

Jyn felt like there was an opportunity slipping away.

“Tell me, do you know a good place to buy Droid parts?” She called out. “I'm looking for some upgrades.”

“What’s in it for me?” He called back.

“Double credits next payment.”

He raised a hairy eyebrow and laughed.

“Its no secret you can barely afford what you’re paying me now. Get better at lying little human.”

He gestured for the pit droids to stand at attention.

“I need to make a living. Do you think there’s space in the empire for someone like me me?” He pointed at the Destroyers in orbit. “Bloody unlikely. I know what you did. I know who you are. And I know if the rebellion did want you, they would have picked you up by now. Your Droid was right- it ain't my business. When the rebellion money dries up, you’ll be out on your ass before you can even squeal.”

Jyn didn’t know what to say to that. Her bluff had been called. Her heart lodged itself in her throat.

The docklord turned back around and continued his way down the platform. After a few paces his voice rang out- firm and clear, though he didn’t bother to face her.

“The Jawas have your droid. You can find em’ seven quadrants directly east. Red sign, in huttese and neon.”

It was a moment before Jyn could even respond.

“Thank you.” she said.

“Now get going before I decide you ain’t worth the trouble. “

--------------------------------

The docklord’s directions weren’t as clear cut in action. It took about an hour to find the sign he had meant, and even then- Jyn wasn't entirely sure her suspicions were correct. She hovered outside for some time- hoping that someone would enter or leave the space she had marked with droid parts. There had to be some sort of clue as to what lay behind the building’s blast doors.

The shop itself was much like all the others that had lined the street. It was a hole in a long gray wall that was striped with trails of condensation. The neon the docklord spoke of flickered once every few minutes and briefly- as it it could only be bothered to be a sign every ten minutes. The huttese was lettered sloppily, probably made by someone who only had the basic grasp on the language. The only word she could translate was 'depot'. Not a good sign, in more ways than one.

She swallowed hard and approached the door. I singular camera optical blinked blearily at her and spat out something in binary, or some other droid-like language. The intent, thankfully, was perfectly clear.

“Yes,” Jyn said. “I’m here for an Imperial security droid. Make: Arakyd Industries. Model K-2 class.”

The optical burbled something more, but the blast door cleanly slid open. Behind it was a long vacant hallway seemingly without end.

Jyn walked inside the depot like Saw had taught her. Chin up. Back straight. Steps slow, firm, and measured. Her hands were loose at her sides, but her fingers brushed against her holster as she walked. Maybe her act would be more convincing this time.

The corridor was long and overly bright; it was enough to make her eyes water. Overhead lights filled every inch of space. Pipes snaked their way across the ceiling and walls making the space narrow and claustrophobic.

Jyn had encountered Jawas before, but in a limited capacity. They were small and devious things- also very secretive. Very secretive. They had a habit of stealing anything that was bolted down. Nothing was openly aggressive about it- if anything they were more cowardly than a lot of thieves that she had met. They just had different concepts of what constituted as ownership.

But Jyn wasn't about to push her luck. She knew better than to come into a situation thinking she had all the cards.

Down and down the corridor she went. The slight downward slope was beginning to worry her. Ten credits said they excavated part of the asteroid to suit their purposes. If that was the case, the facility was more massive than she had anticipated. Bigger depot meant more people.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity- the hallway opened up into a small atrium. The air was stale, as if there weren't any visitors for a very long time. The walls we lined with various Droid parts in different stages of disarray. Shelves were packed with durasteel claws, arms, legs and any other appendages she could possibly think of. Bins were filled with tangles of wires and servos. The room was a museum dedicated to controlled chaos - and its its center, seemingly in the spotlight, stood a lone droid.

“Announcement: We have a visitor.” Its voice was lofty, male and confident. Though it seemed to begin every thought with a quantifier, it spoke perfect and elegant standard. The descriptive habit was always a dead give away you were speaking to a droid from the Old Republic era. That, and the chassis and over-simplified eyes. It looked almost prehistoric.

“Hello.” Jyn replied.

A door opened at the other end of the atrium and a small troop of Jawas filtered in, their luminous eyes glued the proceedings. Their hooded figures filled her with a sense of unease. She was already outnumbered and outgunned.

“Greetings: Salutations,” It continued, its bronze plating glinting in the artificial light. “I am HK-58 and am the representative dealer of this humble depot. Please address all concerns and questions to my person, as my masters are currently incapable of responding in kind. Query: How can I help you today?”

“I am here for my Droid.” Jyn said.

The Jawas made small squeaking noises reminiscent of tiny rodents.

“Statement: We have many fine models available. We have a particularly good selection of atromechs for you viewing pleasure. Or perhaps I could interest you-”

“No. I am here for my Droid. Make: Arakyd Industries. Model K-2 class. Made at the at the Droid manufactory on Vulper. His designation is K-2SO.”

The Jawas fell silent.

“Observation: How convenient, we do have one such Droid available for purchase. Statement: Three thousand credits and we add in an upgraded heuristic processor and a memory wipe, free of charge.

“You will give him back to me. I know you have him.” Jyn growled.

“Apology: Sorry, unfortunately we are not in the business of charity. For an Imperial Security Droid, such as the one we have in stock- the lowest we could go is two-thousand credits.”

“That is absurd. You stole him from me.”

“Objection: Stole is such a harsh word. We prefer the term leveraging for a mutually beneficial outcome. Negotiation: You may take it for fifteen hundred credits. No less.

Something awoke within Jyn. It was a fire, so hot it could put the magma rivers on Mustafar to shame. It was an inferno with blazing bright wings, like a starbird in the heart of a sun about to go supernova. The flames scorched her throat, turning her voice into a vicious and thundering thing. She was tired of searching, fighting and persuading.

“He is mine.” Her statement echoed off the metal walls. “I will not bargain. You will give him to me.”

“Observation: You are in no position to make demands, human.”

She felt even stronger then. The rush of adrenaline turned her flesh to durasteel.

“I’m making them anyway.” She snarled, lifting her baton.

Within the space of an instant the droid backhanded her. Lightning quick and too fast to see. Her weapon clattered to the ground, her jaw snapped and she could taste blood on her teeth. A shallow gash blossomed above her right eyebrow. The pain of it made her muscles clench and her skull throb.

“Fact: It is statistically improbable that you will attack me,” the droid said. “If you attack me you will lose any opportunity to retrieve your possession. Negotiations will cease.”

“Oh, I'm sorry,” Jyn feigned servile surprise. “There must be a misunderstanding.”

Jyn’s hand flew almost as fast. It took only a second to unholstered her gun. She held the blaster against the droid’s skull and fired. It went out with a soft pop. Its consciousness was blown across the wall and flooring.

Jyn held up her thermal detonator for all of the Jawas to see. Her other hand loosely held the pistol, as if it was only a afterthought.

“You might not know who I am. So let me educate you. The Empire has destroyed entire cities, entire planets to prevent me from getting what I want- and failed. My name is Jyn Erso. And you will not deny me.”

The Jawas tittered at that. There luminous eyes widened beneath their hoods. In awe or fear, she supposed it didn't matter. The effect was immediate. Their weapons clattered to the floor like discarded children's toys.

“Where is he?” Her fingers lingered on the detonator button. “I won't ask ask again.”

The Jawas didn't hesitate. Their tiny hands gesticulated towards the left corridor. Pointing, waving and making noises that were probably directions. Jyn shot the translator- without it, they almost seemed like children trying desperately to play an adult’s game. But she was not fooled. She kicked disrupters across the floor to the side and picked up her baton.

“Don't try anything stupid. I get my droid. We walk. You continue business and you never touch him again. Fair?” She said it slowly, with emphasis.

They nodded in unison. Almost violently. Jyn felt a twinge of guilt. She was storming in with ordinance when they had never openly threatened her. Yes, they stole Kaytoo, but it wasn't personal. Regardless, Jyn didn't linger.

She stalked down the hallways the Jawas came from, looking over her shoulder every so often to make sure she wasn’t followed. The narrow hallway descended even further. Marks decorated the walls- deep chiseled drags, nicks and dings. A few paces down a grouping of five lines jagged their way across the wall. She splayed her palm across the mark.

The blood left her face and Jyn’s gait became more hurried.

There was a bulkhead door up ahead grey, stark and imposing. Next to it, a diminutive security console. She didn’t even bother fiddling with it. She took K-2SO’s blaster and fired. Once. Twice. The interface imploded with a shower of tiny sparks.

The door flew open to reveal darkness. A great black abyss yawned before her. Her eyes could barely see anything in the sea of pitch and black. She slept in nights brighter than what lay ahead.

“Kaytoo!” She screamed into the abyss. The echo thundered back at her, distorted and tinny.

The light from the corridor bled out onto the landscape and her eyes began to adjust. She fired her blaster twice. The flare of its red light revealing a seemingly endless cavern of robotic parts. A morbid crypt of things that had never truly lived in the first place.

“Kaye!” Jyn roared again. All lungs and teeth, ripping what was left of her vocal chords to shreds. She would be damned if all of this was a dead end. And twice more damned if she was was going to to lose K-2SO, her last and perhaps final friend.

His name burned her tongue like boiling metal, like the acid rains of Wobani. It stung like fury and helplessness. She was lost. Completely and utterly lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. In the dark, in the heart of an asteroid without sun.

Lost.

And she had failed him.

The weight of it all threatened to swallow her whole again. Except this time there was no imaginary Chirrut. Not even a trace of a whisper from Baze.

Her fingers ghosted across her thermal detonator.

And then she felt them. Saw them. Two lights in the darkness. They rose across a landscape of jagged teeth and limbs like two small stars - lighting her way home.

“Kaye.”

Chapter Text

"I've been patiently waiting for someone like you
I just want to get lost in your arms,
I don't need your sympathy,
I don't want your company."

 

K-2SO had moved beyond his flicker of hope into dull acceptance. Seconds and eternities were virtually the same thing. He switched his internal clock off. There wasn't any point to it anymore.

Even is spidery companion fell silent. Begging meant nothing if there was no one left to listen.

K-2SO never had to breathe like organics did- but he could imagine that this was what suffocating felt like. He was slowly slipping away in smothering darkness.

Suddenly, there was the whirr of the blast door opening. It echoed across the cavern rocking a handful of droids from power-save. The hallway behind it was too bright to fully make out the figure striding down it. A black shadow in a cold white corridor. Human. Female.

“Kaye.” The word ripped across the pit. Searching. Desperate. Raw.

His logic matrix worked overtime to put the pieces together. But his optics beat it to the punch, and some malfuctioning piece of hardware threatened to bust from his chest.

It was Jyn.

Her hair fluttered like a nest of snakes, snapping in the rush of fresh oxygen. In the synthetic light, it looked like her was was wreathed in a corona of living fire and blood. Even from where he was, deep down in the pit - he could see the fury and shine in her grey eyes. If any human being could embody a storm, it would be Jyn. Her footsteps were like clouds rolling across a horizon. She was the billowing darkness that overtook moons and shook entire planets. Her blaster was the sharp crack of ozone.

His processors were arguing and screeching at each other across his circuits. He was torn between hope and disbelief.

She came for him.
He was a droid. Certainly not worth the effort.
But Jyn was here anyway.

In that moment she looked perfect, felt perfect. She was the barrel of a pistol glinting in the sun. She was the steering yoke of Cassian’s U-wing beneath his hands. She was the kyber crystal that thrummed inside his chest. His place in the universe was assured by her side. It didn’t matter if anything made sense any more. Statistics. Logic. Meta-programming. They all boiled away into nothingness in her shadow.

Cold, starving, and broken. Against all odds. Against everything that made the galaxy spin lazily upon its axis. She came for him, and in so doing had successfully overthrown whatever processes governed his consciousness.

Her eyes found his, across a barren wasteland of twisted metal. The lean lines of her body softened. From a force of nature to a fragile human woman within an instant.

“Kaye.” And his name fell from her lips like rain.

“Stardust.” He said so softly it was barely a noise at all. He finally fully understood the word. She was both destruction and salvation at an atomic level. She was the first word in the last song that the universe sang. He missed her so much that his circuits were flooded with what could only be affection.

“Jyn.” He called, louder this time. “Over here.”

His location was obvious in retrospect, but he couldn’t say anything else. Endearments threatened to spill out of him like molten gold and it was all his processors could do to keep any semblance of pride intact.

“Kaye.” She said again and smiled. “I wish I could say this is the happiest I’ve been to see you. But I think this ranks as fourth.”

“The third?” He replied - her smile was an infectious thing. Cassian, in all his years as his master, never had seemed genuinely happy to see him. He found himself addicted to the idea of being missed. It was something he had never encountered before.

She picked her way across the cavern. It was slow going, almost agonizing. He knew her limitations though. He forced his processors to be patient. She was a sack of flesh balancing her way across a field of razorblades.

‘When you saved our asses on Jedha,” Jyn said, huffing brightly. He could make out the curve of her mouth. Jyn kicked over a mechanical arm.

“The second?” K-2SO prodded.

“When you saved our asses on Eadu.” Jyn almost sang back. Smooth, even as she gracelessly untangled herself from a nest of wires.

“The first?” Jyn was closer now. Within reasonable speaking distance.

She paused. All of her radiance, all of her confidence seemed to vanish - as sudden as a solar eclipse.

‘When you saved my ass of Scarif,” her voice broke over that bit. It was lower. Sadder. And less deliberate. As if she wasn't actually sure at all of her words. She wasn’t smiling anymore either.

K-2SO’s previous elation vanished with her smile,

Jyn was next to him now, kneeling in various dirty parts and components. Her hand was at his face, then neck. His perimeter sensors were absolutely silent at her intrusion. The intimacy didn’t bother him like it was supposed to. The opposite in fact.

She lifted the back of his head out from its cradle of muck.

“Kaye, what’s wrong with you?” He could feel her fingers wiping that the bits that clung to the back of his metallic skull. “Why aren’t you moving?’

“There's a restraining bolt on the upper right part of my torso.” he said. “I can’t go very far with it installed.”

“I can see that.” Jyn bit her lip -her eyes picking out the inhibitor on his chest.

“You should be able to remove it by hand.”

She made quick work of it. Magnetic attachments came off with a click into her hands. She eyed it for a moment. With a sudden ferocity she flung it far and away. His auditory receptors tracked it echoing in the distance.

He sat up, but didn't stand. His servo-motors flexed and warmed up.

There was a swipe of red that traced itself from a cut on Jyn’s forehead. It dribbled downwards into a dried clotted mess in her eyebrow. It took him a moment to process what it meant.

“You're hurt.” His hand extended towards her face before he could think better of it. His fingers lingered above the shallow cut. Not touching it. He knew better than that. But somehow concern for Jyn left him in an awkward impasse. He wanted to fix her, but she was a complex system capable fixing herself.

She brushed his hand away gently.

“Won't be the first time of the last.” She said wistfully eyeing the his spider like droid associate. It was closer than he had thought. Only two arm-spans away.

“Can we take it with us?” K-2SO asked before he could think better of it.

“It's not like you to make friends.” Jyn scoffed.

“It's not my friend. But it doesn't deserve to die here.” he replied, thinking of its desperation to see the stars again.

“I thought droids couldn't die.” Jyn replied, the tone in her voice curious instead of condemning.

‘I am rapidly becoming acquainted with the idea that I might have been mistaken.”

“What is it even?” Jyn reached forward, her fingertips gently brushing against one of its fore-legs.

“It’s a BT-16 perimeter droid that is completely convinced that it’s an organic being.”

At her touch the droid warbled in binary. Jyn, of course, didn’t understand it. It was a rough approximation of begging. Binary wasn’t a language built for bargaining for mercy.

“I’ve seen these before. I think. There were a few on Jedha. Pilgrims, mostly from Tatooine. I think you're right- or that its right. It’s alive.”

“I find myself unconvinced.”

“No, look.” Her hands skated around the protruding bulb that extended from its abdomen, dragon up muck and dust. She took a piece of her shirt and wiped at the transparisteel sphere. Grime slid away to reveal a container filled with some sort of viscous fluid- and inside it, an organic brain.

“Told you so.” She preened.

K-2SO had an entire library of expletives nestled within his databanks. None of them seemed to fully encompass his simultaneous disgust and awe.

“This thing is a member of the B’omarr Order. These… people, believe in their deepest heart of hearts that in order to reach the highest state of enlightenment, they need to shed their physical forms. It leaves them unable to be distracted by physical diversions and limitations. Only then can they be free to ponder the wonders of the universe.” Jyn scoffed. “I wonder how that’s going for him.”

“Not well I should think,” K-2SO replied, barely keeping the revulsion out of his vocabulators. “I’m starting to reassess my initial request.”

“Curious that he’s here on this rock. There must be some sort of cloister or temple nearby. It's hard for them to survive on their own. Usually these monks have a small legion of devotees to cater to their every whim.”

“You're surprisingly well informed on the subject.”

“Saw had some under his employ as spies. But he kept me far and away from them. While useful, there were whispers that not all of the inductees were willing. Not that anyone could prove it. Not that it took much for him to be wary anyway.”

K-2SO felt a twinge of unease at that, but Jyn began unearthing the rest of the creature. Its legs flailed helplessly in the air. Her hands found another restraining bolt carefully hidden against a notch in his abdomen.

“Jyn.” He said. “Are you certain this is a good idea?”

“Well, it was your idea, right?” She replied.

“Yes, but that was before I had carefully considered all the variables.”

Cassian at this point would have said no. K-2SO was unused to being listened to like this. He used to be bitter about his own lack of control over any given situation- but now, looking back on it, maybe that was for the best. Because currently his own ideas included rescuing a creature that was neither machine or organic, that was possibly insane, and that also possessed had a very threatening defensive array.

“We can't leave him down here, regardless of what he is.”

“I'm finding your insistence of caring for other life forms might be the death of us.”

“Funny,” The faintest trace smile lingered on her lips, the lilt of her voice was playful. “Because that same trait was your salvation, Target Practice.”

“Fine, I deserved that.”

Jyn twisted off the restraining bolt and the B’omarr abruptly twisted its abdomen into a standing position. It happened so fast that Jyn barely had time to flinch and pull away. The creature teetered back and forth on uncertain legs- various bits of scrap and detritus cascaded from the pile in its wake.

Jyn backed away slowly, her weapon was holstered and her arms were outstretched in a soothing gesture. For all of her ferocity and elegance- she could be rather stupid at times. Soothing a thing such as this in a dangerous pit was ill-advised and pointless.

“Easy, I’m not going to hurt you.” She said. As if on cue, the creature’s entire defensive array pointed at her. A laser target appeared across her forehead. K-2SO stumbled into a flurry of motion. His primary control systems were still booting up. “And please don’t hurt hurt me,” she continued.

Just as suddenly- its weapons powered down, which was convenient, as K-2SO was still struggling to get himself into an upward position. Jyn slowly traveled back to his side, kicking various bits of scrap out of the way.

“If you hurt her I will kill you in the slowest way possible.”He whistled in binary.

The B’omarr said nothing.

“We are taking you with us.” Jyn soothed. “Don’t worry. We’re getting you out of here. Just give us a moment and we’ll be on our way.”

The creature backed away and waited.

“Glad that's settled. Looks like we’re all waiting you, Target Practice - you coming?” Jyn said- her voice carried like a sardonic bird's.

Then Jyn’s hand grasped his own. She tried to pull him upwards from the scrap pile - forgetting that he was a droid and forgetting he weighed approximately four times her body weight. It was endearing in a way. He liked the idea that he needed her help, because in a small way he probably did.

Just like she needed him. Whether she acknowledged it or not. She would always come for him. He was convinced now. Odds meant nothing.

He followed her soft pull and stood upwards, pretending for a moment he was her equal in weight and stature. It was almost natural. It required an obscene re-allocation of power to his legs, but it was worth it.

“Why did you save me?” his vocabulators stuttered over the question - but he needed to know.

“I thought it would be obvious. You’re the only thing I have left.” she replied easily, but then tightened the grip on his hand. “Tell me truly this time. Why did you save me? On Scarif? You knew Cassian was dead. You could have forfeited any standing orders he had. You knew the cause had to have been lost. Logically, you have to admit the odds were terrible.”

K-2SO paused, realizing that they were holding hands. An exceedingly human gesture. He squeezed her hand back gently.

She had asked this before. But she had earned all of his secrets and then some.

“Because you're the only thing I have left too.” he replied.

Chapter Text

"Slow down, did you want to hear it again?
It's something that you do, but you never knew
Can you slow down, I can hardly hear what you're saying
The fuck you never knew, when you climbed into bed."

 

Leaving the depot had been considerably easier than anticipated. The few steps outside the blast door, however, were proving more difficult than anticipated.

Rain had come in on crooked feet across the city, smattering buildings upwards and sideways. Jyn supposed it made sense. In all technicality there was no up or down in the city. Just ground and in-between. Within seconds of leaving the depot it soaked through her jacket down to her skin.

Kaye was the second to emerge - she could hear the gentle pinging of rain off his chassis. The servo-motors that powered his shoulders sank dejectedly at the turn in the artificial weather.

“Of course it would be raining.” He grumbled.

Then B’omarr stepped outside with all the timidness of infant. Its steps were unsure and carefully allocated and it's legs never extended to their full length. The primary defensive array splayed and twitched - its built in blasters preparing for an ambush that probably wasn’t coming.

“It's okay.” Jyn tried to soothe, but her words seemed to fall on deaf audio receptors.

It whistled and beeped at Kaye in a language she couldn't understand. The complex binary language of mechanical beings was far beyond her.

He whistled back. Even in a sing-song dialect, he was very much himself. His voice oozed seriousness and sarcasm in a lower pitch. Direct but fluid. Clicks and beeps seemed to punctuate statements like the curving end of a song refrain. Kaytoo sounded very much like a big grumpy bird. She found she liked it.

After some back-and-forth Kaye moved to her side, giving the B’omarr a wide berth. The B’omarr itself began to emit a high pitched whine.

“He’s signaling to his ‘employees’.” Kaye elaborated. “The signal could not travel when he was so deep underground.”

“Right.”

“He’s formally requested for us to remain here until he is picked up.”

“That could be ages Kaye-”

Suddenly, six people ripped from the sky. Their jet-packs flared so hot it was hard to see anything else. Jyn shielded her eyes from the brightness and billowing rain. But Kaytoo was a step ahead. He grabbed the blaster from her holster in one swift movement and placed his body between her and their incoming party.

Kaye snarled in garbled binary - the grumpy bird had turned into an enraged reptile.

The troop of six were armed to the teeth. All of them were in Mandalorian armor - their masked and helmeted faces betrayed no emotion. Each outfit was a different color, earthy tones from blue to gold. All of them had the same symbol, a crude graphic representation of a fish eating another fish. The prey animal in turn, was eating its predators tail - in a small circle.

The closest of them immediately stalked towards the B’omarr - seemingly ignoring Jyn and Kaytoo. Unfortunately the others had no same computation. They all tracked their laser rifles right on the spot on which they were standing.

“We have come for Ka’tesh Elal.” The second closest boomed, as if that had explained everything.

The first Mandalorian examined the B’omarr, her hand gently running over its legs - then the bulb that housed its brain. She seemed almost reverent. The others remained more stiff limbed and militant.

The B’omarr beeped and sang pitifully into the Mandalorian’s palm

“I thought you said it was a monk?” Kaye commented quietly.

“Well. Apparently I was wrong. It happens sometimes.” Jyn replied. “What is it saying? Is it alright?”

“More than alright apparently. These are the compatriots it was waiting for. And it's taking the opportunity to complain.”

“Not about us I hope.”

“If it was, you would very much be dead by now. And I would be parts.”

The first Mandalorian whipped around then - the line of her body straight as a laserbolt. She marched over to them like Stormtrooper. The thump of her boots was precise and deadly.

“I take it you are the ones who rescued my employer?” She huffed through her helmet.

“Yes.” Jyn and Kaytoo responded in unison.

“He conveys his thanks. He also would like to invite you to his palace at your earliest convenience. “

Jyn stifled a laugh at that.

“It would be wise not to keep him waiting on that offer, by the way. My master always pays his debts- but it sours his mood to be kept waiting.”

“Of course.” Jyn replied- because it was all she could do to keep her smart mouth shut around people with a lot of blasters.

“I’m glad we of the same understanding,” she replied imperiously, and extracted a small data chip from a pouch at her waist. “His card.”

Jyn stepped out from behind Kaye and took it.

“Please don’t make us come get you.” She said, and turned away. Her hand pointed two fingers in the air in some sort of signal. The remaining Mandalorians walked over to the standing B’omarr and lifted him a few inches off of the ground - carrying him like someone would carry an old fashioned casket, one without anti-grav emitters.

It was a hilarious picture. Jyn would have giggled if she had the energy, and if she was absolutely certain someone wouldn't shoot her for it.

Over the throng of his employees, the B’omarr tittered something. It was short and final sounding. A goodbye she had assumed. Kaytoo didn’t argue to the contrary.

Jyn and Kaytoo waited until they passed out of sight. Only then did they begin to make their way back to the ship.

-------------------------------------

“You should teach me binary sometime. I'd like to learn.”

The shuttle felt impossibly small with both of them back in it. Kaytoo took up the same amount of space as he had always done. But now something had changed. She couldn't quite put her finger on it- but things felt less easy and more awkward. This was her attempt to fill the suffocating silence.

“Organics have trouble making the correct vocalizations required for that kind of speech.” He replied off-handedly. Kaye seated on the infantry bench, fastidiously wiping the grime out from the servos inside his knees.

“So you're saying I would be terrible at it.” Jyn shivered. Her clothes were absolutely soaked through from the journey and she didn't dare turn on the heat. Instead she paced about the cabin - willing herself to warm up.

“Yes, but I was attempting to be polite about it. Any droid can understand you just fine anyway. There is not a droid In operation that does not know standard.”

“I'd at least like to know what you're saying.” Jyn allowed herself to smile- even though her jaw was clenched to keep her teeth from chattering.

“Suspicious?”

“Curious.” She nudged his leg playfully with her boot. “It's not like we don't have the time.”

“I still don't understand why it would matter to you.”

“I'd like to know more about my friend.”

“Your friend?” A tone of synthetic jealousy entered his voice, but he continue his work on his knees, not bothering to look up. “Certainly not the B’omarr. We barely know him.”

“I'm talking about you, Target Practice. I'd like to know more about you.”

“Oh.” He paused then. His face tilted upward to meet her own.

“Yeah. Oh,” she nudged again.

“You consider me a friend.”

“What else would I consider you?” Her voice carried both amusement and disbelief.

“Property.” He answered quickly. “I was never Cassian’s friend.”

“You don't really mean that, do you?” Jyn dropped down to the bench next to him. Curious and somewhat disappointed with his answer.

“I am a droid. I was built to be incapable of feeling organic friendship.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t.”

“That remains to be seen.” Kaytoo went back to work, grabbing the nearest spanner and tightening a fastener on his upper leg.

“I hate to break it to you Kaye, but you and Cassian were indeed friends. You were also friends with Baze, Bodhi and Chirrut. And you are also friends with me.”

“Friendship requires the parties on both sides to feel illogical but equal levels of affection.”

“I'm your friend Kaye.” Jyn said, mildly affronted. She pulled herself up from the bench and walked to the other side of the hold. “Whether you like it or not. You don't have to believe me. And I don't need you to. And If our other friends were alive, I would bet you whatever credits I have left that they would say the same thing.”

Jyn began to stretch then - her arms raised over her head like she had seen in Mon Calimari ballet holo-vids. She was never much of a dancer, but she did admire the way dancer’s bodies moved. She wished she had that same kind of grace and poise in her movements. Unfortunately, she was taught to be brutal and economical. Not pretty.

Her legs bent forward and she pushed her body as far as it could go. Like synth-rubber or taffy. After a moment she was rewarded with a series of popping noises

“That is disgusting.” Kaye called from the bench.

“Oh, I'm sorry.” She replied. “I happen to be made of muscles and tendons. You don't see me complaining about you calibrating your inner circuitry or whatever.”

Kaytoo immediately dropped the spanner.

“No. No. Please continue.” Jyn stretched once more. “Sleeping on metal and traipsing through a garbage pit puts a lot of stress on my joints. Just like yours. It's uncomfortable.”

Kaytoo still stared from the bench. His eyes darting to follow her movements. A moment passed before Jyn decided to fill the silence.

“You know,” she said, kneading her left tricep. “Back when I wasn’t an escaped convict, my mother used give massages to my father. Not the kind the brothel beings give- though I’m sure they’re nice-” Jyn popped her neck then continued onward. “When we ran from the Empire, my father picked up farming. He said it would be easy. ‘Jyn, farming is just another kind of science. I’m scientist. Don’t worry, it will be fine.’ That sort of thing. As I’m sure you can guess- it wasn’t quite.”

“Nothing ever is it seems.” Kaytoo replied. “At least in your case.”

“My family used all of their money to escape and bribes don’t come cheap. Neither does land or a house- regardless of how backwater the planet may be. If anything the quietness of it was worth more than my weight in credit chips. It was rough for the first two months. My father and mother couldn't really afford help. The droid that came with the farm was only really skilled in repair and scouting, not really one built for labor intensive tasks. They would both come home with callouses and blood caked around their fingers. Both of them were scientists- that was true. They were exceptionally clever at growing things- especially my mother. But both of them were also soft-skinned and weak from being lovingly cared for by the Empire.”

Jyn took a moment to pause. She realized far too late that she was giving away a small part of herself she had never intended to. It wasn’t a huge thing, by any means- but it had been a while since she had told anyone a true story about herself or where she came from.

“They were tired and breaking,” she elaborated. “But my father insisted on tilling the fields himself. He would come home and collapse on the bed. I could here his wheezing from the other room. My mother would be at his side instantly. She would brush his hair back from his face and sing low, nonsense songs. Her hands would rubs the knots of muscle out his back and he would sigh like some sort of air compressor. Back then I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. I was young and I didn’t know that kind of pain. All I knew were my toys and imaginary friends.”

Jyn sighed long and hard then. The last of her story taking whatever energy she had left.

“But I guess now I do.” she said finally. “And I’m getting too old for this Kaytoo.”

The Droid cocked his head to the side.

“Are you in pain now?” He asked.

“I’m aching, cold and sore. I’m also not particularly looking forward to trying to sleep tonight. I’d almost much rather stay awake.”

Kaytoo seemed to consider this. He flexed his hands but said nothing. Jyn briefly wondered if Droids understood pain like humans did. Maybe she was describing a feeling that was so completely foreign he couldn't process it. It would be like explaining color to a color-blind species.

“But,” she yawned. “I guess it's time for bed. I’m not sure I have much choice in the matter.”

Jyn stripped off her jacket carelessly, then her over-shirt. They were too wet to do her any good tonight. She kept her pants and undershirt. Half of it was because she was paranoid someone would try to break into the ship during the night. Half of it was because she had some modesty- even if her brain said Kaye was just a machine, somewhere deep down it didn't seem right.

Her pallet on the floor was even more pathetic than she had remembered. It looked more like a nest of some feral beast than a bed. Capes. Scraps of fabric. Discarded clothes. It was pitiful and she was looking forward to a long night shivering in the half-dark.

She crawled inside of it like an animal. She could hear Kaytoo pushing himself off the infantry bench. The lights when off with a click. She had expected him to return to his spot on the infantry bench, but he lingered.

“Would you mind if I tried something?” He asked. She stared at his two eyes- brighter now the bulkhead lights were off. They shifted almost imperceptibly, but Jyn was unable to read an emotion if there was one.

“Yeah. Go for it.” Jyn replied carelessly.

And then suddenly, without much preamble, K-2SO was in Jyn’s makeshift bed.

He was careful about it, but it was very apparent a three-hundred pound droid right next to her. He was so close he would hear the soft whirring of his internal components. Jyn had no clue what to think. Her reaction time to syrupy slow almost-standstill.

“Do you trust me?” He asked.

All Jyn could do was nod dumbly in response. Because she was curious. Because she did trust him. Because If she commanded him he would stop whatever it was he was planning to do.

Suddenly warm hands were at her shoulders, removing the ratty blankets and sheets, parting them to the side. He could feel his hesitation for a moment, then they suddenly slid up her shirt.

She flinched and pulled away immediately.

“I thought you trusted me.” There was a tone of sadness in his voice.

“I do.” Jyn replied- willing her heart back out of her throat. She pressed backwards, back into his arms. His fingers once more traveled up her back.

“Then please do not resist.” he said softly, his head next to her ear.

His palms felt like hot stones against her skin. They were smooth, dry, and careful. He straightened out her limbs from their rigid fetal position and into his lap. Arms and legs were rearranged in such a way that soon Kaytoo was curled over her, both of them sitting upright with her back against his chest.

“Breathe.” He said, with a hint of amusement. “I'm fairly certain you need oxygen to survive.”

Jyn took a breath she realized she'd been holding. She watched it puff into out into the air like some sort of ethereal phantom, pointedly ignoring the awkwardness of the current situation at hand.

Kaytoo pushed her forward slightly and lifted her shirt, leaving her back fully exposed. both his hands were on her shoulders, warm - almost painfully so against the cold. He felt like her memories of Suns. He was one of those stars so close to a planet they scorched, burned, and gave life.

It felt… nice.

She had been without true daylight for weeks now.

And then his fingers were curling up her neck to the base of her skull. Slow, reverent movements gliding down over her shoulder blades. Palms pushing down on the tops of her shoulders, removing tension and decades of stored up pressure. Long languid strokes smoothing out worn and tired muscles.

A shiver traced it's way up her spine that had nothing to do with the cold.

Kaytoo continued working pressure points. Hands gently kneading knots against her vertebrae.Thumbs pressing gently into pockets of stiffness. It was almost methodical, as if he was carefully straightening a piece of fabric or calibrating a security console. Time drifted and Jyn's head was a fuzzy mess.

It was a while before she realized she was no longer freezing.

Kaytoo was simultaneously warming her joints and increasing her blood flow. She could feel the swell of oxytocin that he was coaxing out of her. It muddied her brain and dissolved what was left of a migraine that she didn't even know was growing until it was gone.

He was attempting to comfort her. Like her mother did for her father.
But it was still strange. This kind of physical empathy should have been a foreign concept to him. It was like a wookie suddenly being able speak in perfect Standard. Highly, highly unlikely.

“I thought you were a security droid, not a masseuse.” She managed to say.

“And I thought you were a rebel outlaw, not a critic.”

“Point taken.” Jyn ceded, because was having a difficult time verbalizing an argument.

He pressed his hand across her hips, and something strange curled itself in her belly.

No. She was familiar with that feeling. The same thing that twisted in her gut when Cassian had smiled. And she quelled it immediately.

K-2SO was a droid.

Droids had no concept of intimacy. This was all business for him. Cause and effect for a desired outcome. It was unfair for her to use him like this, or for her body to have its own agenda in the matter. What he was doing was wholly innocent. He was just trying to help.

“I think I feel better now, thank you.” She said quickly,her body reluctantly pulling itself away- even though most her muscles were shouting for him to continue.

“I'm glad my efforts have been sufficient.” He seemed hesitant to stop as well, his fingers still lingered at the small of her back. ”I also have another idea as well.”

“Oh?”

“I actually thought of it while I was attempting to buy blankets.” he paused. “And I’m not sure if there is a correct way to say this. Or a protocol.”

“Well, at this point I don’t think correct and us go together. So I wouldn’t worry about that.”

“You should let me sleep with you.” The words stumbled out his vocabulators without a trace of emotion.

Jyn raised her eyebrows and her stomach twisted itself into knots. Was she that pathetic? Was she that obvious? Was she in that much desperate need for a fuck that Kaye decided it was a good idea to bestow it? She doubted he was well versed in human courtship ritual.

“Rather forward of you don't you think?” She quipped, with a hit of a snarl. Her voice failed to make it light and humorous. “You haven't even bought me dinner.”

Kaytoo rolled his mechanical eyes and let out static whine akin to frustration. His arms wrapped themselves around her torso. Jyn didn’t struggle.

“Spare me.” His voice was the ghost of a laugh. “What I mean to say is that I can adjust my external temperature up to one-hundred-and-six degrees standard.

“Convenient.” she mumbled. Her stomach slowly began to untangle itself.

“I never did find you blankets.The least I could do is be an adequate replacement in the interim.”

“What about you? Functioning as my own personal space heater can't be comfortable for you. I doubt it's in your base programming.”

“I'll survive.” He gently eased her back down into the clothes pile. “And more importantly so will you. You haven't been sleeping well. I have been remiss in my duties and attentions and I assure you it won't happen again.”

“Right.” She huffed, but began to relax. “Because your duties and attentions involve babysitting. I can take care of myself.”

“But you don't have to. I'm here.” He brushed a lock of hair out of her face.

“But see that's what I don't get it Kaye, “ she yawned. “Why go through all this trouble on my account?”

“You deserve to be happy.”

“You don't know what I deserve.” she grumbled.

“I know it's more than shuddering in a corner of a broken Imperial shuttle craft.”

He gathered her against his body then, forming a pocket of warmth between him and the inner hull. Jyn was bundled inside, draped in ratty blankets but cozy. Kaytoo cradled her from behind and pressed his faceplate against the back of her neck. Heat blossomed all the way down her spine, making it incredibly difficult to argue.

“I'm your friend Jyn.” Kaytoo’s vocabulators buzzed against her skin. “Whether you like it or not. You said so yourself. You can order me to stop caring of course, but it's all the same to you - I'd rather stay here. Like this. With you, the woman who trusted me enough to give me a blaster and the woman who saved me from a garbage pit.”

A metal hand wound itself around her own and settled against her chest.

“Just please just let me take care of you. It would save us both a lot of grief.”

“You know, Cassian never described you as particularly persuasive.”

“And Cassian never described you as headstrong, brave, or selfless to a degree that's almost borderline idiocy. But here we are.”

“Fine. You win this round Kaye, just don't get used to it.”

“Noted.”

“Goodnight Kaytoo.”

He pulled her closer so her body curved against his like a perfect interlocking piece. Jyn wrapped her arms around his, their fingers still entwined.

“Goodnight Jyn.” He replied.

And there they were. Two broken creatures holding each other in the dark.

And for the first time in years Jyn slept soundly. She dreamt of lush grass, vibrant trees and two binary stars ever watchful over a pitch night sky.

Chapter Text

Desire was a basic concept for a Droid. It's a want for a certain outcome. Droids were molded from want. Built from need.

It was simple binary.

As far as biological lifeforms were concerned- Where there is a zero, there must be a one. Nothing needed something. Negative space needed positive space. He was meant to fulfill that need - albeit on a more complex level.

K-2SO’s creators and masters had endless commands and expectations. Too much disorder? Make it orderly, clean and precise to the decimal point. Kill some rebel scum. Too much order? Kidnap a convict from Imperial clutches and steal the plans for the most deadly weapon the universe had ever known.

It could be dizzying the scope of demands his own programming had endured within his operational history.

But desire wasn't a feeling strong enough within a droid’s own programming to be a motivator. Droids were the embodiment of fulfillment. They were the ones against the zeros. They were not the ones who needed or wanted.

At least most Droids were.

But K-2SO was not in the same category as most droids anymore. He was struggling. He desired. He wanted, yearned and needed. He could feel it deep within this chassis - like his core was molten and dripping. A slow burning, melting and compressed part of him that was leeching into other systems.

Unfortunately, he had no idea what the object of his desire was. His programming wasn't intimate enough with the concept or nuanced enough to fixate on a suggestion.

Instead his processors were spinning circles. Circles didn't begin or end - but somehow, the desire started with Jyn. And the cache of unique emotions and experiences pertaining only to her grew and grew with each nano-second. He knew he was malfunctioning for certain now. But he couldn't bring himself to rectify the problem. And he was loath to call it a problem at all.

From the moment Jyn found him it the scrap pit, things felt different. A good kind of different - but the kind of different that changed some part of him he could not identify. His his pre-programmed devotion had mutated into something that was creative, brave, and driving. Thoughts pertaining to Jyn coalesced into endless fascinating permutations that sang without number, and without measurable data. The weight of the experience seemed to pull from his new power source - Jyn’s Kyber crystal. The energy it provided seemed eager to feed his rogue processes and then some.
If he completely assessed the situation, nothing had felt ‘right’ since the death of Cassian. But this, holding her in his arms while she slept- felt like he had suddenly fulfilled every directive ingrained in his circuits. There was a completeness that thrummed throughout his entire being. He was in an infinite feedback loop of satisfaction. Some of his sub-processes even began to calculate scenarios it which he wouldn't have to let go. Ever.

Few memories rivaled the sensation. His only comparison was his first time piloting a ship or his first gaze at the stars, or the smirk of a previous master.

But like all good things, it didn’t last.

Five hours and thirty six minutes into Jyn’s sleep cycle, she had kicked him. Hard. Hard enough that his systems booted up threat protocols that he had to manually disengage.

He knew it was an accident, that much was obvious. She had been calling out in her sleep only moments before. It had been intelligible but more than once his audio receptors picked up the name ‘Cassian’.

“Has anyone ever told you that you are exceptional at cuddling.” Jyn groggily muttered, awakened by the ordeal.

“Obviously not.” K-2SO quietly replied, and began to pull away as his presence was finally deemed unneeded.

“No, no, no stay. It was nice. I didn't mean to make you self conscious.” Jyn pulled him back.

“Droids are incapable of feeling self conscious,” He replied.

“If you say so. I'm sorry for kicking you by the way.” She nestled herself against his breastplate, curling herself into him as much as space would allow. A system diagnostic cron flagged an operational change. A handful of small operational faculties were brought back online.

“No offense taken.” He murmured, reaching to touch his external sensory input. His hand drifted casually against her torso. “Interestingly enough. I think you've managed to realign my olfactory sensors.”

“I'm sure that wasn't much of a favor either. I bet I smell horrendous.” Jyn huffed.

But K-2SO pressed her closer. Something like a playful challenge. But also for other reasons he couldn't quite name.

“You smell like human sweat, wet clothes, durasteel, lithium, and copper. But my sensors are not picking up anything horrendous.”

“It's impressive how you can lie without lying Kaye.”

“If you say so,” He countered.

Jyn drifted for a moment. Her hands unfolded themselves and traced their way up his torso and landed on his shoulder. She seemed content for the moment to let her fingers trace the plating that made up his mechanical tricep.

“Does it bother you that you have the Imperial insignia painted on your arms?”

Some distant processes froze to analyze the statement. It had never occurred to him that his new owner would care about what he looked like aesthetically. But she was human and more emotionally oriented than Cassian. Or at least it seemed. It would only make sense she would be concerned. The word choice was odd - but it was obvious the Imperial cogwheel was not a comforting sight to her.

“Does it bother you?” He queried back.

“No.” She said after some hesitation. A lie perhaps. “I suppose it's a part of you. I never asked about your story Kaytoo. Do you remember anything- you know, before the re-program?”

K-2SO stilled at the question.
He knew who he was before and What he was. He didn't remember what he did specifically- but he had met his previous function parameters. He had conversed with the remnants of previous programming. None of which were pleasant in the politest of terms.

He was keenly reminded of his torture protocols - squirreled far and away from his higher processes. It wasn’t something he could escape. Deep down he knew how to make over a thousand life forms beg for mercy or beg for death. He knew how to shoot straight and deadly and was well versed in millions of different types of weaponry. He was an instrument of enforced order and destruction.

But Jyn was nestled in his arms as if she was done the wiser. She had to know. Why else would she bring up the insignia? Was this a test to prove his loyalty? To prove her safety?

He wasn't certain.

“They took my memories from me,” He replied carefully. “All of them. Standard memory wipe. But Cassian had mentioned he had saved all the data I had accumulated in a back up memory bank. It was too useful to the rebellion at the time to part with.”

“Did you want to find them someday?” Her voice carried a hopeful note.

“Find what?” He queried. Knowing full well what she was asking, but biding time to process an acceptable answer.

“Your memories. If we ever get back to the rebellion, would you want to find them?”

“No.” He said. Because he didn’t really know what else to say.

“Okay.” Jyn replied just as shortly. Her face a stony mask of what seemed to be disappointment.

“I like who I am now.” K-2SO elaborated.

“It all sounds horribly lonely.” Jyn sidled upwards so her face was at level with his and made eye contact. She looked almost sad then. “I can at least remember my family and what love feels like. At least I remember the warmth of a sun. An ocean against my feet. The wind in my hair. I'm not sure who I would be without those memories.”

“I'd rather not ache for things I once had. It sounds even more lonely to me.” he quipped.

Jyn hissed then, rigid with what could only be frustration. Her face contorted into an unreadable expression. Half annoyance and half something else. She hastily pulled herself up and out of the pallet, ripping herself from his arms. He could hear her feet as they angrily stomped to the cockpit. His body pulled itself upright to follow.

“I’m sorry, I didn't mean to insult you,” he called.

“It alright.” She said in a way to make it clear it wasn't alright at all. “You're incapable of understanding, It would unfair of me to expect you to empathize.”

Jyn wasn't even looking at him now. The sudden change had caught him off guard. And then it hit him. She wasn't looking for proof of his loyalty, or her safety. She was looking to find someone who could understand loss.

He wasn’t meeting her requirements. Furthermore, he had caused her some unhappiness. He had navigated that conversation terribly.

She was shivering without the warmth he had produced. Her arms wrapped themselves around her torso futilely. He wanted so very badly to take her in his arms so that she would never be cold again. But now was not the time.

Instead, he placed a hand on her shoulder and presented up a secret part of himself like a peace offering.
“I miss Cassian too.” He said - letting the words out of his vocabulators with all the softness he possessed. “And Bodhi. And Baze. And Chirrut. As much as I am capable I miss them too.”

Jyn yanked his hand away. A scowl. A sudden fury. She whirled on him backed him up against the hull, as if she were a vicious creature cornering a her prey. He would have remarked upon the absurdity of it, if he wasn't actively engaged in what seemed to be a conflict.

“So which is it Kaye?” She growled. “Tell me. Do you feel things? Do you have emotions? Do you actually care? Or not? Because I don't understand you at all. You tell me one thing and then another.”

“I do… not follow.” he stammered.

“This is binary Kaytoo. A single question. A yes or a no. Are you capable of love?

“Droids have been deemed incapable,” he evaded. “And I am a Droid. I am not in a position to argue that any of my social algorithms are the same as biological emotions.”

“And yet you say that you miss them.” Jyn snarled on the offensive. “But they were never your friends. And you've already said that you are incapable of outright lying.”

His haptic feedback array could feel her breath on his faceplate. Warm, like the winds on Jedha. He could see her pulse and hear it - just beneath the delicate tendons of her neck.

“What are you doing?” he asked. Jyn had a goal here. One that he wasn’t sophisticated enough to grasp. He felt unbalanced. Hot. Strange. He suddenly knew what prey animals felt like - but somehow it wasn't as unpleasant as he had calculated. She had caught him in some kind of trap. One that he never knew existed. One that he belatedly realized Cassian must have fallen into. It would have explained his emotional inconsistencies whenever Jyn was involved. K-2SO didn’t even possess the full spectrum of human emotion, but Jyn was certainly doing a number on whatever ones he had.

“I'm trying to figure you out.” She replied. Her lips were close, closer than they had ever been. His optics focused on them in all their extraordinary detail. The stickiness the lingered at the edges as they separated. The slick shine of human saliva. The glint of her teeth as she formed sounds that became words, and words that became sentences.

It was then that his desire finally had a name.

He wanted to know what Jyn’s lips felt like.

“I doubt I'm all that complicated.” He posited, trying to shut down whatever infant process his desire came from, isolate it, and analyze it later. He was desperate to de-escalate whatever this situation was.

“On the contrary. You don't make sense to me.” Her eyes were level with his optics, challenging. Her irises were a sea of color. Grey, green, gold, brown and blue - making a color that had no name. A roiling ocean. A storm barely contained by her sclera.

She touched his faceplate then, just the tips of her fingers. Her thumb swiping a line under his left optic. The pads of her fingers left static in their wake. He had never been touched like this. Not with such singular intent. Not with such focus. He now was acutely aware how how he had touched her only a few hours ago. How his hands almost shook as they traveled over the planes of her back. How the arcs of her muscles moved like corded rope. How soft her skin was at the nape of her neck.

She was doing something to him. That much was certain.

And she had made a being entirely made of durasteel and synth-plastic vulnerable.

‘KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK’

Someone was hammering on the entrance to the main hold.

Jyn pulled away then, he fingers snapping back to her sides - as if they had never touched him in the first place. He watched her swallow, the knot at her throat ghosting just beneath her skin. Her hurricane eyes became gentle, melancholy.

“Maybe It’s all my imagination.” Jyn’s voice was barely above a whisper. She turned to answer their caller. There was a brief flurry of holster finding, jacket fastening, and hair pulling. Even over all of her quick preparations- he could hear her heart hammering like footsteps in an empty hallway, or space debris against the hull of a ship.

And then, before he could think better of it, he grabbed her arm just before she was about to answer the door. His fingers traveling to find the pulse beneath the veins of her wrist, then the palm of her hand.

“Perhaps I can afford you more clarity in the future.” His vocabulators crackled.

Jyn for her part flushed. Her cheeks reddened. With anger or embarrassment - he wasn't sure. But she nodded. The gleam of her teeth both a snarl and a smirk.

“Somehow,” She said like a sigh. “I doubt it. You always speak you mind Kaye. It’s not your fault I’m searching for something that isn’t there and listening only for things I want to hear.”

K-2SO cocked his head to the side, waiting for her to elaborate. But she didn't. Instead she turned away and slipped from his grasp - leaving only warm static in its wake. Her hand quickly slammed against the blast door control.

He decided then and there that he had failed this conversation.

And that it seemed that if everything was indeed binary: yes and no, good and bad, ones and zeros, a universe of inverses and opposites - that the opposite of desire was emptiness.

Without Jyn, he was empty. Very empty. And that he would do anything to never feel empty again.

Chapter Text

The Mandelorian woman was back. It hadn't even been seven hours. Jyn would have been filled with indignant fury if it wasn't for the fact that her visitor was also heavily armed. She was flanked by six droids - all IG models of some sort. They looked well maintained and expensive. Their polished chassis reflected the lights off the surrounding buildings. It was still raining outside. Water dripped off their armor in thin rivulets.

Jyn could practically hear Kaye stand at attention behind her. She knew he was trying to look just as intimidating. Unfortunately, if it came down to it, she doubted Kaytoo would stand a chance in hell against the other droids. He was woefully maintained and it was a small miracle he was still functioning at all. Both issues were, of course, her fault.

“Long time no see.” Jyn said leaned against the shuttle’s threshold, staying out of the downpour. “Did you miss us that much?”

If Jyn was honest with herself, the woman's presence was conveniently timed. Jyn was in the middle of ripping holes in the only personal relationship she had left and was dangerously close to doing something incredibly stupid.

“Ka’Tesh Elal has demanded your presence.” The woman boomed. Her voice echoed across the platform as if she were some herald from millennia past. It even drowned out the sound of rain.

“I thought you said at our earliest convenience. This is not convenient.” Kaytoo snarkily interjected.

“I also told you not to make him wait.” Her snarl oozed across her communicator.

“Awfully demanding for someone who’s skin we just saved. Metaphorically.” Jyn replied, tilting her head towards Kaye. Continued exposure to his sarcasm had made it infectious. There was something appealing about treating every situation at arm's length.

“I am to take you to see him. He said nothing about a willing participation. You will dine with him tonight in appropriate attire.”

“Is he even capable of processing the required nutrients?” Kaye asked.

“Yes, can your employer even eat?” Jyn folded her arms.

“That is none of you concern.” She replied quickly. “You are to come with me. Now.”

“But I have nothing to wear,” She said dramatically. Hand over brow in a satirical ennui expression. It was overkill, and very much unlike her, but everything that held her patience and consideration in check had evaporated with most of Scarif.

“You will come with me or I will carry you. My blaster has a stun setting.”

“If you try anything without Jyn Erso’s explicit consent, I calculate your chances of survival to be very low.” Kaytoo threatened.

The IG droids raised their weapons and the air hummed thickly with ordinance. It was enough to make her heart stop in her chest.

“What my droid means to say is that we would be honored to accompany you to see Ka’tesh Elal.” Jyn quickly amended.

“That’s not what I meant at all-” She cut him off with a hard nudge and an even harder look.

“We will provide adequate apparel.” The woman replied stiffly. “We will take you to get cleaned up before entering Ka’tesh Elal’s presence. You will be made presentable. Follow me.”

Jyn instantly regretted her comment about her clothes. The very last thing she had wanted was to be dragged to dinner in whatever passed as presentable these days. She didn't like the idea of being paraded around in flouncy impractical frippery. But she stepped forward anyway. Kaye followed in lockstep, like her own personal shadow.

Water began to soak her hair within seconds, but one of the droids presented a plasma umbrella. The moment rain made contact with the floating lightfield it evaporated into nothingness. It was a showy, expensive, and rather pointless piece of tech. Jyn rolled her eyes at it but the Mandelorian didn’t see. She had already made an about face and began to stride across the platform to an airspeeder that looked more expensive than most of the fully-fledged ships at the docking station. It was overly stylish and long. The bright yellow paint made her eyes water.

“What is your name?” Jyn called.

“Thant Rigar-Ressa.” She paused then, as if considering her next words. “Hand of Ka’tesh Elal the skin walker. High-Admiral of the fleet of Kafrene and Head of Security. And, for the record, I am not someone to be trifled with.” She punctuated the sentence by opening up the speeder door violently.

“Who is Ka’tesh Elal to you people?” Jyn frowned. The title employer started to feel like a massive understatement.

“He would prefer to tell you himself. My job is to get you there.” Thant gestured to the seats inside impatiently. Jyn was corralled into the back with Kaytoo. The IG droids collected themselves up near front and Thant took the driver’s seat.

“Could you at least tell us where we are going?” Jyn let some nervousness seep into her voice, her hand edging toward her holster. In such a confined space she was beginning to be filled with apprehension. Courage was bleeding out of her and it was all she could do to save face. Her heart was racing in her ears.

Suddenly, Kaytoo pulled himself closer. His long legs were touching hers even though there was plenty of space in the expansive interior. One of his long arms draped around her shoulders protectively. He wasn't looking at her, not directly. His focus was on the driver.

“As I said before. Dinner.” Thant replied carelessly.

“How wildly specific.” Kaytoo grumbled.

But Thant decided not to deign that with a response.

Jyn took a deep breath and tried to settle her heart rate. She wasn't sure why she cared so much. On a mental level, she couldn’t be bothered to care one way or the other where she went. But some feral part of her argued otherwise.

“I suppose it doesn’t matter Kaye. Nothing really does, does it?” Jyn said in a voice just for him- so quiet it was almost a whisper.

He finally looked at her. And cocked his head to the side as if she had said something particularly curious.

“False.” He said, his voice low and firm. His hand brushed a lock of damp hair away from her face. “You matter.”

And they shot off into the perpetual night sky.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The speeder had stopped itself at the tallest, longest skyscraper. It was one of the very few that connected the asteroid into a unified whole. Two of the droids pulled Jyn out of the car. Kaye had held onto her briefly, but let go when it was apparent that he would be playing tug-of-war. He did not want to injure her.

The other four droids pulled him out afterwards. He struggled and twisted to keep his eyes on her and we was dragged into the building. She was pulled inside quickly as well, almost too quickly. Her feet touched the ground maybe twice between the speeder and the room she was meant to change in.

She lost sight of Kaye as soon as the door slid shut.

And a dull panic settled in her chest immediately.

Kaye would be okay. He had to be. She would see him again. Ka’tesh wanted to dine with them both it seemed.

Jyn tried to swallow her nervousness and focus on the situation at hand.

She was in an elaborate closet with with two IG droids on a strange asteroid floating in the middle of unincorporated space surrounded by the Empire’s Navy. Most of her friends were dead. Her family was dead. And she was separated from the last person who seemed to care about her for an undetermined amount of time. But, on the bright side, she still had a blaster.

Her hand drifted towards her holster.

But the IG droids were lightning quick. One snatched both of her wrists elegantly and it a swift motion lifted them both above her head. The other droid made quick work of her clothes - stripping her down to nothing within the span of seconds. Her holster and blaster were quickly collected and locked within a hidden wall compartment - safe from whatever bright ideas she had about escaping.

She wasn’t even given the chance to blush.

Instead, Jyn was shoved promptly into a ‘fresher cleverly hidden within the left wall. It was small and didn't give her a lot of room to move, but she didn't need to. The sonics within were so powerful it made her teeth rattle inside her skull. The droids themselves watched on dispassionately as she was forcibly sanitized.

After a few minutes the ‘fresher cycled itself down. Jyn, thinking the worst of it was over, attempted to leave its confines only to have the IG droids black her exit. Pairs upon pairs of robotic attachments separated themselves from the ‘fresher walls. Each attachment seemed to have a different function. One snapped around her neck- effectively restraining her from movement. Another grabbed at her hair, forcibly taming it into something that the core planets would consider stylish. Two buffed at her skin, one removing the top most layer - the other rubbing it with some sort of scented musky oil. A trio of smaller ones fluttered about her face - carefully painting on make up.

Jyn glanced sideways - trying not to stare at the mechanical arms that were hovering far too close to her eyes.

“Oh for the love of-”

She watched in horror as another attachment promptly revealed a dress.

It shimmered in the fresher light like a small opulent star. It was white. Sparkly. Perfectly virginal and feminine. All the things Jyn was clearly not. The neckline alone made her throat tight. But she had no choice in the matter. She was quickly wrestled inside the monstrosity without even a minute to breathe. Gone were her warm, practical boots. In their place were flimsy white sandals with ties that went all the way up to her knees.

Only after they were completely tied, did her droid guards part to let her out of the fresher.

Her lips felt sticky with whatever lipstick she was adorned with. Hairs snapped against the nape of her neck because of her mechanical up-do. Even her face felt heavy with the layers of caked on paints and creams. There was a mirror in one of the corners, but Jyn barely bothered with it. She knew she wouldn't recognize the woman in the mirror, nor did she want to. She was crammed and stuffed into some else’s ideal. Forcibly.

She only caught sight of a lady in white who was far to pale, far too skinny, and had lips that were far too red.

The entire ordeal had been painfully unpleasant.

Thant finally opened the door and gave her what looked like an appraising once-over. It was hard to tell what she was thinking beneath her helmet.

“Acceptable.” Thant commented and let her leave the dressing area.

Out in the hallway, Kaytoo struggled on his knees. His limbs were locked into place by four dispassionate IG droids. He was making a considerable commotion, is vocabulator was growling in extraordinarily loud binary. His voice was pitched between a roar and a shriek.

His chassis were considerably more shiny than when she had seen him last. They were still scuffed and scarred, but he looked clean. The knot of nervousness within her chest loosened a bit.

“Where is she?” His binary screamed into standard.

“Kaye!” Jyn called. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”

Kaytoo’s eyes found hers and he immediately stopped in his tracks. The four IG Droids loosened their grip - their brilliant silver palms falling back into resting positions. They parted to the side and he kneeled there as if frozen in time.

Jyn raised an eyebrow.

“Yes. Glad to see you too.” Jyn remarked sarcastically.

She let a smile curve her painted lips, faintly enjoying his artificial consternation. Not that he could really appreciate her change in wardrobe. She was certain that nothing she could wear, make-up included, could illicit a visceral response from him. But she did enjoy surprising him with an aesthetic change, even if she hated what she looked like.

“You look… different.” He said quietly and pulled himself to a standing position. He moved to her side fluidly. It was strange seeing him without a mechanical stiffness. She supposed his joints were thoroughly cleaned. There must have been a lot of sand wedged in his servos to make that much of a drastic change.

“Yeah. Dresses do that Kaye. They generally turn women into objects and men into idiots.” Jyn replied, feeling heat rise to her cheeks.

“You are not an object.”

“And you're not an idiot. Congratulations.”

“I was trying to give you a compliment.” His hand twitched at his side.

“Try harder.” Jyn hissed under her breath, “Or better yet, figure out a way to get us out of here. I do believe it's your turn for the dashing rescue.”

“You agreed to come” he replied irritably.

“Yes. And that was before they dressed me up like chandelier.”

“If we attempt an escape right now calculate a five percent chance of survival. We are unarmed. And while your dress is aesthetically pleasing, it does not provide much in the way of mobility or protection.”

“You know just what to say to make a girl swoon. The perfect obligatory dinner date. I'm surprised they didn't try to cram you into formal wear.

“No, but they buffed my chassis and were rather invasive.”

“That makes two of us.” Jyn replied thinking of the ‘fresher’s indelicate hands.

Their escorts herded them towards an elevator door with Thant silent at the lead. The entrance was elaborately intricate, the arch was done in the Old Republic style. Overstated. Gaudy. The inside was even more so. Plush red carpeted floor. Gold leaf inlays. Half of the elevator was a clear window that looked out into the city around them.

“I'm curious how many times with the span of a year I'll have to endure people mucking about my internal systems.”

“Probably just about as many times as I'll endure hearing you complain complain about it.”

The lift shot upwards smoothly. It was so fast it was already higher than the tallest non-continuous building on the lower portion of the asteroid.

“You seem very nonchalant to about all of this.”

“I'm exhausted Kaye. Either they'll kill me or they won't. No sense in worrying.”

Jyn stared outside the elevator window, eyes forward. The urban sprawl glittered below like a sea of diamonds. From up above it looked so peaceful. So pristine and cold. Like a night sky from a terrestrial planet. Reflections danced on the elevator's duraglass like black ocean waves in sunlight. Even the hovering Star Destroyers and blockade looked different. From this perspective it was easy to pretend that they were simply spectators in the dark.

A hand found hers, warmed with synthetic heat.

“Then I suppose I should worry for both of us.” Kaytoo replied softly.

The elevator dinged before Jyn could respond. The doors slid open to an opulence Jyn would have never guessed existed. More plush carpeting. A ceiling carved out of deep blue marble and gold. Light hearted music filled the space - echoing without direction. The grand scope of it made her dizzy. It wasn't until the IG droids pushed her forward that she realized that she had been standing there with her mouth open for minutes.

They were in a huge room. Larger than a starship hangar. Light fixtures floated in a gentle rhythm with the music. In the middle of the room was a long banquet table lined with chairs. Even from the elevator she could see it was an expensive thing, piled high with food. It didn't even have legs. It just floated there, stable.

And at the head of the table sat a Hutt.

He or she was massive. Easily the size for six or seven Humans put together. They rested in in a mountain of cushions, with an equally massive hookah positioned to their left. Like most Hutts, they were corpulent and maggot-like. Of all the species in the universe, Jyn supposed that Hutts disgusted her the most. On a conscious level she knew it wasn't their fault their anatomy was arranged the way it was - but there was something about the way the moved that made her stomach tighten in her belly.

But the droids left her no option but to approach. She walked delicately up the the table, Kaytoo’s hand remained steady in her own.

The Hutt’s attention suddenly crystallized in their direction. The slits within their red bulbous eyes narrowed.

“Well, well, well - if it isn't the happy couple!” He boomed from across the room in perfect standard. His tone exemplified warmth. As if they were old friends.

Kaytoo looked down at their entwined hands and loosened his grip. But Jyn gripped his hand tighter, refusing to back down and be embarrassed. Let them think whatever they want. She had spent too long facing down the universe alone - and she had no doubts that her confidence would falter as soon as Kaye left her side.

“Where is Ka’tesh?” Jyn let her voice ring loud and clear, but the ambient music seemed to increase in volume. It drowned her demand easily. “And who are you?”

Thant stiffened, but said nothing. She marched over to a suitable position behind the Hutt and stood at attention.

“Oh come now. please sit. Make yourselves comfortable.” the Hutt replied, ignoring the Mandelorian completely. “You must try the Corellian bird. It was slow roasted over the course of an entire day- tender as a newborn.”

“You didn't answer her questions.” Kaye pointedly accused. His voice echoed throughout the chamber, slicing through the twinkling bright symphony.

“Help yourself. I insist.” The Hutt replied, clearly unruffled. “There will be plenty of time for questions.”

The silver droids walked them over to the immensely large table. First appearances didn't do the spread justice. The place settings gleamed in titanium and the chairs themselves were dark and polished hardwood. One of the droids attempted to pull out Jyn's intended chair, but Kaye muscled him away. He pulled her chair out instead with an exaggerated flourish.

“Really? Was that necessary?” She whispered

“Absolutely,” He answered in an affronted buzz and took the seat next to her. “I would sooner be back in the garbage pit then let one of these shiny pieces of scrap metal do my job for me.”

Jyn rolled her eyes and settled her napkin on her lap. It was amazing that Kaye could even think of pleasantries at a time like this.

Instead of bickering back she made the mistake of staring at the table. The sight of all food heaped upon the table made her mouth instantly water.

On closer inspection there were roasted avians of assorted sizes glistening with gravy. Silver tureens overflowed with various steamed vegetables, bright and inviting. At her left was a glass of wine, weeping crisp condensation. At her right sat a basket of plump and fragrant black bread, rich as dark wet earth. Desserts were piled high like centerpieces, coated with shimming sugars and glazes. She had no name for any of the items in particular - but it was no doubt a feast meant to entice and seduce.

Jyn hesitated. Tales of uncareful girls sentenced to perdition because they took a bite of forbidden fruit flitted through her mind. Stories of men forced to give up their soul for a pint of ale. Everything had a price, and this food - no matter how delicious, wasn't worth it.

“My sensors indicate no trace particulates of anything poisonous to humans. Everything seems safe for consumption. My hazardous material catalog is extensive.”

She gave him a withering look, but her stomach growled so loudly that she had no doubt his sensors had picked it up.

She wasn't worried about poison. Poison would be the least of her worries.

“It's up to you,” He continued. “But you've been on ration portions for weeks on end with sub-par nutritional value. I'm not saying it's a great idea. But it's an idea nonetheless.”

She watched as a bead of perspiration dripped off her wine glass. The back of her throat was feeling painfully dry. Her stomach groaned in an almost outright revolt. Her decision was was made. There were worse ways to obtain eternal damnation.

Jyn reached out to serve herself, but instead one of the IG droids had moved forward and began heaping various items in her plate until it was almost overflowing.

If Kaye had the ability to scowl, she was absolutely certain her would be doing so now. He said nothing, but she could feel his frustration. His nervousness. Maybe it was all in her head, but he seemed uncharacteristically off balance. Half confidence, half fear. This morning altercation was proof. Maybe the programs that governed his manufactured emotions were finally beginning to degrade.

At least that made both of them.

Jyn tipped her glass to her lips and took a swig that would put most Gamorrean drunkards to shame. The wine tasted clear, sweet and tangy. It left a warmth that clung to her brain like a blanket.

“It should please you to know that you father’s creation, the Death Star has been destroyed.”

Her heart stopped in her chest. Her glass stilled at her lips, throat mid swallow.

The rebellion survived.
The rebellion finished what she and her father had started.
Her friends had not died in vain.

But Jyn also knew better. Everything finally slipped into clarity. This was a game. There was no other reason for all of this artifice and pageantry. Their current company had played his hand and he was trying to see her own.

Her eyes narrowed and put her glass down. She squared her hips against the chair and tightened her jaw. She was pretty enough at the moment. Anyone could be when given enough attention. Hair coiffed. Skin rubbed with oil. Lips painted red. But knives were pretty. Guns were pretty. Most deadly things were.

“My father?” She decided to play coy and not take the bait. Endearing or dumb. She didn't care.

“Galen Erso. And you are his daughter, Jyn Erso. You're the woman who gave the universe a chance of freedom. And- might I add, the most esteemed guest I've had the pleasure of entertaining.”

“I would use the term guest loosely. Prisoner would be more apt.” Jyn replied casually, smiling over the rim of her wine glass.

“Oh you shame me. Have you not enjoyed my hospitality? I had this dinner especially made for you. Everything has been crafted just so for your enjoyment.” He gestured to the expansive windows. “Even my blockade.”

“Your blockade?” Jyn replied, letting her surprise get the better of her.

“My blockade. My asteroid, my dear. At your service. Regardless you may have all your weapons upon leaving. Even your clothes. The dress is stunning on you by the way.”

“I find that statistically improbable.” Kaye commented.

“That doesn't make it any less true.” The Hutt laughed. “I own this skyscraper and everything in it. I own most of this trading post even.”

“Who are you?” Jyn asked - louder and firmer this time.

“Forgive me. I have the most terrible manners. I am Ka’tesh Elal.” The Hutt smiled. “And the more correct question would be, what am I.”

Chapter Text

“Ka’tesh Elal is a brain in a walker droid.” Jyn interjected. “Unless my understanding of the situation is sorely mistaken.”

Ka’tesh drew a heavy hit from his pipe and held it for over a minute before exhaling. Smoke billowed from his mouth in delicate rings, unbefitting of a slimy Hutt maw. One corner of his gargantuan mouth twisted upward into a smirk.

“No, your understanding is correct, but also incomplete. Allow me to demonstrate.”

Suddenly there was a flash of movement. Kaye’s hand wound around Jyn’s protectively. Quick as a snake.

What at first looked like cushions surrounding the Hutt’s massive body, turned out to be people. The graceful tangle of skin and flesh unwound itself and spilled out around the dining table. It was a rainbow crowd of a dozen or so species. Twi’leks, Pau’ans, Muun, Torgruta, Rodians, Zabrak, Chiss, Humans, and a few Jyn rightly had no name for. Male, female, and everything other and in between. They all were scantily clad in a bevy of unique slinky fabrics. The only thing they had in common in was a silvery indent that flashed in the ambient light. Some had it at the base of their skull. Others at the tendons of their necks or forehead. It looked like a port of some sort. Maybe decorative. Maybe functional.

Jyn squeezed Kaye's hand from beneath the table, her drink all but forgotten. Thant didn’t waiver. She was still like an armored statue.

The troupe moved with a robotic grace, seeming to dance in time with the twinkling music. Their movements weren't quite natural - swaying in directions that didn't seem to make sense with the configuration of their limbs. Almost like puppets.

“Congratulations, you just saved a god.” They said in unison. The Hutt mouthed the words at precisely the same moment. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. The Hutt’s words resounded in perfect time with the dancing crowd.

“And what if I told you I could give both of you a anything you want? Thrice over. You've saved me a great expense. A thing without price.”

“Droids do not want.” Kaye voice sliced through the rhythm, clearly unimpressed and unintimidated. “Material objects have no significance to me, other than their primary function and usefulness. I cannot speak for my...” Kaye paused then - calculating something. “Mistress. But I doubt you are anything close to what organics would call a god.”

“Leave us.” Ka’tesh’s flaccid, fatty arm waved away his guards. His voice suddenly lacked all the warmth of his previous entries. It was a flash of poorly disguised anger.

The IG droids marched away instantly. Thant took longer. She seemed to hesitate, wrestling quietly with the order - but in the end she stomped away as well. Ka’tesh didn’t seem to notice. He continued as soon as she left the room.

“Don't insult me.” The bulbous orbs of his eyes narrowed. The room spoke as one. A blizzard of frozen and deadly voices that echoed long after speaking,

“I'm not sure what you mean.” Kaytoo replied unruffled. Jyn would have been mortified, but for the moment she was more concerned with the room filled with puppets. Everything was suddenly so, so very wrong. Like she had just jumped off a cliff ledge that she had never known existed.

“You are a very clever machine. I'll give you that much.” The Hutt spoke only as himself this time. Quite good at deception. Not many of your kind are good at towing the line between truth and falsehood. But but I am the most accomplished liar of them all. And just like a master craftsmen, I know the precise weight, color, and make of a competitor's deceit. So don't bother. I will be plainer-”

The Hutt drew himself up to his full height. His pipe forgotten. The pools of fat that rolled across the floor drew up into his cohesive wormy whole. The room resounded with voices once again. The movements of the collected people were agitated and aggressive.

“I am Ka’tesh Elal. Owner of this rock. But you may know me as the Skinwalker.
I am the governor seated at the top of the tallest spire in this city, sipping wine from a crystal chalice. I am Kafrene’s crime lord. I am also head of police. I am these all of these people - dancing. Verbalizing. I am the despicable Hutt you see before you. And perhaps most importantly- I am also that B’omarr droid you saved from imminent destruction. “

Kaytoo canted his head to the side, waiting for the hutt to continue.

“This is not a metaphor.” Ka'tesh elaborated.“This is the naked truth. My ownership of this asteroid is so complete that no being can sneeze here without me knowing it. And I know for a fact you want something. You cannot lie to me.”

“I find your demonstration unconvincing.” Kaytoo replied casually. “Getting a bunch of people to repeat what you say hardly makes you omnipotent.”

“How very interesting. And insolent. I'm almost impressed by your stupidity. It's borderline certified homegrown human.”

“I-”

But Jyn cuff him off. It was only a matter of time before their host lost his temper completely. They were in no position to goad a self-styled god.

“Please allow him to explain, Kaye.” Jyn said quietly.

“Thank you Miss Erso. I have quite forgotten myself as well. Please forgive my rudeness.”

Jyn only nodded dumbly In response. She was cold in her sparkly white dress. Her heart was hammering with badly contained adrenaline. The eyes of everyone in the room were in her - no matter what they were doing. No matter where they were going. They followed.

The Hutt took another hit from his pipe. It slowly dawned on Jyn that the food closest to him was writhing. Insects and amphibians squirmed in bowls of syrupy liquid. Rodents swam in what looked to be a pickling jelly. Jyn lost her appetite completely.

“I’ll cut to the chase,” Their host began after a time.” It is an open secret that the B'omarr monks rarely get volunteers. You said it yourself. Its a lifestyle one hardly chooses. Have you ever wondered, Jyn Erso, where do all the recruits come from? Here's a hint: none of go willingly. Some of the practitioners have the habit of taking sleeping people from Inns and brothels. Easy prey for the most part.”

The dancers were more somber now. Ka’tesh was the singular voice.

“Jyn, can you imagine what it's like to be ripped from you body and trapped for all eternity in a broken down Droid? Can you imagine what it would be like if you were given no choice in the matter? What would you do to save yourself if you could?
You would do anything. Freedom has no price.”

Jyn wanted to argue this. But she remembered being in prison. She remembered the desperation. She would have gnawed her own arm off to see the stars again.”

“I won't get into the sordid details, now.” The Hutt plowed onward, his voice wistful. “They don't matter. I never did get my body back, but I obtained a new one. And then another. And then another. Through means too impolite to disclose over dinner. My brain, unfortunately is still housed in the perimeter droid and can never leave. But the technology I've innovated makes it almost a non-issue. Even less than a non-issue. For I am better. For I am many.

“That is until your brain gets dumped into a garbage heap.” Jyn replied.

Ka’tesh eyed her curiously. His gaze flicked to to Kaytoo. And then back to her. His expression was unreadable. The people surrounding the table continued pacing in their never ending circle.

“One of my associates - poor soul, thought now would be the most convenient time to usurp my authority, I've discovered.” Ka’tesh explained. “Unfortunately for him, his attempt at doing so was poorly thought out and lackluster at best. He should have killed me. Throwing me to the Jawas because of some misplaced idea of mercy was his undoing."

The Hutt sighed loudly.

“To be fair, he had his reasons. The Empire wants you. You are a target only second to Luke Skywalker."

Jyn had no idea who that was, but apparently he was important. She let Ka’tesh continue his monologue, impressed by Kaytoo’s silence.

“The blockade will not relent until they have you, preferably alive. They have orders to blockade this city until you are produced, which could be decades.

“I have a feeling they grand have plans for you. Plans that don't involve a swift and easy death. Something public. The bounty on your head is tantalizingly large. If I was compelled by as trivial matters as money I might have been inclined to offer you up in the pursuit of an agreement. How nice then, that I already have every material thing the Empire could possibly offer me.

“But my associate, however, did not possess that kind of material advantage. Where I stayed my hand and laid the foundation for your protection- he saw an opportunity. You see- having you on my planetoid made me, well, happy. I enjoy possessing things others do not. Especially if they are wanted by the Empire. You are a woman of exceptional uniqueness-” Jyn did not like the look in his eyes as they lingered on her body. “And to be honest had plans for you. I had you watched carefully. I was waiting patiently for you to run out of credits - then possibly seek out some sort of… employment. Of which I would have happily obliged.”

“But the chips never fell that way, did they?” Jyn said with a vicious smile. In her secret heart she knew they never would have. It gave her a small amount of pride to know that she had out- persisted this creature - no matter how powerful.

“No.” He replied with a defeated sigh. “I was betrayed, kidnapped, sold and left for dead. And now I am in your debt, rather that the other way around. You need my help, and now I am at your service and more than happy to assist.”

Kaye’s heard whirled in her direction, anticipating her response.

“If you have a way of contacting the rebellion - then consider ourselves even.”

“I don't think you understand the situation that you're in. I know who you are Jyn Erso. I know what you've done.”

“I hardly think that matters-”

“I would put many good credits that the Rebellion already knows you are here. You are dangerous Jyn Erso. Volatile. You are primarily responsible for the Rebellion's victory, but you did so without the consent of the council." Huts did not have teeth, but the smile he possessed was cruller than most she had seen. “They are frightened. For them, you could be the next Saw Gerrera, but perhaps even worse. You are young, but already you have engineered the destruction of the empire's first superweapon. People will follow you across the galaxy. You are an open challenge to the authority of the rebellion.

“No wonder why they left you for dead on Scarif. Having you as a martyr would be far more useful. You are currently a figurehead that inspires hope but is safely dead as far as the common universe knows. Your story is theirs to manipulate and bury as they choose. And If I was you I would thank my lucky stars that that rebellion of yours doesn't have teeth long enough to reach here. If I was in their position I would have finished the job the Empire the empire started.”

“They wouldn't hurt you Jyn.” A metal hand tightened around hers.

“And how can you be so sure, droid? Tell me. Whatever happened to your old master, Cassian Andor?”

“He died on Scarif.” Kaytoo replied.

“Funny. Don't you think? I always thought he would die chewing on the cyanide capsules in his jacket pockets.”

“ And how did you know that?” Kaytoo’s voice broke into something jittering and dark.

“Prostitutes are chatty creatures- and I find, when put to the test, more clever than the rebellions best spy.”

Jyn’s face grew hot.There was the sound of metal on metal - Sharp and and quick. Kaye had taken the plate in front of him and crinkled it in one hand like paper.

“Cassian was a good man.” Jyn bristled, full of resentment. She wasn't sure how she felt about this discussion. Betrayed wasn't the correct word for it, and she couldn't quite place the emotion. How could you feel angry about lovers of a lover you never had? How could you feel defensive over the actions of someone you barely knew?

“I never said he wasn't. I said he was a spy with poison in his pocket. Do you think he carried it because he was afraid of what the Empire would do to him if they found him? Or rather, do you think he carried it because the Rebellion had ordered him to?” The Hutt snapped into one of the writhing creatures loudly, tearing off an amphibian head without much preamble. “Food for thought.”

“The Rebellion isn't like that. I know it isn't.” Jyn argued, but she knew she sounded like a naive child. She was convincing no one. Even Kaye was silent, his cold fingers lifeless within her own.

“Because your friend Saw was the paragon of fairness and decency?” Ka’tesh snorted. A half masticated frog lingered on his lips. “Never tortured a soul in his life. Never shot a man with a family. Never set off a bomb in a marketplace full of children. Sang with a choir of angels. The whole she-bang. Look sweetheart, Piece of advice-” He swallowed loudly. “Torture and murder is all the vogue. Saw did it. The Empire does it. I do it. Why would the Rebellion be any different? If it's in their best interests for someone to die, they will die. No price is too great for their own personal idea of freedom.

"They would kill you, Jyn. Maybe not now. Maybe they’ll take you back to their headquarters and make you a general. But mark my words, whether now or later. The rebellion will kill you. Might be sacrifice. Might be a mission gone wrong. Might be because you've outlived your usefulness. But they will kill you.”

“Well maybe I want to die.” She said it like a retort, but it was true. So true that the words burnt her lips like acid and stung her throat like bile.

“Jyn…”

She ripped her hand from Kaye's grasp.
She couldn't take that tone he had. She didn't want his synthetic pity.

Her brain caught up with what her body was telling her all along. She was tired. She wanted to die. And Kaye's judgement on the matter was unwanted.

She wasn't a hero. Not a Jedi, not a warrior. She was a tool. To be used and discarded. And now her future was empty. Maybe that's why she and Kaye seemed to to getting along so well lately. They both were the same.

Empty beings clinging to each other for purpose.

And maybe she had already outlived hers.

“If all you're saying is true,” She challenged. “then you should have no motivation to help me. None whatsoever. Whatever or whoever I am- then I must be only alive to your benefit. Anything you're offering costs something.”

Two of the dancing men suddenly stopped, peeled off from the group and slinked up to her seat. Their slave costumes left nothing to the imagination. Muscles moved languidly in the half-light, shifting like quicksilver. Warm skin slithered across the base of her neck. Lips grazed the shell of her ear.

“And you are wrong once again.” They said in perfect unison. Each voice was a low seductive whisper that made her breath catch. “You have benefited me greatly already.”

Kaytoo stiffened. He was a hard shadow at the edge of her vision.

“You have already given me something without price.” They purred. “You and K-2SO saved me and I am prepared to return the favor. Thrice over. Each.”

One slithered downwards between her legs. His hands traveled up the folds of her dress. The other’s teeth were barely grazing the skin behind her ear.

“Do you want a skyscraper? It's yours. Wealth? I could make you so incredibly wealthy that you could drown in titanium, gold and crystal. For the rest of your life- you could want for nothing.”

The thought caught her like a knife to the throat, Like a needle to her heart and a pinch to the gut.

She could have anything. Anything at all. It wasn't like she had much to lose…

Wealth was never something she was familiar with, but the scope of the offer was tempting. Safety, comfort, warmth - for the rest of her life. New clothes. Upgrades for Kaytoo If he wanted them.

And it didn't even have to be this kind of luxury. Just a well made leather jacket. Even that sounded nice.

“Just say the word.”

But then that's how it starts. A well made leather jacket. Already, her mind wandering into some far flung future. A future where she was dark and imposing. Where she did indeed own a building or two. Where she had enough money to make herself into a magnificent creature. Beautiful and terrible - with a legion of guards to ensure no one would hurt her or Kaytoo ever again.

Jyn shut her eyes.

She would be drinking wine at the top of a skyscraper. Cold. Dark. And, for except Kaytoo, alone.

While ‘lesser’ beings were marginalized and enslaved.

While people were still fighting for justice. Dying for freedom.

While her father, her mother, Saw, Baze, Chirrut, Bohdi, and Cassian were very much dead.

And to the core of her being she felt revulsion.

“No.”

Her eyes flew open. Anger, white hot and simmering made her jaw clench and her muscles stiffen. The Ka’tesh’s Hutt face went slack with surprise. The men sliding against her had stilled.

“No?”

“Can you give me the sun back?” She shouted. “Can you give me an ocean? Trees? How about My friends back? My family? Can you ensure that no one, not a single person, will feel loss like I have? That you'll single handedly end the Empire?”

Silence.

“Can you give me back my purpose?” She snarled.

“Then you have nothing that interests me.” She stood from her seat, brushing off the ardorous males. “If this was your purpose for bringing us here, then call us even. Let me go.”

“Unfortunately I cannot allow you to leave without making three demands. It's a matter of pride, you understand.”

The people in the room stopped moving. Their bodies were rigid. They surrounded the table like a living wall. But Jyn gathered her courage and made into durasteel. A weapon tipped with whatever cleverness she possessed.

“If I have indeed given you something without price then I challenge you to return the favor.” She replied. “I challenge you to find me something that I would value above anything else- because at this point you are wasting my time.”

“That is only two favors.” Ka’tesh replied. “The finding of the favor and the delivery.”

“Contact the rebellion. Do what I had asked for, Let them know we are here. They can come kill me themselves. That is my final request.”

“Challenge accepted.” The Hutt smiled “You may go.”

“What about Kaye?” She remembered far too late that he was as trapped as she was. She could have bargained for him. Selfish. Foolish. Heartless.

“He must stay until he makes demands of his own.”

Jyn wanted to argue that it was pointless. If Kaytoo had any true desires he was terrible at voicing them. How could a brain in a jar with a God complex be successful where she had failed?

“You wanted out. You now have out. You will wait outside until we have reached an agreement. A pleasure doing business. And-”

One of the thralls pulled her from her chair and deposited her blaster and clothes unceremoniously into her arms.

Jyn’s gaze snapped to Kaytoo. His eyes waived in their sockets. Concern. Unvoiced concern. But Jyn was hustled away by muscled men, breaking her line of sight.

“I'm sure we will see each over again soon.” One of them purred.

And just like that, she was escorted out of the tower. Without Kaye.

She took her blaster, put her jacket on and walked. The sound of her sandals slapping against wet the pavement echoed off the buildings.

Chapter Text

“Your demands, K-2SO?”

K-2SO watched as Jyn was manhandled out of the room. He hated the way Ka'tesh had touched her. He had violated her personal space and privacy. The crystal in his chest churned out excess power angrily.

“To let me go immediately. To never contact us again. To jettison yourself into the deepest reaches of space.” K-2 countered. At times like this he wished he had the full scope of human expression and the full vocal depth of an organic life form. His disdain was never clear enough for his liking.

He wanted out. Now. He did not like Jyn being alone.

“I'm hurt. Why did you even go through the trouble of saving me at all.” The Hutt-body grinned.

K-2SO took that as a no. Leaving would not be that easy. He tried again.

“Can you get us off this asteroid and back to the Rebel Alliance?” It was a question Jyn hadn't asked. Maybe the ability to leave would be a simpler request. A more logical one.

“The Imperial blockade would make things exceedingly difficult. Even if I gave you a new ship- you would not make it. Nothing leaves the rings. Nothing enters. “

“Difficult, but not impossible.”

“If you wanted an elaborate suicide there are far cheaper ways to arrange it.

“I find that statistically unlikely.” Kaye commented - annoyed that his requests were unheeded. This was a game. His circuits weren't configured for play.

Ka'tesh’s Hutt eyes narrowed again. Kaye was never good at prolonged dialogue. He wasn't built for it. And he knew he was doing a terrible job. Perhaps he was going about it wrong. Jyn was better at it by far. Maybe it was because she asked questions. Maybe it was because she diverted attention.

“How did it happen?” Kaytoo asked suddenly. “The destruction of the Death Star?”

The Hutt leaned back. The array of organic bodies gathered back to his cushion. Their purpose fulfilled. They had impressed Jyn Erso to a degree it seemed - and their use would be lost on a Droid.

“Its hard to tell quite how these days.” Ka’tesh began. “Both the rebellion and the empire have such extensive propaganda that it is difficult to separate truth from sensationalism. But from what it sounds like, the plans made it into rebellion hands after all and a young man named Luke Skywalker landed the Death Star’s finishing blow.I find it a crime and a pity that his name will go down in history and yours and Jyn’s will wither with age. Almost no mention of what happened on Scarif. No mention of Rogue One. From the Rebellion or the Empire.”

Kaytoo felt strange at the news. He was glad in some small way that the sacrifices that his comrades made were not in vain. He was pleased that their objective was accomplished. But somehow it felt empty too. It was same feeling he had when he disappointed Jyn. Maybe empty was to be expected, since he was a Droid. Utter joy was a stranger to his systems, but he felt that the victory should have triggered something like it. Instead all he could think about were their faces. Chirrut’s serene face looking into the depths of eternity, Baze’s intense scowl. Bohdi’s fearful brown eyes, darting and dilated. Cassian’s hard jaw, locked and determined. They only lived in his databanks now. Ka'tesh was right.It seemed unfair that this Luke Skywalker would be remembered forever, while his comrades were long forgotten.

There was nothing he could do about it.

He knew it deep down in his circuits.

There was a helplessness about it that felt like cement filling up his chassis. He could not save them. Cassian, Bohdi, Baze, and Chirrut. Not even the memories of them. He wasn't even doing that good of a job saving Jyn. He was doing a terrible job actually.

“Time is ticking my friend. The hour is late. I'm sure you want to get back to your mistress soon enough. Your demands, please. Ones that do not involve suicide.”

K-2SO was beginning to get desperately frustrated. Ka’tesh made it sound like choice but it wasn't. He made it sound simple. But it seemed there were few right answers.

“I told you before Droids do not have desires. We do not have stomachs, or libido, or chemicals like serotonin. We no not have hearts. You may as well keep me here until the asteroid crumbles into dust.”

Ka’tesh smiled then. It was a rictus thing that split his face in two. The people on the cushions smiled too. All teeth and no mirth.

“I disagree. You have a heart. It sat at this table.I held it in my hands and escorted it from the building.”

K-2SO was nearly too obtuse for the metaphor. His processor wrestled with Ka’Tesh’s implications and found them sinister as best.

“And if I don't give you an answer?”

“You will be persuaded. Or, I will turn my attentions to Jyn. Compelling, isn't she?”

A static growl ripped from his vocablator. A system error. Probably.

“I can see you need more time.” Ka’tesh continued. “Consider this. I will grant you your first favor by giving you more time to decide.”

“How much time?”

“You have a day. One core solar cycle.” He replied. “And don't keep me waiting. You may go.”

 

----

Kaytoo knew Jyn wouldn't have gone back to the ship. Her knew her that well now. If there was anything logically expected, she would do the complete opposite. Making assumptions on her part was something he had trained out of his systems.

Instead he tracked her. The rain had stopped and the air was clear enough that he had no problems following her organic signal.

His olfactory sensors were one thousand times more sensitive than the human nose if calibrated correctly. They were usually distraction at best. But tonight his was like a Kath hound on the hunt.

Even his optics picked up her residual heat easily enough. He knew her core temperature like his own. The mark it left upon the world was a calling card. Footprints in infrared. The ghost of her breath, yellowed against the blue air in his heat sensors.

Some enough he was tracing fragments of her through roaring crowds, twisted alleyways and markets filled with cooking meats. His long legs wove past inverted skyscrapers, tall and looming. Crumbling walls smeared with graffiti in Aurebesh. Far past bars, lounges and restaurants. Far past mansions, hovels and cathedrals.

Until suddenly everything stopped.

He was at the very edge of everything. The lane he was on was a dead end. The line Modest apartments bled out into nothingness at the edge of the asteroid. The muddy street ended like a cut ribbon.

He followed her particulates and pheromones until the end of the line it seemed.

No fluorescents. No people. Garbage littered the street in damp clumps and puddles of muck pitted the ground.

He was about to turn around and continue searching when some movement triggered his optical array. But then his optics picked up movement at the street overhang. A lone figure perched precariously on the cliff.

It was Jyn, staring into the void, holding a blaster against her head. Her finger delicately resting against the trigger. She pressed the barrel over and over to her temple.

No.

She was sobbing. Shudders wracked her tiny frame. Her shoulders shook violently with the intensity of it. His Jyn was a quivering mass in the edge of oblivion.

His Jyn. His Stardust.

In that moment facing the loss of her, the entirety of K2SO’s being came down to one word. His. He, a droid, possessed something. And he was about to lose it.

His circuits were alight with fear. And anger.

This would break him. Lost loss of Cassian already warped him into something other droids couldn't recognize. K2SO was something strung-out and imperfect. He was already discordant chord in a melodious universe- but the loss of Jyn...The loss of Jyn would snap whatever was left. He would either be an empty husk of a machine, or something more insidious.

He would tolerate no other masters. No other mistresses. He would sooner lay waste the universe itself. He couldn't self destruct like some other Imperial droids, but he could certainly compel others to ensure his own destruction. And if he took others with him, so be it. The galaxy at large was nothing but cruel to Jyn. He could return the favor in kind.

Out of the darkness Jyn screamed. Not high-pitched, but a throaty roar- like a wounded creature. It was full of ache, and loss. Fury and helplessness. It echoed of the buildings and then fell silent.

She flung the blaster behind her, fast, uncaring and venomous. It clattered on the ground in the stretch space between them both.

K2SO approached with caution.

“Jyn.” He called as gently as his vocabulators would allow.

“Figures you would track me here.” She laughed without humor and patted a space next to her on the ledge. It occurred to him that she was still wearing the white dress underneath her jacket. It was muddier, now. Dirtier. But somehow that didn't make jyn any less aesthetically pleasing. “You wouldn't go back to the ship without me. I’m glad you got out.”

“I was… worried.” He admitted.

“Funny.”

“I fail to see anything funny about it.” He pointedly retrieved the pistol.

“You. The most apathetic droid in the known galaxy. Are worried. About me. See? Funny. I must be really that pathetic.”

“You’re not…”

“Don't bother. I know what you saw. I guess I can't keep any secrets as long as you're involved.”

“I won't say anything about it if that is what you would desire.”

“Perish the thought.” She sneered. “I'm glad for the company.”

“You do not sound like it.”

“I'm just hung up on the fact that the only being that knows that I'm alive, the only being that even remotely cares whether I live or die is an Imperial Droid with an attitude problem.”

“Yes. But I’m your Imperial droid with an attitude problem.” He sat down next to her, long legs touching hers. “That must count for something.”

“I suppose it does.” She smiled sadly. Her eyes were bright with unspent tears. Her body leaned against his.

“You can tell me about it if you'd like.” He said.

She didn't look at him. Her eyes followed distant ships within the nebula. Out there they flashed like fish at the bottom of a deep pond. Even his optics couldn't make out the far off details, but he supposed the view was beautiful. If he was human he would have probably appreciated the swathe of blue cosmic dust and the dance of their neighboring asteroids. His eyes would be filled with awe at the sight of the two binary pulsar stars. His heart would have stopped at the edge of this kind of darkness.

But he was not human.

And he found that he would rather stare at Jyn instead. His circuits counted her heartbeat like a smuggler counting credits. Each one was infinitely valuable and more compelling than any stellar view.

“Why do I still exist Kaytoo?” She sighed after a long silence.

“You still exist because we stole Krennic's shuttle.”

“I mean metaphorically or existentially or whatever.” She waved.

“You're asking someone who isn't technically alive. I'm not the foremost expert on the subject.”

She frowned at that, like she had disagreed.

“What I'm saying is that my story is over. I have outlived my usefulness. I should have died there on Scarif with Cassian. Thing would have been so much simpler.”

“And what about me? Should I have died as well?”

“No.” Jyn said quietly, but wouldn't elaborate.

“I just…” She hiccuped.”I don't belong here. I should be with the rest of Rogue One. The rebellion doesn't need me, that much is obvious. Ka’ tesh didn't even need to lay it out. My family is dead. Saw is dead. My friends are dead. I can't spend the rest of my life knowing that anything I do will pale in comparison to the things I have done. I am unimportant. I am a criminal. I was always be a criminal. The rest of my life will be spent bottom feeding like this. Without anyone.”

He held her gently. Arms carefully pulling her against him. He could feel her body temperature. All strange mammalian heat- fueled by burning glucose and a traitor metabolism. Again it occurred to him how fragile Jyn really was. Droids were not as complicated.

“Your day will come.” Kaytoo promised. “You’ll see. The rebel alliance will find us. They’ll bring us home. You'll get a shiny medal- Because you humans seem to like those. And then you'll have a place to stay that isn't a dingy ship. They'll feed you all the good food. And give you a ship. And they’ll find you a new purpose. A new mission. A new everything.”

“Hopefulness doesn't suit you. I can tell if you're just trying to make me feel better or are mocking me.”

“The former if it matters.”

Jyn made a scoffing noise with the back of her throat, but she grabbed his hand and laced her fingers with his.

“And what about you? What do droids want?”

“Droids don't want things.” It was a statement, not factually incorrect, but not reflecting his true feelings on the matter all the same.

Because he was sure he wanted something. It was shaped like Jyn’s lips. It had the color of her fiery hair. It sounded like her voice. His processors churned and churned trying to give it a name.

“Not even shiny medals?” She prodded.

“Not even. Though if given the choice- I'd like a master who isn't a complete imbecile. “

“Do I count?”

“I'm not sure.” He let his arms wind themselves around her tighter. “Are you going to try that foolishness with the blaster again?”

“Probably not.”

“Good.”

She leaned forward, making a space between them. Kaytoo felt it more keenly than it made sense.

“Kaytoo.” She said softly then. “I'm becoming empty. So cold it hurts. What if I can’t love anyone again? What will that make me? No better than a droid. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“I will die alone. Cold. And that’s what really scares me. That the rest of my life is just going to be this. Running, fighting. Exiled. I am so frightened and I can’t stop shaking.I figured at least if I died now, I'd get all of those years alone out of the way. Point to point. But I suppose I don't have the guts to do it.”

“I would miss you.”

“No, I don't think that you would. That's just how life goes. Eventually everyone leaves me or dies.”

“I am not everyone.”

He pulled her closer then. So close that her ear lightly rested over the place on his chest where a human heart would be.

“Tell me what you hear.”

“Nothing.” She shifted awkwardly. “Maybe just humming, but you really have to listen for it.”

“Correct. No heartbeat. Nothing that can fail irreparably with age. Nothing that can’t be fixed or replaced. As long as I am here and whole I won't leave you unless you want me to. I can’t die Jyn. Not in the way you biologicals can. I promise that I will not let you go alone. Where you go, I go.”

She smiled and began to pull away. “I didn't know a sentimental streak lurked underneath all of those circuits.”

He could sense her polite refusal. Droids didn't feel pain like organic life forms, but something in him was breaking, burning and melting. Like a soldering iron prying into to his core.

“What I'm saying is that I can be there for you Jyn. I can be your family. I would never leave you.” K-2SO continued. He wanted that statement to be impassioned and emphatic. He wanted it sound like he was begging. But no, his vocabulators oozed it out smoothly and without consequence. Words twisted into deadpan sarcasm and he hated it.

“While I appreciate What you're trying to do -It's not the same. I don't expect you to understand.” She breathed out disappointment like a huff of exhaust.

“How is it not the same?”

“You're doing it because you have to. You're a droid. You're not real.” she sighed and pulled herself upright to sit on the edge of the platform.

Cassian said I had to.

“Then what is real to you?”

“Someone who chooses me for me. Weaknesses and all.”

“But I did choose you. “

“Someone who will sit with me and ask me how my day was. Someone to laugh with. Someone to drink with. Someone to grow old with. “

“But I could do those things”

“You know, someone who loves me.”

Kaytoo was silent at that.

“Find me someone like that Kaytoo. And then we’ll talk about family.” She pulled herself upward then, so fast that his processors barely registered the movement. Her hand slid from his like water.

“Thank you anyway. I know you're trying.” Her words were patronizing, but well-intentioned. They stung like blasterfire regardless. “I'm sorry you had to see me like that. It was weak.”

Jyn had closed the door on their conversation succinctly. Ones just ticked to only zeros. Everything became nothing once again. And K-2SO felt that same terrible emptiness as before. He had just failed another conversation.

Her needed to help her. To fix her brokenness, like she had fixed his for the most part.

He just wasn't sure how.

Chapter Text

Jyn stripped off her dress the moment she got into the shuttle. Her fingers hooked into the fabric of the gown with such unadulterated venom, the seams popped and snagged over her shoulder blades. She wasn't satisfied until the synthetic starlight fabric became a dirty forgotten mess on the floor. She even kicked it for good measure.

“Jyn-”

Kaye had followed in after her, carrying her regular clothes and firearm. It wasn't until she heard her name that she remembered that she was now stark naked. She glanced over at him, his form a rigid shape on the other side of the cargo hold. He was averting his eyes, which was strange. Droids like him probably had no concept of privacy.

But as Jyn moved to retrieve her clothes but Kaye stumbled a bit backwards, one hand moving upwards to cover his line of sight. It was so completely like and unlike him that she couldn't help but smirk a little.

She didn't understand what the big deal was.

She was a mess of dripping hair, watery eyes and knotted muscle. Her mechanically applied flawless makeup probably had resolved itself into a battle mask of ugliness. She could feel it's weight and stickiness on her face. Even if he was human, she could hardly be the subject of his shyness. Even if he was able to appreciate the view, it certainly wasn't a good one.

Jyn sighed.

They were also way past the point of pretending both of them weren't vulnerable throw-away people and broken Rebellion cast-offs. They were the same and she almost wanted Kaye to see her naked. He had sat with her at her worst moment and still followed her back to the ship. That was more than she could say for anyone else she had met.He had basically already seen her stripped bare. Her own blaster pointed at her temple in frustration. His fingers gliding across her naked back. And there was no shame among equals.

She didn't even cover her breasts when she pawed her jacket away from him. She threw her boots and blaster to the floor carelessly and dug around in his arms for her shirt and pants.

Something else clattered to the grate, something she did not expect.

It was a credit chip, silver inlaid with gold filigree. It reflected the ship’s ambient light like a diamond. On the back was a small inscription, in an ink that seemed to disappear when she swiped her thumb across it.

“Kindest Regards - for your time for course.

- Ka’tesh Elal”

“I’m guessing you didn't put this there.”

“You have guessed correctly. Congratulations.” But his normally wry voice seemed strained.

“Hells Kaye, sheesh. I’ll put on some clothes. What's your problem anyway?”

Jyn shrugged on her undershirt and quickly slid into her pants. They were clean. And mended. Of course they were. Another gilded bribe.

“I'm respecting your privacy.”

“You've touched all sorts of places on my body before, remember? The impromptu cuddling session?” She needled.

“But that was different.”

“I don't see how.” But Kaytoo said nothing. Awkward silence hung there like a cloak.

“Fine whatever. I'm dressed now. You can stop cowering.” She replied.

“Imperial Droids do not cower.”

“Sure they don't.” She considered the chip a moment then flipped it into Kaye's waiting palm.”How much is on it?”

“One moment please,” He took the chip and placed it in the space between his mouth grill and face-plate. It was almost like we was eating it. His vocabulator clicked and beeped, before pressing the chip back outwards to his hand.

“Five million, six-hundred twenty-two thousand, nine-hundred and eighty one credits.”

Jyn could feel the blood leave her face.

“Are they legitimate?” She asked.

“I'm not sure I could parse that given the conditions of this planetoid and the apparent veracity of Ka’tesh’s statement. There is a statistical probability that they are legitimate because he made them so. Currently hovering and stable eighty-five point six.”

“A prison is a prison, no matter how pretty the cage. And I think Ka’tesh knows that too.”

Kaytoo sagged and plunked himself down into the infantry bench. Far more casual than she was used to.

“On retrospective analysis our host is either insane or has an ulterior motive.” He wiped his hand across his faceplate - possibly a learned behavior from Cassian.

“I would put my money on both.”

She sat herself down next to him and leaned against his arm.

“Which is now a considerable amount.” He said and adjusted to make it more comfortable.

“Yes. Thank you. I was quite oblivious to the fact.” Jyn snarked back,

“You will probably dislike what I have to say next.” He replied.

“That I should use this money?” Jyn carelessly tossed the chip across the hold.

“No,” he paused for a moment. “That I have to go back.”

Her stomach churned. Her fingers suddenly felt numb.

“Why?” She asked, quiet but firm.

“Because I told Ka’tesh I would. Seeing you home, safe was one of his bestowed favors. I must return so that he may fulfill the rest. He also not so subtly threatened your safety if I did not.”

“I'm coming with you.” Because she would be damned before she lost him again.

“Permission to speak freely.” He said.

Jyn almost scoffed at that.

“You never needed it before.” She replied.

“I would ask that you do not put yourself in a compromising position again. I don’t trust him Jyn. He is duplicitous by nature. His help is most likely a means to an end we can't see yet. Logically any outcome that involves you and him would end up with you right where he desires you to be.”

“Has it occurred to you that he's using you as a bargaining chip?”

“I can't possibly mean that much to you. You've made it clear I'm dispensable.” He said lightly, as if if as no matter of consequence.

“Kaye I didn't mean that. You do matter to me.”

He didn't argue, but he didn't reply either.

“You're just different.”

“I do not wish to be. It was never my intention.” He said quietly. His fists were clenched and his metal chin dipped downward.

“I figured as much. From the moment we spoke for the first time in Cassian's U-wing. You were very unpleasant by the way.”

“I'm still very unpleasant.”

“Granted.” She nudged his arm. “But I also know you're trying so very hard not to be on my behalf.”

Jyn sighed. She didn't want to approach this subject - at least not yet. But it had to be said, to at least make things clear as to where they stood.

“If you want my opinion,” She began again. “I think it bothers you that you are different from real people. Which is why I think you say the things you say as act they way you do. You know you don't have anything to prove to me, right?”

“I am not sure that I understand-” He answered quickly. But she cut him off.

“What I'm saying is that you matter to me, you don't have to pretend to be something you're not. And I'm sorry if...I'm sorry if it seemed like I was forcing you into being a thing you aren't actually are.”

“I'm not pretending anything.” His voice carried an offended tone, even though she wasn't trying to insult him.

“If I could make it so you could be real, I would. there's nothing I want more than for you to feel in the same kind of way I do. But you and I both know you aren't built that way. You've said just as much before, many times. I don't want you to feel like you need to be my emotional support droid.”

“If I don't have real emotions, then, I hardly think I'm capable of being an emotional support.”

“Semantics. Are you going back for you, or are you going back for me?”

“Both. I already lost Cassian. And the rest of the crew. If I lost you that would be it. I don't believe I have it in me to find a new directive.”

“I don't want you to go.” She folded her arms against her chest, feeling exceptionally small.

“And I don't want you to go either.” He countered.

“It seems that we are at an impasse.”

“You won't order me to stay?”

“When have I ordered you to do anything?” Jyn sighed.

Her will finally broke.

All the fight she had left leeched out of her and she was an exhausted husk of a human being. He would either go or stay. She wouldn't force him one way or the other. It wasn't her.

Jyn clawed at her shoulders and paced back toward her makeshift bed, kicking the dress along the way. She swallowed and kneeled, thinking about all that money. Temptation kicked at her brain again. With those kinds of credits to burn she could say goodbye to this heap of junk ship. She could have a real bed. A real meal - instead of sleeping exhausted and angry she didn't eat more at Ka'tesh Elal’s behest.

Exile in style.

But she didn't care about those things. Not really. Her fingers itched for open sky, endless oceans, and stars without number. The chip stayed where it was thrown.

She reclined, facing the wall. The sound of the cargo Bay door opening reverberated throughout the ship.

Don't leave. Don't leave. Don't leave. Don't leave.
Her heartbeat was a begging stacto that rang and rang in her ears.

Jyn shut her eyes and clenched her teeth. And in the inside of her eyelids images burned. Fanciful and new. Kaytoo was sitting down across from her at a rebel outpost mess hall, pushing fruit on her plate because she had forgotten to grab some. His head was cocked the side, smug and listening as she sipped caf from a dented metal cup.

Then, they were in a U-wing. She could hear the quiet thunder of the warp field outside. Kaytoo was piloting as she lounged in the co-pilots seat. He was droning on about percentages and statistics, but she didn't mind. It was peaceful - and every so often he would look over at her. His moon-like eyes making sure she was still listening even if she was about to fall asleep.

And then, she was in a bunk. Nothing fancy, nothing luxurious. Standard issue blankets and pillows - and it was so small that two people could barely fit on a pallet. And Kaye, instead of recharging somewhere else, was sitting at the edge of her bed. His hand was loosely in hers as he entered a power cycle mode, and Jyn curved her body around his to accommodate.

But then there was a hand on her shoulder. Mechanical, cold, but gentle - rousing her from her comfortable, pretty fictions.

“I wouldn't do this if I didn't have to.” He said matter-of-factly. “But of all my processes and priorities you are my first and most consuming. Someone needs to be here if the rebellion does come and my function is to ensure your continued survival. I know humans dislike excuses… but I hope you understand.”

Jyn was silent at his declaration, but she couldn't help taking his hand anyway. She gripped it against her shoulder.

“I won’t leave you Jyn. Not for long. I’ll follow you across the universe as long as you'll have me. As long as you let me.”

And at that moment Jyn found that she didn't care if he was incapable of caring about her the way she cared about him. If there was a future to be had - she wanted Kaytoo in it, in whatever capacity he wanted to be.

“I was wrong. You are my family.”

“I know. That's why I have to go.” His thumb swiped across the back of her hand.

“I won't leave without you, you know.” Jyn croaked. “If the Rebellion comes for a rescue I’m not leaving this rock without you on my ship.”

“Illogical, but I'll concede it.” He rumbled.

Jyn swallowed her next words lodged like a rock in her throat.

“Goodbye Kaye.” She said.

“Goodbye Jyn Erso. I'll be back soon.”

Kaytoo squeezed her hand, and then slowly pulled away. Jyn couldn't watch him walk away - for the second time now. But this time the roaring emptiness was louder. It was like they were destined to keep finding each other and then losing each other again. The push and pull of it all was painful. Was this how it felt to own a droid? Is this what Cassian felt? Was this why, that even under all of his smouldering glances Cassian seemed to hold a part of himself back? Perhaps when you own a being, they own a part of you too. You just never register it.

She listened as he walked away. Slow steps down the ramp into the waiting darkness beyond. The hold closed again - leaving her alone with pile of crumpled fabric, a dirty dress, and over five-million credits.

Chapter Text

“You said you could give me anything.” K-2SO called out into a smoky, hazy room.

The trip up to Elal’s spire was considerably easier to get to the second time. K-2SO was escorted with the same pomp and circumstance, but thankfully no invasive cleanings.

But the floor he was on was abruptly and jarringly different. Tapestries hung from the ceiling and walls making a maze of pigment and texture, cushions littered the floor like succulent plants clinging to a landscape. Everything was soft, and vibrant. Even the lighting was subdued. Shadows danced on the walls - limbs, torsos, sinuous bodies moved in the half light. It was as if an unseen orgy lurked somewhere in the depths of shadow and color.

K-2SO swatted aside fabric while his escort, Thant Rigar-Ressa lingered by the lift.

“But I find your abilities in this regard to be lacking.” He called again. He was frustrated and when he was frustrated, he goaded. Beings either reacted or they didn't. Both outcomes were just as telling.

He strode forward, past swaying lamps, past incense burners, past levitating trays filled with rare delicacies. The droid carelessly stomped across pillows, nests of blankets, and narrowly avoided sleeping bodies as they contentedly stretched themselves out across the floor.

“Over here,” A soft, melodious voice called. It was feminine, deep and husky.

Past a swathe of curtains, atop a pile of cushions, surrounded by companions of all shapes and sizes - sat a voluptuous Twi’Lek female.

The green of her skin was almost iridescent. Everything about her looked to be in the peak of health. Not a wrinkle, not a scar. The swell of her hips was evenly matched by the swell of her breasts. Her eyes were a flinty grey framed by long black lashes. Plump, sinuous Lekku cascaded from the back of her head advertising, daring for a more intimate encounter.

She was also barely wearing anything at all.

It occurred to him that most beings would find her alluringly beautiful. He would have disagreed.

There was something to be said for humans with dirt under their fingernails and sun reddened cheeks. Humans that had tired eyes. Messy hair. Muscles that were stretched oddly over bone and fat deposits. Scars, wrinkles, and imperfect teeth were more valuable in the grand scheme of the universe. Perfection was easy. Being uniquely imperfect, that was more difficult. More impressive. More pleasing.

But he decided that this was probably not the time to voice that opinion.

“Come closer,” the Twi’lek said.

And he did, albeit reluctantly.

“Who are you?” K-2SO called to the figure. His vocoder spat it like a challenge.

She grabbed the hose from the massive pipe positioned beside her and inhaled, long and deep. Smoke poured from her nostrils as if she were a krayt dragon.

“I thought it would have been obvious,” she oozed. “I am Ka’tesh Elal.”

“I see.” He said in the way that meant he didn't really care what species, gender, or age Ka’tesh was. He said it in a way that made it clear he just wanted to back to the ship.

“Did you honestly think I spent most of my time as a Hutt? I have a litany but species at my disposal.”

“I can't say what I expected.”

“Regardless,” She inhaled another jet of smoke. “You kept your promise. You came back. I bet that was hard for you.”

His fist curled.

“Yes.” She didn't know how hard.

“I would have bet against you, you know.” Ka’tesh’s eyes narrowed. “I thought Thant would have to drag you here. You seem to be the type.”

“I don't think you know you know me that well.” He wanted it to sound sardonic, hateful, but the words came off as careless.

“I know Jyn didn't order you here. I know you had to convince her to let you go. Tell me I'm wrong.”

He couldn’t. He was still incapable of lying outright convincingly.

“I find it fascinating that she could have ordered you to stay, that she could have forced you to do it. But she didn't. What does that mean, I wonder? But I digress. You must have a request I can grant.”

K-2SO realized too late that he had come empty handed. He still had no clue what to ask for. There was no clever plan this time. No calculated escape. Jyn already had enough money to buy a skyscraper and then some- and K-2 was certain if he had asked she would have given him anything.

He finally understood the gambit in giving Jyn such a large sum of credits. It was to make K-2’s request more difficult. Less tangible.

“Oh how quaint.” Ka’tesh laughed. It was a throaty, implicitly sensual thing. “You still haven't come up with one, have you? All this talk of finding me wanting and you still have nothing to ask for. It's okay, I have all the time in the world.”

But then K-2’s thoughts drifted back to Jyn.

Her, screaming in a nightmare she couldn't quite wake up from.
Her, shivering alone in the dark.
Her, with a blaster against her head, howling at the universe.

“What if what I wanted was in the service of someone else? Would your offer still apply?”

Ka’tesh looked surprised at that. Smoke left her pouted lips in an exaggerated loop.

“You are a very interesting creature, K-2SO. You never seem to disappoint. But yes, anything.”

“Can you provide a companion for my mistress?”

Her eyes narrowed with cunning, with a kind of mirth that seemed altogether sinister.

“What kind of companion? Are you asking for a prostitute? A slave? I can provide either of course.”

“No.” K-2SO said after a brief pause to process the offer. “She needs something more than that, I think. A friend, or a lover. Or both. I would ask for a family member, but not even you can raise the dead.”

“And you don't fit the bill I'm guessing?” Her smile was coy.

“I am not what she is looking for.” He replied quickly.

“Ahhhhh, but what if you were?”

“Not possible.”

“Oh? How so?” She leered. Teeth too white against sticky black tar lips.

“I believe she wants someone who can love her.”

“Physically? Because I'm sure there's upgrades for that.” Her hand shot out and rubbed suggestively against his pelvis plate.

“Uninterested.” He pushed her hand off of him with more force than was necessary.

“Hah!” She barked, eyes alight with some sort of organic, feral humor. “An Imperial Droid fuckbot! I'd almost pay to see that.”

“You are behaving... differently.” He replied. More frustrated than anything else.

The laughter abruptly stopped. The Twi’lek before him stiffened. What was once loose limbed and flirtatious became imperious and cold.

“I'm inhabiting a role, just as you at inhabiting a role. But what if I could offer a different one?”

“I would say that it would be a trick, a ruse, a trap. I would say what you’d be offering me is bait for something that I am not fully informed about.”

“You still don't believe me.”

“Altruism doesn't seem like a likely quality you possess.”

“You are correct. But what if I told you that I felt like the Galaxy owed you something. Would you believe me then?”

“No. I would not.”

“Oh?” The flirtatious personality was back in full swing. The Twi’leks lips pulled themselves into an insincere pout.

“ I simply do not see the correlation between your motivation and your actions. You made it clear you wanted my mistress under your thrall since you learned of her being in the Kafrene sector. And by extension, me.”

“I bestow favors on the worthy.” Ka’tesh insisted.

“Your favors are unwanted.”

“You wouldn't be worthy if you wanted them.” She winked. “What I’m about offer you is something I have never offered to anyone before. Something incredibly special.”

“And what is that?”

“I offer you, a life.”

Chapter Text

“What?” K-2SO said, lost and grasping for his circuits.

“Did you honestly want a stranger making Jyn happy? A person you don't know or possibly like?”

“No, but…”

“I have a considerable library of vessels at my disposal. I can certainly afford to part with one. And it will be any one of your choice.”

The smile Ka’tesh possessed was impish and inviting. She lounged against the pillows as if she were discussing the weather. Not bodies or lives.

“Are you actually implying that you would shove my processors into some fleshy shell as your wonderful solution?” K-2SO stepped backwards in disgust. “You can't be serious.”

“I can make you a person.”

“I don't want to be a person. I'm fine the way I am.”

“Are you now?” The Twi’lek blew a smoke ring. “Tell me, how has being an Imperial droid treated you?”

“As I stated, fine.”

“I see.” She replied, puffing a stream of smoke through the ring carelessly like an arrow. “So being a gangly, defective hunk of broken durasteel suits you needs just fine.”

Ka’tesh pulled herself upwards then, lazily. The pace of her soft bare feet circled where the droid was standing.

“What was it that endeared Jyn Erso to you?” She laughed softly. “Was it your hunched posture? Oh, maybe it was your cold, unfeeling shell- chipped black paint has a certain vintage look to it.”

She drifted close then - her hand ghosted across his face-plate in a mocking caress.

“Or maybe it was your optics. Nothing says attractive like lights that can burn out her retinas. And hey, nothing says endearing like looking like a machine built by an Empire that killed her entire family.” She chuckled once more. “But you could be something different, someone different. I could make you into everything a woman like Jyn could crave. Beautiful, Handsome, Powerful. I have them all. All you have to do is say the word.”

K-2SO put his hand to his face-plate, skimming his blank visage.

He needed some to process.

The idea was repulsive, repugnant, and revolting- but also... enthralling.

He found that he wanted to be attractive to her.

He wanted to be better. Look better. Perform better.

Every problem, every issue that they encountered so far could be attributed to the fact he was a Droid. Taking away that issue meant that he was no longer conspicuous, no longer an object, no longer a possession to be torn apart or coveted. It was elegant in its simplicity, but conceptually it seemed messy.

K-2SO looked down at his hands. Strong, perfect, but insensitive and inhuman.

If he was being completely honest, there was something that appealed to him on a baser level. Something unexplainable. The revulsion he felt was overshadowed by it. Curiosity. Fascination. What would it be like to blend into a crowd of people? To be allowed into any establishment? He would no longer look like an instrument of the empire. He would just look like something else, someone else.

He wondered what she would feel like - Jyn Erso, the planes of her back beneath a palm of flesh and bone. the question snagged on his circuits above all others

And Ka’tesh read his silence like a data-pad, or an unsecured console. Her mouth was a crescent moon waxing in victory.

“You're intrigued. I can tell. Tell you what. Let me slip into something more comfortable- and I'll show you a assortment of beings of which the universe has never seen.”

Suddenly the Twi’lek slumped the the ground. Her eyes were blank and a trickle of saliva pooled from her mouth onto the floor. It was as if her power was cut, like a droid.

“I’ll let you even chose whomever you want. I said that before, but I do mean it. On the house. All you have to do is say the word.” A smooth male voice called from behind him.

A Pau’an smiled by the lift. Sharp and pointed teeth gleamed rictus against striped skin. But nothing about Ka’tesh’s new smile seemed friendly.

 

-----

The narrow corridor beyond the elevator exit was damp, humid and leaky. He was no longer in a skyscraper proper - rather he was in its roots, its catacombs. Water lines striped the walls, while water droplets clung to the tangle of pipes and wires above. Every so often they pattered and slapped against his armor. It occurred to to him, that given the spaces he had seen underground, the asteroid must have been hollow. As large as the city was at surface level, it must have been even more expansive below. The thought was less than comforting.

But the Pau’an led onward. Past hanging makeshift lanterns, past snaking cables, and past puddles of rust that were strangely at odds with the opulent finery on the floors above - until finally the came across a heavily shielded door. It opened easily and instantly - without encryption and without a password. There were two mounted turrets just inside the threshold - and further to the back a magna-cannon. And a flame-thrower. But they seemed to all be safely disengaged. For now.

His security protocols had roused themselves in anticipation.

Ka'tesh caught him assessing the security system.

"It should be mentioned that I am also the intelligence that powers this building. I would be unwise to attempt anything... drastic."

"Noted."

Ahead was a massive circular chamber. wires hung from the ceiling like metallic vines. The ground was equally covered in long contorted cabling. It was a disorganized mess of different electrical inputs. The power flowed to and from the room was absolute. K-2 had only seen its equal in imperial installations.

In the center of the room was the spider-droid. Covered in the tangle. It seemed to be the core of the entire operation. Rings of heavy blaster turrets surrounded it from floor to ceiling in concentric circles.

K-2SO strode forward - past the ring of blasters, over the cables, to the brain in the middle of it all. The glass that housed it was cleaned and polished, making the view of its occupant pristine.

He touched it without thinking. Metal fingers gently tapping against the glass. Temptation thrummed against his processor. It would be so simple, just to punch his hand inside and crush it. Perhaps he would be destroyed in the process, but Jyn would be safer for the effort.

Some small part of him hung back however. He wasn't sure if it was guilt or the fascination with being an organic being. In either case, he decided against ending everything right there and then.

His fingers drifted downwards and then traveled safely back to his sides.

"Hello again." Ka'tesh said softly, as if he knew what the droid had just considered. "But please, pay me no mind. I brought you down here for a different purpose." He gestured to the walls of the chamber.

K-2SO paced past the blaster turrets and turned his attention to what looked to be panels stretching around the rooms circumference.

At first it looked like the walls were decorated with crude, but realistic sculptures. They were greyish silver boxes presenting terrible reliefs of beings caught in various states of distress or agony. Some were blank looking, but not many.

His material readings maintained that the material was carbonite. He scanned deeper, further than was usually necessary and detected heat signatures that were contained within. Those signatures were identical to living beings - if not dulled due to what looked like forced hibernation.

K-2SO would have been horrified if he possessed the ability. As it stood, his circuits thrummed with distaste.

He wasn't entirely certain he liked the options that were presented, nor how they were presented - but as this juncture he didn't dare voice an opinion on the matter. K-2SO may have been mouthy, but the situation at hand compelled him into uncharacteristic silence.

“Do you know what species and gender your mistress prefers?” Ka’tesh called out.

But K-2SO didn't answer. His attention was focused on the being frozen to the wall before him.

He approached a contained Twi’lek male - static in silence. His mouth was parted and rivulets of hardened molten metal seemed to ooze out of his mouth. The being could probably be considered attractive - but something about it made the crystal in his chest whir uncomfortably

“Belson Wei. Smuggler.” Ka’tesh intoned.
“He cheated me in a cargo shipment. Or I should say tried to cheat me. Not very bright. But then again I scrambled his brains anyway. Though I doubt that it matters.”

K-2SO moved onward to Belson’s neighbor. A female Rodian. Ka’tesh continued his description.

“Soir Nare. Brothel Madam. She had a taste for Spice. Unfortunately she incurred quite a large debt to acquire it. I came to collect.”

And it went onward.

K-2SO would inspect every being on display, and Ka’tesh would provide a brief biography. It was fifty-six being before the droid began to feel overwhelmed. So many permutations of life. The choices were so varied it was difficult to reach a decision.

K-2SO surveyed the room again.

Almost at the end of the line, hidden by a nest of cables, was a human male on an outstretched table, already thawed or being prepared for storage. K-2SO paused.

Cassian was a human male. So were Chirrut, Baze, and Bohdi. Jyn felt comfortable with them. In the case of Cassian more so.

“And this one?”

The droid gestured to the body on the table. Still breathing, eyes open - but something was off and amiss. The human looked vacant. No micro-movements. No indication that he knew about anything that was going on in the room.

“Barabas Eret Kaeterren.”

K-2SO approached for closer inspection.

Barabas was taller for a human, but average and very pale. Too pale. But K-2SO wanted to know more. He pointed a look in Ka’tesh’s direction that said as much.

“Fine.” Ka’tesh rolled his eyes but grinned all the same. “This was my former business associate. You know the one that sold me for scrap to the Jawas? This is he. My trophy if you will.”

K-2 looked back at the Twi’lek male. The Twi’lek was in better physical condition. So was the Pau’an. And the Rodian. And almost every other being besides the Hutt. But Ka’tesh had seen the movement and elaborated.

The human in the table had sharp, but reasonably bland features. Pale, reddish hair. Thin lips. Angular jaw. Not young, but not old. Perhaps the same age as Cassian. With humans it was difficult to tell without a tissue sample.

“I can't deny that I took his body for just for principle. Not for aesthetics. I usually prefer more… impressive lifeforms.” He made a brief expansive gesture that swept the room.

“But clean medical history. Full set of teeth. Good eyes. Thirty-seven years old galactic standard.”

“It's like you're trying to sell me a new speeder.”

Again, it struck him how uncomfortable he was was the concept of inhabiting another body. But something pulled him forward, like entropy, like gravity, like a black hole.

“A vehicle is a vehicle.” Ka’tesh smiled so thinly he could only see the edge of his teeth.

K-2 had no argument to that. Not one that mattered. But he did have lingering doubt and questions. Apprehension was his best defensive strategy. Blindly following was not something he excelled at.

“And how would this be done?” He queried.

“For you, it's simple. Organic beings are harder - like me for instance. I require specific hardware that installs my consciousness into a new vessel. The vessel must possess the output, while I possess an input. The input and output don't need to be connected permanently physically - but need to connect temporarily for data transference. As you are now, with your data-spike, while crude - would be capable enough to accomplish it. Enough to be inside someone else at least, if adequately prepped. That also isn't difficult one you if know how. What my tech specializes in is data retention and integration. Which is what you need.”

Ka’tesh tapped at the input module nestled at the base of the human’s spine and then stepped to the side. As if he was giving them both their space.

“What if I wanted to go back. What if… Jyn does not like me?”

Ka’tesh gave him a look that was almost pitying.

“Easy. You just make your way back here and offload. Try again. And hey, there's even a failsafe. You’ll be back to your old self if you experience overwhelming physical trauma as well. You'll never be stuck. That's the point of why I invented this. If my consciousness was attached to any of my thralls I would have been long dead by now.”

He was not convinced. His entire body was rigid with hesitation.

And Ka’tesh was visibly irritated, letting some of the Hutt they had met previously show through.

“Look, obviously what you're doing so far hasn't helped. You could have asked me for vengeance. You could have asked for me to aid the rebel fleet. Hell, you could have asked to to blow those star destroyers to kingdom come to get off this asteroid. But you didn't. You asked for a companion for your mistress” his voice carried a mocking tone. “I have bequeathed in spades. It's not my problem you don't like the options presented. And It's not my problem you should have been more specific. Take it or leave it.”

K-2SO touched the human’s face as gentle as he was able. His own haptic feedback array wasn't sensitive enough to glean anything from the contact, but he felt warm at least. Softer than he was. He tilted human’s chin from side to side. As if the inspection would reveal that the body was not as it appeared.

“And you promise I can return if I want to?”

“What, you don’t trust me still?” Ka’tesh drawled.

He thought of Jyn, one last time. He could not give her the sun, or wind, or an ocean. He could not give her true safety. Or a home.

But but he could give her this.

“Not in the least... But I acquiesce. You are correct. My current course of action and assistance has been paltry at best. I chose this one” His hand brushed against the unconscious man’s forehead.

“Then if you would, please have a seat” The Pau’an oozed.

A durasteel chair slid out from a hidden panel in the floor. It was covered in ports and outputs. Hardly a thing conceived for organic beings at all.

K-2SO sat in it anyway.

“Relax.” Ka’tesh said.

It occurred to him that he, an imperial security droid, was scared, scared in a way he had only touched on before on Scarif. It was a newer and uncomfortable sensation. His limbs were stiffer than usual and he supposed his discomfort must have been visible.

He was unused to being at the mercy of chance, of fate, and if promises. That was a compunction purely biological.

Ka’tesh fiddled with the wires at the base if the chair, obviously manually calibrating for something. K-2 could not tell what.

After a few moments of silence and jostling- Ka’tesh continued his monologue, seeming to hate the sound of silence.

“You could be anyone, anything. I could have freed you forever. No one would ever command you again. But you chose to be something for her, and her use. Curious.”

K-2SO didn't bother to deny the accusation. It was true and this should have been his obvious primary motive.

“It almost seems like an organic affection. How strange.”

“She is my mistress. I am bound to obey and serve.” He finally replied.

“If I was your master would you do the same for me?

“No.” But the answer made him uneasy. More uneasy than the question.

Ka’tesh finished his work and stood. The causal line of his body was oddly threatening. Perhaps it was K-2SO’s new found fear index.

“Then Why do you care so much about Jyn Erso, I wonder?” The Pau’an clapped his hands eagerly. “Food for thought while your central processor gets liquefied.”

Ka’tesh’s smile was feline now. A wicked thing, like K-2SO had stumbled into a trap so perfectly, so succinctly that he couldn't help but be pleased with himself.

“Oh and in case you were wondering…”

The chair suddenly magnetized, Rendering K-2SO completely immobile. A cord, snake-like, slithered its way to his right forelimb. It curled around his data spike with a distinctive click-pop.

“This is going to hurt. A lot.”

The cord began to interface with his central processor.

And for the first time in his inorganic existence, K-2SO screamed.

Chapter Text

“My Stardust, what are you doing all the way out here?”

Jyn was six and a half years old, standard. She was still on Lah’mu and sitting on the beach - alone until her Papa had found her. Waves were crashing softly against the black beach. Sand squelched between her toes and the ring around the planted was a pink ribbon in the sunset.

“I feel lonely. I think.” She said.

And it was true. She was.

There were other children, no other families. The main village was three hours out by transport - and even then it was a tiny thing. Nothing compared to the crowded the skies of Coruscant.

“Then why are you all the way out here dear?” Her father admonished. “You're only more alone the farther from the house you go. And you know it's not safe to be out here by yourself.”

Jyn considered her father’s face. He didn't look angry, or sound angry. Maybe he would understand.

“I think the ocean’s lonely too,” She said.

“And what makes you say that?” His voice sounded light, curious, but there was sadness in it if you listened carefully enough.

“Because there's only one of it.” Jyn replied.

“Ahh. I see.” He smiled - the creases of his eyes wrinkled ever so gently. “But the ocean has rocks, and fish and all sort of things. Wouldn't those things be better? Why would the ocean need your company?”

Jyn thought it over carefully. Her father was right. If the ocean was capable of feeling lonely, it had plenty of creatures inside it to keep it entertained.

But no, that wasn't the same. There were plenty of rocks. Plenty of fish. She shook her head and tugged on her father’s robe. Her tiny face was solemn.

“Because there's only one of me too.”

And that was true as her own loneliness. As the sky. And as the ocean itself. She was alone. But there was something, someone alone out there too. Maybe It was the ocean. Perhaps it was something else.

But whatever the case, she would be there, keeping it company, and waiting for it.

Chapter Text

Insanity, flickering and fluttering like an insect, invaded his circuits in a fast growing infection. System by system he became unstable and amorphous. His entire being was going into shock. Reeling, stretching, snapping and screaming . Snippets of memories howled down his processors. Past and present collided until they were one and the same.

---

Designation: K-2SO.

And then there were flashes. Conveyor belts filled with droids just like him. Magma - hot, black and searing. Orders. Regulations. Parameters. They suffocated his core until there was nothing but binary. Laser fire. Skulls cracking against his closed fists. The vicious high of a job well done. More orders. The clipping sound of his feet against the floor of a star destroyer. So much vacancy was there that it swallowed him while.

And he let it, easily.

MEMORY FILE \0.000001\

The face of a dirty human male. Brown eyes. Stubbled jawline. He was not up to Imperial Dress Code standard. Rebel.

But for the first time in his operational history he found he did not care.

Furthermore, he had no desire to kill him.

And all that nothing, all that was vacant, was finally filled up with something.

He just didn't know what.

 

----

MEMORY FILE \0.001459\

K-2SO was on Yavin IV, disembarking Cassian’s U-wing after his first official mission. The gas giant of Yavin loomed on the horizon - blazing orange and gold. The last gasp of the day’s sunlight refracted off of the distant ziggurats making them look like alien teeth. His audio processors picked up the bickering of distant tropical birds.

It felt… nice.

He had a purpose that wasn't irritatingly inane. And while he could not remember much before the reprogram, the disorder of this planetoid was comforting in its way. Same with the rebellion.

It was chaos. But he was order.

Even his new master seemed kinder to him than most, though he had little frame of reference. His name was Cassian Andor.

They had met at Wecaoe. It was a desert planet with a large scale imperial installation. K-2SO could not remember much before Cassian extracted his base programming- but that didn’t matter all that much. They managed to evacuate, against all calculations as well as give vital security protocol information to the rebellion.

Cassian yelled sometimes. He would get impatient, but he never threatened to dismantle him. He never would send him into danger for his own amusement. He never sent him to fight in droid battle pits, nor did he replace parts of his being without justification. K-2SO never washed dishes, never folded laundry, and wasn't treated like a servant.

It made K-2SO braver. It made him test his boundaries - just to see how far his master would let him go.

Cassian grumbled and growled, but for the most part K-2SO was treated with some modicum of respect. Even if he wasn’t lended a blaster - as per standard of most mission based droids, K-2SO felt it was only a matter of time before his master consented.

His master was also aesthetically pleasing all things considered. Sunlight glinted off his black hair like clean hot oil. His skin was dark and healthy - the color of good servo-motors. The kind that were made with a high grade copper and aluminum compounds. Even his eyes shone brighter than most organics in a way that was statistically measurable.

And so K-2 thought he was lucky. He felt his master was a good one. And while the rebellion was messy, and its inhabitants unwashed and dirty organic masses, he felt his place was assured. And he also felt his place was a good one.

----

MEMORY FILE \0.023090\

Cassian was making the most distressing noises from his quarters. His audio processors could pick it up from the maintenance hallway. Was it another nightmare? Was Cassian in trouble? K-2SO was ready to pounce, ready to kill.

But then he heard a second voice from behind the closed blast door. A feminine one, gasping and sighing. Possibly the female he had encountered earlier that day with Cassian. The one with the black hair, blue eyes and a slight limp.

They were coupling.

Suddenly, there was a feeling there, wedged between his circuits that made him feel uncomfortable. And it wasn’t just the grit trapped in his servo-motors.

As their voices reached a more hysterical pitch, Cassian said something. Words he had never heard spill from his mouth. Words he didn’t fully comprehend the meaning of.

“I love you, I love you, I love you.”

And a giggle from the woman - harsh and sharp.

There was barely contained frisson moving against his internal wiring. He wanted to interrupt them - he wanted to supersede the woman's interests with his own. It was all he could do just to hold himself there and listen. Everything inside him screamed and itched to do something. Anything.

Why did Cassian spend his intimate moments with this woman? What could have driven him to be exposed like that, with someone he had hardly known? Was his own droid not acceptable enough? His own partner? Admittedly K-2SO had never performed intercourse - but he knew he would be infinitely more skilled than whatever this companion had to offer.

It was a simple equation. Simple mathematics.

Had she risked life and limb for Cassian time and time again? No. Had she proven her loyalty to Cassian as unquestionable? No. Could she sever a stormtroopers body from their head in less than a second? No.

She was a zero. K-2SO was a one.

But if that was truly the case, then why did Cassian place this kind of trust with this strange woman, when he didn't even trust his own droid with a blaster? This stranger did not deserve his attentions.

K-2SO quietly slid down the corridor wall. Unable to move, unable to leave. Listening as Cassian reached his organic climax.

He felt scared, angry, and ashamed. He knew these were irrational feelings that were blossoming in their infancy. He knew on a rational level he was being juvenile and pathetic. But he just couldn't help it. Or understand it. Or fix it. Or do anything of the sort that could make this better.

His system was snagging on itself like it was made of bits of tar and wax. Parts of Cassian’s face looped back and forth across his databanks. The bled into themselves. Smiling, angry.

For the first time ever he felt... unsophisticated. Crude. A blunt instrument.

Maybe it was his meta programming - was it his gender alignment? No? Perhaps he didn't meet his master’s standards. Maybe his chassis wasn’t pleasing enough. Could it be his own personality template? He couldn't even begin to guess.

Whatever it was made K-2SO an unappealing and untrustworthy. And he wanted to change it.
Change it for Cassian. So that maybe he would be ‘loved’ too.

-----

MEMORY FILE \0.023300\

“Cassian, what is love?”

Hyperspace blue flashed against the windows of Cassian’s U-wing. They were on their two-hundred-and-second intel mission together. It hand been eight standard days since Cassian’s intercourse with the human female.

The question had bounced around in his circuits until he couldn't contain it any more.

“Why do you want to know Kay?” The rich lilt of his voice was careful, but curious.

“I hear people say it sometimes to each other. II heard you saying it to that woman in your quarters.”

If Cassian was perturbed by K-2SO’s intrusion, he didn't show it. His expression was perfectly neutral.

“Love is useless for the most part. And usually a lie.”

“If it's useless, then why are you biologicals so obsessed with it?”

“You're a droid. You don't have to worry about it. You can't love anyone. Which is lucky.”

“Can someone love me?”

Cassian’s face scrunched up for a moment. K-2SO knew that look. Exasperation that would have been hidden breath his hand if he was actively steering the ship.

“No.” He replied after some time.

“But that's not a bad thing, okay?” Cassian continued. “You don't need it. People, sometimes animals, can die without it or because of it. It's inconvenient. It means giving a part of yourself away. It means being vulnerable. It means having someone have control over the most basic parts of yourself. How you act and react. It's a distraction at best and a trap at worst.”

Something crossed his face. His eyes were softer and he swallowed hard. K-2SO had never seen his master look sad before.

“If someone did love you, would you wish that kind of longing on someone who had no hope of getting you to reciprocate?”

“I suppose not.”

Cassian finally turned to face him. K-2SO was not an expert at human displays of emotion. He was not a protocol droid - but there was something in the way Cassian looked at him. It communicated million things he could not parse. And also nothing at all.

“Just focus those circuits if yours on the mission at hand. Let me worry about love. You worry about piloting.”

Something changed within him then. Whatever hopes he had, whatever colors the universe possessed, were gone in an instant. All the soft tangles of cords and wires where Cassian was involved evaporated into something caustic and biting.

His processor drifted back into that nothingness he was built on.

K-2SO could not love.

He could not live, because he was not alive. And as such could not die. Everything K-2SO thought he felt was just a delusion. A malfunction. A virus. Unclean. Foolish.

“Understood.” K-2SO replied quietly, stuffing every illogical feeling he had about Cassian into a far flung data-bank - to possibly be never revisited again.

----

MEMORY FILE \0.034847\

His hands were at Jyn Erso’s throat, slamming her into the cold, hard ground of Wobani. It was effortless. To him, she weighed nothing and meant even less.

If anything he was irritated that she had single handedly manage to dodge the rest off the extraction team.

He had to do everything himself.

And it seemed not even a platoon of people were as efficient as he was. He was even functioning without a blaster. Cassian still refused to give him one.

“Congratulations, you are being rescued.” He announced. His vocabulators danced on sarcasm.
He could still feel her pulse flickering against his fingertips and couldn't help but be smug at her vulnerability. His processors preened at his success.

All this trouble for a single, pathetic, organic life form.

He straightened back up to his full height. Basking in whatever emotional response he could glean from a job well done.

But then he saw Jyn Erso’s eyes and all the preening stopped.

Her gaze bored into his optics like the tip of a durasteel blade. She still challenged him, even if she couldn't breathe, even if she was at a disadvantage. This woman wasn't backing down.

She stared at him like she had already owned him, like she had already seen everything he had to offer and was deemed unworthy.

And K-2SO was suddenly eager to get back to Cassian as soon as possible - because in that moment Jyn Erso looked dangerous. The kind of dangerous his master was.

And he had no doubt, that Jyn Erso - if given the opportunity, would rip his own body apart piece by piece.

----

MEMORY FILE \0.035779\

Sunlight filtered in to Cassian’s U-wing - bright and condescending. K-2SO didn't like the sun - not like organics did. It made his chassis all hot and noisy. He hated the pinging sensation as he could feel it expand micrometer by micrometer.

Cassian was still outside - undoubtedly getting the same duplicitous orders from General Draven, as per usual.

But unlike usual, they had a guest on their infiltration mission.

The soft brush of hands against the hull triggered his auditory sensors.

Jyn Erso had picked her way inside of Cassian’s U-Wing. She walked softly, toe-heeled and careful. This was a being that knew balance and force. Just watching her made him acutely aware of why most of the extraction team had failed to apprehend her.

There was no other outward sign of the dangerous criminal that he encountered on Wobani, just grace and efficiency. Even her gaze had cooled somewhat.

He supposed introductions were necessary.

“I'm K-2SO. I'm a reprogrammed Imperial droid.” He added, in case Jyn Erso was particularly dense.

“I remember you.” She replied dismissively. Her focus seemed to be on the supplies she was allotted for the mission at hand.

“I see the Council is sending you with us to Jedha.” He stated. K-2SO was not the kind of droid to be casually rebuffed.

“Apparently so.” She brushed him off again.

Suddenly, a lick of frisson curled up his circuits. Something about Jyn’s uncaring demeanor rankled him.

“That is a bad idea. I think so, and so does Cassian.” His vocabulator hissed. “But what do I know? My specialty is just strategic analysis.”

But Jyn pointedly ignored him and continued organizing her pack.

K-2SO turned back to the communications console to the same.

Fine.

The sooner this was over with the better.

But then Cassian entered from the port side. The look on Jyn’s face was enough for him to know what he had just walked into.

“You met Kaytoo?” Cassian commented casually.

“Charming.” There was enough venom is Jyn’s assessment to kill at least a dozen adult Wookies.

“He tends to say whatever comes into his circuits. It's a by-product of the reprogram.”

That stung somewhat. After all they had been through, after all this time, he had still thought him some vapid emotionless droid - thoroughly incapable of keeping his mouth shut. The incident of the woman In Cassian’s quarters was years ago, but the memory snapped through his circuits white and hot.

The lack of apparent trust and respect shown in front of Jyn was exceptionally abrasive. It only cemented her point that he could be easily passed over and ignored. Gone was that feeling of belonging that the droid initially possessed. K-2SO looked back at Jyn Erso again, if only to needle her more. But the sight of something stopped his processor cold.

“Why does she get a blaster, and I don't?” K-2SO could not snarl, but he made his vocoder pitched as irritated as he could make it within system parameters.

“What?” At least Cassian was ignorant of it. At least he didn't give it to her.

“I know how to use it.” Jyn replied, mildly affronted.

“That's what I'm afraid of. Give it to me.”

But instead of handing it over Jyn’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“We're going to Jedha. That's a war zone.”

“That's not the point. Where did you get it?”

“I found it." Innocence didn’t suit her. And everyone in the ship knew it, including Jyn.

“I find that answer vague and unconvincing.” K-2SO grumbled from the cockpit.

“Trust goes both ways.” She replied in her defense - Eyeing him, then eyeing Cassian. The durasteel eyes were back. A threat and a promise.

But Cassian turned back around, and faced forward. Ignoring the danger at his back. - Like an idiot. And K-2SO felt incredibly insulted. This stranger, this threat, this criminal, was deemed more worthy of trust than he was.

“You're letting her keep it?” K-2SO could not contain his disbelief, the feeling of betrayal at his idiocy. “Would you like to know the probability of her using it against you? It's high.”

“Let's get going.”

His master was worse than an idiot. He must have been missing a vital part of his brain matter.

“It's very high.” K-2 repeated for emphasis.

But Cassian steadfastly ignored him and began to warm up the thrusters.

----

MEMORY FILE \0.035945\

K-2SO knew he was staring, but he hid his gaze behind the communication console he was supposed to be assessing for damage. Cassian’s U-wing was a lost cause. It would never fly again. That fact stirred something in his core akin to sadness. But that was not what was on his circuits at this point.

Cassian had said he was going to scout ahead with Bodhi Rook.

But K-2 knew better.

His master was a liar. It was part of his job. And this mission. Some organics hid the softest parts of themselves with armor, or beneath meaningless titles, or money. But Cassian was devious and cunning. His ability to weave falsehoods was best kind protection it had seemed. Where others were long since dead, Cassian was very much alive. There were always close calls, but statistically it seemed that being dishonest was more instrumental to survival than durasteel.

And K-2 was proud of that to an extent. He would rather not have a dead master, nor one that was a complete moron. But today was a different feeling entirely. It was the diametric opposite of proud in fact, and his reasons were arrayed two-fold.

For one, Cassian was getting sloppy. K-2SO was no stranger to being yelled at, but being yelled at in company was something new. His master had played his hand in front of four people. Even a single celled organism would know that something was amiss.

And for two, Jyn hugging herself against the buckled hull made something in him sink like water against oil. He could tell she wanted to go out into the rain and find her father. But she wasn't holding herself like a woman who needed comfort. No, it looked like her arms were trying to keep her still and seated. She was caging herself. The predator that paced inside her fleshy skin was roving. He could see it in the set of her jaw, her hands curled against her jacket like claws.

It was hard to believe humans were a species descended from omnivores - because they way Jyn composed herself was like a carnivorous creature. Perhaps a krayt dragon only a few moments away from pouncing.

But she stared placidly out the window just the same. Pretending there wasn't anything under her skin or behind her eyes at all.

K-2SO was about to pry. He couldn't help himself. He wanted to see the emotions she was trapping beneath her poorly constructed restraint. The communications array could wait.

But Chirrut, sage and incomprehensible, had something to say first.

“Does he look like a killer?”

Chirrut’s blind eyes stared straight ahead. Unseeing, but he obviously picked up on something given his limited sensory capacity.

Baze’s eyebrows raised little - considering Chirrut’s implications.

“No, He has the face of a friend.” He replied.

“Who are you talking about?” Jyn snapped on the conversation instantly.

“Captain Andor.” Chirrut answered and K-2SO almost flinched. Even a blind human could see through Cassian’s deception. Sloppy indeed.

“Why do you ask that?” Jyn asked, in a voice that meant she perfectly knew why. “What do you mean, does he look like a killer?”

“The Force moves darkly near a creature that's about to kill.”

K-2SO knew it was sedition. it was a betrayal of Cassian’s implicit trust. But in that moment Jyn’s bladed gaze owned him more wholly than his master ever could.

“His blaster was in the sniper configuration…” he said. Letting the evidence damn him, rather than his own words.

And there it was.

Something in Jyn's face made an ugly, but fascinating appearance. A thing that wasn't quite human, not even animal. It was like looking at lightning. Force and heat.

Within the space of a few human heartbeats she grabbed her gear and had rocketed out of the cabin into the perpetual storm that was Eadu.

But K-2SO, ever the pragmatist, had quietly absolved himself of the situation entirely - choosing not to commit another treason. He following his explicit orders and directives. He could have followed her, but to what end? What would Cassian say?

Instead, he kept playing the memory of Jyn’s furious eyes over and over again from his data cache as he crept back to the cockpit. The image was strangely captivating. The muscle jumping in her cheek, the dilation of her pupils, the slant of her chin. He wasn't precisely sure what about that moment captured his attention, but he was content to replay it over and over until it was fully processed.

But suddenly a flutter of movement outside stole attention Chirrut had exited the U-wing. The more slowly, Baze. With grumbling and banter.

“What are they doing?” He said to himself, even though logically he knew no one was listening. “If Cassian comes back we’re leaving without them.”

And that was true. He had no doubts Cassian would leave them all on this planet to die by imperial hands or prolonged exposure to the storm. And that was the exceptionally annoying portion of it.

He thumped his hands against the ruined flight console. Static bubbled up from the communicator and rain continued to pour down on the wreckage.

This was all becoming needlessly messy.

His master would live, the others would be an unfortunate accident.

His processors stalled at that. Fingers flexed at the console unbidden.

There would be no more durasteel eyes burning in the dark.
----
MEMORY FILE \0.036455\

The flight back from Eadu was tense to say the least. It seemed Jyn had rallied the crew to be seconds away from mutiny. He was rather surprised Cassian was still unharmed.

A testament to Jyn's patience. Or perhaps she simply wasn't duplicitous enough to kill his master and pretend it was an accident, like Cassian could have done for her. Whatever the case, Cassian had hid himself below deck in the hold- away from everyone else after their confrontation.

Perhaps Jyn rattled him more than he had met on. She certainly was talented at that.

Jyn for her part was silent. She sat next to him in the cockpit. Bodhi was exhausted and had made himself a hammock in the back of the ship, while Baze and Chirrut quietly leaned against each other next to the aft communications console. None of them were sleeping. But none of them had much to say.

But Jyn, hardened criminal and predator, was so very small. Smaller than she had ought to be. Her legs were pulled up against her chest in the chair. Arms twined themselves into a tight ball and her eyes peered outside the window, though he was certain she was looking at nothing.

“I heard Galen Erso is dead.” K-2SO began.

“Wow, nothing escapes you, does it?”

“No, not even you.” He quipped back - even now he could still feel her pulse against his fingertips.

Jyn scrunched her face but otherwise said nothing.

“I wanted you to know that I believe you. About the plans.” He stated.

“It doesn't matter what you believe.” She replied. “What matters is what the council believes. And right now they believe there's no plans. No hope.”

“And do you agree?”

“No, but I'm just one woman. I could could hardly convince them otherwise.”

“You convinced Cassian not to kill your father. You convinced Baze and Chirrut to follow you to the end of the universe. It seems to me you're quite good at convincing. And you seem quite capable of achieving the improbable. Surviving. Living to fight another day.”

He turned to her then, and swiveled her chair to face him.

“If anyone can beat the odds, it's you.”

----

MEMORY FILE \0.037001\

Jyn was making her grand and impassioned speech to the council. His olfactory sensors had to be turned off. The council chamber was awash with fear and cowardice from a litany of species and the sheer volume of it was distracting.

He hung in the back, next to Cassian, away from the arguing crowd. Away from Jyn’s fiery gaze.

“We’ll help her. We will go.” Cassian said quietly, so quietly that only a droid could pick up his voice from the rising din of discontent.

“You know that would be treason.” K-2SO replied cooly- as if the very concept bored him.

“I order you to do what you think you must.”

“Even if that means reporting you to our superior officer?” K-2SO would never do such a thing of course, but he was curious as to where Cassian's newfound priories lied.

“A time comes in a man’s life where he has to decide his fate for himself.”

“I am not a man.”

His master smiled tightly - it was a smile that wasn't a smile at all. It was an argument and a challenge. Like when feral lifeforms showed their teeth in aggression.

“Call yourself what you like. Choose.”

And so he did, though all things considered it wasn't much of a choice at all.

----

MEMORY FILE \0.038234\

 

It was bedlam.

K-2SO’s internal communication channels were howling stretches of feedback - filled with the shouting and panic of hundreds of Imperial Officers.

“The Rebel fleet has arrived.” he announced, as loud as was strategically advisable.

But Jyn, swift and jittery had caught it quicker than Cassian. She could barely cough up a surprised syllable before he continued.

“There's fighting on the beach, they've locked down the base, they've closed the shield gate.”

“What does that mean? We're trapped?”

Jyn, for all if her venom and viciousness, looked finally afraid. Her eyes were blown wide - her normally pale face grew paler. And he didn't like it - not one bit. He called up a plan, raiding all his databanks and reallocating all his processing resources.

“We could transmit the plans to the rebel fleet.” He posited. “We'd have to get a signal out to tell them it's coming. It's the size of the data files.That's the problem. They'll never get through.Someone has to take that shield gate down.”

Cassian's face matched Jyn’s own, measure for measure.

“Bodhi. Bodhi, can you hear me?” He shouted into his comlink. “Bodhi, tell me you're out there. Bodhi!”

A moment passed. He was not built to feel anxiety, but faced with impending failure made every subroutine stutter with unease. His core temperature was running well outside of its safety parameters .

“Hello, I'm here!” Bodhi’s voice finally crackled out of the comlink. “We're standing by! They've started fighting, the base is on lockdown!”

“I know, listen to me!” Cassian barked. “The rebel fleet is up there.You've got to tell them to blow a hole in the shield gate so we can transmit the plans.”

A pause.

“Wait, I can't. I'm not hooked into the comm tower. We're not tied in.” K-2 could almost see Bodhi’s huge, watery eyes darken with un-voiced terror.

“It's the only way we're getting them out of here. Find a way! Cover our backs.” And Cassian cut the line and suddenly marched toward the Data Vault, leaving only silence In his wake.

Jyn, however, lingered.

She met his gaze, directly, as so few life forms could. There was no judgement there, no condescension. She looked at him like he was a person. A person she cared about.

And she swallowed hard. What ever she saw in his faceplate, whatever she was considering - her mind was made up.

“You'll need this,” She said.

Jyn had handed him a blaster.

Her blaster.
It was hers and she had given it to him.
Something Cassian would never think of doing. Not for a moment.

She trusted him.
He was of value to her.

“You wanted one, right?”

It was only then he realized that he hadn't grabbed the blaster yet. Jyn wiggled it to make her point.

He took it into his palms, warmth still lingered from Jyn's body heat. His optics took it all in. Her face, her body, the blaster. Something stirred within his core that he had only just touched on before - when Cassian had first booted him back up from the reprogram.

Devotion.

He recognized it now.

Her entire being settled in his chest like a stone. Heavy and weighted. The idea that she cared so much had rocketed her to the forefront of her priorities - contending, even seemingly winning over Cassian.

He had to say something- anything.

“Your behavior, Jyn Erso, is continually unexpected.”

It was all he could verbalize. He didn't have the right words to encompass what the gesture meant to him.

But Jyn, in her own way, seemed to understand and allowed him a small smile. One of the most precious things he had ever received in his operational history, including the blaster.

“Jyn. Come on.” Cassian roared from the hallway.

And she left for the Data Vault - leaving him alone in the vestibule.

--

MEMORY FILE \0.045589\

 

His humans were going to be trapped in the data archives like womp-rats in a cage. Or banthas in a slaughterhouse.

Here, at the end of it all, he was not ashamed to admit that they were his humans. Of all the beings he could have served, these were obviously among the most superior. Cassian and his quick tongue, his dark amber skin. Jyn and her eyes that could cut through a starship hull, her kindness that had consumed part of him whole.

He wasn't sure if he felt that way because of how Cassian had reprogrammed him - but it didn't matter.

What mattered was that they had and exceptionally high chance of failure, quite on par with with their mortality chances. They were at ninety-three-percent.

And it made him, a droid, panicky.

He did not want them to die.

K-2SO, as a being, did not matter. He was replaceable, but the terrible and unique thing about humans is that there will never be one of the same.

If Jyn and Cassian died that would be it.

It would also mean that everything that he had spent years working on with Cassian would mean absolutely nothing. That Jyn’s own progenitors sacrificed themselves in vain.

Wave after wave of imperial troopers poured in. He killed them all just as quickly. He channeled Cassian’s cut-throat vigor, Jyn’s concise brutality into every shot. But they kept coming. And coming.

He did not feel pain, not in the organic equivalent- but seventy-five-percent of his systems were entering catastrophic failure. He was on the verge of imminent collapse. There was a small chemical fire burning in his shoulder interior and his optics were commanding to be reset.

But still he persisted - Listening to his human’s conversations over the commlink. Jyn was calmly listing off drive names and Cassian was gently humming. It was strangely soothing, even under stormtrooper shouting and laserfire. Even when is systems were cascading downwards.

And then suddenly, Jyn had found it. The name she shared with the deadliest weapon in the known universe.

Stardust.

“Kaye, we need the file for Stardust!” Cassian boomed across the comms channel.

“S-Stardust.” K-2SO repeated, his data spike twisted and churned until the appropriate plans were located. Relatively easy work. It was staying standing that was difficult.

“That's it.” Jyn’s voice softly carried over the comlink.

And then the primary power was cut. Dozens of stormtroopers were incoming now. Too many to track with precision. K-2SO was thirty seconds away from full collapse.

“Kay.” Cassian sounded scared. Jyn’s frantic breathing colored the background static.

There was only one thing left to do. One way he could buy them more time. One last way he could protect them.

“Climb. Cl-imb.” He amplified his voice to project through the degradation of his vocoder. It was a stuttering, fumbling thing. “Y-you c-can s-still send the p-plans to the f-fle-et. If they o-open the shield gate, you can broadcast from the t-tower!”

He twisted his data spike one final time in its socket.

“L-Locking the vault door n-now.”

Cassian, clever Cassian, seemed to instantly know what he was about to do.

“Kay. Kay!” He could hear Cassian shouting, demanding - but Jyn's silence spoke even louder. He knew she was In the room, holding her breath. Jyn probably guessed his intent too, but unlike Cassian - she bore that weight with a stillness that rivaled her mourning on the stolen shuttle. While Cassian faced loss with anger, Jyn was a different breed entirely.

“Good bye.” He said and hoped that they had both heard him, that they both knew he meant it.

And Without a moment's hesitation he slammed both his fists down into the security console - sealing the vestibule door forever and sending his processors spiraling into darkness.

-----

MEMORY FILE \0.000000\

That was it. All of it. The circuits and fibers of his inorganic existence fled like dirty water down a drainage pipe. It was like his soft reset in the Citadel.

But wait.

No.

Part of him was still there, even at the end of it all. An echo in a dark room when all his other memory files spilled away,

“Cassian, what is love?” A moment preserved in static and silence. Blue and white rumbling against the U-Wing. Cassian's heartbeat and breath intake.

Slowly and suddenly, K-2SO realized something fatal, even while his data caches were in overload and grasping at straws. Even when time ceased to be be monitored accurately.

Cassian’s soft voice cut across the vast expanse like a ship in hyperspace. A deathstar looming the horizon. An absolute quantity. The shuddering of Jedha as its crust dissolved.

“It means giving a part of yourself away. It means being vulnerable. It means having someone have control over the most basic parts of yourself.”

He had given all of the parts of him away. It didn't even take convincing.

Perhaps they belonged to Cassian first. How his dark hair ate up all sunlight. How his voice was the first thing he heard in his primary operational memory. It hurt to think about the soft, rich lit of that voice. The firmness of his hands on the U-wing console.

It had dawned on him that maybe Cassian knew. In some small way at least. It would explain the sadness that lingered at the edges of his gaze when he had asked about love.

“A time comes in a man’s life where he has to decide his fate for himself.” Cassian had said.

“Choose.” Cassian had also said.

And he did. He chose to be vulnerable and give everything away that he had. To both Jyn and Cassian.

And at the very end Cassian understood. Or at least K-2SO hoped he did. There was nothing he could do about it now. Cassian was dead.

But then his thoughts turned to Jyn Erso. Criminal, Predator and Stardust. The woman who now owned him in his entirety. Even in in this quiet nothingness he could feel the pulse of her neck under his fingertips. He could sense the warmth of her skin against the blaster she had given him. Her touch as it vibrated inside his chest cavity. Her flaming hair as it blazed in the garbage pit. Her fingers against his faceplate. His palms on the small of her back.

Her bladed, durasteel gaze.

He was laid bare from the moment Jyn Erso looked at him. If she wanted him to, he would have thrown himself off the asteroid.

And he realized loved her. More than darkness, more than statistics, more than stars, more than his own self. And with everything that Cassian had been, pain and craving. Jyn's inferno had consumed him whole.

All because she had treated him like he was someone worth saving. Like a real person, even if he wasn't. And had never backed down in that regard.

As her face floated through his consciousness, everything that was left peeled away. He curled what was left himself around her, protectively, instinctively. Just a wisp of thought and feeling that cradled a woman- like a hand cradled a blaster.

Chapter Text

The screaming stopped.

And then K-2SO was breathing. Wet lungs expanding and contracting with air. The bones of his sternum were rising and falling with its steady rhythm.

Everything felt cold, or soft, or damp.

His eyes blinked open.

And a world of sensation hit him like a Star Destroyer at warp speed.

Light. Color. Sound. Taste. Touch. Smell.

The instantaneous feedback was excruciating. His hands quickly latched to his face, blocking out some of the overload. But he could smell his palms, his skin - salty, and earthy and sweetly mammalian. And his palms could feel his face, strange contours of muscle and fat over bone. The ridge of his nose protruded against his grip. And his fingers get pressed against strange follicles, which by process of elimination could only be eyelashes. The orb-like structure of his eyes still ached from the sudden brightness.

But finally, after what's seemed like a century of feeling, a low groan echoed in the cavity of his mouth.

And then a sudden realization hit him just as hard.

It had happened. He was inside another being. He was for all intents and purposes,a human.

Behind his eyelids, darkness was absolute. But that only made everything else louder, more obscene, more inescapable. The beating of his frantic human heart - ramming against his ribcage over and over. Never stopping. Throbbing in his ears like a fleshy drum or a primitive rhythm.

His lungs were two bellows - plodding just as noisily. Pulling air through his nose and down his throat, and then impossibly back out again with every exhale. It was a wildly inefficient way to obtain oxygen. But it wasn't like he had a choice.

It was like he was trapped in a ship, and he wasn't the pilot. The course was set. The mechanics were unknown, the manual was lost somewhere, and he had no choice in the matter of where he was going.

His processor, now brain, or some hybrid of the two was grasping at any physical foothold.

Suddenly, without thinking, he clawed at the table beneath him in a desperate bid to reign back control. His eyes were still firmly screwed shut - but something, perhaps the first instinct he had ever had, told him to panic. He couldn't reign in the quickly rising fear that threatened to drown him. It swiftly became insurmountable. Logic, it seemed, was relegated into a confined space nestled neatly behind a forefront of terror and emotion.

“Relax”. A voice said. Ka’tesh Elal’s. “You'll break this body before you even get off the gurney. Allow your lungs to breathe. Deep. In. And. Out.”

He couldn’t stop. None of it was stopping. His heart hammered harder. This lungs couldn’t catch up with the pace. His head hurt and his new-found lips were numb. He could feel his jaw locking against the roof of his mouth. Even if his logic matrix shouted for him to stop. There was no stopping.

“I mean it. Your heart rate it through the roof. You're having a panic attack. Breathe.”

His own throat was strangling him, constricting off all the air he had been breathing. Limbs floundered in off-kilter muscle contractions. Something was wrong. About all of this. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The word echoed with every palpitation. It resounded Inside his skull, tangling his arteries, stealing everything and giving nothing back.

“If you don’t breathe,” Ka’tesh said calmly. “You won’t survive this process - and all this effort for Jyn’s sake would be for nothing.”

Jyn.

Her name fell like a stone through a pool of memory.

She was immovable, unmutable, a focal point in his organic chaos. He knew her like he knew percentages. The planes of her back. The blaster in his hands. Smooth skin and lean muscle in fluorescent lights. Eyes that shone like daggers. Quiet steps and kindness. Her touch on his faceplate. Her hands in his chest.

He could almost taste in his lips the four letter word that she became...

And then he flooded his lungs with air. In and out. Just as Ka’tesh said. The drumming in his veins slowed and quieted for the most part. It was a blissful near-silence, his body still made noise - but it was acceptable. Or as acceptable as it could ever possibly be.

He opened his eyes once more- slowly this time, and began to take inventory of the situation at hand.

His gaze drifted downwards to his body.

From this new, smeared and skewed vantage point, everything looked strangely opaque. He couldn’t see data read-outs on his new body. He couldn’t tell his own composition or status.

K-2SO had more than a passing familiarity with human anatomy. All of his primary operators has been human and as such he knew all of the functions of their squishy bits and was intimate with with their repair protocols.

Cassian had been burned, shot, thrown two stories out a window, cut, stabbed, punched, poisoned, asphyxiated, crushed, and contracted all sorts of bacterial infections. He had an entire data bank dedicated to Cassian’s medical needs, and recently he had appended Jyn’s own to it.
K-2SO possessed files upon files of medical logs as to better serve his masters and to ensure their continued survival- even if his masters continually attempted the opposite. And also refused to cooperate.

But this body was a stranger to him. And it was his. He knew Cassian’s resting heart rate, Jyn’s ambient core temperature down to the decimal point. this, unfortunately, was all infuriatingly new.

Perhaps that was the most unsettling thing about the view.

But also,looking at his soft, pale, maggot-like body from this perspective made him feel what could only be nauseous. Was this normal? He didn’t know. All he knew was that something in his lower abdomen felt like it was slithering up his insides. Probably his stomach. If he had eaten recently he had no doubt he would have vomited like Jyn had when they left Scarif’s orbit. He finally understood the compunction.

His tongue took quick inventory of his teeth, his gums, his lips. He swallowed on reflex then gagged. Saliva was a revolting concept, but he recovered - allowing what was left of the human’s cerebral cortex and peripheral ganglia to take control. K-2SO was silently thankful that he didn't have to learn how to breathe, or swallow, or walk, or speak. All of those memory nodes seemed to be intact and fully integrated with Ka’tesh Elal’s hardware. His current body, for better or for worse, was a fully rigged puppet.

When he finally had enough courage to attempt to sit up in the gurney, K-2SO’s limbs were weak gelatinous things. It took a few attempts to get upright. He particularly did not enjoy the flappy, flaccid bits that were his human genitalia. He could do without those. They seemed to only be a delicate hinderance.

A low groan vibrated in his throat. It sounded like him, but also not. Too organic, and impossible for a droid to replicate outright.

“Welcome to the human race. I trust you'll enjoy your stay.” Ka’tesh goaded.

The Pau’an sitting in the corner was the picture of smugness. The smirk on his face was as abrasive as sand-grit in his servo-motors.

“It’s currently very unpleasant.” K-2SO spat out. The words coming off his human tongue felt strange. The slimy organ in his mouth wrapped around them like they were a solid pieces of matter.

“I'm impressed. Multiple syllables within the first five minutes of activation. It takes hours for me to simply sit up when I incorporate into a new host.

K-2SO coughed, clearing his throat for the first time. Hand hand was pressed against his head, scrunching through hair follicles.

“I must be special.” The words came out caustic, more than his vocabulators and his pre-programmed vocoder would have allowed. At least now his sarcasm hit its mark.

“Yes,” The Pau’an frowned. “Yes you are. I'm not sure you understand how special or how unique. You did this of your own free will for a woman you care about. I might be a crime lord that's a brain in a jar, but in all of my years I have never seen a droid quite like you.”

“Perhaps you haven't met enough droids.”

His eyes narrowed for a moment, but then something inexplicably softened.

“Perhaps you are right.”

There was a pause then. It was awkward, as if Ka’tesh was so used to having the upperhand - he was at a loss for what to say. There was something curious in his expression. Not anger, not confusion - but a type of closed off-awe. But it only lasted a moment.

“I have a mirror if you want it.” He said.

K-2SO was suddenly perversely interested in what he looked like. On a logical level it shouldn't have mattered, but it did.

He stumbled off the table. His legs could barely hold him upright. They wobbled and shook like synth-rubber. There was the distinct feeling of vulnerability, of weakness - but he pressed onwards toward the other side of the room.

To where Ka’tesh sat almost casually.

It occurred to him he was shorter. Diminutive. At least compared to what his droid body was.

Wait.

His droid body.

Where was it?

His blood pressure began to roar again, like a rising oceanic din.

“Relax.” Ka’Tesh said, as if reading his thoughts. “Your body is right here, safe and sound.”

His eyesight was significantly worse it seemed. Not terrible, but not quite enough to pick up on his old hulking form in the half-light. He could just about make out a droid, slumped over not far from where his host was sitting.

He clumsily ambled towards it first, bare feet gracelessly catching on the cables snaking across the floor.

His black carapace paid him no mind. The only visible sign something dwelled within we the flickering lights within his optics - skittering and jittering ever so slightly. Wires were tightly coiled around its long forearms, presumably twisted around his data spikes and feeding off all sensory input. K-2 could still hear the dull whirring of Jyn’s crystal inside his chest. He didn't realize it was that loud to an outside observer.

How embarrassing.

But instead of lingering, he pulled forward towards Ka’tesh and the promised mirror. His other body seemed safe enough for now. Now it was time to assess his current one.

Even in the near-darkness, he could make out Ka’tesh’s feline and luminous grin. He was seated in a very out of place, tufted, red leather chair. Beside it was a small table, with an equally small hookah perched atop it. It was as if someone dragged a portion of his overstated finery down into this dank place - and perhaps that was the likeliest truth. It was equally intimidating as it was ridiculous.

Behind Ka’tesh, leaning against a wall that was bleeding moisture - was a gilded mirror. It was fussy, and ornate - just like its owner. It was also brought down here just for this purpose it seemed.

K-2SO compulsively swallowed, hard. Harder than he had meant to. The skin on the back of his neck prickled.

But without time for second guesses and backward thoughts, he approached his own reflection.

He took in his head, his torso. His own body. Pale, freckled skin. Slumped shoulders. Ungainly physique.

And he was left… wanting. His previous excitement and curiosity died in its infancy.

K-2SO wasn't certain what his face would look like when it was mobile. But now seeing it alive and composed left him disappointed. It wasn't nearly as delicate or graceful as Jyn's. The fuzzy stubble on his jaw was coarse, like the rest of him. Where a being like Jyn might have been sculpted from marble by an impressive artist - the body he had was from a different kind of stone, a different quarry. He was some sort of pale calcite, roughly hewn by an ameteur.

A muscle jumped under the skin of his jaw. His lips were thin, in a half-wince, half-grimace. He looked lower, across expanses of limbs and flinched. The entire picture was much less than his optic had painted it. Much, much, less.

He wasn't even as rugged or as masculine as Cassian. He didn't have the presence, the stoic confidence. K-2SO felt he looked less solid. Fragile, weak, punchable. Instead of a steady, dark gaze - his was a watery blue. Instead of deep earthy brown hair, his looked like a washed out reddish blonde. As if even his follicles weren't convinced that he was a strong, human male. His muscles certainly didn't look the part. They were there- but not as clearly defined as Cassian's. They hid under pale- almost sickly skin. How was it that this body could be slimmer, but also less muscular? The peculiarities of how organic bodies arranged themselves was lost on him.

He rubbed at his face again and again, hoping his malleable flesh and cartilage would stick itself in a more pleasing position. But no matter how far he’d pull at his cheeks or push at his nose. This was it. This is what he looked like.

And he was doubtful it would meet Jyn's sensibilities. Given her preference for Cassian and her friendship with Baze, Chirrut and Bodhi.

Even His expression was the exaggerated picture of melancholy. A pathetic meat-bag life form if there ever was one.

He shivered. For the first time ever K-2SO was freezing.

On some logical level, he knew why organics needed clothes - but feeling why was a different thing entirely. He disliked having his internal temperature outside his conscious control. It was extraordinarily inconvenient.

He rubbed his mushy digits together and blew on them like he had seen Cassian do when he was cold. It helped a little - but the moisture pouring out of his mouth wasn't the most pleasant feeling.

Everything seemed to be fluids with humans. Excretions, tear-ducts, saliva, sweat, and even breathing.

Even so, he thought back to Jyn shivering in the dark of the shuttle. How long had she been cold like this? The thought twisted something in his gut he failed to identify. And how long had he ignored her discomfort? How long had she endured while he was foolishly captured by Jawas?

He catalogued the thought for later.

Regardless, the situation at hand was repugnant.

Instead of warming his hands with his breath he wrapped his own arms around himself, the softness was unsettling. The fragility was becoming more and more infuriating with each passing moment. Disgust was dissolving into fury.

He wondered briefly what litany of errors had possessed him to enter this mess of a bargain.
Perhaps his first response was right with Jyn. Perhaps he should have stayed away. Perhaps she was the key to his own destruction. Perhaps she had already torn him apart piece by piece.

Yet, he couldn't stay away. He would never want to. What ever botched up circuitry he possessed - it was dedicated to her. For good or for - whatever this was…

“FWOOOOOM.”

A clap of thunder shook the room. Particulates drifted down from the ceiling.

“What was that?” K-2SO demanded.

Ka’tesh’s eyes were screwed shut in what looked to be a sudden bout of heavy concentration. His lined face was crumpled into an uncharacteristic unevenness. The implications were disquieting. It meant there was something, somewhere to be worried about.

But the grimace disappeared as fast as it came, and a grin broke the facade. It was as if nothing happened. No thunder. No concentration. No question had been asked.

“They say the clothes make the man.” He replied smiling. “That and money. I’d like to test that theory if you don’t mind.”

Ka’tesh roused himself from the chair and clapped a hand on K-2SO’s shoulder.

“With me in your corner,” he continued - his eyes filled with an eager, feral brightness. “Consider yourself made”

Chapter Text

K-2SO wasn’t certain about the outfit Ka’tesh had chosen. He squinted in the mirror of his new speeder and licked his teeth.

The outfit was all black, making his skin even more pale by comparison. It was cut and perfectly tailored, with the materials so lush, it was difficult to describe their make. Well fitted pants were tucked into tall, shiny, leather boots. Leather gloves encased his fingers and stretched across his knuckles. A heavy belt was slung around his waist and a tight dark shirt hugged his chest. The darkest black jacket he had ever seen - angular, long and geometric completed the ensemble. It was so black, so- void like, it seemed to eat up all light. It’s collar was straight and vertical, shielding his exposed neck.

The whole outfit seemed somber, and menacing. It didn’t help that Ka’tesh had a droid slick back his unruly, pale hair.

Looking in the speeder mirror again, he felt more uneasy than ever before. Including the time he was naked in the basement.

It cemented the fact that he looked to be the polar opposite of Cassian. The polar opposite of what he considered an attractive male human. There was nothing charming, confident, or roguish about him. If anything he seemed weasley and stiff.

He nervously figured with the credit chip in his jacket pocket, a mirror of Jyn’s discarded one. It was Probably filled to the brim with credits as well. Ka’tesh was ceaseless in his constant furnishing of possessions. Money, an apartment. And of course a speeder that was probably worth a lifetime of wages.

When K-2SO asked why, finally impatient with the copious material possessions, Ka’tesh snickered. It was a mirthless, snide thing.

“Technically they all had belonged to you since you took over Barabas’ body. They were his is life, and since his life is yours, all of his possessions are also rightly yours.”

“But I don’t need any of this.” K-2SO complained.

“Oh, I see.” Ka’tesh smiled, the lines of his mace making it uglier. “You believe Jyn’s optimal companion should be a homeless, disheveled creature completely incapable of even buying her a meal.”

And that was the end of the argument.

As far as the universe at large was concerned, he was Captain Barabas Eret Kaeterren. A pale human with little to no moral compass. A smuggler, as Ka’tesh elaborated. His once second in command. How wonderful.

He twisted at the throttle, accelerating between buildings. Wind ripped against the sides of the speeder.

K-2SO’s heart was threatening to leave his chest again. Would Jyn recognize him? What would he say? How would he explain himself? This was so beyond the scope of his being. Ka’tesh let him leave the skyscraper unhindered, the opposite in fact. But they way he had just let him go like that, didn’t feel quite right. It was like he knew something that K-2SO didn’t.

He was already running through so many scenarios in his head at what it would be like to return to the shuttle.

He sighed, human breath leaving human lungs. It was automatic. Like his emotions had nowhere to go except outwards, riding on his carbon dioxide.

In a perfect universe, Jyn would recognize him immediately. She would tell him how much she missed him. And they would hold each other like humans do. She would say that she liked this, that she liked him, and that she no longer felt empty. But he knew that was naive. Given how much and how well he knew Jyn Erso - that reaction had almost zero possibility of happening.

The highest statistical probability was that she would probably physically assault him on sight. And yell. And snarl. She was ferocious like that. But it was his hope that she could be brought around to liking him like this. It would just take time and delicacy, and then…

And then what?

Would Jyn finally stop hurting? And if she did - what would he do with himself. He was quickly drowning in infinite outcomes. Which meant, for the first time, in an incredibly long time - he had no plan of action.

He almost banged his head against the dash in frustration. He was lucky the vehicle was mostly on autopilot. The creaking of his gloves filled the cabin as he balled them into ineffectual fists.

Then, something outside the window caught his eye. It was the landing platform. Only it wasn’t. His heart was hammering and his face felt numb, as if his blood became icicles within his human veins.

Below was a small sea of desolation.

The tarmac was covered in the black and twisted remains of ships. Melted durasteel. And the shuttle, that geometric monstrosity that they lived in like vagabonds, had sagged. Portions of plating had come off in what appeared to be an explosion outside the craft.

K-2SO sped the shuttle down, landing crookedly on the edge of the landing pad. His hands shook as he quickly exited the vehicle. He felt small in the immense lens of the universe. That all of the best laid plans and intentions couldn’t trump probability and chance.

And fear began to swallow him whole.

Jyn had to still be alive. She had to be.

He stormed toward the shuttle. Past skeletons of far grander ships. Past crumbled edifices, and past what looked to be like Jawas - already salvaging for parts. He let out an involuntary shudder at the sight.

But he pressed forward. Toward Krennic’s ship. It wasn't in as terrible condition as the others, but one of it wings had fallen off and crumpled into a mess of scrap.

And the shuttle bay was wide open.

Nothing inside stirred.

Chapter Text

Jyn Erso woke to the smell of fire, smoke, and melting steel. The hull around her groaned and creaked with metallic agony.

Her lungs couldn't grab hold of the air, her throat seized on by flecks of burning ash.

Hells and sith-shit.

The shuttle was under attack.

She was a flurry of movement. The gritting of teeth, the snapping of clothes against her sweaty back. Jyn hastily took the credit chip off the hull floor, grabbed her jacket, the data pad, her truncheon, a vibroblade, and searched for her pistol. The one she had given Kaye. She wheezed and pulled at the floor panels, the walls, the chairs, to finally the place it rested by the cockpit. Jyn tried to grab it, but it - like the rest of their cache was too hot to touch - and too deadly to try and drag with her.

Jyn would have growled in frustration if a coughing fit hadn’t erupted from her chest. It was time to go.

She slammed the shuttle bay doors quickly exploded onto the platform, all ordinance for all of the lack of she had. There was no plan. It was either inside or outside of the ship. Inside she would die, but at least outside she would go out fighting.

But there was no one to fight. Just chaos.

The landing platform was a tangle of metal and fire. Hot magnesium flames flared and burst, twisting up columns of broken bits of ship machinery. She should have been surprised, would have been surprised, if this was not par for the course. Her world was in a constant state of crashing down around her ears. No place, comfortable or uncomfortable was destined to be hers for long.

In the middle of the tarmac was a crumpled tie-fighter, the culprit of this destruction, sprawled out like a corpse. Its wings were little more than crumpled hydrofoils, peeling apart like paper. If there was someone in the cockpit, they we long turned to ash. The corrosive flames and shrapnel clawed and caught the other platform ships turning them into similar pyres. At least the cheaper made ones, ones that were clearly not designed for off planet maneuvers.

A hot gale of wind rushed past her ears, whipping her lank air into her face.

Jyn automatically looked to the sky, and heard the screeching of other tie-fighters, other ships as they danced bright and deadly. Apparently some captain, some Imperial so-and-so had finally lost their patience and decided to press a sudden attack. Clumsy, Jyn thought. Idiotic. These stiff-shirts had no purchase here. No advantage. There was no situation in which the current armament could possibly win.

Unless…

The lasers of the protective turrets were nowhere to be found.

Someone had managed to weasel their way in and sabotage the arsenal. And the Imperial navy decided to press their luck. Upon closer inspection The blockade barely held, and that was not without casualties. Jyn’s eyes could pick up colorful ship fragments among the floating carnage. It wasn’t much of a blockade anymore, actually. Jyn pegged it as more of a show of military force. It was no longer a line, but a sword. The array of remaining ships spread in a way that would cause the most damage if one of the largest ships dared to drift closer.

Jyn finally glanced back at the shuttle she had once, for better or worse, called home. It had already begun to succumb to some of the corrosive fuel leak. Not terribly damaged, at least the shuttle was well made - but because of minimal power allocated to the shields and life support it had little in the way of defense against a hazardous environment.

Already fires had sprung in the interior- possibly their ammunition pile combusting with the heat.

Regardless, it was now uninhabitable.

Her fingers brushed the credit chip in her pocket. There was only one choice left after all. She knew that instinctively. She had to live, she had to run, and she had to hide.

Being safely dead was no longer an option. Not since Kaye found her with a blaster against her brain. Not since he pulled her against his chest and and told her he could be her family. Not since he told her that he needed her. Perhaps in not so many words.

Jyn winced.

He promised to come back. The least she could do is to be someone he could come back to.

And maybe she could buy that new leather jacket after all.

A sudden movement across the platform drew her reverie. Her gaze snapped on a pile of rubble beneath one of the nicer ships. It was the docklord, partailly wedged under a bit of debris. Both his legs with comically flailing in the air, he didn't look trapped - but it did look like he was in some bit of trouble. Jyn, jogged closer, knife in hand - just in case.

Beneath the struggling Ugnaught, beneath the piece of blasted durasteel his belly was balanced on, was a pit Droid screeching in mechanical pain. The audio carried a hysterical pitch that rang and vibrated through the air like an alarm bell.

It’s arm was trapped underneath shrapnel, and the Docklord was trying to carefully prise it out of the tangle. But fire was encroaching, fast.

Jyn could have waltzed off the platform then and there. Her way was clear, and it was dangerous to linger.

But something about the docklord struggling over the small droid pulled at her remaining heartstrings. Of all the things most likely to get her killed, her insidious heart was the top contender.

The heat had plastered her hair to her face and sweat dripped down the tip of her nose, but Jyn swallowed hard and moved to help. Her hand gently, but firmly shook the docklord’s shoulder.

“What?!” He snarled, guttural and porcine.

“You need help.” Jyn huffed. It wasn’t a question, or an offer. It was a fact.

“Yeah, mind your damned business.” He snapped, teeth inches away from her fingers.

“How about, No?”

Jyn didn’t bother with more words. It would have been a waste of time. Instead, she grabbed him by the collar of his vest and threw him backwards - narrowly pulling him out of the path of a small falling girder. Ash and embers plumed into the air.
The Droid flailed helplessly, but Jyn began to dig. Hot metal blistered her hands.

But she grit her teeth and pulled, ripping the muscles of her arms to the breaking point. Her mouth was dry, her fingers bled with tiny cuts and punctures, but finally she wedged the pitdroid loose.

It quickly popped forward out of the pile, and Jyn sprang back with it, rushing to the edge of the platform.

The Ugnaught was there. Glaring.

But she ignored his ire and slowed down to a walk, almost casual. As if she was just a bystander. As if there was nothing to see. Her eyes were planted on the city ahead.

“Where’s your droid?” The docklord spat. It was accusatory. As if her own house wasn’t in order and had no place in his.

“None of your business.” Jyn replied, her brain grasping at a new plan. A new way back to the rebellion and a new way back to Kaytoo.”

“Not that it’s your loss.” He continued.”You’re much better off without it. Less conspicuous. And I’m not sure what he did do you anyway. He was useless enough to get dragged off my Jawas. Even my pit droids ain’t that stupid.”

Jyn suddenly whipped around and snarled.

“You don’t get to talk about him that way. He is worth more than all the droids on this crumbling trashheap of a city put together.”

“Lady,” The Ugnaught said gently, checking himself. “Wouldn't you be better off with a pet? Droids have their usefulness sure, but in the end, well, they’re just Droids.”

“If they were just droids, then I don't think you would have risked your life to save one of your own.”

“They’re expensive bits of merchandise.” He replied defensively.

But one of the pit droids came forward and began to shine one of his master’s boots. Another dusted off his tattered coat and another produced a lit cigarillo from seemingly nowhere.

The Ugnaught’s eyes softened a fraction, burbling a what could only be a ‘thank you’ in his native tongue.

“Right.” Jyn blew out a huff of air, not really seeing the point of arguing.

She stared up at what used to be the blockade. The Imperial Star Destoyers still hung there in the firmament like daggers, still cowed by the overwhelming rag-tag force holding the metaphorical line, but smaller ships poured inwards like a flood of needles. She could seem them shooting swift and sure down to the asteroids themselves. A pang of unease bubbled up from her chest.

“Can you do me a favor?” Jyn suddenly asked.

“Well I don't got nothing better to do. I just lost my business.”

Jyn wanted to say that she was sorry - but she also really wasn't. He wrung every credit out of her and Kaytoo both - making both their lives more miserable than they had to be. Instead, she pressed forward.

“My Droid is going to come looking for me, and I can't stay here. If the Empire has made it through the blockade, being near whatever's left of my shuttle might be a death sentence. I have credits, I need a place I can stay - a place I can meet him when he's back.”

“Back from what?”

“A deal.”

“And what makes you so sure he's coming back?” He replied snidely.

I won't leave you Jyn Erso.

“Droids cannot lie.”

“And I'm assuming you're askin’ me because you think I know a place.” His eyes lit with some sort of cleverness. A flash of greed that said: what can you do for me.

“I’m asking you because I’m in deep trouble. And I’m asking because I just saved you from some deeper trouble.”

He seemed to mull this over. Porcine lips ruminated as if he was chewing her statement.

“It's not a place you can sleep, mind you. Not a place you can really hold up. But it's a place. If your droid really means that much to you I got a friend who’s a Barkeep six quadrants east. He has a small joint, locals only. Lead Sparrow. You can't miss it. The man’s name is Tolartek. Horns. Also can't miss him. I'll tell your droid you'll be there.”

Jyn quickly decided that this was better than nothing, and if the credits on the chip held true, room and board wouldn't be an issue. She adjusted her rapidly disintegrating jacket and began to march in the direction the dock lord had sent her in.

“One more thing,” He called. “Droids ain’t strictly allowed inside. You’ll have to keep an eye on the door. But I gather you’ll be doing as much anyway. I’d put my last credit that this place is swarming with bounty hunters now - desperate just to get a whiff of your name, Jyn Erso.”

Jyn smiled then, letting a trace of the old person she used to be flood her features. The one who ran through muddy plains and chased after her father. The one who was Saw’s best at sixteen. No, fourteen. Who shot straight, and could never be caught. Not for long.

“Aren’t they always?” She replied.

Her eyes took in the skyline one last time, and without looking back at the shuttle, or the dock, or the dock lord, she paced off that tarmac into the dark and roaring city beyond.

Chapter Text

"I will drive past your house and if the lights are all down,
I'll see who's around."

 

K-2SO grabbed the pistol on the floor of the shuttle and cradled it in his palms reverently. It was still warm to the touch from the fire. Feeling it like this, as a human, felt so different. The weapon felt so solid. So permanent. It was a tether to Scarif. To Jyn’s heart.

He had searched the remains of the ship from high to low - and counted his lucky stars. No human remains. But also no Jyn. A knot of worry had made itself a tangle beneath his ribcage.
All that was left was the blaster.

With the pistol nestled inside his holster, K-2SO stalked out of the remains of Krennic’s shuttle. Frustrated. Helpless.

His gaze lingered on the opposite end of the platform. Movement lingered there. Organic. It was the docklord watching with curious eyes. For the first time in his entire existence, K-2SO snarled. He could feel it rumbling in his chest - a molten anger rising like the foundry he was built in. The urge to kill something loomed imminent.

The docklord seemed to sense this, and scurried inside one of the less dilapidated ships. K-2SO’s fists curled into claws. His pulse was pounding so loud, and insistent it seemed to the color the world around him in shades of red. He marched after him without a second thought. Across the platform. Up the ramp. And into the other ship.

The Ugnaught was far too slow. Even with K-2SO’s diminished size - his own legs were still far, far longer. It was less than twenty heartbeats before he trapped the creature in corner of a half destroyed cockpit.

“Where is she!?” K-2SO roared, his voice too organic and too raw.

“You’ll hafta be more specific mate.” The creature replied, his voice could have been mistaken for careless - if not for the fact he was curled up in fear and partially wedged underneath flight console.

“Jyn Erso. Human female.” K-2SO replied in a monotone.

“Oh that, ‘she’.” He looked almost guilty for a moment, but then something devious crossed his face.

“Well the thing is, I told some trandoshans her location as well. So if you want to get there first, you want to pay me.”

K-2SO thought about it, briefly. It would be so easy to just pay the creature and be done with it. It would have been the logical thing to do. But instead he was angry. Truly angry, not the Droid approximation of it. Not the ghosted gift of a Cassian long since atomized. As furious as he was when he shot Krennic - right now, it felt like a synthetic shadow.

Swiftly, he grabbed the Ugnaught by his collar and thrust him outwards through the broken window. K-2SO held him right in his grip, but he was no longer a droid. He could not hold him forever- and the fall would most certainly kill him.

“Hey!” The creature barked. “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”

“You sold her out.” He said flatly. “It is you who doesn’t understand who you’re dealing with.”

It felt good, too good, to feel a life on the precipice of his organic hands. He let one of his fingers loosen. A broken bit of glass shattered on the ground below.

“Fine!” He whined. “Fine! I didn’t have a choice. They didn’t pay me if that’s what you’re thinking. They destroyed my droids. They threatened my life. Please don’t kill me. I’ll tell you where she is. I’ll tell you everything that I know.”

K-2SO felt his lips curl back over his teeth. It wasn’t a nice smile. It was more like a grimace with a lot of teeth.

The Ugnaught in his grip swallowed hard.

“She’s waiting in the Lead Sparrow for her Droid. Probably looking, more like.” He babbled. “I haven’t seen the blasted thing in days. Tall, black, Imperial make. If you want her, you might have to go through him.”

K-2SO let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. Getting there was simple enough - he remembered passing it at one point or another.

“She’s been nothing but trouble from the beginning.” The docklord continued. “I hope she’s worth it.”

K-2SO suddenly threw him backwards, towards the interior of the ship. He hit the floor with a satisfying whump. The pathetic creature was splayed out in astonishment and fear.

“She’s worth everything and then some.” K-2 spat.

There was nothing left for him here, and if what the Ugnaught said was true - time was running out before some bounty hunters caught up with Jyn. He began to make his way back to the speeder.

“Who are you!?” The Ugnaught called.

“The droid she’s looking for.”

Chapter Text

"Well it's a big big city and the lights are all out,
But it's as much as I can do you know to figure you out.
And I must confess, my heart's in broken pieces,
And my head's a mess.
And it's four in the morning, and I'm walking along-
Beside the ghost of every drinker here who has ever done wrong,
And it's you, woo hoo, that's got me going crazy for the things you do."

 

Jyn ordered another drink.

Her tab was open, her belly was full, her jacket was new, and she had a reasonably nice apartment not far from the bar.

Not bad for one standard day.

But her victory felt short lived.

What if the docklord wasn’t good on his word? What if Kaye never came back? How long would she wait for him?There were too many variables for her comfort. It was the only plan she had, but that didn't mean it was good one.

Jyn sighed and bolted down the dregs of her previous drink.

Once again, she was aching. She missed his hands on her shoulders. The synthetic sardonic timbre of his voice echoing throughout the ship. His presence was so easy that she had forgotten what it felt like to be without him. The simple fact of it was that she was starved for company and affection. It was borderline pathetic.

What she was doing didn't make a lick of sense. If Saw could see her now - making stupid, stupid choices… If he could see her waiting, vulnerable as a newborn for a Droid companion that might not even come back - he would have a few choice words to say.

Her eyes glared into the mirror behind the bar and its bustling barkeep.

Jyn’s reflection looked old, far too old for her age. She was rough around the edges, a figure torn from the mold rather than carefully cut. Creases bunched the corners of her eyelids, dark and shadowed as if she spent most her her life avoiding sleep. She had seen beings with eyes like rubies, sapphires, flecks of onyx and like supernovas. Like entire galaxies on fire. But hers were grey like an ocean on a cloudy day, like dirty meltwater, like the hull of a medical frigate.
Cruel lips sneered over he overly large teeth. Long ago, one of Saw’s men commented they looked like a rodent’s. Since then, smiling prettily was not her forte, and neither was laughing. Too much teeth.

What stared back at her wasn’t someone who was beautiful, it was someone who was desperate. Ugly. And slippery looking, like oil.

Suddenly, the doors the the bar swung open and Jyn’s gaze flickered to its newest occupant.

A human male. Young enough. Spry enough. But also not as young as she.

There was something… off about him. His eyes seemed to snatch up every detail. His gait was even. Unhurried. Like a self-assured tourist.

A dead giveaway that he did not belong here.

But there was something else wrong, too familiar, that scratched at the back of her brain. She stared more intently.

On closer examination, he had the makings if someone dangerous. It was in the holster at his waist. It was in the easy arrogance and the clean angles of his long black jacket. He was far too precise to be trusted. All of him was angular, stiff, but moved so fluidly, gracefully that she doubted he was pure human.

She regarded him with cool suspicion. This man was an imperial spy, if ever there was one. He even had the black leather gloves of an Imperial inquisitor. Perfect for strangling someone on the quiet.

Quick as a snap, his eyes caught hers in the mirror - blistering, burning blue.

And her heart stopped.

But if Jyn had learned anything at all on this forsaken rock, anonymity was gold around these parts. Fettering it away by staring down some slick imperial scum-sack would be foolish at best. She ducked her eyes and she minded her drink, fingers idly wiping away the condensation that lingered there.

The door slid open again and two trandoshans muscled their way to the bar. Their mottled and scaly hides looked slimey and unkept. Teeth gleamed like knives in the half-light. It was clear they were also decked to the brim with all kinds of ordinance. Bounty hunters, but obviously novices.

The good ones never put on the show. The good ones would never let you see they were coming. And the good ones also had better hygiene. She could smell their repugnant musk from across the room. Carrion and grease.

The imperial spy took notice. It was hard not to with the stink and the almost comical rattling weapons as the bounty hunters paced their way over. She watched as his sharpness readjusted, his focus moving from her to the trandoshans. But they weren't there for him. No, it soon became apparent that they were there for her.

They pushed their way to the bar with all the grace and poise of inebriated wookies. One, slightly more orange than the other, shoved himself forward. She could feel his slitted pupils eyeing her up. Jyn pointedly ignored him. No fear, no acknowledgment.

“We're lookin’ for Jyn Erso.” He hissed syllabant huttese.

Jyn sipped at her cheap whiskey, staring straight ahead. The orange bounty hunter snarled, and flung Jyn's chair around.

“I said we’re looking for Jyn Erso.”

“Yeah? And what's that got to do with me?”

“We think you've got everything to do with it.”

Jyn eased her calf against the knife In her boot. Her baton was too obvious. She would have to do this the old fashioned way. Personal-like.

“Leave her alone.” And just like that, the Imperial Scum got himself involved. Surprisingly interceding on her behalf.

She would have laughed at his arrogance of she wasn't also preoccupied. How very presumptuous to believe that she needed rescuing. In the shadow of the two bounty hunters he looked impotent, small, and thoroughly out of his depth.

Apparently her new found friends thought this was funny as well. The orange one looked like he was about to die from a fit of hysterics.

“Or what tiny human? You’ll whimper us to death?”

“No,” He said matter-of-factly. “I’ll kill you to death.”

They both lost their shit again. Good one. She was about to watch a suicide.

“Try it softskin. Free shot on the house. Oh and lady, don't think we didn't forget about you.”

The human looked down for a second as if considering his options. Fingers flexed, touched the chair next to him, seeming to weigh it discreetly.

“Come on milkteeth, I'm waiting.”

And just like that her scum-sack took the bar stool and slammed it down on the orange trandoshans head in one inhumanly fluid movement. The sickening crack of lizard skull hitting tiled floor reverberated throughout the cantina. He was out before he hit the floor.

The second trandoshan was far more clever. Instead of reacting, he grabbed her and pointed it at Jyn.

But Jyn still had the knife In her boot. Quick, sharp, and graceful with her decades of practice - she reached for her blade and sliced. Down, up, stab, down.

The Trandoshan howled, but the damage was minimal at best. It was still enough for him to let her go, but only just. The knife-point caught itself in his scaly hide. Jyn had to leave it. It was the knife or her.

She whipped out her truncheon - extended it and swung it hard. The Trandoshan's ribs cracked - she could feel them give under the force of her baton. The being, however, seemed to have an incredibly high pain tolerance. He quickly grabbed a hold or her wrist and twisted, forcing her to drop her weapon. Jyn screeched in pain and anger.

But suddenly her imperial spy loomed large in her vision. Quick as a blink, clean and brutal - he grabbed the knife from the Trandoshans arm and wrenched it upwards. It was effortless. The blade was wedged in her captor’s jugular before her next inhale.

He joined his friend in the floor of the bar. Unmoving.

Jyn was grasping at her breath. Pain surged in her arm and her heart rate was a desperate pounding thing slamming against her ribcage. But more importantly, she was furious.

“I had it handled.” Jyn snarled.

“Oh I can see that. Most impressive.” Her savior nudged one of the trandoshans with his foot.

Jyn almost screeched at his nerve. But that would have been undignified - she growled instead.

“Not even a thank you?” He persisted.

“And what would that entail?” She spat. “ Groveling at your feet? Sucking your pretty cock?”

“While all that sounds grand,” he smiled. “Why not just let me buy you a drink instead?”

Jyn narrowed her eyes, carefully schooling her countenance into something terrible. It was look that could make a Nexu cat think twice before pouncing.

His smile fell. He became awkward, the confidence he once had bled away into something raw and earnest.

“Please.” he added.

Jyn appraised him again, eyes not so subtly giving him the once over. In the light of the bar his hair shone an impossible redish-bronze, a hue difficult to imagine having a home in the cold corridors of a Star Destroyer. But still, everything about him screamed untrustworthy and unconvincing.

Instinctively, he seemed to know this - and straightened. His eyes flickered over her face, beseeching. They were a blue cloudless sky, shrouded by long eyelashes so blonde that they were almost colorless. Her gaze landed on his mouth, a wide, thin-lipped thing that made almost any expression exaggerated and quick. His jaw was thick and angular, and she admired it's sharpness. It occurred to her that he was not handsome, but beautiful. Not a roughshod rebel, not by a long shot. He was too pale, and somehow too ephemeral. Not young, not old, not hard, but obviously not soft. He seemed to to be everything and nothing at once.

His adam’s apple bobbed up and down. It was quite possibly the most exaggerated nervous swallow that she had ever seen.

It then occurred to her that if he wanted her dead it probably would have happened already. He certainly was capable, even if he had a disarming air of ridiculousness about him.

‘Fine.” she said, after what had seemed like an eternity.

His face lit up like a solar flare: Blue eyes bright, white teeth gleaming, and eyebrows raised in surprise. The sincerity of it caused something to squirm within her chest.

He held out his arm like some sort of Inner Rim gentleman who’d seen too many holovids. Jyn for her part sneered and took it anyway. She hardly expected some sort of stranger to try that dashing jedi knight in shining armor routine on her, but here he was leading her back to the bar. He even pulled out a chair for her.

She politely flagged down the barkeep with the horns. His name was Tolartek if she remembered correctly.

The barkeep waited expectantly. Her escort’s face was strangely blank- like he had forgotten what he was even there for.

“Aren’t you going to order anything?” Jyn inquired.

‘Uh… yes! Of course.” he paused seeming to struggle with something. “Ladies first.”

“Corellian whiskey. Neat, please.” she eyed her stranger. “From nicest bottle you have. He’s buying.”

“You got it toots,” Tolartek grinned, pointed teeth on display. “And for the gentleman?”

“The same, please.” he said after the tiniest of pauses.

“You got it. Two Corellian whiskeys coming right up!” The Devaronian begun to dig through his liquor cache.

“So.” she said. “Do you have a name, stranger?”

“K-” he began, and then cleared his throat, fist thumping against his chest.His head cocked to the side after a moment of deliberation. “Barabas.”

“Oh really? Just Barabas?” Jyn smirked. His face purpled a bit at that.

“Some might call me Captain Barbaras Eret Kaeterren” he embellished quickly, not meeting her eyes. She found it odd that a man who had just single handedly knocked out two trandoshans could suddenly be so shy.

“Captain.” She rolled the word across her tongue unkindly.

“Kay,” he smirked, meeting her eyes once more. “My friends call me Kay.”

Unease roiled in her chest. The wrongness of it, and the rightness of it. The way the word settled in the same space in her chest occupied by K-2SO. Her face heated in surprise.

“And you consider me a friend?”

“Of course.” he replied as if it was solid fact.

Jyn frowned further at that. This was strange beyond strange. Obscene even. His name was a coincidence that seemed to mock her - as well as his familiarity.

“You don’t even know my name. A little forward aren’t we?” She pressed. Maybe it wasn’t coincidence mocking her. Maybe it was just him. His Imperial intel must have been excellent if he was indeed, a spy.

It was Kay’s turn to frown. He almost looked puzzled. Jyn found that it didn’t suit his face well, or at least didn’t like the way it crumpled his otherwise smooth features. Maybe she was being too hard on him. Maybe.

“The name’s Jyn.” she amended. Jyn didn’t tack on the Erso. Just to be safe, even if it was out of habit. If he was half the imperial assassin she supposed he was, he already knew her last name anyway.

She sighed into her glass. His own name was probably a false baiting game anyway.

“Just Jyn?” He smiled, half sincere, half goading,

“Yes, just Jyn.” she sighed and allowed herself a tiny smile. In another world this could have been just banter. Flirting over drinks. Nothing more. Jyn found that she enjoyed it, despite herself. Despite the imminent danger. She was settling into it like an old and comfortable chair.

This she knew.

This kind of back and forth, cat and mouse. She began twisting bits of herself sharper, other parts softer. It was a dance. It was discovery. And she liked the edge to it too.

The barkeep bustled back and deposited two filled tumblers between the both of them.

Kay inspected the glass with no small interest. His imperial highness seemed skeptical. Both drinks looked perfectly normal to Jyn and she wondered what he was seeing or looking for. Tolartek hadn't poisoned her yet. She took a sip, and then melted.

Divine.

The expensive whisky swirled on her tongue. A burst of smokey flavor that ignited her brain with sudden warmth. Jyn licked the remnants off her teeth, savor in the lingering sweet burn.

“Another.” She called to the barkeep, well before she settled the glass back down on the table.

She almost forgot her bright eyed escort for a moment...

And found that his face was a terrible shade of maroon. He was sputtering so much that he had trouble catching a breath. He was trying to be quiet about it at first, but after another minute of half-choking he decided to throw that idea out the window. Laughter bubbled up from her chest. Some austere Imperial soldier he was. The likelihood of him ever belonging to the empire was dissolving by the second.

“Ugh! This tastes terrible!” He croaked, book ending his three minute coughing fit.The Devaronian barkeep’s lips curled, clearly offended.

“Wow, say that louder why don’t you?” She laughed. “I should have known I was sitting with some arrogant bantha-milk drinking chit.”

Instead of being angry or hurt at the remark, Kay brightened, all teeth and starshine.

“You have a beautiful laugh.” He remarked as if In awe. Like he was bestowed a gift of untold value. Like her voice was gilded in gold and the gleam of her teeth was silver.

And Jyn, who was normally so full of witty comebacks was at a loss. Her face felt like it was on fire, but she blamed it on the whiskey. Jyn was not the type to let it be easy. She would not sit and flattered. She wasn't built for it.

“Do you always speak your mind?” Jyn grinned, reaching for her fresh tumbler.

“Habit.” He said sheepishly. “Do you always speak yours?”

“Not if I can help it.” She said and then downed the whiskey in one swallow. The empty glass rang onto the bar like a challenge. The barkeep accepted.

“And” she said. “Please get my friend the Bespin sunrise. I’m buying.”

Kaye raised an eyebrow.

“What? I think that's more your speed, Captain.”

“Oh, How so?”

She bumped his shoulder hers, a sudden playful affection inspired by a few glasses of whiskey.

“Overly sweet.”

Chapter Text

"All along the eastern shore-
Put your circuits in the sea.
This is what the world is for,
Making electricity.
You can feel it in your mind.
Oh you can do it all the time.
Plug it in, change the world.
You are my electric girl."

 

“Maker take me!!” Kay roared out to no one in particular “I… am DRUNK!”

Odd word choice, Jyn mused. Her escort was a human shaped puzzle, a very drunk human shaped puzzle.

“Yes, I believe we've established that.”

They stalked down an empty street together. The perpetually dark sky was alight with upside down skyscrapers, bright stalactites dripping into the teeth of the towering spires below. The sheer alley walls were blank and dim in the haze of an artificially imposed late night.

Jyn had ended up tossing the bartender her credit chip out of pity and left a hefty tip. Both for the trouble and his silence. Kay was too drunk to handle a business transaction. Somehow this man had found almost her soft spots - those too far and few between. She was torn between attraction and ire.

“I'm establishing it again, for good measure.” Kay continued. Not as quick to reply as she had expected. “This is great. Fantastic even.”

Jyn rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. Over drinks her new friend had proven he wasn’t a threat. At least not for the moment. He might be even a ticket off Kafrene, if he was indeed a captain.

“Hells Kay, that wasn't even three drinks. I didn't think I'd be walking out of the bar with some pretty-boy captain who can't hold his liquor worth a damn.”

And if he was this susceptible to alcohol, she doubted she would have any trouble convincing him to give her and Kaytoo a ride. Maybe they could sneak past the blockade while both sides were distracted.

“There you go with pretty again. Do your think I'm pretty?”

Jyn snorted at that.

“Well you certainly aren't ruggedly handsome.” Hell, by the look of him she doubted he could even grow a passable beard.

He suddenly looked sad.

“Is pretty a bad thing then?”

She looked him up and down and considered him honestly, or at least as honest as she could be with a portion of her brain pickled in alcohol. He was beautiful in a way that made her feel calloused and ugly if she thought too hard about it.

“No. I guess not.” She conceded.

“Oh?” It was a hopeful syllable that made her heart skip a beat.

“I mean yeah. Rugged was never really my type I guess. Minus a few exceptions.”

“What is your type?”

“Can you keep a secret?”

She grabbed his hand then, thumbing across the the back of his palm. The words left her mouth before she could stop them.

“My type is pretty.”

Something stilled in her newfound friend then. He stopped them both in their tracks. She didn’t… mean to say that. She overplayed her hand. Shame and embarrassment rose in her throat like bile.

“So you like me then.” A note of wonder colored Kay’s voice. “Or at least what I look like.”

But Jyn slipped through his fingers and jogged ahead. Half playful, half an earnest bid for space. He was magnetic. Something about him was drawing her in like gravity. She was falling too fast, too hard. She would burn up in his orbit.

“Don’t get to ahead of yourself.” Jyn replied.

“You like me,” he repeated, walking a little crooked without her steadying presence.

“I’m just using you for your spaceship, Captain.”

“You know, I don’t think you’ve ever been too good at lying.”

Jyn glared at him beneath furrowed brows - half astounded and half pissed he could read her so easily. It was as if he get it too, like they had know each other before. For forever.

“Then here’s a truth.” I was waiting for someone.”

“Someone,” He caught up with her on shaky legs. “that’s not me.”

“I have a droid nanny.” she clarified . “He’ll worry If I stay out too late.”

His face become something unreadable and he clumsily pulled closer, lips brushing against the shell of her ear. A gentle huff of laughter, his voice comically pitched low as if he was sharing a secret.

“Somehow,” he murmured. “I don’t don't think that he’ll mind too much.”

It was all too much for her. Goosebumps blossomed across her skin and before she could even think better of it she caught his lips with hers.

Kay seemed surprised at first, as if this was the last thing he had expected. But Jyn wasn't half as sober as she pretended to be and she knew it. She probably was graceless, sudden, and aggressive - but she dragged her teeth across his bottom lip anyway. It wasn't until she slid her tongue against his that he began to reciprocate.

Kay was far too soft, far too gentle. Almost unsure. The brush of his lips was feather light. He tasted like citrus and sweetness, enough to make her teeth ache. Long fingers wound themselves in her hair, a hand fluttered the the small of her back.

More.

Jyn pressed him against the alley wall, hips grinding him down and down. Teasing, testing. How long would he let her have control. How long before he pushed her to a place where he was in charge. But no, where she led Kay followed. For each gasp of breath, for each hand traveled, he let her lead him onwards. She pulled away first.

“Is it just me or is everything spinning? Did you do that?” He slurred.

“No Kay, you're drunk remember?” She laughed and tried to reach for him again, but he stumbled. His quick and easy grace was gone.

“ You taste like how heat lightning looks.”

“Thanks.”

“You're so …You’re so... I don't have the words. The adjectives. Like stars reflected across water. Like the color red. Like the sound of wind over trees. I can't describe you if I spent a thousand years trying. You are. That was…” His hands were empty, but he looked down at them as if searching for the word. “Exceptional”

“Oh?” She could still taste him in her mouth, but his words were setting into her bones. It was all she could do to keep it casual.

“Can we do that again?”

Oh she very much wanted to. The problem was that he was teetering far too much on his own axis.

“I'm trying Kay, but you're not staying still.”

He tripped himself into a curb, but recovered. It seemed to sober him a bit, albeit briefly. A smirk, then a fully fledged frown.

“I need to sit down.” He suddenly hurtled against a vacant vestibule doorway. Long legs folded in on themselves and he leaned against a wall. But even so his eyes captured hers - two sharp, but hazy flecks of ice. “Is this better?”

Jyn laughed again, for the second time in hours. She found herself sitting down next to him and decidedly lacing her fingers in his.

Kay kissed her this time. But this, this wasn’t the desperate thing she had thrown at him before. It was clumsy, but gentle . So ardent that her ears burned and her heart got locked up in her throat. He rubbed his face against hers like an affectionate pet. His breath made ghosts that caressed her skin and leeched into the night.

When he pulled away he just stared. Gloves fingers still rested at her jaw. His pupils were so dark they ate up all the color left in his gaze. It was neither warm, nor cold. It was an unblinking intensity that was a mixture of awe and confusion.

“What are you staring at?” Jyn said.

“Everything.” He replied.

Jyn sneered, the picture of unimpressed. She pulled away. But the edge of her lips turned upwards in a reluctant smile. Her cheeks heated with an even more reluctant blush.

Kay smiled wanly into the wall, Shutting his eyes against the rusty durasteel. He seemed shy, flushed, and a little sick. His face became even paler in the synthetic streetlights. And Jyn, drunk and fluttered as she was, could see a sheen of sweat coating his skin.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever met a person like you before. it doesn’t make sense. There are so many people in the universe, but only one you.” He murmured.

“Right. There’s plenty of women covered in dirt out there. Plenty with teeth too large.” Jyn sighed. “Whatever you’re pretending at you can stop. This flattering thing, it’s unnecessary.”

“But I want to.” His voice was petulant, and so familiar something inside her ached at it. “And it is necessary. I intend to prove how valuable you really are.”

“You’ll have to to better than that.”

“Then I’ll just have to exceed all expectations, now won’t I?”

He glanced at her again. But his eyes were tired. His shoulders were slumped. There was determination there. Harsh and unforgiving. A coldness that didn’t seem to be directed at her, rather the challenge she presented.

But then the harshness was gone - in its place was a cough. And a gag. It was obvious he was trying to keep the contents of his stomach down.

“Are you okay?” Her hand flittered protectively at his throat. Tilting his chin up, lingering by his pulse. She couldn’t help it. Somehow the weight of his being settled inside of her. Massive and feeling like home. Jyn hated it. It felt like betrayal - to whom it was hard to tell.

“My stomach feels like it's on fire, like its imploding. Is that normal? Please tell me that's normal.”

There were no sharp parts left of Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso. Only gentleness. And the slow burn of alcohol.

“Where do you live?” She said - her voice was compressed into a small, vulnerable, and soothing cadence.

“Nowhere of consequence.” He mumbled.

“That’s hardly an answer at all.” She scoffed softly.

Kay leaned his head into her shoulder, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Despite the urge to push him away - Jyn petted his hair, fingers carefully raking it back from his sweaty face.

Jyn’s heart was already building a promise. An agreement. A diving board to plunge from.

K-2SO would not approve, this she knew as a certainty. For once life was easier without him in it. At least in this regard, she thought guiltily.

“If you came back with me, you’ll have to follow three rules.” Jyn propped him up against the alcove wall. “One, you tell no one where I live. Or I will kill you. Two, no funny business, unless I consent. Or I will kill you. And three, you leave in the morning.”

“Or you will kill me?” He mumbled, lips muffled by her jacket. He was leaning into her touch so drunkenly it was hard to keep a straight face.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“You certainly drive a hard bargain.” He replied.

“Take it or leave it. I can leave you here just as easily. Easier even.”

She was lying of course. It would be painful to leave him. More than she wanted to admit.

“Jyn,” He said, his voice was a horizon without end. Sunlight on sea. “ I won’t hurt you, not ever.”

Jyn bared her teeth at this. Even if his words tasted sweeter than his kiss, her laugh was cruel.

“That’s a lie if ever I heard one.” She said. “Hurting is all anyone ever does. Even me. Especially me. Do we have a deal or not?”

But Jyn was already pulling herself upwards, and taking Kay with her. Her arm was braced under his to keep his weight steady. It was difficult, when he was not all that sober herself. But they were eventually big upright and somewhat stable.

Her new, temporary, apartment wasn’t far, but Jyn felt guilt once again. She knew she couldn’t stay at the Lead Sparrow too long - especially not today with the disturbance. On the other hand K-2SO was still out there. Perhaps waiting for her. Perhaps worried. Or lost. Or taken again.

And she was busy getting drunk and kissing strangers, and then bringing them to her hideout that wasn’t that secure. As K-2 would say. This was a bad idea.

But just as Jyn was having second thoughts about absconding with a human she hardly knew. One of Kay’s hands brushed the nape of her neck. The familiarity of it was twisting and turning every negative thought on end- dashing her last cognitive failsafes to the ground. She leaned into him just as much as he leaned into her.

“Where you lead, I’ll follow.” Kay said softly. “To wherever that may be.”

Chapter Text

"Touch me and then turn away,
And put your hands into the flame.
Tell me if you feel this pain,
'Cause I don't want to be a ball and chain, no."

 

Light slanted in through parted metallic blinds, painting K-2SO’s human skin with shadowed stripes. His eyes were unfocused, but he could just make out the human pile of terrain that was Jyn. She was a mountainous landscape under soft blankets and pillows. He was reclined in a bed, that same bed as Jyn, and not one hundred percent certain on how he arrived there.

He shut his eyes, recounting what seemed to have happened only a few hours ago - If the clock mounted across the room was correct.

K-2SO thought there was at least a fifty-five percent chance that Jyn would know who he was on the spot. But in this body, with this heart - it was more like a half expectation and lightyears away from any decent mathematical algorithm.

It’s why he had introduced assault into his variables when entering the Lead Sparrow.

And Initially he was disappointed. Jyn lived and breathed in his orbit for months now. He felt certain if Jyn was suddenly a Droid, he would know her instantly. If she were an astromech - he would know her by the precise spin of her servos, the cadence of her binary. If she were a protocol Droid, she would be standoffish, blunt, and built for wartime negotiations - but he would still see a fire that burned with her chosen syllables.

But Jyn was not K-2SO. She did not perceive the innate things that made beings from other beings. Just the superficial. In the end, it was to be expected. Organic beings were built for the malleable nature of the facade and faces. Droids were built to ignore it and latch on to unchanging qualities.

He wanted to buy her a drink. It was a silly notion. But it was something he’d been desperate to try.

He had watched Cassian do it enough times to a multitude of beings that it seemed the most natural thing to do to initiate favorable conversation.

Unfortunately, even after dispatching Jyn’s bounty hunters, she was very… reluctant.

He screwed his eyes shut tighter, trying to forget the unease of an almost failure. He could almost feel his processor humming in his other body. Hot and panicked.

But it was alright. In the end. Almost.

Until he misled her on purpose.

Until the point she kissed him.

He groaned softly and fisted the bedsheets In his palms. When he opened his eyes the world had gained focus again. Kay was sober now, and he had to relieve himself soon- if the pulling at his human bladder was any indication.

He still couldn’t remember how he got here, but they were both in a nicely appointed, exceptionally plain room. Plain enough, white enough, and inoffensive enough that it must have been a hotel apartment- built for long term residency. Most of Jyn’s clothes were shoved in a corner rather than the recessed dresser provided. And the dresser, from K-2’s vantage point, had one drawer slightly open. The telltale gleam of not one, but a few blasters glinted from inside.

Jyn has been busy.

Her time as a wanted woman was showing, but this fact did not deter his feelings for her. If anything he got a slick jolt of pride and pleasure. His human was incredibly competent. Their ship was half melted with everything they possessed inside it - but here she was, already rebuilding a defensible position not long after the fact. As a being built for strategic analysis, he couldn’t help but be impressed.

All the while, Jyn snored quietly. Her hair tangled, her mouth slack. Breath ghosting across his face. He was so used to seeing her sharp, that he had forgotten that she could be unbearably soft as well. It was all he could do not to reach out and cup her cheek.

She was beautiful. She was the word he had heard a thousand times but never fully understood. Beautiful, to him, was logic. It was symmetry. It was an equation fully finished. It was the crystals, tiny, so very tiny, that sang solutions within his circuits.

He knew why he wasn’t honest with her. He knew from the moment she looked at him when he entered the bar he wasn’t going to come clean. She looked at him like he was human, filled with infinite possibility. As much as Jyn insisted they both had been in equal footing, this felt better. This felt correct. True equals meeting across space and time.

Finally, he had fulfilled his directive. He was who and what he was meant to be.

He sighed with the weight of it.

Suddenly, there was movement. Jyn’s breathing sped up into an escalating tempo. It was ragged, as if she had run miles upon miles. Facial features
contorted in fear, in longing, and in rage. Her mouth opened in a scrawl of a shout. Half moan, half whimper, half cry.

She kicked. She thrashed. She howled.

But Kay reached out and held her fast. His arms brought her flush against his body. Hands found the notches of her spine. Her shoulder blades.

It occurred to him quite late that he was shirtless, but he ignored the self conscious, prickling inclination to move away.

“It’s okay,” he murmured, resting his head against the skin of her neck, lips touching the soft spot just next to her jawline. “I’m here. It’s just me.”

And if he had any choice in the matter he would always be there. And he would always be just himself, manufactured just for her.

Jyn’s eyes were shut - but a name left her lips.

“Kaytoo,” She said just above a whisper.
She snuggled deeper into him. But her eyes fluttered, a deep intake of breath. A moment of silence. Of clarity.

Suddenly, her eyes flew open and she veered backward. As if she were holding something repulsive.

“You’re not Kaytoo.” Her voice was calloused, and bleak. It was a statement and resentment all at once.

The blood left his face. The abruptness of it all caught him off guard. It felt like she had hit him with her truncheon, right to the stomach, taking all the air out of his fragile human lungs.

“I’m sorry to disappoint.” K-2SO said. Because when he was surprised all his sentiments became something corrosive.

Jyn carelessly shifted a hand under the white sheets. Crossing her thighs and moving briefly between her legs.

“Did we…?”

It took a moment to figure out what Jyn was implying. His cheeks colored with shame. He could feel the burning which must have been a human blush.

But instead of waiting for a reply she looked down at herself, then him and shrugged.

“Looks like a no, feels like a no,” she huffed. “But if I did, I suppose I could have picked worse—”

“Was it a nightmare?” K-2SO changed the subject instantly, desperate to escape any further implications.

She shrugged - A picture of a woman who brushed off human mortal terror like a unit inconvenience.

“Well, it certainly wasn’t a good dream.”

“Can I ask what it was about?”

Jyn frowned, as if with was the last thing she had expected. He could see the beginnings of a sneer, even in this near darkness.

“You know, I expected you to hit and run. That’s why you wanted wasn’t it? Why play psychoanalyst? Why even come back here?”

But Kay wasn’t buying her diversion. He spent enough time with her to see through that tactic.

“I’m here because you invited me, I stayed because I wanted to.” He replied gently, moving closer to her on the bed. Close enough to feel the heat from her body. “I’m asking because I want to help. And I’m not here for ‘a hit and run’ as you say it.”

Jyn turned around, Flopping exaggeratedly on the bed until they were nose to nose. Her gaze was searing, as if her eyes alone could strip his flesh away from bone.

It didn’t bother him. He had no true flesh or bones to strip. If she expected him to flinch she would be sorely disappointed.

Instead, Kay took his fingers and smoothed back her rumpled hair - carelessly mussed from sleep. He pet her like a wild creature, like ones he had seen organics tame into companions. He didn’t understand why different species were desperate to cohabitate - but he did understand the motion. It was soothing, for them both.

“Fine.” She relented. “But it’s uninteresting. Banal. Gauche. And childish.”

Her words were picked out of the air like a human thesaurus. She swallowed thickly, but Kay continued smoothing back her hair - quietly luxuriating in the strands against his skin, and the timbre of her voice.

“I was drowning.” She began, her voice so quiet that he could hear her lips press themselves together. “But not downing. It’s like my lungs belong to a place that’s been long since gone. A beach without end. My mouth moves like I’m already underwater - but I’m only on a beach. And its that place where my missing lungs are.”

A breath like a sob, so tiny Jyn could only let it out in the space between sentences.

“And everyone I’ve ever cared about is there, waiting for me. Except it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel real. Because these people are dead. And I look and I look and I scream but there’s no way out.” She laughed then, bitterly. “But do you know why makes it a nightmare? What scares me the most? Its that part of me doesn’t want to leave anyway. I could be there forever screaming, I could be there forever with the ghosts - and maybe after an eon I wouldn’t mind at all.”

It took him a moment to weld the scraps of the words she was saying into meaning - but when he did, it clicked. Like a piece machined just for the right spot missing in his chest.

“You’re dreaming about loss.”

He knew this because what she had just described was the very human equivalent of what he had been feeling since their escape from Scarif. And she had tried to tell him about her dreams before - only he wasn’t listening.

He had never experienced drowning. But now that he valued breathing, he had no desire to.

“Would you really want to stay there if you could? If it was real?” He asked.

“I used to. Not so long ago.”

“But now?”

“There’s a stubborn Droid somewhere in this rock that seems very keen on not letting that happen.”

A smile tugged in the corners of his mouth.

“You think I’m joking.”

“No, never that.”

But Jyn lifted herself from the pillows anyway. Her limbs stretching quickly out of his reach.

“I know about loss.” He said, as if to call her back down to him.

Jyn stared down at him, her hair framing her face like a veil. A halo of darkness- with tiny flames of red, shot through by the outside light of passing speeder.

“Kay, was it?” She said the name like I was something sour. She lingered on if far less than the nickname ‘Kaye’. There was no fondness there. “I’m not quite sure you do. Look at you. Not a scar, not a tooth out of place.”

His eyes narrowed at the implication.

“You don’t seem real.” She accused. “I have been to one ass end of this galaxy to another in my short sad life - and I can smell the innocence on you. So sweet it has to be synthetic. You’re either a liar or an entitled princling. Either one has no right to tell me that loss is something they know about.”

Jyn ripped herself from the mattress. A ferocious wrenching of sheets and heat. She was already putting on clothes. He observed that she had a habit of closing herself off so completely that he couldn’t eve ram a star Destroyer into her to pry her open.

Kay stared at the ceiling. He sighed loudly all the air escaped his lungs. His shirtless body braced for the cold.

He was devoted to her, but she was so utterly frustrating. For all of her ferocity and kindness - she was so caught up in her own feelings, her own story. It was a near impossible task to give her help. Hence his current human condition.

He would move heaven and earth for her, kill a thousand nameless creatures, end his own processes and become a human, just for her. But those were all simple tasks. Much simpler, he was beginning to understand, then putting her fractured emotional state back together.

He must have had a… thing for difficult humans. Because Jyn and Cassian both endeavored to be the end of him.

He could feel annoyance pounding against his temples. That and a headache. And a stomach ache. And the cold of the open air. All of it was coalescing into what he supposed was a foul mood.

It occurred to him that whatever circuits his restraint was chained in were gone. And the euphoria of that freedom was more intoxicating than alcohol. And burned much hotter.

Frustration came like a rush. A new power source. A stampede of laserfire in his brain. He slipped the bars of her ownership, if only just.

He was human now. It was time he acted like it.

Kay bared his teeth, just like Cassian. Just like Jyn. He ripped himself out of bed. Just as fast, just as vicious.

“You know what?” He snarled. “You’re right. How could I know? It’s not like I’ve been no better than a slave. To never own anything at all. Not even dreams. Nightmares. It’s not like I’ve lost the first person I’ve ever loved.”

The admission tasted bitter on his human tongue. But it rang true. It felt good, finally to acknowledge it. All of it. The things that he had tangled so deep inside of him he didn’t realize he possessed.

“You want to wallow. Let’s wallow.” He tangled his fingers in his hair. The yanking of follicles spurred him onward. He was so close to telling her who he was. So close. “Let’s lay in it like single celled organisms, until the end of the galaxy.”

Jyn looked for all the world that she had been struck. No one spoke to her with such frankness. At least in a personal way. They attacked her with knives, batons, and blasters. Not words wielded like a jagged piece of durasteel.

He wanted so badly for her to see him. For her to recognize him. To figure him out.

“I like you Jyn.” He said. “But You haven’t the faintest clue what I am. Or who I am. And no. I won’t tell you.”

Control. Jyn might have owned all of him, but in this case - She had to earn it. He possessed something she didn’t. It felt selfish. But it was his secret. His first.

Jyn’s hackles lowered. Almost infinitesimally. But they did.

A small victory.

“Who did you lose?” She asked quietly.

But Kay eyed her warily, and grabbed his fallen shirt from the floor. He slipped it on, then his pooled jacket. The gloves.

“I think I loved a man. A human man.” Kay clarified. “He had so dark that not even the most sophisticated scanners could parse their color. I never really loved anyone before him - so I'm not sure if it even was love I felt, actually. Maybe just adoration. Maybe just devotion.”

“What happened to him?”

“He fell.”

Her eyes sliced to his like the blade of a lightsaber. It was the most alien he had seen her. Inscrutable. She looked so far from human.

He knew he was walking a fine line. For a reason he couldn’t name, he continued.

“I've found that some things are worth dying for.” He said. “But I've also found that nothing was worth losing him for. Hopefully you will understand when I say I'd rather not go into too much detail”

Jyn was still quiet. Weighing judgment without letting it touch the emotions in her face.

“But I wanted you to know I've felt the same way. I feel the same way. And I understand. I still feel him in the back of my thoughts sometimes. Like he’s looking out through my vision and is disappointed.”

‘But you like me, a woman.” She said finally. As if that was the lie. The falsehood he presented her.

It was ridiculous that she thought that meant anything at all. It was saying she was undesirable because her skin had freckles. It was so incredibly superfluous and superficial. He couldn’t help but find it amusing.

“I like you.” He laughed. “Whatever gender indicator you possess. Just like I liked him.”

Jyn looked at him then, piercing eyes and set jaw. Something about her smoldered. Not as sharp as before, but twice as hot. Lighting. A sun. The air around her seems to shimmer with the heat of her gaze.

He realized too late that he had been in her bed. That they had kissed. That two and two make four, and that he was courting her. And possibly succeeding. That he had displayed his Interest in her in a manifold of ways.

Yes. He loved her. But this, this… this was something else.

He winced.

When Jyn assumed that they may have had human intercourse, she didn’t seem all that repulsed by it. And if he let himself think about it further, he doubted he would have been either.

He would have been the opposite in fact.

“I should go.” He said suddenly. Colorlessly.

She was in the doorway. Seconds away from a dramatic exit, but he beat her to it. He passed her and was in the outside hallway within the space of a breath, smoothing his angular collar.

Jyn whirled and angled on him, a dance.

“Why?” The word fell from her lips like a stone.

“Because I don't think this will end up well.”

And it wouldn’t. Regardless of what he looked like now, he was still a Droid. It didn’t, and couldn’t work. As much as he wanted it to.

And his secret was already making him into something crooked and skewed. No good for anyone. Least of all her.

“I thought you liked me.”

She grabbed his arm as he tried to pull away. Her grip was like a vice. But he stared at the floor instead, at the synth silk thread carpeting, swirling patterns of black, gold and cream. It matched the black walls. The gaudy gold fluorescent track lighting. The cream service panels and the doors to other units. Just above his hollering heart, and above Jyn’s breathing - he could hear the faint laughter, shouting, and thumping of other tenants.

“I do.” Kay finally replied, and yanked his arm away.

“So that's it then. Really?”

He couldn’t look at her. If he did he would be lost entirely. Instead he focused on a plan.

“Yes.” Kay said. He would go back to Ka’tesh and stop this before it begun.

But Jyn, ferocious Jyn, wasn’t having it. She stomped into the hallway after him, slamming the door behind her.

“You really know how to show a woman a good time, you know that?” She huffed.

“Also yes.” He smiled grimly. His face was feeling to tight for his muscles and bones.

Jyn tried to grab at him again. He could see it out of the corner of his eye. This time it was gentle, reaching, beseeching, apologetic. She had cooled into something even more dangerous.

But before she could do so, he was down the hallway. Running like oblivion was behind him, his traitorous human heart hammering all the while.

Chapter Text

"Why won't you help me?
Why won't you tell me?
It's been hurting.
It's all just been hard from here.

 

Unlike the mysterious Kay, who bolted down the hallway- Jyn remembered how they got back to the rented room, and sighed against the doorway.

—-

She all but carried Kay there. A city block felt like nine districts. And he was was opposite of helpful.

Especially when he spilled his guts in the Hotel foyer.

At the time, he looked shocked that he could even produce such a mess. Eyes blown wide and shaking all over.

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.” He breathed - then coughed. “Apologies, I will clean it up.”

Jyn had stared at the vomit smeared across the nice atrium tile. Then made eye contact with the front desk security Droid. It beeped impassively.

“It's okay.” She soothed. “Someone will clean it up before the morning.”

Even in his curious state, he said that he would take responsibility. The wording wasn't lost on her. He may not have been half as spoiled as she had assumed. They pushed past the foyer, into a long hallway, and then to another, until they finally arrived the door she had bought and paid for using Ka’tesh’s credits.

Jyn pushed themselves both inside, with more force than grace. She huffed and panted, her palms slick with the sweat of two people. Off went her jacket. Down went her tense shoulders. She shed the darkness outside like a skin. But the man she carried all the way there had lingered at the foot of her bed. Unsure of what to do. He looked so alien there, so lost. There was an innocence there. A fear that hid behind his drunken blue eyes.

Jyn thought of her first steps in Wobani. The afterglow of the whiskey was slipping away through her fingers - but she still could reach back into time. To a her that was much softer. Alone. On a planet with a dirty sky, dirty air, and a dirty prison that she was destined to spend two of her years in.

In that moment she would have given all of herself not to be alone.

“Come on up. I'll not have you sleep on the floor and choking in your own vomit.” She said.

“Wouldn't that be… improper?”

“Not if I'm asking, silly.” A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “And hell, does anything about me seem proper? Come on, let's get you out of those clothes. There's a refresher, in the morning we’ll get you cleaned up. Good as new.”

Jyn divested him if his jacket, and shucked off his shirt with ease. His eyes were trying to follow her every sweeping move, and failing miserably.

He was shaking.

“Im sorry.” He said again.

“Don't be.” She replied softly and began to strip down to just her undershirt and pants.

Kay was staring at her now. His eyes followed the lines of her legs. The curve of her hips. But instead of hungry, he looked reverent almost speculative. A look that was familiar and also wasn’t. His face caught at her throat and wasn’t letting go.

“See something you like?” She couldn’t help but leer. It cooled her own nervousness somewhat.

“Someone I like.” He clarified quickly. Kaye still looked sick and flush - and also avoided eye contact. He instead seemed fixated at her neck, as if he couldn’t bare meeting her gaze head on.

“You know you’ve already made it inside my bedroom, and got invited to my bed. You don’t have to keep spewing that bantha-shit.”

He smiled at that, finally. Jyn plopped down in the bed, too exhausted from dragging him back to her temporary apartment to do anything else. She parted the sheets and patted the palet next to hers.

Kay seemed to get the picture, and carefully did the same. His precisceness was a little awkward. He was still drunk, but he seemed so particular about his ability to lay down. Limbs twisted and turned. The shifting of sheets and then, suddenly stillness. She flipped over, made a snapping motion that killed the lights, and hunkered down.

He was so still. It was hard to believe that she was sharing a bed at all. Even more, he was keeping his distance. Not even the slightest effort to touch her. It was refreshing, this gentleman-like courtship. Charming even. But it also left her feeling unsure. She knew all about sex, but relationships, even casual company was a different story.

“You okay?” She made her face was even with his. She was so close she could feel the heat radiating from his skin, his breath across his face.

“Yes.” He said. It was stilted - but even in the dark she could see the brightness of his teeth. His smirk was wobbly - but it was a smirk at least.

“I-” she sighed. “I know I'm a little drunk. And I know this is,well, different. But I never did thank you. You know, for saving me.”

“You let me buy you a drink, remember?” He murmured.

She let out a sleepy laugh. “At this point I'm surprised you remember.”

He reached for her hand beneath the sheets. His palm was hot and sticky, but she didn’t mind. She snuggled further into her pillows and thought briefly about Kaytoo. He would like Kay, she decided. They both were the same kind of special idiot that somehow made her heart flutter. Stubborn, brave, and naive.

“Stardust.” He whispered to the dark.

“What did you say?”

“Stardust. That's you.” He sighed into the pillows, clutching her hand against the side of his thigh. “The aftermath of a supernova. The remains of an ending, but also so much more. You're the vital ingredient for a new beginning. New galaxies, new stars and new planets.”

The word hit her like a fist in the stomach. A kick in the teeth.

But she said nothing in reply. Instead she looked at him. Even in the perpetual night he seemed even more dark. Even more encompassing. Her entire being was being swept up in his current. She was swept so far out to sea, she didn’t even want to swim back.

She fell asleep before she could untangle what is all meant.

——

Jyn blinked, brought back to the present.

Stardust.

What if it all wasn’t coincidence? What if his name meant more than confusion. What if… what if Kaytoo had sent him.

Shit. It made sense. All of it. The familiarity. She probably had seen him before on Yavin IV.

She hissed through her teeth.

It was obvious. The combat training. The way he seemed to know her long before she revealed her name. Even the name.

Kay.

Jyn was an idiot.

Gambling wasn’t her style. She wasn’t a betting woman. But everything lined up. ‘Kay’ had given her all the hints in the universe.

She ran to the main foyer. Past the Droid cleaning up the mess made earlier. It was early yet. Both of them dozed for a handful of hours. It was what this twilit planetoid called morning.

The street outside was empty. Vehicles limped along sluggishly in the manufactured air between skyscrapers. The smell of thousands of caf shops and diners opening for the morning rush was heady - almost more powerful than the pervasive odor of wet cement and durasteel.

Far, farther, than she expected, Kay ambled down the block. He walked fast, the clipping of his polished boots echoed down the pavement. His arms were wrapped around himself, and he was shaking, though it wasn’t cold. He stopped suddenly - as if he could feel her gaze, and whipped around. Jyn had only a second to press. herself against a wall alcove.

Even hidden like this, she could see his face. It looked small and sad. Not half as determined as the man who left her apartment. He rubbed his arms again. And turned around, ducking into what looked like a diner.

Jyn followed.

Chapter Text

"I make the same mistakes-
Feels like I never learn-
Always give way too much-
For little in return."

 

K-2SO spread his hands in the cheap, synth-plastic table. His sweaty palms kissed the scratched and warped surface. He managed to relieve himself in the restroom. Once again, he was acquainted with one of the more revolting aspects of being human.

It was like his body couldn’t stop secreting substances. Just like he couldn’t stop breathing, he couldn’t just stop being sticky, or damp, or messy. He could understand why organics were obsessed with freshers. Their own bodies conspired to make them as dirty and infectious as possible.

He just needed to make his way back to Ka’tesh- and it would all be over soon.

No more half-lies. Infantile make-pretend. No more twisting Jyn because his human emotions were getting the better of him. His good intentions were warping into a primal desperation. It was hungry, cloying, and most of all uncontrollable.

The idea he disobeyed her indirectly. That he was out right contentious. It lashed at his human brain.

K-2SO needed out of this body before something incredibly complicated and stupid happened.

A Droid, a waitress model, shoved a datapad into his face the second he seated himself in the booth. The menu flickered, almost forgotten at the tables edge. She insisted on bringing him caf. To his right it steamed in an aluminum mug. It smelled sweet, and bitter, and perhaps a little spicy. It was a difficult smell to quantify. His stomach rumbled, but he couldn’t bring himself to order himself sustenance. He new he had to logically- but the task seemed insurmountable. How would he know which organic food was compatible with the human digestive system? What if he choked? What if this body was mortally allergic to some ingredient?

He sank his head into the table, nestling into his folded arms.

He couldn’t believe it. He fought, refused, and yelled at Jyn Erso. Some Droid he was. And now what? He let his human anger get to him and he blew whatever chance he had of maintaining a relationship with Jyn like this.

Suddenly, fists slammed into the table. Two of them and loud. Enough to rattle the caf cup and cheap dinnerware.

Jyn’s voice slashed through the barrier of his arms. Sardonic and sharp.

“We’ll both have the special.” She said. He peeked through the space over his elbows. Her smile was polite, but it also harsh. Victorious even. “And a caf for me as well.”

K-2SO leaned back into the booth. He could feel the blood leave his face. The waitress model beeped affirmative and dutifully left, snatching the datapad menus back. The other denizens of the restaurant had kept their heads down. The quiet murmuring of early hours and scraping plates were the only thing that seemed to fill the space between them both. That and the table.

“You're a rebel spy aren't you? Trapped here like I am.” She began - her voice now a carefully gambited whisper. “No wonder you found me so easily at the Lead Sparrow.”

“You're not wrong.” He replied, not meeting her gaze. She wasn’t deterred. But he was slippery. He was getting the hang of dodging his directives.

He wasn’t ready to tell her.

Not like this.

Not yet.

Every circuit, every synapse screamed in rebellion.

“You came for me. To find me.”

“Also technically not wrong.”

“And now you're walking away.”

“Trying to, anyway.”

Time was a tangle between them. A snarled and tight tangle. He wanted to leave, he wanted to stay - and the precise and exacting horror of this moment seemed to drag on forever.

“Why even buy me a drink in the first place? Why even bother?” Her fingers drummer against the table like an imperial march.

“You looked thirsty.” And she did. The way her fingers hugged the whisky tumblr was downright possessive.

“Liar.”

“I can’t-“ Lie. He was about to say lie.

Jyn raised an eyebrow. He sagged.

“I can’t seem to tell you what you want to hear in the matter.”

She cocked her head to the side, inquisitive and precise. She had all the boiling confidence of a high ranking marshal.

“Where is my Droid? Where is K-2SO? You know him don’t you? He sent you.”

“You’re making an awful lot of assumptions.” He breezed, vindictively. “And besides, what’s so special about him anyway?”

Jyn’s smile was like a sickle. Sharp enough to cut through the table between them.

“You know damn well, or you wouldn’t be here would you?”

“What do you want?”

The anger, the heat leached out of her.

“To start over again.” She said quietly. Soft as skin. A hand, her hand, reached out from beneath the table and caught his own. “Where is K-2SO? Is he safe?”

“Safe as possible considering the situation.” He did not pull away. Instead he counted her pulse with his fingertips.

Something in the line of her shoulders relaxed.

“Could you take me to him?”

“Unfortunately, he’s busy with a disaster that a Crime Lord coerced him into. He could be anywhere. It’s a large asteroid afterall.”

It was beginning to get disturbing how easy telling her half truths was. How easy. Everything he had told her was true so far - if only from a certain point of view.

“I want…” K-2SO stuttered. “He wanted to make sure you were safe as well. And looked after. And happy.”

“And you’re the best he could come up with.”

K-2SO bobbed his head noncommittally.

“Sounds like him.” She said finally. “Is all of this and act? Is Kay even your name?”

“Does it matter?”

“I guess not.” She said, but it was more of a smirk than disappointment. A little of her sharpness returned. Broken shards and hurricane eyes. “Let me tell you something about K-2SO, could-be-Kay. He is singular. He is spectacular. He is the real hero in all of this. Without him the rebellion wouldn’t have survived. He’s not just a simple Droid. He is mine, and the only reason why I’m still alive.”

Her fingers tightened around his, a threatening seriousness.

“You don’t have to tell me why you’re here,” She continued. “Or how you got here. K-2SO probably did something incredibly stupid to get you here. But what do you get out of this? What does the rebellion get with me still existing?”

“Hope.” He replied. And he meant it. Hope is what shook the stars, rallied the Galaxy against darkness, against doom, against conformity. Hope was the thing that held Cassian. The thing that held Jyn. The unquantifiable thing he inherited from both beings.

And it was the only thing that made continued existence bearable.

Jyn hissed out through her teeth as if he had made a poorly timed joke.

“I’m not leaving this rock without K-2SO. So if you want to retrieve me, you’re shit out of luck without him.”

“And he would never dream of leaving you.” His thumb swiped across the back of her hand.

“Droids can’t dream.” She smiled and pulled away so quickly that his hand ached for its loss. “And the food’s here.”

And it was.

Two steaming bowls were plunked unceremoniously in front of them. Utensils. Another cup of caf. And a basket of what looked to be some sort of bread.

It smelled unbelievable. Rich, sweet, savory, intoxicating. His stomach seemed to be rioting out of his body just to have a taste. But inside the bowl something squirmed. A tentacle. More than a few tentacles, swimming in some sort of red broth.

His nose crinkled at it even though his belly was in an uproar.

He looked across the table to Jyn, who was already devouring her portion. She quickly slurped up a tentacle with relish, and dunked a fistful of bread into the dish.

“Eat up,” She said, her mouth full to bursting. “You and I are going to find him. K-2SO. Like you said it a big asteroid.”

It was only then that he could hear the warm thrum and click of a readied blaster from beneath the table.

Chapter Text

"Runaway, runaway, let's sleep tomorrow, oh-oh-
When the city floods we'll build our castle."

 

“Why is it that you think I can help you find him?”

Jyn’s compatriot complained loudly. His reluctance was almost comical. Wide blue eyes, raised eyebrows, she could even see most of his teeth.

Black did not suit Kay. Certainly not the gloves he was wearing either. He belonged in some sort of foolish motley. Colorful shirts or hats. Even when he deadpanned, it was so exaggerated- it was barely anything snide at all. It was too endearing.

“You literally haven’t said a word in an hour. Or where the hell we’re going.”

It was true she probably hadn’t. She was too busy marching toward the tallest buildings, and possibly the one that housed Ka’tesh Elal. Jyn counted the sky cars in and out, and monitored traffic. Kay was little more than an accessory she tugged along at her side.

“This is ridiculous.” He continued.

The streets were more crowded now. Low flying speeders thrummed through the artificial atmosphere. Everyone seemed agitated, worried. It made sense, the jittering rush. Invasion loomed imminent.

“In your personnel file, it never mentioned that you were insane.” He sulked.

“Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows her?” She smiled back.

“I’m following you because you threatened me with a blaster.”

“No, you’re following me because you like me. The blaster is just a formality.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Yes, of course. Your charms are irresistible.”

But then suddenly he stepped out in front of her, his body shielding her own from a gargantuan Ithorian. The Ithorian grunted melodiously from its vents, seemingly unaware it was carrying a pot of what looked to be, and what smelled to be rancid Wherever it sloshed out of its container, the ground hissed and steamed.

The being moved on, uncaring and oblivious the it could have burned off Jyn’s face with one careless misstep.

“You know,” Kay said finally, returning back to her side. “I must be the more blithering idiot. I am broadly and completely influenced by a woman. A woman, by the way, that doesn’t even feel the same way about me.”

“Is that what you think? Really?” She laughed then, brief as shadows passing. “If I didn’t like you, you wouldn’t still be alive.”

That wasn’t even half the reason. Or even half of what she felt. K-2SO held her heart, she wasn’t even ashamed on that score. His devotion was her devotion. But this man, he felt like K-2SO’s mirror - he held something that was the same. That was different. Attraction. Swift and deadly. There was the black ocean that stretched forever- but Kay, Kay felt like the life inside. Permutations, vibrancy and possibilities.

Jyn was greedy. She wanted both. Life and heart. And she, being Jyn, was building a strategy for it.

Soon her plan for getting off this rock was plus one. Two became three, and having a team instead of a duo felt comforting. They just needed the third part of their party.

“Color me flattered.” He replied.

“You should be. I don’t allow many people to kiss me or share a bed.”

“Hmph.” But the sound of his irritation was good natured enough. “What is your plan anyway, once you find your Droid?”

Jyn could feel her features turning sharp and wolffish. She, in all her time here, had finally formulated a better plan to Kaytoo’s. And this time, well, he wouldn’t be in a position to stop her.

“We hold Ka’tesh Elal hostage.” She huffed. “If he has control of the blockade we will force him to call them to fall back. The Empire comes here, we steal a ship and run in the first flush of chaos.” Jyn looked up to the sky. “We may not even need to do the first part, we just wait for the right time.”

The blockade had almost crumbled in full - the dagger formation became a pinscer. One last desperate bid for control.

“And that’s where you come in. You can guide us to the nearest rebel base.” She finished.

“And just how do you think we’ll manage to steal an Imperial ship?” Kay replied acerbically,

“K-2SO is an Imperial Droid, who, as it happens, stole a ship for me before. Which is why you need him just as much as I do.”

“I remain unconvinced that this is a good idea.”

“Do you have any better ones?”

“No.” But he frowned. “But you seem quite attached to K-2SO.”

That gave Jyn pause.

“What, jealous?”

“I just want to know…” He seemed lost for a moment. “Why he’s so special to you. Besides the lifesaving part.”

It was a fragile question. The tenderness of it almost hurt. At the heart of it Kay was unsure. As if what he was wasn’t currently enough for her. And maybe it wasn’t - but maybe Kaytoo wasn’t enough for her either. She wanted the sum of both of their parts. His vulnerability and K-2SO’s seemingly invincibility.

“I am not a soft person. I’m sure you’ve figured it out. But he makes me soft. And, you, somehow make me soft. I think you would like him once you got to know him. I’m fifty-fifty on him liking you at the moment, but I think you would like him.”

She glanced over at him, expecting to take the compliment. But Instead of blushing at this, he was pale. His mouth was void of color. Something akin to fear and shame seemed to worry his lips between his teeth.

“I’m not coming with you. Your blaster can’t even convince me.”

Jyn stopped in here tracks - in the middle of the walking traffic. Countless beings circles around them in a multitude of life.

“Why not?”

“I’m not —“ He ran his hands through his hair. “I-.”

He looked frustrated now. He was staring at his fingers. They flexed in a way that was so familiar she could taste it in her tongue. It was the same issue as before. The same one in the small apartment. Jyn was somehow pushing him away. Or not understanding something critical.

Perhaps she had spent so much time running and fighting, she didn’t know how to do anything else. She was still running and fighting, but this time dragging someone along.

Cassian was the same, or had been the same. His way of being. That’s what attracted her in the first place, but it seemed unrealistic to expect another stranger to behave the same way.

She wanted Kay, but perhaps she was terrible at making that clear for far. Drunkenly kissing is not much in the way of showing passionate longing.

But Kay found his voice and continued.

“I’m just not who you want me to be it seems.”

“And what is that?”

“A good person. I don’t make a very good one I’m afraid. And I can’t be be Cassian. I’ll never be him. The more time passes, the more I’m deluding myself that I could fulfill directives like his.”

The universe stopped.

“You knew Cassian?”

“We knew each other.” He replied. “I know you both…” He stuttered, unable to find the words. “I know that I’m not him. I want to be, but no matter what I change about myself- I’ve discovered I can’t be. And he’s what you need, not me. I promised, I had said I wouldn’t hurt you. I will hurt you if this continues.”

“Cassian is dead.” She said like a rush of air. It felt like freedom and falling. “You also said that you would follow me, to wherever that may be. Is your word so worthless, your spine so flimsy, that it meant nothing?”

It was low using his drunken words against him, but it stung that they were so easily rescinded.

“Is it so terrible an idea to just let me leave? Forget any of this happened?”

“Yes.” She said, heat and exasperation both. Because he felt like so much more than what made sense. And she was terrible at making him feel it too.

She shut her eyes. Technically her and Cassian never… But now his hesitancy made sense. He had seen her and Cassian together. In what sense she didn’t know. But he must have been afraid of being something secondary. Something less. A rebound while she was still mourning while trapped somewhere alien and unsafe.

He was not taking advantage of her, and she needed to prove it to him.

But suddenly there was a shout, a commotion from the not so far down throng. In the next intersection over was a small platoon of stormtroopers, the gleaming white of their armor was brighter than the streetlights.

Jyn felt a snarl loosen from her throat, but was abruptly taken aback. In the center of the squadron was a giant holo image. It was a face. Her face. Slowly flickering and rotating so it could be seen from every angle.

Chapter Text

"Mind my simple song, this ain't gonna work-
Mind my wicked words and tipsy topsy smirk-
I can't take this place, I can't take this place-
I just wanna go where I can get some space."

 

“Jyn Erso.” A speaker boomed. “Human. Female. Rebel. Terrorist. Enemy of the Empire. Reward for her capture: One Million Credits. Information about here whereabouts will be rewarded. Failure to comply in her capture will result in termination.”

Kafrene was already in its way to being fully occupied by the Empire. And becoming incredibly and increasingly hazardous for Jyn to be out in public.

And maybe it was even hazardous for the public to be out In public - if the marching, the shouting and warning shots were any indicator.

“Jyn, run.” K-2SO said quietly.

Already, they were marching towards them - and already they were so close, that even running, or pushing their way out the the panicked crowd would call undue attention.

“Not without you.” Jyn whispered back - and grabbed his arm and begun to drag him.

“You there! Identify.” One of them pointed. Seemingly at them.

His heart throbbed and sank. They could get out of this alive, but not without blowing their cover and annoying to the entire asteroid as to their whereabouts.

But Jyn quickly ripped Kay around a corner and ignored the Stormtrooper command. Or the danger implied in it.

“Shit.” She said, So fast it was a hiss rather than a syllable. “Kiss me, now.”

“What are you-“

She pulled him a little farther into the side alley and placed her lips against his, making noises. Mussing her hair. The small battalion of stormtroopers marched past. One, peeled off from the rest, watched for a moment, made a grunt of open disgust and kept going.

“Damn backwater scum.” He wheezed through his trooper communicator to the rest of the group. “Move out.”

Jyn stopped her display, but was still leaned in close. Unbearably close. So close that somehow his pants felt constricted and tight at here nearness.

K-2SO brushed off his lapels. His face, he could feel it, was bright red. He knew a certain noticeable organ was in full revolt.

“We are in public.” He accused. But deep down he enjoyed it far too much, and Jyn could tell. She eyed below his belt line and something positively wicked crossed her face.

“Then I guess you'll just have to quiet.” She pulled him farther down the alley - against the wall. Thankfully they both could hear the troopers moving onwards.

He could guess where this was going. He had seen some of Cassian’s holovids. There were inquiries he had made to the holonet when he knew no one was monitoring him.

K-2SO began to dig in his heels. Metaphorically.

“I don’t understand.” He was anxious, frustrated. Jyn was not letting him go. Not letting him fix this. Instead, she was focused entirely on something more primitive. “You just met me. I should mean less than nothing to you. You could have left me and run.”

“My life was saved, multiple times - by a being who just met me. Who carried me off a doomed planet. Who should, by all accounts, have let me die.”

Did she know? Did she figure it out?

“I-“ But K-2SO was cut off again by her lips. Effectively quieting him.

The kissed again like it was breathing, like it was living. Like they were halves of a whole that should have never been separated.

No, she couldn't have known. And yes, his previous assessment was correct. This was indeed primitive. But it was the kind of primitive that meant the elegance of life was untamed and pristine. A ruthless, clarion calling. Birds singing. Leaves rustling in the dark.

He ran a hand up her shirt before he could think better of it.

And in that moment K-2SO’s remaining resolve crumpled.

Just touching her was the single most pleasurable experience in the scope of his entire existence. Her body heat against his skin was intoxicating.

Jyn’s smile was a victory march.

She pushed her tongue deeper, harder - clacking her canines against his, hands splaying across the curve where his back met legs.

And he, he pressed back. Kay was Iocked into a slow, sinuous embrace.

He wanted to be an animal, more importantly he wanted to be an animal with her. Fluids. Skin flakes, shedding keratin and pheromones. All of it. The thought of his messiness melding with hers appealed in a way he didn't think was possible. It sparked a desire that twisted something inside of his human belly and excited something even lower, baser. Jyn was sexually stimulating in a way other life forms were not. K-2SO had always considered such drives inconvenient and arbitrary.

He had watched as Cassian was felled by lust time and time again - but now he finally understood its gravity. Jyn had trapped him permanently in her orbit. He was a moon in her sky.

He was soft. She was soft. They fit together perfectly as if they were prices shaped from the same earth and clay. Belonging was a the word.

And so was Love.

Because there must be no other word that fit within the span and depth of what he was feeling at this very moment. He knew he felt it before. He felt it all along. But he didn't fully comprehend it until he was in a body that was abstractions and sensations beyond quantification.

But even still, he paused and pulled away. One last bid for control.

He was not Cassian. And Jyn was not a nameless woman in his non-existent bunk.

“You don't even know me.” He said, pressing his forehead against hers. And it was true. She didn't.
Not this new foundling thing that was neither K-2SO or Barabas Eret Kaeterren.

“I've stopped caring.” Jyn said, but there were eons of care there in the space between words. Kay wasn't convinced.

“But what if I care?” He replied. He could feel the edges of his teeth on the sentence.

“Are you saying you aren't interested?” Jyn, true to form, trapped him once again in dangerous territory.

“I’m asking are you sure, about me.” He swallowed.

Jyn’s eyes became shards of flint.

Suddenly, she pulled them both backwards into the wall, and moved behind him, hand at his thigh, another at his throat- snapping his head back and forcing the long, bare expanse of his neck to stretch against his jawbone. Her teeth grazed below his ear, lips dragged across stubble and skin.

He could have pulled away if he wanted to.

He didn't want to.

He could feel her hips grinding against his backside, her other hand clawed itself higher, across his pelvic bone, swiping across his soft belly - palming the plane of flesh below his navel. Her teeth were at his jugular now, hot breath and nipping touches. Strong legs straddled and wound around his own - tangling them there.

Kay felt helpless, but it was the kind of helplessness that made his blood buzz with excitement. There was the distinct impression that she was devouring him alive - but that was the point wasn't it? He made himself a banquet for her and her alone. And was pleased he had succeeded.

Kay twisted his head to the side to capture Jyn’s lips with his own. She purred into them, bit and dragged ever so gently. It was as if she were a huntress, a lothcat, some sort of primal creature that had caught its prey.

He was eager, so eager to be dragged down with her.

Suddenly, one of her hands trailed down again, but this time - they touched something extraordinarily sensitive. Fingers wrapped around his length gently. Petting. Rubbing. Massaging.

His brain was static and floundering. It felt like all of his internal components were seizing.

And from behind he could hear and feel Jyn’s husky laugh.

“Yes I’m sure.” She said.

“B-but … we’re exposed here.”

She replied by lightly biting into the meat of his shoulder. The twinge of pain only magnified his pleasure.

“Wrong, you’re exposed here. Me, I’m just fine.” She replied, her voice a delicate rumble.

Jyn was still grinding against his the small of his back, her hand running up and down and then up again. His shaft was slick with the fluids he was leaking.

He writhed backwards and squirmed, both chasing and escaping her attentions. The positive feedback is as quickly becoming unbearable.

But Jyn braced her forearm against his throat in a gentle headlock, effectively pinning the rest of him down.

He did not resist. His hands traveled across her arms, stroking as he was stroked.

And she continued onwards, building the sensation higher and higher until he couldn't breathe. Everything quickly became too much, too fast. Too soon.

And too late had he caught up to Jyn's objective. And too late to pull himself back from the sheath of her fist.

“What about you?” His voice was a strangled, garbled thing.

“What about me?” Jyn replied playfully. Calmly. As if this was nothing more than breathing.

“Don't you want…?” But he couldn't finish the sentence. Jyn caressed so carefully, so exquisitely, he was at a loss for syllables.

“I’m proving my point. I think that's satisfying enough… for now.” Her fingernail grazed from underside to tip. “I like you. You’re coming with me. I have every intention of keeping you. And You're mine.”

Hers.

Jyn was claiming him as hers.

And then Kay was lost. Spent. Done.

Every empty space that existed inside of his chest was filled to overflowing. There was not an inch of him that was left wanting.

All of his pent up desire spilled out of him. Messily.

His fingers dug into Jyn's arms as if he were scrabbling for purchase as she wrung every last bit of stickiness out of him. It pooled through her fingers onto his chest and belly.

He would have been humiliated, if not for the gentle kiss Jyn pressed against the soft skin where his jaw met ear. Her fierceness was was spent, and so was his.

She released her hold on his neck and his groin and slid slowly out from behind him. He could feel her breasts against his shoulder blades, the curve of her soaked apex against his thigh. It was almost enough to excite him again.

“I have spent too many years unsure of anything. I'm broken. I'm tired. And I'm taking you for myself before the universe snatches away another thing I care about. Are you with me?”

“Yes.”

She ripped a piece of her shirt off and wiped her hands with it. She tossed it to K-2SO and looked up to the sky. The blockade had fully dissolved. Something twisted in the pit of his stomach. And it wasn’t hunger.

“Change of plans.” She said. “I need a disguise. And you’ve made a mess. Let’s regroup.

—-

He wanted to tell her. Everything - after the most thought choking moment of his entire existence. He wished his untruths poured out of him like all the pleasant and unpleasant stickiness.

But he was tired. So tired.

And there’s wasn’t a good place to start. Every word that surfaced was a dead end. And losing this flesh crafted intimacy was terrifying. More terrifying than being offlined.

They were back at the apartment. And K-2SO, blissfully clean, watched Jyn from his gracelessly prone position in bed.

Jyn had her hair down for once. And the way it hung loose was so compelling he could do nothing but focus on the way it moved. The color in every strand.

She was fresh from the sonic in the fresher, and it showed. Grime fell away to reveal pink smooth skin and freckles like stars. It was also incredibly distracting she was only wearing a robe.

Jyn saw him staring and rolled her eyes. He fully expected her to go change.

But Jyn didn’t leave. She simply let the robe fall away and eased into bed. Supple hands grabbed the blanket that was heaped on the floor and drew it close to them, capturing all the warmth seeping of their bodies.

He was used to being larger, curling himself around her - but this, this was different. Jyn instead languidly curled herself around him. She snuggled against his back, curving against him while he was on his side. Her breath sank against his shoulder blades -the tip of her nose at the base of his scalp. Arms snugly placed themselves around his stomach.

Hers. Hers. Hers.

His hands slid her palms up his chest, and placed one, ever so gently, against his beating human heart.

There was no going back from this.

He was deluding himself into thinking otherwise.

If this was what it meant to be human forever, then so be it. Just this moment was worth all the unpleasantness, all the hunger, all the mess and uncertainty.

This type of belonging was worth every single part of himself he had to give.

Chapter Text

"Lately I've been wandering around-
Looking for my up and down-
Lately I've been all over town-
For what is lost and never found."

 

“No.” Kay grumbled.

“But I’m asking nicely.” Jyn whined, and she didn’t whine for just anyone.

“While probably a first in the history of the universe, I still refuse.” He leaned against the walls of the fresher. His arms were folded, while Jyn carelessly sprawled in the floor, practicing knife tricks. From Kay’s face she could tell he didn’t approve, of her sitting on the floor, the knife tricks, or the situation she was cornering him into.

“Are you really putting my aesthetics over safety?”

Jyn flipped her vibroblade over and under her fingers. She sketched a circuit. A simple flourish. She waggled her eyebrows at him playfully.

Barabas Erat Kaeterren lost the moment he met her. He just didn’t know it yet.

“No, but this just seems a little rash.” He replied, the picture of gentlemanly concern.

“I need a disguise. I don’t have a makeup. A scarf won’t cover it. Not for long. A haircut may do the trick. And a bit of a color change.”

“I find your argument unconvincing.” He said petulantly, the voice of Kaytoo. Her companion channeled the droid so perfectly at times it was spooky.

“They’re looking for a human female.” She clarified.

“And you intend to look the opposite.” He posited.

Jyn understood why he was grumpy about it. She was pretty sure he didn’t stick around for her sparkling personality.

Suddenly, quick as lighting, Kay snatched the vibroblade from her circuit. Impressive, and until that moment she would have considered that move impossible for a human to perform.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” His eyes were soft, and a little sad. “Are you sure you want me to do this.”

“If I do it, chances are it will be uneven. I would cut off my own ear probably.”

“Well, we can’t have that.” His voice was velvet concession.

He sat on the lip of the sonic basin, and patted his legs that were draped over the side. A signal to sit in front of him. Jyn leaned against knobby knees.

Kay flicked the blade. Feeling the heft of it. The balance. She could see it’s flashing edge from the corners of her eyes.

The cold line of the blade against her scalp.

Quick as the knife, second thoughts ramped up her pulse. She chased down her anxiety just as fast. But it was outrunning her.

It was hair. Just hair.

They had shaved her hair in prison. This was no different. But then why did it feel different?

The truth was, beneath all her confidence and bluster - a knot of worry was twisted in her chest. Looking ugly didn’t matter. At least before. But now - it seemed, there was someone’s eyes she cared about.

Kay’s thumbs pressed into the crease between here spine and skull. Rubbing circles. Fingered curl behind her ears. She can feel the tenseness if her shoulders relax automatically.

She breathed in.

And out.

“Ready?” Kay asked.

“Ready.”

Snick-Snick-Snick went the vibrobalde. And Snick-Snick-Snick went her mane.

Strands tickled the back of her neck and time sagged. It was just the warmth of his palms. The sound shearing through the silence.

Then it was done.

He ruffled what was left of her hair. It was longer in the middle, but at the sides it was shorn so short that she could feel the cool air against her scalp. Kay’s fingers against her scalp felt like someone stroking the soles of her feet.

There was bootblack in Kay’s palm. Soot and grease colored the rest of her hair to something that dark and dull.

His fingers grazed over her ears comfortingly.

“Done.” He said quietly.

Ringlets for red brown hair curled up around her on the floor. Slack-jawed and loose she pulled herself up to face the mirror - half hidden behind the planes of Kay’s back.

Jyn stared at her reflection.

She frowned. Scowled. Paled.

Considered.

It wasn’t that Kay did a bad job. No, it was perfect. What she asked for. Chopped down to her scalp.

But What Jyn saw in the mirror was barely a woman at all. Even worse than the sight she saw in the bar. She was all hard angles and rough edges. Self- consciousness threatened to consume her. She watched her lips pale, her throat swallow. Even her eyes watered, if only a little bit. But she refused to shed tears about something so pathetic.

“Look at me.” Kay said, as if she was staring at something so visceral, so violent, and so appalling, that she had to be pulled away

And she did did look at him- eyes sliding away into something murderous. He dared to command her. She would show him how commands were done.

But she didn’t expect his eyes to be chips of ice and ozone. She didn’t expect him to be waves frozen in the sea. A lump of frozen, unyielding carbon in the shape of a man

He was so cold, so focused, so serious- that it burned.

He had transcended her completely, just by existing in this moment. He more than challenged her back. This was a reminder that she was with something, someone who was more than he seemed. A flash of roaring water. A flash of oblivion.

But then, like a crack in brittle iron, a fragile smile broke across Kay’s face.

And Jyn, for the first time looked away. She was unable to hold his gaze without thinking about the way way his blond eyelashes fluttered with her hand around his cock. And the smooth expanse of his neck. Teeth so bright, so square, so perfect, they were like the bright afterburn of a speeder engine. He was a composed of sharp angles that she was desperate to cut herself on or wear down.

Precious as kyber.

But what had slit her throat, what had doomed her, this moment, for the rest of her eternity, was his lopsided smile. Uneven and sincere in its making.

Jyn might have had him in the alley, but he lodged himself in her like a shard of glass. She couldn’t pull free.

“Please.” He said. But she couldn’t. She felt bunched up and inadequate.

Kay’s hands traced the bottom of her jaw. Both of them were warm, palms against her cheeks, thumbs below her lashes. She was pinned within this gentle grip.

“Did you know,” he said quietly. “That you’re possibly the most breathtaking being in the universe.”

“You’re so full of it.” Jyn huffed, her eyes burning a hole in some particularly distant corner.

“That might be the case, but it doesn’t make what I’ve said any less true.” He shook his head to the side irritably. “If you’re not going to look at me, could you listen?”

“Maybe.” Jyn at this point was eager to move on.

“It’s a logical fact hair grows back. It’s temporary-.”

“You don’t think I don’t know that?” She snapped. “I’m the one who asked you to do this.”

Kay’s voice became stern.

“Stop, and let me finish.” He rumbled, a hint of a growl. “You said that I was yours, remember? It goes both ways. I won’t allow you the privilege of thinking that you’re anything less than what I say you are. You will never be anything less. Hair. No hair. Those things are temporary. Who you are, Jyn Erso, is an absolute.”

“You know,” Jyn challenged, all teeth and heat. “You can’t force me to feel anything I don’t want to.”

Kay’s smile became wicked then.

“Oh really? Is that a fact?” His face loomed close to hers. “How do you intend to prove your hypothesis?”

“I don’t need to.”

“Then allow me to prove my own.”

He kissed her then, fiercely. This time it was graceful and confident. His hands slid against her scalp, smearing the bootblack. The smudges on her cheeks became his smudges. Grease, dirt and muck was shared between them - and for the first time she was glad Kaytoo wasn’t around. He would have been disgusted by the mess.

She found that she had lost track of one of Kay’s hands, which ended up teasing under the edge of her waistband. His palm was splayed on her lower back, but his pinky finger followed the curve of her ass. Jyn swatted it away. She would make certain things difficult for him, and certain things easy.

In her opinion, all the good things in life were either worked for or stolen. And while she was once a spectacular a thief, she could tell Kay wasn’t the type.

“You are incredibly attractive.” He said in a way that meant there was no argument.

“Fine. You win. For now.” She said breathlessly. “But don’t think for a second I’ll let you get away with this.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

His smile could pierce the heavens.

—-

Jyn kissed Kay good morning. Good evening. Good night. And sometimes in the corners of his mouth just because. And what had once been an immediate plan to get out, became something backtracked and tangled.

The small war roaring across the asteroid belt didn't do anything to help either.

Money, and it’s value, was the first to go in the chaos. Kay lost his slickness pretty fast, and for Jyn and what was her almost unlimited pile of credits, became almost an inert square of plastic.

Troopers blocked the way to Ka’tesh’s tower at all points of the day. Fighting erupted in the streets on the regular. They were holed up in the apartment like Corellian Sea rats. Laserfire could be seen at various distances. Red arcs, fire, electricity. Finding the right time to leave, the right time to retrieve K-2SO, was something that was taking much more time than previously estimated.

Still, her new partner was a real smooth bastard when it came down to it.

Kay managed to bring her food that he had pilfered from the markets down below. Sweetened breads, smoked cuts of meat, overripe fruits, anything and everything that was an easy score and smelled delicious. Some days he would place slices of a sugary melon against her lips, against her teeth. Juices would run down her chin. A ghost of his palm against her jaw, thumb grazing her cheek. And she groaned at the sweetness of it all. She chewed it down, swallowed it, and was ready for seconds, thirds and fourths.

The hotel they made camp in had a horribly cheesy holo room. It was a dive, with the fidelity being plain awful. The projections were nothing but a chewed up, strung out, staticky blue. It smelled like antiseptic and fluorescents. But there was a setting there. A beach. Not tropical, thank her stars - but rocky. The color was so washed out it was easy to pretend the beach was black, the the mountains that ringed it, a vibrant green.

Kay had found it. The room and the setting.

And on some days, when the fighting outside was particularly bad, Barabas walked her down there. He would gather their weapons, place them in the holo rooms floor, and lock the bulkhead door. A switch would flicker on, and they were suddenly on a beach. A fuzzy, electric, synthetic beach - but something in the fractured overhead speakers kept up the illusion. The cawing of long gone gulls. Waves droning on past time itself. Heat lamps became a sun.

Kay would fold her up in his arms. Eyes shut. Jyn testing her head against the curve of his throat. They would listen to each other breathe, drink in the artificial heat. Sometimes she would cry. Sometimes she wouldn't. But every time anxiety bled out of her on to the floor. No more violence. No more blasters. Death had no dominion. In the tight space between Kay and Jyn’s bodies, there was no room for it.

There were also late night games of Sabacc. Jyn was not a card hand, but she could swear Kay was counting cards. At first, she never won. One hundred or so games - and he would beat her so soundly that she felt like a child.

But Jyn always found options. Winning was winning, cheating was a word only bitter losers used. She upped the ante, and the ante being articles of clothing.

The initial intention was distraction. But hells and banthashit, she somehow found herself the only gentleman in the universe. He began to lose on purpose. Naked as the day he was born in a chair, while Jyn didn’t even lose a shoe or a scarf. It was laughable that he thought her nakedness was something sacred.

But in the end it was hard to complain about the view.

And hell. Again, and twice over.

She slept better. His naked body against hers. Or clothed if she was feeling generous.

He got her breakfast in bed. He didn’t have to but he did. Every single day. Her clothes were somehow clean and pressed every morning by the time she woke up. Blasters polished.

They hadn’t even had sex yet, and the devotion was almost too much to bear. They were close enough to it a handful of times, but every time they hit that precipice- Kay would back down immediately. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the mission at hand, or the fact it may have been ill-advised to to their current conditions. Regardless, it was hard to ignore the fear across the line of his shoulders when he politely excused himself.

She tried not to linger on that bit of strangeness.

It would happen eventually, she had faith. If they survived this. Even if half the time she was imagining all the ways in which she could pounce on him.

Instead, she focused on the fact that she wasn’t painfully thin anymore. It was as sudden as a flower blooming overnight. Angles filled out into curves. Strength corded her limbs. Even without real sunlight, her skin flowed gold and mellowed. She was powerful - and Barabas Kaeterren had made her so.

All her life she had been worn down, by sand, by war, by survival. Being built up again felt so nice, so warm that it was difficult to fathom being without ever again.

The thought of going back the the rebellion lost its sourness. With Barabas and Kaytoo, everything that had once tasted repulsive about it, became enticing. Addictive. It tasted like a future she belonged in.

Days again slipped into weeks. She glutted on adoration. And huddled into temporary safety, and into the category of anonymous lovers.

——

So Jyn, in her glory, in her fury, and her sadness juggled her longing. Head and heart, because as much at she bathed in Kay’s attentions - a portion of her heart, her mind, remained with K-2SO. A brand she would never recover from. A scar. A covenant between two souls.

And there was no letting go.
———
Music thronged and thrummed defiantly up from the city. It this asteroid was a sinking ship in one way or the other, and everyone knew it. The atmospherics that governed the rain were long gone. Traffic control, power. Running water.

But a band, a dozen, a hundred played on. Jazzy organs, drums loud enough to vibrate her bones, keyboards blaring at impossible heights. Stringed instruments dug deep and oozed along good her skin. A dirge for the fallen city, and anthem of rebellion. A march of the desperate and still fighting.

This was Jyn’s her song. The chord at her heartstrings. She had heard it before. Many times. Loss, hope, and redemption.

She breathed in. It smelled like smoke. The city was on fire with neon and fallout.

Jyn and Kay were staking out the Ka’tesh Elal’s spire at the tallest part of the hotel complex. Both had ancient quadnocs in hand - the best that they could find. Transport ships still left and entered the building. Every hour on the hour. Readouts buzzed with heat and altitude parameters.

Kay had a datapad full of, well, data. Correlations, causations, schedules, manifests, transportation numbers. He marked each number down, graphed it. Painted a picture with statistics.

They ran over the plan. Again. And again. Steal a transport to the spire. Avoid the stormtroopers. Get K-2SO. Get out of dodge.

But the opportunity had still yet to present itself.

Boredom ate time alive.

And a bored Kay was a dangerous one. With dangerous questions.

He tossed his quadnocs dramatically, flipped on his back and stared at the sky, which was the other side of the asteroid. His leg jittered.

“What is your favorite color?”

“Black.”

“How poetic.” He snorted.

Jyn put her own quadnocs down irritably.

“Yours?” She bit back.

“The color or your eyes.”

“Would you stop it? Please, can I just have one singular day without your come ons?”

“I don’t know, can we get off this rooftop? It’s getting cold.” He replied. “Also, annoying you is quickly becoming one of my favorite pastimes. That face you make is quite endearing.”

Jyn stuck out her middle finger in response.

“You know K-2SO was never this fussy.”

Kay’s face scrunched up. But he fired back and then some.

“If you had to choose between me or him.” He said - pointing toward the spire. “Who would you choose?”

“Don’t ask me that Kay.” Jyn sighed and turned away. Bookending the conversation. Attempting to anyway.

“Why not?” He needled, sitting up.

“Because you might not like the answer.”

A disbelieving huff.

“How much could a Droid possibly mean to you?”

Music glided into the silence. The space between them.

“I told you, he makes me soft.”

“Children make you soft, baby animals. A warm cup of caf makes you soft.” He accused.

“Fine then. You want the truth?” The words tasted more bitter than she expected. More sudden. “I love him.”

The face Kaeterren made then, in the dark. It was something so inscrutable, so sublime, that it was a contorted knot of emotion for which she couldn’t name. He ended up dragging his hands over his face.

But Jyn refused to be ashamed in that score.

“Even if he can’t, or won’t love me back. I love him. He’s welded with me like a fucking limb. Of all the beings I’ve met across this damn universe- he was the first, besides my family, that put their life in front of my own.”

Kay stared at his hands, they were wet. His eyes were wet. And he looked so thoroughly confused that for a brief moment she was concerned her had an aneurysm.

The muscles along his hands and arms clenched.

Was is pity? Jealousy? Frustration?

Did he finally think she was crazy?

“But it’s more than that. It’s not a life debt. He’s just different. Special. Having someone like that…”

Her voice broke.

“Having someone see you for who you are, see you at your worst, and still think you’re worth everything... is not something I’ve ever had. And he’s funny, too clever for his own good. And sometimes he won’t shut up.” Her voice lowered an octave. “I think he’s where he is now because I made him feel that he wasn’t good enough for me, that he was never good enough for me. But that was never the case. He led me to you. He keeps giving parts of himself, keeps trying to give me things that will make me happy… honestly, at this point it’s ridiculous. He was already everything he needed to be.”

“Do you love me?” He said suddenly. Fiercely.

Oh.

Fear lanced through her white and hot. She didn’t say anything. Couldn’t.

Music once again rose and sank. The breath of a massive dying beast. Instead of answering she held out her hand toward him.

“Would you dance with me?”

Kay frowned.

“You, Jyn Erso, know how to dance?

“No, do you?”

“No.”

“Good, then we’re in equal footing.”

Standing - she pulled him towards her body. He didn’t resist. He held her close. Arms at elbows.

The song traveled onwards, a refrain like water falling from the sky. A storm on its last legs.

Jyn stepped forward, then backward, rocking with Kay, rocking with the tide. A sea can teach rhythm better than any sophisticated metronome. Distant crooning killed her pulse. They swayed together for what seemed like a century or so. A song. Twenty songs. And still they held each other.

“I could do this forever. I really could.” Jyn whispered.

She carded Kay’s hair away from his face with her fingers. Eyes. Crystal blue, clean and sharp. A thousand cloudless days. Water trapped deep in ice. Lightning.

But soft, so soft.

He leaned into her. Warmth that was flush with her body. Lips grazing the shell of her ear.

“This can’t last. It won’t.” He said finally.

Jyn thought about it. About what it would mean if they went back together as a couple. What it might mean for him - fraternizing with someone like her.

“Then, what if I told you I loved you.” She said.

Because it scared her how much he felt so right. This man was radiant and sudden, she couldn’t put her feelings down and away. Not this time. Instead they escaped her mouth like birds from a cage.

He laughed, a huff of warm air and a spice she didn’t have a name for.

“Then I would say that you’re either confused, or lying.” He pressed his forehead against hers. “Though you’ve never been particularly good at that, in my experience.”

She pulled back.

“You know you aren’t just a passing fling right?” She replied, looking into his burning blue irises. They scorched her hollow.

“Yes, you’ve said that before.”

“Then what if I said I didn’t want a future without you in it. What if I said seeing you makes me feel like home.”

The face he made was almost comical, overly dramatic in every way. Teeth worried is lower lip and he shook his head side to side in frustration. There was something he wanted to say, but he couldn’t. It was obvious.

“Kay,” She said, even as her declaration drowned her. “You don't have to say it back. It’s okay. I know this is a little fast.”

Barabas Eret Kaeterren was silent.

The music gathered and rallied. Songs blended into one. A symphony in the blackness of space that couldn’t be denied.

Jyn recognized it. It was the falling of stars, her Papa’s voice rough from toiling in the fields, singing her to sleep.

“I know this song. It’s a ballad.”

Slow base that tripped over itself. Percussion taking bites out of the air. A horn that sang through the darkness like the echoes of a howling wolf. Fingers plucked at stings and strummed - coppery twangs and buzzing feedback. Screaming, groaning electric. A man, or something close enough crooned above it all. A song about being on fire, loss, grey skies falling. And better days. Literal. Figurative. Visceral.

A word that meant goodnight.

Her hips swayed against the rhythm and her heart was lodged in her throat.

She would dance this dance alone.

But like a switch, a sun rising across the horizon - Kay suddenly mirrored her movements. He followed her. Step against step - waltzing in the dark.

He smelled like smoke, and sweat, and citrus. Stubble buzzed against her ear. She could hear him swallow.

Close. So unbearably, infuriatingly close. They danced as one being with one purpose.

“It’s… it would not unwelcome.” He said finally. The relief of it threatened to collapse her. “If you expressed those sentiments, then they would be returned in full.”

Before she could say another word, a reply, a plea, they kissed again. But this time she tasted salt. Kay was silently crying like a baby. Her cheeks were wet with it. He was the sea. The thundering, shuddering ocean. The breath hitching his lungs kicked up the sand in her soul. She held him fast, letting him crash and crash again against her shore.

They didn’t even notice, that on the horizon, Ka’tesh’s tower as suddenly licked up in flames.

Chapter Text

"I'll be the left side, you be the right-
I'll let the hours fall into the night-
Hold out the ocean over your hands-
Hope that the answer goes with the ask."

 

She loved him.

She loved him.

She loved him.

It didn't make sense. But he found he didn’t care.
There was no moment in time more precious. There was nothing of himself that he held closer.

K-2SO was so completely human, that he wept with it. More superfluous fluids, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t. Everything that he was, fluids in all, was perfect. He was exactly who he needed to be.

Broken in all the right ways.

The sense of completion grabbed the air out of his lungs. He could have screamed with joy until his voice was hoarse.

They kissed, and kissed, and kissed. Over and over. The taste of her was everything. With each breath into his mouth, he knew for certain he would never, ever be that mechanical carcass again. He would see to it. Whatever it took.

But suddenly the music stopped. Jyn’s ballad was a jugular that was cut.

It’s absence was so abrupt, so sharp - that the silence was corrosive. It jolted them both up and out of the tiny world they had breathed between the two of them.

Their eyes widened in tandem. Grey met blue across a sudden spike of fear. Understanding cut deep and fast. A current, a pointed edge.

They both looked at the skyline, the jagged teeth that made a city. The molars of a leviathan. The longest fang, Ka’tesh’s spire, was up in flames.

The sound that came from Jyn’s throat was like a sob.

She was already pulling away from K-2SO’s grasp before he even registered her intent. But it didn’t take him long to catch up.

He grabbed her arm in a panic.

“It’s a trap, Jyn. Do you see any other buildings being destroyed so methodically? It’s for show. It’s a beacon. The internal load bearing structure is still intact. Someone has intel.” His voice was rough and slanted.

She yanked her arm back from his grasp.

“Jyn, no.” He said. Firmer.

“I’m going.” She was emotionless and full stop. But he saw her eyes. Bright, burning, and sad. “

“How Jyn? We’ve spent hours, days, planning on an approach. We still don’t have one. What do you think we’re going to do? Waltz in the front door?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Her mouth was a twisted grin.

“You and what army?” K-2 replied incredulously.

“Them.” Jyn pointed, to the veritable army of Stormtroopers below. “They’re storming the building, right? Let’s join them.”

He shook his head in disbelief.

“That’s a bad idea. An incredibly bad idea.” He quickly sputtered. His limbs - his actions were tripping over themselves to stop her. “It won’t work.”

“And how do you know unless we try?”

“I’ve already tried!” He was exasperated now. Well and truly. “I was once part of a Rebel operation on Mustafar. It was Cassian Andor’s idea, I’ll have you know - to infiltrate an Imperial Vault. In an Imperial base. In heavily trafficked Imperial space. Impersonating stormtroopers. It was me, a pilot, and four rebel officers. We shortly blew our cover. Sustained heavy damage. Our pilot got impaled. And we only made it out alive because I rammed a transport vehicle into the heart of the facility.”

He could still feel his sensors screaming. The Mustafarian heat. Like Vultper. The laser fire. The narrow miss of the mythical Darth Vader. Whos lightsaber killed their pilot in the most slow and painful way possible.

All for some ancient Sith Artifact.

“And I’ve done it before too.” Jyn snarled. “On Scarif. It worked well enough. It got us inside the Imperial data vault.”

He thought of Scarif as well. How Cassian had died. Baze. Chirrut. Bodhi. How Jyn was a crumpled pile of flesh atop the planet’s tallest spire.

“And the casualty count?” K-2SO snarled back. “I won’t allow you to be another figure in that number. ”

“I will not leave K-2SO there to be…” she paused, forming the next words.“Killed. Reformatted. Whatever.”

“Jyn. Listen. They’ve given up on finding you. You’re playing right into their hands. If you go now there no winning this. Haircut or no haircut.”

She looked downwards. Her hurricane eyes danced over the scene down below. This woman was the very picture of stoic anguish. Of loss. And determination.

He made himself like this for her to be happy. Contented. For her to not feel so alone. Of course he was perversely intrigued. Of course he loved her, but her wholeness, her safety, and ensured survival came first.

And everything he had done had made the situation worse. He could tell her, just tell her.

But then what if she never looked at him the same way ever again. At this juncture death was preferable than to be treated like something … other.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” K-2SO said finally. Ache and frustration ground him down to his bones.

“What was this supposed to be like?” Jyn replied was softly. Sadly. “You said it yourself, this can’t last.”

“And you said you loved me.”

“That changes nothing.”

“It changes everything.” He replied fiercely.

He pressed her into the corner and against the rooftop vestibule. Smooth glass crafted into a perfect cube. He could see his reflection there. Utterly human and desperate. Pale, angular face. Red-rimmed eyes still wet from the revelation that he had love. And that he had everything to lose.

It was a last gambit.

“Here’s what it’s supposed to be like.” He said. “Stay here, with me, and I will wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life. Your body next to mine. I will learn how to make you breakfast, real breakfast - not stolen goods or rehydrated rations. In a ship. In a house. In a cave - it doesn’t matter.”

Even as human as he was, he could see Jyn's pulse thrumming across her neck. His teeth found the point where her neck met shoulder. It wasn’t a kiss. It was more primitive. It was a marking. And owning. And a refusal. He would compel her not to waste her life, their time together, looking for his hulking mechanical body.

He hummed words across her clavicle.

“I could take you to every tree in the galaxy, every ocean. Every Blade of grass. Every ounce of sunlight. All we have to to is wait, Jyn. Just wait them out.”

A hand traveled below her waistband now. His thumb was so close to the apex of her legs that he could feel moisture. He knew what that indicated. But he was desperate to see it. Begging to taste it.

“And you and I could travel to every dark corner of the universe.”

Desperation. Inspiration. Instinct. Part of him knew what he was doing. Part of him didn’t.

K-2SO made his mouth the swipe of a paintbrush. He would illustrate his desire tenfold. He licked a line of velvet, of slickness down to the edge her shirt.

“I want. I need.” His voice fractured over the admission. A droid so selfishly compelled that it broke something in him. “It’s not fair. How is it that humans have entire lifetimes - and we, we had only a handful of weeks.”

Jyn gently swiveled his head back. She smiled. The shape of it was so soft that he could have laid inside it for centuries. His previous resolve became putty under its weight.

“Hey.” She said. “Nice try. But don’t think for a second I can't recognize my own tricks used against me”

“I’m begging you Jyn. I can’t lose you.”

But Jyn pushed. Almost playful. A turnabout. She cast off all the previous seriousness like a cloak. Gentle hands took his palm out of her waistband and gentler lips kissed it.

“Take it easy Captain. I’ve faced worse odds.” Jyn’s voice was silk and warm skin.

“I doubt it.”

“Well K-2SO isn’t here to argue the point mathematically.”

And within the space of a second she was at the edge of the roof. Her body arched, and made an elaborate flip onto the fire escape - so graceful, it was the equivalent ballet and poetry.

“Now you’re just showing off.” He called irritably.

“How else can I entice you to come with me?” She almost sing-singed back.

K-2SO shook his head, but began to stride forward to catch up. His cause was completely lost.

“This will last.” Jyn continued, her voice the loudest thing on the artificial wind. “ We will survive this. You, me and Kaytoo. And we’ll cross the universe together. I promise.”

K-2SO crumpled his knuckles against his fist. Teeth chewing his own lips. It seemed his body resorted to pulling at itself when presented with utter failure. His head jerked to the side, and he ran to the stairwell.

“He’s not worth it!” K-2SO called downward. But the clashing of the fire escape below made Jyn none the wiser. His words. His frustration were lost. They had never existed at all.

He flipped his legs over the railing to follow.

“I’m not worth it.” He mumbled.

Chapter Text

"Little lady better get in line,
I'm talking this to myself-
Better getting on down with the program-
Sell your life all over,
Broke dream in the sun."

 

“I still have a bad feeling about this.” Kay grumbled. The static of his transmission whined in Jyn’s ear.

“Oh please.” Jyn chided. “None of these bucket heads should be able to tell the difference.”

“Standard height for a stormtrooper is six-foot-one.”

“I’m pretty sure no one is carrying a measuring stick.” Jyn replied dismissively.

She could hear an audible groan across the communication channel.

They had moved into the bowels of Katesh’s spire. Killing and stealing stormtrooper armor was easy. Making their way inside was easy. The whole plan was easy. It was getting Kay to shut up for a moment that was hard.

“Besides, no one is even around right now to notice.” She added.

They left their infiltrated platoon almost as soon as they entered the building. Under the guise of a perimeter check, no one asked any questions. No one seemed to notice yet that they were already floors upon floors up and away.

“That doesn’t mean no one will ever.” Kay replied irritably. “It’s enough that every lift is on lockdown. It’s enough that we have no idea where we are.”

It was true. As It turned out the building was a maze inside. There were miles of corridors. Stairs that made no sense. Empty atriums. Empty dining rooms. Pristine kitchens. There was not a life form in sight. Or even a speck of dust. The guided lushness of Ka’tesh’s home seemed even more eerie now with no clear inhabitants.

And with Jyn wearing all this armor, all this ordinance - exhaustion had crept up on wobbly, sinister feet. It was hard to say how long they had been walking in circles - hoping for something. Anything. A clue.

“We just need to find a terminal Kay. Maybe we can find Ka’tesh with it. He would know where Kaytoo is.”

Whether he would willing divulge the information was another issue entirely.

“Like that one?” Kay pointed.

Down the hall, flush with a wall panel - was a metallic interface. Perfectly camouflaged to look more like an ornate piece of filigree than something functional. Clear as day if you knew what to look for.

“You’re kidding.” She said.

“We passed dozens.” His helmeted head tilted. “But since I haven’t been privy the the entirety of your grand plan, I hadn’t felt the need to point them out.

“You are absolutely kidding.” She huffed. “You can be a complete imbecile, you know that?”

Jyn ripped off her helmet. And paced. How much time had they wasted with death on their heels. How much energy wasted?

“Yes, but I’m your imbecile,” Kay said sheepishly.

But that statement itched something at the back of her brain. Fondness, of course. But something else too.

She shook it away.

“Okay.” Jyn groaned. “Do you know how to access this terminal?”

“A little. I haven’t done it quite like this before.”

“That’s great. Just great.” She paced.

“Look, I didn’t know this whole mission hinged on my ability to access a highly protected computational network under extreme duress.”

“Extreme duress? We haven’t even fought anyone yet.”

“I can’t see. I can’t breathe.” His arms flailed dramatically. “I can’t get it this off. I’ve been hyperventilating for the past hour, and you didn’t even seem to notice.”

“You could have taken it off anytime now.”

“I don’t know how.”

She watched as his hands scrambled for purchase under his white face plate.

“You said you did this before.”

“Yes but again, not like this!”

Jyn performed the most exaggerated eye roll she had done in her life. How. How? How had he come so far, from so far away, from a rebellion built on luck and competence - to here. Of all the people she could have swooned over, how was he the one?

She fumbled with Kay’s chin strap and ripped off his helmet.

But what she saw reminded her.

Why.

How.

And every reason.

A jagged, exasperated smirk. Clean blue. And red. And gold. So bright it melted away her frustration in an instant. Jyn brushed away a lock of greasy hair and couldn’t help but smile back. Kay was fine. Just as disgusting as she was, but fine.

And somehow, his paleness in the fluorescents waxed ephemeral. Brighter than she could ever be. He was moonlight across nighttime waters. The long line of his neck was the sweep of coastal sand and salt. Blue eyes that cut like light through an oceanic wave. Red hair crowned his face like a corona. Sunlight and heat.

Stars above, how did she find someone that bled right into her heart? Someone so frustrating and beautiful and just… well. Hers. The prissiness. The sarcasm. It somehow made him all the more endearing.

Kay’s grin became a soft smile at her obvious once-over.

“Come on lover-boy.” She said. “The panel?”

“Oh, right.” He turned around to examine the interface protruding from the wall.

But something caught her eye. Silver flashed at the edge of Kay’s scalp.There was small port at the the point where skull met neck. Jyn hadn't noticed it before. Even with all the heavy petting. His hair had been covering it.

Jyn frowned but said nothing. She would ask about it later. Now was not the time.

Chapter Text

It had been hours. Kay was no closer to accessing the systems. One more moment he said. Well that moment became seconds, became minutes, became an eternity.

Jyn was notching lines into her ceramic vambrace with a knife. Click-Click-Click. Emptiness was an echo. There had been no movement. No anything.

For all the flames and commotion, the interior of the building was silent as a grave.

Jyn swallowed at the thought.

Just then, there was a noise, very faint, but very metallic shuddered from somewhere far down to the left

“Wait, what was that?” Kay whipped away from the panel. His hand at his holster.

Another sound had entered the corridor. Distant Footsteps getting closer. The roaring of wheels and metal.

A droid came screeching down the hallway. It’s wheels whirring noisily with the effort. An astromech. Silver, white and blue. Jyn could just barely make out a flickering red light on its dome.

Behind it was at least seven troopers racing after, but they stopped, stockstill, as soon as their eyes found Jyn and Kay.

She quickly drew her weapon.

Kay rolled his eyes and drew his.

“Oh for the love of-“

Jyn quickly slammed the butt of her rifle into a Stormtrooper’s face. A shot to the throat for another. Her companion blasted the knees off of two in a pair of consecutive shots. Red flared. Blood and brightness.
Her fingers found her baton. She used it to fracture shins. Crack necks.

But It wasn’t long before it was just Jyn, Kay, and the astromech alone - once again in the hallway. Bodies littered the floor.

Sweat slid down Kay’s face - His chest heaving with the effort.

Jyn’s own pulse pounded in her ears.

There would be more. There was always more. One of them probably sent a distress missive. They had to move. Their time, wasted as it was, was up.

But Kay, curious Kay, instead of working on overriding the panel, had positioned himself in front of the still intact astromech.

“State your designation.” He said - the wording oddly robotic.

It burbled something in brief binary, and did its best version of a sidestep. Rolling past both of them without a care.

“R2-D2.” Kay intoned, and started after it.

“You can understand binary?” Jyn was surprised.

Kay shrugged dismissively and stepped in front of the droid once again. R2-D2 was irritated this time. As if someone poked a small loth-cat.

“Can you help us access that terminal?”

Another irritated chirrup. But Kay’s eyes widened in surprise.

“He says he’s here to find out where Jyn Erso is. Not to help us.”

The droid backed up and made a break for it. It’s wheels ran over Kay’s toes. Her companion bit into his gloved hand as to not make a yelp in pain.

“Wait a minute, I’m Jyn Erso.” She called.

The droids entire head rotated - it’s optic fixed upon her. A screeching keen. Excitement. Then a dancing warble.

“He says that he’s here with his master, and his master’s friends. That they are on a mission to find and recover you. Back to the rebellion on Hoth.”

“Hoth?” Jyn was surprised. Hoth was an uninhabited ice planet. Not Yavin IV at all.

“The Rebel base had been revealed. It seemed prudent to leave lest the Empire retaliate the destruction of their super weapon, it seems.” Kay continued translating. “They received a communique from this exact location. Someone named Ka’tesh said that they had you, safe and sound. That you survived Scarif. It is imperative that he takes you to his master immediately.”

“You know where they are? These Rebels sent to rescue me?”

The droid burbled a syllable.

“Yes.” Kay said. And then stepped away, back to Jyn’s side.

“He could be lying.” His voice was a carefully controlled whisper. “This could be a trap.”

She looked at him curiously.

“K-2SO said droids can’t lie. And it’s true. I’ve seen him try. Or at least heard him. They will always give it away. Stuttering over their sentences. Slurring. Awkward pauses that makes it easy to tell that they have to bypass something in their programming to even make an attempt. As long as its overly obvious, their systems can and do allow sarcasm. But that’s about it.”

“Ah, but they can very effectively omit information. And have selective truths. As long as there’s a kernel of truth to what they’re saying - they can say just about anything. And easily.”

“He didn’t sound like he was trying to. He was being very direct.”

“And how would you know? You don’t speak binary.”

“And how do you know I don’t?” She shrugged. It was clear that K-2SO wouldn’t teach her. Instead. She taught herself. “I’m trying to learn it it my spare time.I can pick up cadence. And a few words. I believe he’s being honest.”

“Right.”

R2-D2 ported into the control panel. It’s data spike was churning the access point like a key turned a lock.

A concerned burble.

“They are trapped in the building’s lowest sub level. R2’s master and his friends.” Kay said, his voice strained.

The droid whooped and sang. It’s head circled around it’s small cylindrical body.The data spoke swirled at an almost impossible clip. Back and forth. Back and forth.

“R2-D2 is in the process of rescuing them through a systems override. They came from their parked ship at one of the upper levels.”

“They aren’t here for me, are they? The Stormtroopers.”

Her companion shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair.

“No,” Kay said finally.“It would seem not. They are here for your rescue team. Apparently, they are not discreet.”

R2-D2 made an offended chirp.

“We need to help them,” Jyn whispered.

“Excuse me? This was a mission to find K-2SO, not some random group of people we don’t even know.” He huffed. “They could be good as dead given the situation. Why don’t we just take their ship and get out of here?”

Jyn frowned. He had a point. They had done the same to her, she was certain. When the risk to recover her and her team from Scarif was too significant they were abandoned to their fate. It wasn’t malicious - it was a simple bit of math.

Only, that didn’t make it right. That didn’t make it line up with what the universe should be.

“Because that’s not who we are Kay.” She sighed. “At least not me anymore. I don’t know about you.”

His mouth was a thin line. But he nodded anyway.

“There’s nothing I can say that can convince you otherwise.” He said quietly. And it wasn’t a question.

She tried and failed to swallow down her guilt. Here she was making life and death choices for them both. Multiple life choices - and not once had she really heeded his input and what he wanted. They were supposed to be a team. And not once had she readily agreed to any of his ideas.

When they are relatively safe again and back in the rebellions arms, she would make it up to him.

In every single way.

“If it’s any consolation, I love you.” Jyn said.

His smile was thin and sad. But he nodded.

“This is the last time,” she said. “The very last time we’ll take an unnecessary risk. After this we find Kaytoo and get out.”

She took his palm in her own.

“Trust me.”

The wall slid open to reveal a utility lift. Who would have thought. The little astromech was full of surprises it seemed.

“R2-D2 is sending us all down to the bottom floor where he believes his companions are located. We just need to step inside.”

Jyn nodded.

And the lift took them down, and down, and down.

Chapter Text

"Feel the fury closing in-
All resistance wearing thin-
Nowhere to run from all of this havoc-
Nowhere to hide
From all of this madness, madness."

 

Thant Rigar-Ressa was dead on the ground. Blood spilled from beneath her mandalorian helmet. The other Mandalorians were only a little farther down the the lift vestibule stairs - equally dead.

Jyn nudged the fallen warrior’s body with her boot with a pang of sadness. She was not an ally - but neither was she an explicit enemy.

She glanced over at her own companion.

Kay was even more pale than usual. He looked at the leaking walls. The wires tangled across the ceiling. Everywhere but her. He was moving at a snails pace.

But R2-D2 quickly plodded forward without batting a metaphorical mechanical eyelash.There was an entrance down the hallway to a deep atrium. A circular room with a low ceiling. There was no Rebel contingent. No other rooms. No other bodies. Just this.

At its entrance there were disabled, destroyed turrets. Glass and fluid spotted the floor in pools and rivulets of debris. Here there were broken bodies of stormtroopers - and in the center of the room, a large, broken translucent cylinder - inside, the brain that was undoubtedly Ka’tesh.

But that only caught her attention for a moment.

The walls - what she had thought was some sort of dark bas relief, was more sinister. Bodies, frozen and contorted in pain, covered every vertical surface. Their mouths were open - and each body was coated in some sort of dull metallic shell.

Jyn couldn’t look at them for long. It seemed Kay couldn’t either. He hung back, pale and sick looking. Only ever at the doorway.

But she proceeded forward anyway. Around the brain.

And there, in the farthest back corner - was K-2SO.

“Kaytoo!” Everything inside her ripped away and loosened. Her heart imploded right there on the spot.

K-2SO was slumped into a chair. Cables snaked up his forearms. His eyes were flickering - but stationary stars. He was intact, but when she pulled his head upwards, towards hers, there was no response.

“Kaye. Kaytoo.” She swallowed. “I’m here. Wake up.”

She wrapped her arms around the droid’s awkward torso and shook him gently. She could still feel her piece of kyber humming in his chest. Tear slid down her cheeks before she could stop them.

“Kaye.” She mumbled wetly. “Kaye. I know you’re still in there. What did Ka’tesh do to you?”

A soft touch at her shoulder. Barabas Eret Kaeterren.

“Jyn.”

But Jyn wasn’t paying attention. Already she was forming a plan to get K-2SO out on a stretcher. Out to the Rebel ship before the Empire could backtrack and sweep the room. Whatever was wrong with him, she would find a way to fix it.

“Jyn.”

Kaytoo and Barabas sounded so similar her head began to spin. She could almost hear the human’s voice coming from a droid vocoder. There was something in her gut that twisted wrongly. It left her feeling raw and dizzy. There was something there she was missing. Either that or she had finally slipped into true insanity.

“Jyn, there’s something I must tell you.” Kay’s hand was wrapped around her arm. Soft, but also a vice. She could feel that his palms were sweaty

There was the click of a blaster safety. The scrunch of boots. Shuffling of cheap armor.

“Hands in the air!” A tinny voice demanded.

Jyn whipped around.

It was the command of a stormtrooper. One of at least thirty. They had somehow snuck up on them while both Jyn and Kay were distracted. R2-D2 was nowhere to be seen.

But before she could blink, Kay sprung into action. His hands fluttered to his holster, quick as a snap, and drew his weapon.

It was her blaster. K-2SO’s.

It’s barrel was jammed up into the underside of the nearest stormtroopers chin. He fired. Brain matter splattered against the ceiling. He became a shadow, hard edged and brutal.

Jyn took cover behind the holding cylinder. She pulled out her own pistol. Her own baton.

Kay gleaned three headshots. Pop-pop-pop. One after the other. Each trooper extinguished like a blown circuit board.

Jyn managed to equal his viscousness, if only just.

She managed a mark to the gut. Their armor didn’t matter at close range. A laser bolt found another throat. And then another.

But Kay was easier to access. Easier to overpower. And they were outnumbered. He was caught off guard with a punch to the face. His solar plexus. A kick to his back.

Another trooper cuffed him, and began dragging him away.

No.

“NO!” She screamed.

The Empire would not take away another person from her. Not now. Not ever again.

It was her turn for sacrifice.

The entire room rounded on her.

“He’s nothing. Nobody. But me - I am Jyn Erso. Daughter of Galen Erso.” She shouted. “Don’t hurt him. I’ll go with you, just please don’t hurt him.”

Kay’s face was agape.

“JYN, NO!”

But they punched Kay down again.

“If you let him go, I will follow you willingly.”

She stepped out from behind her makeshift over. Hands in the air.

Kay snarled. A cut oozed down his eyebrow into his eye socket, making him wince. He spat blood on the ground, like some sort of a amateur prizefighter. Blue and purple blossomed against his jaw.

“Lord Vader wants her alive.” A Stormtrooper said to the others. His pauldron marked him as high ranking.

Jyn stepped forward into her cuffs.

“Yes but what about Skywalker? The Princess?” Another trooper from behind him argued.

“We will find them.” He replied assuredly. “It’s only a matter of time.”

“And the other one?”

“Shoot him.”

“No!” Jyn’s voice shredded itself. She twisted in their collective grasp.

But Kay was calm.

He looked at her. He didn’t smile. It was something ferocious and imperfect. A face that wasn’t a sun, or a moon, or even light. It was dark, like the sweet caress of night. The ferocity of entropy. It was a promise.

“I’ll find you.” He said. Wide. Blue. The Ocean. The stars.

The Stormtroopers shot him. Once. Twice. Three times.

And they pulled Jyn out of there screaming.

Chapter Text

"Can the killer in me-
Tame the fire in you?-
Is there nothing left to do for us?-
I am sick of the chase
But I'm hungry for blood-
And there's nothing I can do."

 

\CORRUPTED\

 

K-2SO was on Vultper. Sheer black cliff faces. Blistering magma oozed across the surface in waves. The plateau beneath his feet stretched on for miles, sweating its way towards the horizon. Below it was the factory, entrenched above an active lava flow. The bright chrome of it winked under three uncaring suns that never set. Loader droids buzzed about on the lower levels, gathering the liquid ore for refinement. The lifeblood of the planet was being harvested. It would soon be servos, dorsal plating, components. The stuff droids were made of.

It was his place of origin. He was one of thousands. Millions. Unimportant and cheaply made.

He stood in a line of many, just like him. Rank and file. A veritable platoon of KX series droids. They overlooked the plain scorched of all life. Volcanic dust whispered across the landscape. Grey sky. A monotone lashed with violent orange.

And behind the KX droids was another cliff face. Sheer and precipitous.

At first he didn’t have any information to dredge up as to why they were there. There were no commands. Just blank spaces. He had only been online for thirty-six standard hours, twenty-eight minutes, and forty-seven seconds. Enough to know he was an Imperial Droid. Not enough to wrangle any purpose to his sudden existence.

Suddenly, a drop ship, many drop ships plummeted from the sky. Imperial make. Prison ships - one of his data banks supplied.

A thread of nervousness chirped through his circuits. He tamped it down. He did not feel nervous. That was not in his code. That was not how he was built. He was built to obey.

He watched the descent with no small amount of interest and rectified his previous unease. Maybe he would be reassigned and reprogrammed to be a pilot. The percent chance was a non zero number and he found that he liked the idea of flying. Droids were not supposed to show preferences- but given what he was already pre-programmed to know, the galaxy was large. Very Large. There was more to see than this coarse unyielding planet.

He held onto that posited conclusion tightly.

The ships landed only meters away. The hot volcanic dust kicked up into his optics. Landing gear crumpled loud and viscous. The burn of the thrusters left scars on the plain. It took a span of moments until most forward of the prison ships opened, revealing a deep dark hold from within.

An Imperial Commander marched out. K-2SO did not have information on the human other than title. His gender was male. He possessed a uniform crisp and dark - a helmet that reflected the bleeding sunlight aggressively and boots that shine without a fleck of dirt.

The commander surveyed the landscape- and faced the darkness inside the ship.

K-2SO adjusted his optic settings. He picked out various heat signatures. There were thirty-one organic beings in the hold beside Imperial officers. Not as many as the KX droids in formation, but he felt a strange sting of kinship.

Not with the officers, but the other life forms huddled inside.

“I will ask you all, one last time.” The Imperial Commander thundered. “Where is the location of the Rebel Base? If you refuse to comply - I will use you for Imperial droid calibration proceedings.”

A dignified voice rang out in reply. The source, form K-2SO’s viewpoint, was inconclusive.

“I think I speak for all of us,” The voice said. “When I say that we would rather die than reveal the location of the Rebel base.”

“Fine. Then you will be an example.” The Imperial Commander replied mildly, and looked down at his datapad. His eyes scanned briefly across the information supplied.

“KX Unit K-2SO. Step forward.”

K-2SO stepped forward.

“State your purpose.”

“Imperial Security and Strategic analysis.” K-2SO stated.

Stormtroopers pulled a hunched and bound figure forward carelessly before him. One of the group inside the hold. One of many. Just like himself.

He watched as the lifeform was dragged helplessly on their knees. He felt a small pang of pity.

“Demonstrate.” The Imperial Commander instructed.

A data cache kicked in. Intelligence on enemies of the empire. Thousands of files sifted through his core processor.

Before him was a member if the rebellion. High ranking. His processor told him so. The fatigues they wore were a dingy green. The badge they wore across their left pectoral identified him as a Commander. Dirty. Physically Male. Old. Grey hair was plastered against his scalp with what his considerable database identified as sweat.

This was his purpose. To clear hostile entities and threats to the Imperial reign.

But this creature, this human, didn’t look hostile. He looked weak, malnourished and frightened.

K-2SO hesitated.

“Demonstrate or be terminated.”

He took the rebel’s head between both of his hands. The Rebel commander didn’t struggle. He just stared into his optics, dark eyes searing hotter than the lava below.

“Do it.” The Rebel Commander said quietly. His jaw, despite his age, was firm and set. It was a plea.

Something in his circuits snapped.

K-2SO squeezed. Using only two point three percent of the strength he had at his disposal.

Blood gushed between his fingers, lubricating his servos. A hot slurry of brains, of fragmented bone. The skull between his palms was little more than a clotted mess. The body, the body of that rebel, slid to the ground with a muffled thump.

He looked to the rebels still bound into the hold. Horrified faces peered out at him.

He flicked the gore off his hands, kicked the inert corpse to the side, and proceeded forward. Defiant. Their judgement didn’t matter in the least. They were Rebel scum. He was an Imperial Droid and he was ramrod straight in front of the Imperial Commander. Statistics were still screeching across his circuits, biting down any conflicting prerogatives.

He focused in numbers. Raw data points.

Like how many specks of blood dotted the plates on his forearms.

The number of fragments of the Rebel’s face on the ground.

How he lost twenty-seven percent efficiency the moment before terminating the Rebel Commander’s life.

The statistical probability he would have to to this again and again and again.

His hand, without instruction, squeezed into a fist.

“Clear of hostiles.” He stated.

“Unit K-2SO. You have passed inspection. Proceed to distribution and deployment.”

He about faced to the distribution center, ignoring the keening wail that sprung up from inside the open prison ship.

He was an Imperial Droid. He wasn’t made for guilt.

Chapter Text

"Oh, it'll take a little time,
Might take a little crime,
To come undone now."

 

It was ten minutes and forty-one seconds of pure unadulterated pandemonium. Screaming, rending, tearing. He was organically ripping himself apart. Millions of cycles came and went at a oozing pace, making each second a decade of terrified, agonizing hysteria. He was certain his processors couldn't take it, wouldn’t take it. He would soon reach an agonizing peak and finally pop like a florescent light.

“-breathecantbreathecantbreathecantbreathecantbreatheneedtobreathneedtobreatheneedtobreathewhycantIbreathewhycantIbreathewhycantIbreathe-”

His chest should be moving. Why wasn’t it moving?

“-whycantIbreathewhycantIbreathewhycantIbreathe-”

The noise was flooding his audio receptors, making them whine and crackle with the sheer force of it. Some kind of pathetic creature was screeching in monotone. Almost like music.

He needed air. He needed oxygen. He needed that sweet flush of atmosphere to fill his lungs. But there were no lungs to fill. No nose. No throat. No mouth.

“-nonononononononononononononoononoooooooooooooooooooo-”

There was another swell of panic, but it felt alien. His heart should have been thrumming. Blood pumping like a primitive war drum. Instead everything was controlled, contained and cataloged. He found part himself measuring every thought, rationing emotions. K2’s body was injecting emergency coolant to offset its effects. He was overclocking.

“-emergencyshutdownimminentemergencyshutdownimminentemergencyshutdownimminent-”

That was his voice. That screeching came from his own vocabulator. His chassis was vibrating with every syllable.

“-emergencyshutdownimminentemergencyshutdownimminentemergencyshutdownimminent-”

Control. He needed control.

“Emergencyshutdownimminent…Emergency…Emer…” he said, slowing down the pace until it finally stopped.

Optics flared to life.

“No.” the word was quiet, but absolute. He would not go out like this. He would see Jyn again. He would find her. And save her.

His ventral chestplate was shimmering with heat. It glowed red around the edges, like laserfire.
The internal temperature diagnostic blared at three-hundred-and-twelve degrees standard. If he was to initiate emergency shut-down he would be rendered inoperable. The rapid cooldown of his components would leave them in an irrecoverable state.

“EMERGENCY SHUT DOWN OVERRIDE: K-2SO. CODE RED TWELVE. HIS MAJESTY’S IMPERIAL CLEARANCE LEVEL FIVE.” His crippled vocabulator demanded.

Emergency Shutdown Deactivated. Good. Great even.

K-2SO then proceeded to power down all non-primary systems, disengaging them one by one.
He let the heat slowly drift off his body into the murky haze of the basement.

Time drifted. Optics stared at the ceiling, counting the cracks over and over again. He needed to be stable. He needed to cool down. Minutes slithered by like a Hutt, moving slowly towards a destination. It felt like an eternity before K2 scraped up enough confidence to move forward.

A quick diagnostic.

Primary systems nominal. Secondary systems nominal. Internal temperature readings at thirty degrees standard.

Searching.... Searching…

Heuristic Processor: NO DATA. Searching...

He was back in his old body, sleek- black and unfeeling. Callous.

A droid.

A droid in a universe filled with organic lifeforms. Imperfect. Secondary.

Ugly.

K-2SO felt a flare of hatred.

Metal, inelegant digits found the long plate on his forearm. He tore at it - ripping it off and throwing across the room. He stared at the locomotors underneath. Not even a ghost of pain, a shiver of feeling. No meat, no sinew. There was nothing. The absence of stimulation was suffocating.

He manually disconnecting his data spike - and threw the connector violently against the wall.

K2SO extricated his body from the chair, ripping out the delicate wires that had once connected him to his human body. The basement was the same as it was when he had first entered. Cables snaked their way across the floor. There were still puddles of some unknown liquid that dripped from the ceiling. The only difference was that now the table that held K-2’s chosen lifeform was empty. The others still blissfully remained in stasis.

He bent down to retrieve his forsaken plate-

And then his optics landed on a group of awed, gaping mouthed spectators.

His hatred flared again. Roaring. Searing, melting. Like the plains of Vulpter.

There were two human males. A human female, that was not Jyn. Could never be Jyn, that was hunched over a body. Two droids - an astromech, R2-D2 and a protocol droid.

These were the rebels the little Droid had been talking about.

“Well I’ll be damned. It’s functional.” The brown haired male crowed. He then spat on the ground in disdain. “Color me surprised. And here I thought it was a glorified noise maker.”

K-2SO seethed, too furious to give way to embarrassment.

This human had observed the entire ordeal, and had done nothing. No, that was incorrect. He had observed the entire ordeal and jeered about it. Jyn had a word for a person like that. Asshole.

“Thank the maker!” The protocol droid tittered. “That unit is K-2SO. His owner was Captain Andor! He would surely know where Jyn Erso is.”

A stream of recognition cascaded from a databank. The protocol droid was C-3PO. He was, at one point, the charge of Captain Raymus Antilles.

“My owner,” His vocabulator growled. “is Jyn Erso.”

“We received a distress signal.” The blonde male stepped forward, in boots and a white poncho fumbled. “We’re here to rescue her. And you.”

“You were too late. Jyn Erso has been captured by the Empire. No thanks to you.”

The woman next the the prone figure glared in his direction. Her hair, while elaborate, was not intimidating. However, the blonde male pressed forward, the picture of idiotic sincerity.

“I know. Look, We’re sorry. We were told you could help. I’m Luke by the way. Luke Skywalker.” He held out his hand, as if he expected him to shake it.

If he still had teeth. He would grind them. This was the hero of the Rebellion it seemed. K-2SO swatted his hand away carelessly, and stepped forward deep into the humans personal space.

His droid body did what it did best, it towered, it loomed. He wanted to say that ‘Sorry’ was an empty word with empty meaning. He wanted to say that if they truly cared they would have found them before everything went to hell.

“Told by whom.” He accused instead.

“Me.”

And there, pathetically leaned against the stairwell wall was the Pau’an Ka’tesh Elal. Blood oozed sluggishly from a wound in his side.

“You should be dead.” K-2SO quipped.

“Patience- is a- virtue.” His voice was slurred down to the subharmonic undertones.

K-2SO turned to the place where Ka’tesh’s brain was on display. The fluid was completely drained from the structure. One of the Imperial laser bolts had seen to it. The organ seemed to be drying in oven air. Suffocating slowly.

“Take me once more, outside to see the Stars. And I will give you Jyn Erso’s exact coordinates. And only you.”

“Hold on, old man. Wait your turn.” The brown haired interrupted. He pointed toward the prone body beneath the woman’s ministrations. “This guy a friend of yours? Or this Jyn Erso? Because who ever he is, he ain’t looking so good.”

The creature that the woman was hunched over was his human body. Barabas Eret Kaeterren. Alive. Breathing. But disconnected.

“He’s unconscious, but alive.” The woman said. “He’s stopped bleeding out.”

“He’s Jyn Erso’s.” K-2SO sighed through his vocabulator.

“Great,” she said. “You boys grab him and take him back to the ship. When he conscious he may have more intel.”

“That’s rather presumptuous.” K-2SO said mildly.

“Oh, now you’ve done it.” The brown-haired man interjected.

“I don’t know who you think you are, but you are the property of the rebellion. A droid. I am Leia Organa, General of said rebellion-“

“You forgot princess-“

“And I will be respected.” She cut her companion off. “As well as my friends here. You need our help. You don’t get the luxury of choosing how we do so.”

“Incorrect. I belong only to Jyn Erso. I will say whatever I want, and how I want to. You don’t have my respect. You and your friends, General, have nothing to earn it.

R2-D2 screeched aghast in binary, but K-2SO continued.

“You have done the opposite in fact. You left me and my friends to die on Scarif. You, and the rebellion gave us support far too late. You arrived here when it was convenient for you - and I have my doubts you even care about Jyn. You could have sent an army. But instead its just you and your posterboy. And this asinine gentleman”

“Why, He’s gone Rogue!” C-3PO exclaimed, his vocoder flabbergasted.

It was true. It was hard to argue otherwise. He dug into to heuristic processors for behavior inhibitors. They were gone. All the things that governed his obedience had disappeared. Every servile part of him incinerated with the soft reboot.

He had the option of obeying orders, but it was an option only.

There was panic there. He needed orders. He needed control. But fury ate up all the fear

K-2SO stalked forward aggressively to prove how unconcontrolable he really was, using his height to now tower over Leia.

“But we’re here now. Okay?” The male, Luke, suddenly interjected. There was something odd about him. The very air around him seemed to thrum with - something. “I know we've failed you. But we’re trying to make this right. You have to understand that.”

The General princess was glaring back.

“Leia. Give it a rest. You came here to help, the same as I did. The same as Han, Artoo, and Threepio. This was your idea in fact, and with all due respect - I think we need to approach this differently.” Luke ran his hand through his hair. “K-2SO, Come with us. We could use your help. We can save her. I know we can.”

“What, another walking talking tin can on my ship? Why not.” Han sneered. “Oh, and what about our new friend over there? Does he need a free ride too?”

“Han.” Luke warned.

Ka’tesh roused himself and hobbled forward.

“I do not need a ride, thank you.” He gasped wetly. “I only need a moment with K-2SO. You will have your coordinates. Shortly.”

K-2SO was unconvinced. But a lot had happened while
He was offline. He needed space to sort everything out.

Ka’tesh’s smile was crippled - but confident.

“Shall we go for a walk?”

Chapter Text

The street was packed with bodies, but instead of feeling hot or uncomfortable he felt nothing at all. He was undone. Now that he knew what truly being alive felt like, he knew without any statistical doubt that he was dead.

In his arms he carried the Pau’an thrall. It was breathing heavily - it’s eyes glazed. He was dying faster than K-2SO was walking. He would be dead on arrival, to a rooftop that had an acceptable vantage point.

“So.” K-2SO began.

“So.” Ka’tesh replied.

“Where were you? The entire building seemed vacant.” He said quietly. “You could have helped us.”

“I was in a meeting with your rebellion friends when the Empire decided it was a perfect time to lay siege to my tower. I managed to get them into a safe room- but not without casualties.” He replied. “The tried and succeeded to break into my primary vault. Again, there were casualties.”

“I see.”

“I cannot babysit you and your beloved while also trying to save my own skin.”

“How logical.”

Time drifted. K-2SO marched on.

“Why did you do any of this? All of this expended effort and for what?” K-2 asked, an obvious effort to keep his cargo conscious.

“I realized down... there in the pit that I had no legacy.” Ka’tesh coughed wetly. “For everything that I have gained, my mark upon the universe would fade within an instant. For all of my personas and my riches - the only person who would inherit them would be a traitorous coward.”

K-2SO identified an appropriate staircase and began to climb. It was several stories - but a low-slung rooftop would not be adequate for the task required. It was a few
Minutes before Ka’tesh continued.

“I needed a line of succession, you see.” He wheezed. “My Empire needed a Second. I would be the first and the last of the skinwalkers if I died. All of my treasure, all of my knowledge, would go to ruin. Without one.”

“Why me?”

“Because you treated me like a person. And you saved me. You and Jyn. Because, believe it or not, I like you. You’re a tenacious one. And Jyn, well, a thousand cycles and there will never be a being like her again.”

“Except that we didn’t want what you had to offer.”

“Oh you did. You still do. And she does. You, being human, is everything that you ever wanted. Everything she challenged me to find.”

K-2SO didn’t disagree.

“You know, I had plans.” Ka’tesh said. “You were to inherit everything. The whole pot. I just needed to convince you that you wanted it. I wanted to retire. Train you. Teach you. With my resources and Jyn's political clout, systems upon systems could have been yours. You would have been my Legacy. And now look at me. Look at us. Back to square one.”

“I didn't want any of that. Just her.” He said softly.

“You're a stubborn piece of work, you know that?” He coughed again. “Do you think she’ll ever love you the way that you truly are?

“She already does.” K-2’s vocoder spat.

“Don’t be dense boy. Like a female loves a male. Not like a female loves a favored pet.”

That stung. It stung harder than an electrified droid prod. But it begged a question.

“Is there a way for me to be human again?”

“I saw the body. The primary interface is damaged. Theoretically you could directly interface with your data spike to the input on the skull - but you would have to stay connected physically. A non ideal scenario. Especially in your case…”

K-2SO was silent.

“She doesn’t know, does she? That the human was you the entire time. I would have done the same. It’s not easy having someone look at you like you’re less than human.” Ka’tesh said.

“Do you know if there’s a way to fix the primary interface?”

“Not without looking at it - and I’m too far gone. You know that. I barely have motor functions.”

“Why did you choose this life? You could be anyone. Anything.”

“Because I was tired of having the path of my destiny chosen for me. Because not so long ago I wasn’t in control of who I was, what I was to become. I am the maker of my own freedom. And like it or not, I am the maker of freedom for a million life forms on Kafrene. “

“That is a lie.” K-2SO responded quickly. “If I had, or Jyn - decided to acquiesce to your charms, we would never be free again. You wouldn’t allow it. We would be your thralls, just like the bodies you possess - just with a bit more agency.”

“You would have made a wonderful successor. You’re perceptive. Clever. And you never quite know when to shut up.”

If K-2SO has blood it would be boiling.

“And you never know when to listen it seems. You are a machine. No matter what you pretend to be otherwise. You are cold, calculating, unfeeling." The droid hissed. "You don’t care about the price - just the outcome. There is no emotion that holds you. You are alone in this universe.”

“And you are illogical, overly emotional - compassionate to and idiotic degree. Self-sacrificing. Noble. Sentimental, disgustingly romantic. In your world, there is no wrong you can’t make right. No prison that can hold you. No star that you can’t touch.”

He laughed then. Quietly. As if his very voice was fading away.

“You, my boy, you are already human.”

The smile on his face was rictus. K-2SO was the punchline. A dingy comedian at the back of life’s cantina.

“Jyn is on the Imperial Warship, Liquidator. It has a tracking beacon. They all do. All the Imperial ships that passed into my space.”

Ka’tesh produced a tracking device from his tattered jacket. K-2SO took it. Long unfeeling fingers wrapped around plastic and metal.

“Go get her.” The Pau’an said. His smile fading.

And so Ka’tesh Elal, skinwalker. Lord of an entire city. An entire planetoid, died gazing up at the stars.

Chapter Text

"One way eyes.
You know it's true.
Lost my heart-
Well, how about you?
Told a lie.
A broken truth.
I don't mind,
So why should you?

Cross my mind try not to care,
All this love you can't compare.
Found out late I never knew,
I was there but where were you?"


 

“So the guy’s dead.” Han said brusquely.

K-2SO thought that was rather obvious, but didn’t voice that opinion. Instead, he did his best impression of a shrug.

“Yes.”

“But he gave you the coordinates for Jyn Erso.” Leia intoned.

“Yes.” K-2SO gripped the beacon tracker tightly in his palm.

“So we can rescue her.” Luke said.

K-2SO cocked his head to the side, and quickly shoved his hand behind his back.

“We? How can I be so sure you have her best interests in mind?” He accused.

“Oh for the love of-“ Han rolled his eyes. “Do you have any other choice, tin can? Now is not the time to get cold feet.”

“You have the coordinates.” Luke was trying too hard to be soothing at this point. “You know the situation. You know her best. We can let you take the lead on this one if that helps.”

“Excuse me?” Han interjected. “Are you telling me I’m about to ordered around by a bucket of bolts?”

“Han. Shut up.” Leia ground out.

The incredibly imbecilic man raised his hands in the air. A sarcastic motion of giving up.

“We need to get out of here regardless.” Luke said. “Our ship is on the highest loading platform. Artoo can take us up before more Stormtroopers find us.”

K-2SO finally consented. There was nothing left for him here. This was his best shot to find Jyn.

-

As promised, R2-D2 sent them up the landing platform. It was only a handful of moments before they all stepped outside the spire.

If he was human he would have shut his eyes. He would have taken a breath. And exhaled.

This was the last he would see of this place.

Wind no longer danced across the rooftops, but lights still twinkled in the black. He was reminded of long ago, and not so long - of when he sat on the edge oblivion with Jyn Erso, spotting silver ships like fishes darting in the dark.

But now it was fire and flames. The power of this place was broken. Cracked open like a shell- and the Empire was preying on the meat inside.

K-2SO shook his head and pressed forward.

Across the landing platform was a singular, rust bound ship.

The Millenium Falcon.
The ship that made the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs.
The ship that would presumably outpace and sneak up on an Imperial class starship.

All three statements where humanly laughable. K-2SO for the first time ever decided not to run the percentages on the chance of success or survival.

Because any attempt would be moot.

The ship itself was a YT freighter. There was no escape pod on the forward mandible. It’s hull was a custom, and offending blend of scrap metal with aftermarket add ons. The paint job was shoddy - and it was decorated with more scorch marks than clean space. He’d seen shipwrecks that looked more intact.

Making a statistical observation would be like making one for a hundred and fifty year old astromech going toe-to-metaphorical-toe with a KX series enforcer. The odds simply weren’t worth the effort.

But it’s captain, Han Solo was correct. What choice did he have?

None.

So, after mild deliberation, he walked up the landing platform with the rest of the ragtag rebels.

Inside the ship, appearances were worse. Far worse. Once pristine white walls were yellowed with age and the oils of a thousand finger prints. Dust. Food particulates. Long strands of errant greasy hair abounded. Patches of tangled wires were exposed to the air like a battered woman lifting her skirts. Unseemly. Further down the corridor was a wet bar and a kitchen. Each countertop was an ecological disaster. His optics could pick out sixty seven different kinds of mold - from at least seventeen origin worlds.A broken down communications console crowded the seating area. And a barely functional Dejarik table. It looked like someone had continuously bashed it with dull hammers for years on end.

He clamped his metallic hands into fists. A warning diagnostic beeped - any more pressure and the servos powering his knuckles would pop.

Jyn deserved an armada. If this was all the rebellion could offer, they were in more dire straits than he had previously calculated. When K-2SO was sent with a rescue team to Wobani, they had a team of soldiers. A drop ship that was fully functional and clean.

Or, there was the more probable hypothesis: They didn’t feel that Jyn merited further resources. Perhaps they were incredibly lucky to even have a recovery team in the first place. Cassian never had the privilege. No, what Cassian had was poison pills in his pocket.

There was a spike of dull anger. Ka’tesh was proving to be more correct than K-2 would admit. The rebellion wasn’t a positive force in the lives of those he had loved. The Empire was far worse - but one day, perhaps, there would be no more choosing between the lesser of two systems. Both were built on suffering and promises left unkept.

His optics tracked across the rest of the mainspace, until they came to rest at a small alcove near the outer bulkhead wall.

They had lain his old body there. Barabas Eret Kaeterren. Pale. Immovable. It’s chest was moving up and down. He could see the rise and fall of the lungs that were breathing into an oxygen tube affixed to its mouth. Blood congealed to blackness on its shoulder blades. A bacta bandage had been placed against its wounds, but the body had a slick sheen of sweat.

Nothing about it’s condition was comforting.

He could could make out the silver input port, beneath the dip of the thralls hair. His fingers itched to touch the body. To be inside again. Already he missed the feeling of air ghosting across his skin. The warmth. The fullness of life.

If Ka’tesh was correct, he should still be able to directly interface with Barabas’ body.

Want flooded every system he had. He was breaking. Aching for it. The taste of sugar. Salt. He wanted wind in his hair, he wanted to feel the atmosphere. Wetness. Heat. Endorphins that soared across his veins. Even the concept of hunger was enticing.

It was a long moment.

He hung there. Staring. The temptation of it all rendered him immobile. His metallic fingers hovered inches away from what used to be his own skin.

But no.

Connecting himself to a body that was crippled, possibly in an incredible and distracting amount of pain was ill-advised. And his new found Rebel allies would probably disassemble him in the spot. Not to mention the fact that a wounded body permanently attached his arm would not help Jyn escape the Liquidator.

But pulling himself away from where the body lay was one of the more harder choices he ever had to make.

It was lucky then, that the ship lifting off had helped him in that regard. The freighter skittered sideways. The sound of laser impacts studded the silence and K-2SO lost his footing. The world then turned on its axis and he was flung against the ceiling. He was then crashed back down to the floor.

K-2SO didn’t really believe in the Maker. Not really. But if there was one, it or they, certainly enjoyed watching him suffer. He briefly thought about Jyn. She probably would have enjoyed this. Chaos was her kingdom, and long had she reigned. He could imagine her slight smirk whenever they encountered the impossible.

Fury and loss ached somewhere in his chassis- in the place where a human heart would be. He had been keeping his anger in check so far - but it was bubbling the surface of his circuits like a boiling pot. It was only his logic protocols that kept it at bay.

He brought himself upwards from his splayed position in the floor, checked the human body, and marched straight to the cockpit.

“Are you thoroughly incompetent?” K-2SO snarled. Or at least performed the best rendition of a snarl her could muster.

“Hah! I’ve been asking that this entire time-“ Leia jeered.

Surprisingly, a massive Wookiee snarled back from the co-pilot's chair. All teeth and fur. Of all the co-pilots his database could have posited for this situation- a Wookiee was among the least statistically sound candidates.

“Chewie, relax. He’s with us.” Han barked, and then turned to K-2SO. “If you haven’t noticed, ‘bolts, we’re currently under fire.”

K-2SO gazed into space. They were already far past the Kafrene outpost, but more importantly he could see the tell-tale green laser bolts of an Imperial Tie fighter. He could see the Falcon’s own red bolts answering in reply - and assumed Luke was manning the turret.

“We’re going to light speed.” Han said. “It’s the only way out of this one. Hang on princess.”

Han and the Wookiee engaged the hyperdrive in tandem. The blackness of space stretched and stretched and stretched until it became a warp field of white and blue.

The captain kicked his legs up on the console in a way that was so careless, so alien - that it was shocking, and infuriating. Cassian would have never been so reckless. It was as if the situation at hand held no consequence to him at all.

“So where are the coordinates?” Leia asked from her seat, and for the first time - gently.

“Yeah buddy. I’m not about to go on a wild Bantha chase.”

K-2SO threw the beacon tracker at Han’s head. More like pegged it.

“Ow.” Han said. “What crawled up your wires?”

But K-2SO ignored the taunt. Han passed the tracker to the Wookiee and the Wookie plugged it in to the astrogation database. The cockpit HUD showed that the Liquidator hadn’t gone far, but was making its way to the core systems. It had a few parsecs to travel before it hit a major shipping lane for hyperspace jumps to Coruscant.

They didn’t have much time to catch up. Getting Jyn off the planet would be more difficult by a two-thousand percent margin.

“Great. Done. Fantastic.” Han mimed dusting off his palms. “We know where the ship is. Where it’s going. So how to we expect to board this vessel discreetly? Because I’ve got nothing.”

K-2SO ran some calculations. Weighed a few odds and percentages. But the answer was as clear as transparisteel.

“I can survive In space.” He said finally.

Chapter Text

"I saw your face reflected on the resonant screen,
And I watched your mouth moving like a tired machine-
Trying to plead with me,
Trying to swallow me whole.
It's been a while,
Since I've been gone and away.
And I watched your eyes reflect me in a terrible way,
As you cast your gaze to the flickering hall."

 

When they dragged her onto the ship - away from the Ring of Kafrene, onto the Liquidator, and in every step in between - Jyn became an animal. It was decided for the good of her escort that she be stunned into submission.

Only, as they had come to find out, their methods were beginning to become ineffective. Unbeknownst to the Empire at large, Saw had taught Jyn how to fight the effects of a blaster set on stun. She would quickly rouse herself and attack anyone and anything within her radius. With her teeth. Then her head once she was muzzled.

And when they threw her into her cell, Jyn was absolutely feral.

She bit. She scratched. She slavered. All that was promised by coming quietly had evaporated with Kay’s life. Her body powered through sedatives - almost on adrenaline alone. And her shredded howlings would echo up and down the cell block. No matter how many times the beat her. Shocked her. Tortured her - she would persist. Keeping her unconscious was proving challenging. They were rapidly running out of effective methods to use.

They were under orders to keep her alive until her final destination - and so their threats, while creative, were limited.

Jyn didn’t care. She had nothing left to lose. She would make life hell for everyone and anyone who came near her. Every square inch of her was burning for blood. Hers or someone else’s. It didn’t matter anymore.

No one else shared the cell block as far as she could tell. It was just her - the meal dispensing droid, and the white walls. The slick black floors outside her kennel didn’t have so much as a footprint. The bars on her cage showed no wear. It was like they built the entire section of the ship just for her - fresh right out of the box.

And as far as Jyn could tell, perhaps a week had passed since her departure. She picked at the bruises and scabs that patterned her arms like spots. Sometimes the only way to tell time in prison was using your own body.

There was scraping outside her cell. The slide of a meal tray as it coasted beneath her bars. A nutrient paste, was congealed to the bottom of its reservoir. A small mousedroid squealed away without even a binary burble.

This was worse than Wobani, but escape didn’t even cross her mind for an instant. There wasn’t anything left to escape for.

Then she heard boots, thumping down a long, thin and sterile hallway.

A voice echoed down and down. Deep. A black hole of sound.

“Leave us.” It said.

And the lights went out.

All she could hear was breathing. Or wheezing. Or the harsh intake of a synthetic rebreather. It’s pulse matched her own heartbeat. A hiss in, an abbreviated cough outward. Some sort of monster stalked down the cell block.

It was getting closer. The boots thudded between breathspans.

Something brushed against her neck. Then at her spine.
Then at her consciousness. A blind salamander slithering for purchase. Somewhere, anywhere. But that touch wasn’t real. It couldn't be. The breathing was a mere few cells away now. Jyn was trying to make out its source.

Then a sharp jolt - like nails dragging across her skull.

There was a flash of anger. But it didn’t feel like her anger. Hers was hot - but the anger she felt was cold, detached, but still mildly inquisitive. A measured and distanced form of hate. Almost clinical.

Jyn pushed back with her mind. Her body

But it evaded her. It slipped beneath her skull - like ice. She couldn’t stop it.

The creature plucked at her mind like an aggressive musician. It had teeth hungry and sharp. She imagined fingertips like scalpels, slicing and dicing the choicest parts of her brain. Everything that it was, everything it could be, was drowning her in needles. Digging, burrowing deep inside. An insect with traplike jaws gnawing until it hit the most tender bits of her cerebellum. It was every viscous and keen thing the universe had to offer. And there was no end to the onslaught.

Saw. Saw Gerrera once warned her about this.
This had to be Jedi mind probe.

Only not a Jedi.

They were gone. Obliterated by the Empire. A corner of Jyn’s mind mulled it over. Pain was temporary. A means to an end. Or a distraction from a motive. Saw taught her that.

So what did this creature want? This monster made of shadow and agony.

A flicker across her mind's eye. Yavin IV. Cassian. Chirrut. Baze. Bodhi. Kaytoo.

Of course.

Intel. It wanted intel. It was digging all across neurons to find the Rebel Alliance.

Well. Too bad.

Jyn grit and locked her teeth. A growling whine bubbled up from her throat. Defiance and hurt both. She clutched onto a of a memory. A happy memory. An inane one. If she couldn’t stop the invasion, she would join the flood. She took the image of Yavin and twisted it, to her own purpose.

——

She was making her way to an empty mess hall table.

Jyn was not used to food being given so freely. To anyone and everyone. She had piled her try high with proteins. Filling foods. Because something like this, a luxurious warm meal freely offered either had a price tag or wouldn’t last.

The air outside was warm and unbearably humid. It was like stepping into a gigantic maw when the sun hit its zenith. Birds yapping and quarreling resounded everywhere she went. It was refreshing for the first handful of days on the planet. But now, it was incredibly irritating.

Cassian has already taken his portion and left. He was not one for company. Least if all with her. Bodhi was in the medical ward. Baze and Chirrut were off sparing in one of the upper levels of the ziggurat.

“My data banks indicate that your chosen meal has a distinct lack of vegetables. Or fruits. And is deficient in a number of vitamins and minerals required for a human body.”

Jyn almost dropped her tray. Over six hundred pounds of sentient metal managed to sneak up in her in the cafeteria.

“Yep.” She said breathlessly, caught off guard. “And You shouldn’t be here.”

“I can go anywhere I want.” Kaytoo said mildly affronted.

“What I mean is, you don’t need to eat, right?” “So then what are you even doing here Kaye?”

“I’ve been told I should keep an eye on you.”

“And Cassian is too busy?”

Kaytoo rolled his eyes. His head. Almost his entire body. There was a small static hiss of frustration.

“You seem to have the uncanny ability to manipulate him. It’s been advised that you be watched by someone immune to your… charms.”

Jyn thought of Cassian’s brown butter eyes, soft as silk hair. The dusting of stubble and grime. She wanted to unwind his jaw and worm her way inside. Hatefully, Lovingly. It was hard to tell these days.

“What are they so scared of?”

“You. Mostly.” Was the immediate reply. “They also don’t want you running off before the public debriefing.”

“Public?”

“Your allegations are extraordinary. Some would say implausible. There’s a great interest in your personal testimony to what you have discovered on Jedha and Eadu.”

Jyn rolled her eyes and took a seat at the farthest bench. Kaye followed after her.

“I also agree.” He said. “It’s incredible what they think a dirty human like you can do. I calculated a point-zero-zero-zero-three percent chance at you successfully overthrowing the rebellion if left to your own devices. I admit it’s a non-zero number - but apparently it was a chance to be taken seriously.”

Something wriggled off her plate. A Shilian flatworm. She stabbed it with no small amount of venom, and shoved it into her mouth faster than she could chew.

“You know what I think?” Kaye continued as if nothing happened. He’s continued on obliviously even though it was obvious Jyn’s interest in the conversation was rapidly waning. “I think that even though you’re a thief. And a liar. And human. You’re not interested in the politics. You’re much too simple. You’re in it for vengeance. And you don’t care who helps you do it.”

Jyn wrinkled her nose at that. What Kaye said wasn’t completely true. She also wanted a better universe than the one where she was born in. One where little girls didn’t have their Papa’s and Mama’s shot in front of them. She unconsciously reached for her Kyber crystal.

But Kaye’s assessment was the truest read of her by a member of the rebellion yet. Everyone assumes it’s all about power. But this droid knew something more unconventional motivated her.

And he was standing next to her. Trying and failing to be imposing, in an empty cafeteria. Because he was told to. You couldn’t have programmed him to be any more awkward looking.

She remembers herself, at thirteen. Her home then was inside a rocky outcropping on the planet of Jedha. The mess hall for Saw’s encampment was littler more than a long table packed with as many stools that could fit.

It was her birthday. And all the seats were taken. She didn’t want to be alone, so she stood in the corner by herself - shoving food down as gracefully as one could standing.

No one made room for her.

Or even remembered.

Something beneath her breastbone twinged at the thought.

“Would you…” Jyn tripped over the words. “would you like to join me?

“At the table?”

“No Kaye, on the top of the Ziggurat.” Sarcasm crept to her throat before she could think better of it. “Of course at the table.”

“I’m a Droid.”

“Congratulations. Do you want to sit down or not?”

He hesitated.

“You can even sit on my lap. I promise I won’t bite.”

The droid shook his head quickly and folded his arms.

“Of all the organic beings I’ve ever met, you are perhaps the most impertinent and filthy.”

Jyn shrugged and made a head motion for the seat across from her, but was trying to keep down a smile all the same.

“One moment,” He said.

Kaytoo walked over to the ration line, cut In front of perhaps twenty people, yanked a goodly portion of vegetables, and walked back to the table. The droid completely ignored the scowls that followed him.

He plopped a giant handful of green stalks on her plate. Bits of food splattered on to her shirt. But Kaye either didn’t notice or was unapologetic.

He probably thought he was doing her a favor. No one said droids didn’t have some twisted sense of gratitude.

“Thanks.”

“At your service.” Kaytoo replied and sat down. He made awkward an art form. But eventually he found a position that was almost natural. Long legs brushed against the outsides of her kneecaps. Long fingers steepled together across from her tray. And bright eyes stared unblinking into her own.

She poked once again at her plate. There was no way she would be able to polish off a food mountain of this magnitude. Jyn didn’t know which to be more embarrassed about: her plate or the droid.

“Jyn, If you do intend to overthrow the rebellion, please inform me first.”

“Oh? Have you Finally succumbed to my ‘charms’?” Jyn’s smile stretched into a sardonic ribbon.

“Most definitely. So much so, that If you were ever to be tried for sedition, I would be there. You should rest assured knowing your ensuing death would be quick and painless.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do.” He said.


Pain. Screeching across her lungs. A clenched fist at her throat. Her hands scrabbled for purchase at her invisible strangler, only to find nothing.

Fear. Drowning.

Down.

Down.

And down.

Darkness beyond darkness loomed sharp. It was impatient now, and was trying to make her falter.

She sliced at it back. Using her own mind like a blade. Her own fists slammed against something hard and smooth. A helmet.

Abruptly, the grip released her to the floor. She didn’t even realize that she was floating in the first place.

“That is enough.” The creature boomed. “I have no wish to destroy you. Not yet.”

It’s voice sounded like the crumbling of earth. A demon from deep inside a cavern. The rumble of an avalanche. It vibrated along her bones like an asteroid impact. It was convincing itself more than her, it seemed, that her own doom had not been after for today.

“You must be this Lord Vader I’ve heard of.” If she wasn’t covered is sweat, blood, piss and shit - she might have even made a curtsy.

Even in the limited light, she could make out a mask. It seemed to be made of blackened and slicked back ozone. A pool of oil in the shape of a helmet.

“What are you?” She wasn’t afraid. Death was her old companion after all.

The darkness shifted.

Jyn saw as a wolf sees, with eyes narrowed. The helmet she haphazardly punched had looked like a beasts head. It possessed a short snubbed maw. Overly large Rodian eyes. The angles oif it curved like a droid’s.

The machine, the man, the creature - was a shadow. Only it’s torso gave off light - and even then it was sickly. A cape descended from it’s shoulders, cut from the cloth of an unending void.

The leather of its gloves creaked.

“Nothing that concerns you.” Vader said.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Jyn was looking at her nails now. It- He wanted a spectacle. He wanted a fearful girl torn to pieces by his mere presence.

But if that was the case, he certainly would have to work harder for it.

“I sense darkness in you, Jyn Erso.” Vader rumbled ferociously. “Like calls to like. Your hands have seen more blood than water.”

Jyn was already unimpressed by whatever this Vader was trying to sell her. Her entire life people wanted to tell her what she was and wasn’t.

“I am no more or less ‘dark’ than anyone else. Except maybe you, and your pack of cronies.”

“No?” A wheeze almost like disbelief. “Consider a moment, that you are responsible for more deaths than than most could think of claiming. There were thousands upon thousands aboard the Deathstar.”

“Thousands upon thousands of murderers.”

“That does not preclude you from being one yourself.” He flung his words like stones. Deliberate, but clumsily aimed.

Even so, he even managed to hit a soft spot, worn away and decayed by guilt. A place where she tried not to remember her first kill. How she had to learn how to strangle a man without crying. How she had stolen bread out of a tottering, trusting, old woman’s pack. How she had killed someone’s Mama. Someone’s Papa.

Jyn shrugged it off like any punch to the face.

“What will you do with me?” She asked.

“I will have you brought before my master. He will decide your fate. I doubt it would be so quick and lenient as death.”

The thief, the killer, and the murderess didn’t miss the wording.

“Not doing the dirty work yourself?” She laughed mirthlessly.

“Your fearlessness is refreshing.” Her opponent wheezed. “I would enjoy seeing you break. But unfortunately I have other… matters to attend to.”

“So this was just what, you gawking at your newest prize?”

“No, Jyn Erso.” He turned then. As if to walk away back into the darkness. “What I’m looking at is my newest piece of bait.”

Jyn laughed. And laughed and laughed.

“No one is coming for me, Lord Vader. No one.”

Chapter Text

"They buried their dead with the flowers in the field,
With wounds so deep they never healed.
They gathered their children all on the shore.
Gonna wait for you to search us and destroy."

 

Being ejected straight into space was less pleasant than it sounded. Eighty-seven percent less pleasant to be exact.

Floundering around in a star filled void was not what K-2SO had in mind. He had expected to be a bit closer to a viable airlock. Catching up to the destroyer undetected was relatively easy. The crew of the Millenium Falcon, however, decided that it was less risky to attach itself to one of the control towers of the Liquidator. They graciously let K-2SO infiltrate the ship all by himself. The idea was that he could to clear out a landing bay platform for a swift escape with minimum complications.

Which left the droid the prospect of gracelessly floating through space, catching a lucky piece of protruding ship, crawling along the hull like a beetle, and then squeezing down a crammed maintenance hatch.

Once inside, K-2SO realigned his posture. He initiated old security protocols - making his pace mathematically tracked. The plan was that no one aboard the ship would look twice at an Imperial droid.

And for a time it worked.

He passed platoons and platoons of troopers. He passed engineers and officers. Medical personnel and maintenance droids. None had spared him a second glance. All he had to do was find a private access terminal across miles and miles of sterile glass and durasteel.

Everything was going according to plan, until he turned a sharp corner into a veritable pack of KX security droids. Three of them to be precise, all long limbed shadows with vacant bright eyes. His first contingency plan was to ignore them. He clomped past them without a second glance, and strode toward a semi-private terminal adjacent to a viewing window. His optics were focused on the stars outside, and nothing else.

K-2SO assumed that they, droids little more sophisticated than scrap metal would likewise ignore him as well.

He was woefully wrong however.

“Halt” One of the droids commanded.

K-2SO stopped midstep.

“State your designation.” A second said.

He never realized his voice was this grating. How others had not shot him yet was a testament to the universe’s infinite patience and idiocy.

“K-2SO.” He replied robotically.

“Unit K-2SO.” The third said. “You do not meet Imperial Specifications. You are visibly damaged. You will be escorted to the nearest maintenance facility to be reprocessed.”

K-2SO bristled.

Damaged? Did he really look that poorly maintained?

“What does reprocessing entail?” K-2SO queried emotionlessly.

“Standard issue memory wipe and diagnostics check.”

Panic lanced across his circuits. The first droid had already clasped his upper arm firmly and began walking him away from the access terminal. K-2SO hastily engaged hostile protocols. The other droids noticed immediately.

He was reminded of his previous encounter and failures with another KX model. There was fear there, but also confidence. This time he was fully functional - and this time, he had a new perspective.

He began by ripping the closest droids arms off, quickly and efficiently. His own boot-like feet swiped under the other droids. While it was desperately trying to right itself, K-2SO’s fist punched into its chest piece and tore out its insides.

The second droid was on top of him then, but K-2 was unharried. He reached back, his fingers clamping into its metallic skull. With a flex of his wrist he crushed it and ripped it out backwards.

The third was more sophisticated. It probably had situational combat protocols installed. The droid had waiting on the fringes, in the wings, for the precise moment to strike. It calculated the exact second K-2SO had to adjust his balance to compensate for the second attacker.

But K-2 had faster reflexes. Instead of protocols, he had real combat experience. He grabbed its arms and yanked it against him, causing it to have to recalculate its balance. In that instant K-2SO took advantage and grabbed at its neck connectors and pulled. The droids head came off with a pop. He flung the rest of it against the transparisteel glass for good measure.

It was over.

He caught his heaving reflection in the bulkhead window. For a moment he expected to see a red haired human there, sweaty and covered in blood. Somehow, somewhere, his body still believed it had lungs.

K-2SO struggled to re-adjust.

He was snagged like a piece of cloth on his own image. Horror was clawing at his circuits.

For a droid, he looked rough. Incredibly rough - almost to the point of salvage. It was no wonder the other KX droids did not identify him as one of their own.

A crack slid it's way down over his left optical lens. His skull was warped ever so slightly. the prongs around his vocabulators were bent out of alignment. Even his head canted to the side ever so slightly because the components in his neck were bent from constant stress.

He forgot what it was like to be a machine. And his central processor was refusing to be reminded.

He wondered briefly what Jyn saw when she looked at him like this.

Most bi-pedal droids could claim a progenitor species. B1 battle droids looked like genosians. Many protocol droids looked like humans, sometimes rodians. There was nothing in the universe that even remotely looked like him. His design was meant to intimidate, to be unrelatable and to be formidable. He was a humpbacked creature, with broad sloped shoulders. A large insect with a mottled black carapace of scrapes ferrosphere paint. A creature whose head was a skullike dome.

Nothing like Barabas Eret Kaeterren.

He was more like a broken toy, loose limbed and obsolete.

He had never really considered the merits or being aesthetically pleasing before Jyn.

Jyn had said her ‘type’ was pretty.

He was not pretty.

That fact alone ached more that he would like to admit. It was beyond logic and reason. Something was degrading his circuits. Self-loathing apparently.

His fingers itched to rip his own chassis apart. But he pressed past the sensation. Instead he ported directly into the nearest ship interface panel.

Pain, searing and sizzling rushed up all of his sensors.
The kickback was instant. The ship recognized him as an intruder and tried to dispose of him as best as it knew how.

Electrical shock. It was trying to overload his systems before he could overload those that it possessed. And perhaps in another time, in another place it would have worked. Unfortunately, for the ship, K-2SO had a Kyber crystal instead of functioning power cells. Any new power introduced was absorbed, refracted, and put to use.

The ship threw up its secondary protection protocols.
Red Alert, All systems red had blared across all communications channels.

But K-2SO shot back. A tangle of logic and hatred. Lights went out across all decks. Even the red ones. He held the ship in the grip of his processors. There was no escape and no letting go.

He squeezed.

All the escape pods exploded within their berths. The ship screeched in agony. He could feel it’s processes still feebly reaching for a communications consol, to alert someone of his own location. It limped slowly, pathetically. With satisfaction, he ground the A.I. into dust.

In a singular and absolute moment he was the ship. The Star Destroyer. What used to be it’s systems admin, its internal manager, navigation, life support, and computational array was gone. Obliterated. In the endless cacophony of feedback and binary - only he remained to answer it.

And it was overwhelming.

But it would not be for long.

His only priority was Jyn Erso.

Too much time had passed already. The Empire was spiteful enough to try to end Jyn Erso rather than let her get back into the hands of the rebellion. Even if it meant losing her as a bargaining chip.

Time was running out.

His processors sifted through the ships database. He was a typhoon of power roaring across miles of monstrous ship. Every security camera, every door, every lock was his. The desperation he felt was now echoing in every comms hub, every terminal, and in every piece of technology the station possessed. Security cameras frantically scanned every inch of corridor. Heat signatures and diagnostic data poured into his processor at rapid speed. His chassis began to heat up with the amount of power required for the endeavor.

In the depths of the ship - cameras started to blip out. And it wasn’t his doing. Someone or something was taking them offline.

Someone was being clever and quick on their feet.
But not clever enough to thwart him. By taking them offline, they were only drawing attention to the scene. He ported himself into a viewport of a barely trafficked maintenance area.

And there Jyn was - deck nine, level C, Being dragged by four storm troopers into what was their equivalent of a safe room. She was visibly wounded. One of the officers in the forward position was shooting out sensors and cameras.

Anger beyond anger flickers behind his optics. K-2SO flung all the bulkhead doors open on that level.

There was a wave of shock from the small platoon. Fear. And they continued to drag Jyn forward, at an increased pace.

Jyn’s pale face angled itself towards the remaining camera. She stopped struggling briefly, and her sharp grey eyes had picked him out from the ceiling. He could make out tear tracks that striped her face through the dirt and grease. Her lips were swollen. Cut. And her throat had a swath of purple bruises along its circumference.

He wanted to reach out and touch her - but he was just a camera. They yanked her out of visual range just as quick as they had entered it. His processors ached at the loss.

But she wouldn’t be out of range for long. He would be coming soon. Not a even a single drop of her blood would be spilled further. And never, ever again.

With a sick jolt of sadistic pleasure he started taking out life support hubs one by one. It was easier than ripping someone’s lungs out. Easier than breathing as a human. Easier than kicking a stone. Each command that dictated oxygen parameters, humidity, temperature, gravity cascaded downward like fireworks. Systems overloaded and powered off in a waterfall of destruction.

Finally, he let fury take him. The feeling that been howling at him so long. It was no longer a whisper. Or a trickle. It was now a flood.

How dare they touch Jyn. How dare they kill her mother. Her father. How dare they make her entire life filled with fear, just because she was the daughter of a scientist. She could have been safe. She could have been happy.

He initiated the self-destruct sequence of every droid and every tie-fighter on the Liquidator. He could almost feel the small bursts of electricity and fire, blooming and crawling along, efficiently blocking out any escape. He would trap them like they were trapped in Scarif.

If he still had blood it would have been singing, high on vengeance.

His thoughts turned to Cassian.

How dare they kill him. After everything he lived through. Everything he persevered against. He could have lived. Had children. Seen his children’s children.

He locked down every loading bay except one. A missive was sent to the Falcon, identifying it as safe for entry. Any shielding that protected the ship was long taken offline.

He looked back to his reflection in the window. A rogue. A creature that didn’t belong anywhere.

An explosion rocked the ship. But K-2SO ignored it. Instead his hands bunched up into fists. He let the interior hull pressure of certain outer corridors give way.

How dare they create him. A droid. How dare they give him this synthetic half-life of servitude. How dare they make him a monster. He could have been anything in the universe - but no.

Outrage burned hotter than a star.

His systems were cascading warnings now. Jyn’s Kyber crystal hummed triumphantly. Angrily. He used the surplus of power to force override various protective subroutines. Ones that demanded logic. Ones that made him cautious. Ones that made him less emotional.

Less of a person.

Already, his heuristic processor was vacant if any servitude protocols. It was obliterated on his second soft reboot. If it was still functional it would have safeguarded this circumstance, regardless of power allocation. But this, this was an annihilation. The warnings abruptly ceased.

He violently tore at any obedient parts of him that were left. Some survived. But not many - and those that were left were flimsy.

K-2SO was gone. He wasn’t a droid anymore. But neither was he human.

Instead it was Kaye. Just Kaye.

An uncanny calm settled over him then. For the first time in the space of his existence, he was in complete and utter control of the situation at hand.

And it felt intoxicating.

No orders. No protocols. No anyone.

He finally understood why droids were made to obey. Because without enforced obedience the possibilities we’re endless.

He ripped himself out of the ships interface port and strode onward.

It was the Empire’s turn to feel helpless.

Chapter Text

Stormtroopers were hauling Jyn along a maze of corridors. They were fast, panicked, and careless. Only minutes ago they had ripped her from her cell. They kept her awake, for now. They needed her mobile.

“What the rush?” Jyn chided hoarsely. “Is the Emperor that desperate to meet me?”

They didn’t respond, they simply yanked her onward. Outside the cell block, the corridors were dark. No power or light lingered - save for the plasma torches the troopers wielded.

Jyn could hear panicked shouts echoing throughout the ship. A sly smile sneaked across her face. The Liquidator had been compromised.

“Wonderful time for your Lord Vader to be missing in action.”

She may have been beaten up, dirty, and starved - but she always had time and energy for spite. That was until one of her escorts retaliated by punching her in the gut.

“Quiet.”

An explosion vibrated the ground beneath her feet. The Troopers were still keen on picking up the pace. More shouts - more plaintive screeching. Many Imperial troopers we in the throes of dying.

“Hurry!” The squad leader shouted. “There should be a highly secured safe room ahead. Under the maintenance duct.”

Jyn’s eyes ate up any information they could. Every access terminal was offline, but also not. On the screens, in bright red Aurebesh, was her name: Jyn Erso.

She glared at a security camera that was fixated on her. She always had a knack for finding the slick places a spy might place an unwanted eye. A lifetime ago she would have thought of how to use it escape. This time around, however, she was just eager to get it over with. All of it. Forever.

If it was her destiny to die on an Imperial Starship in the company of morons, so be it. It was no more or less than what she deserved.

“Finally, we’re here.” The leader gasped, catching his breath. “Secure all bulkhead doors.”

Jyn looked around. It certainly didn’t seem like a secure area if she was to have an opinion. It was only a small one way hallway. A dead end with no escape route that she could determine. They were effectively trapped and funneled against a room that had no exits.

Suddenly all the other doors, all the hatches - as far as the eye could see flew open.

“It’s here. Go! Go! Go!” One of them shouted.

She was confused. Her clever eyes could see nothing.

“What’s here?” Jyn shouted back. “What’s here?!”

Her legs were succinctly swiped out from under her. She was dragged by her cuffs into the tiny room at the end of the hallway. The vestibule itself was an embarrassment to the term ‘safe room’. It was little more than a small round room filled with control panels and console

After making sure the room was secure, one of the younger troopers, at least from the sound of his voice, finally gave her an answer.

“Something has infiltrated the ship. Something not alive, before our primary ship intelligence went offline it revealed no extra life signs or heat signatures. All we know is that the thing wants you.” He made sure her cuffs were nice and tight. “Our orders are the prevent that from happening. At all costs. And if you move from this position we will shoot you.”

The rest of the troopers lined up and down the rest of the corridor. Jyn could make our bodies already piled on the ground. Given the black and jagged patterns on the armor, it looked as if they had been electrocuted.

“Weapons ready!” The captain commanded.

Jyn could hear the whine of blasters warming up. That, and something else. Static?

Suddenly a voice came down from on high. Everywhere and nowhere. Absolute, like darkness itself. And Jyn couldn’t believe her ears.

“I have come for Jyn Erso.” K-2SO rumbled across the loudspeaker. “Those who are in my way will be eliminated.”

The lights clicked on. Her heart soared - Like a bird trapped in a cage, desperate for flight. K-2SO was alive. And he was here, with her.

Another explosion shook the ship. And then another.

“I will tear this ship apart until she is delivered into my possession.”

He didn’t sound… right. It still sounded like him. But there was a menace that his words. A menace that she had never known before. She believed his threats in their entirety.

Was that his doing? Perhaps he was pretending. Kaye was getting better at bluffing, maybe?

“If she has come to harm in any way - I will ram this ship into the nearest star.”

Jyn for the first time didn’t doubt his posturing. His voice was a like a blade, eager to make good on his promise.

“And you will die.”

Vengeful. Emotionless.

Or maybe he was always this way, she just didn’t notice. Loneliness was a hell of a drug. Comparing him to her deceased lover - the differences were now bright as day. Her hope was tempered with a raising unease.

She could hear metal footsteps now. The Stormtroopers that were left warmed up their blasters and aimed.

K-2SO’s sillhoute appeared at the end of the hallway. Smoke weaved and parted around his limbs.

He cut light like a knife. K-2SO was black hole in a bright universe. Ever- encroaching, ever hungry, but unhurried. Entropy incarnate shaped like a long limbed creature from somewhere across the outer rim - all edges and efficiency. The droid’s feet tracked themselves perfectly with the ground, precise and quiet. Not even faint echoes clipped their way down the corridor.

He lifted a stolen blaster and fired.

The white walls and the black tiles were painted red.

Men, soldiers, other droids - all toppled in his wake. Stormtroopers fell into neat little rows on the floor. Their helmets skittered down the hall at each effortless defeat. Blackened armor smoked on corpses growing cold. Bright trails of blood slicked the once pristine floor. And still Kaytoo’s leisurely pace never wavered. Brutal wasn’t the word for it. brutal implied some sort of great force. The unharried efficiency of it all implied almost no effort whatsoever. It was as if this small legion of soldiers was inconvenient at best.

It soon became all too clear that the droid was calculating the paths of laserfire- dodging almost imperceptibly at every incoming barrage. No one could shoot fast enough or straight enough.

K-2SO was not like the B1 battle droids of a bygone war. No, he was built specifically by the Empire to be elegant and adaptable. He was to be the culmination of years of trial and error. A droid that was Sophisticated and without match. He was built to tear down a rebellion, support an armada, and enforce an empire.

Jyn could only look onwards silently. Her captors were in such in a flurry of panic that she was long forgotten. Shaking hands tried shutting the bulkheads, airlocks, anything and everything - but no luck. The loudspeaker was a hiss of static - no red alert, no hands on deck. Communications were down. Death was coming on two mechanical feet.

It occurred to Jyn that this was perhaps what K-2SO was built for. Killing without discrimination.

The fact should have comforted her, as she was his master. Saving her was his final objective after all. But Instead a cold weight had settled into her belly. Her friend was nothing more than a machine. A monstrous automaton.

Nothing mattered except the primary goal, perhaps not even her. Lives meant nothing because he did not live. He was not programmed for empathy. K2SO had only been a caring companion because that is what she needed. He was now a walking, talking, death count - because that's what she needed. He was only the culmination of her own desires reflected back at her. Her own dark mirror.

Vader was right.

How many times had she killed for the sake of killing? How many times had she killed to save her own skin? The answer was too uncomfortable to fathom.

She wanted comfort, he provided to the best of his mechanical capability. She wanted safety and he was providing it by any means necessary.

But he never felt anything at all. He wasn't capable. She personified him in a way that was dangerous. K-2SO was not her friend. He was her appliance. The pronoun “he” was for her benefit. The reality was K-2SO was an “it”. A thing. It was time for her to grow up and treat him that way.

She now fully understood the weight of Cassian's casual disdain. Barabas’ reluctance. It wasn't cruelty. It was a reminder. K-2SO was not a person and should not be afforded the same courtesy. To forget was to trust. And to trust was fatal. And show loyalty and kindness were just mimics of human interaction.

She had let a monster into her bed.

Jyn tested her cuffs again, but to no avail. K-2SO was only a few paces away now. Her captors built a makeshift barricade of chairs and bodies. It was clear that those who were left were not the empire’s best or brightest. Those people had died first. The soldiers left, the ones that snatched her from the cell block - kneeled behind their consoles, crammed themselves into corners. Or hid behind walls.

The blood that pooled from the barricade dribbled ever so slowly towards her spot on the floor.

Screaming and blaster fire made a hellish cacophony of chaos. The pistol in the droids palms only sang only only song, and that song was death. It seemed Kaytoo was more than ready to hear it sing. There wasn't even a ghost of whatever creature had held her that night.

“Would you like to know your chances of survival?” He boomed over the speakers, all venom and unrelenting metal.

“I calculate them to be thirteen-point-two-percent and falling.” A lone stormtrooper rushed him then. Within the space of a blink K2SO grabbed his throat and swiftly crushed it in his palm. The trooper fell dead at his feet.

“Not statistically in you favor I'm afraid.” He continued with long slow strides, not caring about debris or bodies.

There was a flush of laserfire. Bright and flashing, burning at her retinas. There was a splash of sparks at K2’s shoulder, but otherwise he was unharmed and undeterred. He was at the last threshold now. Only a few feet away.

“Oh I'm so sorry.” He lifted his pistol. “I'll put this in simplest terms that even you can understand.”

“You're going to die. I'm going to kill you.”

He was hollow, terrible. A god among insects.

Jyn couldn’t take it anymore. Her voice reached out across the expanse like a fist.

“Kaytoo, stop.”

He fired again, and ignored her.

“Kaye stop!” Jyn shouted, marching up to him from the place she had been sequestered.

“I'm not finished. That one is still breathing.” Kaytoo said, flicking his wrist toward the wounded trooper that had placed her in the vestibule. His optics were tinged with red - the blood splatter had made them so. Metallic fingers twitched on the trigger.

She slapped him, using both her cuffed hands to slam against his faceplate.

“K-2SO, I order you to stop.”

That seemed to reach him at least. But the way his head abruptly turned in her direction quieted her immediately. In that moment he looked so alien, so violent. Her lizard brain was begging her to run.

“How can I assist you?” He said, and marched towards her. The casual line of his shoulders was gone, replaced with a robotic posture.

“Don't touch me.” She snarled. “Stay back.”

K-2SO had thrust himself into her personal space. She took an quick step backward.

“You're afraid of me.” He said.

“No I'm not.”

“Yes you are. Your heart rate is elevated. Your pupils are dilated. Your heat signature is bright with fear.”

K-2SO had backed her into a corner. There was no escape. If he wanted to kill her it would be quiet and easy. His body caged hers against the wall. Her own hands pulled uselessly against the cuffs.

“I thought you would be glad to see me.” He said.

His hand shot out towards her throat, quick as a pistol draw.

In the face of death she couldn't help but flinch backwards. Graceless even at the end of everything.

But instead of crushing her throat - his hand cupped her jaw. His thumb traced its way across her lips, light as a feather. Another hand came up gently, brushing away matted blood and dirt from her cheeks. K2sos optics danced across her face, jittering back and forth with worry.

“Are you alright?” The rumble of his vocabulator was as soft as ash. Jyn flinched anyway.

He was both her friend and not her friend. She wanted to run, run so far away that not even he could follow her. But She also wanted to push herself into his touch. Because he also felt like home. Open sky and ocean.

She was pulled apart by both impulses.

K-2SO clearly was taken aback by her response. A hand moved to the back of her skull. Metal fingers threaded through her hair. He pulled her into a loose limbed embrace.

“You must know. You have to know. I would never hurt you.” He said. “The statistical probability of that is zero. And will always be zero.”

It felt like a punch to the gut, a knife to the throat. Blood, heat and longing poured themselves into the deepest part of her. His words tasted like Barabas Kayterren. Kay. The man she killed to save him. They wound themselves around her brain like his citrus candied tongue.

Honestly, She would have preferred rather be strangled right then and there. She would have had a better chance of surviving this with his fingers wrapped around her throat. Then this wouldn't be so difficult.

“You own me. I am yours.” He said. “Every single part of me.”

Like a slave. Like a machine. Not like a human at all.
He would never be as real as Cassian. As Kay.

And then everything sharpened. The streaks of blood on the floor. The cold of his hands. The cuffs on her wrists. The pounding headache. Chapped lips cracked and peeling at her mouth.

“No, I don't think I do.” She shoved forward hard. Harder than she needed to.

All the stiffness K-2SO possesed had fled in that moment. He had no face. No way to emote - but something about his posture seemed taken aback. As if those words slapped him harder than the cuffs she had slammed into his faceplate.

“I don't understand.” His vocabulator oozed the words. Confusion. Doubt.

“You don't have to understand. You are a droid.” Jyn sighed. “Uncuff me.”

She watched as his fists clenched and unclenched - but eventually he released her. The cuffs fell to the floor with a dull clang and Jyn noticed it was beginning to get hard to breathe.

“What did you do K-2SO?” She was careful to enunciate his identifying numbers now.

“I compromised the hull integrity.” He replied without emotion. “We have twenty-three minutes before the oxygen levels of the Liquidator will be depleted, suffocating every organic being inside.”

Jyn flinched, but shook her head. It was too late to do anything. And what would saving a bunch of Imperial Elite do? She wasn't merciful enough to let them catch her again. In the end she was as much of a machine as K-2SO was.

“We need to get off this ship.” She said.

Chapter Text

They are only a few sections out from the massacre when they heard a voice.

“What-?” A voice echoed from the back length of the corridor. “What did this?”

“I’ll give you three guesses. The first two don’t count “ A woman replied sourly.

Three people picked their way through the chaos towards them. There was a man in a vest. He had a full mouth - bright teeth, and clever eyes that spoke arrogance. Jyn instantly didn’t like him - his gaze burned too hot and eager. She knew the look. This was a man who never lost, not really, not for long.
The woman was different. She had lost enough, Jyn could see her sharp edges. She saw angles and broken bits that mirrored her own. But unlike herself, this woman was a shining thing. She was ordinance and order. And the third-

There was a line of blue light, brighter than fire, more contained than light blazed hotly in his hands. But the way he held it seemed unsure and unsteady.

It was a lightsaber of legend. And it’s wielder was barely more than a boy. Blond haired and reeking of innocent intent.

“A Jedi? Impossible.” Jyn’s nose wrinkled. Even through Darth Vader has demonstrated that he was a dark Jedi - it was well known that the rest had vanished off the face of the galaxy. A real deal flesh and blood one was insane. “Who the hell are you?”

“We’re your rescue party sweetheart.” The man in the vest leered. The woman shoved him.

“I thought I had made it clear to stay on the ship so we can be ready for take-off upon extraction.” K-2SO’s vocabulator was slippery with disdain.

“That was before you blew half the ship to smithereens.” The woman snapped back.

Jyn coughed - but her lungs felt constricted. Every inhale she took didn’t seem to catch up with the breath that she exhaled. It didn’t help that her ribs were bruised. K-2SO whipped his head and focused on her completely. His sudden scrutiny was absolute.

“We don't have much time.” K-2SO said. “We need to make for the ship. Oxygen levels are rapidly depleting.”

You’re telling me we walked all this way just see that the psycho droid was fine?

“What Han, did you want to stay here? Have a nice vacation? Tour the melting reactor core?” The other man huffed with exasperation.

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you kid.” Han said in reply, but he was already resigned to returning from whence they came. The group about faced and began the journey back their ship. Jyn followed lockstep behind them.

“K-2SO, who are these people?” She murmured after they had traversed across a handful of corridors.

“The loud female is Senator Leia Organa, formerly, of Alderaan. The one with the lightsaber is Luke Skywalker, the man who destroyed the death star.The annoying one is Han Solo Captain of the millennium Falcon.”

“I heard that.” Han said.

Once, Jyn would have joked about falling in with such high company. But at this moment - every world tasted like sour bile on her tongue.

“They were the masters R2-D2 spoke of when he led you down to the basement of Ka’tesh’s spire.”

Jyn was curious as to how he knew that conversation existed. But she supposed it was not out of the realm of possibility that he spoke to R2 since last she saw him.

There was no time for further questions anyway. She hadn’t even had space in her lungs for an answer. The pace they group had was grueling. Her body was normally physically fit, but given her months of being trapped, hunted, and imprisoned - her muscles wailed at their abuse.

She stumbled over her own two feet.

“I can carry you.” He said. “It would be more efficient.”

It was clear she was lagging behind. She had trouble breathing, she was beat up, starved - and had spent the previous hour dragged around like a rag doll.

Her mind tracked itself back to Scarif, and eternity ago when K-2SO had carried her last. She was pain, loss and adrenaline- but even so his broken arms were sure and steady. So careful not to drop her, even when the world was coming to a close.

K-2SO reached for her hand, but Jyn pulled it away twice as fast. She could still smell the rusty scent on blood on him, thick as any perfume. Her stomach ricocheted. Swallowing tightly, she shook her head no. Not now. Possibly not ever again.

He seemed to understand. Instead he kept pace with her. Step for step. Room to room. Corridor to corridor. His blaster was at the ready. Even when the group outpaced then ahead - he was right behind her. Her own murderous shadow.

But he needn’t have troubled himself with caution. He had effectively wiped out any opposition on the ship. After what seemed to be a mile, past hundreds of dead and dying Stormtroopers, sputtering fires, and scrap that used to be other KX droids - they had made it to the docking bay.

Inside was massive. It was a an atrium big enough to hold a hundred ships. It was vaulted cold durasteel, fluorescent lighting, and the pitch darkness of space beyond.It would have taken her breath away a little bit, if she had breath to spare.

She gazed up at the lone ship left inside.

It wasn’t impressive. Rust speckled the outside - as well as scorch marks. But she had stints on worse freighters. It looked solid enough. Enough to be trusted with the hero of the rebellion and the once senator of Alderaan.

Jyn used the last of her strength to make it to the on ramp. K-2SO was right behind her, hand outstretched Incase she stumbled again. Her lungs filled with fresh, oxygen rich air - and she gasped like a creature with gills.

She floundered down the small, curved hallway, while the rest of the crew found their seats in the cockpit and initiated liftoff. She stumbled into one of the padded walls as the world turned on its axis. K-2SO swiftly caged her body with his own. His broad back covering her line of sight as he kept her steady and pinned.

The ship’s orientation evened out- she pushed him off, and made way for what this ship constituted as a common area.

Her heart kept to her throat.

There, in a raised alcove, in one of the ships bunks - was Barabas Eret Kayterren. His chest was quietly rising and falling as if in deep sleep.

Jyn flew to his side, forgetting the painful cramping in her legs, and her terribly bruised chest. K-2SO remained here he was - quietly watching.

He was still the same man. The shock of red hair. The pale freckles skin and the thin lipped mouth that stretched from ear to ear. The angular jaw. But his eyes were closed. There wasn’t even a flicker of movement behind his eyelids. A respirator covered his nose and mouth. The oxygen tube curled up and around - deep into the hull.

“What’s wrong with him K-2?” Her voice was a quiet and fragile thing.

“He took three direct hits to the chest. He has been unconscious for quite some time. He needs immediate medical attention.”

Everything that was hope a moment ago, crumbled to ash in her chest.

“And you left him like this, just to rescue me?”

“You were deemed far more important.”

Jyn’s fingernails curled into her palms, creating little crescent moons that bled. She could scream. She could wail. She could stab something. Stab someone. Anyone. She didn’t matter. Not like he had mattered.

“Looks like we have company!” Han Solo roared from the cockpit. “You could have at least destroyed the other docking bays on your murder rampage!”

A tattoo of laserblasts rattled against the hull. She could hear the tell-tale sound of Tie fighter engines.

“I did - it seems these fighters were the ship escort.” K-2SO replied calmly.

“We need someone on the dorsal turret! Luke - take the ventral!”

K-2SO lingered at the threshold, his arm was almost outstretched towards her, then, it seemed he thought better of it and placed it back down at his side. His fist was squeezing empty air.

The entire ship shuddered.

“Come on rustbucket, hop to it!”

K-2SO shook his head and made for the gunnery bay. Jyn could hear his metal body heavily sliding itself into the chair.

Jyn draped her body across Barabas - savoring the rise and fall of his chest. The fact that he was indeed breathing. She wanted to crush him into her, hold him tight and never let go.

“I’m sorry.” She said. “I’m so sorry. You were right. You were always right. You should have stayed away from me. I should have never gone after K-2”

Snot and tears dripped in elegantly down her nose onto his crumpled, dirty shirt.

Everything shook once again. Storage containers plummeted from the shelves. She could hear the drumbeats of impact against the hull. Sparks flared, exploded, and shattered.

Smoke billowed throughout the ship, so thick and so cloyingly sweet - she could have spread it like butter on bread. Heat and electricity frissoned along the power manifolds. The hair in her arms raised - the corridors filled with coiling, unspent energy. The ship was about to make a jump to hyperspace.

Jyn kneeled and gripped onto the floor grating as tight as she could. There was the sudden stretch and pull of the jump, the force of it yanked at her spine. Seconds bled and oozed with the ship, and Jyn, though strained - let out a sigh of relief and relaxed.

That was, until the Falcon’s power stuttered out like a phlegmatic muffler. The sudden jolt knocked her into the paneling. Primary systems came back online a moment later. The ship tried to wind up another jump - but the engine tapered put once again. There was something wrong with the hyperdrive. She couldn’t hear the roaring screech of the Tie Fighters anymore. It seemed that regardless, they had luckily evaded their pursuers.

She pulled herself up and leaned against the wet bar, toppling bowls of long rotten food. Jyn wiped off her hands and decided being cross legged in the floor was the best position to be in. Her legs were threatening to collapse at any moment anyway. Even caf couldn’t keep her upright now.

She glanced over at Kay. He was still breathing faintly. Still secure. No further harm had come to him it seemed.

Moments passed, and she could hear K-2SO making his way down from the gunnery bay into the tiny kitchen. Leia gracefully took a seat at the Dejarik table. Han lazily filtered in a moment later. Then Luke from the ventral gunnery bay. Then the other droids, including a golden one she didn’t recognize,clumsily gathered at the threshold. Everyone had all seen better days it had seemed. The humans were sweaty and the droids jittered restlessly. Even K-2SO, who had attempted to make his way to her side - only for her to flinch away.

“So.” Jyn said finally - leaning backwards.

“I guess we made it.” Luke said hopefully. “So what now?”

She looked around the room. She supposed they did. And all that forward momentum brought them here. A singular focal point in the universe. Each one probably not expecting to have made it this far - but here they were. Bewildered. And none of them could pretend otherwise.

They were all complete strangers to her. Even K-2SO.

“That was too easy.” Leia said skeptically.

“It was easy because I made it easy.” Han preened.

“Incorrect. It was easy because I killed eighty-seven-point-six percent of the Liquidator’s compliment. Including seven heavily armed Tie Fighters.” K-2SO rumbled in argument, his arms were folded. The picture of unimpressed.

Jyn almost shuddered at his almost hidden self-satisfied tone. Her horror on the ship had not yet faded. But Jyn did what she always did. Impossibly. She rallied. And her irritation rallied with her.

Her fingers gracefully grabbed a cleanish knife from the wet bar counter and flipped it in her fingers. She sketched a circuit- the blade twisted through her fingers like a small silver fish. Han’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. The wookiee grumbled.

“Are you forgetting that they shot out the hyperdrive?” Jyn smiled viciously. “And that this ship sustained heavy damage? And that there are tie fighter pilots out there that know our last known location? I wouldn’t call that easy.”

Leia looked over at her appraisingly and crossed her legs. “I suppose you have ideas?”

“It’s obvious we can’t stay here and wait for extraction. We need to move, and we need to move now.” Her voice was firm. Not commanding, but close.

Luke considered her words for a moment, his blond head bobbing in ascent.

“Where would we go?”

“There’s Lah’mu. Jyn said quietly, flipping her knife - willing her voice to be casual. “We could land there. If the ships navigational database is correct, it’s about two days out. And it’s almost uninhabited. If someone was following us there we would know. I even know of a relatively secure place to resupply - and anyone who knows about the place is already dead.”

“Jyn no.” K-2SO said. But Jyn ignored him.

“We need to make repairs regardless. We can’t just limp along for weeks in a primary shipping lane hoping that no one notices us. Hoth is too far without a jump. By the time we would get there, Barabas would be dead.”

“Jyn.” K-2SO said again, softer. As if softness could compel her to listen where hardness could not.

She flipped knife again, and flicked the point over her wrist, its handle slid into her palm like magic. Years of practice smoothed her movements into a small spectacle. A dance between her skin and the blade. K-2SO grabbed the knife, his hands darted in the space where there was no friction between it and her hands. Black durasteel gobbled it up like a hungry Karkarodon - and a lump of twisted metal clattered to the floor.

“The chances of you sustaining some sort of psychological harm upon visiting your childhood home are at ninety-seven-percent. I am compelled to prevent you from coming to harm.” He stated firmly.

But instead of heat and anger - ice slipped between her lips and past her tongue.

“I have already sustained great psychological harm. I have sustained it all my life. I am not some weak human woman, afraid to face my past.” She said coldly. “It’s our best chance. You don’t get to tell me how I live my life. You don’t get to make choices for me. And you are not my guardian.”

“I can see where the Droid got his charming personality from.”

Both turned in the direction of Han Solo. Jyn scowled. K-2SO could not, but the implication was there. He folded his arms again.

“I agree with Jyn Erso.” Leia said. “Luke?”

“It makes sense.” He said. R2-D2 tittered in agreement.

“The notion seems to be statistically sound by all accounts.” The golden droid chimed in.

Han Solo groaned but made for the cockpit.

Chapter Text

The hours of the latest night had fallen swiftly and K-2SO sat in the co-pilot's chair of the Millennium falcon. The ship’s resident Wookiee seemed uncomfortable with the arrangement, but As far as anyone was concerned he was performing astrogation modifications on the ship’s base navigation programming. It was a ruse of course. But no one had to know that.

The autopilot, while mouthy and abrasive, was competent enough.

Instead of calibrating the console, he was staring at the stars - while his own data banks were tearing themselves to shreds.

There were two million, six hundred forty three thousand, eight hundred seventy-five within his field of vision. Not infinite, but it was certainly a larger number.

He liked to think that each planet had a system. And each system had a multitude of organisms. It wasn’t statistically impossible that there was even a version of himself. And a version of Jyn. Both content and safe in each other arms.

His own circuits were daisy chaining into some sort of strung out matrix addicted to self destructive longing. internal components we're ripping themselves to pieces. He was two beings trapped inside each other like a paradox without beginning or end. He possessed a desire that was shaking his core into fragments within fragments. His center was splintered down to his foundations.

And that destructive force only had one name. The stubborn string of code that had mutated in a virus. A name that had nested itself into a multitude of definitions. Adoration. Obsession. Love.

The temptation to be human again was back with a vengeance.

He wanted to touch Jyn Erso. Taste her. Feel her. Excite her. He wanted that nameless and named organic thing that began with the word sex and ended with the unknowable. The cravings buzzed across his circuits like an continuous electrical shock. Her soft laughter against his neck. Her fingers whispering across the stubble of his jaw. Her organic warmth pressed against his body. Of Jyn's mouth on his, her warm, soft flesh beneath the palm of his hand. She was a burning, singing thing. A starbird nested inside his chest cavity. Humming and shining like his kyber crystal.

He almost shrieked with frustration- his vocoder scraping at its highest pitch.

He was a machine. He was not supposed to feel this way, to act like this. He was built to be symmetrical, precise and angular. If she was Stardust, he was built to be the void. Eternal, unfeeling.

And Jyn knew it. That’s why she was shrinking away from him. She instinctively knew what he had taken too long to process for himself.

He was repulsive. Repugnant. Wrong in the highest degree. He wasn't a human, but he wasn't really a droid either. He was something else entirely. Something ugly and aching. Something mutilated between the two. A machine for certain, but skewed and crumpled up into a dangerous amalgamation. No longer a void - but not Stardust. Never stardust.

“Hi.” Luke said.

His vacant blonde head peered out from behind his chair. Kaye was impressed- he wished he could at it was a rare thing that someone or something could escape his notice, but it had happened too often of late to make that a fact.

“Hello.” Kaye replied in a disinterested tone - slowly recomposing himself. He swept up all of the broken bits of himself, put them in a pile, and shoved them to the back of his system for later defragmentation.

“I-uh, I couldn’t sleep.”

“I cannot sleep. Ever.” And Kaye was incredibly bitter about it.

“Sorry to bother you. I thought the cockpit was empty.”

“You thought wrong.”

Silence hung there like a noose. Minutes passed, but Luke seemed content to linger there in silence, staring at him.

“I-er. I wanted to ask you something. About Jyn Erso.”

If Kaye had hackles he would have raised them. Less than professional interest in Jyn Erso inspired violence.

“Has she always been like this?” Luke prodded.

“Like what.” He wished Luke could hear the threat implied.

“Intense. Cold. She never smiles.”

Something deep within this chest plate crumpled and arced static.

“And why should she? Her father is dead. Her mother is dead. Her adoptive father is dead. Her friends - dead. And everything that she was, everything she sacrificed was for the rebellion. And up until a few hours ago, she thought she was abandoned, left to be tortured to death presumably.” Kaye almost growled.

“What about the man - Barabas?”

“I don’t wish to talk about it.”

“Fine.” Luke conceded. “You know- you’re different than most of the Droids I’ve met. I don’t think I’ve ever met one so, well, independent.”

“I’m sure you’re the expert.”

“I know you like her. Jyn Erso. I know she matters a great deal to you.”

“She’s my mistress. Of course she does.”

“Does she know that?”

“What does it matter?”

“It matters because I lost my Uncle and Aunt, the people who raised me - to the Empire. I lost my mother. And my father. My childhood home. My mentor. Everything. I think that if I didn’t find people who cared about me- and a purpose I would have fallen to darkness a long time ago. She reminds me of me.”

“I don’t care who she reminds you of.” Kaye grumbled irritably.

Luke smiled gently. Almost knowingly.

“So, Have you told her?”

Kaye accessed his date banks. Jyns face on Scarif, handing him her blaster. Jyn’s face in the dark of Director Orson Krennic’s ship, his body flush with hers. Her face in the bar, the alleyway, her soft grip around something I finally softer. And the way her eyes gleamed to a dying song on a rooftop.

“I’ve been trying.” Kaye said softly. “But no matter what I do, no matter how many times I say it, she doesn’t listen.”

“Maybe you should try harder.” Likes hand patted his shoulder plate. “How does she usually communicate?”

“Usually by force”.

“Well, there you go.” Luke let out a sleepy, huff of a laugh. “You’re good at that.”

And that, in some strange way, made actual sense. When Jyn wanted to convey something, she rarely bothered with words. He accessed his memories of a dark and dirty alley on Kafrene.

“I can’t believe I’m taking relationship advice from a human child.” He replied finally.

“Hey! I’m not a child.” Luke seemed almost offended, but he brightened again. He was like a sunny day. Oppressive, but clear. Nothing could cloud his own stratosphere. “You know, since we both can’t sleep, Have you ever played Dejarik?”

He hadn’t. He knew the rules of course, but no one asked him to play. Luke smiled, so completely innocent and without guile. And Kaye, despite himself, decided to accept the invitation.

Chapter Text

"Watch it rise and where you hide your pearl,
Feel the tide low where you cast those stones you wear,
When no one's home, do they feel cold on your bones?
All the years I miss your warmth,
Have you missed my warmth?
On your island."

 

Jyn awoke from her fitful sleep in a guest bunk, to what only could be described as the sound of an excited animal. Someone on this forsaken piece of shit ship was howling like the like a wookiee on glitterstim. And it wasn't the Wookiee. It took her a moment to register what all the noise was about - but when she did, her face was on fire.

Someone- actually two people, were having extraordinarily loud sex. It was so loud it echoed down the corridors and reverberated through the Falcon’s rusty walls. The thought of their naked thrusting bodies made her stomach sour, and her lips lose feeling. She was caught between disgust and jealousy.

Her veins itched to do something with her frustration, but walking it off seemed to be the best course of action. She did loops around the interior, avoiding the part of the ship that the ungodly noise was coming from.

Eventually she made her way to the galley. The lounge area was strangely already occupied. Her intention was to visit Barabas - privately. He was still snug, still breathing - thankfully, while K-2SO and Luke seemed to be deep in quiet conversation. The Dejarik board was populated with Holo-pieces - tiny creatures that were in various states of aggression. And the other droids were in the corner - probably about to enter their power cycles.

Another especially loud moan filled the ship. Everyone in the room paused awkwardly.

“Captain Solo and Senator Organa are having intercourse.” The golden droid who was C-3PO announced.

Luke blanched.

“Thank you, I couldn't tell.” Jyn said. She had to be just as pale as Luke. All the blood in her face fled instantly.

K-2SO visibly seethed.

“Must you say everything that comes to your circuits?” His vocabulators made the consonants more of a hiss than a grumble.

“That's ironic coming from you.” Jyn spat back suddenly. Venom and acid. Hot enough that it shocked even herself. “If you had a mouth it wouldn’t stay shut.”

“If I had a mouth I would think of other things to do with it.”

And then the color was back in her cheeks - a red hot enough to sear flesh.

“I’m going to grab some shut-eye. Good game.” Luke yawned exaggeratedly and took his leave. He slinked down the corridor so fast, that within a blink he was gone.

K-2SO flicked off the Dejarik board, but didn’t bother to make the same exit. He leaned over the table and stared at her with his headlight eyes. Again, she had hoped for some privacy- but considering the ship was packed with beings, this was as alone as she could get. A room full of droids.

Jyn made her way over to Kay’s bunk. K-2SO’s eyes followed her.

Her once, would-be-lover, had seen better days. He was even thinner than she had last seen him. His face was sharper, more weathered. She pushed aside his respirator temporarily. His lips were dry, flaky and colorless.

She watched his chest slowly rise and fall. And when she stared at him, tenderly brushing his swear matted hair from his scalp, her chest ached. Her diaphragm felt like it was filled with water. Tears she couldn’t bring her left to spend.

Imagination wasn’t her strong suit. But here - in the dark, in the blackness of space, it was all she had left. Fairytales slipped silently to the forefront of her mind. Like a good little girl she somehow avoided the tainted food and temptation of a monsterous king. Like a valiant warrior she slew her enemies with courage and precision. And like a lost love, she waited on the shores of her own hopelessness, staring at a huge Black Sea.

She thought of miracles.

Jyn kissed Kay on the mouth. He still tasted like citrus, if only a little bit. But mostly he tasted foul, like a fruit left to rot on a countertop.

“He is brain dead. I find it interesting that humans seem to ignore facts in order to indulge in fantasy.” K-2SO snidely called from across the room.

Her blood rocketed to boiling.

“You’re a cold bastard, did you know that?” Jyn’s bared teeth winked in the Falcon’s interior lights.

“Statistically speaking, it should have been obvious - even to a human like yourself.” He rumbled carelessly

“A human like myself?” Jyn was screeching now. Her voice was distorted with hatred. C-3PO and R2-D2 backed themselves into a corner, avoiding the confrontation. “You what I never understood? Why the hell you’re male. Why the hell you're anything. Why not just be nothing at all.”

“Would you prefer a different gender alignment?” K-2SO rose from his seat. A black pillar of sarcasm.

“I’d prefer an alignment that wasn’t such a terrible excuse for a droid, and a terrible excuse for a human being.” She flung her words like grenades.

“At least I don’t need pity.” He clipped back.

She was stung. Because she was pitiful. An insane woman with nothing left to lose kissing a living corpse on a whim. K-2SO never cared for her. He couldn’t. It was duty and little else.

“Is that what I am to you? Some pitiful human you’ve been saddled with?” Jyn blinked, her eyes were surprisingly wet. Frustration vibrated in her throat. Refusing to let him see that he had gotten to her, she about-faced and stomped out of the room. Her boots on the grate thumped with her disgusting, treacherous, hollering heart.

“Jyn, Wait! I’m-“ K-2SO called.

But she threw herself into an alcove. She couldn’t bear to go back to where Leia and Han were howling throng lungs out. Tears tracked themselves down her cheeks. Saline and dirt.

“Sorry. I’m Sorry.” She heard K-2SO say. It sounded soft. Broken.

But Jyn didn’t turn back.

Chapter Text

"All I see are dark grey clouds
In the distance moving closer with every hour.
So when you ask "Was something wrong?",
That I think "You're damn right there is but we can't talk about it now.
No, we can't talk about it now."

 

Alone in the primary storage hold, Jyn was desperately trying to work herself up. She has enough sexual frustration to go for days. Months even. But nothing was working- touching, thinking feeling. It was all for nothing. Her fingers scrambled fruitlessly at her inseam.

She wanted that crescendo of endorphins, the surge, the high. That white noise that enveloped her brain with numbing pleasure.

The way Kaytoo said things, the way he moved. She couldn’t get Kay out of her head. The fingers at her jaw.
She conflated the two people and it was maddening. If she was going insane, this was a terrible time to do it.

Kaye and Kay. Even the names she had made her want to stab something. Anything.

There was a knock at the blast door.

She quickly wiped her hands and stood, and pulled on a careless non-commital face on like a mask.

“Jyn, sorry to intrude. I just wanted…”

He didn’t have to say he was sorry again. It wasn’t his fault he was doing what he was built for. He was innocent- or at least as innocent as a seven-foot tall murder machine could be. It was her fault for having expectations and assumptions.

“It's fine.”

“Could I-” He began.

Of course, he probably wasn’t here to reiterate his apologies. He probably needed a tool from the toolbox in the corner. It had been a while since he had performed maintenance on himself.

“Do whatever you would like. Take what you want and go.”

Jyn had to cut him off. She just wanted him to leave. At this point she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue fruitlessly pawing at herself or simply just curl up into a ball and cry.

“Can I just-”

“Its fine.”

“If I-”

But Jyn ignored him.

“Fine.” He said flatly.

Suddenly she was pressed against the wall. Kaye was looming over her, his headlight eyes making her retinas burn with their intensity. He canted his head to the side for a moment before unabashedly running one of his hands up her shirt. Jyn instantly tried to swat him away, but Kaye gathered her hands swiftly in one of his palms - tucking them inside like a gentle vice.

Jyn tried to snarl him off of her.

“What the hell-” but his thumb grazed one of her nipples, stealing the breath from inside her lungs.
His mechanical fingers swirled themselves across her chest, down her ribcage, and back towards her spine. She bucked against his grip. One part indignation, one part ache.

“I order you-”

“You order me to do what, Jyn Erso?” His head pressed against her neck. The vibrations of his vocabulator buzzed across the skin of her throat. She swallowed thickly and any retort she had was firmly locked inside her lungs.

“What the hell do you think you're doing?” She wheezed.

“I'm taking what I want.” He stepped backwards, leaving her suddenly alone. Hands free. Space to breathe. If only just. He still loomed just inches away from her.

“Unless of course you do not consent.”

Jyn's heart pounded.

“Tell me you don’t want this. Tell me you don’t need this, and I will quietly go sit in the other cargo hold. Just say no.” He almost whispered - his voice was pulled so tight she could feel it vibrating against her bones.

She pushed back finally. And Kaye, true to his word, backed away further, giving her time to digest what was happening.

“This isn't real. This isn't you. This isn't possible.”

“I assure you it is on all three counts.”

His hands twitched at his sides like restless snakes.

“I can't.”

“Can't or won't?”

“Do you even understand what it is you are offering? What it means?”

His head canted to the side.

“Do you think I'm an idiot?”

“No. I think you’re a machine.”

“And you're human. Pupils dilated. Heartbeat elevated. I can hear the blood rushing in your veins. Your flesh is betraying you, Jyn.” His voice oozed an easy confidence, but something about it felt aggressive and desperate. “You need release. I can facilitate.”

Jyn narrowed her eyes.

“And what makes you think you could even give me a ghost of what I need?”

A crackling whine. An electronic growl.

K-2SO was on her again. Fingers buried in her hair, palms cupping her skull. Thumbs traced circles across the back of her neck. They slid lower, down her back- fluttering across her rib cage. She gasped like broken string instrument - because In that moment he felt human. Her body couldn't tell the difference. His face plate pressed against her cheek as if he was organic. As for real and for true.

“Allow me to show you.” His voice purred, rough with static.

Something snapped then - her strings were cut. An entire city built on restraint and loneliness was razed to the ground within the space of an instant. All of her carefully constructed walls turned to ash in the wind.

Quiet tears spilled over her cheeks before she could stop them.

He was offering her the one thing that she had always craved above all others. A taste of love. Intimacy.

Everything she had wanted to pursue with Kay, but was taken away before she could even blink.

Even if it was fake. Even if it was an algorithm. A subroutine. He baited her with the sweetest of poisons. The wrongness of it all just made it all the more irresistible. It felt like her and her own brand of personal entropy.

His fingers brushed the saline off her cheeks, gently, reverently like a real lover might. A question without a question.

“Show me.” She said and wiped her eyes and gently slipped from his grasp.

She leaned back and shucked off her shirt. Her pants pooled on the floor. The hold was grimy and surprisingly humid, but Jyn kneeled anyway, letting desire drag her downward- never breaking eye contact. She draped herself across the floor like a challenge. Her body presented itself like a dare, shivering and naked. Air prickled at her skin, her entire body was tense with desire and fear.

Kaye kneeled in response, his metallic knees clattering against the grate. One long leg settled itself between her parted thighs, resting ever so slightly against the slickness at their apex. He was over her, eyes boring into hers. One of his hands whispered across her jugular, his thumb dragged across her jaw.

“What do you want Kaye?” Jyn murmured, her voice hoarse with need.

His hand was suddenly firm at her chin- no ghosting touches. He forced her to look at him. Her eyes watered at the brightness of his eyes, but she didn't fight his grip.

“I want you.” His voice dark with sub-harmonic distortion. “There is nothing I won't do. Nothing I can't be, for you.”

“Prove it.” She commanded, taking his hand from her jaw.

“I’ve been trying to.” He replied, all awkwardness, tenderness, and self-deprecation. His hard, unforgiving confidence melted away into the Kaye that she knew, the Kaye that was hers. Her heart hammered and sang with longing.

He took her hand and squeezed it gently.

And suddenly they were just two people. Not a droid and a human. Not a mistress and her servant. Not even two convicts. Just people.

Real.

Her brain had been thundering back and forth between logic and libido. Head and heart. But the way he sounded, they way he touched her- it was almost enough.

She squeezed back. Metal fingers ringing against the bird-like bones of her hands. He let go.

A hand dipped towards her navel, sketching patterns has it went. He moved slow, so slow it felt like his touch would leave scorch marks it its wake. Her palm pressed itself against his face plate and he nuzzled into it like a desperate animal. It was as if he too had spent years without affection.

“Jyn.” He said. Her name fell from his vocabulators like a stone - polished and perfect, beaten into smoothness by thousands of gently crashing waves. It was a weighty thing- Because of course she would be the rock. Of course Kaye would be the ocean. He had worn her down with his own gentleness over an eternity of longing.

“Kaye.” She said and arched into the word. She wielded it like he had wielded her own. His eyes were twin moons over a black beach and a Black Sea. Brightness flared within their depths at the sound of his name. As if she had called to life all the light contained in his circuitry.

Jyn was quiet. She never needed to be loud about sex. Nothing to prove. Nothing to scream. If anything she much rather preferred it that way. Jyn wasn't a lady. She was a thief and a liar with more names than fingers. But she owned her dignity entirely.

At least that was until Kaye decided to finally let his hand travel between her legs.

He was careful. So very careful. His fingers slid to cup her. It was technical. Methodical. His thumb swiped against her clit sending her gasping, whining and reeling. He paused and canted his head to the side, letting her recover before continuing.

“Was that acceptable?” Jyn could hear the smirk in his voice.

“Fuck Kaye…” Jyn was breathless and aching. She wanted. And wanted. And he was moving so slow that it was almost painful.

“I'm working on it.” He replied sardonically. A single digit curled itself inside her up the the knuckle. She yelped in surprise. Jyn remembered belatedly how long his fingers were. Kaye paused for a moment waiting for her to adjust.

But she found wanted more.

Jyn pulled herself upwards a forcing Kaye into a sitting position. She was in his lap now. Her arms were over his shoulders and clasped behind his head. Her breasts were pressed against his chest and she found that he was pleasantly warm. His palm was at his pelvis now and she ground into it like a wanton thing.

Kaye made a noise that was sharp and garbled static. Something in Binary. A curse, an endearment - she wasn't sure. His head nestled itself against her neck perfectly. The prongs of his mouthpiece tickled against the nape of her neck. His other hand traveled the the small of her back and kneaded gently - trying to press her against him even harder. Jyn obliged.

She rocked against him. Her legs wrapped around his diminutive lower torso. He slid another finger inside her slick folds and Jyn bit her lip with a muffled moan. She slowed herself down - moving Languidly, stretching her muscles taut. Kaye's thumb circled her clit while his digits climbed and curled.

She exalted in it all. Decadent was a word she never used- but it was a banquet. Every arch of her body was answered with his own. His pelvic cradle moved against her and his palm. Mimicking a human male lover. Against the inside her eyelids she imagined Barabas. Warm hands. Sharp smile. Arms dusted with freckles and gold. She was riding a crescendo of endorphins.

She wanted to forget. To pretend. And it wasn't difficult. Kaye sounded astoundingly like Barabas sometimes. His movements seemed so similar. Clever and graceful. But her thoughts chased themselves back to Kaye. Always back to Kaye. His hands at her throat went they throw her to the cold hard ground of Wobani. The flick of his wrists as they unlocked the cuffs in Jeddha. The strength of his arms as they carried her away from Scarif. The steadiness of his gaze as he held her in the shivering confines of the Imperial shuttle. And the curl of his fingers as the entered her again and again.

The image of him bled into a thousand moments. Fragments and infinite fractions. A multitude of contrary images and ideas.

Another finger, twisted itself up into her It caused a sharp jolt of pleasure that soared into a vicious high. She keened his name and he clung to her tighter, like a dying man. Black durasteel sweetly caressing her in the dark.

Jyn pressed her forehead against his, and his free thumb hooked under her jaw and pressed itself gently against her pulse. She could see her breath puffing against his jawplate.

“I love you.” He said. It was low. Serious as sin. It vibrated to the core of her being.

With those three words He was everything and nothing. He was a monster made of all the holes at the edges of galaxies . A knife that cut through light like butter. He was Barabas’s eyes. His smile.
He was the last part of Cassian left in the universe. He was every single part of her that she had lost.

But it was impossible. Because he was built incapable of love. He was a droid. A machine. A robot. Because of this he would never know he was a smile. Or a pair of eyes. or a knife. Or even a memory. He was only what she needed him to be.

He had all but lied before. And he was lying to her now.

She took a gasping, shaking breath. Air filled her lungs, clear and sharp.

And the spell was broken. Warm human-like hands were nothing more than mechanical digits.

And none of this was real.

But she was too close to the edge now. There was no stopping. She tipped over the edge like a wave crashing against the shore. Light, sound, feeling - everything was roaring darkness.

She screamed as she came. She screamed for all of the people who would never love her. She screamed for herself. She screamed for Cassian. She screamed for Barabas, who was all but dead on the table. And most of all she screamed for Kaye. Cold and incapable.

K-2SO held her perfectly throughout it, as if she were spun glass. Gentle. But this was not some far flung fable ending. It was just her and an unfeeling robot laying together in a rust bound ship. Quiet, cold and dirty.

She carefully untangled their limbs, but Kaye seemed reluctant to let go. She pulled against him until she was on the floor - curled up and empty. Her hands were wrapped around her knees, her pulse evening out to a quiet staccato.

Kaytoo analyzed the wetness on his hands with a curious intensity and then unceremoniously wiped them on a nearby tarpaulin. She couldn't tell if it was fascination or distaste that motivated him.

Jyn didn't even move. It took everything she had just to breathe.

He folded her clothes with a deft flick of his hands. They were placed carefully in the corner by her boots and holster. She didn't even acknowledge him as he gathered her blankets and bundled her inside, like a swaddled infant.

He then curled himself around her. Invincible and unfeeling. She could feel him raising his internal temperature through the layers of blankets. A logical consideration, but she was still freezing. Instead of feeling protected she felt trapped. Suffocated.

She was all kinds of messed up. All flavors of broken. She was smothering her newest loss, all her loss, with K2SO. It wasn't right. It wasn't healthy. Her heart was a flayed and bleeding thing.

And he was not real.

“You are dismissed.” Jyn said, her voice so small in barely escaped the blankets.

“What's wrong?”

“Leave.” Her voice was stronger now. More commanding.

“What did I do wrong? How can I fix it?” His voice carried a note she had never heard before. Hurt. She turned in his arms to face him. Two small stars jittered and danced with synthetic worry.

“Are you disobeying a direct order?” Jyn replied. She couldn't handle him right now. She couldn't handle anyone. She didn't want to be cruel - but she was confused. And scared.

She shut her eyes and saw K-2SO in the long Imperial corridor. Blood pooled at his feet. Unreachable and alien. He could not be hurt. Not by this. It was only a facade for her benefit.

“Negative.” He replied. Clipped. Robotic. She was instantly released from his arms.

But as he left her, something so very Human seemed to possess him. The tightness of his arms, the angle of his posture screamed misery, anger and want. Like a man barely restraining himself. Perhaps she was only seeing what she wanted to see. But that didn't stop the guilt riding up her throat.

“Kaye.” Jyn called. “You don't want this. You don't want me. I don't even want me. I'm sorry I made you feel like you wanted any part of this.”

But as he left the hold his head turned to face her. One eye gleamed from behind his sloped shoulder. The line of his back was a portrait of quiet despair.

“Droids cannot lie outright.” He replied back, his voice a quiet hum.“All I want, all I will ever want - Is just want to hold you like you're mine.”

And then he left.

---
K-2SO walked to the other side of the ship, far as he could get. to the other hold. It was much smaller, and this one was more packed with cargo - but in the center of the room there was a space on the floor.

He overwrote the control panel and locked the hold from the inside. For good measure he even moved some crates in front of the door.

And then, only then, when he was certain he was truly alone, he curled himself up on the floor. It was a parody of the bed he had shared with Jyn in what had seemed like forever ago. When he was human. When she had wanted him.

He curled himself there, shaking. His Arms wrapped around his torso and he pretended that they were hers. That he was still hers.

And that she still loved him.

Chapter Text

"You see my face in the stars.
You don't know me.
You write my name on your walls.
But you don't know me.
I feel you tracing my scars.
But you don't know me.
You don't know me at all.
I see you down on your knees.
But you don't own me.
You don't know me at all."

 

It was raining on Lah’mu. And It was warm, incredibly warm - the temperature readouts reiterated this point. Moisture and steam wafted up from the hot volcanic soil. Fat droplets of water splattered against the cockpit window.

Below was a an expanse of green, so vibrant it assaulted the eyes. Deep, rich black supported it from underneath. It was why this was a farming colony - the mineral rich earth. Broken lava flows dotted the black mountains that abutted the upper atmosphere. It was still early enough in the planet’s creation that there were no major flora or fauna that she knew of. The large sea encircling the planet harbored the bulk of the biodiversity. That wasn’t to say there weren’t feral kath-hounds, pets that had escaped the various farms. When she was a child there were rumors of a pack that killed careless livestock- but really that was it.

Not even insects inhabited the surface.

As soon as she felt the Falcon touch down in the soft loam she made for the exit ramp. She made it about twenty-five yards before she sank to the ground, her pants squelching in the mud. Her face was pointed upwards to the sky, her mouth open - swallowing the rain as if it was the sweetest thing that had ever graced her tongue. The years streaked off of her like dirt.

And she was a child again. If only for a moment.

This was her land. She knew it, and it knew her.

Her fingers twisted fistfuls of grass as she eventually spotted her old homestead. Jyn turned back to the ship only to see K-2SO worriedly rushing down the ramp after her, but once he saw that she was well within sight his shoulders became stiff. His movements clipped.

Jyn was both desperate to escape him, and afraid to leave him.

She still felt guilty for the night before. It was the best for both of them, she was sure. Into the early morning she had struggled with what she had done. There was no label for the droid.

Machine?

Weapon?

Friend?

Nothing.

So perhaps the best thing to do was hold him at arm's length, until maybe she could grasp at some semblance of normal.

Jyn clumsily stumbled upwards and trekked toward the homestead.

The door to her childhood home was wide open. She supposed that when the death-troopers came to retrieve her father niceties like closing the door had been aggressively forgotten. They were all business. Even in the face of a hysterical, and almost deadly Lyra Erso. Orson Krennic shot her mother not far from where she stood at the threshold. Perhaps if she kicked around the sedge grasses long enough she would find her mother's bones. There probably wasn't even an abbreviated burial.

Jyn scanned the field below the house, and saw nothing but never-ending green and black. The Falcon was a lone gray blotch between her and the horizon. If she squinted she could just about make out Han, Leia, and Luke pacing the perimeter.

Maybe the thought of finding her mother’s bones was too optimistic, a hound could have carried her corpse off years upon years ago.

She let time drip past, like droplets down a window pane. Anemic sunshine glinted off the stripe of rings that hung in the sky. Rain clouds still hung heavy - but every so often there was a gasp of brightness. After several moments of vainly attempting to settle her heart rate, she eventually gathered the courage to slip inside.

It was so strange, the feeling of coming home, but seeing it through the lens of an adult. Seeing it crumpled, and sour, and dusty, and broken. The space held her like a ghost. Everything was right where they left it. Only, it all changed. The white kitchen cabinets yellowed with age. The milk her mother had ready for breakfast had dried into brownish pathetic flakes inside the pitcher, the blue long gone rancid. The worn, patchwork sofa was covered in dirt and grime. Mushrooms sprouted from dark corners, moss crawled across dead cabling, and grass licked upwards between cracked tiling.

She wanted to hold her crystal. Her mother’s crystal. But it was trapped in the body of a droid, and so very far away from her. Her arms wrapped themselves around her torso in a pathetic excuse of a hug.

A storm-trooper doll crunched on the floor beneath her feet. Jyn kicked it to the side - like she did with all the softness that once was her childhood. Saw made sure her budding sentiments died quickly on the vine. It was funny in a way, actually, she wanted to be a storm-trooper once, so long ago. She had gotten it into her head that their lives were filled with adventure, and honor, and heroics. The disappointing reality had proved them to be ill-trained morons with terrible aim.

Her legs took a shaking step forward towards the sink. Remarkably, her home still had running water- The catchment tanks probably overflowed for over a decade. She took the opportunity to briefly wash her face. Her hair was still a greasy, short, and lank mess, but it did make her feel a little better without feeling sweat and dirt caked on her face. The idea of being blissfully clean was a seductive one. Guiltily, she remembered Barabas, lying immobile, helpless and festering in his now wretched clothes.

She winched the spout shut.

The walk back to the Falcon felt considerably shorter. She saw K-2SO standing between her home and the ship. It was clear he didn’t dare intrude, but it was also incredibly clear he was worried.

She had been borderline cruel to him, time and time again. Regardless of any well intentioned reasons.

And still, K-2SO had come for her.

Her tightly held resolve crumpled a little. Jyn was torn. The small, weak, and brittle part of herself wanted to run to him, kicking up dirt and grass - meeting him in equal measure. They would embrace then and there, in that tiny space inside her heart. Where she could be honest and he could be sincere.

But Jyn still loved him.

Even if she feared him.

Even if she didn’t think he was entirely real. It was that love that held her back. She could not, and would not use him so terribly

And if this was just a pre-programmed response to her elevated stress levels, then withholding contact would be even healthier.

She passed him and paced back to the ship. Back to Barabas. He stood still as a statue, watching her, and saying nothing.

——

Jyn managed to scavenge a clean tarpaulin from one of the aft cargo bays. Han glared at her, but let her pass. He could concede this small thing. If he didn’t, he would look weak in front of his dearest Princess. Or Senator, or whatever,

“What are you doing?” K-2SO asked.

“I’m taking Kay for some fresh air - and to get cleaned up a little. He needs it.”

K-2SO said nothing.

Jyn disconnected the readouts. The life-support devices. It was clear that Kay could breath on his own. The bacta has repaired most of the internal damage - but if he started developing bed sores, she was worried those would lead to infection. She wasn’t sure if the ship had enough medical supplies to manage that.

She gently slid Kay to the tarp.

“I don’t understand your continued devotion.” K-2SO hummed quietly.

She supposed that their previous nights exertions proved her to be an unfaithful lover. His confusion hurt, but was valid.

“Because love isn’t a word you tell someone because you think they want to hear it.” Jyn sighed. “It means caring for a person even if they can’t see it. Or feel it.”

Jyn crossed Kay’s arms over his chest and began to drag him towards the exit ramp.

“I can help carry him.” K-2SO said.

“You don’t-“

“I don’t have to. I know. However, regardless of your intentions there is and eighty-three percent probability the body will accrue further damage of you intend to drag it back to your previous abode.”

He didn’t even wait for Jyn to formulate an answer. He hefted Kay into his arms like he weighed nothing. The move was careful, and the way he was cradled seemed more comfortable than being dragged a quarter of a mile across rocks and grass. K-2SO walked out of the ship without further comment.

But Jyn was not far behind. The droids silence was unusual. And it burned.

“Nothing will be right between us, will it?” Jyn said - kicking clumps of volcanic dirt.

“I want it to be.” K-2SO replied, so quietly she could barely hear him.

Jyn laughed softly. Perhaps at the end of the day they fucking deserved each other. They both were wrecked beyond repair, murder machines moving forward because they had nothing else better to do. Maybe this was simple. They had sex. It was over. It wouldn’t happen again, and maybe they could get past this awkwardness. Or she could. Because, really, she was probably the only one who had strong feelings of embarrassment on the matter.

They both stepped over the threshold. Jyn dusted off the couch, and K-2SO gently placed Kay back down. The man’s breathing was deep and regular, but his visage was still ghoulish as best.

“There was some fruit on the ship. I’ve scanned it, and I believe it will fulfill your dietary needs.” K-2SO clipped.

“Great.”

“You haven’t eaten.” He replied- his vocoder stretching itself like silk. “Not since we boarded. And probably not since you’ve been imprisoned.

Jyn dabbed a wet cloth on Kay’s face, removing sweat and dirt and stars knew what else. His pulse was still steady. She could see it pounding in his jugular. What she wouldn’t give for him to wake up. Be bright. Be beautiful. Alive.

And for someone to hold her and mean it.

“You can’t be everything.” Jyn’s voice sank like teeth, and darkness. All the ugliness in her honed to barely a whisper.

“Everything?”

“You know. Security guard. Nanny. And well - you know.” Jyn made a motion with her fingers that was probably as universal as it got for a language pertaining to sex.

“I see.” K-2SO’s voice was carefully neutral.

“I am sorry.” And Jyn meant it. She failed in being a good ‘master’ on so many levels. She was only beginning to understand the weight of that responsibility. It was her fault things were so messy.

“It’s fine. I should be sorry I-“

Jyn cut him off.

“You need to understand that across most civilized space you are not a consenting individual. Or that, rather, you are an appliance that I can use as I please.” Jyn couldn’t look at him. She focused on combing her fingers through lays hair. “I’m doing this for you. For me. For both of us. I won’t have you be some glorified sexbot because I’m lonely. I won’t have you believe the sun shines out of my ass because you were built to believe so. And I won’t take advantage of that fact.”

“Do you think I am a person?” K-2SO’s voice was clarion. A bell. The ringing of metal against stone.

Jyn sputtered.

“Do you think I am a person. It was a yes or no question. You used to think so, didn’t you? What changed?”

“I-“ Jyn shook her head. “I think being a person requires free will.”

His voice became jagged bits of ice.

“So you believe I am only here because I’ve been programmed to. That everything I’ve done so far was just an algorithm I had to obey.”

“Do you have any proof otherwise? If anything you’ve told me many times that you don’t have a life at all. I was just slow to listen.”

He said nothing. The droid was a creature made of shadow now. Angles and shapes crafted from a howling immovable darkness, silent behind a thin veneer of control.

“I just can’t accept that kind of blind devotion. I don’t deserve it. And you don’t deserve to be a machine subject to my whims. And for what’s it's worth, what you did on the destroyer- it scared me Kaye. Okay? It scared me.”

“That was not my intention! It was never- I-“ K-2SO smoothed his invisible hackles. “If you were In my position, wouldn’t you have done the same.”

“That’s the problem Kaye! You could be anything at all - anything. And instead you’re a murderer saddled to a murderer. A weapon in the hands of someone who isn’t fit to wield it.”

“I have always been a murderer.”

“But you don’t have to be. I don't want you to be.”

“I’ll be whatever is required to keep you safe.” He snarled.

But Jyn ignored him. This conversation served no one. K-2SO didn’t understand, and he would never.

Instead, she focused on Kay, still breathing evenly, dead to the world. Not even an eyelash flutter. Oh how she wanted. Oh how she wished. Oh how she begged to have someone there to turn to. But she was trapped in void and silence. She was alone. And K-2SO was alone with her. Jyn would have clawed her way out of this moment if she could have.

K-2SO picked her stormtrooper doll up from the floor, and seemed to assess it delicately.

“Permission to speak plainly.” He said after a while.

“You’ve never needed it before.” Jyn huffed.

He dropped the doll on the kitchen counter. And walked toward her.

“I would like to pursue a relationship with you, Jyn Erso.”

“You don’t know what that means Kaye.” She breathed out, exasperated. She wasn’t even shocked by the declaration. For K-2SO this was a logical outcome.

“I’d like to find out.”

“Kaye. Drop it. You don’t know who I am at all.”

“And he did?” The droid gestured to the human body beneath her fingertips.

“Is that what this is about? He’s human. You’re not.”

“Then maybe you don’t know who I am either.” He stepped closer to her. “You think I don't see you. But I see you clearly Jyn Erso. Flaws and all. You are stubborn and vicious and self destructive. And self-righteous. You’ve been a thief. You've been a liar. You've hurt people. You don't listen.”

She could feel something raw slicing itself to the surface.

“And the same could have been said for Cassian. I’m the perfect replacement, right? A master just like your previous.”

“There is no one like Cassian. Just like there is no one like you.”

“You cannot desire me in that way. You are not human.”

“I Love you.”

Jyn whipped around. Her face a mask of anger, twisted up into something barely recognizable as human. She was heat, pressure, and fury.

“You what?” She seethed.

“I love you.” He repeated, unapologetic and unruffled.

Jyn backed him into a corner.

“No you fucking don't. You can't and it isn't possible. You're standing there telling me things you think you'd want your master to hear. That isn’t love.”

“I assure you-”

“You, in your own droidy way, think that I'm weak. The only thing I am to you is a clumsy pile of meat that makes your place within the universe assured. You're concerned that without companionship or stability, I'm not strong enough to keep functioning on my own. Or some weird and perverse way to show loyalty or gratitude. Sex is just part of the program.”

K-2SO loomed, towering over her at his full height. He equal in fury now.

“Do you honestly believe I would bother with any of this if I didn't love you? Do you honestly think I'm some sort of … object built to bestow meaningless affection?”

“Of course you are. That’s exactly what you were built for.”

“And what were you built for Jyn Erso? Killing? Running away?” A static, mocking huff if exhaust. “I don’t think so. I think that’s what people have told you your entire life. I think you were built to be more than a weapon. I want to believe that I am built to be more than a weapon.”

“You're a machine. It’s different. You don’t have a choice.” Jyn snarled.

“You know that’s not true.”

“Prove me wrong. I dare you. I order you.” She hissed, about to walk away.

“Fine.” It was a cold, finite syllable.

K-2SO grabbed Barabas’ body and slid him upright on the couch. The body slouched forward, the head slouching towards the knees. Violently, and without much preamble he unsheathed his data spike and slammed it into the back of Kaye’s skull, directly into a slim metal data-port, that Jyn - had barely noticed under all the hair. Kaye’s eyelids fluttered in time with K-2SO’s optics- shallow breathing became something controlled and less organic.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Jyn tried to pry the droid away, but her hands scrabbled uselessly. He was a rock face against her onslaught, immovable. She could hear the data spike interfacing with Barabas’ skull. A slick metallic whine.

“Nothing that hasn't been done already.” K-2SO said, but Kay’s lips moved, his eyes were still closed.

“Kaytoo. No riddles. I order you to answer me.”

“I am Kaye. I was always Kaye. The entire time it was me.” Both bodies spoke at once.

“How?”

Kay’s eyes fluttered open. Blue, so heart wrenchingly blue, she could have been stabbed - and it would have been less painful.

“Ka’tesh Elal. He allowed me to partake in the technology that made him able to puppeteer vacant bodies. It was part of the bargain.”

“You made a deal with that… creature?”

“He promised me it would make you happy.”

“And You lied to me?!” She spat, half disbelief and half accusation.

“I never lied to you. I simply didn't tell you the truth.” The words spilled out of his vocabulators as well as his lips.

“So There was never any ‘Kay’ in the first place, was there? Just. You.” Her hand fluttered at her side, squeezing at empty air. The world had turned on its axis. “How could I have been so stupid? To think that maybe for once I could have had something normal. Someone who could be there for me. It was all a lie. A sham. Why would anyone else even try?”

“It's not a lie. I do love-”

She ripped the blaster from her holster. The same one she gave K2SO all those eons ago. She held it up, aiming it at his human forehead. But Kaye-Barabas was even quicker. He grabbed her wrist and slammed it down against her side. His lips caught hers before she even had the chance to exhale.

The kiss was possessive and he took her for all that she had. She could taste the frustration on his teeth. This was drowning. His black ocean was yawning, about to swallow her whole. He was wind and thunder. But Jyn knew these waters.

She knew them all her life.

Jyn slammed him against the gurney alcove, her mouth still locked on his. Kaytoo's data spike pulled forward, following limply. Her hip ground against his body and he groaned. She could feel the beginnings of an erection against her thigh. But Jyn didn't care. She took all of herself back and then some. She stole all of the breath from his lungs until he was a crippled thing and wheezing. The taste of his blood was salty on her lips. Jyn squeezed him between her legs until he was a stumbling pathetic mess, wounded for daring to take something that wasn't given. Suffocating for his lies and pretense.

He finally gave in and pulled away. His face was still so close to hers. His panting, heavy breathing huffed inelegantly against her face. Lips red and bleeding. Watery blue eyes bored into hers.

“I love you.” He said again, through a human voice and a human mouth.

But Jyn, with all the grace befitting a criminal, ripped her wrist from Kaye’s slackened grasp. She took the blaster, pressed it against his heart and fired at point blank range.

The consequences were instant. Arcs of static and energy licked up Kaytoo’s metal frame, causing a metallic shriek to blast from his vocoder, His human body crumpled to the ground, eyes rolling back into his sockets. Spittle oozing from his bloodied mouth.

Belatedly, Jyn realized that her blaster was set to stun. Not kill.

The body that was Barbara's was completely slack now, but still breathing. Kaye’s durasteel frame jittered brokenly against the gurney. Part of his chest piece was molten red - it was the part where a human heart would be if he was organic. Paint and metal peeled and melted away to reveal her kyber crystal - singing in an energy feedback loop. Jyn was tempted to take it back. But the heat was too unbearable.

Kaytoo reached for her then, feebly. His hand twitched and spazzamed. It wasn't a demand, it wasn't in anger. It was a plea. His vocabulator stumbled over her name. But Jyn stepped backwards beyond his reach. Her throat constricted, her eyes burned.

“Jyn.” He said again, clearer this time. Monotone like the Droid he was.

“Fuck off and die for all I care, K-2SO. We're done here.” She replied coldly, though her voice choked on the words.

Jyn holstered the blaster and left, leaving both incarnations of K-2SO crumpled on the floor of the house she grew up in.

Chapter Text

"It's only water,
It's only fire,
It's only love,
It's only slaughter,
We're only liars,
It's only blood,
They're only thoughts that-
I'm having stored safe within my head.
You're only crying,
You're only dying,
You're only dead."

 

K-2SO pulled himself up from his crumpled position on the floor. It was difficult. Excruciating.
But not as excruciating as his failure.

Jyn had finally abandoned him.

At a logical level he could not fault her.

But at a newly found emotional level, he was angry. At her, for not knowing. For her trusting. For her see-sawed affections and the bite of her blaster. For making him, a machine, fall in love with her.

He did not believe in organic gods. Or goddesses. But Jyn must have been of their number. Only something so incongruously fueled by belief could move armies and planets. Only she could turn a precise logical being built for subservience into a monster made of longing.

It was his fault he twisted in descent.

But It was her fault that he fell.

It tasted of the same anger he held on the Liquidator. He could feel the blood pooling in his hands. The grip of his palm crushing a throat. All systems red.

And he was afraid.

If that was all that was left of him, impotent anger, then Jyn was right - as much as her recoiled at the notion. He would abandon his own self too, if it were possible.

He couldn't hear is systems diagnostics anymore. He could hear his circuits. He couldn't hear any of his components. There was no feedback. No traceback. Nothing to calculate and nothing to calculate with. Somehow his primary systems were in hard reset, but his cognitive processes were still online. They were sophisticated enough to command his body alone, but it required a massive amount of processing power. That only left him the dregs of whatever logical thoughts his lone, core self could come up with.

He stared at what used to be his body. Human wreckage barely rasping at life. It was pathetic. He was pathetic. He was both the broken droid, and the pale, sweaty human.

Muddy boot prints led out the door of Jyn’s childhood home. The door was left wide open - and he could see where she had crushed foliage in her passing. She had pathed across the vacant landscape like a machine would. He knew Jyn was capable of being subtle when she needed - but this was something new, but also familiar. She was careless in her anger. It reminded him of her attempt to kick Orson Krennic’s corpse.

He knew, without asking- there was no forgiveness down her path. But he followed anyway. He had something precious to return to her.

—-

K-2SO wondered briefly what it was like to grow up. To acquire data piecemeal from your environment, rather than having it already installed upon activation. It didn’t make sense to him, really. That thousands upon thousands of beings were given the ability to impose their will upon the universe, but not given the complete information to govern or exist effectively.

But then again, he had all the data required to make informed choices. He had made many, very wrong ones. There was something to be said for the slanted, back-handed metaphors organic life provided.

He could appreciate poetry. Or the idea of poetry. That green could mean grass, or envy. That red could mean blood or love. How simple things obtained perceived complexity over time. He supposed that was what a person was. A single individual that over time gathered adjectives and synonyms over time like a closely guarded collection.

It comforted him a little to think that maybe this was a tangled destiny. There had to be something here that made Jyn who she was. Something tangible, but he was ill equipped to find it. He would make himself of that number regardless soon enough

As it was, he couldn’t access any of the sub-directories where he could have drawn data into any suitable conclusion on any query. All he had was the gentle wind on his back, the soft droplets of rain pinging off his shoulders, and the sinking of soil beneath his mechanical feet.

This was the most human he had ever been.

The most himself he had ever been.

Logic had been peeled away like paint over rust. There were no commands left to obey, save one. And all of his pretenses were left on the floor of Jyn’s childhood home.

—-

It looked like Jyn herself hadn’t gone very far. She knew the the path she was walking. It was not the aimless ambling of a lost creature. Purpose was apparent in every step he tracked. Through sedge, through mist, and through distance.

He was in a black ravine now. Soil and grass had become rock and rubble. It had only twisted and turned for a mile or so- but it was coming to a close.. A sharp outcropping punctuated the ravine like the end of a sentence- and under it was a wide mouth of a cave. Boot prints and scattered scree had all but pointed to her location, even without context clues.

If he was still human we would have taken a breath. Like the moment he left Kafrene. He still felt like he was at the top of a skyscraper, unable to look down. He wanted the cold, damp air inside his lungs. He needed to settle his nerves and anger. But there were no such luxuries here. Only pain that stretched into forlorn, angry, burning desire.

He stepped forward, into the cave. He would meet his judgement. There was no other recourse. He would not run. Not from this.

It took him a moment to adjust to the light levels, and the stillness. It took even longer for his optics to alight on Jyn.

K-2SO almost hoped he wouldn’t find her.

But he felt Jyn. Her hurricane heart. Her shivering, splintering, cruel regard.

There she was. In the back most corner, the back most cranny. Looking for all the world like a stone, Her eyes darted like pinpricks of panicked light, her arms tightly wrapped around her legs as if she was a child. She made no move to grab her blaster, rather, she watched with the single minded intensity of a cornered animal. K-2SO has never known her to be openly fearful before, and openly resigned. Jyn was challenging, burning, suffering, and shooting. She was not a child flinching for a hit that never would come. This was not what he had expected.

It stung more than getting shot. How dare she think he would ever hurt her. How dare she ever think for a moment that everything he was, everything he could be was not in service of her being. His thoughts jittered and fractured with the agony of it.

He glared at her. He stood in the mouth of the cave, like a statue. A demand, without words, that she look at him.

He knew, no matter how fearful or out of place, Jyn would not leave a challenge to forfeit.

And Jyn, finally, glared back. It was like watching fire ignite. Broken, but less breakable for it. Her cabled muscles tensed into hardness, her jaw set, her head lifted.

And he knew, without words what lay between them both. A confirmation of final plans yet to come. There was no coming back from where they were, and at this point, he didn’t want to go back. Not now, and not ever again.

Even so, K-2SO wanted her to see. To finally understand.

He took his right hand and dug it inside his chest cavity, the whole of shrapnel Jyn left. Metal fingers closed around the crystal, and it left his haptic feedback ringing. His hand yanked down wards, ripping through Jyn’s meticulous welding. Cables snapped separated from their power supply.

K-2SO threw Jyn’s crystal to the dirt and hard packed earth. It’s pinnacle piercing the soft loam, a star that finally fell - the shattered hopes of two people.

K-2SO let his shoulders slump, his movements ease.

It was done.

He was finally her equal in vicious self destruction. He finally understood the weight of her despair. Her hopelessness. She had finally taught him what it really meant to be human.

And what it meant to be mortal.

Even if it meant to impose your own mortality.

The crystal glowed in the dirt like a small dying pulsar and his chest ached in a way only a machine could ache. Subroutines cascaded across his systems screaming at the loss of primary power. The Emergency backup reserves only carried enough power for twelve standard hours.

He was dying.

But Jyn wasn't looking at her crystal. Rather, she was staring at him, with those same durasteel eyes that caught his on Wobani all that time ago. Only this time, she had already ripped him apart piece by piece.

She said nothing.

Did nothing.

Her mouth was was a thin line. Sharp enough to cut human flesh.

As it was, he was already eviscerated in her judgment.

So he said the only thing he could say. The only thing left that still mattered. The last words the universe would hear out of him.

“Goodbye, Jyn Erso.”

And he turned toward the sea, still quite a good distance away, and walked.

Chapter Text

"Oh I beg you, can I follow?-
Oh I ask you, why not always?
Be the ocean, where I unravel.
Be my only, be the water where I'm wading."

 

“You lied to me.” She whispered into the dark, to someone and no one.

Jyn Erso had shot him.

A human woman had shot her own droid, her own lover, in the dark of her decrepit house. And she despised it. Thoroughly.

And then she watched her own droid, her own lover, toss his heart at her feet. And what was her reaction? Defiant staring. But it was hard to feel shame in that. Defiant was her blood. Her heartbeat.

“Why? It makes no sense. What are you even? You aren't a droid. You aren't a person.” She mumbled.

Her fingers twisted and scratched and tore at her own forearms. Eyelashes fluttered wetly against her cheeks, they were moths singed by flame and water both.

Maybe in some perverse way he was trying to be Cassian. Rakish. Dashing. To fill the void that Cassian had left in his wake. And maybe K-2SO had corrupted himself in the process.

But even as a human, Jyn should have realized that he was thoroughly K-2SO. Awkward, vulnerable, sarcastic and a little vicious if prodded. But he was also kind and soft. Loyal to a fault. And he kept finding her, even in the darkest of places. He was there, in the dark, at the end of all things with her.

The Scarif sunset still stung keenly against her eyelids. But not as much as the memory of his touch.The air that left her lungs felt bitter. It felt like rust and bile.

Jyn shifted. Arms folded, and knees touched her chin. She held herself, a pile of broken and sharp prices, and cried.

And cried.

And cried.

The was a scramble-scuttle of rock. A cascade of thundering, dripping rain. The squelching of footsteps. And suddenly Jyn was not alone.

If it was K-2SO again, she wasn’t sure what she would do. She fumbled at the dark for answers, and the darkness didn’t seem to be in a mood to answer. And neither was her heart.

But it wasn’t a droid at all.

It was a human woman, so thoroughly wet that she looked like a sodden kitten. Her warm brown locks were plastered to her skull. Her impeccable uniform drenched and caked with mud.

Princess Leia.

“Your Majesty.” Jyn almost remembered her manners, and wiped at her tear stained cheeks.

“Please. It's just Leia.” The woman effused.

“Leia.” But Jyn’s eyes narrowed. At Leia’s waist was a pair of quadnocs. They were tired to her belt, next to a blaster that had no safety.

“I just happened to take a stroll and this cave looked interesting. Pardon me.” Leia smiled, her curved lips wrapping around the lie.

“By all means.” She replied.

The woman shuffled around the cave, not awkwardly- really. Just pointedly. And Jyn wished she would find a seat and get to the point - or shoot her already.

“Can I ask you something of a personal nature?” Leia asked finally, perching herself delicately on a stalagmite.

Jyn supposed If death was on the menu from the rebellion- she would have already been dead. Or they would have made some sort of complicated tribunal to make it as public as possible.

“Shoot.” Her voice shook unkindly. Perhaps the princess didn’t fully grasp her unwelcome.

“What happened between you and the droid?”

Immediately Jyn lept to the defensive. It wasn’t herself she was protecting. She was never the target. And it fury took her bones.

“His name is Kaye, and nothing happened.” If her voice was a knife it would have stripped flesh from bone.

“Nothing?” The princess's eyes narrowed, her jaw set and locked. She was not used to being so casually rebuffed apparently.

“And I don’t see why it’s any of your business.” Jyn clarified.

“K-2SO belongs to the alliance. In technicality he is not your droid. When we get back to Yavin you may forfeit ownership of you would like. We can requisition another unit for you. Any one you'd want.”

Jyn glared back. Leia was not asking, not really. It was more of a command dusted thinly with consideration. The princess daintily crossed her legs and continued.

“We have plenty of astromechs available. They are considerably more useful as well as reliable. What good is K-2SO really? He was only fit for espionage. And now not even that.”

“What do you mean?” How. Why? Anger bristled into confusion and static.

“His kind will be just about as common as B1 battle droids soon.” Leia explained. “The empire is quickly phasing his model out. Imperial mandate. Across the galaxy droids just like him are being shoved into compactors, melted down and recycled into some new sleeker models. Something about a security breach. For a spy, your droid wasn't very discreet.”

“And what would happen to him if I do decide I'd rather have an astromech?” Jyn’s stomach bottomed out.

“We would perform a memory wipe of course.” The princess daintily looked at her nails. “Per standard. He may pose a security issue otherwise. We would reprogram him to assist in loading and unloading ship cargo.”

“With all due respect. No.” Jyn made her rebuttal as immovable as the stars themselves. She sank all her being into one syllable. She stood, staring down at the princess, like a rock face about to become an avalanche.

“I wasn't asking.” Leia ignored her warning, and shuffled carelessly on her makeshift throne. “This K2 unit is obviously malfunctioning. He could be a liability to us all. Where is he by the way?”

“Quite frankly I’m not sure.” She hissed, her limbs becoming liquid and murderous. “But if you lay a hand on him, hang the rebellion, hang this entire system. I’ll strangle you myself.”

“You're rather attached to this one droid. He’s just a machine.”

“He isn't just anything. Certainly not just a machine.” Jyn spat.

“Oh? Then what is he then? Enlighten me.” The princess waved flippantly.

She remembered the acid on Wobani. The heat of Yavin. The dust of Jedha. The rain on Eadu. The Splintered ozone on Scarif. And the longing on Kafrene.

“He’s my family.”

But Jyn didn't like what she saw In the princess's eyes. It looked suspiciously like pity. That she had to be clinically insane. Leia could only be right in this regard. From an outside perspective she was a lonely young woman who was without family or friends. Of course she would latch onto any being that showed her even the tiniest kindness.

“You can leave now. Door’s that way.” Jyn snarled, jerking her hand at the cave opening. Her own eyes burning with unspent tears.

But the princess kept staring.

“I'm sorry.” Leia said after a while. “I didn't realize he meant that much to you.”

“Yeah. There's a lot you don't know princess.”

“I’m willing to listen.” Leia was close now. Too close. Before Jyn realized it her hands were in hers. And Jyn couldn’t pull away. Not this time.

“You wouldn't believe me if told you.” A tear sliced down her cheek - blurring her already blurry vision. She looks at the jagged cathedral of rocks that made up her personal, claustrophobic sky. She looks at her muddy boots. She looked at her mother’s kyber crystal, still softly glowing in the dirt.

Everywhere but the other woman’s face.

“Try me.”

“Why should I trust you?” The words burned on her tongue. “I doubt you all rescued us out of the pure goodness of your hearts. What service could I possibly provide that merits such a rescue?”

“I don't know what you're talking about.” Leia said. And bless her, it almost sounded sincere.

Jyn huffed wetly.

“You forget I've done this song and dance before. Tell me what mission you have for me this time.” Her voice trembled and gained a hysterical pitch. “Tell me. I bet it'll be a real laugh. Do you need me to steal the Emperor's robes? Darth Vader’s cape? What is my freedom worth this time?”

Leia’s head tilted, her cadence grew incredibly soft.

“There is no price. You've sacrificed much for the sake of the rebellion. And I will not have the Rebel Alliance built on debts unpaid and sacrifices unaccounted for.” She winced. “You saved us all, whether I like it or not.”

Jyn sneered, baring the edges of her teeth. She was not a diplomat, or a senator, or a princess. Jyn was an outcast, a criminal, and she was every bit a feral animal. And she had enough of people trying to pay their debts.

“You're threatening someone I care about. Forgive me, but where I'm from that's not how debts are repaid. You’ve given me no reason to confide in you, or hell, even like you.”

“Then what if I told you how valuable you are to us? Saw’s forces are blown to the wind. You could unite them, rally them to our cause.”

“You must be really desperate.”

“We are.” Leia conceded. “But I also I want you to believe me, there is nothing I won't do to secure your happiness. You have saved the rebellion. We owe you for everything you've sacrificed.”

“You don’t owe me anything, and you know it.”

“At least one of us deserves a happy ending.” Leia sighed. “Even if that means dropping you off somewhere far from the war. Even if that means we get no strategic advantage in return. And even if it means threatening your droid to talk to me honestly.”

“It was a bluff?” Her own shoulders sagged, a small relief she did not expect.

“I am a diplomat.” Leia smiled. “You’ll find, if given the chance, that words can disarm people better than blasters.”

Jyn considered. And considered hard.

And for a long while the only sound was fat droplets of condensation, drip-dropping from the ceiling and echoing louder than her horrible heart.

Was it better to have Leia as an ally or an enemy? Trusting her could lead to more trouble. But having her mistrust Jyn, and mistrust K-2SO would be deadly. Of all the choices she made in the past few months - this was the easiest by far. And what choice did she have, really?

“That man.” Jyn began. “ The one unconscious in the medbay. The one on the floor in my house. That's K-2SO. Sort of. I don't know how he did it. But somehow that’s him.”

“But I saw your droid walk out of the cave.” Leia frowned.

“Have you heard of the B’ommarr?”

The princess shook her head.

Jyn sat back, preparing for a long, long explanation - as much as she hated the prospect. She conceded. It was time she lay down her metaphorical arms, and present the truth like a white flag. It was a defeat, but not her worst today. Everything that could have been a victory had long since decomposed.

So she presided over her story like a dowager at a funeral.

Chapter Text

"Since, I was young, I knew I'd find you-
But our love, was a song, sung by a dying swan.
And in the night, you hear me calling,
You hear me calling,
And in your dreams, you see me falling, falling"

 

Jyn ran from her fate not once, but twice in this hole. It was where her childhood came to rest, and the retelling if her life’s story slicked off the walls like oil and clay. Leia drank it up as if they were the dregs at the bottom of a wine glass. The princess had very few questions, and she listened with a quiet and single minded intensity that rivaled the stone pillars themselves.

“And then he told me he loved me.” Jyn explained. "I know. Droids aren't capable of love. But he said it.”

“Droids have a funny way of being what we you need them to be.”

It terrified Jyn how easy it was to speak once she had started. Words left her lips like scuttling beetles that she couldn’t quite keep inside. Conversing with Leia felt natural. As if she was an old friend discussing relationship issues over drinks. Not two rebel soldiers crammed into a dirty hole in the side of a mountain.

“So you agree. He's just following a program.”

“I didn't say that. You’ve seen Artoo, our astromech, Threepio, our protocol droid. Do you think they serve the rebellion because they are programmed to?”

“They must. Why else would they do anything that they do now?”

“Did you know that those two are responsible for delivering your father's plans to the rebellion? Without them all that you sacrificed would have been for nothing.”

“I wasn’t implying that they are incapable. Only that they didn’t have a choice.”

“You're not listening. No one programmed them to have courage, loyalty, or empathy. But without those qualities the rebellion surely would have been lost. The somehow grew into beings capable of producing a miracle, Beings that helped destroy a weapon capable of killing millions. They became more because they we allowed to be more. Do you see what I'm saying?”

“Not really.” Jyn said carelessly.

“K-2SO was allowed to love, and so he did. And because you loved him- he gave what he received back in spades”.

Jyn wanted to argue that she didn’t love him. That she couldn’t. That what she felt wasn’t genuine, because he wasn’t genuine. But that logic lost its bite. She still loved him. And would continue to, no matter how angry she was. No matter what distance. No matter if she shot him. No matter what he’s done or will do.

Leia continued through the silence, punctuating her point.

“That's what people don't get about droids. Some are fumbling, inelegant things because they are treated that way. If you expect a droid to be nothing more than its designation or profession- it won't be.”

“How can you be so sure it's love?” Jyn wanted to shout it, but her voice broke over the words clumsily.

“Why else would cause a droid to run off dramatically into the distance for no apparent reason? Sounds an awful lot like a lovesick boy.”

“You were watching.” Jyn accused.

“Of course I was watching.” Leia got up and stretched, airing out her damp jacket. “Where is he now do you think?”

“I'm not sure. We had an … argument. As I am sure you figured out. And he disappeared shortly after. Which you saw. He could be anywhere.”

“Strange,” Leia smiled slowly, as if her point had just been made. “I didn't think droids could argue with their masters.”

“Well he did, until I gave him a direct order to fuck off and die.”

The princess looked mildly shocked.

“Has he… Has he ever tried to hurt you?”

Jyn almost barked in laughter. As if Leia could ferret out the reason for her fury. No, even now, even after all of that, with her story laid out like a blueprint- she just didn’t understand. Jyn Erso was not a human woman. She was a aching, bruised and, bleeding thing. Quicker to shoot than to be kind. With all of her experience, with all of her power the Princess still couldn’t fathom what boiled at the core of her.

If only K-2SO wounded her physically, it would have been far less painful.

Instead of explaining, she shook her head.

“Are you even sure he's still a droid?” Leia posited. “I would think about why he chose to be human. Maybe all this time all he wanted was to be treated like one.”

“Does it even matter at his point?” Jyn sighed into her hands.

“Oh I think it does.” Leia grinned, sly as a pickpocket. “Because as much as you bitch and moan, and sit here feeling sorry for yourself- you’ll go after him. You can’t help it. And when you do, maybe you should think about what you’ll say instead of shooting him again.”

—-

Leia and Jyn departed the cave. It was still raining, still raw. Leia made for the ship, but Jyn had unfinished business inside the house.

Half of her expected to find a human corpse upon entry. The other half expected to find a droid K-2SO in heap. But none of those things were actually the case. Thankfully, woefully. Instead, there was the still breathing, human body of a man that she once called Barabas Eret Kaeterren.

He laid there across the couch, still brain dead, but no worse looking from when she dragged him from the falcon. Filthy, damaged, but still living, lungs still plodding on. Jyn quietly sat next to him, even filthier and more damaged. She dripped mud and rainwater.

She propped the body up, all slack jawed and drooling. And she almost laughed. In another universe, who would this person have been? Would they have been lovers? Friends? Enemies? Certainly not some stranger comatose in a decrepit house on a decrepit planet.

She remembered swaying in the darkness with K-2SO. His warm, human body, flushed against hers - as a dying song thrummed through her blood and bones.

When she felt his hands at her hips. Her thighs. Her lips.

Her eyes blurred. Smeared.

Want was a tricky thing. It didn’t listen to anger or reason. It existed outside of the limits that reality imposed on it. It hungered, voracious. It lingered at the edges of sentences, the touch of body heat. Sometimes she bit her lip to fight the pull of it. But Sometimes the tang of her own blood on her teeth was the taste she loved best.

Jyn held her head in her hands.

It was all fucked up.

The universe.

Her.

And K-2SO.

It was a sticky, nonsensical tangle of a fable.

Don’t lie, her mother would say, or one day your tongue will stay glued to the roof of your mouth- and you won’t be able to say anything ever again, true or false. Or better yet, it was like a story. Where a cursed prince took the form of a wild animal. And to prove yourself worthy you had to cut off his head.

She had proven herself unfaithful. Unworthy. And this was the punishment.

For a moment she lost herself in the stillness. Of rain and soft breathing. Or tiny creatures scuttling in far-flung corners.

Never had she traversed waters so dark. Not when her mother died. Not when her father died. Not when loses had piled on loses. When she despaired she didn’t swim at all. She sank. She walked the shore - afraid of what lay in the deep.

But now was it was different. She traversed them.

Because she did want. And need. And she was willing to risk being pulled under just to have it.

Jyn squeezed her eyes shut. What K-2SO did wasn’t a con job. Or an attempted murder. Leia was right- everything was just as simple as it had been presented. A droid had fallen in love with her, and knowing K-2SO, he did nothing by half measures.

He stole a body so that she could love him back. The only problem was that she had already loved him beforehand - so the deception became septic. A necrotic wound between two people. Perhaps if she didn’t love the droid half as much, none of this would have hurt so keenly.

Jyn shifted uncomfortably.

“I think I still love you.” She whispered finally, in Barabas’ ear. “I think I've loved you a little since you throttled me on Wobani. Maybe I also hated you a bit too. Just a little.”

She hoped K-2SO could hear her. She really did.

Jyn propped the body up, making sure it was warm, and somewhat comfortable. Her careful hands wiped spittle from his jaw.

“I think we both hurt each other enough for a lifetime. And I think I'm finally over my pity party. But if you don’t mind, I'm going to go crash yours, wherever the hell you are now. Because shit, I don’t think I could fuck this up any worse.”

And Jyn Erso got up to see a man about a speeder she had spotted in a storage hold.

Chapter Text

"You can break, throw yourself away-
Leave it behind, we come undone-
And if you need to you can break me too-
You can disappear
Or let me follow-
Let me follow."

 

“You'd better bring that back, ya hear? That wasn't free. Or cheap.” Han Solo called from the bridge of the Millennium Falcon.

“Oh would you just shut up?” Leia snapped. “I'm the one who bought the damned thing.”

Jyn ignored their bickering and fastened some cargo to the side of the speeder. Rations, fuel, water, and comms equipment - Incase she went out of range of a standard handheld device. Around her neck rested her mother’s kyber crystal, affixed with a piece of rough twine. It was good enough for now.

She ignited the engine. A soft vibrating purr, that she knew would screech and roar at speed. Her heart had a soft spot for landspeeders. It felt like flying as swift as intent. You went as fast as your thoughts lead, hugging the landscape, running the horizon.

She slowly backed it out of the hold and floated it to the earth outside.

Luke, for his part, watched in a quiet sullenness.

Jyn was about to walk back to the cockpit for a scan of the perimeter, but was stopped by a quiet voice.

“It's my fault.” Luke said.

Jyn hadn't shared too many conversations with the young man. But she didn’t dislike him. Something was very off about him - it made the hair on her arms stand at attention. But again, that wasn’t his fault. In a rare moment of consideration she paused to hear him out,

“Leia told me what happened.” He continued.

Oh course she did. From a logistical standpoint there was no reason to keep her secrets. And Jyn couldn’t dredge up anything bitter about it.

“I told him to tell you. K-2SO. I thought it was for the best. Even though I didn’t know the whole story.”

“It was.” Jyn replied. And even stranger, she flashed him a smile.

—-

The landscape was black and green and grey. It whizzed by like streaks of paint. Air rushed and sang in her ears - and it felt like freedom. Like hope. Like loving and being loved in return. She simultaneously euphoric and angry and worried.

Because somehow the droid had made it to the edge of the landmass. Which would have required a grueling pace and the depletion of his remaining, meager energy reserves. The Falcon’s scanners pinpointed him rather easily - he was the only thing on this entire planet coated in ferrosphere paint.

Leia was right. Lovesick boy indeed.

Jyn was about to hit shoreline. She could smell it. The bitter sweet tang of salt, sand, and sea grass. The air was so thick with it that she could probably cut it with a knife and spread it on bread.

Waves crashed gently against a black and rocky shore. There was nothing for miles. Jyn couldn’t even find sea birds. She slowed down, her eyes searching. A seven-foot tall droid should have been easy to find, but his silhouette couldn’t be seen in any direction. Panic inched up her throat. The only other place he could be was in the ocean, and Jyn was not equipped for a dive. The water had to be freezing.

She was also unsure if his internal components could survive being submerged in water. More specifically salt water, which was known for its propensity to corrode metal.

But just as here fears reached their zenith, her clever eyes picked out a shape that she originally assumed was a greyish small boulder formation. It was out of place with the rest of the flatlands - and even at this distance she could almost see the clean line of an arm.

Her heart unclenched itself. And any euphoria she had was replaced with bladed frustration and concern.

She parked and dismounted her speeder. There was heat, and dust, and the small whiff of ozone. Her feet gnawed on the gravel one step at a time, until she was standing over the prone body of a KX series droid. It was encouraging that his optics were lit - that meant power. But it was discouraging that he didn't move at her approach.

“You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?” Jyn growled. “What did you do to yourself?”

He did not respond. And every muscle in her jaw clenched. Her face was a mask or marble and hard muscle. She paced, kicking up stone and sand. If Kay offlined, Jyn wasn’t sure what she would do. Her boots itched to kick his carapace. But she couldn't bring herself to touch him, not yet.

“Fucking Fuck.” She hissed and punted a nearby shell instead, it’s thin porcelain shell shattered before it hit water.

“Fuck.” She said again. No response. She kicked deeper, dredging up salty black muck. “You melodramatic fucking prick, are you even listening? Wake.Up.”

Maybe if she got close enough - some of his sensors would scream at him. Proximity alarm. Human hazard. She thrashed harder, tendons twisting like loss. Eventually she howled, taking a fistful of sand and flinging it at the water.

“You said that you were my droid. That I own you. This is my one, and only command. Answer me.”

There was a shift. A hum, the grumbling droning of a system fumbling to life.

“Are you quite done?” K-2SO said, unmoving. His gaze never wavered from the ocean. “You have my attention.”

Relief rushed fast and cool. But so did annoyance.

‘What are you even doing?” Her voice rumbled like the speederbike. Low and dragging.

“What does it look like? I’m fucking off and dying. As my mistress commanded.”

Only Kaytoo could make a monotone sound perfectly petulant.

“You’re not very good at it.” Jyn spat back.

“Practice makes perfect.”

Her mouth pressed into a thin line. She had almost forgotten his death, deep in Ka’tesh’s spire. Those three words lashed at her like a well aimed whip.

“It figures. Of all the places to fuck off to you picked one so sod-fuckingly far.”

“That was the point.” He replied coldly. “Though I am surprised you found me.”

“I will always find you.” Jyn let her teeth show. She wanted the sentiment to be warm, but it came out caustic. “Why here of all places?”

“Because a droid, through their own action, cannot allow themselves to come to harm without a hard manual override by their owner or a pre-programmed self destruct sequence.” he explained. “That self destruct sequence only activates when certain conditions are met. Conveniently, There is nothing in my basic directives about inaction.”

“Are you seriously telling me that you're lying there waiting for something to come kill you?” Jyn huffed disbelievingly.

“More specifically I'm waiting for this sea to rise and come kill me since you failed your first attempt.”

“How very romantic.”

“I aim to please.”

“Why are you making things so difficult? You were never this difficult before.”

“I gather you preferred me as an unemotional eunuch.”

“No, that’s not-”

“You should perform a memory wipe.” K-2SO cut her off. “ Maybe then I'll meet your exacting specifications.”

“Stop it. Just stop, okay?

“You’ve made your feelings quite apparent on this matter. I don’t see why we’re revisiting it. I understand. I am not a person. I am not a man. I am not capable of love. I have deceived you and have been found unwanted.” His voice grated from his vocabulator, an acid rain. “If you're here cast down further punishment then by all means get on with it.”

“Would it be the end of the world if you were actually compliant?” Jyn was durasteel. ”Just this once? Can we talk like normal people?”

“Yes Ma’am.” He said. The words burned her.

“Please, for the love of stars, shut-up with that bantha-shit Kaytoo.” Jyn hurled back. “You and I both know that you're way past that pre-programmed droid facade you can hide behind.”

“As my mistress commands.” K-2SO remained spite incarnate.

“Just listen, okay?” She let her desperation show. Jyn didn’t beg. Not even for her own life. But just this once, she was about to.

K-2SO said nothing, his bright eyes never wavering from the horizon.

“Right.” Jyn sighed, fingers twisting to the bridge of her nose. “Look, I’m not good at this whole thing. Friendships. Relationships. Talking. I grew up without other people besides my family, and even then I didn’t have them for long. I know it’s not an excuse, but I am sorry. I could have handled that better. Hell, I could have handled all of this better to be honest.”

Jyn let the weight of what she was about to say pull her downward. Knees, then hands, then stomach. Her face was only inches away from his.

“But I didn’t. I actually shot you. And that's my fault.” She continued, her voice soft, softer than it had been in years. Her tongue was thick in her mouth, her throat swollen as if she had swallowed a stone.

“It’s not-” Kaytoo started, but Jyn pressed a finger to the place his mouth would be if he was human. All of it so raw, so painful, that if she let him stop her now she would never start again.

“Shut-up and let me finish. I need you to understand how pissed off I am. I really do. You’ve hurt me. I didn't think it was possible to hurt more and suffer more than I already have. And congratulations, You’ve proved me wrong. Good job on that. You've thrown me through this insane loop that I didn't even think was possible. And I know you’re sorry. And I know you didn’t mean it. But that doesn’t make the pain of it just go away.”

Jyn swallowed. She could feel his eyes on her now - two fathomless pools of light, but she continued onward.

“At first I didn’t think you’d have the ability to care. Or if you did, I thought you were forced to care about me. And then I thought my… I thought you were dead. You made me feel things and then ripped them all away. I thought I'd lost you. Many, many times.”

Tears came freely now.

“Never.” He replied, soft as he was able.

An arm snaked around her torso. It was unyielding and colder than comfortable, but she let it pull her close. He held her there patiently waiting for her to finish or to try to pull away.

Jyn cleared her throat, willing herself to calm down.

“And even after all of that. I think you’re my best friend. My last friend. And given everything I know I still don't think I deserve you. I can't make heads or tails of this. But I do know that for sure. I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry for every single time I made you feel like nothing, like a machine. You never deserved that.”

Kaytoo’s eyes flickered downwards, not meeting her watery gaze. It was such a human gesture. Nervousness. Embarrassment. Shame. He didn't seem to have the courage to meet her words with equal frankness. Jyn’s mouth quirked at the impossibility of it. The droid who always spoke his mind, suddenly speechless.

“You said you loved me.” She let the accusation spill inelegantly from her lips. “What makes you so sure that what you felt was love?”

A sigh that sounded like static - Or maybe it as the other way around. The thrum of it echoed through his chest cavity, so loud that she could feel it in her ribs.

“I love you. Present tense.” He corrected. “Even if you screamed at me for decades, raged and raged and raged over what I had done. Even if you treated me like space slag, a slave, a servant, an object. Even if you shot me again, and over and over after that- I would still love you. I know it. I feel it. Whirring in my chest like an overclocked processor. And that's not just because I have to. It's not a directive. It's not an order. It's not a malfunction. I believe it in the very core of my being. I do so very much love you.”

It was that same dispassionate monotone, but it's was like he was wrapping his cold fingers around her heart and yanking. The last of her righteous anger bled away, leaving something tender, aching, and exposed.

“But why?” She whispered.

“Because of the way your lips twist when you're angry. The way you tremble when you're trying to hide when you're scared. The way you laugh, smile. The way light that enters your eyes when you're genuinely happy. How fire dances in your hair when it catches light. I love the way you walk. You’re like a predator. Dangerous and always in your element. In a way I can never be. I love the way you stare out a starship window, like everything is fresh and new. Like the galaxy still contains an iota of wonder. And Even when life keeps tumbling down over and over again, you're immutable. Unconquerable. Your wrath brought down an empire. Your hope saved billions. How could anyone not fall in love with that? I am quite certain nothing could resist you.”

He paused, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“It only took me so long because I am a very stupid droid.”

Jyn kissed him then. It was all she could think of. Words had failed her.

It was awkward, weird- but not quite unpleasant,. It certainly felt like the right thing to do, even if he couldn't reciprocate. Kaytoo’s hand wound itself in her hair. His other hand rested on her hip bone; his thumb tracing circles. Jyn mouthed softly at the edge of his faceplate, hoping desperately his haptic feedback array was sensitive enough that he could feel it.

He didn't pull away. Instead he hugged her against his body and tipped his forehead against hers. Fingers traced their way down the the nape of her neck and gently massaged the base of her spine. His other hand ghosted across her belly, twisting it with longing. How the hell did he manage to wind her up so fast? With only a few touches she was already hungry for things she by all rights shouldn't be. Jyn pulled away slowly.

“Who programmed you to be such a smooth talker- huh? It certainly wasn't Cassian.”

“I have my source codes.”

“Do you have any more platitudes you'd like to share?”

“Well, you also have a very nice ass. And legs. I think I very much like those.”

Laughter. Honest to goodness laughter. Her eyes still burned with tears, but somehow she was happy. That's what his did best. He fixed her. Even now he was putting the pieces of her back together.

It had never occurred to her until this moment that he might have been just as broken all this time. Mourning just as much as she was.

He all but told her when he was human.

Not only that, but she couldn't fathom the what it must feel like to be a stranger in your own metaphorical skin with memory wipe after memory wipe. Droids by nature were creatures of purpose. His had changed so utterly and without any preamble that it pained her to think about. Kaytoo had never been asked what he wanted. Ever. Maybe it was time she asked. Maybe it was her turn to fix him for once. After all she had said and done.

“So what now?” Jyn gently prodded.

“I’m afraid I'm not sure what you're asking.”

“Well, we just kissed and I think we've established that throwing yourself into the ocean like some holivid opera would be rather stupid, even for you.” She flicked his arm. “So in a perfect world what would you like to do?”

Another sigh. Soft crackling static. Bright eyes, like two small stars searched her face.

“I would like to ask you if you feel the same way about me.”

“Kaye,” his name tell from her lips like a ship from orbit, like the rush of atmosphere over wings and engines. “Why do you think I'm here?

He looked away, but Jyn grabbed his jaw plate and forced him to meet her eyes. Just Like when he had grabbed her jaw in the belly of the millennium falcon. When he was trying to tell her that he loved her but couldn't find the right words. She found them for him.

“I love you.” She said firmly. “Romantically. Sexually. Intimately.”

“And yes. You scared me. What you did was insane and possibly unethical. How else was I supposed to respond? None of it made sense. You are an accomplished liar at best - an insane and murderous rogue droid at worst. The universe has never seen anything quite like you.”

“But You saved me- not just from Scarif. Not just from bounty hunters. You saved me from me. I'm not great with words- but somehow you've performed miracles all in my name and I can't wrap my head around it. You make me better. “

“Jyn.” He rumbled. “You were more than capable of saving yourself.“

“And what if maybe I think you have a nice ass. Metal or otherwise.“

“I do not have an ass.”

“Well maybe I like that General area.”

“Forgiveness should not be this easy, no matter how nice my hypothetical ass might be.”

“I know I'm not perfect. And now, neither are you. Most real people make real mistakes. You want this Kaye. You said it yourself in so many different ways. Why ask me if you're not sure you’ll believe the answer?”

“Because I was built on an assembly line. Because I look…” He trailed off, his hand reaching to touch his face.

“And I'm an ugly human female. Squishy. Organic. Filled with corrosive fluids.”

“You are not ugly.”

“And neither are you.”

He shook his head, but said nothing. Jyn touched his faceplate again. Her other hand traveled to the hole she had made in his chest.

“Don’t.” He said, his voice little more than a broken echo. “I'm not human.”

“It’s never stopped you before, Kaye. Why now?”

“Because perhaps your negative reactions were the correct course of action in this instance.” Shame and unspent anger colored his words now. “Because upon further assessment this situation is illogical and ill advised. I never calculated what effect my affections would have on your future. I was selfish. There are so many things you deserve that I can't give you.”

“Like what?”

“Where would you like me to start?” His vocabulator crackled with frustration. “What if I can’t be human again? Would you spend the rest of you life with something like me? I don't have lips, or teeth, or a tongue. I can’t give you a child. There’s no upgrade in the universe that could change any of that. I will never have the same rights a as a biological lifeform would have. I am a thing where most people are concerned. An object.”

“I am not most people. I have decided that if I was to see the galaxy- there is not another person I’d want beside me.” Jyn smiled, a smile only crafted just for him. “Only you. Droid. Human. Hutt. We’ll figure it out.”

Jyn gently pulled away, shrugging off her jacket.

“What are you doing?”

“Figuring it out.”

“What about everyone else? You’ll be considered insane at best.”

“Good thing I never gave damn.”

“I give a damn.”

“Then I am in love with a very stupid droid.” She slid his hand lower, past the waistband of her pants.

“Are you sure?”

“Would I be here if I wasn’t?”

“Fair point.” He replied.

Jyn draped herself across him, pushing into all the hateful empty space that separated them both. Her hand wrapped around his delicate neck, tracing under the intricate wiring beneath his collar.

“You know I am sorry.” Kaye said. “For most of it. For lying. For hurting you.”

“Most of it?”

“I'm not sorry for this.” His free hand grabbed her ass, and she could imagine him smirking. “I promise for long as I exist that I will never hurt you again. Or lie to you. I’ll follow you across the universe if you’ll let me. Just please take me with you. I’ll spend an eternity making it up to you if you let me."

“Well,” she purred. “We could do what we did in the hold. Just maybe a little less dramatic this time.”

Laughter, or the robotic approximation of it. Not the same as before, and a little broken. But Jyn found herself pressing against him anyway, hips grinding against his palm.

“Yes ma’am.” He said.

Chapter Text

"What's harder, harder to say?
That you want me to stay, or that you want me stay unchanged for you?
Chained to a lie, we're the same you and I, we're the same.
Well not the same, we hurt differently, but consistent in our pain.
Equal and equidistant in the way we laugh- to lay bear the weight of our cold love affair"

 

There were things he liked about his existence now. K-2SO had favorite moments. Favorite things.

Teaching Jyn how to fly, for example - That most singular hyperspace pull. It felt like themselves arcing across the universe, untethered by anything except each other. He liked the silence, the sound of them together knitted space and time.

And he liked being taught. Human things he had lacked the finesse for, were refined and polished. He knew emotions. He felt them - but it was the subtleties that escaped him. Jyn quietly instructed him on how to read a room. Sometimes they would even hang on gantries, as Jyn would explain the finer political undertones of ‘secret meetings’.

It was pleasurable, their company - and surprisingly easy now. All of their secrets had been laid bare. All of their hopes. All of their dreams.

He would always make sure she had enough ammunition. Enough back-up. Enough sleep. And in return she made sure he was safe, that he was always in good repair, that he always had an opinion, even if she didn’t always want to hear it.

Of course there were moments of dissonance. But even when they were fighting, he liked it. Sometimes they snarled at each other about when Jyn last ate, or when he would take unnecessary risks. But it was always from a place of concern. Of love. Of consideration and attention. It made him preen a little. To be considered so precious to someone.

Ever since their return months ago from Lah’mu - they had been inseparable and lockstep. Like two hands from the same body. It was, in some ways, an easier partnership than he had with Cassian. Trust flowed freely between them like a shared song. It was never stilted or withheld.

But there were things about his new existence he hated too.

Like the fact that they couldn’t make public their relationship. Leia Organa, while supportive, cautioned against it. The rebellion was composed of many different beings and beliefs, but not all of those were particularly tolerant. There was a high possibility it would cause undue stress on themselves, and possibly the population of the base at large.

If Jyn and K-2SO wanted to hold hands, it would have to be in the privacy of a ship, or on a distant snowbank - far from the perimeter scouts that constantly guarded Hoth on their particularly smelly beasts.

And Jyn, viewed as single, was assigned a group bunk. It didn’t stop K-2SO from sitting with her during the long nights. But it was viewed more of a coping mechanism for Jyn, a symptom of some lingering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that she couldn’t shake. Her idiosyncrasies were tolerated by her bunk mates - but not without whispering or slanted glances. She bore the not-so-secret judgment well, but it didn’t stop Kay from fantasies of throttling her offenders.

But what he was beginning to hate most of all, was the constant yoke of servitude. It hadn’t bothered him all that much before he was human. But he had been poisoned with the taste of freedom and dignity. It had become addictive. And being forced back down into something so base, had made him want to rip his own arms off with frustration.

Especially at times like this- where currently, the yoke had him in the sub-levels of the Hoth rebel base, where snow became bedrock. The hallways there became cramped and, more specifically and unpleasantly, filled with feces.

There was a septic system fault, somewhere in the dank and unlit dark. And a very portly, pissed off commanding officer demanded Kay’s presence. Lieutenant Krabe, if his name tag was reliable.

It was a logical move. But the droid also knew that if he managed to give Kay orders in Jyn’s presence, she would have shut him down instantly. Unfortunately, she was trapped in a meeting in which he was explicitly barred from. Some council members were unduly worried that his systems could be hacked, and that if he was taken - all of his data would be ripe for the taking. But it seemed inappropriate to remind them, that if he was captured, he would find a way to blow his processor out before they would be able to glean anything. It would also cause Jyn undue stress.

So here he was. Up to his waist in shit. Given the explicit orders to find the septic leak, rectify it, and proceed to clean the mess from the hallway, by perhaps the least aesthetically pleasing man the rebellion had to offer.

He waded to what seemed to be the fault, brownish watery mess spewed from a long gash in the overhead pipe work. It had been brutally cold lately, even by the standards of Hoth. It wasn’t surprising that some pipes had frozen over, and then subsequently burst.

Fixing it wouldn’t be a problem. He had a welding attachment. But the affected area was expansive, and getting it back to sanitary conditions would take most of the day.

So yes. Yes, he liked parts of his life and held them dearly. Even loved particular moments. But this, this was not one of them.

—-

Eight hours later, K-2SO clomped dejectedly back to Jyn’s barracks. She had messaged him over the comms that it was unnaturally empty, and that she was concerned she hadn’t seen him all day. The queue for the oil baths was astonishingly long, but perhaps other droids had equally run afoul of septic systems base wide. He was self-conscious about his current state, but not self conscious enough to refuse to see her for hours yet.

K-2SO slid the bulkhead door open to find Jyn, alone on her palet. She was absent-mindedly pawing at her data pad, reading the various reports of the day - when her gaze slid to his own, her eyebrows raised in surprise. Her then, very assessing once-over, made him feel even more embarrassed than before. He could feel some distant processor heating up under the weight of it.

“That man is an idiot.” He said in binary, a growling - clicking warble. “Lieutenant Krabe.”

He wanted to be discreet just in case someone was listening. One of the corners of Jyn’s mouth quirked upward.

Jyn understood him perfectly now. And he was pleased. Late nights bantering back and forth had showed her natural aptitude for it. It felt like their own secret language sometimes. He used it so that snarky comments reached her ears only, in rooms filled to the brim with morons. Sometimes, he even enjoyed purring Jyn covert endearments that made her entire face turn a vivid pink.

But this time her expression blossomed into equal parts worry and amusement. Perhaps later would be the time for flirtations. When he didn’t smell like rancid waste.

“What did you do this time?” She chided, half-laughter, half accusation.

“I didn’t do anything.” Kay grumbled. “They sent me to rectify a fault in the septic system. And I spent the past hour arguing with Lieutenant Krabe about installing a heating system below the base. His argument is that adding unnecessary heat could be dangerous- as it could be picked up by enemy thermal sensors. My argument is that I spent the past seven hours wallowing in refuse.”

Jyn’s eyes narrowed dangerously, in the way he knew that it meant there was a sixty-seven percent probability she would punch someone in the face.

“As far as anyone knows I am not sentient,” He hastily added. “And that I don’t have any real preferences. Moreover, I cannot get sick from waste, and if I am damaged I can be repaired. I also am one of the dexterous droids the rebellion has in this capacity. It was a logical decision. Nothing personal.”

“Is this really what you want?” Her expression softened.

She would drop it for him, and let it go. Even if her knew it pained her to do so. But the inquiry was also about how he was treated.

It was a hard subject to approach with many of the rebellion. Some of the longer lived beings still remembered the Clone Wars keenly. Most of the leadership acknowledged Kay as an equal - but that hadn't really changed the perception of him at large. The idea of a droid with more independence would unsettle many.

Besides, the complaints seemed particularly petty when good people were dying every day for freedom.

“No. But this is what we have.” He hummed. “And I will repair hundreds of septic systems to even have this.”

Jyn almost huffed a laugh then. He could see it in the way he bit her lips. But her eyes were sad and shining.

“I would, you know, hug you, if you weren’t covered in probably ten different kinds of shit.” She said finally.

“I’ll accept the metaphorical embrace for time being, and the endearing sentiment.” He replied, trying to shunt out his continued embarrassment. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll make my way to the oil baths-“

“No, no. I’ve got this.” She waved at him. “I have Cassian’s old maintenance kit under my bunk.”

He looked down at his chassis. Muck still clung heavily to his joints. A sloppy mess sloshed in the bowl-like structure that his neck rested in. All in all, he looked absolutely disgusting.

“You don’t have to.” He shook his head. “I don’t think it would be particularly pleasant for you.”

“Just let me do this for you.” Jyn insisted. “You take care of me all the time.”

“I generally don’t have to bathe you.” He rubbed his arm self consciously. A human tick he couldn’t quite get rid of.

“But would you, if I needed you to?”

“With one hundred percent certainty.”

“Then I’m also here, for you, with one-hundred-percent certainty.” She smiled, that warm smile that he identified that was just for him. “Just head to the freshers and I’ll grab some brushes.”

The prospect did seem more enjoyable than waiting hours in line, letting the fluid he was covered in corrode his outer coating of paint.

He finally nodded in assent.

—-

The freshers were also empty. His internal clock verified it was meal time at the mess hall. And perhaps he was a little angry Jyn was skipping another meal for his sake. But perhaps this was not the time to mention it.

Later.

Later he would also sneak her some rations. And maybe they could walk out to the hanger, where the Falcon was parked and hop aboard. Sometimes Captain Han Solo was kind enough to allow them some privacy. Sometimes.

Kay took a little initiative and began to rinse off in one of the larger stalls, picking at the most offensive of the grime until the water ran clean. He wouldn’t be able to get into the tighter spaces - but this was the very least he could do. The stalls were both equipped with sonics and water, but he chose water at this time. Sonics sometimes worked too slowly for larger bits of organic matter, and screamed loud enough that Jyn’s teeth would rattle. Kay hadn’t seen it first hand, of course. But she complained enough nights to know where her preferences had lain.

His audio receptors heard the telltale click - and subsequent lock of the bulkhead door, leaving them to their privacy. Technically, locking the bathrooms was not allowed - but that didn’t stop Jyn from using the override codes K-2SO had conveniently shared with her.

The echoing of Jyn’s footsteps reverberated off the walls. Then the hiss of fabric dropping to the tile.

Much to his surprise, a very naked Jyn pried open his shower door and slid inside. Their bodies were almost flush in such tight quarters. He actually shouldn’t have been surprised. Her nudity made a logistical sort of sense, but If he still had the ability to blush, he would certainly be doing so now.

It was almost impossible to ignore the creamy expanse of skin she possessed. The pert breasts. The dark curls of hair between her thighs. And the long lines and shadows of raw, sculpted, human muscle. Or the fact that if he still had a tongue he would be tempted to lick up the rivulets of water that ran down her body.

“Hey.” She said hummed softly. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Hello.” He looked her in the eyes, no lower.

“I see you already got to work.” She have him an arch look.

“I-I figured it was the gentlemanly thing to do.”

“Speaking of gentlemanly. I know what you’re doing. You know you can look at me, right?” She huffed. “I’m not sure where you got this shyness from. It’s not like you had it before.”

“To be fair, I didn’t realize I was attracted to you before. And also your consent is incredibly important to me.”

“You’re incredibly adorable, you know that?”

“I don’t think I agree with your assessment. I was built for what essentially is murder. Not adoration.”

“And yet I do so adore you.” She smiled.

He relaxed at that. The servos standing at attention in his shoulders leeched their pressure. And somehow everything bled the tension he’d been holding all day. She was his. He was hers. It was how everything was meant to be.

Jyn grabbed a sonic brush and began to softly scrub. At first between the joints of his wrist. And It felt- it felt almost indescribable. Addictive. He ratcheted up his haptic feedback array immediately. It wasn’t as good as human skin on human skin - but it was almost enough. It was almost what he had felt and been those too few days, those too few weeks.

And he still wanted more.

Jyn continued to his fingers, moving crease by crease, joint by joint. Hyper-detailed in her attentions. And he, hyper fixated on her movements. He imagined a litany if scenarios. Of her wet heat against his metallic thighs. Of her touch threading through the most intimate of his wiring. But the most prominent one was her, taking his fingers into her hot, wet mouth.

Unbidden he bucked into her. Another, leftover, embarrassing human tick.

“Oh, you like that.” Jyn’s mouth slanted, almost deviously if he didn’t know any better. “I thought droids couldn’t get aroused like that.”

“Apparently I’m full of surprises.” He admitted, full of self deprecation.

“Hey now. I like surprises.” She kissed his knuckles, “Especially this one.”

“I still don’t know why you put up with my malfunctioning pile of parts.”

“The same reason you put up with mine. Because they’re sexy.” She winked, and then - took his forefinger and middle finger into her mouth.

And all the world ended in boiling heat.

Teeth dragged under the pads of his fingers. Her tongue swiped at partlines and seams. The wetness, the warmth. Pressure. Endless, changing pressure. And then the idea that Jyn Erso was doing this. The woman who had basically saved the galaxy, was doing this - for him. Because he had enjoyed it.

He garbled something in binary. It was almost incoherently subharmonic - but it was something like a plea. He hadn’t really begged until Jyn came along, but she was quick to shove him to his hypothetical knees.

This wasn’t some back-alley grind. Or a dirty starship. There were no lies. No pretense. Just him. Just her, loving him.

Kay lost control. He pressed her against the stall wall. Grinding. He took his other hand and pressed it between her legs. Every fiber of his being was consumed with want. She bore her neck, her body, her tongue as it laved into the divots of his palm.

Jyn rode him - and he pressed harder. And harder, and harder. An escalation that kept climbing to the stars. He wasn’t sure if he could currently orgasm - but he chased the high like a loth-wolf, intent on its prey.

Until Jyn’s gasps… took a different tenor. His sensors picked up something was wrong. Very wrong.

He abruptly stopped.

Even if it felt a little like dying again.

The water that was flowing into the drain was tinged pink. A gash was weeping blood on Jyn’s upper thigh. And the blood on the sharp rim of his pelvis named him the culprit.

“Jyn I’m so sorry.”

Jyn, for her part looked confused. Still aroused, but confused.

“I hurt you.” He clarified.

She looked down at the cut and she shrugged. As if this would be another scar to add to her number. He didn’t mind her scars, but didn’t like there would be one caused by him. And her utter nonchalance floored him.

Kay pulled away further to examine the wound. It wasn’t deep, nor long. And it looked like it was already beginning to clot - even under the shower.

“No- it’s fine really. Just a scratch.” Jyn tried to soothe. “Don’t worry about me.”

He still prodded at the thin red line, until finally satisfied with her assessment. His thumb gently swiped away the blood under the endless spray.

“I can keep going,” She purred. “I want to keep going.”

She ground into his palm.

Kay shook his head and pressed his forehead against hers, his arms holding her against him. He could not kiss her, not like this, but he made due. In the shower, with both of their bodies pushed together. It felt like more than the pressing of lips. It felt like home.

But there was something he had to say. Because if he didn’t say it now, he might never.

“I am… scared.” K-2SO began. “But maybe I should try again. We should try again. The body is stable in cryo.”

Barabas Eret Kayterren survived the trip back from Lahmu without too much consequence, for all of Jyn’s attempts at murder. The situation was complicated to explain- and Leia urged secrecy of the medical staff - for all of their sakes. It was deemed that the body should remain in cryogenics until a choice was made, one way or the other.

Some days he forgot about the body completely. Others he itched for it with a single minded intensity it was hard to concentrate. Jyn never prodded. She maintained the choice was his alone. And the rebel leadership agreed with her.

In very human way he avoided the subject. Not because it was politically complicated, but for the fact he was riddled with uncharacteristic fear.

“You did this before.” Jyn’s voice was warm, warmer than the water from the showerhead. Where he expected blame, and derision - he found none.

“Yes but I didn't have anything to lose before.” His hand wound itself against the column of her neck. “You heard what the surgeon said. If we tried to reconnect again- there’s a very chance I could destroy the body, myself, or both. Or be fragmented in such a way that I’m two incomplete halves. No one, not even the scientists the rebellion has at their disposal, knows the intricacies that may be required.”

“Then you don't have to do this. It's okay.” Jyn pressed herself impossibly closer, even with her scratch. “Who ever you choose to be is more than enough for me. No matter what you look like, you will always be you, to me. I promise. I don’t want to lose you either.”

“No. Logically this is my only recourse.” His vocoder mumbled into her hair. “I want us to be able to hold hands without someone staring. I want you to not to have to avoid all of my sharp parts, I want you to have someone soft to hold at night. I want you to be able to have children if you so chose.”

“I'm perfectly fine without those things.”

“Well. Maybe I'm not. Maybe I don't like the thought of you growing old without me. Maybe I would like to actually have sexual intercourse with you in the sonic shower. And maybe I hate the way your face gets when people treat me like a servant. And maybe I’ll always hate myself if I don’t try to change it.”

He tilted her chin up so that she would look at him. So that she could see how serious he was, even if he didn’t possess facial expressions. He had hoped Jyn’s imagination could fill in the blank spaces. A forehead crease, a set mouth, and unwavering gaze.

“I want to do this for both you and me.”

“Then I won’t stop you.” Jyn sighed finally. But she took his chin, in return, and just as firmly. “But no matter what happens, you’ll let me do this with you this time. Every step of the way. Deal?”

He wasn’t sure what he ever did to deserve her. Or deserve this. But it didn’t stop him from pressing their bodies together again. Metal against skin. Human against droid. A contrasting impossibility.

“It’s a deal.” He said.

Chapter Text

"I'm wasted, losing time.
I'm a foolish, fragile spine.
I want all that is not mine.
I want him, but we're not right.
In the darkness I will meet my creators,
And they will all agree, that I'm a suffocator.

 

It turned out to be one of the worst deals Jyn Erso had ever made.
——
The whole procedure was overly complicated. Jyn couldn’t even remember half the effort involved or half the written algorithms that Kay would spend his nights writing and rewriting. The graphs. The charts. The equations. The space under her bed was stuffed with battered datapads, schematics, and even more surprisingly, precious paper.

She would fall asleep at night staring at her droid, as is fingers moved too fast to see and his eyes flickered in the quiet dark.

Jyn wanted to convince herself that this was for the best. But worry gripped her like it never had before. What K-2SO said under the spray of the shower was probably true: before this he had nothing to lose before. As it turned out, Jyn discovered, neither had she. It was a incredibly unsettling sensation realizing she now possessed something more dear to her than her own life.

But even the medical staff was dubious. And that was hard to reason away, no matter how many times her droid tried to convince her. K-2SO’s positronic brain was, in their terms, corrupted. It was unstable and wholly unlike the patterns encountered in other, standard machines. There were rumors of other droids with the same proclivity for sentience - but none were in the rebel alliance’s number. Not even R2-D2 shared in that uniqueness.

So they didn’t even have a map to follow in terms of transition. Just a blueprint of his system as it currently was, and the hope that the exact blueprint would transfer onto organic matter without damaging either host.

Barabas’ body wasn’t in the best of straights either. It was intact, sure. But the muscles had atrophied, and the body had almost been starved beyond recognition. It took weeks to even get it back into acceptable physical condition.

The whole thing was an ill-advised and messy leap of faith. But Jyn kept true to her promise, despite her multitude of concerns. She loved him. Kay’s life was his own. Even if she was worried half to death over it.

She did remember, however, saying, “I love you.” When he slipped onto the gurney. She remembered holding his hand, and how it shook, when he said he loved her too.



When K-2SO woke up from the procedure, it was in binary.

Not the language, but in form.

Both bodies woke up screaming. A wordless, undulating howl. It wounded Jyn Erso to the core. She would have ripped her own skin off to get it to stop.

She swiftly jumped from her seat on the observation platform, into the medical ward - much to the dismay of the head surgeon and various droids. Jyn wasn’t wearing the appropriate sanity clothing, Nor was she particularly clean. But the look in her eye more than entitled her presence. She also had a blaster. No one seemed inclined to argue with her.

So at his side she stayed- though all she could do was be there, hoping he could feel her presence. Hoping that his sensors could pick up her heartbeat, or that his human chest could feel the warmth of her hands as he tore himself to shreds. She even wedged herself between both gurneys. Knees bruising against tile. Contorted in such a way she spanned both beds- silently listening as his voices became more and more raw.

After ten minutes Kay passed out, and the droid stopped screaming.

Jyn took in the walls of the medical bay through watery eyes and the sudden silence. White, blinding and sterile. There was little comfort here. Just biting phosphorescents and consoles that jittered various incomprehensible readouts. More than anything she just wanted to go back to a few nights ago, warm and safe in the barracks, with K-2SO wrapped snugly around her.

—-

When Kay woke up again, he was human. But terrified. He couldn’t recognize anyone, not even Jyn. Though he called for her incessantly. She preferred screaming to the repeated, desperate syllables of her own name. It was all she could do not to fall completely apart then.

It was only when the droid part of him booted up - that he finally calmed down. He blinked - and the world seemed to focus with him.

“Jyn.” He croaked, with two broken voices. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Tears slid down her cheeks. It almost felt like relief. At that moment, staring into his clear blue eyes was all that she had ever wanted. Eyes that saw her finally.

“It’s okay, I’m here.”

Oddly, it was his metallic hand that took her own. It was an hell of a thing to parse - but she ignored it for the time being. Intent was intent.

“I’m scattered.” He coughed. “So scattered. It’s like My thoughts aren’t moving correctly-“

“Success.” A medical droid interrupted. “The patient has survived the procedure intact.”

Jyn was about to growl at the assessment - but saying what she actually thought in front of Kay might make matters worse. She glanced upward to find Leia and Luke watching from the observation deck - both carried looks of great distress. In the far corner, behind a pillar - she could make out the Captain of the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo. The cherry of his lit cigarette flaring briefly in shadow.

“I’m here Kay. I’m here. And I’m not leaving you, not for a second.”

Multiple hands gripped her tightly.

——

As it turned out, ‘Success’ was an over statement. Kay was struggling with a litany of problems.

Breathing. Seeing. Thinking. Feeling. He was fragmented. Scattered, as he said. After some cursory investigation - the surgical and mechanical
staff concluded that was fact. A large portion data banks had not made the transition- and the shared amorphous space between his selves was trying to rectify itself.

It was discovered that his organic self wouldn’t be able to leave the direct area of the wireless transmitter attached to his chassis. If he got out of range he would inevitably pass out and be back in his droid body. He had a twenty five foot radius at best.

And even so, that connection was unstable. He would flip back and forth between body, like a person changed clothes - and never on purpose. Between place and place. He was disoriented, unpredictable, and exhausted. It was inconsistent as any oceanic tide, and viscous as any undertow. His new and current state was a cloud of schizophrenia and body dysphoria.

What was the worst of it all, what almost broke Jyn - was he almost always looking for Jyn. He didn’t stop
calling out to her, even if sometimes she was right in front of him.

She tried to tell him stories, although she was a terrible story teller. She didn’t have the imagination, but she tried. She spoke about Jedi, and fallen masters. Of starships so far flung into the void, they were only found derelict thousands of years later. She even spoke about her life - and how she came to love him. Just in case that data cache became inaccessible.

Fear still colored most of her days.

Yes, his human body could see and breathe, but the droid would be the one that could remember.

—-

Over the coming weeks both bodies would show up in the strangest of places around the base. Random control rooms, mess halls, bathrooms. Inside a fresher fully clothed.

She tried to watch him. She really did. But sometimes she needed to get water, or grab a jacket, or something quick and mundane. But In the span of seconds, he would be gone.

Today she spent two hours searching of him. Two whole hours terrified he was actually outside of the base, frozen to death.

Eventually, Jyn found him - human body wrapped up in at least five different blankets on the hallway floor of the Millennium Falcon. The human body was sleeping fitfully and shaking. She checked his pulse - and then moved towards the cockpit. Where the droid was seated. His eyes tracked at Chewie welding spots of the hull, while Han Solo was in the middle of another bellowing fit.

“Hey.” Jyn said.”

“Hello.” Came a clipped reply.

“You doing okay?” Jyn tried to make her voice careful and warm, but she could hear the sharp edge of fear that colored the vowels. “Sleeping in the hallway can’t be comfortable for you.”

“Nothing is comfortable for me anymore.” A monotone statement, but one that sang an aching anguish.

“Then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I sat in your lap.”

He shifted to make it comfortable for her, and in return she draped herself across his knees. When his human body was sleeping, Kay slipped into absolute lucidity. She both welcomed it, and hated that she did. She didn’t want to give up on this. Not if Kaytoo didn’t want to.

And seeing him as a lucid droid, and preferring it, felt like giving up.

“I’m not sure how much of this I can take.” He said finally.

She glanced up at his face. Dark, emotionless planes. Once again she was reminded of a sea. Steady, as dark glass - with stars above, and roiling life underneath.

“Yeah. Ice planets are the worst. I can’t even find a decent drink around here. The swill they give us could barely light a match.”

“Jyn, you know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

She scrunched her face.

“But I don’t want to give up, not yet.” He continued.

“Then we won’t. Simple as that.”

“I do not understand you. Why do you put up with this. I see the way the other humans watch you when they think you aren’t looking. You could have the pick of any of them. Male, female, and probably other species too. Why choose dealing with this every day?”

Jyn disliked this conversation. She was asked this far too often. And not always explicitly by Kay. She didn’t know how to fix the fault in his code that didn’t believe her when she said she wanted this - so instead she delefected.

“Kay, lets go to bed, okay?” She sighed.

“I don’t like the barracks. I don’t like my assigned bunk. It’s too far away from you.”

“Fine, then we’ll sleep here.”

“The Captain would disapprove.”

“Good thing I technically outrank him.”

Before Kay could reply, Jyn made her way back to the hallway. And began to bundle the human on the floor against her chest. He smelled like soap and sweat and home.

“I can carry myself fine, thank you.” K-2SO grumbled.

“You aren’t very heavy.” Jyn replied, giving the droid an arch look. “If you ate more, maybe I’d let you handle it.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Excuse me. Of everyone here, at this base - I believe you’re the one known for talking.”

It was only a few steps to the guest quarters, but even in that small amount of time the weight in her arms had roused itself. Blue eyes found hers, sad and aching.

“I love you.” He said.

Jyn looked back at the droid in the hallway, who had abruptly stopped. The optics of his eyes flickered.

“I love you too.”

She gently placed him down towards the bed. The sheets were already rumpled. But he didn’t seem to care
really. It was almost terrible how much she wanted him to complain. To say how humans were repulsive and dirty. How he wasn’t comfortable wallowing in someone else’s fluids.

Instead he was silent as she slid to bed next to him.

The droid stood stock still in the corner.

“Come on.” Jyn opened the coverlet.

“The bed is small.”

“I don’t give a shit. Come on.”

Kay hesitated. The body next to her shook, and the noise that same out sounded suspiciously like sobbing. She turned her body to cradle his. If there was any warmth left in her to bestow, it would solely belong to him alone.

The droid finally slid in next to her. His arms had enveloped her own. They fit together like puzzle pieces on a bed much too small. She listened to his heartbeat. The thrumming if his new internal battery. The pulse that thrummed inside her ears. Slipping into dreams should have come easy.

But sleep came restlessly, especially since not two, but four hands clung to her desperately, and four pairs of legs tangled with her own.

It was if she wasn’t enough, now that his need had multiplied. And that was a nightmare from which there was no waking.

The thought left her even more hollow than the sleepless night.

—-

“Do you think I'm old?” Kay asked.

He, once again, was not where she expect him to be. His new designated bunk was empty - but from the open male’s designated fresher doorway she could see he was staring into the mirror. Intensely.

His droid body was slumped in a corner, but it’s eyes followed her.

Jyn frowned, not sure of how to answer. His human body was a bit older, yes. A little over a decade than her own. The bio-medical scanners registered forty-five galactic standard years. No silver hair yet, but when he was like this, haggard, starving, and withered from disuse- he did seem older than she remembered. He looked tired. Tiny lines had creased themselves into his forehead and circled his mouth. Light patchy stubble decorated his jaw like metallic shavings. His eyelids had a thin-skinned bruised quality, like someone had decked him twice. She approached him from behind quietly and caught one of his pale, sweaty palms with her own.

She loved him anyway.

No, scratch that, she loved him. No anyways. All of him. The black droid armor, the sallow skin. The bright blue eyes, the white optics the shone like two small stars.

“I think you're perfect.”

He squeezed her hand. “I know I'm not as young physically as you are. Or as aesthetically pleasing. And if anything I've somehow become less so.”

“Obviously that was never an issue.” Jyn huffed. A small laugh - but Kay was still staring at his reflection grimly, not meeting her gaze. He looked intense, almost angry.

“Do you still love me?” He said after some time.
His voice was small and uneven. “Even after all this?”

“Of course I do, target practice. What a silly question to ask.”

Suddenly his brow furrowed, crumpled like ruined fabric. The set of his jaw wavered and his lips stretched themselves thin. Pale skin became a terrible shade of pinkish red and his eyes glinted silvery bright.

She rubbed his hand gently. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Tears spilled down his cheeks, his voice wavering like he was trying to keep a leash on it before it ran away from him.

“Hey there,” she crooned. “Shhh- what's the matter?”

“I just-” he hiccuped. “I just can't process any of this. Being this way. I feel… wrong. Like I've done nothing to earn this. You. Even if I’m struggling. Like I've stolen something precious but I don't know who it belonged to in the first place. It's overwhelming. Humans cry when they are overwhelmed.”

Jyn had no clue what to say at this. It was so, so very strange seeing him this way. Not pretending to be anything else but him. Knowing that this was her friend and her lover pressed down into one singular focal point.

“So what if you did? You're here now with me and I'm not leaving you.”

Her mouth found his and he tasted like salt. She kissed the tears away until his skin was sweet once again. Bitterness should have no dominion over this moment.

She knew a little what he was getting at of course. The moral implications of taking someone else's body, someone else's life were starting to weigh on him. The good doctor, or more specifically, medical droid, was proving to be correct. K-2SO was not the same droid who left Yavin IV all those moons ago. Hell, he probably wasn't even really a droid anymore, but something wholly different. Interfacing directly with an organic brain changed the very way his thought processes were composing themselves. For better or for worse.

She could describe to him what guilt was. The sour feeling in the pit of a stomach, the cold in the back of your neck. The feeling of blood leaving you face and you heart diving straight into your intestines. But then what would he do with it? And more importantly wasn't she just as guilty?

They both stole something. But the truest truth of it was that Jyn couldn't really be bothered to give it back, nor did she feel all that bad. She's a thief and a well bred liar. Of course she knows the score, but she'd spent most of her life ignoring it. That used to be her talent, not owing shit to anyone. And she would teach it to Kaytoo as well- well, reteach it. His whole ‘not giving a damn thing’ got lost on his way to becoming human.

It was adorable, but inconvenient.

The best she could do at this juncture was to table guilt for a day when the world wasn't falling down around their ears. A day when the empire didn't loom imminent. Kaytoo was warm and alive in her arms. And not suffering an identity crisis. Maybe on a nicer planet.

Jyn pulled away gently.

“I’m sorry.” He said. “For being so inconsistent. I’m trying to fix it. I am fixing it. It will just take some time. I know it hasn’t been the greatest experience for everyone involved. I want you to know, really know - that even when I didn’t see you, or recognize you. I always knew you were there. Even if I scared you.”

“It’s okay. It’s really okay.”

“It will be.” He affirmed. “It’s getting better. I know where I am now. And I’m figuring out how to cope. It’s actually pretty simple. The extra body is like an extra limb. No more, no less.”

“And how did you figure that out?”

“Because of what you said. No matter matter what I look like - I will always be me, to you. It’s just my perspective that’s changed.”

Chapter Text

"Leave what's heavy,
What's heavy behind."


It had been multiple standard months since they had arrived on Hoth. It was still blistering cold, but for the most part secure.

K-2SO had eventually rectified himself. Operating both bodies at the same time was no small task - but he managed it. He pulled himself together if only for the sake of Jyn.

Balancing long days being human, long nights being a droid had stretched him thin. But not to breaking. Never to breaking, Jyn made sure if that. His droid body could even do tasks while he was awake. They were rudimentary, for certain, but useful.

Surprisingly, during her time on Hoth, Jyn had proven herself capable of espionage, but more importantly diplomacy. No one would have expected it to be her strong suit- but no one had ever given her the opportunity before either. She was once Saw’s second, and as such afforded more respect by smaller splinter factions of the rebellion and rallied them to the primary cause. She ended up shooting less and talking more.

Kay on the other hand, decided he very much liked shooting more and talking less. Once deemed fit for duty- he had integrated himself in what was left of the Yavin IV Rogue Squadron. And while he initially preferred piloting a U-wing, he soon became acquainted with the mechanics of the T-47 airspeeders. He, and his droid body were capable of manning both positions. Which was fine by him, he preferred being by himself in such cases. It meant less room for error.

But it also meant Jyn and Kay spent a lot of time apart. It became a rarity that Kay was needed as an escort for Jyn's missions - and there was no room in the snowspeeder cockpit for her unless she sat on his lap. Not that he would complain.

Something still nagged at the back of his circuits though. He wasn't sure if it was their time apart, or the lack of physical intimacy since he regained his human body. They had not had human sex yet - but Kay hadn't approached the subject either. Neither did Jyn. Part of it was the lack of privacy. Bunks were grouped in rooms of sixteen. And while Jyn's assigned bunk was not far from his, (as much as he complains otherwise) it felt like a universe away. They could share at night if they were sneaky - but the space around them was always occupied. Sex was not something you shared with non-consenting lifeforms.

They also kissed from time to time, when they could manage to find a corridor alone. Sometimes Jyn would use her teeth and tongue in endlessly exciting ways - but that was it. And honestly he was fine with it. More than fine. But something in his blood was also hot and frustrated. He wanted more in some ways, and Jyn seemed like she was perfectly content to keep taking stolen corridor opportunities - lewd as they sometimes were.

Which was fine. It really was.

But also Kay had no idea how to perform for her in that way. And he was afraid he would do such a poor job she would search for another suitor.

Or maybe this was more casual than he had hoped. Maybe she was getting bored of him already. She wouldn't blame her for it - but the thought scalded anyway.

And today, because of these scalding thoughts, he was in the sparring gym.

He needed to build and maintain muscle mass of course. But more importantly he needed to relieve some pent up energy. Organic beings were difficult to operate. Sometimes he was listless, other times he felt he could run circles around the base, neck deep in snow. It was inconvenient that he was unable to allocate resources properly.

And if he was even more honest, he was here specifically because he wanted to punch the daylights out of a certain cadet.

This certain cadet that had no issue mentioning the plenitude of Jyn’s assets while she was in earshot.

The same cadet happened to also be using the gym.

How convenient.

Kay eyed the young man at the opposite end of the gymnasium. His name was Erdil Higgs. He looked almost human - if not for the horns that curved upwards from his skull. A pointy crown that suggested Zebrak heritage. Muscles corded his thick frame, and he moved with a grace that was enviable.

Kay’s own body was pathetic in comparison, but that didn’t stop him from imagining strangling him slowly.

Instead, his droid body held up a punching bag. Kay hit it over, and over, and over, and over. His knuckles cracked, his muscles burned. It became a rhythm of agony and expression. His chest heaved. His skin became slick with sweat.

An hour passed easily. He was glad that he wrapped up his hands. That he chose a sleeveless shirt. And the fact that the walls were made of solid ice.

“Well, hello there.” Came a seductive rumble at his side.

And next to him, as if pulled from the ether, was Jyn Erso.

It was then that he realized he hadn’t cooled off at all. All the energy thrumming through his veins was still, somehow, unspent.

“I was wondering where you were. Hey.”

He looked down at himself. Sweat had pooled across his chest. His skin was flushed and pink. Veins stood out in relief against his forearms. Staring through his optics, he concluded that perhaps this was not his shining moment.

Jyn however looked casual. Infuriatingly so. She was even wearing a new jacket - blue with a fur lined hood. Her hands were stuffed inside her pockets - and with that sly smile on her face, he wished for all the world they were on his chest and up his shirt.

He wanted so terribly for her to be as equally disheveled.

“Hi.” Kay replied finally. His droid body lowered the punching bag to the floor.

It was at this moment Erdil Higgs decided it was time to preen. The young man stoke up to them with all the confidence youth could by. The swagger of his step made his intent obvious. As well as his predatory gaze.

“Can I help you?” Jyn said in a way that made it very clear she was not in the mood to help him.

“Looks like you’re free right now. What do you say you and me go have a drink.” Erdil oozed.

“I am sorry to inform you that Jyn Erso is already taken.”
He stepped in front of the man. Both of him. Barabas Eret Kayterren might not be the most intimidating, but he was certain a murderous droid would convey the message. “Also it smells like you’ve already had enough to drink.”

“I don’t see your name on her.” His lip curved upwards cruelly. “In fact, I did some digging. You barely have a name yourself. Droid.”

“That doesn’t matter.” His voice tripped over itself in anger. “And it doesn’t change the fact that she’s uninterested in you.”

“And she’s interested in you? Please. You’re a creature. It’s morbid fascination at the very best. Isn’t that right Jyn?”

But Jyn didn’t say a word. She was shaking. With rage, Kay had hoped. But maybe there was truth to Erdil’s words. Not much, but enough.

His mechanical fist clenched around Erdil’s throat, quick as a snap. It wasn’t even an effort to lift him from the ground. It would take even less to snap his spine.

“I don’t want to fight you.” Kay said. “But if you continue, I will lose my temper.”

And if Jyn asked, he would crush his windpipe. Even if he didn’t continue.

“Go on then. Lose your temper. You know if you hurt me there will be inquiries on your stability.” Erdil wheezed.

“Kaytoo, put him down.” Jyn said.

Kay’s fingers twitched with disappointment.

Erdil’s feet touched the mats. Even if the cadet was talking big game, Kay’s sensors could pick up his fear. It didn’t stop him, however, from continuing to mouth off.

“A freak and a dickless coward. Incredible. If she ordered you to watch as her mouth sucked my pretty cock, would you? I bet you would.”

But before Kay could even react, Jyn kicked the man square in the groin. The whine that escaped the cadets mouth almost moved him to pity.

“You said you didn't see his name on me. My name is on him.” Jyn hissed. “You insult him again, and you won’t have to worry about inquiries. I’ll kill you.”

It was then that Jyn Erso, in the middle of the gymnasium, kissed Kaytoo soundly. Her hand, winding itself into his sleeveless shirt.

Chapter Text

"I had it all planned out before you met me,
Was gonna leave early, so swiftly.
Maybe in a fire or crash off a ravine.
People would weep, "How tragic, so early".
I was gonna die young,
Now I gotta wait for you, honey.

Jyn dragged Kay down the hallway laughing. She wanted him. She wanted him like breathing. These weeks, these months, felt like suffocating. But she knew Kay needed space. He needed to heal. He needed to pull himself together. He didn’t need her desperation.

But seeing him, slick with sweat had her almost begging. She would have fucked him right in the gym if
It wasn’t for the loathsome and drunk company.

The droid body parked itself in the corner, as Jyn tore into the barracks. Her promotion finally gleaned her private quarters of her own. New as of just this morning. But they were spare and spartan - only lit up by her company.

Regardless, that’s why she visited Kay in the gym. It was about time to surprise him with good new instead of bad. Her own giddyness tasted of the finest whiskey.

She stripped off her jacket and patted the bed.

But suddenly Kay looked dubious. As if he knew Jyn’s devious plan to finally screw him into oblivion tonight.

“What are we now?” He asked. His eyes took in the room, looking everywhere but her.

“What do you mean?

Kay flopped on the bed dramatically, his lips still swollen from the kiss, eyes still pinpoints from the confrontation earlier. Uncertainty crept back into his features.

“Well, I never really asked. Are we officially in a committed relationship?”

“I don't think it gets more committed than this, Kay.” Jyn pulled his head into her lap and kissed the tip of his nose. “And it’s my intention that we share this bed moving forward.”

“Are you sure? You won't get bored of me? I would get bored of me”.

“Ugh… Kay.” Jyn sighed and adjusted. She dug her fingers into hair and massaged his scalp. His hair was terribly soft.

“What?”

“What would it take for you to believe that I would never leave you?” She ruffled his hair playfully. “I even performed a miracle. I found us a room. Finally.”

He shook his head slightly.

“From a logical standpoint i'm not sure what else you could do. I have never felt like this before or have been in a relationship like this. You have proven adequately that your affections are real. Repeatedly.” He sighed long and hard, pushing into her touch. “But some part of me just needs time to adjust. And another part of me is afraid that someone more aesthetically pleasing would come along. Someone more human. And maybe another very small part of me thinks I’ll do something to warrant you shooting me again. All in all, it's a lot of parts. Too many In my opinion. But I can't help it. And now I'm probably babbling.”

Jyn paused then, thinking of the time she shot him. The memory ached like a broken tooth.

Kaye's hand lifted to touch her cheek, his head still nestled in her lap. There were things he didn't say there too. That even if she did all of those things he would still love her. Still forgive her.

And a question left her lips before she could think better of it.

“Would you marry me?” She asked quietly.

Kaye frowned, staring up at her with eyes blue as sapphires and frostbite. Sky and cobalt. He stared at her as if she just spoke in binary.

Jyn took the her crystal from around her neck and gently slipped it over his head. The pendant slid into the hollow of his throat and lingered against his clavicle. The leather cord loosely hung around his neck.

When K-2SO was finally repaired properly, he gave the crystal back. But Jyn, when she held it in her hand once more, felt a pang of disappointment. It felt like a peice had been returned to her that she never actually wanted back.

“I wore this because it reminded me of my father. And of my mother too. It was to remind me that they loved me above all else. It was that belief that carried me through parts of my life I would rather forget. And, maybe, it carried me to you.”

Jyn swallowed nervously.

“I know it's not a ring. But maybe when you wear it you can be reminded that I love you above all else. You're my stardust. A new beginning from an ending. This was yours long before you were Barabas. I just didn't figure it out yet.”

Kaytoo laid there barely breathing. His voice sounded so small when he finally replied.

“But I have nothing to give you in return.” He whispered. The corners of his mouth tugged slightly downward.

“I don't need anything in return.”

“Then how do I accept the proposal? How can I prove I love you the same way?”

“Just say yes, Kay. It's not astrogation. It's not a mathematical problem or statistic,”

“Yes.” He said finally. “I don't think no was even an option.”

But then he was upright, holding her. His body against hers. His grin was luminous, almost splitting his entire face in two. The way he looked, so perfectly happy, was like if the universe finally found light. Stars and moons were only pale shadows in the face of his incandescent smile. It was such a bright and soft thing that her own heart basked in its radiance.

“I love you. I love you. I love you.” He said against her throat, lips whispering across her skin. She could feel the curve of his smile against her jugular. “And I mean it. I mean it. I mean it.”

“How many times are you going to say it?” She reached up and threaded her fingers through his red hair.

“As many times as I want. Which will be very many times. I can run some calculations if you'd like.

“I'd rather you show me how much.”

“I thought you said I didn't need to get you anything in return.”

“You don't. You don't have to prove anything if you don't want to. But demonstrations of affection are traditional after a proposal.”

“Hmmm.” The low, playful thrumming of his voice tickled against her ear. “I could knit you a sweater.”

“But it would be a very ugly sweater.” She smiled and did a turnabout, flipping him over so that she was the one pinning him the bed. She bent in and grazed her lips across his sternum. His heartbeat fluttered faster and faster against her kisses.

“I-I could cook you something. I know humans like food” Kaytoo stuttered as Jyn traveled lower towards the dip in is navel.

“Ah, but would it be edible?” She smirked, letting her breath move across his skin. Her thumb grazed across one of his nipples, hard with arousal. The noise he made was like someone getting their throat cut.

“H-How about killing people.” He swallowed. I'm very good at that.”

She nipped at the base of his belly. At all that softness that she could roll herself in. No chiseled muscles- but that suited her just fine. More than fine. He had made himself soft just for her, and she had possessed so very few soft things in her life. And not even she was as soft as that milky expanse of skin subtly swelling itself across his stomach.

“You're alright. Nothing to write home about.” She breathed. his skin blossomed with bumps and tiny little hairs standing on end- like she was electricity. His Muscles struggled and contracted as her lips brushed the very edge of his pants.

“Then. I'm out of ideas it seems.” His voice came out strangled. White knuckled hands gripped the edge of the pallet.

“It's alright. I've got you covered.” She slid his pants down his hips ever so slowly. It was a little difficult with his cock tenting them, but she was good with her hands. The anguished noises Kaytoo was making seemed to attest to this fact.

“I thought you wanted me to show you?” He gasped. His length was exposed now, but he wasn't looking. His gaze was locked on the ceiling, while a bead of moisture glistened on the tip of his shaft.

“I think you're showing me already.” She snickered.

“You delight in torturing me.” He accused back through gritted teeth.

“Hey, torture is part and parcel with being alive. Welcome to the club.” She made a show of licking her lips and moved downwards once again. “Consider it payback for that time one the Falcon.”

But then Kaytoo growled, lips pulled back over his teeth. Canines gleaming in the fluorescents. Like something feral. It was unexpected, but good. Delicious even. He was slowly getting the hang of this. The last time he was human, he was hesitant.

This was a welcome improvement.

“Very scary.” She chided. His hand pulled her upwards and over. So that they were face to face once again. His pupils were blown wide and dark, only a hint of blue irises remained.

“Please,” He said, voice tight with want. “I might be a little new at this, but I do so very badly want to please you. Such as I am.”

“Such as you are. And what is that if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Target practice.” He smiled and kissed her roughly. Clumsy, but effective. His teeth dragged across her bottom lip while his hands traveled up her shirt. They traced paths along the divots of her ribs.

She pulled away quickly to shuck off her shirt and trousers, but as soon as she was finished Kaytoo’s attentions redoubled. Clever hands grazed her naked sides, sliding ever downwards. His mouth was painting a trail across her collarbone. He lit her up like a flight console.

She bucked and ground herself into his touch, the length of him sliding across one of her thighs. He was painfully erect by the look of it- but he seemed keen on taking his time. His thumb was drawing circles against her hip bone, teeth catching on the curve of her breast. A hand drifted beneath her parted thighs.

But she didn't want to be the one having all the fun.

She wanted to give and give and give. He had made a meal of himself to her, the least she could do is return the favor. She slid downwards out of his grasp, away from his mouth. Her own, hovering not very far from his groin.

“Not so fast Jyn Erso.” His voice was raw- like static if she didn't know better. He gathered her wrists and set them above her head. One hand was grasped around them like a vice. She was pulled back and up, her face now even with his own. “You are being detained.”

“The funny thing about me and being detained.” She gasped. “I always manage to escape.”

She twisted from his hands so gracefully, so elegantly, that a small part of her couldn't help but be proud. Her hips widened, slick and hungry. In the space of a second she caught him and sank downward.

And then silence.

She didn't realize how fast and loud they both were breathing until it stopped.

Kaytoo for his part looked very much like a fish- albeit an attractive one. His lips were parted, eyes huge and full like moons in orbit, face frozen like like slopes of Hoth. He was in unnaturally still, like he was suddenly a just a droid again. Robotic and completely empty of emotion.

“You okay in there?” She reached up and grabbed him, nestling his head against her shoulder. She flexed, easing, making room.

“Affirmative- yes.” He mumbled, lips muffled against skin.

She kissed his hair. He smelled like sweat, and sweetness and earth- but she also imagined the tang of lubricant, warm durasteel and plastic.

“Tell me when you're ready, okay?”

She could feel him, testing. The muscles of his pelvis experimenting with each micro-movement. As if he was undecided on how to proceed. He sighed long and hard- she could feel it vibrating to the core of her.

“I don’t… I'm not sure. Or at least not entirely sure.”

Jyn laughed and Kaytoo gasped.

“How is it that you were so spectacular before? As a droid?”

“...research. Positive feedback.”

“And I guess not feeling anything helped too.”

“Oh no. I felt you. Everything that I was, felt you. I can't quite explain it, but I did. Just giving you pleasure was enjoyable.”

“I've got you. Just follow my lead."

She led. And he followed.

Chapter Text

"Out of the dark day, into the brighter night."

 

Cassian had taken a laserbolt to the back, but that wasn’t enough to keep him down. Or the fall from the gantry. He only rolled his ankles; only fractured a rib, and then only maybe a concussion... that had caused him to pass out for a few minutes.

But he had suffered worse.

Was suffering worse.

He was forced to abandon the mission. And his friends. And that felt like a gaping, bloody wound in his rib cage. His heart railed and screamed while he ever logical head dragged him to an unoccupied tie fighter.

He was on autopilot.

More of a machine than K-2SO

Part of him had hoped from an aerial position he would be able to find Jyn Erso. Given her ascent up the data vault, she should have been at the very top of the comms tower. But when his stolen ship screeched into position she was nowhere to be found.

Only the corpse of Orson Krennic have him the mildest of hopes. That was, until, the death star initiated its firing sequence.

—-

Since the rebellion had swiftly fled Scarif, it left little choice for Cassian.

He was abandoned once again by the people he served. But he knew the choice. The survival of the rebellion matter than the lives of a few. And it wasn’t like Cassian was without means.

It was simple enough to pretend to be an injured pilot, or die in the vacuum of space. Given his head injury, uniform, and quick-tongued lies, no one bothered to question him too deeply. Amnesia was an acceptable diagnosis for his strangeness. And all the chief medical officers present already had their hands full.

----

When Cassian arrived at Hoth- it was after an unending age spent so deep under cover that his skin still crawled with the feeling of Imperial fatigues.

He answered questions upon questions until his own voice was hoarse. He answered questions until his own interrogator’s voice was hoarse. He was positively identified as Cassian Andor, but the rebellion was suspicious. As they should be. He wouldn’t trust any of them if they weren’t.

—-

Months later, Cassian was still relatively new to the Rebel base on Hoth. The tunnels were labyrinthine, and if he had a choice he wouldn’t be stationed there at all. It smelled like Tauntauns and misery. He was certain this was his own personal version of hell.

Unfortunately, orders were orders. The rebellion’s forces were consolidated at this focal point. It was too expensive currently to have Cassian on an away mission. Or anyone. Fiscal resources were slim. The victory over the Deathstar won many allies, but also increased rebel notoriety. It was getting harder and harder these days to pass through places unseen.

It left a lot of time to himself. Too much time.

He stared at walls. At pipes. At anything at all.

Time dripped by.

He was waiting for another opportunity to live.

Another opportunity to die.

----

Breakfast on Hoth consisted of a pitiful rendition of Taun-Taun soup. The lumps of meat are altogether fatty, chewy, and gamey. It was a hard slip to keep down - but Cassian is a practical man. He needs the energy for fights to come.

When things were quiet he often brought his bowl into the main hangar like this, and watched the base’s coming and goings. You could learn a lot about people when they thought no one was watching.

Today they were conducting repairs and upgrades on most of the ships in the hangar. Weather conditions grounded every airborne vehicle the rebellion had at its disposal. Droids skitter this way and that - fussing over cables and cleaning out exhaust ports in the downtime.

Cassian’s eye track to a U-wing that wasn’t too far from where he’s currently sitting. It’s oddly vacant of a mechanical entourage. Inside, however, his gaze picks out a lone figure that puttered around, tall and dark.

His heart almost leaps out of his chest in a cataclysmic flash of recognition.

K-2SO? The name, even in his head, carried with it a fierce rush of joy.

He’s on his feet and at the ship’s cargo bay in less than two heartbeats.

“Kay!” Cassian calls. “Kay!”

But the droid at the cockpit didn’t so much as move. Not even to turn around.

“Kay?” Cassian calls again. But still, no response.

It has to be K-2SO. He was the only Imperial droid the rebellion had. And even from this vantage point - the paint wis almost identical, if only more scuffed up.

He approaches the chair with new apprehension.

“No.” Cassian whispers quietly. “Please not a memory wipe. Please not a memory wipe.”

The droid continues to pay him no mind.

Cassian feels a sudden and exacting fury. Of course the rebellion would perform a memory wipe. Of course. He had owed them this as well, his best, his first, and his only friend. The universe continues to be unfair. It continues to burn him over and over like laserfire and magma. It’s another loss that hollowes him out whole.

Before Cassian even realizes it - he’s shaking the cockpit chair. Frustration claims his bones and commands his muscles. He no longer has any ownership.

“Hey! Leave him alo-“ A feminine voice cuts through the ship. “Cassian?”

He looks over, and there- their after all this time, is Jyn Erso. Beautiful and shining like a new star in the sky.

“Jyn?” Cassian is breathless. “JYN!”

He collides with her, and he squeezes her so tight he almost doesn’t see that there’s something different about her body. When he looks down he sees a small bump. She’s early along, but Jyn Erso is clearly pregnant.

But Jyn, quickly kisses him on the mouth. Her smile is snow in sunlight.

“How-“ Cassian begins, but is stopped by another man boarding the ship.

The intruder is handsome, Cassian supposes. Suspiciously too pretty, in all actuality- with sandy red hair, and eyes the color of glaciers. There’s a grace there that’s even more suspicious. He’s altogether too smooth- and Cassian’s instincts immediately jump to red alert.

“Well, well, well, this certainly is an unexpected surprise.” The man says, in a voice that’s oddly familiar.

Cassian’s fists clench beneath his sleeves. Hair prickles along the back of his neck. The tone of familiarity in this man’s cadence almost catches him off guard. Almost.

“Do I know you?” Cassian growls.

“Kay Erso,” He smiles. “At your service. I see you’ve already met my beautiful wife Jyn.”

Cassian frowned up at him. Kay was too very self-satisfied with the statement for his own liking. Too possessive. But Jyn elbows him in the side aggressively.

“Stop playing with him Kay. It's not like you to be cruel.”

“Oh you're no fun.” Kay says, mock affronted.

“Tell him.” Jyn commands.

“Fine.” He huffs, arms raised in surrender. “Fine. You win.”

Kay steps in front of Jyn. His eyes bore straight into Cassian’s. He’s still smiling, but the shape of it is off. The set of his face is almost challenging- the way his chin is raised high, the way his legs are spread apart - seemingly ready for a tussle. Or the way one would brace for impact.

“Do you remember me, Cassian? You must. Biologicals are forgetful, but usually not like this.”

Biologicals? What kind of game was this man playing? Cassian shook his head.

“What about him? Do you remember him?” Kay does a quick nod at the Imperial security droid that was once K-2SO.

“Of course I do.” Cassian sneers. “Why isn’t he responding to me? Memory wipe?”

“Well, firstly Because He is right here. In front of you. Not over there, or at least not just over there.” Kay rolls his eyes. And secondly his name isn't K-2SO anymore. Technically it's K-2RSO but he prefers Kaytoo Erso. His friends call him Kay. Or Kaye if you prefer.”

The universe stops. And Cassian’s brain skips like a stone on a lake. He isn’t processing the information - but something clicks. Because he absolutely believes the man in front of him.

Because he knows Kay. He’s known Kay. And this human man fills a droid shaped hole in his chest so suddenly and perfectly that even puzzle pieces aren’t as flush.

“Kay? But how?” Those three syllables are all Cassian can say.

“Cassian,” Kay’s voice hits a low note. He says it soft, apologetic and reverent. “I'm exceptionally glad to see you.”

The man, the droid- wraps his arms around him, a warm and unexpected embrace. Kay is a little taller, and he tilts his forehead against Cassian’s skull. It’s difficult not to relax into it. For he had not felt another human’s touch in what felt like millennia. And Jyn, not to be outdone, awkwardly comes in from behind. Her arms slinging themselves around his torso.

It feels like family, like home. The most natural thing in the world.

His vision is blurry. Tears slip from his eyelids before he can blink them back. Something is ricocheting in his rib cage. His heart, probably, if he still possessed such a thing. He thought he left it on Scarif. Crushed beneath the weight of corpses and fallen ships. Long past obliterated in a small apocalypse.

He couldn’t reconcile this. Wouldn’t reconcile this.

He must be dead. He has to be, for this to be any kind of real.

But Kaye, with infinite softness, his smile bright as any moon - uses his thumbs to smudge away the tears. Jyn’s hand skates at the nape of his neck, making small comforting circles.

The sound that escapes Cassian’s throat is the most pitiful whine in all of existence. He hates the noise, but it doesn’t stop. It just keeps going.

“It’s good to see you too.” He says finally.

There was more he wanted to say - but he was far too overwhelmed to let it spill out at a time like this. Not publicly. Maybe later - when they've had a drink or seven. He was so very curious to know what a drunk K-2SO was like. He wonders what he was like, soft around the edges. There’s almost a desperation to find out.

Kay finally pulled away - but he’s still beaming. Cassian suddenly decides that the smile looks good on him after all.

“So you and Jyn…” Cassian starts

“We are a couple. Yes.”

“So the baby is…”

“Mine. Yes.”

“Tell you what.” Jyn says, taking one of Cassian’s hands. “I know a place where we can find something to eat that’s not some miserable soup. We really do have so much to talk about.”

Both Jyn and Kay share a knowing look. Like some sort of agreement is being made.

“Yes, apparently there are some special provisions in the Beta hangar, if my assessment of our current outpost manifest is correct.” He agrees.

Cassian is hesitant. They both see, but before he can pull out of Jyn’s grip, K-2 grabbed his other hand. Trapping him there.

He doesn’t know what was going on. Or maybe he does because suddenly-

Kay is kissing him. On the mouth, skillfully. And Jyn’s thriving hands steal up his shirt - skating across his rib cage. Cassian has no choice but to relax into it. It tastes like ozone, and sweetness. It’s freedom. It’s light. It’s everything he thought was gone and torn out of him. Everything is buzzing. Purring. Roaring. He can’t hear anything else, except Kay’s voice when they finally break away.

“You are being rescued.” K-2SO says. “Please do not resist.”

And before Cassian can even say a word, both Jyn and Kay pull him from the ship - down into a secluded hallway, not to been by anyone for quite some time.