[Try explaining a life bundled with episodes of this—
swallowing mud, swallowing glass, the smell of blood
on the first four knuckles.]
Cassian Andor is nothing if not infuriatingly stubborn. Jyn has known this since practically the moment they met, but, even so, he still occasionally manages to surprise her with the sheer force of his obstinance.
“You’ve got to stop doing this,” she tells him, sternly, the third time she finds him leaving the medical bay without clearance. As with the other times, the immediate support for his readmittance is the fact that he hadn’t been able to travel more than approximately twenty feet on his own, and is, currently, leaning heavily against the rough stone wall, trying to catch his breath.
“I’m fine,” Cassian manages, wrapping an arm around his still-tender ribs. He holds up his other hand, as if to wave any of Jyn’s concerns away. “Just… resting a minute.”
Jyn crosses her arms over chest. “You haven’t been following your medical instructions,” she says.
She knows he hasn’t, because she had been at his bedside just days before, when they had been delivered by a medical droid, and they had included at least another week’s worth of bed rest. She doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that as soon as he had received several documents’ worth of physical therapy instructions, he had begun trying to check himself out of the medical bay unnoticed.
Now, she can understand his lack of enthusiasm to remain invalided while the rest of the Rebel base hums with activity. She herself does not enjoy long periods of inactivity, to say the least, and she’d had plenty of experience with the frustration of recovery. However, she also knows that all his premature dashing around on a broken leg accompanied several broken ribs is apt to cause serious problems sooner rather than later.
“How did you get out again?” she asks, frowning. After the first time he’d tried to leave without recommendation, and she’d found him collapsed outside her door, she had put the medical droids on strict instructions not to let him out of their sight. “Where are your crutches?”
Cassian coughs, avoiding her eyes. “I don’t have time for physical therapy,” he says, gesturing in what Jyn assumes is the direction of the conference room. “The Alliance needs me.”
Jyn’s mouth quirks. The man’s barely two weeks out from, according to K-2SO, possibly the worst injury of his life, can barely stand without help, and still refuses proper medical treatment. It’s undeniably foolish and unspeakably dangerous to his health, but it is also… somewhat admirable.
“What the Alliance needs,” she says, not unkindly, “is physically healthy soldiers, capable of, at the very least, walking down a hallway.” She takes his arm, wrapping it around her own shoulders so that he leans on her instead of the wall. He opens his mouth to argue, but she cuts him off with a look, leading him to the nearest bench. “And that’s not you. Not right now, anyway.”
“Well, it’s not you, either,” he says, accusation in his voice as she helps him sit back down. “You’ve been -- ah -- favoring your left leg since Scarif. Don’t try to deny it.”
“We’re not talking about me,” she points out. He isn’t entirely wrong about her leg -- she suspects she’d badly twisted her knee while climbing the data vault. However, her injuries were nothing compared to what he had suffered -- three fractured ribs and a leg broken in two places. They don’t even rank on the same scale. She can walk.
“I am talking about you,” he protests.
Jyn huffs out a long sigh. She thinks for a moment, then, “I’ll make you a deal,” she says, finally.
He eyes her. “Oh? And what would that be?”
She avoids his eyes. “Let’s say that I… may also need a limited -- limited -- amount of physical therapy.”
He says nothing, but his eyes brighten slightly in triumph.
She rolls her own eyes. “As do you,” she continues. “My point is, I’ll follow my medical orders if you follow yours. We can do them together.” And I can keep an eye on you, she thinks, privately.
Cassian just looks at her, a crooked smile playing at his mouth. “Jyn Erso, are you volunteering to be my physical therapist?”
She snorts. “Of course not. This is just as much for me as it is for you.”
He narrows his eyes at her. “And even if I say no, you’re not going to let this go, are you.” It isn’t a question.
“Do we have a deal or not?” is all she asks, offering her hand to shake.
Cassian pauses briefly, considering. Then, he takes her hand in his own warm, callused one, and shakes it once. “It’s a deal,” he says, and she has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling.
[You had not expected this,
the bedroom gone white, the astronomical light
pummeling you in a stream of fists.]
It’s an ungodly hour of the morning when the knock comes at her door. Four raps in quick succession, sharp and urgent, that wake her instantly. In less than three seconds, the blaster she keeps beside her cot is in her hand and she’s on her feet, moving quickly to the door.
She checks the viewer as she always does before opening the door, and finds Cassian resting on his crutches only a few inches away. Her heart gives a funny little thump, and she swings the door open.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, quickly. She hasn’t heard any alarms, but that didn’t mean anything. Yavin 4’s electricity is notoriously spotty.
“Ready for training?” he asks, instead of answering.
She squints at him. “What? What time is it?”
“Nearly daybreak,” he hedges. “So, are you ready?”
She turns back to peer at the chronometer on her nightstand. It blinks back at her. Two hours before dawn. She lowers her blaster to her side with a sigh. “Cassian, I thought something was wrong.”
He shrugs. “I just thought we could get an early start.” She can hear him shifting his weight, eager to get moving.
She frowns. “Earlier than the sun?”
“My rehabilitation, my hours.” He flicks on the light, and she winces at the sudden brightness. Jyn crosses her arms over her chest, remembering that she’s not wearing much more than a ratty old tee shirt and pants, sans undergarments.
“That wasn’t part of the deal,” she deadpans, sitting down again on the edge of the cot.
“No, up up, up,” he says, nudging her leg with his crutch. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it in.”
He’s not wrong. Anything they do in terms of rehabilitation is in addition to their regular work as members of the Alliance, not instead of.
She sighs. “Are you always like this in the morning?”
He shrugs good-naturedly, not rising to the bait. “Fest has very short nights. I'm used to sleeping a few hours and then getting back up again.”
“Well, I’m not,” Jyn informs him. There had been little to do in the Imperial prison camp but work and sleep, and she had developed a preference for a solid, uninterrupted five-to-seven-hour block of rest.
“Not yet,” he corrects. “But every good spy has to know how to survive on as little as two hours of sleep.”
He moves back into the hall, clearly expecting her to follow him.
“What if I don’t want to be a spy?” Jyn calls. “What if I want to be a desk jockey?”
She hears his snort from down the hall.
“Don't make me laugh,” he calls back. “It hurts my ribs.”
She groans, scrubbing her hands across her face. “I swear, I’m going to break your other leg,” she threatens, under her breath.
Then, she climbs back out of bed.
More quickly than Jyn can believe, training with Cassian becomes routine. Where, before, her mornings had begun at daybreak, they now start several hours earlier with any possible combination of stretching, flexibility work, roughing up the heavy bag or even a light jog. Afterward it’s on to breakfast, showers, and then the regular day’s work as members of the Rebellion. It’s exhausting, to be sure-- every night, Jyn is completely sure she’s never been so tired in her life, and is practically asleep before her head hits the lumpy pillow.
However, it is also well worth it. It is worth it to see the improvements in Cassian’s health as well as her own, both immediate and long-term. It is worth it to know that he is the first person she will see when she wakes up and likely the last before she sleeps. It is even worth it to be an established member of the Rebel Alliance with rank and documentation -- even if that rank is only that of a Private, and one on probation, at that -- which is something she had never cared about in the past but now sees the value in. It is worth it a thousand times over for every time he so much as looks her way with that light in his eyes, the one she’d first seen when he’d told her she was home.
[It wasn’t until we were well past the middle of it
that we realized
the old dull pain,
far from being subverted,
had only slipped underneath us, freshly scrubbed.]
Jyn’s in the middle of toweling her hair off when she hears the crash.
Just having gotten out of the refresher, she’s in the small side room that functions as a sort of changing room for the training room, doing her best to untangle her knot of hair in desperate need of a cut.
She pauses at the noise, and then thinks, Cassian. She’d left him maybe ten minutes before in the training room, under strict instructions not to attempt anything risky while she was gone. Naturally.
In no time, she’s in a clean shirt and leggings. She emerges, still dripping, to find him seated on the mat, glaring something fierce at the opposite side of the room. She follows his line of sight, then suppresses a sigh.
One of his crutches lies across the floor, slightly bent-- clearly a result of having come into violent contact with the wall.
“What’s the matter?” she asks, resting a hand on his shoulder. “What happened?”
“I didn’t fall, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he says, bitterly.
She kneels beside him. “Cassian, what’s the matter?”
He shrugs once, rough, avoiding her eyes. “I hate this part,” he says, finally. His eyes are too bright. “It’s embarrassing.”
Jyn hums in sympathy, shifting to sit cross-legged next to him, back against the wall.
She knows the feeling -- she hates recovery, always has. She had hated it when she was six and twisted her ankle during a particularly exciting adventure with Stormy, she had hated it when she was twelve and broke her arm training as part of Gerrera’s cadre, she hates having to baby her leg now, hated wearing the uncomfortable fabric knee support and making sure she doesn’t overwork it. And Cassian is the same way -- he’s like her, he thrives on action. They are neither of them suited to the slow plod of nursing their damaged bodies back to health.
“No one resents you, you know,” she says, after a moment. The sincerity in her voice surprises her. She hadn’t known what she was going to say until she opened her mouth, but now she continues, “Your colleagues know you need time to heal. You’ve been through a great deal.”
He gives her a weary smile. “So have you.”
“Yes, but I didn’t several stories onto a metal grate,” she reminds him.
He shrugs. “I’ve had worse.”
“Have you?” she asks. Then, without waiting for an answer, “It doesn’t matter. You can do this.”
“I can’t even walk on my own,” he says, leaning heavily against the wall. “It’s been weeks.”
“No,” she says, firmly, a plan beginning to form in her mind. “You can do this,” she says, again, and stands. “Now, do you want to sit here all day and sulk, or do you want to get better?” She retrieves his discarded crutch and then returns, extending a hand to pull him up.
He just looks at her a moment, swears under his breath in a language she’s fairly sure is Festian, and takes her hand.
Jyn lies sprawled on the training room mat, sweaty and tired but too comfortable to move.
They’d spent the day on mobility exercises -- those that they both typically dismissed as boring and useless -- and had actually worn themselves out. Her entire body aches, specially her injured leg, and she could only imagine how he must be feeling right now.
Now, she watches the ceiling fan, daydreaming about how much she’ll enjoy being clean once again.
“I’d say that was a successful endeavor, wouldn’t you?” she says, to Cassian, who rests in a similar position a few feet away.
He doesn’t reply.
She waits a moment, then, “Cassian?” she repeats. He still doesn’t answer.
Finally, she cranes her neck to look at him, and finds him snoring softly, his hands curled across his chest.
She almost can’t help the quiet laugh that bubbles up in her at the sight-- the poor man hadn't even made it to the refresher first.
Over the past few weeks, he's been working very hard, though, and she’ll be the first to admit it. Since he’s had a concrete goal, he's been relentless in his efforts, a predator with its prey. She herself is in excellent shape, as well as far less physically damaged by the ordeal on Scarif, and yet is often the one to tap out first. Occasionally it's even for her own sake, as opposed to his.
So, he deserves this moment of weakness, really. She’ll give it to him.
She simply reaches for her overlarge jacket -- the closest thing in sight -- and drapes it over his shoulders. Just in case he should grow cold once the sweat of work has dried.
She’ll have to wake him eventually, of course. Someone else will undoubtedly have need of the training room before long -- but, for now, she's content to lie here, half-dozing herself, listening to the sound of his easy breathing.
[We pull our boots on with both hands
but we can’t punch ourselves awake and all I can do
is stand on the curb and say Sorry
about the blood in your mouth. I wish it was mine.]
The world is on fire.
Everywhere she looks, there’s nothing but mayhem and flames. The smoke catches in her lungs, making it hard to breathe, and the harder she stares in the pouring rain, the brighter the fire becomes. It’s so bright it burns her eyes, but she continues to stare anyway, dashing the storm from her eyes.
There’s a tight little knot in her stomach, and something tells her she’s looking for someone, but she can’t remember who. She supposes it’s noisy, people running, shouting, shooting, dying -- but it’s as if she’s gone deaf to the entire world, and none of it penetrates the depths of her confusion and terror. She trembles in a silent world, picking her way through smoldering ash and bombed bodies, until she stumbles over one she recognizes.
Jyn cries out, falling to her knees. She pulls his frail body into her arms -- so much less than the man she remembers from her childhood -- and is briefly relieved to see he’s breathing. One leg is twisted awkwardly under him, his midsection is raw meat, and even his negligible weight is putting a strains her arms, but none of that matters. She has found her father.
“Papa, it’s me, it’s Jyn,” she manages. He looks up at her, and opens his mouth to say something.
She leans in close, but, before he can speak, the scene tilts dizzyingly, and suddenly it’s Cassian’s body she's holding, and he's staring up at her with wide, dark eyes. Dead eyes.
She chokes. She clutches at the back of his head, the rain dripping down onto her palms from his soaked hair.
“Cassian,” she begs, but he doesn’t respond. Not so much as one shallow breath. No, no--
Then, the lightest touch of a hand on her shoulder. Her body is a hair trigger, and she bolts upright in bed, chest heaving. Her eyes roam wildly, searching for his face. Even in the dark, she knows him. But he’s dead, isn’t he?
“Jyn,” Cassian says, gentle but firm, his hands resting on her shoulders. “Jyn. It’s okay. It’s me. You’re okay.”
She feels the cold trickle of clammy perspiration on the back of her neck, and clutches aimlessly at the comforter with shaking hands as she tries to get her bearings. Her heart is pounding but her brain moves sluggishly, as though suspended in water. Papa, dead. Cassian, dead. Cassian, not dead.
“Did you kick the door in?” she finally asks, blearily, because it’s the only thing she can think to say. Dim light struggles in crookedly from the hall, illuminating the worry on his face.
He looks down. “I was coming to find you for training,” he says, “and I heard shouting.” He doesn’t elaborate further. His hands release her shoulders, but hover for a moment before returning to his sides.
Jyn swears under her breath, scrubbing a hand across her face. She’s equal parts angry and embarrassed to find it damp, and hopes it’s too dark for him to see. “It must’ve been a dream,” she says, at last. She exhales. “It was just a dream,” she repeats.
With a heavy blink, she lowers herself back down to the pillow, wanting nothing more than to burrow under the thin blanket and never come back out.
In the next moment, she feels the mattress shift as Cassian sits on the edge of the bed.
“May I?” he asks, and she nods. He doesn’t recline, instead leaning back against the headboard and stretching his legs out in front of him. She shifts to make room for him, but the bed is small, and his side is warm against her shoulder.
They sit in silence. Soon, against her will, her eyes grow heavy once again. She doesn’t have the energy to fight the monumental exhaustion, and, besides, it doesn’t even matter anymore whether her eyes are open or shut-- there are too many things she’ll never be able to forget.
“It was my father,” she offers, eventually, though he hasn’t asked.
Cassian still doesn’t say a word, but a moment later she feels his hand, light as a feather, come to rest on her hair.
Jyn leans her head into his thigh and sleeps.
[He had green eyes,
so I wanted to sleep with him—
green eyes flecked with yellow, dried leaves on the surface of a pool-
You could drown in those eyes, I said.]
“I still don't see how this is supposed to help my leg,” Cassian says, for the third time in as many minutes.
Jyn turns to see him standing at the edge of the lake, looking into the admittedly somewhat murky blue-green water.
“You’ve mentioned that,” she says, with a small sigh. “And, as I said before, water exercises are good for mobility exercises without putting excess weight on your broken leg.”
It's a trick she had picked up working with Saw Gerrera -- one that had never failed her before, and she doubts it will now, provided she can actually convince Cassian to get in the water.
She’d done a little exploring in her free time the day before, and had been delighted to discover that, for all its faults, Yavin 4’s dense forests gave way to a series of small lakes. She’d picked the closest one, figuring that the combination of forest hiking and some light swimming would be enough for one day, especially since he had only within the last week gotten off his crutches.
“And you’re absolutely sure there’s nothing living in here?” he asks, finally.
“Fairly sure,” she says, toeing off her boots. She shoots him a grin, which he does not return. She strips off her too-warm vest and then her bulky pants, until she’s left in her shirt and fitted shorts. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Cassian quickly direct his gaze to his feet.
“You know how to swim, right?” she asks, almost as an afterthought. She dips her foot into the water, testing the temperature, then, satisfied, slips in.
“Of course I know how to swim,” he says, sounded offended.
She shrugs. “Just making sure,” she says, pushing off the rough sand bottom. “Now get in.”
With some difficulty, Cassian lowers himself to the ground. He pulls off his boots, jacket, and shirt so that he's left in his pants and undershirt.
Now it’s her turn to look away.
Slowly, he eases himself into the pool beside her, wincing as his stiff muscles are tested. She treads water a few feet away, giving him enough space to move while remaining close in case he might have need of her.
“Not bad,” Cassian says, after a minute. “I stand corrected.” He raises his face to look at the canopy of massive trees that surrounded the lake. “This is nice.”
Jyn grins. “Good. Now take a lap.”
He huffs. “You're no fun.”
“We didn't come out here to have fun,” she says, tipping her head back to float. She closes her eyes, enjoying the feel of the cool water on her limbs.
“Could’ve fooled me,” he says. “How’s your leg, by the way?”
“Fine, thanks for asking,” she says, without opening her eyes. She hears the receding movement of water, as Cassian makes his way around the border of the water. It's not very large, but it should keep him occupied.
Some minutes later, she hears a splash, suspiciously close, and opens her eyes just in time to swallow a gulp of the water he's sent her way. She sputters. “I’m sorry, did you want to make it two laps?”
The first thing she sees after wiping the water from her face is his grin. Water dripping down his face and clinging to his cheeks, he looks happier than she’s seen him in a long time.
He says something she doesn’t catch, and she shakes her head, coming back to herself.
He raises an eyebrow. “I said, I’ll do two laps.” He pauses. “But only if you can catch me.”
A laugh bubbles up and spills out of her. She is on him in an instant, arms wrapped around his shoulders before even the first thought of moving away can enter his mind. She stretches to brace herself on the sand on her tip-toes, but he’s encouragingly steady, if surprised.
“Caught you,” she says, lightly.
Their faces are very close. He’s warm, but she still fights a shiver when his hands make their hesitant way to her waist.
“Fair’s fair,” he agrees, dark eyes tracking her face.
The blood in Jyn’s head thrums, and she feels slightly lightheaded as she looks at him looking at her. For a moment the only sound is the stirring of branches in the breeze, and she’s about to lean in --
“You said you were on your way to the conference room.” K-2SO’s frosty tone startles them both, and Jyn jerks her head up to see the droid standing at the edge of the pool, disapproving as ever. “I feel it is my solemn duty to inform you that this is not, and has never been, the conference room.”
Cassian sighs. Jyn smothers a smile at his obvious disappointment, running her thumb along his good shoulder.
“I am on my way,” he assures the droid, finally. “Eventually.”
“He’s taking the scenic route.” Jyn clarifies. With a little pang of regret, she shifts slightly away from him, putting a more respectable distance between them.
“There is no efficient route between here and the base,” K-2SO says. “But I am sure you know that.”
“Oh, don’t be a spoilsport, Kay,” Jyn says. “Come swim with us.” She lets go of Cassian entirely, kicking her legs up to float on the surface of the water. “The water’s perfect.”
“Unfortunately,” the droid says, in a tone that indicates it is anything but, “I must decline. I have duties to attend to.”
“Are you scared?” Cassian teases.
“I am a repurposed Imperial droid,” K-2SO says. Jyn detects more than a hint of annoyance, mixed with resignation. “I am a machine. I do not feel human emotions such as fear. But I suspect you already know that.”
Cassian glances at her, clearly trying not to smile. He’s still treading water quite well thus far-- they haven’t been swimming long, but it's clear that he is, slowly but surely, regaining the strength in his broken leg.
The corners of Jyn’s mouth tip upward in amusement as she looked back. She waits for him to look away first -- he almost always does -- but he just watches her with that little smile.
K-2SO makes a strange noise, as if mimicking the sound of a human clearing his or her throat.
Reluctantly, Jyn tears her eyes away from Cassian’s face. “What, Kay?” she asks, impatiently.
“Was there something you needed?” Cassian adds.
“No, no,” the droid says, unreadable. Then, lower, more to himself than to them, “Just making sure you hadn’t wandered off in your injured state and become lost or too fatigued to return. Nothing of import.”
“What did you say?” Cassian asks.
“Nothing,” K-2SO says, crisply. “I will see you both back at the base.” He turns a sharp about-face, and marches off once more.
“What was that about?” Cassian asks, nonplussed.
Jyn just grins, and shoves his head beneath the water.
[Everyone could see the way his muscles worked,
the way we look like animals,
his skin barely keeping him inside.
I wanted to take him home,
and rough him up and get my hands inside him, drive my body into his
like a crash test car.]
For the fourth time in just under a minute, Jyn launches herself at the heavy bag hanging from the ceiling. As it had each time before, it gives satisfactorily beneath her fists -- no more than a few inches, but enough to provide her momentum to swing into a kick or possibly an elbow strike. She hits the bag until her hands ached, and then she hits it again, until she has to pause, doubled over, to suck the air back into her lungs.
By all accounts, not the best day. She had been part of a team sent on reconnaissance mission to an Imperial world, and, well -- things had gone terribly wrong. As they were apt to do, Jyn thinks with a grumble.
She had lost people on Scarif, of course, but this had been different. This had been the first mission where she had known a number of the dead, and more than just in passing. They had been people she had trained with, sat through unbearably stifled council meetings with, even breakfasted. They had been not just her allies, but her friends as well.
Edaara Forlin’s face flashes into her mind, a young woman not much older than she. She is -- she had been a Rebel, but also a wife and mother. Jyn hates the necessity of requiring anyone but single, unattached soldiers. If she could fill every space herself, she would, and she knew Cassian felt the same.
But she can’t, and that makes her helpless.
She also knows that, no matter someone’s relationship status, no one is truly unattached. That is the cruelty of war. There would always be someone to mourn.
She growls in frustration, planting her left foot on the mat in preparation for a roundhouse kick. Then,
Cassian’s voice, from behind her. She whirls around so quickly she nearly trips.
“You’re back,” is all she says, trying to ignore the strange little thump her heart gives when she sees him standing in the doorway. His presence manages to lift her bitter mood a few shades -- he’s been away the past several days on his first offworld mission since Scarif, and she’s missed his presence more than she might care to admit. His hair is tousled, his clothing, rumpled -- but he still looks better than he has in a long time.
“I am,” he says, simply, stepping over the slightly raised threshold and into the training room. It’s a small room, with only the necessities-- weights, mats, bags, and gloves -- and it feels even smaller now that he’s in it.
He meanders over, hands in his pockets. Then,
“What’s the matter?” he asks, leaning lightly against the heavy bag.
She raises an eyebrow. “Who says anything’s the matter?” she replies, feigning nonchalance as she tightens her hand wraps.
He watches her a moment. Then, he extends his pointer finger so that it’s just barely an inch from her sweaty brow. “Your forehead crinkles when you’re upset,” he says, finally. “Just like that.”
Jyn bites her lip, subtly attempting to rearrange her face. Is she really so transparent?
“So what is it?” he asks, carefully watching her expression.
She looks down at her feet, frowning. “Nothing. It’s just…” She rolls her eyes up to the ceiling, feeling foolish, feeling suddenly as though she might cry. She should be used to this by now. People she knows, friends, are killed all the time, have been her whole life. It is simply a fact of the rebellion. She shakes her head. “It’s nothing. Tell me about your mission,” she says, instead.
Cassian shrugs. His expression suggests he’s unhappy to let her off so easily, but she’s grateful that he does. “Not much to report,” he says. “It was an in-and-out sort of thing. I mostly ran communications.”
“Good,” Jyn says. “That’s good.”
He nods. Then, moving back a step to spot the heavy bag, he gestures for her to throw a few punches.
She tucks her chin, bringing her fists up by her face into a boxer’s stance. Avoiding the temptation to meet his eyes, she throws a light combo, jab-jab-cross.
“You can hit it harder than that,” he says. “I won’t break.”
She shoots him a look. His expression is indiscernible -- eyes dark, mouth is slightly crooked, the way it is when he finds something amusing but knows better than to mention it.
“What?” she gets out.
“Do you need a sparring partner?” he asks.
She squints at him, wiping the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. “Are you offering?”
He shrugs. “I was supposed to bring a mission report to the conference room, but...” He glances at the door, then back to her. “I can put that off for a little while longer.”
“Well--” She hesitates. The truth is, she wants to spar with someone else so badly she can hardly stand it. The heavy bag presents a worthwhile workout, but an unchallenging one. She much prefers an opponent that will strike back -- the thrill of the adrenaline and the fight is one of her favorite ways to blow off steam. However, as to whether she wants to spar with Cassian in particular… well. She’d never fought him before. She fears he isn’t used to her intensity, especially as he’s still recovering -- part of her worries she’ll hurt him. The other part of her worries she won’t be able to. “Are you sure your ribs can take it?” she asks, finally.
“That depends. Are you looking for a reason not to spar with me?” he asks. His voice is teasing, but there’s a trace of concern in his dark eyes.
“Of course not,” she says, quickly.
“Good,” he says, raising an eyebrow. “Because I’m not the one you should be worrying about, Jyn Erso.” He releases the heavy bag, and it swings back to her, gently nudging her side. “I’ll be right back.”
She stares at his back as he leaves, watching the fabric of his shirt move over his lithe shoulders. There’s a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach that tells her she might just have made a colossal mistake.
She ignores it and takes a long drink of water from her canteen.
He returns minutes later, in loose pants and a sleeveless black tee shirt. They’re clothes infinitely more practical for sparring, but Jyn still can’t help but notice the way the shirt highlights the definition in his shoulders and upper arms -- she’s always preferred lean muscles to bulk. More conducive to stealth work, to escape.
Without permission, a whoosh of air leaves her in a rush, and she bites her lip, forcibly preventing her eyes from continuing the roaming they wished to. Focus, Jyn, she thinks.
Cassian, mistaking her appreciation for a sigh of exhaustion, hesitates a step. “Are you all right?”
Jyn straightens, swallowing hard. “Of course.” She shifts from foot to foot, to get her blood moving again after standing still for several minutes. That had certainly been a mistake-- she can feel her muscles starting to stiffen, but she leans into it, refusing to compromise.
“All right,” he says, tightening his hand wraps so they wouldn’t slip.
He steps onto the mat, and anticipation coils low in her belly. Familiar adrenaline curls through her veins, waking up her body. She bites back a reflexive grin, working her fingers and tightening them back into fists.
This is what she loves. For all the simulations and technology available, this -- hand-to-hand combat -- is still far and away her favorite. It had been her youth, as Saw Gerrera hadn’t believed in the physically coddling nature of the sims training, hadn’t considered anything more valuable than the weaponization of the body, except perhaps that of the mind. Hand-to-hand had been simple, it had been low-tech -- it had been home.
Jyn and Cassian circle each other, their fists level with their cheekbones, defensive. It seems they’re both less than eager to throw the first punch, which, for some reason, made her feel like smiling.
He seemed to reach the same conclusion, and strikes out, just to get it out of the way. He throws it intentionally wide, aiming for her shoulder, and she dodges easily.
“You're certainly looking better,” she says, lightly, using the momentum to aim a cross at his head.
“I’m feeling better,” he replies, sidestepping to avoid it.
“I’m glad,” she says.
They fall silent, and for a few minutes the only sounds in the training room are scurrying feet on the mat, punches blocked, and their heavy breathing.
She aims for his , but at the last moment, he shifts, and her strike lands squarely in his ribs. She gasped without meaning to, hands flying to her mouth. He’s maintained for the past week or so that they pain him no longer, that he’s fine-- but she’s still been making a conscious effort to keep away from them if possible.
For a split-second, nothing happens, and they simply stare at one another in shock. Then, his face turns bright red, and he doubles over, with a choked noise. Slowly, he eases himself himself to the ground, cradling his side.
Her stomach clenches, and she drops to her knees beside him. “I’m so sorry,” she says, breathless, her hands hovering uselessly at his chest. “Cassian, I’m sorry, I knew this was a bad idea-- You weren’t fully healed--” She breaks off, unable to finish. Stupid, she thinks. Weeks of work undone in a moment--
Then, quicker than she can believe, he moves. She’s too stunned to resist, and he maneuvers into a full mount, trapping her legs with his thighs.
She gasps in outrage, realizing she’s been duped. “That’s not fair!” she exclaims, reaching up to dislodge him, but he catches her wrists easily and pins them by her head, grinning.
She’s too shocked to do much but glare at him, but even that lacks venom. They’re both breathing hard, and Jyn’s chest rises and falls rapidly as she struggles to pull together a series of moves that will gain her freedom. It’s difficult with him so close; he interferes with her senses, his simple, sharp smell saturating her nose. His hands, deceptively light on her wrists, tremble slightly, though with adrenaline or fatigue she can’t tell.
Her eyes widen as he leans in, her breath coming in small bursts. When she can feel his breath at her ear, her eyes slam shut instinctively. She resists the urge to buck her hips up, but just barely.
“Who said anything about fair?” he asks, low and rough.
“Uh, is this a bad time?”
Cassian turns toward the door at the sudden sound of Bodhi’s voice, and that’s all the distraction Jyn needs. She shifts her hips, knocking him off, then rolls her weight squarely onto his midsection, effectively trapping him the same manner he had her moments before. Only this time, she raised the stakes slightly, positioning herself strategically at his hips to cause him maximum distress.
Smugly, she watches the flush creep across his neck and cheeks. “Now’s fine,” she calls, to Bodhi, without turning around. “What’s going on?”
He stammers for a moment. “Um-- Uh. N-nothing in particular, I was just wondering if you two, er, you know, wanted to get dinner--”
Jyn looks down at Cassian beneath her, raising an eyebrow. “Shall we?” she asks. He just looks at her.
“Bodhi?” she calls, after a moment.
“Can we possibly get a rain check?” she asks, calmly.
“Of course,” Bodhi says, quickly. “Yes, I’ll just-- I’ll be on my way.” Quick footsteps indicate his retreat.
“Now, where were we?” she asks Cassian, innocently. She settles back onto his hips.
“I believe this is about the part where my heart fails,” he manages.
Jyn grins. “Just remember,” she says, leaning down so that their lips are merely a hair apart, and she’s close enough to count every individual eyelash, “you started this.”
“That I did,” he says, breathless.
She beams at him, running her thumbs across the firm undersides of his wrists where she holds them to the floor.
“What?” he asks, his hands playing at her waist.
She gives him a small smile. “I’m waiting to be interrupted again.”
When he laughs, she can feel the vibrations through her whole body, and it might be the best sound she’s ever heard. There’s a long moment where she simply looks at him, and he looks back at her, before she leans down to tousle her fingers in his hair.
“I've wanted to do that for the longest time,” she admits, curling her fingers at the nape of his neck. Her body is pleasantly warm; if all of her senses didn't buzz so keenly, she suspects she could fall asleep right here.
“And your final impression?” he asks, soft. One hand comes up to her face, tracing her jawline, and she leans into it.
Instead of answering, she simply swoops down to joyfully press her mouth to his.
[We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it.]
Cassian looks ten years younger when he sleeps.
Jyn makes this observation for the first time as the misty morning light filters in through the bunk window, noting how rest softens the planes of his sharp face. She’s seen him unconscious before, of course, but that hadn’t been the same at all -- lying prone in the bacta tank after Scarif and drugged in the medical bay, he had been pale and drawn with injury. Those times, she realizes, were merely a shade of how it feels to have him asleep next to her now, heavy and warm, his arm thrown protectively over her even in sleep.
His breathing is steady and deep against her neck, his scent clean and faintly sharp, like trees in the snow. She wonders absently if that’s what his homeworld smells like. She’s never been to Fest. She’s never been to quite a lot of places, actually, but it has never seemed as much of a shame as it does now.
Lightly, she trails a hand down his face, over his scratchy stubble and along his throat, across the dislocation scar on his shoulder and finally to his ribs. She counts each one, slowly, feeling a terrible affection gather in her throat as she remembers the sound of his body on the metal bars, how it felt to know with certainty that he was dead and she was once again alone in the world.
Her ministrations must wake him eventually, because he makes a small noise, and she looks up to find him awake, eyes trained patiently on her face. She flushes, as though he’s caught her picking the lock to his bunk. She’s relatively certain he’s the only one who could make her feel shame about such things.
“Hi,” she says, her hand still resting on his ribs.
“Hi,” he says, the lines around his brown eyes fond. Then, “You smell good.”
“First time in my life,” Jyn says, dryly. She scoots closer to him, dragging the sheets with her. He tightens his arm around her waist, and she shivers -- half in anticipation, half because the sensations are all so new, clean sheets and callused hands.
She’s been with others, certainly, but never like this -- everyone else had been means to an end; she’s never had the luxury of sleeping with someone just because she likes them, never stayed the night simply because she wants to wake up beside them in the morning. And there had certainly been very few others that made her desire a repeat performance.
“How did you sleep?” Cassian asks, running a strand of her loose hair through his fingers.
“No dreams,” she says, simply. And that is it, that is everything. “You?”
“Like the dead,” he says, with a wry smile. He rolls his shoulders, stretching, and she lies back, appreciating the sight of the thin sheets on his midsection. If he sees her ogling, he doesn’t say anything-- he’d done plenty of exploring of his own the night before, besides. A spark of heat thrums in her belly remembering it. He’d been particularly interested in the little divot between her collarbones.
“What time is it?” he asks, eventually. She sighs, though she’d known this question would come sooner or later.
She lifts her head to peer at the clock -- late, but not too late. Good. She’s not ready to get up quite yet, not ready to face the business of the rebellion when she could instead stay in this narrow bed a little longer, nested in contentment.
She reclines again, slips her leg between his below the covers, and he groans.
“Jyn, what time is it?” he asks, again, slower this time.
“Don’t worry about it,” she says, resting her head on his chest.
“We can’t be late,” he says, but sounds only half-convinced.
“We can be late. After all,” she teases, “we did save the galaxy.”
Normally, this would elicit an eye roll, possibly a laugh, depending on his mood -- the messy truth is that they are neither of them heroes, and they know it. No matter what anyone else says, they’re just two badly damaged people trying to pay penance.
This time, though, Cassian leaves it. This time, he simply looks at her, illuminated by the rising light behind him, and runs a thumb over her shoulder.
“Do you know,” he says, thoughtful, “sometimes I think that we did.”
[And in the end
we are nothing more than love and space dust.]