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The World Through a Scope

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“I’m on my way there,” he says sourly, his fingers gripping the phone a little too tightly. “Even though I still don’t see the point.”

“Capitán, it’s a standard American procedure –“

For what is approximately the millionth time, Cassian desperately wishes his file had omitted his military service, because for some reason his American superior is hell-bent on addressing him by rank, and Cassian hates it.

“I’m not American.”

“You work for Americans, Andor. You could speed the whole thing up, you know, I’m sure you’d be cleared if you tried talking to that woman for a change.”

Cassian sighs. “Understood, sir.”

It’s Draven’s turn to sigh. “I don’t think so. I’ve had more conversation with your therapist than you have, because that woman keeps calling me to tell me you’re not co-operative.”

“Maybe she likes you,” Cassian mutters under his breath.

“This isn’t funny, Andor. You’re no use to us until you are cleared, so get fucking cleared, you hear me?”

“I hear you, sir.”

“I hope so. Your partner is driving Antilles insane.”

Cassian grins, and thinks of his colleague throwing him a look without getting up from his desk and saying matter-of-factly: “I’m not working with them. They’re morons, Cassian.”

(He will admit to feeling a little satisfied Kay is giving them hell.)

“Come back or he’ll kill someone, and I’ll have three detectives off the desk, and we’ll really get our asses handed to us. I sincerely hope not to hear from Doctor Mothma tonight.”

Cassian pinches the bridge of his nose and pushes through the door of the psychiatric practice. “Yes, sir.”

Good. I’m not happy about having you on paid vacation, either, so get your shit together, would you, capitán?”

Paid vacation. First of all, it’s not a damn vacation if he’s required to get freaking psycho-analysed twice a week; secondly he’s pretty sure he’s still on Mexican payroll (or else being paid lousily), and thirdly – he doesn’t feel like he’s on vacation. He feels anxious and somehow like a bed-ridden child. Not working is not for him, it just makes it all too clear that he has nothing but his work, except for the occasional beer with his partner. Which is basically still work.

“Yes, sir,” Cassian repeats stoically and hangs up.

It’s ten thirty in the morning, and unsurprisingly, the waiting room is empty. It’s always empty, which, to his mind, defeats the point of having a waiting room. It’s not like people come without an appointment.

(Then again, Cassian is twenty minutes early himself, and rather grateful for a chair.)

He leans his head against the wall, staring at the disgustingly peaceful, calming landscape photographs, and wonders what the hell he will do to get his clearance. Because Doctor Mothma keeps wanting him to talk about the afternoon he shot two drug dealers and, more importantly, failed to cover a fellow cop. What she wants to hear is that he’s shaken to the core, that he wakes up at night in cold sweat because a month ago three people died on him, that he’s spiralling - a nicely documented, contained spiral, of course, one that all the textbook treatments may be easily applied to. Order. This woman is all about order, and doing things as by the book as humanly possible.

Of course, she tells him, predictably: “Just tell me the truth.”

(The problem is, she can’t treat the truth. Because the truth is, he’s fine.

These are – by far - not the first people he’s shot in his life, and it’s not the first comrade he’s seen die right next to him. He was a soldier in the Mexican Army, which is in his files.

He received sniper training and was put to good use for three years before returning to the police. That is not in his files, for a reason. And then, there's the undercover assignment, a mere footnote in the documents, but God, he can't count the dead bodies he's seen in those twenty-three months.

He’s very well aware that there is an abundance of psychological issues that should be on his report, and he’s not sure he has managed to hide all of them from her. On the other side of the border, nobody cared that there’s a line and Cassian Andor has long since crossed it; nobody cared because he did his job and he did it well. But here, people like him are not condoned – not officially, anyway. That’s why he doesn’t talk. No psychiatrist in the world could listen to the full account of what he’s seen and done in his short life and not guess at how broken he really is.)

So what the hell can he tell her?

His musings are interrupted when someone comes through the door, and gives an annoyed sigh.

“Oh great, there’s a queue now?”

He glances up at the short woman standing in the doorway, coffee in hand and a distinctly displeased expression on her face.

“I have an appointment at eleven,” he says defensively, not quite sure why he’s even bothering to answer.

“Yeah, well, mine should’ve started at ten, but here we are,” she mutters, apparently slightly placated by the fact she’s still due first, and flops down on the chair that’s the farthest from Cassian’s.

“Whoever’s in there seems to have a lot to talk about,” Cassian says, at which she demonstratively gets out her phone and ignores him completely.

Cassian glances at his watch. It’s not like he needs to be anywhere – hell, again, he’s out of work, so there’s nothing for him to do, but it’s still not a thrilling prospect to have to sit in here for at least another hour.

Eventually, he glances up to study the woman sitting opposite – out of boredom, really.

One thing he notices is that she is really not very tall – but doesn’t try to compensate with heels. In fact, what strikes him is that she’s wearing almost ridiculously sensible shoes, worn and dusty black leather boots – possibly steel-capped.

“There’s magazines for people who brought nothing to read,” she says icily without raising her eyes off her phone.

Cassian raises a brow, leans back in his chair and keeps staring, this time purely out of spite.

She huffs in annoyance and glares back. He’s rather surprised to find she doesn’t give up first. It makes him wonder why she’s here.

(He really ought to have asked this question first.)

“What?” Her eyes are cold, and they’re a bright colour, some kind of grey. Maybe blue, but he’s not sure at the distance.

“Nothing, ma’am, just waiting.”

She’s young enough to be pissed he called her ma’am – in fact, he’s not sure how old she is. About twenty-five, probably – definitely younger than him.

She is pissed. “Can you stare somewhere else, then? It’s driving me nuts.”

“Sure. Apologies,” he says, careful to keep his face blank, fully aware of the fact he doesn’t sound very sorry at all.

She scoffs and starts fiddling with her phone again.

“Where’d you get the coffee?”

“What?” She sounds both confused and irritable, somehow.

(Again, he wonders why she’s here. If she’s that uncomfortable making conversation in this practice, that means she’s keeping her therapy a secret.)

“I’ll be waiting a while,” he says with a shrug. “I might as well get a coffee too.”

She seems to weigh the loss of dignity in having to answer him against having him gone for a while, then sighs and says, without looking up:

“Get out of the practice, turn right. Half a mile down the street, there’s a deli and a Martial Arts studio above. Give a fucking tip, they’re nice people.”

Cassian nods, slowly. Charming. “Thank you.”

She gives a non-committal mumble, keeps her eyes on her screen. A few strands of brown hair fall out of the knot at the nape of her neck, hiding her face.

She’s pretty, he concludes. (He can almost hear Kay’s derisive little scoff at that – yes, Cassian, that’s a very helpful observation indeed.)

He puts on his jacket and leaves, fighting down a smile.

 


 

The deli looks derelict from the outside; on the inside it’s cramped and warm but tidy. The young man behind the bar is so fidgety Cassian has half a mind of jumping to his feet and carrying his coffee over himself before he spills it all over himself, but the waiter makes it to the table with only a few drops on the saucer, somehow.

“Sorry about that,” he mutters, avoiding his eyes. Cassian glances up at him – pale face, long limbs folded tightly to his body. Dark eyes, very dark.

He’s been around soldiers long enough to recognise the signs. This is a textbook case of trauma.

(This is what he should look like, if he wasn’t the sick, cold killer he apparently is.)

“Don’t worry about it,” he says softly, and tries for a smile.

“Bodhi!” comes a booming voice from the backroom and the poor boy gives a violent start before turning back to Cassian and saying: "Um, if you want anything... from the bakery, there’ll be fresh muffins in a few minutes.”

He’s really not hungry.

“Why not, I’ll have one.”

The waiter – Bodhi – manages a shaky little smile and returns to his safe space behind the counter, and Cassian stirs in his cup.

After a while, a middle-aged Asian in lose yoga gear walks in through the door leading to the kitchen – there is something off about his movements, but Cassian can’t quite put his finger on it – sits down at the counter, orders a tea and starts recounting a very odd story to Bodhi, who seems a lot more comfortable talking to him than to strangers.

Cassian leans back into his chair, pries small crumbs off his muffin and stares into empty space, the chatter a welcome background noise.

(How the hell he is supposed to explain his steady pulse at the thought of the dead dealers, he still has no idea.)

His thoughts wander, back to the alley where it happened; back to his shared desk at the station.

Back further, to the summers he misses so much in this place; back to the precision rifle in his hands, back to seeing the world through crosshairs, shrinking to a tiny spot in the centre of his vision, to a more terrifying and more manageable amount of reality.

He takes a sip of his coffee.

Distracts himself with the thought of the woman in the waiting room, and what her story might be.

He wonders if she’s guessing at his – not unlikely, they did meet in the waiting room of a therapist – and he wonders if she got anything right.

Chapter Text

 

It’s three appointments later that he sees her again.

He has managed to get by on his therapy appointments so far, just barely this side of evasive. This one is no exception.

“Tell me about your day, detective.”

“I got up at 7, made coffee, watched TV, cleaned the bathroom, made lunch, went to the gym. I had to go back a block because I forgot my phone. After training, I came here.”

“You live alone, right?”

She knows that, she’s asked at least twice already. He nods.

“Did you meet with anyone for training?”

“No. I train alone.”

Dr. Mothma sighs. “Do you feel lonely, detective?”

He thinks on that for a moment. “No more than before.” (There. Honest.)

She nods slowly, makes a note in her small blue book. “And while you did all these things, did you think of what happened at all?”

Cassian hesitates. He doesn’t know what she wants to hear – the truth is yes, he did, but only because he wondered if she would ask this – but what would a normal person do? Still have nothing else on their mind? That probably wouldn’t point to anything good either, after over a month…

“Once or twice.”

“Did that scare you?”

No. “Less than it used to.”

“Did it feel like you were back in that moment?”

Right, he knows this, he’s not supposed to have flashbacks, that could mean he’s unstable. “No, it was just… just remembering. Going through it, if there was anything I could’ve done differently.” He gives his voice a little drift at the end, not too much.

She nods, doesn’t smile, doesn’t even tell him not to do that. Cassian wonders if she knows he’s lying – he’s a very, very good liar, but then again she studies human behaviour for a living.

“How are you sleeping?”

Five hours a night. “Good. I’m pretty tired lately.” Because I sleep five hours a night.

“Nightmares?”

Every time. “Sometimes. Not this week, I think.”

Again, she nods. “Do you remember what they were about?”

Yes. “No.”

 

He wonders if she’ll call Draven again. Probably. Even if she believed him, five-word answers are probably not what she was hoping for. Then again, there is such a thing as an open question which might lend itself to this conversation, but they probably don’t fit her charts as nicely.

The rain is still drumming against the window when she finally calls it a day – when he glances at the clock on the wall, he realises he still has ten minutes or so left, but it’s just as well. It’s not like they have anything to tell each other.

He has his hand on the handle when she asks, very quietly: “Is there any point in asking you why you’re not telling me the truth?”

Cassian freezes but doesn’t turn around, only barely contains the urge of resting his forehead against the door, and squeezes his eyes shut. Shit.

“No, ma’am,” he replies softly.

There is a long pause, then –

“Alright then, I’ll see you on Tuesday, detective.”

He frowns, waits for a moment longer, but nothing else is said, so he nods, mutters “Alright” and hurries out, feeling oddly ashamed of himself – possibly because this might be the first time in several years he was caught in a lie.

Or maybe just because he knows it’s wrong to lie to everyone he meets. He does know that, even though he got used to it. He knows. (He even knows it’s a sin. He was raised a catholic, after all.)

He can still hear his grandmother, a memory almost faded, but sometimes he remembers a quiet voice and the soft clacking of a rosary.

(Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros, pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte -)

That’s the only bit of the prayer he remembers, and he appreciates the irony of that.

Pray for us sinners.

 

His jacket is uncomfortably damp when he takes it off the hook by the door. He almost preferred it soaking wet.

Hands buried deep in the pockets of his jacket – his right hand fingers find a small object he momentarily can’t place – and hood pulled over his head, he pushes through the door to brave the storm – and promptly collides with someone outside.

“¡Lo siento!” English, Cassian. Put yourself together. “Em. Sorry. Sorry.”

The woman he ran into has spilled half her purse over the pavement. He hastily bends down to pick up the items around his feet – a phone that looks to have survived the fall unscathed, a pen and a small wooden box. She unceremoniously rips all that out of his hands – without a thank you – which is mostly what he recognises her by.

“Are you okay?”

She hurries to find cover from the rain in the entrance and taps her phone to see if it lights up. “Yeah.” When she realises he’s not leaving, she glances up and frowns.

“Oh. Hello again.”

“Hello.” For some reason, he finds himself adding: “Um, if she’s pissed, that’s probably my fault.”

“Okay. I’ll know who to blame,” she says drily, turns away from him and rummages through her pockets, then curses. “Shit. You wouldn’t happen to have a lighter, right?”

He’s just about to say no when he recognises the object in his pocket.

(He isn’t proud to admit he has the habit of pickpocketing his best friend for fun. He gives them back, though, really.)

“Yes, I do. Wait.” He climbs up the stairs into the moderately dry, narrow doorway.

She raises a brow and fishes a cigarette out of her box. “Didn’t take you for a smoker.” She offers him the pack, he shakes his head.

“I don’t smoke.”

She throws him a mocking grin. “So what’s with the lighter? You about to commit arson?”

He grimaces, and fiddles with the small brass object – because of course Kay couldn’t just have a cheap old thing from the gas station. Somehow, he manages to spark a flame without singing his fingers, but it’s a close call. He cups the flickering flame with his free hand, trying to shield it from the gusty wind, and thinks it’s been years since he’s lit someone’s cigarette. It’s strangely nostalgic.

“Thanks,” she mutters, drawing the first drag and coughing slightly. There’s something off about the way she holds the cigarette.

“You’re not a smoker, either.”

She shrugs. “I dabble. I’ve had a shit day.”

“Right now I’d say that beats a boring one.”

She scoffs and takes another drag, shivering slightly in the cold wind. “I could do with one of these.”

“Yes. If I was at work, I’d be saying the same,” he mutters, shaking his head.

“What do you do?” she asks, and it hits him that he really just said that out loud. What the hell’s the matter with him?

Lie.

She watches him through the smoke of the cigarette. He was right the last time, her eyes aren’t blue. They’re a rather remarkable shade of green, in fact.

Lie, Cassian.

“Police,” he says vaguely, trying to tell himself it doesn’t matter. It’s not hard to find out where he works, after all… and he really, really shouldn’t go around telling people. (Three years ago, this answer would have got him killed. He’s got too used to being safe, too used to living out in the open, he got careless…) He wills his pulse to calm, but his throat remains tight, his heartbeat still throbbing painfully in his head.

He can’t stay silent forever – she is watching him far too closely. Time for a diversion. “You?” It’s just one word, so it doesn’t come out too breathless. (Still, her eyes are very sharp, and he can’t help but be worried she sees it.)

She draws a drag from the cigarette, takes her time. Exhales. “Bike courier.”

He has the feeling that is either a lie or not even beginning to describe it – but then again, neither did his answer.

“Why are you here?” she asks bluntly, probably trying to catch him off guard with an overly personal question – he knows a defence mechanism when he sees one. It’s easy to make people uncomfortable, especially at this proximity, but Cassian? Not in a million years.

Alright, in her defence, she can’t know he’s been interrogated under the threat of torture before.

He’s almost grateful to be forced onto the defensive – this is a position he feels far more comfortable with, and he finally regains his sang-froid.

He thinks of his last conversation with Mothma and almost smiles. “Insomnia. You?”

“Addiction,” she says in an offhanded tone and waves the cigarette, and that is definitely a lie. (Then again, so was his answer.)

“Well, I'm going to go before I drown,” he mutters. “Oh, and by the way, I left a tip.”

“I know,” she replies flatly, exhaling smoke. “I checked.”

Cassian supresses a smile. Went to all that trouble, did you? “Good luck with her,” he says with a nod towards the door and walks off, and the smell of the cigarette smoke clinging to his hair and his jacket should be a lot more unpleasant than it is.

 

 

Chapter Text

(The third time they meet, it’s under the timid, restless eyes of Bodhi the waiter.)

Cassian would like to stress that they did not come together. He came in to get a coffee after his appointment – God knows he needs it, Mothma was all over the shooting again and he’s given a performance he thinks he might deserve an award for – and there she sat, nibbling at a cookie and chatting with Bodhi, whose voice is actually audible from more than two feet of distance. When he brings her a tea, his hands don’t shake, and the kid even laughs at something she says, and there is something like a genuine smile on her lips. They must have known each other for years.

The sight of her smiling makes him think his assessment of her looks needs slight correction. Pretty might be too weak a word.

(“Do you feel lonely, detective?”)

He could say he sat down at the neighbouring table by accident, but that would be a lie.

He’s bored, and his only human contact in the past four days were a psychiatrist, his mildly pissed-off American boss and his partner – the latter two over the phone, and then Kay is so robot-like sometimes Cassian isn’t really sure he counts as human contact at all.

Also, he’s curious about her. She lied straight to his face the last time they met, for no apparent reason, and that intrigues him.

She could say hello or ask if he’s following her – the former is what society might expect, the latter quite honestly what he expects after their last encounters. She doesn’t go for either one.

“If you’re a cop, how do you have so much free time?” she asks, not taking her eyes off her tea.

He almost, almost flinches. Jesus, people can hear you, are you insane –

Alright, he needs to calm the hell down. This isn’t Mexico. This is a place where people are scared of terrorists. He gets snubbed, but that’s his nationality, being a cop doesn’t make that any worse, and he doesn’t know why he’s so fidgety on that subject lately –

(Lie. It’s because he’s forgotten how to breathe without the gun underneath his jacket pressing against his side.)

“Temporary leave.”

“Did you fuck up?”

Cassian tilts his head and considers. “No.” Though that might depend on who you’re asking. He could name at least two people whose answer would have been a resounding ‘yes’.

“What department? Homicide?”

He hesitates. He could lie and say yes, but that would probably prompt more questions – people love their stupid crime dramas, after all – and out of instinct, he doesn’t want to lie to her unnecessarily. Her green eyes see too much.

“Narcotics.” Well, that’s boring enough, and sort of true. “You?”

She pauses, too, then – “Saleswoman.” She pours herself more tea, and just by how much of a show she makes of that he thinks he must have been right about that accent. She reminds him of Kay far too much to not be English.

“Why do you see Mothma?” she asks, almost coy now. He’s unsure yet what kind of game they’re playing, but he’s not trying to pretend he’s not enjoying it.

(He’s bored out of his mind, and if he really didn’t want to talk to her, he could just get up and leave.)

So he shrugs, and replies in an offhanded tone: “Burn-out. It’s an occupational hazard, too many deadlines. You?”

“Retrograde amnesia.”

“Like Memento?

She grins. “No. That’s anterograde amnesia, detective. Like Bourne Identity.

“Right. Please don’t call me that. I’m on leave, it’s a sore subject.” (It also marks him as a cop in a public area, and that is actually giving him anxiety. But no need to say that out loud.)

She raises a brow. “So what do I call you?”

He supresses a groan and takes a long sip of his coffee, not even caring how obviously he’s stalling. Damn, he really brought that on himself. Good job, Cassian, good job. Perfect.

“Cassian.”

“Well, Cassian, don’t think I’ll tell you my name that easily.”

He can’t tell if that’s a defence mechanism or if she’s poking fun at him because she thinks she’s won this round – and that is disconcerting. This woman is disconcerting. He can’t get a proper read on her.

 “If I wanted to know your real name, I would ask Sandra,” he says drily.

She leans forward and tells him in a triumphant, almost conspiratorial voice: “She’s not legally allowed to tell you.”

He shrugs. “That doesn’t mean she won’t. I can be nice.” (This is not an entirely empty threat. In fact, he’s probably done this sort of thing a few times too often to joke about it, and the mere idea that he couldn’t make a middle-aged receptionist who reads romance novels underneath the desk do him a favour is frankly ridiculous.)

She eyes him for a moment, then she sighs and concedes. “Jyn.”

Cassian supresses a smile. That about evens the score.

They’re both lying about their jobs, in a way: he didn’t even give her half the truth, guiding her towards thinking he works at a desk battling nothing but paperwork.

She’s trying to do the same, staying as close to the truth as possible without giving away what it is, but she’s letting him see far more than she thinks she does.

First clue: she is far too curious about his job. Second: she didn’t even try to deny she would have given him a false name. Third: how the hell do you go from courier to saleswoman? Someone who doesn’t know there’s a connection would never name these two in combination, but Cassian has seen too many cocaine stashes hidden in briefcases to not know how that goes together.

She’s probably hoping the fact she contradicts herself would throw him off the scent, but it’s a feeble attempt, and some part of him is convinced she could do better if she wanted to.

Something tells him it’s not drugs she’s smuggling – it’s a gut feeling, he can’t base that on anything; Kay would tell him it doesn’t count – but whatever it is, it is most definitely illegal.

The one thing he’s still in the dark about is her reason for seeing a therapist – she doesn’t look like she has money to spare, so it has to be a major issue. But then again, much like him, she doesn’t seem the type to seek out help at all.

He has no idea. (But neither does she, and that’s a comfort.)

She’s a puzzle, and he’s more than glad for it.

He almost smiles at her, too, before he shoves a handful of dollar bills underneath his empty cup, pointedly turns to Bodhi and tells him to keep the change, and walks out.

(It takes a little effort to not look back at her, but he wouldn’t admit that to anyone.)

 


 

 

(Sadly, as it turns out, he doesn’t have to admit it.)

“Oh, goodness gracious,” Kay mutters, two days later, when Cassian has finished his recount, and holds out his hand. “First of all, I want my lighter back. It’s my good one.”

Cassian throws him a sheepish smile and drops it into his outstretched palm. “Sorry. Forgot I had it.”

“Why do you always do that?” Kay asks quietly, in the tone of an exasperated mother speaking to her toddler.

Cassian shrugs. “To make sure I still can. You never complain about it when it helps you out.”

Kay shakes his head, pockets the lighter and says, in his dry clipped voice: “Never mind, you have bigger problems than kleptomania.”

“Yes, I do. I’m on fucking desk duty!” Cassian replies sourly, finishes his beer and adds: “I’m not a kleptomaniac. It’s an acquired skill, and it needs training.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” Kay opens another two bottles of beer and shoves one over to Cassian. “Anyway, that’s not what I meant. If that’s your idea of flirting, Cassian, I’m not too optimistic about the continuing survival of your genetic material.”

“Kay, I need a dictionary to talk to you when I’m sober,” he says and massages his temples. The headache doesn’t let up. “Insult me in a language I speak as well, yes?”

His colleague’s bright eyes glint at that, and he replies in perfect Spanish despite his state of inebriation, still not batting an eye: “I said: if you don’t improve your strategy, you’ll never get laid.”

Cassian tilts his head, then returns back to his beer. “On second thought, I like you better when I only understand half of what you say.”

“I know. That’s why I speak English to you,” Kay mutters and it’s Cassian’s turn to chuckle.

“You’re a good friend.”

Kay doesn’t miss a beat. “Yes, I’m aware.”

Cassian scoffs and takes another swig from his bottle. “And I never said I wanted anything from that girl.”

“And for the record, you don’t have to.”

“I just have nothing else to talk about!” Cassian says hotly. “I sat on my ass for a week and a half. I can tell you the entire TV program.”

“No, you can’t.”

Cassian groans and rests his head on the table. For someone who converses in sarcasm first and English second, Kay is taking the habit of taking things on face value way too far.

Thankfully, they drop the subject at that point to fall back into their usual routine – discussing cases with progressively louder voices until they reach the point where one of them (usually Cassian because Kay can take an inhuman amount of beer) brings up a theory that is so absurd they both come to the conclusion they are, finally, too drunk to worry about their jobs.

Then, as per usual, comes the moment they realise they don’t have much else to talk about, so they put up some old movie. It’s Cassian’s turn, he picks Memento and takes too long to figure out why. They watch in silence, finishing the tequila Cassian left the last time, and when the credits roll, Cassian gets up, struggles into his jacket and walks back to his apartment.

Theirs is a functioning partnership based on shared experience and taking the piss out of each other, and Cassian thinks this is all the therapy he has ever needed. Mothma is less helpful than even Kay is (which is saying something), and on top of that the sessions with her give him a worse headache than any hangover he might have tomorrow ever could.

 


 

 

It’s one hell of a hangover, though. He should not have brought tequila into the mix.

Bodhi glances up from the coffee machine as he comes in and asks in his quiet voice: “Coffee?”

“Unless you have anything stronger, yes, coffee,” Cassian mutters, drawing up a chair to a table near the counter.

Chirrut, sitting on a barstool in front of a steaming teacup, lowers the newspaper in his hands and smiles at him. “Good morning. What have you been doing all night?”

Cassian shakes his head. He’s known Chirrut for less than two weeks, and only the last time did he finally work out what’s so off about him – he can’t see. His eyes are blunt and white; by all the evidence Cassian has gathered he’s probably completely blind, only able to move through this place without a stick because he practically lives in it.

Cassian has been here all but maybe five times – he hasn’t told either of them his name - and yet Chirrut talks to him like he’s known him all his life.

“I’ve just made the mistake of letting my friend drink me under the table ag-“ He trails off and frowns at Chirrut. “Do you sit here all morning with a newspaper just to mess with people’s head?”

“Can’t a man read the papers in the morning?” Chirrut asks mildly, and Bodhi puts the cup of coffee down on the table and shakes his head. Ignore him, he mouths.

Cassian throws him a mild smile, but is far too bemused to take his advice.

You can’t,” he points out drily. “Not that one, anyway.”

Chirrut smiles. “I like the sound. There should always be a rustling newspaper in a café.”

Cassian bites down a smile – somehow he’s sure Chirrut would know if he smiled at that, and he’s not about to give the man the satisfaction – and sips at his coffee. It’s a lot stronger than usual, he registers, and a part of his brain notes it’s probably sad that this is the most taken care of he’s felt in a long time.

“We can play the sound over the speakers,” Bodhi says meanwhile, eyes trained on the piece of chrome he’s polishing, but his voice sounding a lot more confident than Cassian’s ever heard it. “Then you could actually give classes instead of sitting here.”

“Well, look who’s all smart and brazen,” Chirrut chides with no hostility in his voice. Cassian wonders, not for the first time, what kind of relationship these two have – there is something so decidedly paternal to it he’s starting to suspect adopted parent.

“I want to keep you company, Bodhi. You get lonely behind that counter, despite my dear husband just next door,” he adds in a louder voice. An incomprehensible grumble is all the answer he gets.

Cassian shakes his head and goes back to his coffee.

For some strange reason, he feels safer in this place with every time he comes through the door – something that his bleak apartment could never accomplish.

Probably because the sheer absurdity of Chirrut is enough to distract anyone from a tired guy sitting in a corner nursing a coffee, and because there’s something about the look in Bodhi’s eyes that makes him feel strangely understood, even though he has no idea what the hell happened to that poor kid and also knows he’s nothing like him.

Perhaps – and the idea makes him grin – yes, perhaps the combination of the old music from the shabby speakers and the rustling of Chirrut’s newspaper is calming.

And perhaps, perhaps, never returning to the same restaurants more than twice is pandering to the paranoia Kay – and Mothma, probably – already suspect he has. And if he thinks about it, it’s probably more dangerous after all this time. It makes him look guilty. (If anyone is still looking for a mole, a cop that behaves like a criminal on the run fits the pattern.)

So he’s decided he should have a few regular spots, like a normal person, and he’s landed on this one.

(He doesn’t turn around to look when he hears the doors open. He doesn’t. He’s not here because he’s waiting for anyone. The coffee machine is better than his, that’s all.)

He’s not sure why – he’s not sure it matters - but he kind of loves this place.

 

Chapter Text

The fourth time, he’s sat in the waiting room with a worn novel when he hears steps, and he knows who it is before he looks up - because who else would come into the practice while he’s waiting?

“Did we get booked on the same appointment?” he asks without taking his eyes off the page.

“No, I’m –“

His eyes stop and cling to a single word, and he debates internally whether or not to look up. He’s always been good with voices, and she’s either been to a rock concert or she’s been crying for a while, and the chances of it being the former are slim.

“I don’t have an appointment.”

He closes the book, but keeps his eyes on his knees. In a way, she’s as jumpy as poor Bodhi, and if he looks at her while she’s crying, she’s not too unlikely to punch him as a thanks.

So he just nods. “I can wait, if you’d-“

“No. I’ll wait. You were here first,” she says. Her voice is firm and steady, even though there’s still a touch of hoarseness in it. She sits down across him, in the same seat that he first met her, and doesn’t avoid his eyes.

(He sees the red because he knows it’s there. It’s faint, and she’s tried to cover it up with make-up. But he was trained for this and he sees it.)

She rummages through her bag and gets out a book of her own – The Hound of the Baskervilles, he files that away carefully for future reference. A strange choice for a calming read.

She flickers listlessly through the pages, then shuts the book again and asks, only a touch of her previous hostility left in her voice:

 “You’re not from here, right?”

“Here?” he repeats and she rolls her eyes.

“The US.”

Fine, so he’s her distraction. It’s not like he has anything better to do, so he might as well play along.

He raises a brow, glances down at the book in his lap, Spanish title in big letters, and asks drily: “What gave me away?”

She smiles a little. “You looked proud of remembering the term occupational hazard.

Well, there’s an observation he’s never heard following that question – she could’ve pointed out the book; he was waiting for you have an accent, or even better, you just don’t look like you are – but no. He’s also quite stumped that she has not only seen but remembered that little detail.

“You’re not American, either.”

He would have been genuinely surprised to get a response to that. She leans back in her chair and eyes him a little more closely than he should be comfortable with.

“Mexican, is it?”

“What makes you think that?”

She shrugs. “You’re a foreign narcotics detective. It’s not that big a leap.”

“Have you ever been to Mexico?” His voice is a little too quiet, but he doesn’t try to fix it.

“No.”

“Then don’t.” It comes out too sharp; he’s letting her see too much, and then he probably shouldn’t talk this way to someone who comes into a therapist’s practice with eyes red from crying. He can’t bring himself to care either way. He swallows this down too often.

She doesn’t look as taken aback as he thought she would, just takes his words in quietly and nods, then glances down at her book and is silent for a while. His anger dies down as quickly as it flared up, and he too tries to return to his novel. The clock over the door ticks by a few minutes and he reads without really getting the meaning, his attention hovering a few inches above the pages.

“So, what’s your diagnose this time?” she asks, sounding almost bored, like this is something they’ve been at for several years.

“Mild paranoid schizophrenia.” He may or may not have done some research. “You?”

“Multiple personality disorder,” she says, smirking, and he knows it’s a joke, but he also knows lies are never quite chosen at random. Not even his. (This time, he has the luxury of telling himself he’s doing it on purpose.)

“What about your job?”

She watches him for a while, seems to consider, almost hesitate, then – “Actress.”

There is more truth to this than there was to her other two answers, and he files that away, too. He’ll fit it in the puzzle later – it’s all he’s left to do, other than filing paperwork and enduring his colleague’s jabs and Draven’s careful prodding about whether or not he might get anywhere with his clearance soon… Cassian understands, he does. He’s been in this fight since he was six, since he came home to see what happened to people who crossed the cartels – he knows, more than any of the others, what they are fighting. There is no wasting time, and he doesn’t mean to. It’s just so hard, working against a habit that has formed over twenty-two years, a little voice in his head doing nothing but telling him to lie and hide.

(He knows it’s not an excuse. He knows he should endure this like he has endured everything else, because this is not about him and it never has been.)

He’s prepared to give his life if that’s what it comes to – but this is giving something far more vulnerable, something that he clings to far more than life. It’s nothing he can soldier through the way he normally does, and that’s why it’s taking so long.

He considers inquiring about the book – God, that’s cliché, but it’s not like he does this a lot – but instead asks:

“How do you know Bodhi?”

Her eyes snap back to his face at the name, an aggressive little spark in her eyes. “I’ve known him for ages. We were in school together.”

That’s odd. Going by her accent, he could’ve sworn she hasn’t come to the US as a kid. But he doesn’t press on – they’re quite similar in that regard, she and him. They’re like the snails he used to collect in the sunny yard of the orphanage, one sharp prod and they recoil back into a shell created to keep them safe.

He’ll ask Bodhi, if it’s a good day. On the days he manages a smile, it’s surprisingly easy to get him to talk, and Cassian thinks he might have got to a point where he can ask about Jyn, too.

(It’s remarkable how protective they are of each other – Bodhi may not really be able to harm anybody, but if it was about Jyn, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.)

“Mr Andor?” comes Sandra’s voice from the desk, and he sighs a little. He never keeps the advantage over her for too long, and he can’t really bring himself to regret that.

“Are you sure you want to wait?”

She nods and demonstratively picks up her book again. “Wouldn’t want to derive you of that pleasure. You seem to look forward to it so much.”

He throws her a dirty look and walks away, and thinks he has had to stop himself from smiling rather a lot lately.

 


 

 

“Detective, before you go I’d like to play a little game. Are you familiar with word association?”

A game? What is he, twelve? “You say one word, I say another, right?”

She smiles. “Yes. First thing that comes to your mind.”

He nods. “What if it doesn’t translate?”

She throws him a sharp look that makes it clear that she knows he’s playing for time. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, alright?”

He leans back in the chair and sighs. “Alright.”

“Let’s start with a simple one.” She adjusts her note sheet and takes up a pen. “Sky?”

The first thing that comes to his mind seems innocent enough, so he goes with it. “Sunset.”

Her pen scratches softly over the paper. “Bird?”

His mind flickers to flocks of swallows, tiny black dots in the sky outside the small window of the orphanage. He always thought they must have a better life, with brains that tiny.

“Simplicity.”

“Women?” Her voice doesn’t change inflection, but he wonders if there is more implication to this one. Still, he sees no advantage in lying.

“Indulgence.”

“Friendship?”

Luxury, he thinks. That speaks to the loneliness he’s so actively denying, though.

“Beer.” He almost smiles. She called it a game, like he was a child. He can make this a game.

“Home?”

Images flash in front of his eyes, and he blinks them away. He might as well say it, there’s probably a note somewhere in his psychological report – childhood trauma or something like that.

“Tainted.”

That answer, too, elicits no response. She reads on in a patient voice. “Safety?”

Illusion, he thinks, and says “Badge” instead. That almost has comedic value. Being a cop has not once in his life added to his safety.

“Fear?”

Psychiatrists want you to accept feelings, right? He can accept this one. It’s his constant companion, he carries it the way he’s seen other men carry a crucifix around their neck.

“Asset.”

No reaction, just the scratching of her pen. “Pain?”

Constant. “Necessity,” he says, though on second thought that might give away just as much.

“Hate?”

Heavy, he thinks, very heavy, but a weight that he’s used to.

“Blindness.” That’s a saying or something, right?

“Sadness?”

Pause. A thing for breaks, reserved for time off-duty, nearly constantly put on hold. Too depressed?

“Loss.”

She writes. “Regret?”

Absolution. That sounds twisted even in his own head. He rethinks the question, gives a reason instead of a goal.

“Sins.”

Scratching, then silence. She glances over her sheet. “Forgiveness?”

Longing. It comes less as a word and more as a feeling, and even though that probably wouldn’t make him look any worse, it’s nothing he can bring himself to tell her.

“Love,” he says instead. She writes that down, too, writes more than four letters. She knows he’s lying. Damn, the woman’s good.

“Happiness?”

He goes with the truth, because she is getting too good at telling his lies and his truths apart, and because this answer sounds innocent enough (even though it isn’t, not really).

“Nostalgia.”

She nods, writes, waits. Her eyes flicker across the page, then – “Faith?”

He thinks of the clacking of a rosary, thinks ruega por nosotros, pecadores, thinks it did her no good, in the end. None of them. Crutch, he thinks bitterly, and says “grandmother” instead, keeps his voice smooth. It’s an old wound, he can work around it. He’s done that for more than a decade.

“Love?”

Threat. Well, he can’t tell her that. He needs something bitter enough to sound like it was the truth, though…

“Work,” he replies, rather satisfied. Her pen scratches.

“Hope?” she asks, and for the first time, there’s no image, no memory, just a word, and it almost makes him smile.

“Starlight.”

He’s always liked that word, the way it sounds, the fact that it is a single word in this language.

Her pen pauses, surprised, then she notes it down. “Alright. Well done.”

“Did I pass the vocabulary test?” he asks sardonically and gets to his feet.

She chuckles. “This is more insightful than you think, detective.”

That’s what I’m afraid of, he thinks, and smiles back.


 

 

That's where "starlight" came from - but it's also just a really nice metaphor. It takes years and years to reach us, sometimes the stars who sent the light are dead by the time it reaches our eyes, but it's still beautiful, and it's a light you can look at without it hurting you.

I also honestly love the fact it is just one word, and not three like it would be in French or Spanish. I don't know, I'm weird like that.

 

Chapter Text

 

That last word doesn’t let him go, it’s stuck in his head, and he wonders if Mothma intended for that to happen, to get something he connects with hope reverberating through his thoughts like a broken record – he wouldn’t put it past her.

Starlight.

If she somehow manages to make sense of that, then he’s given away a huge chunk of his childhood memories, rather unintentionally – but no, how could she know? All she has is the address of the orphanage, and possibly a few old x-rays of broken bones in his foot, his arm, his leg. She can’t know anything else, not unless he tells her, and like hell he will.

He’s often wondered how a boy like him could grow up loving the stars. He never really saw much of them for all the city lights. There’s a fancy word for that that he learned at school later, light pollution – but still. On occasion, rare occasions, someone from the orphanage would take the boys someplace, and the best part of the trip for Cassian wasn’t usually the destination but the drive back to the city. The rest of the kids would play games or sleep, but he would secretly unbuckle his seatbelt so he could kneel on the seat and stare out at the black velvet night sky. He would also tell himself he would learn the constellations one day, and taught himself to find the North Star.

(He never did learn anything else.)

But still, he loves the stars. He’s had to lie somewhere in the desert waiting for some goddamn car to pass far too often to cherish the sun, and there has always been something a little scary about that strange yellowish light of the moon.

But the stars have never blinded him, never given away his position – in a way, they aren’t really a light at all, and for a creature of the shadows like Cassian that is an upside. Usually he has a very no-nonsense approach to life, but there’s something about the fact that those pinpricks in the night sky don’t serve any actual purpose to him that makes him cherish them all the more. He’s never had the luxury to carry around useless clutter, so it’s kind of nice to know there’s always something there that is just nice to look at.

Hope, he muses, and smiles to himself a little. It’s a strange thought, in a way, very foreign to him – it’s not that he’s felt hopeless before, he just hasn’t given it much thought at all. He imagines it would be nice, though, to be hopeful. He wonders if what he feels right now is enough to count.

He glances at his watch and thinks he has time for a coffee. Actually, he has time for about ten coffees before he has to be anywhere.

He pushes the thought away irritably – he doesn’t need the reminder of his non-existent occupation. Usually, he is the first to come and the last to leave at work, but not when he’s condemned to filing paperwork. So now he is stuck with far too much free time, and so what if he whiles that and his meagre salary away in the company of the strange people over at Baze’s deli?

He might even admit to hoping he will catch Jyn there after her appointment. He could tell himself he’s just curious about what unsettled her so much earlier, but much to his worry he finds himself really caring to know if she’s okay.

He shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t care about that. He shouldn’t let himself care about that.

But the only thing that has been driving him for the last couple of years is fear, and he’s tired of being afraid, and this curiosity is too different and too precious a thing to weed out – not yet.

He can’t let it last, but he can let it go on just a little while longer… right?

 


 

Apparently he has reached a stage where he doesn’t even have to order anything anymore. Bodhi throws him a smile when he sees him come in, eyes him intently for a moment (probably assessing whether or not Cassian needs an extra shot of espresso to remain awake today or not), then wordlessly takes out a coffee cup and gets the machine going.

He carries the cup over, still without a word, then hovers undecidedly next to the table, until Cassian feels very much tempted to tell him to spit it out, though not in annoyance. Hell, he still doesn’t quite understand why, but he is oddly fond of this boy. Even though he has come to realise boy is probably not the right word – there’s something about Bodhi that looks very, very young, but he can’t be that much younger than Cassian.

And Cassian is aware that he’s not this skittish and timid because he is childish. There are marks on his hands, old faded scars that might be burns or might be something tied too tightly around his wrists at some point; and Cassian recognises the tells of a boy who’s been thrown amidst explosions before the world could harden him to it, has seen it far too many times to not recognise them.

(Whether the fact he doesn’t show the same signs makes him stronger or just a terrible person, he is in no position to tell.)

“Um… it’s Cassian, right?”

Cassian frowns up at him in surprise.

Bodhi casts his eyes down and shrugs a little. “I… I couldn’t help but overhear,” he mutters.

Right. He told Jyn, in this very seat. He should really stop throwing people these looks whenever they remember something about him.

“Sure. Yes, right. Yes.”

“Did you… did you see Jyn, by any chance? This morning?”

Cassian’s frown deepens, but this time he remembers in time that Jyn spoke about both of them seeing the doctor, even though he is slightly surprised Bodhi would know who she was talking about.

“Briefly,” he replies slowly, unsure of how much he should say – it seems that Bodhi and Jyn are friends, good friends, but still. If she wanted to tell him about what happened, she should tell him herself.

Something tugs at Bodhi’s lips, but it’s not a smile. “Good,” he mutters, eyes on the table top.

“Why d’you ask?”

Bodhi gives a helpless shrug. “She usually sleeps in, but she was gone this morning. I was… just worried.”

Cassian tries to process the sentence, and apparently looks as confused as he is feeling, because Bodhi gives a quiet laugh and explains: “We share a flat. Less expensive.”

Oh. Well, that explains it. In fact, it explains a few things.

He remembers Jyn said they went to school together, but he also remembers thinking that was probably a lie, so he asks lightly: “Is that how you met?”

He imagines the advertisement, which makes him grin a little – Brit searching Brit for flatshare and probably all the cleaning  – he’s pretty sure that’s not how they met, either. But direct questions that hit the mark too easily seem to put Bodhi on the defensive.

“No, we trained together.”

“School?”

Bodhi shakes his head. “The army. Back in the UK.”

This time, he’s sure his surprise showed for a moment. He’s pegged Bodhi for a soldier – the most likely source for his scars, even though he cannot for the life of him picture Bodhi with a gun. But Jyn?

“Was she… was she okay? When you saw her?” Bodhi asks quietly.

He thinks these two must be even closer than he thought, and he should probably tell him the truth – but it’s not his place, and okay is a broad term.

“I think so, yes.”

Bodhi nods and retreats behind the counter, back to fiddling with some part of machinery.

Cassian drinks his coffee and muses on what he’s learned. It doesn’t fit, not quite – there’s not much of a soldier about that woman. (He's ninety percent soldier, so he should know.)

There are a lot of puzzle pieces about her that he can’t quite place – the therapy, the reason she is in the US at all when surely whatever she does for a living would work just as well in Britain. Now the army… but Bodhi only said they trained together, not that they went to war together.

No, there’s something else, something important – he’s missing a corner piece.

 


 

 

Eight people have come in and bought baked goods or coffee to go while Cassian reads an astoundingly boring report from some kind of training op Draven gave him to “review” – which is to say keep him busy. Chirrut has been down to greet him and then quietly disappeared after half an hour. (He’s not counting out of boredom, he’s counting out of habit, the same way he counts the exits and the cameras.)

He’s on his third cup when the bell chimes again and someone comes inside, steps light on the tiles, and sits down on table next to his.

He hides his smile in his coffee cup, and glances over at her while she’s busy taking off her coat. She looks much better than she did in the morning.

“Bodhi, can I get a sandwich?” she calls towards the kitchen before throwing him a quick glance, nothing more than an acknowledgement of his presence. “I’m starving!”

Her accent is far more tangible all of a sudden, and Cassian fights down a smile. Kay does the same when he has his mother on the phone.

“Yeah, in a minute,” comes the uncharacteristically clear reply – he even manages to sound a little irritable, though going by how worried he was earlier Cassian suspects that is very much faked.

A few muffled curses come from the kitchen before Bodhi emerges carrying a dangerously high stack of muffins on a tray.

“Want one of these?” he asks with a smile that only flickers a little around the corners, and puts down the tray with a lot of clattering. “Baze made enough to feed half the city. Again.”

Cassian volunteers, and wonders how many more times he will let himself be coerced into sweets out of sheer pity. Jyn goes behind the counter, takes a plate and helps herself to a sandwich, a muffin and a mug of coffee. Bodhi frowns at her with no real annoyance.

“This isn’t a buffet, you know, Jyn?”

“I’m paying for it!”

“Eventually,” Bodhi mutters under his breath, and she swats him lightly on the arm.

“Hey! I paid my last two rents perfectly on time, and I will manage to pay for my goddamn lunch as well.”

Bodhi opens his mouth to reply, but is cut off by a call from the back room, and follows with a little sigh and a quick, worried glance back at his friend.

Once he’s gone, Jyn looks pensively at the counter for a moment, then takes another sandwich and sits down at her table.

Cassian fights down another smile. “So, what is your job this time?”

She chews on her sandwich, eyes flickering back at him. “Art,” she says slowly.

“Art theft, or forgery?” he asks, and there’s a flicker of something like amusement in her eyes instead of the caution he expected.

“Oh, I’m a thief, is that what you think of me?”

“You already confirmed criminal, basically,” he says with a shrug. “If you find kidnapping more flattering... Armed robbery, maybe, how do you like that?”

She rolls her eyes and drinks her coffee.

Since she still thinks he’s a police officer, he probably shouldn’t have joked about that. He leans back in his chair and says, in more honesty: “Whatever it is, it’s not my line of work. So don’t worry.”

“No?”

“First of all, I am relieved of duty until I get cleared for my gun again. So technically I’m not a cop at all right now.” Desk job, no job; police, DEA – semantics. It’s close enough to the truth to make no matter, and it sure sounds a lot less threatening.

“Yeah, but how do you know I’m not in drugs?” she asks, returning to her teasing tone.

He could just take her up on it, make another joke and be done with it, but –

He eyes her face, the soft line of her chin, and shakes his head. Makes a judgement call he probably shouldn’t make.

“No. You’re not a killer.”

“I said drugs.”

“Drugs kill people,” he says very softly, trying to ignore how it comes out too fast and too hoarse and too honest.

Her green eyes flicker to his face in a way that tells him she caught that, but she doesn’t react to it.

“I’m not a killer?” she asks, with a little smirk on her lips. “You must be one hell of a cop if you can tell that from my face.”

Takes one to know one, Cassian thinks bitterly. “I do alright.”

“Then why didn’t they want to keep you in Mexico?” she asks, still smiling.

“Must’ve got on someone’s nerves,” he gives back and thinks that’s actually kind of true.

She laughs. “Sounds like it.” She finishes her first sandwich and picks up the second. “Where are you from?”

“Mexico.” Fine, now he’s just trying to get on her nerves.

“Yeah, I know that,” she replies with an eye roll and carries her coffee cup back to the counter.

He supresses a smile. “Mexico City.”

She wipes her fingers on a napkin and fills her cup until he’s worried the cup will overflow. “I’ve never been, is it nice there?”

“It can be,” he replies simply. “What about you?”

“Saint Albans.” When that elicits no response, she sighs. “In England? North of London?”

“Oh. Right. I have a friend who grew up in Oxford. No wait, it wasn’t Oxford. Cambridge.”

She grins and sips at her coffee. “You have friends?”

He chooses to ignore that – it would only require him to point out the misuse of the plural. “My partner at work.”

“What’s a guy from Cambridge doing in an American narcotics division?”

Cassian shrugs. “His parents moved when he was a teenager. That’s about all I know.”

“Bit of a change.”

He grins. “Yes. He’s still not over it.”

She snorts into her coffee. “You two sound like a match made in Heaven,” she mutters, and gingerly carries her coffee back to her seat.

Bodhi returns through the door and casts her another little look, no less worried than the last.

“You’re cheerful. That’s not a good sign, is it?” he asks and even though he tries to pass it off as a joke, Cassian can’t help but think it doesn’t sound like one.

He’s right, though – she does seem a little too cheerful, a little too unguarded. Add that to her friend’s worry and the tears earlier…

His mind jumps to the pills at the very back of his bathroom cupboard, the ones he doesn’t take because they cloud his judgement and change him in a way that just makes him panic more, and he wonders how much would it take for him to resort to these measures.

Just another missing piece in his puzzle. He tells himself he’s just annoyed by the new mystery, but that’s a lie. It doesn’t sit right with him to see her like this.

You hardly know her, he reminds himself. Tells himself that makes a difference.

He trades a look with Bodhi who seems to see a question in his eyes and gives a non-committal shrug.

Cassian’s phone buzzes, and he glances down to see a junk mail pop up on his screen – and that he’s going to be late if he doesn’t hurry.

He gets to his feet with a quiet curse and is just fishing a handful of notes out of his wallet when a deep voice says: “Haven’t seen you around in a while, Miss Erso.”

Every thought in his brain – work, bus schedule, pills and all – skids to a sudden halt, and then for the fraction of a second he’s lying flat on his stomach in the pouring rain once more, staring at a lean man through the scope of his rifle, and –

Clear shot on Erso.

He nearly drops his wallet, and despite better knowledge glances up to see if there’s anyone but them and Baze in the room, but of course, there isn’t.

Jyn Erso.

Damn it, all this time - he has heard her name before. Jesus Christ, how did he miss this?

There’s his corner piece.

And it changes the entire picture.

How the hell could he miss this?

Chapter Text

 

Cassian is sitting in the kitchen, the files he was supposed to sort through still stacked on the edge of the table, and stares at the four pages of handwritten notes in front of him.

Erso.

Hell, yes, Cassian remembers a few things about that man.

 

Galen Erso, born in Denmark, studies chemistry at Oxford University. IQ of 161, one point less than Albert Einstein; a man more commonly known as a genius. Publishes countless works in the field, more than six of them considered ground-breaking, revolutionary theories by his peers.

Marries his university girlfriend after a ten-year relationship; in 1992, they have a daughter.

Meanwhile Orson Krennic, a university friend of Erso’s, a quiet, unremarkable student, moves to the US and falls in with the cartels.

In 2000, Lyra Erso and her eight year-old daughter are shot in what Scotland Yard files as a mugging gone wrong. Galen Erso is last seen at his family’s funeral; when he disappears from the face of the earth right after, his friends and colleagues as well as the Yard eventually come to the conclusion he committed suicide, even though a body is never found.

Then, twelve years later, a man appears in their informants’ reports. They describe him as some kind of counsellor, a man who tags along Krennic and supervises exploits that nobody seems to know anything about – those who do disappear very quickly. Through more and more of such accounts it eventually becomes apparent to the DEA that Krennic is trying to make some kind of chemical alteration to his cocaine.

The man by his side is subsequently identified as none other than Galen Erso when one informant brings forth a photograph. (The informant lives for two days after that, and is then found when the police are alerted to a body hanging off a bridge in Juárez, soaked with gasoline and burning bright.)

They watch Krennic’s and Erso’s movements for almost three years – Orson Krennic is supervised by none other than Wilhuff Tarkin, who reports directly to cartel boss Palpatine. They cannot risk stirring Krennic up – they have too many informants placed around him, he gives them far too much advantage over his cartel. They cannot risk blowing these people’s cover to stop whatever he and Erso are doing to the coke; they're left to hope that what Erso is doing is just to streamline the process and not to make the blow more toxic.

The case catches a lot of heat inside the DEA – because what they are letting Krennic do just to keep the upper hand could make cocaine even more profitable for the cartel if he succeeds.

Then, somehow, their luck changes. Erso breaks his pattern, abandons his blind obedience to his old friend, and starts working his own angle. He clearly is the driving force of the progress, and as he isolates himself from Krennic, a task force is assembled to capture him while he is on his own.

Cassian has memorised the case – memorised it even though Draven decided not to let him work the case. Tarkin’s cartel is the same one Cassian infiltrated in Juárez in 2013, back when he was actually still a cop in the narcotics division – the undercover assignment that landed him in exile “for his protection” in the first place. Draven was worried one of the criminals might recognise the man they suspected of being a traitor, the man who got off the road in the mountains and burned in his car before they could find out whether or not he was loyal. And Cassian had had to admit Draven was right – men who are dead to the cartels stay dead, if they’re smart.

So he kept his head down, and nicked Kay’s files. He had to. This is exactly the kind of thing Cassian has joined the forces to prevent.

The only reason Cassian ended up on that hill that night was the fact that Draven knows of his sniper training. The official version was that Cassian was there to cover his colleagues from afar in case Erso was armed. There was a story to cover up the whole arrest – an entire box of faked evidence placed in the archives of Scotland Yard that pointed to Galen Erso as the murderer of his wife and daughter, and a British DCS leading the team – officially.

In reality, the task force was led by Kay and two colleagues from El Paso; and Cassian was lying on that hill not to cover his colleagues but to make sure Erso didn’t get away, at the expense of the man’s kneecaps or his life if that was what it came to.

In the end, they had never needed any of that, because in the middle of the operation, Erso’s hideout was ripped to pieces by three powerful explosions within thirty seconds.

Kay had ended up in hospital with burned legs and a splinter of metal sticking out of his stomach; one of the men from El Paso and three other members of the task force hadn’t made it out alive at all.

Galen Erso was declared dead as well, this time with a singed but identifiable body to back it up.

And then, instead of the team being tasked with investigating what the hell had happened, the DA himself sealed the case before the detectives were even out of hospital.

 

Cassian sighs deeply and takes another sip from his drink. This doesn’t look any less like corruption than it did seven months ago – if anyone had asked his opinion then, he would certainly not have told them, but one possible theory, perhaps even the most likely, is that it wasn’t the cartel that blew up Erso.

It might have been the DEA itself, risking the life of its own people to make sure nothing got out. There are always moles, and you can’t be too careful. What are the lives of maybe ten people weighed against the thousands of American citizens who might have come in contact with the drug eventually?

The only flaw in that theory – and mostly the reason it is just a possible theory – is this: if the plan had been to blow Erso up all along, why place a sniper? Why forge an entire separate investigation as a cover when you are trying to make it look like a cartel hit? Who would profit from this kind of double bluff?

He empties his glass and shakes his head.

This is pointless. He needs more information.

The case is closed, and it was never his. Cassian is aware he should keep his fingers well off it, and not just for his sake. If he wants more information, he will have to turn to Kay, and even if he tells him as little as humanly possible, it will pull him right into this mess with him.

And despite the fact that he can be an incredible pain in the ass, Kay is his friend. They’ve worked together for years, been partnered for two. He absolutely doesn’t want to do this to him.

But then again – they never found out how far Erso and Krennic came, but as far as Cassian can tell, Krennic didn’t change his behaviour much since Galen died. Which probably means he’s still doing whatever the hell they were doing…

 


 

 

Cassian hardly sleeps that night, and when he does, the splashing of the rain against his rifle echoes through his dreams.

And, better still, when he gets up he remembers he agreed to move up his appointment because Mothma asked politely and at the time he was having too much free time on his hands to care.

Now he is very much tempted to call off the appointment, but then decides that would probably look suspicious, too, and he might need a gun permit more than ever. So he goes, and tells himself that if he’s slightly off his game that would at least look like he is finally having the reaction he was supposed to be having all along.

“All right, detective. Maybe today you’d like to tell me something for a change?” Mothma says, apparently already caught on to his troubled thoughts when he sits down opposite her.

“Depends on what you want to know,” he says cautiously, and she throws him one of her smiles.

“I thought we might try a different approach. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me something about your family?”

Cassian sighs. He’s so tired, and tired of lying, and it’s all in his file anyway. He’s already been assessed as having a childhood trauma. He can tell her about this. She can have this, and everyone, including himself, can tell themselves that Detective Andor is making an effort to earn his clearance.

“Yes. I lived with my parents, my grandmother and my brother Marco, south of Mexico City. My brother was two years younger than me. Um... We had a very small house, small garden, my grandmother grew vegetables there. We had a really old dog, abuela hated it. My father worked for a newspaper, my mother was a primary school teacher. Art and music. We had an old piano. Marco loved hearing her play on it, he was always singing, and he always begged her to teach him how to play.”

“Is that all you remember?”

He throws her a look. “I was six when they died, doctor. How accurate are your memories from when you were five?”

She smiles. “Fair enough. Can you tell me anything about the day they died?”

 “It was a Monday, happened at maybe one thirty in the afternoon. My lessons ended at twelve, I had to walk back twenty minutes; I should’ve been home by then. But I had got into trouble at school, had a fight with a boy from my class, and they made us sweep the yard as a punishment. I was almost two hours late, and scared of what my mother would say when I came home with a black eye. That’s how I lived. Just luck.

There was a crowd surrounding the house when I got there, um, neighbours, who’d heard the gunshots. My mother’s friend, María, she got hold of me. I was calling for my parents, my brother, she kept telling me I couldn’t go inside so I knew they were there. I’m not sure how much I understood what was going on. I bit her hand, and slipped away. The federales didn’t see me, they were questioning the crowd. There were only two of them. Understaffed, probably, or they just knew what was going on already. My mother was in the hall, she’d opened the door. Two bullets, head and chest. Quick kill, she was in the way. My father lay in the doorway to the kitchen, he’d probably come when he heard the gunshots. He got the rest of the magazine, they’d come for him. He was the message. I found my grandmother and my little brother in her room, off the kitchen. She was holding Marco by his shirt, and her fucking rosary in the other hand. They killed them the way they killed my mother.” He sighs. “For a long time, I was furious at my grandmother. I didn’t understand why she didn’t let Marco hide. But I get it now. She was trying to save him.”

“By not letting him hide?”

“It wasn’t a crime of passion, doctor. It was logical, they were eliminating witnesses. My grandmother was a smart woman. She knew that once they kicked the door in, they would have to kill her, because she could identify them. If they’d seen someone hide under the bed or behind the door, they would’ve gunned them down without even checking who it was. She wanted them to see he was too young to remember their faces. She hoped they’d let him live. It was quick thinking.” He gives a little shrug. “Just didn’t work.”

“Did anyone ever tell you what happened?”

He scoffs. “No. I spent the next, what, seven years, trying to find out. There wasn’t even much to it, in the end. My father and his colleagues had discovered evidence of a high-ranking politician, a minister or something, getting paid off by the cartels. Out of the four of them, one made it into witness protection, the other two died as well, with their families in case they knew anything, same day a few hours later. Still, it was sloppy. They didn’t know my father had two sons. I was old enough, I’d heard things – just snippets. Didn’t make sense to me at the time, but I put it together. I was the danger, but they didn’t even notice I wasn’t there, and instead they killed a four year-old for no reason at all. It was… pointless.”

She frowns for a moment, then asks, very suddenly: “What about your dog?”

“What?”

“The dog? You said your family had a dog, what happened to it?”

He frowns. “She died too that day. She was a small dog, you see. Someone gave her a kick in the head, probably when she started making noise, it broke her neck.”

She nods, slowly. “Does it upset you to talk about this, detective?”

He’s given her the truth so far, and he decides to stick with it, at least for today. It’s strangely relieving. “Not really.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“It’s easier, looking at it this way. Looking at it like it’s a case. I’ve been doing that for a long time.”

“Taking away everything that is personal about the memory,” she says gently.

Cassian has a feeling that might point him out to be some sort of emotionless psychopath, but nods anyway. There’s no other way to explain what he’s doing.

“Is it a problem for you that the case isn’t solved?”

“It used to be.”

She eyes him very sharply, and for just a moment, he sees a flicker of actual compassion in her eyes. “Now it isn't?”

He shrugs. “They’re gone. I can’t help them, even if I caught the men who did it, they’re just… pawns. It wouldn’t make a difference,” he says, his voice slipping slightly.

This is why he’s doing what he’s doing. Because he can’t bring them back to life, but he can save others from the same fate, from becoming collateral damage in the drug war the way his mother did, and his grandmother, and his little brother with his big brown empty eyes –

“And that doesn’t upset you?”

“That’s why I joined the police,” he says softly. “So I could help make a difference. Get to the people who hold the strings.”

His heart feels heavy, but suddenly, his choice is made – if there ever was a choice at all. If he can prevent this, if he can dig up anything that might help prevent just one more death, then he has to try.

Mothma nods, slowly, then – “Detective, when you shot these men, did you think of your family? Did you somehow connect them to their murders?”

That gives him pause. He ponders it for a moment. “I don’t think I did. I was defending myself. They were shooting at me.”

“So you were scared, not angry.”

He almost wants to laugh – because the honest answer is that, Jesus Christ, it’s been over two months, and he’s been shot at far too often in his life to keep the incidents separate in his mind. He has no fucking idea if he was scared or angry. Then again, his fear is so much a part of him by now that of course he must’ve been scared – he always is. And there is some small part in the back of his mind that never stopped being angry ever since that day, so he was probably angry, too.

“I can’t say I wasn’t angry, ma’am,” he replies gently, “but what I can tell you for sure is that I was scared as hell.”

She smiles at him. “Detective, you are aware that if you hide things from me, that tells me something about you, too, right?”

Cassian laughs, and wonders how they both still muster the patience to play this stupid game.

“Why can’t you tell me the truth?” she asks, in a voice that somehow sounds like she really wants to know, like she’s curious, and he just shrugs, and the answer he gives is, to his own surprise, entirely the truth:

“I just can’t, ma’am. I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because my work is all I have.” Because my work is all I believe in. Because it’s my only purpose.

Again, that flicker of… is it pity? It doesn’t look like it is.

“Thank you,” she says softly. “I think that was progress.”

In a way, Cassian thinks with a heavy heart, and dials the number as soon as he has left her office.

 

“Kay, I need you to pull up an old file for me.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” comes the mildly irritable reply. “You’re the one sat right next to the archives, Cassian, pull your own bloody file. I’m knee-deep in a case that ought to be investigated by two agents instead of one agent and a moderately well-trained primate, no thanks to you, and I have no bloody time to play errand boy for you as well.”

Cassian sighs, deciding to ignore the fact his partner just compared one of their longest-serving agents to a monkey. He just doesn’t have the mental capacity to worry about it right now.

“I can’t get it, it wasn’t my case. I don’t have access.”

There is a pause, then – “What the hell are you up to?”

“I’m just bored, I want to have a look. See if you’ve missed anything.”

“If I’ve missed anything? Are you kidding me?”

To give Kay some credit, this incredibly humble self-assessment is somewhat warranted. Jonathan Kay is not known to be brilliant at interrogation (because despite his own stellar sarcasm abilities, he tends to misread people quite a lot) or his skill with witnesses or relatives (making them cry about eight times out of ten really isn’t a flattering track record). Kay is a decent shot, but at least half their agents would kill him in just under five minutes (and if Cassian is quite honest, he could do it in two, maybe less). But there are two things Kay has in overabundance, and that is tenancy and perfectionism. If Kay looked over something, there is usually not a breadcrumb he didn’t pick up and turn over to see if it might be of use.

“It wasn’t just your case, and I have been known to see things you don’t,” he argues gently.

“You’re awfully adamant for someone who just wants to look out of boredom.” He sighs, and Cassian can see him get up, pace the room, pinch the bridge of his nose. “Which file are we talking?”

“Erso.”

There is a short silence at the other end, then, dripping with sarcasm and thinly veiled alarm –

Oh. Oh, you mean the file that was sealed by the DA. The case I had to swear to keep my mouth shut about at all costs? That file?”

Cassian sighs. “The case has been dead in the water for months, Kay.”

“Exactly. Because people from very high up wanted it to be kept quiet, and it has too many strings attached, and if you tug on any one of them, you might end up stirring up the bloody high command. I’m not saying I am in any way endorsing the fact someone in the government is trying to cover up for a cartel hit for some reason, but we really do have other fish to fry. What the fuck do you want with it?”

Kay’s voice has dropped to a tense whisper, and Cassian thinks anybody watching him probably thinks he was either fighting with his mistress (unlikely, it is Kay) or discussing the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Fine, begging it is, then. “John-“

“John? Are times that desperate?” he snaps, and Cassian shuts his eyes for a moment. Yes, damn it.

“I just want to have a look. I have a… a suspicion. No, less than that. A feeling.”

Kay scoffs. “You want me to risk my job because you have a feeling?”

“Please, it’s important.”

Again, there is a moment of silence, then Kay asks haltingly: “This is for a case, right?”

Cassian hesitates for a second. Kay is his best friend, and has probably trusted him on worse – but the less Kay knows, the safer he will be, and besides, Cassian can’t bring himself to blurt out other people’s secrets yet. It might not be of any use, after all. Even if she is who he thinks she might be, what would it change?

(The truth, if he’s being quite honest with himself, is that he’s just not ready to ruin a life unless he knows it’ll be worth something. He just can’t do it. Not if it's her life, anyway.)

“Yes. For a case. Of sorts.”

A sharp intake of breath follows, then in a strange tone that is probably supposed to be sympathetic and calming but mostly weirds Cassian out: “Cassian, if you’re about to embark on some kind of personal vendetta all of a sudden, I’d really –“

“Nothing like that,” he cuts him off quietly, slightly worried. He wasn’t aware his friend believes him to be in that dark a place.  

“I won’t tell a soul, I won’t do anything, I swear. I just need to see the file. There’s something that doesn’t make sense. Please, John.”

Kay sighs, and for a moment it seems like he wants to say something else, then he hangs up.

Chapter Text

 

“Meeting someone?” Bodhi asks drily, glancing at her from his newspaper.

“What?” She looks up from her cereal, slightly startled. “No. Why?”

He grins. “’cause I don’t see why you’d ditch the hoodies for your therapist, that’s all.”

“Just felt like it,” she replies bristly.

His grin widens even more. “You’re wearing make-up.”

“So?”

So you don’t make that much effort for a therapy session, Jyn.” He takes a sip from his tea and adds: “This wouldn’t have anything to do with –“

“No.”

Bodhi shakes his head. “See, I didn’t even have to say anything.”

She huffs. “Because it was obvious.”

“Because you’re thinking about it.”

“About what?”

Bodhi throws her a mild smile. “You like him.”

“I – what – No. I don’t like him, Bodhi,” she says firmly. “I don’t know him.”

“Since when are you wearing lipstick for people you don’t like?”

“I like you, and I’ve never worn lipstick for you.”

“Which wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact I’m gay, of course,” Bodhi says flatly and smirks at her.

Jyn sighs, then shrugs. “Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? I don’t wear make-up for people I like, I wear it for people I –“ She substitutes a few inappropriately phrased descriptions for the most neutral one she can find, and thinks she doesn’t usually have to make a conscious effort for that. “People I might sleep with.”

Bodhi sighs. “Okay, but we’re agreeing on the fact you’re now wearing make-up on the off chance of running across him?”

Jyn raises a brow. “I don’t approve of the way you’re phrasing it.”

Bodhi smiles. “Like the truth?”

Jyn glowers at him, but sadly her best icy glare has lost all effectiveness on her best friend a long time ago, at least where topics like these are concerned.

“Well, I like him, personally. And I objectively see the appeal,” he adds drily, which makes Jyn smile despite her best effort. “But... there’s a past to that guy, you know?” he adds in a cautious tone.

“A specific past?” Jyn asks, careful to keep her voice bored and level even though the effort is probably lost on Bodhi who knows her better than anyone else in the world. “You know something?”

He shrugs and replies slowly: “It’s just that... he threw one look at me and seemed to know exactly what was going on. Even you, he... he just looks at us like he gets it, and well, when has that ever been a good sign?”

“He’s a cop, right? A Mexican cop who’s seeing a therapist. I don’t think it’s too surprising if he’s seen his fair share of shit himself.”

Bodhi nods, shrugs; deflects. “Probably.”

“Bodhi.” She throws him a sharp glance until he adds with a helpless twitch of his shoulders:

“Doesn’t sit quite right with me is all. I mean, long as a past is all he’s hiding I suppose...”

An affectionate smile twitches around her lips and she lets him see it. “You don’t have to worry about me so much, Bodhi. I know what I’m doing, and like I said. I don’t like anyone and I’m not planning to, and if there’s some huge shit in that guy’s past, I don’t see why I should care.”

He gives a long-suffering sigh, gets to his feet and puts both her bowl and his cup into the dishwasher.

“Sure,” he says under his breath, but she hears it anyway, “keep telling yourself that.”

“Just because you care far too much about the entire bloody world doesn’t mean I have to,” she says and tries and fails to keep her voice from sounding accusing. “For some people, sex is just sex, you know?”

He grimaces and raises his hands. “Yeah, no need for oversharing. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“If I was actually oversharing,” she replies with a smirk, “believe me, you’d know. And I’m not going to get hurt. I know how to avoid that.”

He shakes his head and sighs and mutters: “You’re gonna be late if you don’t hurry. I’ll see you later?”

Jyn resigns herself to a small smile, nods and gets to her feet. “Yeah. I got a couple of errands to run, but I’ll swing by for a late lunch or something.”

“Errands,” Bodhi repeats doubtfully, and she sighs.

“I’m careful.”

“Yeah,” he mutters, his eyes back on his hands. It breaks her heart a little to see him so scared, and it’s not like she doesn’t understand – a past like his, she’d probably be scared of guns, too, and scared for the people she loves being faced with one.

(But her past has been full of guns, and so is her present, and Jyn knows guns are like dogs. You don’t have to be wary of them – you have to be wary of the owners.)

She shakes her head at him and smiles. “Save me something nice, okay?”

 


 

 

“Alright, detective,” Mothma says and hands him a sheet of paper. “I liked the way this chat worked out the last time, so I suppose it might be best to approach the issue chronologically after all.”

Cassian shrugs. Whichever, really – he’s keeping the same secrets no matter which way she comes at him, but he can tell her the old things, which is good. He’s being damn cooperative; Draven should be proud, he thinks, not without a bitter kind of satisfaction.

“So, where did you go after you lost your family?”

Cassian supresses the urge to roll his eyes. She knows. It’s in his goddamn file, admittance papers and all.

“All-boys orphanage in the city.”

She nods, slowly. “You weren’t admitted the same day. In fact, you were admitted twenty days later. Where were you for the time in-between?”

“Hidden,” he says, then elaborates when she raises a brow at him: “Safe-houses, cop’s homes, all over the city. A radio reporter had let it slip that there was a kid who survived. It made for a juicy story, I guess, screaming six-year old covered in blood and all. He didn’t realise that put me in danger.”

She frowns. “And they stopped protecting you after less than a month?”

Again, he shrugs. “They had bigger worries. Couldn’t spare the men.”

Her frown doesn’t disappear, but she doesn’t ask any further questions. “Tell me about that orphanage.”

“Not much to tell. Some one-hundred boys, aged four to eighteen. We shared rooms in fours. Big old building, a bit run-down. Some of the windows didn’t close well.”

“The adults there, what can you tell me about them?”

“Men, mostly. Two priest, six or seven social workers. There were three women, too, two younger ones and one old lady, Anna. She was our favourite. And then the teachers at the school we went to.”

She sighs a little at his evasive answer. “How did they treat you?”

“Not bad. The food wasn’t great, but we got as much as we wanted, and we had soccer balls and card games and things like that to keep busy, and the older boys were allowed to leave during the afternoon, and they brought you books from the library if you asked. Long as we didn’t break anything or got into trouble at school and sat nice and quiet in church on Sundays, everyone pretty much left us alone.”

“Did they listen to the boys when they had problems? About your parents, that kind of thing?”

He scoffs a little. “I wouldn’t know. We didn’t really talk to them about most things.”

“Who did you talk to, then?”

“The other boys.”

Again, she nods in that slow way she has, then hands him a pen. “Can you write down the ten people you think influenced you most in the first, say, eighteen years of your life?”

He takes the pen, but hesitates.

“The names don't matter to me. Change them if you want, I won't remember them for long either way."

Cassian nods, and stares down at the blank piece of paper. “Ten people?”

“Yes.”

He sighs, and starts writing, has to force himself through every single letter like he’s giving up secrets he shouldn’t tell, but they’re nobody’s secrets anymore. It’s all so long ago, and it’s all solved, all neatly tucked away in files. Nearly all of them dead. It doesn’t matter anymore, hasn’t mattered for so long now…

Still, he hesitates for another moment, then puts his father's last name instead of his grandmother's and mother's. Mothma is American, she won't even realise - if that is an insult to their memory, it only stings a little, much less than having his mother's last name disappear from his passport.

The rest don't need falsifying, he can just drop the last name as well. She might not even notice that, either - and if she does and it says something about him... then he'll live with that.

Inès Andor
Juana Andor
Marco Andor

Javier Andor
Alejandro Ruiz
Gael Rodriguez

He hesitates, then adds: Cassio Tagge
Conan Motti
Juan Gorgon

He stares at the finished list for a moment, then takes up the pen again, draws eight crosses, and hands her the sheet.

“Inès was your mother?” she asks, and he shakes his head.

“My grandmother.”

“Those are only nine.”

Cassian shrugs. “They’re all I could think of.”

“Who are Alejandro and Gael?”

He tries not to cringe at her pronunciation. “Alejandro was one of the cops assigned to protect me. The others, they’d sit in another room at night so I wouldn’t see the guns they had. He slept in the same room, gun on the pillow. The man hardly spoke a word when he didn’t have to, and looking back, he was terrible with children.”

He remembers empty eyes, a hand heavy on his shoulder. You’re a strong one, aren’t you? A fighter. That’s good. Show them you’re brave. Don’t show them anything else.

“Why is he on this list?”

“He came to me a year or so after it had happened. Said if I wanted answers he could swipe me the files, and left his number. I found a few things about my parent’s case, and so after a while, I called him. He listened, even made someone follow up on it. When I was eleven, I was allowed to leave the orphanage for a couple of hours after school, and he sent me to scout out places sometimes. Little boys don’t get noticed. I felt useful for the first time. He was the one who got me into the police, basically.”

She takes that in with a slightly judgemental look on her face, but doesn’t say anything.

“And Gael?”

“We shared a room,” he replies with a shrug, more hesitant this time. “He was a year older, lost his parents the same way. He took care of me that first year. We were friends.”

I know it sucks, but we owe it to them. We have to live because they can’t, Cass.

She glances down at the list. “He’s the only one on your list still alive.”

“As far as I know.”

“Do you still have contact?”

We’re like brothers, right? We’ll have each other.

 “No. The last time I saw him was my eighteenth birthday.”

He remembers warm bright eyes that always sparkled with inexplicable laughter flickering down at the form on the table between them in disgust. They took everyone’s lives, Cassian, and now you want to give them yours, too? I'd catch a bullet for you, Cass, but if you sign your life away, I won’t help you. I can’t help you. You’re already where they are.

“Our lives went different ways. I don’t know what became of him.”

I won’t be here to watch you die. I won’t be here to bury you.

“So you parted on bad terms?”

How could you, Cassian? How could you do that to them? To yourself? To me?

“No, I understood. We just… we had different understanding of what our duty was.”

“Duty to whom?” Mothma asks, and he shrugs.

“Our country, our families. Ourselves. Maybe God,” he adds and can’t help a cynical little smile.

She makes a little note in her book and doesn't react to that. “Who are the other men?”

He raises his eyes off her blue book to meet hers. “The men who shot my family, and the one who ordered it,” he replies calmly.

She looks stunned for a moment, and her eyes flicker up at him with something like worry in the icy blue. Then she hands him back the list with a sigh and says:  “If I asked you to add people for the last ten years, how many would you add?”

“Two,” he says after a moment of consideration.

“Tell me about them.”

Cassian smiles thinly. “I’m afraid that’s classified.”

“I don’t need details.”

“One of the criminals I observed during my undercover assignments.”

“Why would you put him on the list?”

“I left Mexico because of them, because of him,” Cassian replies in an even tone. “I’ve never been away for longer than a week before. Now it’s been two years.”

His voice is a little too raw, a little too telling for his liking – but damn it, he didn’t expect it to sting, but it does.

Never since that little house in the suburbs was defiled with all that blood has Cassian considered home to be a specific building. Home, to him, became an abstract. The whole city became synonymous with home, then the whole country. Now he just doesn’t know, and it hurts more than he expected to remember a time when he had streets and people he belonged to, even though they were a substitute.

It was better than nothing, but he lost that, too.

Mothma eyes him. “And the other?”

“My partner.”

She sighs in mild annoyance when he doesn’t go on. “Why do you put him on the list?”

“He saved my life, back in Mexico. He refused to blow my cover, took a bullet to the leg. He didn’t know me, we just happened to be assigned on the same cartel.” He shrugs. “I feel like he should be on the list. I would be dead without him.”

Mothma leans back in her chair with a sigh. “Detective, most people tell me they can’t decide on just ten people, and they give me another ten for the second list. What do you think your numbers mean?”

“Bad memory?” he suggests drily.

“I think you have learned very early to keep people at a distance. You don’t trust anyone the way you trust yourself, and you don’t let people close enough to have influence on your life.”

“I lost my whole family at the age of six, and you’re surprised I have trust issues?” Cassian asks flatly.

That gets a thin smile out of her. “I didn’t say I’m surprised. You’re lonely. That could change, if you’re willing to work on yourself. I could help you change that.”

Paranoia is all that keeps me alive. He doesn’t reply, and she sighs again.

“I’ll see you on Tuesday, detective.”

 

 

He doesn’t know what he’s looking for at the diner. Calm and quiet, he tells himself. Something other than his own four walls closing in on him, maybe.

His head feels strangely heavy, and the coffee doesn’t really help. His thoughts wander into directions he hasn’t let them wander in years – almost ten years, Jesus, when did he get so old?

Don’t be scared, he hears a young boy’s voice, as if through cotton wool. That bed is yours now. It’s pretty creaky, but you’ll get used to it. What’s your name?

He tries to remember a face to that voice and finds that he can’t, not really. There’s a feeling, a reassurance, a presence at his shoulder – there’s an old hard ball bruising his shins and the ghost of laughter in his ears, but no face.

And then there’s cool metal against his index finger, measured breathing, counting heartbeats. A brutal noise that doesn’t make him flinch, and bones and blood spilling over the ground in the distance – a man, trembling from head to foot, and Cassian’s arm around him, reassuring. Then a shot, just one, and the gun that doesn’t shake in his hands.

His stomach clenches and his head spins a little.

I hope you don’t think of me, he thinks, mechanically stirring in his coffee. I hope you’ll never know what I’ve become.

“Cassian?”

He gives a violent start, nearly knocks over his cup. Bodhi is standing next to his table, startled too by his flinching. The empty cup in the waiter’s hands is clattering against its saucer a little.

“I… I’m sorry, I just… are you alright?”

He looks up at Bodhi’s troubled dark eyes, and feels the familiar sense of – not pity, not quite. Understanding maybe.

“I… yes. Of course. Just been a long day.”

“It’s only three o’clock,” Bodhi says softly and Cassian forces a smile on his lips.

“Yes,” he mutters and returns his eyes onto his coffee cup. “Can I get another?”

“Yeah, sure.” The clattering of the china lets up just a little. “I just –“

The door opens and a smile flickers across Bodhi’s face. “Hey. I saved you a sandwich.”

“Perfect.”

Cassian tells himself it’s years of training and old habits that make him recognise her voice just by that one word. (He can’t really chalk up the sudden improvement of his mood to his training, though. There’s something about this woman that fills his head, and damn it, it’s not his fault if he finds that addictive, looking at what usually goes through his head these days).

Jyn drops down on her seat next to his usual table and throws him a strange little smile. “Hi.”

“Hello.”

Jyn takes her sandwich from her roommate, and has wolfed it down before Cassian’s had two sips of his coffee. Then she gets to her feet and calls into the direction Bodhi has disappeared:

“I’m making myself a tea, alright?”

“You know, I think you misunderstood the concept of gastronomy,” Cassian says matter-of-factly, and she shrugs.

“You look like shit.”

“Thank you, that’s nice,” he gives back flatly, brow raised.

“No, seriously. What do you do at night?” Jyn grins at him. “I mean, clearly you don’t sleep, so…”

Cassian lets her see a smile. She, unlike him, is looking much better – and that shirt she’s wearing is doing her all kinds of favours. He makes a conscious note not to let his eyes linger.

“That was cheap. Try again,” he says gently and takes another sip of his coffee.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know this was a test,” she says, grinning, and grabs a muffin from the display. “Will there be points, or do I get a grade at the end?”

“Grades, I think.”

She laughs and brushes a handful of crumbs off her shirt, just below the hem of her neckline. Cassian drinks his coffee.

She’s doing this on purpose, and oh, he’s not on top of his game. He’s out of practice, too, and tired.

He finds a spot just over her right shoulder that he fixes his gaze on, and feels like an amateur. It’s not a familiar sensation.

“Fine. Don’t tell me.” She pours milk into her tea and sits back down, nibbling at her muffin.

Her brown hair falls into her eyes, and something about it entrances him. It’s worrying – she shouldn’t be this remarkable. Not if he’s right. Not if she is who he thinks she might be. Not if she saw what he thinks she saw, not if –

It would be better for her if she were a little easier to overlook. Far better.

“I was reading,” he concedes.

“Novel?” she asks, brow raised.

“Case file,” he replies flatly.

“I thought you were on leave.”

“Old case. Never closed.”

“Must be exciting if it kept you up all night.”

Exciting isn’t the word I would use,” he says softly, and regrets saying anything until she nods, suddenly serious.

“Yeah, right. Exciting isn’t what keeps me up at night, either,” she mutters, eyes on her hands.

He hesitates for a moment, then tells himself it is to find out if he’s right, no more, and asks: “What does?”

He hasn’t expected a reply, but he gets one – a fairly truthful one, too, this time.

“Memories,” she says flatly, and meets his eyes with a defiant little smile. “Same as you, I suppose.”

He shudders a little at the way she looks at him, the way the green bears into his head like she understands. It shakes him to the core, and he can’t avert his eyes.

He doesn’t even know if he wants to be understood.

“Yes. They’re what gets you,” he murmurs, and her lips twitch into something sad and a little broken.

They finish their drinks in silence, then she glances at her watch and gets to her feet.

“You gonna be here tomorrow?”

He fights down a smile, and can’t quite hold her gaze. “I’ve got nowhere to be.”

She shrugs into her coat and says: “Well, now you do.”

She’s out the door before he can scrape a reply together.

 

Chapter Text

Well, now you do.

Cassian sighs, and runs his hands over his face. He’s in trouble. More trouble, that is.

He’s not deaf, or blind, or stupid, he knows what she’s doing. And what’s worse, he knows he wants to let her do it. Hell, as much as he’s denied it in front of Kay and himself, this is exactly what he’s wanted for a good few weeks now. This is what he sees himself doing when the feverish restless dreams of his early mornings bring something other than blood and horror.

And he’s a horrible person, he is; he’s shot unarmed men in the back, he’s lied to crying children, he has interrogated men with the help of a blade or a bullet to the foot.
He’s let his best friend walk away and never even put up a fight, he’s hated his father for doing his duty, he’s told his grandmother’s favourite priest to go fuck himself, he’s forgotten his mother’s face except for how it looks white and dead and shattered, and he’s broken his promise to his little brother and –

God, yes, he is a horrible person.

But still, somehow, he can’t allow himself so much as the idea of sleeping with that woman when she doesn’t know – doesn’t know that he knows who she is, doesn’t know that once he was waiting in the wet darkness to kill her father.

It should be easy. He should be able to face this, the way he’s faced every other terrible thing he’s done – it should not be hard to tell himself that this was what needed to be done to make a difference, that what he did could change the future, that it might save hundreds, thousands of lives. He does all these horrible things, and he’s not proud of them, but someone has to do it.

It should be so easy, but it isn’t.

 


 

 

He spends six hours filing paperwork, then when his head gets too cramped even for that, he drives to the shooting range, because in the end there is nothing more terrible and more numbing than a finger on the trigger. The world shrinks around the crosshairs, fades to nothing at all except for the tiny piece of reality he watches through the scope.

That feeling is a huge part of his nightmares and yet a passable coping mechanism, all at once, and he doesn’t need Mothma to tell him how messed up that is.

The mess in his head returns on the bus back to his apartment, and he still has no idea what he’ll do. No idea, really, what he can do. There’s only the realisation that hit him somewhere in the middle of his target practice – if she is Galen’s daughter, if he felt the need to make her disappear, if she’s seen something that night… then she’s in danger. And even though he doesn’t doubt she could handle herself in a physical fight, that’s not exactly going to be enough, not when there’s either a cartel or a corrupt government agency coming after her…

It’s almost ten when there is a knock on his front door, then the doorbell, twice, in the space of precisely two minutes, which is evidence enough of who is at the door. Cassian lets it ring. Then, after another few minutes, a key turns in the lock.

Kay takes in the way Cassian sits brooding over the Erso case, wine glass in hand, and says matter-of-factly: “You didn’t give that back to me, so I’m assuming you’ve found something.”

Cassian doesn’t reply and keeps staring at the file, swirling the wine in his glass.

“It was my case. So you’d do good to tell me.”

He shakes his head. “The case is closed, Kay. We’re not supposed to touch it. And we both know that even if we come forward with a decent lead, and I’m not saying I have one… even then, Draven’s just going to tell us to let it go, or worse. We don’t know how high this goes. There’s no point.”

“Humour me,” Kay replies drily. “Since I’m here already and you have no one to drink with.”

Cassian nearly laughs, and repeats, his resolve already giving way to exhaustion: “There’s no point.”

“And just because we can’t reopen the case, you refuse to tell me?” Kay asks, sounding less hurt and more exasperated. “Three guesses to who this relates to.”

Cassian is floored, too floored even to lie. “Jesus. Am I that easy to read?”

Kay flashes him a rather humourless smile, gets himself a glass and sits down across him. “Not usually, no. But lately, sometimes, where that girl is concerned. It’s rather embarrassing, you know.” He grabs the bottle and fills his glass too full. “So, I’m listening.”

Cassian sighs deeply, then resigns himself to his fate, opens the file and shoves it over to his partner, tapping at a paragraph in the middle of the first page.

“You fucked up, Kay.”

He frowns. “What, so far back? What’s there to-“

“We should’ve realised that we’re not the only people who can forge reports at the Yard,” Cassian says softly. “We just took their word for it. We got lazy.”

“Took their word for what?” Kay asks slowly, scamming the pages.

“Well, all the report said is that Lyra Erso and her daughter were shot in Belgravia, London, after the three of them came back from visiting a friend.”

“So?”

“So Galen Erso was right behind them, according to his own statement loitering behind because he’d tied his shoelaces.” Cassian glances up at his partner. “Someone cornered his wife and child, fired two shots and got away, all before Erso found the bodies. What kind of shoes do you have to wear that it takes that long to tie them? And what kind of father keeps tying his shoes when he hears shots from the street his little daughter just walked down? So I had a contact in London try to pull that file, and there is no forensic report on the bullets, the cartridges, there are three pictures of the crime scene, and they all show Lyra. Not to mention that’s an odd neighbourhood to be mugged in the first place, and you know that better than I do. The only eyewitness account is that from the husband, despite the fact they were shot right next to a block of apartments, and the reports on the bodies of mother and daughter are identical.”

“Of course. They were killed by the same person.”

Exactly. The same person, standing in the same spot. The girl was eight, short for her age, holding a stuffed animal. How do you shoot her in the chest? Why not the head? It’s higher up, easier target, quicker, cleaner.“

I should know, Cassian thinks, and tries to swallow the thought back down before it makes him sick.

Kay sighs. “Alright. But what are you getting at?”

Cassian glowers at him. “Look, it’s a hunch. I don’t have proof. I would have to… we’d have to open to tomb to confirm anything.”

“Cassian, what the hell are you talking about? Are you trying to tell me they faked their death?”

Cassian licks his lips and sighs. “No. I do believe that Lyra died. Her evidence is sound. But somehow, for some reason, somebody saw to it that the police declared her daughter dead the same night. Could be it was the father, maybe even witness protection, maybe she saw her mother’s killer.”

Kay frowns, then asks in a tone that sounds like he’s trying and failing to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, or worse, worry: “You get involved in this case for all of one night, and seven months later you suddenly get it in your head that Erso’s daughter survived her own murder sixteen years ago?”

“Yes. I heard a name that sounded familiar, and it took me a while to figure out why.”

Kay leans back in his chair with a little groan and sips at his wine. “Well, spit it out, then,” he says, in the voice of a parent that has been tortured with their child’s science fiction obsession for too long.

“You remember the girl’s name?”

“Yes, something pretentious... Guinevere, wasn’t it?”

Cassian nods and slams the file shut. “Yes. Guinevere. Jyn for short.”

Kay is stunned silent for a moment, then replies with a scoff: “You’re basing all this on the fact the woman you’re stalking has a rather particular first name? This is America, Cassian, people can name their child Apple if they feel so inclined.”

“First of all, I’m not stalking anybody,” Cassian snaps, “secondly, she’s from Britain, and thirdly, I heard a friend of hers call her Jyn Erso. It’s not a common name, the physical description fits, so does the age. His daughter would be twenty-four right now. She’s in therapy, has been for a few months, possibly since the night Galen Erso died.”

And the day she came in crying, there was a big article on the explosion outside the city six months ago.

“And again, Erso’s statement makes no sense. He was there, his family was killed and he couldn’t stop it, and then he chose to make statements that don’t add up at all. Why would he do that, unless there was more to cover up?”

Kay looks both annoyed and concerned now. “What the hell do I know, maybe he did it himself.”

“He doesn’t have motive,” Cassian argues, and Kay sighs and refills his glass.

“No one ever really went looking for one. Besides, he doesn’t have motive to let his child disappear, either.”

“If it wasn’t a mugging, he did. If someone specifically came after his wife, or more likely after him, and she saw them, then he did. She was eight, old enough to remember a face.”

Kay leans back and swirls his wine in his glass. “Fine, so there are a few things that don’t add up. It’s still a damn far stretch, and you’re forgetting this didn’t happen in some Mexican small town with a bunch of corrupt policemen. Faking someone’s death like that in a busy city like London, getting everyone to report the daughter dead as well when she wasn’t there... you’d need to have half the department in your pocket. Did he have that kind of influence?”

Cassian smiles a little. “Maybe not. But looking at the house he left behind, he had that kind of money. Everyone is corrupt if you pay them enough.”

“And here I thought I was the cynic,” Kay mutters and shakes his head. “You know what this looks like to me, Cassian? Like they got some sloppy rookie detectives on the case, and they botched up some of the documentation.” He grimaces and sips at his wine. “Oh well. It’s not like it really matters, is it? There’s nothing we can do, even if you’re right.”

“If I’m right...”

Even then,” Kay repeats firmly, “there is nothing we can do.”

Cassian sighs. “If I’m right about everything – if I’m right about why she’s in therapy, then that means it’s not over.”

Kay raises a brow. “Now you’ve lost me.”

“If she is Galen Erso’s daughter, and she’s in therapy because she saw her father die...” Cassian trails off and glances at his partner who still looks puzzled and strangely concerned, and changes his mind.

No. Kay is right. There is nothing they can do, not in their function as detectives, anyway. So he doesn’t have to know about this – Kay doesn’t need to get dragged into this after all, at least not for now. It’s a relieving thought.

The only one thing he can do for her now is keeping an eye on her. He’s dealt with this sort of people all his life, he will see them coming even if she doesn’t. He’s not stupid enough to think he could really protect anyone from this sort of influence, at least not for a long time, but he can try.

And he can do this on his own. He does good work alone, always has, and Kay doesn’t work well in the regions where the law gets fuzzy, anyway.

“Forget it.”

“Oh, go on, I did bear with you this far,” Kay says, though his slightly irritable tone betrays him a little.

Cassian shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. Forget it.”

“I most certainly won’t!” Kay’s blue eyes flash at him in a rare and sudden surge of anger. “Because either you’re onto something, and you’ll go and get yourself in way over your head just because you’re bored, or more likely, that shrink loosened a few screws she should’ve left well alone and you’re knee-deep in some sort of obsession and this is a sign of a psychotic breakdown. Neither option bodes well for you, and you’re my friend, so I would very much like the privilege to warn you not to do anything stupid, if only to say I told you so once you’re in a hospital with a gunshot wound.”

“You are my friend,” he replies softly, “and this could get you in trouble. I wasn’t supposed to ever see this file, remember? Draven would kill you if he knew you gave it to me. So leave it be.”

“You’re asking me to turn a blind eye to your wild goose chase, after everything you’ve just told me?”

“I’m asking you to trust me. Trust my judgement.”

“Well, I don’t bloody trust it!” Kay snaps. “Not now. Not when you spend two hours a week having some psychiatrist picking your brain and dragging things to the surface you never properly dealt with in the last twenty-two years. Not when that woman is involved, because the way you orbit around her is not normal. Not even for you. And any ordinary person would have either made some kind of move on you or filed a restraining order at this point. That girl is probably just as fucked up as you are, and don’t think you’re fooling me, you’re in a bad place as it is and you don’t need that kind of distraction. So forgive me, but like hell I’m going to trust your judgement.”

Cassian sighs. “Kay-“

“No. If you act on this, on any of this, I will report you.”

“You’d get us both fired.”

Kay huffs angrily and bites back: “If the alternative is you getting yourself killed –“

“If you get me fired, I lose my work visa,” Cassian cuts him off in the calmest tone he can muster. “I return to Mexico. I just made a statement against Tarkin in court, so if someone in Juárez finds out I’m still alive, I will get killed, period.”

His partner glowers at him, blue eyes bright and icy. “Now you’re blackmailing me.”

“No. It’s just the truth, and you know that.” He sighs deeply and gets to his feet. “Do you want anything to eat after those three glasses of wine or...?"

Kay throws him a dark look and gets up as well. “No. I’m leaving.”

“Alright,” Cassian replies with a shrug and rummages through his fridge.

“Cassian, you have to be careful.” Kay’s voice has gone very quiet, and calmer now. This is as close as he gets to sounding worried, and Cassian is touched, he really is.

(It doesn’t mean he can tell him that he’s been having trouble breathing, that he feels like he’s not balanced because there’s a weight missing at his side, that some nights after he’s seen that goddamned psychiatrist he lay in bed awake for hours, and then two nights ago suddenly his heart started clenching and fluttering like he’d been running for miles and he threw up his dinner at three in the morning. He can’t tell him that. He can’t tell that to anyone.)

“I’m always careful,” he replies gently in the most sincere tone he can muster – it’s not a lie, he is careful, to the point of paranoia, in fact.

Kay sighs. “Look, I have a feeling time off has done you absolutely no good. Honestly, I think you need to get back to work before you lose it. But I can’t help you with that until you get that bloody clearance.”

Yes, but in order to get that clearance, I have to start talking, really talking, and then I might lose it.

“I know, I... I’m trying. It’s complicated. I can’t tell her everything,” he replies, throwing Kay a glance.

His partner nods. He knows some of the things that have slipped off Cassian’s official reports; not all of them, but enough to know in how much trouble they could get him.

He doesn’t need to know that’s not quite the reason, or at least not all of it.

“Well, try harder. Antilles is an absolute moron, you know, and two more weeks of work with him and I might need therapy myself.”

Cassian smiles a little. “Goodnight, Kay.”

 

Chapter Text

“Tell me something, detective.” Mothma leans back in her seat. “When you meet with friends after work, do you hug them goodbye?”

“I know I did not go to university, but I see no relation between that and me getting my gun permit back.”

“So you do not hug your friends goodbye?”

“My friend is from England,” Cassian replies flatly and she laughs a little.

“Detective… let me tell you a little story. There was a German monarch, a Frederick the Second or Third, who wanted to recreate the birth of human language. So he took babies - they received everything they needed, were fed and cleaned regularly, but the women caring for them were forbidden to speak to them or touch them unnecessarily or communicate nonverbally with them. What do you think happened to these children?”

He shrugs. “Can’t have been good for them.”

She smiles a sad little smile. “They all died.” When he doesn’t react, she sighs. “What I’m trying to tell you is that it is natural for humans to search the touch of others. It can actually make us sick to be deprived of it. You’re denying yourself a basic human need.”

“I don’t do that. I just don’t –“

“Well, then tell me, when was the last time you were in regular intentional close physical contact with someone?”

He opens his mouth to answer and she adds mildly: “In a non-sexual way, I mean.”

His mind flickers back, a lot further back than he’d like to admit, to his training days at the police, arms around his shoulder in some shoddy bar on Friday nights, then all the way back to the orphanage. Comforting the little boys when they scraped their knees or when they missed home, pats on the back after a soccer match.

An arm around his shoulders, leading him through the soon all-too familiar corridors of the orphanage. They fell asleep on each other’s bed a lot in those first years, too, when the nightmares were still bad. He remembers fingers catching his arm, pulling him back before he could do something really stupid – and a hand firm on his shoulder the night Gael wasn’t there to drag him back, and Cassian never told him what had happened, and he never asked again…

“I’d wager it’s been a while?”

Cassian flinches, pulled back to reality all too violently. “Yes. A while.”

She nods. “And am I right in thinking you didn’t always avoid physical contact the way you do now?”

“Of course not, I was a kid. Kids are always touching, right? It’s normal.”

She smiles a little. “Yes. It is. Can you about pinpoint the moment you started being uncomfortable with it?”

“I never said I was uncomfortable with it,” Cassian snaps, but she just smiles her ever-patient smile and leans back in her chair.

“Detective, you are a tough nut to crack, I’ll hand you that, but don’t think I’ve never had other patients who had the same problems. And when I’m telling you that you are denying yourself the comforts of social interaction because you think you do not deserve this comfort, then I am telling you this because I’ve seen it before.”

“All due respect, ma’am, but you don’t know what I’ve done and you don’t know if I deserve it or not,” he replies softly and she nods.

“You’re right, I don’t. But you see, I’m your therapist, not your priest, so I don’t care whether you deserve it. I care that you’re denying yourself something that could help you get better, and this, detective,” she says, smiling, “is where this relates to you getting your permit back. Because I will not give it to you before I don’t know that you will stop standing in the way of your own treatment. So here’s an assignment for you: the next time comfort is offered to you, you will take it. And I mean an action taken in order to comfort you and only that, before you try to make your salary or sex count, alright?”

He smiles back. “I see you have had a lot of patients like me.”

“I have, detective, and while I think you might be smarter than me in a lot of ways, I see through your bullshit. I’ll see you next week.”

 

 

“You should go back to where you came from, you know.”

Cassian looks up from his cup to see a man in his late forties glaring at him from two tables away over two muffins, a sandwich and one of these sticky sweet coffee things Bodhi always hands over the counter with a look on his face like he’s lost all faith in humanity.

He’s wearing a shirt with some kind of Statue of Liberty print on it, so clearly a tourist. There’s also a pin badge on his jacket, Cassian can’t read what it says but it’s in the national colours.

(It’s not hard to guess, really.)

He supresses a sigh and goes back to his coffee.

Clearly unhappy with his lack of reaction, the man repeats his phrase, slower this time.

Cassian wonders idly if he’ll try to say it in Spanish next.

“Maybe you should,” interrupts a quiet voice from behind the counter. Cassian’s eyes flicker up again to find Jyn and Bodhi standing in the doorway to the kitchen, and he can’t believe someone this short and slight in a skirt and a knitted sweater could radiate that amount of hostility.

“Should what?”

“Go back to where you came from,” she specifies with a cold smile.

“My family has lived in America for five generations,” comes the stunningly unhelpful, irritated reply.

Bodhi walks over and collects the dishes and the half-eaten muffin on it onto his tray without haste, blissfully ignoring the protesting look his customer gives him, and tells him very calmly:

“She means go home. Please take a hint.”

“Why?”

Before either Cassian or Jyn get a chance to answer, Chirrut lets out a long-suffering sigh. “Because our cleaning products don’t work very well where blood stains are concerned, and you see, we just had new tiles laid out.” He never once looks up from the napkins he’s been folding into intricate shapes for the past half hour or so. “Also, I’m afraid we couldn’t offer you a plastic bag for your teeth.”

Cassian only barely manages to bite back a laugh.

Jyn still has that smile on her face and couldn’t look any more provocative if she was holding a sign that said fight me and Chirrut seems to enjoy the tense silence spreading in the room like a good comedy, while Bodhi has a look on his face that distantly reminds Cassian of an angry puppy.

Then the door to the kitchen opens and Baze steps out, his huge form nearly filling the entire frame.

“There a problem?”

It’s his appearance that makes the man reach for his wallet – very slowly – and hand Bodhi a ten dollar note.

(Cassian is slightly amused by the man’s poor assessment of danger – Jyn is far closer, and she would probably hurt him a lot more. Chirrut… well, he’s a blind guy teaching martial arts, Cassian doesn’t quite know what to expect but he’s sure it would not be a pleasant experience. And then there’s the fact he chose to pick on someone who used to shoot people for a living in the first place.)

“Keep the change,” the tourist says through gritted teeth.

“I’d really rather not,” Bodhi replies flatly and presses a few coins into his hand, then disappears into the back room with Baze.

The tourist looks confused and deeply irritated, but catches Jyn’s hard look and this time gets the message, gets up and shuffles out of the door without another word.

There is a moment of complete silence while they watch him go and Cassian actually grasps what just happened.

(He can’t remember needing someone else’s protection beyond the age of maybe ten, but he can also count the people who have even bothered to try on one hand.)

He opens his mouth, not quite sure what exactly he wants to say, but is cut off by Chirrut.

“Please don’t, captain.”

Cassian obediently shuts his mouth and decides not to linger on the fact Chirrut just guessed his goddamn military rank – despite, of course, Cassian never mentioning any kind of military history to anyone in the room.

Jyn shakes her head, the tension almost gone from her face, and drops onto the bench next to him – he’s very acutely aware of how close that is, and of the fact that there’s a spike in his heartrate that is not due to discomfort.

“I was promised scones, you know?” she calls into the general direction of the kitchen, ignoring him completely.

“Steady on, missy,” comes Baze’s reply, “I can’t make things bake any faster.”

Bodhi returns to his counter and throws Jyn a conspiratorial little smile. “Milk?”

“Obviously.”

He turns to Cassian, who blinks in confusion. “What?” He’s still not quite over the shock, apparently.

“Milk in your tea?”

“I have coffee,” he says and unnecessarily points to his half-emptied cup.

“That doesn’t answer the question,” Jyn says, and Chirrut smiles.

“If you want my advice, I wouldn’t argue.”

Cassian smiles back, this time, just for a moment.

The next time comfort is offered to you, you will take it.

(There’s a pleasant, half-forgotten feeling of security about this place, and he won’t make the mistake of getting used to it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy it while it lasts.)

So he just gives a non-committal shrug in Bodhi’s general direction and listens with a slight frown as the two Brits debate if the tea or the milk should go into the cup first – Cassian doesn’t think it would make any difference either way, but then again he remembers the fuss Kay makes when Cassian puts the “wrong” amount of milk into his tea, so that seems to be a broader cultural issue.

He decides to keep out of it.

Bodhi balances a steaming tea pot over to the table and pours something into Cassian’s cup that looks dark enough to be coffee. Cassian takes a sip and nearly spits it out – he takes it all back, not even he couldn’t drink coffee this strong.

“Oh God,” he mutters and reaches for the milk, and his fingers accidentally (no really, it’s an accident) brush against hers.

She flinches away like she’d burned her skin and her eyes flicker up to his face with a startled look in them. Cassian looks away and pours the milk, watching the white swirl into the darkness, and thinks he’s known too many women like her.

He thinks of Mothma again. Don’t think I’ve never had other patients who had the same problems.

Well, here’s one of them.

“How old are you?” he asks, too quietly, before he realises what he’s doing.

She raises a brow. “Did your mother not teach you that you don’t ask a lady that?”

He shrugs and drinks his tea that is slightly less unbearable now, and replies flatly: “By the time I had any interest to ask a woman anything, she was long gone, so no.”

She eyes him for a moment with a very strange look in her green eyes, then returns her gaze to her cup and says: “Twenty-four last month, why?”

He takes a deep breath. The birthdate fits, an unwelcome voice in his head tells him.

Way too young for this, another equally unwelcome voice comments.

“I wanted to know if I guessed right,” he replies.

“Well, did you?”

I didn’t have to guess. All the things he’s done, and he feels guilty about this? Well, in a way, that figures.

“Well, I was a year off,” he says and knows it would sound like the truth to his own mother, and somewhere in the back of his mind thinks ninth commandment; and stares down at his hands.

Bodhi puts down a big plate with something that looks like misshapen muffins and grins.

“You know how long’s it been since I had scones?”

Chirrut pulls up a chair and takes one. “A month, little brother. It has been a month.”

Bodhi fills teacups and says: “Feels like years, anyway.”

Cassian eyes the plate in the middle of the table and asks, slowly: “What exactly is that?”

Bodhi and Jyn both look at him the way his grandmother used to look at him when he “used the name of the Lord in vain”.

 

 

Three hours later, they’re standing atop the building with a beer in hand. She’s leaning against the balustrade of the balcony, apparently oblivious to the twenty-story drop on the other side, and just a little too close to him for his brain to function normally.

“You know,” she says with a grin and a glint in her eyes that makes him feel fuzzy, “I got two bottles of, uh, something, for my last birthday. Liquor of some description. I think it was Mexican. Bodhi and I had a few glasses and we had the hangover of a lifetime.”

“Mezcal.”

“Yeah, that. It killed us.”

Cassian grins. “You know tequila is mezcal too, right?”

“Shit, that explains a few things, actually,” she says lightly and laughs.

“You just drink stuff without even looking up what it is?”

She shrugs. “The fridge was empty.”

Cassian shakes his head and tries his best not to laugh. Two light-weight Brits and a bottle of mescal on an empty stomach…

“I can picture the misery.”

“You have no idea! Bodhi gets drunk on everything, so he had like, two glasses and I had the rest. It was hell, and disgusting.”

“Hey, I’m insulted. Deeply.”

She laughs, then falls silent and looks out over the city.

“D’you miss it?” she asks quietly after a long while, her shoulder close enough to his to feel her warmth through the fabric of his jacket, or at least imagine he does. “D’you miss home?”

There’s a painful smile pulling at his lips, and he stares ahead and doesn’t see the city and replies: “I’m not sure I have one. But I miss something. I miss it like hell.”

He’s kept that feeling buried for so long now – two damn years that he’s almost surprised himself by his answer. He has nothing to miss, really; nothing but the sun, the food, the landscape… A feeling of something, of belonging somewhere, a sense of purpose, maybe. But still, he wants to go home – he has no idea where that is, but God, he longs for home so much it hurts.

Homesick, he thinks. Maybe that’s his diagnose. Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe he’s just a lost little boy longing for home.

He stares at the city in the dusk below and tries to tell himself it doesn’t look so different. Tries to tell himself he should count himself lucky, that he gets to be here where so many of his friends always wanted to go and never could; lucky that he’s alive at all.

“Yeah, me too,” she mutters, and he thinks she sounds just as lost and vulnerable as he’s feeling. He wants to look at her, wants to see what she looks like behind her armour, but he doesn’t turn his head. He’s already seeing far more of her than she willingly showed to him, and it feels wrong. So he stares down and listens to her voice that sounds softer and younger than she is.

“I can’t even really remember it, place I lived with my parents, it… I don’t even remember what our house looked like, you forget so much. I just know how cold the tiles were in the morning and how the wood of the doorframes felt and how it sounded when you skipped down the stairs…” She sighs and laughs a little, then resumes in a firmer voice: “Sorry. I wasn’t going to be the girl with the tragic childhood sob story.”

“Wouldn’t have worked on me,” he replies flatly and takes another sip from his bottle.

“No? Are you that heartless?” she quips and throws him a little empty smile.

He shrugs and turns to smile at her in a futile attempt to soften the blow. He’s being blunt and detached, because that’s the only way he knows how to react to trauma, probably; but mostly because he knows pity is worse.

“I grew up in an orphanage. So I heard most of those tragic stories once or twice already.”

“Right. Now I feel like a whiny brat,” she mutters, still with that strange fake little laugh on her lips, and avoids his eyes. “How long have you been here? The States, I mean?”

“Two years.”

“Your English is pretty good for that.”

Cassian rolls his eyes. “I was living in Mexico, not under a rock. I had lessons at school. Books, movies. Colleagues across the border to communicate with.” Shit. He wasn’t going to talk about work – “What about you?”

“Five years now,” she replies with a shrug. “England just… I don’t know. I love it there, I do, but it wasn’t the way it was when I was a kid. And after Bodhi got back from Afghanistan - he loves London so much, and I couldn’t stand the way he roamed around like he didn’t recognise it, and I didn’t have anyone to stay for. So we packed our bags, and washed up here like every other damn tourist.” She laughs and shakes her head, idly twirling the bottle in her hands.

Cassian nods. “Yes. It’s… you can’t pretend things look the same after. Guess that happens to most soldiers.”

“Bodhi wasn’t a soldier,” she says quietly, swirling the last of her beer in the bottle. “He’s a pilot. He was just flying out food supplies and blankets and shit to the camps. There was something wrong with his plane, and he had to stay in one of the camps until they could send someone with replacement parts, and then… they were attacked in the middle of the night and he was held hostage for two hours and… The camp was saved eventually, and it was all over the papers and everyone acted like it was this great story. They had to dig Bodhi out from under the rubble, grenade had gone off in the building where he and a couple of soldiers were held.” She shakes her head, and adds with emphasis, her green eyes bearing into his with an intensity that makes him shudder: “Bodhi never hurt anyone in his life. He was just… in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Cassian shivers and clutches his bottle a little too firmly. He’s known too many people like that. How many times did he follow his orders, fully aware there were civilians in the way, unassuming people – delivery boys, housemaids, drivers, janitors, nannies… children...

“But you were,” she says suddenly, and he flinches a little.

“I was what?”

“A soldier. You understand far too well,” she says flatly, something wary and aggressive in her voice. “And that’s kind of weird, because I don’t think Mexico was part of any war you could’ve fought in.”

The laugh that falls from his lips is a dreadful, cynical thing with no humour in it at all.

“Ever heard the term war on drugs? Sounds nice on a political campaign, right?” he says, unable to purge the bitterness from his voice. “In some places, it actually is a war. It’s not as upfront, maybe, but… my best friend, he was raised by his father after his mother died. The father was a cop. He tried to arrest someone powerful for conspiracy to murder. Two days later, his car blew up, right in front of his home, two pedestrians died as well. Convict was released, received a public apology, official version was the cop had framed him and committed suicide. Journalists who write the wrong things get shot in the street, in their homes. People don’t like to hear that. They look away. They look away from people like Bodhi, people like me, because we’re proof their world isn’t as perfect as they’d like it to be. So nothing changes, and everyone can say they had no idea.”

She sighs. “What happened to your folks?” she asks after a while, in a softer tone.

“My father was a journalist, too,” he replies, keeping his voice flat and quiet this time, and avoids her sharp eyes. “They all paid for what he was planning to write.”

She nods, slowly, stares out over the city and turns her bottle in her hands. “I’m sorry,” she says then, in a voice that doesn’t speak of pity, and he appreciates that.

He stares down onto the street, absent-mindedly peeling the label off his bottle, and tries to catch his breath. When did he start talking about this? When did he start to hand people ammunition?

He has a sudden fit of vertigo and steps away from the ledge.

 “I’m not a thief, by the way,” she says very suddenly, and the odd change of topic makes him frown.

“What?”

“I’m not a thief. I just… I represent questionable customers in their questionable ventures to sell objects of questionable origin and authenticity. It’s all very grey, but,” she says with a slight smile, gesturing vaguely, “it’s not illegal. I’m just not sure it’s very legal. I pay my taxes though.”

He has to bite back a smile at that. “That’s good.”

“Yeah, you know, they got Al Capone on tax evasion. I’m covering my bases.”

Cassian chuckles. “Seems prudent.”

“That, and Bodhi,” she replies with a fond little smile. “I’d never hear the end of it.”

“How do you get a job like that?” Cassian asks and she grimaces.

“I was always good at haggling, courtesy of holidays in the Middle East all my summer holidays. Didn’t have much else to show for myself when I came here, but I got a few small things and word got around, I guess. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you, detective,” she adds with a coy little smile and Cassian always thought he was immune to that kind of move, but it turns out he really isn’t.

“That’s alright. I’m confused about the Middle East part,” he says and could hit himself for doing this. For trying to learn more. For being so damn curious about this woman, despite everything.

She gives another of her uneasy little laughs. “A friend of my parents took me, he, uh, he worked there sometimes.”

“At the embassy?”

She hesitates. “No, he has a firm that works there. He took me with him in the summers so I could see what the world was really like, you know. He was very uplifting like that.”

Cassian makes note of the past tense in that sentence and forces himself to ask no further.

There’s one way to repent for how much unfair advantage he has over her, which is giving her leverage in return. He doesn’t have much innocent information to offer, and even that feels like a dangerous and stupid thing to do, but he gives her the most inconspicuous thing he can think of that doesn’t come totally out of left field. (If it lessens the guilt, then it’s worth a shot, he tells himself, and tries not to panic about how easily he can talk about this suddenly.)

“I never really got out of the city, especially not after my family died. I can’t remember if I wanted to, I don’t think it bothered me much. My friend was always on about it, though. The States, Europe, Australia… When we were kids, we’d make up stupid stories when we couldn’t sleep, about where we’d go, what we’d do when we were adults.” He can feel her eyes on him, which is making him rather tense but also thankfully roots him very firmly in the presence.

“I never left Mexico before I came to work here, in the end.”

“Did your friend get to travel?” she asks, and he knows it’s a perfectly innocent question, but he still has to swallow down an aggressive response. This is as far as he goes, and it really feels like it’s already way too far.

“I don’t know,” he mutters with a shrug, and his voice sounds sharper than intended.

People from his past seem to pop up in his thoughts and conversations far too often these days when they never have before, and this time he was the one who went there, but that doesn’t make it any better. It’s worrying him. He never used to think of them unless he consciously allowed himself to, but now they keep crossing his mind – wondering if Alejandro ever got the men he’d been after before he died, the ghost of his father’s typewriter clacking in the darkness just before he falls asleep at night. Unwanted memories of the boys from the orphanage when he sees kids playing somewhere, snippets of psalms and prayers and other things he remembers from his grandmother, sudden fits of missing his mother’s cooking. He catches himself idly wondering what became of Gael, and worst of all, once or twice now he caught a glimpse of a toddler in passing and for a second or two they looked just like –

He doesn’t want these thoughts. They hurt, but that’s not the problem. The hurt he’s used to, but this confuses him, clouds his judgement.

A little like this woman, he thinks. She has strange eyes, they’re green but in a certain light it looks like they have splinters of gold in them, and ever since he noticed that he has the feeling he’s looking at some kind of ancient artwork in the museums his mother used to take him sometimes, the beautiful things that were a riddle to him from start to finish…

Jesus, his thoughts never used to get this side-tracked. Kay is right, time off is doing him no good. He’s spending too much time lost in his own head. This can’t be healthy.

“You know it’s messed up, right?” she asks, pushing herself off the balustrade with a strange little smile on her lips.

“What is?”

She steps closer. She really is pretty short, and that’s about the most coherent thought on his mind right now. He desperately tries to find some part of her he can look at and keep his wits about him, but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere that doesn’t give him all the wrong ideas.

“This. You and I, having a drink. We met at a therapist’s, and I think we’ve established that we’re both a mess and we don’t like to talk about it.”

He shrugs and tries to return her smile in a non-nervous way, semi-successfully. “So?”

“What are we doing if talking is off the table, detective?”

Jesus. Well, he didn’t peg her for the subtle type, but even so… Christ.

He buries his hands deep in his pockets to prevent them from going anywhere they should (shouldn’t) and tries very hard not to show how hard he’s trying to keep his breathing under control.

He can’t do this. He cannot. “Poker face like yours, we should probably play cards,” he replies slowly and she raises a brow at him.

“I would pick you clean,” she says softly in a tone that seeps into his bones.

Oh God, he is far too old to be this desperate.

“I’ll take the risk,” he can’t stop himself from saying. He should let this go, God, he should, he should stay away from her. But he can’t.

“But some other time,” he adds quietly and feels a strange smile tugging at the corners of his mouth that probably betrays all the regret he’s so carefully keeping out of his voice. “I gotta go.”

Jyn nods, very slowly. “You know, the easy way to get rid of me is to give me what I want.”

Christ.

He wonders if she knows what this is doing to him. Probably not. Well, she’s probably aware of the effect she can have on a man, but she cannot possibly know of how terrifying it is for him to realise how easily he’s being played. And how incapable he is, despite all that, to do the smart thing and walk away.

“Then I can’t do that,” he replies and pushes his hands down his pockets.

“Okay,” she says flatly. “Care to explain that?”

“No,” he answers. “Goodnight, Jyn.” He turns around and walks away, and adds two little words under his breath that he means just as much as everything else, except there’s no fucking use in that as long as she doesn’t hear them. And she can’t.

 


 

 

“Did you have fun?”

Bodhi, as ever, fails completely at sounding inconspicuous.

“I’m fine, nothing happened, we talked,” she rattles off in a bored drawl, picking at the dying flowers on their kitchen table, then asks:

“Why would you tell someone you’re sorry when you think they can’t hear?”

Bodhi frowns up at her. “Because you feel guilty?”

She nods. “Exactly. And you’d tell them in a language you think they don’t speak because you can’t ever tell them the truth.”

“Jyn, what happened?”

“Nothing,” she mutters and throws him a smile. “Honestly. I just think I gotta call someone.”

“Jyn –“

“I’m fine!” she calls through the closed door and scrolls through her contacts.

“Hello Archie. You still owe me one, remember?”

The man on the other end sighs. “Kestrel, you know I can’t get you off a charge-“

“Nothing like that. I just want you to relay a little precinct gossip to me, darling. Thing is, I’ve had a narco hanging around me lately, and I don’t remember peddling drugs, so I’d like to know what the hell he’s up to.”

He sighs again, deeply. “Narcotics isn’t my department.”

“It’s in the same building. You owe me, Archie, and I’ve always been a perfectly good friend to you, haven’t I?”

Third sigh, then a pause. “You have a name?”

Chapter Text

He’s a sentimental idiot. God, he’s such a sentimental idiot, and he’s going to pay for that, he thinks with a heavy sigh as he pours himself a glass of tequila that is just a little fuller than strictly necessary.

(But maybe, he thinks and tries in vain to focus on the liquor burning down his throat, maybe that’s what he wanted. Maybe he wants to get caught, just this once – maybe just this once, he wants to be stopped. For once, even if he can’t have absolution, he at least wants to feel the consequences.)

He falls into bed face-first, still dressed and feeling slightly sick, and he doesn’t sleep for hours.

 

 

It’s two days later that his bizarre new-found sentimentality catches up with him, hard, and he’s seen it coming a mile off.

That doesn’t make it much easier.

Bodhi hovers in front of his table the way he always does when he wants to say something but thinks he doesn’t have the right or whatever. It breaks his heart, just a little.

Sometimes Cassian thinks he misses the hardened cynical asshole he’s spent half his life pretending to be.

“Bodhi, please stop doing this,” he says quietly. “You want to say something, you say it.”

Bodhi grimaces, and it hits Cassian that Bodhi, too, knows what he has coming for him. He’s grateful but not surprised that he doesn’t comment.

Damn it, he’s going to miss that kid.

“Well, um…,” Bodhi says, and puts his tray down with a lot of clattering. “Chirrut said you might want to go see this.”

“See what?” Cassian asks, and thinks he’d probably begrudge anybody else this empty chit-chat.

“The lesson, um… Jyn’s helping him give lessons sometimes.”

“Martial Arts?” Cassian asks with a frown, and this elicits a small laugh from Bodhi.

“More of a bar brawl when she does it,” he says drily, and busies himself piling muffins behind the glass pane. “But it works. Well. Chirrut said to fetch you.”

“Okay,” he says haltingly and empties his cup, then adds for good measure, without conviction: “Sounds fun.”

Bodhi throws him a sad little smile and leads the way up a narrow flight of stairs to a small studio that looks like it was built for ballet lessons instead of combat training.

Cassian stops in the doorway for a while and watches the last few minutes of the class. Bodhi was fairly on point about the bar brawl, but it is scarily efficient, and her students don’t stand a chance. It brings a small smile to his face, and when she sees it, her eyes flash at him, hard and bright.

“Think this is funny, Cassian?” she says slowly. “Shall we see if the cop fares any better?”

He raises a brow at her, stepping aside to let the last two students pass, but Chirrut beckons him inside, uncharacteristically unsmiling. “Yes, that might be an idea. Come on in.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” he says slowly, and Jyn eyes him.

“Don’t be scared, I’ll try not to hurt you.” There’s something in the tone of her voice telling him she wants to and that’s just a small, though substantial, part of what he’s worried about, but there’s something about the glint in her eyes that makes him shrug out of his jacket all the same.

(She’s angry, and for some idiotic reason he really wants to make that go away, even though he knows perfectly well that he can’t.)

“Try not to give me a nosebleed. I’d hate to throw the shirt away,” he says matter-of-factly, very quietly so Chirrut won’t hear – even though that’s probably futile. The blind man leaves with a small sigh, leaving them alone in the small training room.

She tilts her head and says in a sugar-coated voice that doesn’t fool him: “You could always loose it, just in case.”

That line is pure strategy, meant to throw him off the rails, and he’s determined not to let it work (it does work, though – he’s only human, for Christ’s sake, and he has trouble sleeping).

Jyn’s fighting style is all anger and force and no elegance. All he has to bring to the table is technique (that has very rarely been put to practical use), endurance and pain tolerance (that has been put to practical use, but can’t exactly be called an advantage).

She’s quick, too, and before he knows it, she has landed a few hits that are sure to leave bruises.

And all he feels is relief and his head is not right.

“You know, for ex-military, your hand-to-hand combat sucks.” She has him backed into a corner and is starting to look rather murderous. “You weren’t trained for fighting, you’re trained for running.”

“Yes. Special arms training, then undercover assignments. I was not supposed to look dangerous.”

She nods, slowly. “Figures. They teach you to lie, too? ‘cause you’re awfully good at it.”

He dodges a lazily thrown punch and is pinned to the wall by her left arm instead.

“No. That’s natural talent. Or the police work as well.”

“You’re not with the police,” she says in a voice that is almost gentle.

“I am,” he argues, “I’m on the payroll of the Mexican police, same as I’ve been for four years.”

“You’re DEA,” she gives back flatly and he’s never heard anyone use that as an insult before.

“I work with the DEA.”

“You lied to me.”

Technically, he didn’t, but he saves his breath. “Why does it matter?” he gives back, which is an even feebler thing to say. He knows why, and so does she.

There’s a furious little scowl pulling at her lips. “Were you told to go after me? Is that your assignment? Getting me to trust you? Securing a witness?”

“No. I’m here because I met you at my therapist’s practice.”

Bullshit. You weren’t there by accident.” Her eyes are just a tad too bright, and he knows. He knows right now he’s another man in a long line of men who betrayed her, and he shouldn’t care but he hates it.

“No, I am there because I shot two drug dealers who gunned down one of my colleagues.”

“Oh yeah? That’s routine shit for people like you, formalities. Done in two sessions, right? I’m not stupid.”

“I’m still there because it isn’t affecting me. It should be, but it isn’t, and she figured it out, so she’s not clearing me. She probably thinks I’m a psychopath.”

“And I’m supposed to believe that?” she hisses.

“Yes,” he says flatly. “Because it’s true.”

She scoffs, and then, stepping even closer – she is literally close enough to kiss, her face less than an inch from his – “Were you there?”

There’s no need to ask what the hell she’s talking about, he knows. “It wasn’t my case.”

“That’s not what I asked.” Her voice is shaking just a little. “Were you there?

He closes his eyes for a moment. “Yes. Backup. I was standing by, to cover our people if necessary.”

She laughs. It doesn’t sound the least bit amused. “All this time, you knew –“

“No, I didn’t,” he says in a slow, intent voice, fixing her because for once in his life he’s telling the truth and she has to know that, even if it doesn’t make a difference to her, she has to know. “I only made the connection when I heard your last name a week ago. I had no idea.”

“You belong in therapy,” she says in a cold voice and steps away from him. “You’re a pathological liar. Get out of here.”

“Jyn, I don’t know what happened that night, but I swear if it was the DEA none of us had any idea. Four of our people died, my partner caught enough of it to be in hospital for a month, that’s why he wasn’t with me the day I shot the dealers.”

“I don’t give a damn about your partner, and if the DEA hadn’t been after my father in the first place, nobody would have killed him!” she hisses, glaring at him, and gives a broken, derisive little laugh. “And now you’ve stopped investigating altogether, haven’t you, just because things got hot!”

“Yes, I noticed,” Cassian replies quietly. “And believe it or not, I’m trying to find out why.”

“Yeah,” she scoffs, removing herself from his space. “Like you’d care. Get out of here.

“Jyn –“

Get out!” she repeats, loudly, and he takes a few steps backwards, hands raised.

“Jyn, you’re in danger and you have no idea of what you could have coming after you,” he says sharply.

“Look at you,” Jyn says in a cold, vicious voice. “Playing the white knight. I don’t need shit from you and you gotta leave.”

“I’m not playing the white knight,” he says firmly, glaring right back at her. “Your father made you disappear from the face of the earth sixteen years ago, and we both know he did that for a reason, and instead of taking that gift and living your life you came looking for him. And you know that whoever killed your mother for whatever reason will want you dead, and when they find out where you are, witnessing your father’s death will be the least of your problems.”

“I’m not in danger,” she says flatly. “If any mafia wanted me dead, I’d be already. You’re paranoid and delusional, and this is none of your business, so piss the hell off.

Of course I’m paranoid!” His fingers start to shake and his voice rises despite his best effort. “I came home from school in first grade to see with my own eyes that these people shoot a four-year old little boy just in case he might remember what one of them looks like or that he might grow up to remember so much as half a sentence of what his father was working on! I’ve spent every night of my life since then wondering how long it’s going to be until someone comes to kill me. So yes. I’m paranoid, but it’s my job to know what you’re dealing with, and don’t you dare implying I wasn’t good at my job.”

“You should take your meds, detective,” she replies in a vicious little whisper, “I believe they call this an episode. I’d tell you to go see your therapist, but honestly, I don’t care either way, long as you go somewhere that is far away from where I am. Piss off or I will make you.”

Her eyes are far too bright, and he should not let this sting but it does. Oh Lord, it does.

“Alright,” he says very softly. “I’ll go. I’m leaving a number with Bodhi, and at the slightest sign of trouble you call me.”

“You seriously think this is the moment to pass me your number? What kind of arrogant wanker-“

“I’m not making a pass on you, Jyn, I think you’re going to need help. And I’m the only one who’s not going to pressure you into telling the truth about your parents, because I already know.”

“You’d still have to share it with your crazy-ass institution,” she replies sharply and he feels a cold, humourless laugh rising in his throat.

“I have buried far worse than this, Jyn. Oh, what, a dirty cop from Mexico, this can’t possibly surprise you,” he says in a voice that sounds bitter and awful.

“What, d’you want me to pity you now?” she spits and he sighs and turns to leave.

“No, Jyn, I want you to call me. I’ll go now.”

“Yeah,” she says hotly. “You do that. Please do that.”

He stops, takes a deep breath, turns back around and says, very softly: “I didn’t ask to know that about you, Jyn. I wish I’d not found out this way. But it’s done, and I didn’t tell you because I had not right to know and I knew how you’d react if I’d say anything.”

She stares at him and good Lord, she looks so lost it hurts to look at her.

“Just go, Cassian.”

He nods, hold her gaze for another moment, then turns and walks out with slow, measured steps, makes his way down the stairs and stops in the doorway to the diner.

“Bodhi,” he says quietly into the tense silence, “do you have a piece of paper for me?”

“Yeah. Sure,” the waiter mutters, rummaging through the drawers, then hands him a slightly crumpled print-out of a gas bill and a pen.

Cassian flattens the paper out and writes down a number without hurry. “You hang on to this, Bodhi. Any sign of trouble, any at all, you call. Even if she tells you not to. Because if I’m right, she’s in danger, Bodhi, and I know she’s tough, but she can’t handle this on her own.”

Bodhi looks at him for a moment, calm and still for once, then sighs. “Okay.”

“Good,” Cassian replies softly. “Thank you.”

Bodhi throws him a shaky little smile and nods. “Sure. See you ‘round.”

Cassian bites back a humourless smile. “Yes. See you. Chirrut. Baze,” he mutters and walks out the door.

He feels dreadful, like there is some kind of numb throbbing in his head.

 

 

Kay folds his arms in front of his chest and frowns down the shooting range.

“Did I ever tell you how glad I am we’re on the same side?”

Cassian lowers the gun in his hand. “I’m sorry?”

“This,” his partner says, nodding down at the targets. “This is scary. You shouldn’t be able to hit anything at this distance. You look dreadful, by the way.”

Cassian scoffs and takes off his earphones. “Well, I ran ten miles. How’d you look?”

Kay rolls his eyes. “We both know that is not the reason, and now could you stop firing a handgun at a sniper target and let me drive you home before you make a complete fool of yourself? It’s been nearly a week.”

“What, are you my therapist too now?” he snaps, and Kay sighs.

“If that means you’ll finally get your shit together, I’d be happy to try. Now return this gun to wherever you got it without an active permit before you get suspended over it and meet me outside, alright?”

Cassian sighs and, out of a lack of options, really – he has been at this range for hours – he does as he’s told, returns the gun, showers and gets into Kay’s car.

He’s grateful that his friend doesn’t ask why he’s here – well, Kay knows one thing about why he’s here, but he doesn’t know the rest. Doesn’t know the nightmares are getting more frequent. Doesn’t know he stopped eating dinner because he’s likely to throw it up at night anyway. Doesn’t know he even resorted to taking these goddamn pills one night, only to find out that doesn’t make him feel any less paranoid, just more vulnerable.

(Doesn’t know that he’s developed a dangerous habit of “passing by” Mothma’s practice or the diner in almost daily intervals and being ridiculously early for his own sessions. He can’t help it. He feels so restless, so on edge – it is at least part of why he sleeps even less, at least part of why his neighbours probably think he’s training for a marathon -)

He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, tries to focus. No need to let Kay see all that.

“Where are you driving me, Kay?” he asks idly after a while.

“To a supermarket, so you can do your shopping and invite me to eat with you like a functioning person.”

Cassian sighs. “Do I get a say?”

“Absolutely not,” Kay says cheerfully and sets the turn signal.

“Alright, great,” he mutters and stares out of the window. “Any preferences for dinner?”

“No, your pick.”

Cassian sighs. “When did we become an old married couple, Kay?”

His partner shrugs and parks the car. “Somewhere between my shin getting shot all to hell so your cover didn’t blow and you saving my ass last year, I suppose.”

 

Two hours and a bottle of red wine later, he doesn’t feel a lot better but the urge to run until all air has left his lungs has let up slightly, which is a start.

“She’s trouble, Cassian,” Kay says intently, gesturing with his fork. “These violent delights have violent ends.

“I’ve heard that before.”

Kay rolls his eyes. “Of course you have, it’s Shakespeare. And it’s true. This thing will blow up in your face, mark my words.”

Shakespeare. That’s not overly dramatic at all.” Cassian leans back in his chair and folds his arms. “But you’re not telling me to let it go?”

“Well, there are about five things you do well, Cassian,” Kay says drily, “but I daresay letting something go isn’t one of them.”

“First of all, the only one who can’t let things slide is you, and – five things?” He turns to look at his colleague with a slight grin.

“Yes. Why are you smiling?”

Cassian still smiles. “Because that’s very specific.”

“The number is completely irrelevant because they’re no use in the matter at hand, Cassian,” Kay drawls, but Cassian shakes his head.

“Still.”

“Still what?”

“Go on. You don’t throw around numbers unless you want to tell me more.”

“Why are you trying to make me sing your praise?” he asks bristly. “You just don’t want to have this discussion.”

Cassian raises a brow and waits.

“Fine,” Kay huffs, “first of all you’re a good shot, which should neither come as a surprise to you nor make you especially happy because you wouldn’t have required a single therapy session if you’d missed these thugs –“

“No, because I’d be dead,” Cassian says flatly and Kay gives an impatient wave.

“Fair enough. Secondly, you’re an annoyingly good pickpocket, which is why I spent half my wage on new lighters and got reprimanded twice for not having my badge at the ready, thanks a lot for that, by the way… You’re not a bad cook,” he gestures about his half-emptied plate with his fork, “which might eventually work in your favour, but that would require you to actually get anywhere first. Point four, you’re a decent enough dancer-“

Cassian frowns. “I’m just not going to ask how you know that.”

“Thank you. Again, could work in your favour if you’d get your head out of your arse, pardon my French. Point five, you’re the best liar I’ve ever met. Which might be an asset, but it already ran you into a shitload of trouble, so...”

Cassian huffs and jabs at his pasta. “This is so helpful. You should write a book.”

Kay sighs. “Look, what I’m trying to say is this: for as long as I’ve known you, the women in your life never left a trace on this flat, on you or on your behaviour,” at this point he throws a pointed look at the mess covering Cassian’s usually immaculate kitchen, “and I don’t know if this is good or bad but it’s different and no matter how long you keep telling yourself it isn’t –“

“Stop it with the psychoanalysis, Kay,” he mutters, but his partner just refills his glass and shakes his head.

“Speaking of. Did you tell that therapist anything about it?”

Cassian nearly chokes on his wine. “No!”

“Maybe you should.”

Cassian throws him a dark look. “Maybe you should leave this alone, Kay. It doesn’t concern you.”

“You are my only friend, you know?” Kay shakes his head again. “That, and I’m starting to think you’ve been off track for so long I couldn’t even tell the moment you get back on it.”

“Go home, Kay,” Cassian mutters, staring into his glass. “I wanna be alone.”

“Yeah, if you did, you would not be sitting here moping, my friend,” Kay says and gets to his feet with a heavy sigh. “Goodnight.”

“You’re really starting to get on my nerves, you know?” Cassian calls after him and his friend doesn’t turn back around.

“That’s because you know I’m right,” he calls over his shoulder, then the door falls shut and Cassian’s the only breathing thing in the room, and he hates the fact it doesn’t feel peaceful.

It just feels lonely.

 

 

“Did something happen, detective?”

“No.”

Mothma smiles. “Yes, it did. You’re usually a far more convincing liar. Or did you just stop making an effort with me? Because if that’s the case, I am wounded.”

Cassian chuckles and shakes his head. “Fine. Yes. But I don’t want to talk about it.”

She nods. “This may be shocking for you, Mr. Andor, but I am not altogether unaware of the things that happen in my waiting room.”

Cassian leans back in his chair. “I’m pleading the fifth, ma’am.”

“You don’t have to say anything, detective; it’s enough if you listen. What you are feeling just now would mean a lot of progress if you let it happen to you.”

He throws her a dark look. “It does not feel like progress.”

“Because it doesn’t feel good? If you let someone close enough to hurt you, then I do call that progress. I’m surprised, in fact.” She sighs. “I’m also worried, just so you know. It does seem like a volatile mixture, but well. I do suppose you finding an easy way to closure is too much to ask for.”

“It’s good of you to have faith in me,” he gives back sarcastically and gets nothing but a warm smile in return.

“It’s good to see you care, detective.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Andor.”

Cassian glances up to see his boss standing in front of his desk.

“Morning, sir.”

Davits Draven glances over the stacks of paper littering his desk with a weary sort of look on his face. “How’s the office treating you?”

“Fairly sure it will put me in an early grave, sir,” Cassian says flatly and his superior throws him a thin smile, and Cassian thinks it is tragic that they find this amusing.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. Because I’m putting you back in the field.”

Cassian looks up in surprise. “Sir?”

“I’ll try to give the exciting cases to Dameron and Antilles long as you’re unarmed. Elsewise, Kay will have to cover you until you get your gun back.”

Well, if he misses the first time, he can avenge my death, Cassian thinks wryly.

“I’m grateful. Thank you.”

“I want you both in early,” his superior says and drops a file on his desk. “This is the case.”

“Yes, sir.”

Draven eyes him for a moment, nods and turns to leave; then he stops in the doorway and adds, very quietly:

“I’m sorry, Andor. I honestly am. I don’t want to send anyone out there, and I like you. Always have. But it’s the job, and someone has to do it.”

“I have to go back, sir,” Cassian replies in an equally quiet voice, eyes fixed on the table top. “I’m no good at this,” he waves a hand at the stack of paper on the desk, the computer, the assortment of empty coffee mugs. “I’m not made for it. I need to be in the middle of the fight.”

Draven sighs and leans against the doorframe. “I know that, Andor. It’s part of your tragedy,” he says with a wry smile, and Cassian tries to remember the day they first met; he was hardly twenty then and Draven still shy of forty, but he doubts they looked much different – save for a few lines on their faces, a little less grey in Draven’s hair, maybe. Still, even then, they must have had that same blunt, weary look in their eyes, that same tired smile like their life was one big cosmic joke they never really knew how to laugh about. The same hands – scattered with faded scars white over their knuckles, scrubbed raw in a vain attempt to wash the blood off; the same dusty shoes, same bulletproof vests.

 

"How long have you been with the force, son?" The American has a worn sort of voice, and blinks into the brightness of the scorching sun like he's never been outside during daytime before. His Spanish is stilted but takes Cassian by surprise anyway.

"Two years, give or take."

He nods and glances down at the two bodies in the dust. "First time?"

Cassian takes a deep breath. "Second."

The American sighs and gets out a pack of cigarettes. "You smoke?"

Cassian's mind flickers to another bright summer's day, years ago; him laughing and caughing and nearly burning his fingers on the cigarette stub. He swallows heavily and shakes his head. "Not anymore. Thanks."

"So, did they tell you it gets easier?"

Cassian nods, and forces himself to keep looking at the bodies even though it makes him sick.

"That's a lie," the American says flatly and lights his cigarette. 

"I know, sir." 

The American nods, slowly. "Good. Better to fight facing the music."

Cassian huffs. "Don't think it matters much either way, sir."

"Maybe not." He scrunches up his tired eyes against the sunlight and gives him a thin smile. "Anyway. You did good."

"Thank you, sir."

The American nods and turns to leave, stopping Cassian's boss as he walks by. "Do yourself a favour, give the kid a better gun. His aim is wasted on that thing." 

 

Draven sighs and frowns down at him.

"Still. By rights, I’d fire you. Tell you to get the hell out of here, tell you you don’t have to give the last bit of life this fight hasn’t already taken from you.”

Cassian meets his superior’s tired eyes and fights down two emotions, one as misplaced as the other – the first is a wistful, distant sort of longing, a futile wish that he could be someone able to take this if it was ever offered to him, that he could be whole enough to at least want to walk away.

The second is relief. Gratitude that, despite the fact that he’s far from home, stuck in a country he never wanted to set foot – despite all that, here is a man who understands him. Draven never pitied Cassian for his grief – if anything, he seems to respect him for it, and the man never let sentiment get in the way of his job, which is something Cassian can appreciate.

“But we both know I won’t do that and even if I did, you wouldn’t go.”

Change the world or die trying,” Cassian mutters with a pained little smirk, and Draven smiles thinly.

“You know, your brand of humour takes some getting used to.”

“My friend said that when I signed up,” Cassian says softly. “He didn’t think it was very funny.”

He also knew the dying part isn’t really optional, he thinks with a bitter little smile and shakes his head, trying to rid himself of the hollow feeling in his chest, the dull throbbing in his temples at the mere memory of the look on his friend’s face.

He wishes his ghosts would quiet down a little.

“I appreciate it, sir,” he adds and gets to his feet. “I’ll see that I get that permit. I’m sorry it is taking so long.”

Draven sighs and pats his shoulder. “You’ve done enough, Andor. Take whatever time you need.”

Cassian nods. “I’ll be back soon, sir.”

“Very well”, his superior mutters and leaves with the ever-same measured steps, hands clasped behind his back. They should be so different, shouldn’t they – the well-respected influential son of some wealthy mid-western family and the orphan from across the border – but in many ways, they really aren’t.

War does that, Cassian muses, it takes and it takes until the people in it are all the same. With a sigh, he grabs his jacket and leaves.

 


 

“Jyn? You home?” She looks up from the novel she’s been trying to read for the past hour or so (making it exactly halfway down the same page for the fifth time by now) and considers remaining silent, then sighs and drops her book onto the mattress.

“Yeah, I’m here!”

There’s a knock on the door. “Come out. I brought Chinese.”

She’s suddenly very glad she didn’t ignore him. She pulls her hair into a haphazard ponytail and traipses towards the kitchen where her angel of a flatmate is piling noodles onto two plates, humming to himself.

“What’s got you all chipper?” she asks and forgets to make an effort not to let it sound reproachful. Bodhi raises a brow at her.

She sighs. Crap. He’s treating her like a goddamn grenade with a lose pin as it is. Way to improve your situation, Jyn. Good job.

“What?” she adds and tries for a semi-convincing grin. “I thought your only customer these days is that guy whose wife left him for her personal trainer.”

“Brady has gone to visit his sister in Florida to take his mind off things,” Bodhi mutters. “He told me all about it. I couldn’t stop him.”

Jyn snickers into her water glass. “You’re too nice, that’s all.”

Bodhi gives a non-committal shrug and says: “Anyway. He’s off moping someplace with more sunlight, so he’s some other barista’s problem for now. Chicken or pork?”

“Should you be volunteering to eat pork, Bodhi?”

“Are you my mother?” he gives back flatly and grins at her. “You take it, then.”

“Wine?” Jyn asks, climbing onto her chair to fish a bottle from its precarious position on the top shelf.

Bodhi frowns up at her. “Jyn, it’s two thirty.”

“Is that a no?” She flops back onto the seat and pours herself a glass. “My French aunt had wine with every meal. So did Saw.”

“I don’t think we should take drinking advice from Saw Gerrera, do you?” Bodhi mutters and shoves a spoonful of noodles into his mouth with a headshake. “Also,” he adds, his speech severely impaired by the food in his mouth, “your aunt had wine for breakfast?”

Jyn frowns, then shrugs. “Probably, yeah. So, again, what’s with the good mood and fine dining?”

“This is literally cheaper than a sandwich.”

“Bodhi!” she whines. “I’ve had the most boring day ever, so if you have a story, I want to hear it.”

He shrugs, grins, fidgets in his chair for a while.

Something dawns on Jyn and she smirks at Bodhi over her wine glass. “No, it was a customer, right? College boy is back. I know this face, Bodhi Rook, do not lie to me!”

Bodhi grins back, shrugs, and eats his noodles.

Jyn nudges his shin with the tip of her foot underneath the table. “I tell you my stories, Bodhi.”

“Yes, sadly,” he replies, mouth strategically stuffed with food. “I never asked you to.”

“Please tell me you opened your mouth to say something other than that’s three dollars thirty, please.

“Yes. I did,” Bodhi says, then hastily starts chewing on another spoonful of noodles.

Jyn grins at him. “Really? I thought you’d never manage. Did Chirrut intervene?”

“No,” Bodhi says, “not Chirrut. I forbid him to.”

Not Chirrut?” she repeats, brow raised. “So who was it?”

“Um,” Bodhi stammers, blankly, and Jyn frowns at him, then it hits her. Bodhi tells her everything – except there’s one subject he’s been painstakingly avoiding for over a week.

“Oh, come on, Bodhi,” she says then, very quietly, and her voice doesn’t sound nearly as casual as she’d intended it to.

“What?” Bodhi gives back, clearly trying to sound firm despite his guilty conscience resounding through every syllable. “He came in to pick up a coffee before work a couple of times. It’s not like I could throw him out, Jyn.”

“You don’t have to chat with him, though,” she bites back. “We don’t even know what angle he’s working –“

“For Heaven’s sake, Jyn,” Bodhi mutters, “it’s not like we’re trading state secrets, okay? We never once talked about you, either. I wouldn’t.”

“So what do you talk about?”

“Coffee, mostly. And football,” Bodhi replies flatly, and Jyn’s anger makes way to confusion for a moment.

Football?

“Yeah.”

Football football?”

“Yeah. It’s pretty popular in Mexico,” Bodhi says with a shrug. “Jyn, please don’t look at me like that, I sold a guy a coffee and talked about ball sports.” He stops and grimaces. “Did that sound wrong?”

“A little,” she mutters, staring at her hands. She knows Bodhi did nothing wrong, but she can’t help feel slightly betrayed.

Slightly more betrayed than she did already, that is.

Her best friend watches her for a while, his dark eyes flickering over her face, then he asks very quietly: “Jyn, are you okay?”

She wants to lie and say yes, but then sighs. “Not really. And that... worries me.”

Bodhi sighs, then gets to his feet and gets himself a wine glass. “Okay. Me too, a little, to be honest.”

He pours red into both their glasses and takes a long sip.

Jyn sighs, clinks her glass against his and runs a hand over her face. “Bodhi… Why am I such a mess?”

He shakes his head vigorously. “You’re not a mess, Jyn.”

“I see a psychiatrist!”

“Yeah, so do I. Because we’ve had terrible things happen to us. That’s not our fault.”

She smiles a little. “I’m not sure you hanging around Chirrut that much is a good idea.”

“Okay,” Bodhi mutters, then adds very slowly: “Do you think we ought to do something about it? Did you tell Mothma?”

She grimaces. “Some of it. Not much.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s her patient!”

Bodhi nods, slowly. “Yeah, that’s not it, is it?”

She glances up at her flatmate and almost laughs. “Sometimes I hate you a little, Bodhi.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Jyn,” he says softly and throws her a smile. “Just... just maybe consider telling her? Maybe it would help.”

“I don’t know,” she mutters, shaking her head, and spins her glass in her hands. “I don’t feel like it would help. It’s just... it shouldn’t bother me. I saw this coming, and – for God’s sake, I hardly know that guy and I... I don’t even know if I like him.”

“I thought we established that you did.”

“No, we didn’t! I make a difference between fancying and liking, remember?”

Bodhi nods. “Right. Okay.” He drains the rest of his glass and stares down at the table.

She sighs. “Bodhi. Spill.”

He shrugs. “Well... I just think that might be – that might be part of the problem?”

“What is?”

“You’re trying so hard to make that distinction. Maybe... maybe that’s something you should talk about with Mothma. I feel like it hurts you.”

“It keeps me from getting hurt, Bodhi,” she replies, a tad too sharply, and he grimaces.

“Yeah, well,” he murmurs, avoiding her eyes. “How’s... how’s that working out so far?”

She sighs. “Bodhi. I’m slightly more pissed off at that guy than I should be, that’s all. I’ll be perfectly fine.”

“Yeah, are you sure about that?” he mutters, glancing up at her with his big dark eyes that break her heart. “Because I feel like the cars parked outside always look like there’s someone sitting in them.”

She huffs and leans back in her seat. “Don’t believe that – look, from what I heard, he lost his parents and his little brother when he was a kid. They were murdered. That probably makes you paranoid.”

Bodhi looks instantly sad – which is actually at least half the reason why she didn’t tell him in the first place. The boy has too much empathy for his own good.

“Maybe he’s not quite right in the head, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have a point, Jyn. You are a witness... to two murder cases. With some cartel all wrapped up in it. And we know nothing about these guys. They’re his job. And maybe it doesn’t hurt to look over your shoulder from time to time.”

“You’re telling me I need to look over my shoulder? I’ve done that precisely two thirds of my life.”

He grimaces. “I’m just worried.”

“I know, Bodhi. It’s sweet of you, but I really can take care of myself,” she mutters. “D’you want coffee? I’ll make us coffee.” She gets to her feet and fiddles with the espresso can. “Now tell me that story of how a clinically paranoid, suspended DEA-officer helped you finally talk to the guy you’ve been ogling for months, I wanna hear about that.”

Bodhi grins and shakes his head. “Well, turns out he’s a technology major, but for some reason his college also makes him take Spanish classes. Anyway I was...”

“Not getting out a word?” Jyn supplies with a small grin, brow raised, and Bodhi squirms a little in his seat.

“Yeah, well, sort of.” He shrugs and says with a slight smile: “I’ve no idea how Cassian figured it out but somehow he guessed. So anyway, the good detective suddenly lost all recollection of the English language –“

Jyn smiles against her will. “I’m sure that happens.”

Bodhi smiles a little. “Yeah, definitely. So they talked about something for a while that sounded like the way to the airport.”

She doesn’t want to, but goddamn it – she laughs, just for a moment. There’s a spark of surprise in Bodhi’s eyes that he blinks away, but not before she sees.

“So, they talked, then he paid and left and, you know, we talked. For a while, ‘bout college and stuff. He’s called Luke.”

“That’s much better than college guy.” Jyn says, smiling slightly.

“It is.” He smiles and takes his coffee from her. “And that’s the story. All there is to it.”

“Well, at least someone profits from all the lying,” she mutters and shakes her head.

“You know, Jyn, I think he was really trying to help,” Bodhi says softly and she sighs.

“Yeah. That’s not the point,” she says, more to herself than to him, and stirs in her coffee.

Her friend sighs and nods. They sit in silence for a while, then –

“You know why he’s still coming, right?” His dark eyes flicker up to hers again.

She stares at the tablecloth and nods, turning her cup in her hands.

“I don’t know him, Bodhi,” she mutters, staring into her coffee. “He’s seen horrible things, but that’s no excuse, right?”

He smiles weakly. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah, well. Like I said. I don’t know him.”

Bodhi grimaces a little. “That’s generally the case before you get to know someone, Jyn.”

“Bodhi,” she says, feigning exasperation to cover up a strange sensation she can’t quite place. “You took four months and someone pretending to speak no English to just get the name of your crush. I’m not taking advice from you.”

He chuckles and shakes his head. “Okay, fine.” He sighs and collects the dishes. “We could go out tonight.”

“Nah. I’ll stay in.”

Bodhi nods, looking a little torn between worry and relief she doesn’t want to go out – usually Jyn’s the one dragging him to a bar.

“Okay. A movie, then.”

Jyn sighs. “Fine. Yeah, why not?” She gets to her feet and pats his shoulder. “But I think we discussed your football buddy enough for today, right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Bodhi mutters, staring into the soap water in the sink. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have –”

She sighs and wraps an arm around him for a moment. “’s fine, Bodhi. It’s not your fault. It’s my mess.”

He pulls her closer for a moment and nods. “We’ve got through worse.”

“Guess we have,” she mutters and fills a glass of water. “How’s about Star Wars? For tonight?”

“Which of them?”

Jyn grins. “How is that a question? We’re doing all of them. Like old times. And I’m getting popcorn.”

He nods, a grin spreading on his lips. “Sounds good.”

“Yeah. Doesn’t it?”

 

 

Chapter Text

He is resolved not to stare at his alarm clock. He knows how little good that does.

Still he's sure it's been more than an hour since he woke - he's gone to bed late, really late, and spent an eternity lying awake with his eyes staring emptily up at the crack in his ceiling, trying to chase unwelcome thoughts from his mind. He can't have fallen asleep before three in the morning, and it is still dark, so he supposes he's got two hours of sleep at best. 

Which is more than his restless mind granted him the previous night, so there's that.

For what feels like the fifth time and probably is, he reaches into his bedside drawer to feel for the gun inside. He's not supposed to have it - he has two firearms registered to his name, the handgun currently locked in Draven's desk and the rifle in a rented strongbox.

This one is so painfully illegal it's almost funny, serial number filed off and wiped down so many times the bleach has left stains in the corners. He can't really say if it was paranoia or plain sentimentality that made him keep this thing that was a part of his body as much as his hands and feet for two miserable years, but he's grateful for it, now. Obviously, he can't carry it outside - not just because he doesn't have a permit, but simply because he doesn't believe he'd be given much time to explain if he got caught with that blatantly illegal gun and a Mexican passport.

Still, it's a comfort - and for the last few months, it's been enough to let him sleep. Apparently though, that's just another remedy that wears off over time, and he's back to pointless fear; back to staring at the walls in the dark until he thinks he sees blood splattered on them, until he thinks he sees the black outlines of bodies slumped against them, brown eyes staring back at him empty and broken in silent reproach.

Cassian stares at the ceiling, half-waiting to hear the familiar creak of his door opening, and wills his heartbeat to slow. Counts the flecks of light the street lamp draws on the wall opposite, counts his breaths, silently recites a poem, then, for lack of material, a prayer.

The painful throbbing doesn't relent, though, and in the end, when he can bear no more of this, he reaches for the light switch and crawls out of bed.

The clock reads 5:18.

He needs to do something about this.

 

 

“My boss put me back in the field.”

Mothma frowns. “Is that prudent?”

“No. It’s why I’m here,” Cassian replies flatly and leans forward in his chair. “Ma’am, I… I need that gun back. I'll never be let back to where I used to work without it, and that job is all I have. All I'm good at. I'm no use to anyone this way."

She watches him with a sceptical frown, so he sighs and adds: "Listen, doctor… I’ve had a weapon on me for ten years, twenty-four hours a day. Even at home. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just don’t feel safe without it.”

She sighs. “Carrying around a gun is not a solution, detective.”

“Then call it therapy, I don’t care.” He draws a shaky breath and begins, hardly drawing breath between the words because he’s not sure he could resume talking once he’s stopped: “I’m not paranoid, ma’am. That file you have is very incomplete. I gathered enough information to take down one of the most influential members of the cartel I was assigned to. Enough to put me in imminent danger. My bosses didn’t know how to pull me out of there in a way that wouldn’t get me killed, so in the end, I drove my own car off the road somewhere in the mountains, let it go down a cliff, burned it with a corpse from the morgue in the driver’s seat. They convicted him, prison sentence and all, and he escaped a month later. I was one of their main witnesses. If he finds out I'm alive - It's not paranoia, I am in danger,” he says, his voice a little too quiet.

She is silent for a while, then asks unexpectedly: “Why were you not put in witness protection?”

“Because I refused,” Cassian says flatly and she frowns.

“Why?”

“They would’ve… they would’ve made me change my name. I’m the last person in my family still alive, that name is all I have left of them. Besides… I could’ve never gone back,” he replies, very softly. “Never in my life. I’ve given all I have for this, for my country. I want to see it again. I can’t now, not for a long time maybe but… never going back, nothing is worth that.”

“Not even your life?” she asks in a suspiciously neutral voice.

“My work is my life, and my country is that work. Who would I be if I could give that up for anything?”

“You’re scared.”

He grimaces, and she presses on in a mild tone: “You’re scared of dying, and you don’t have to apologise for that. That’s perfectly natural. It’s an instinct, detective, not a character flaw.”

He sighs, fights the urge to get to his feet and pace the room, wrings his hands in his lap. “It’s not really death that… of course I’m scared to die, but… I’m scared to die in this country. Sometimes I think I hate this city. Most of the time, actually. I can’t stand the thought of dying here. Don’t make me.”

There is a long pause, then she asks slowly: “The two men you shot, why did you do that?”

“Because they were shooting at me,” he replies in an even voice. “I told you. Self-defence.”

“No other reason?”

“No, ma’am.”

She is silent for a moment, then asks: “Did you ever shoot someone because you wanted to?”

“No. I followed my orders.”

“Did you ever want to?”

He hesitates for just a second, not too long, then replies quietly: “Yes. Once.”

She nods, face neutral. “Tell me about that.”

“I was young, sixteen, back when I was an informant for the police. They were looking for a man, and I found him. I was supposed to wait, keep an eye on him, but I knew him, from my family’s files. He was one of the suspects, evidence pointed to him, too. So just before the cops arrived, I told him who I was, I asked him if he remembered them, if he’d – He said if it was him he must’ve forgotten, but he said that to hurt me. He enjoyed it, I think. It was practically a confession, so I guess he would’ve tried to kill me if he’d had the time.”

She nods, very slowly. “Did they arrest him?”

Cassian reminds himself not to pause too long.

Remembers the slight taste of metal in his mouth, the cold rage in his veins.

Hears his own voice, quivering in all the right places, just loud enough for a panicked boy scared for his life, voice break on his side just this once (he was a good liar, even then, always had been) –

Help me. He’s got a gun, he’s going to kill me. Save me.

The blood had stained his jacket, on the left sleeve. Later, he told Alejandro he had panicked, that he’d mistaken a phone for a gun in the dark. He’d never really thought Alejandro had believed that, but he never mentioned it again. The file said the cops shot in self-defence, and it wasn’t like anyone cared if that was really true or not.

“They tried,” he says evenly. “He was shot in the process.”

“Were you happy about that?”

He shrugs. “For a moment. But it didn’t help, in the end. It didn’t make any difference. They’re still gone.”

Mothma nods, her sharp eyes piercing him. “The day your colleague died… do you think his death was your fault? Could you have saved him?”

He smiles, against his will. He told her in the first few sessions that that kept him awake at night, and yet here she is, asking about that like they’d never mentioned it. She’s seen straight through that, then.

“No. Not unless I would’ve shot them before there was any danger for either of us. Biggs lost his nerve, he drew his gun on them. I couldn’t have known that.”

She smiles back, a knowing little smile. “Do you feel guilty, detective? About shooting them?”

He takes a deep breath, then: “Not really. I mean, I see why… they probably had families, they were scared they’d go to jail, scared of their own people’s punishment, probably… We were all defending ourselves. I came out alive. That’s all.”

I’ve done far worse.

Mothma sighs. “Detective, you see… my problem is this. I think you’re far from stable, and I’m supposed to hand you your permit back when you are stable. I also think your abilities and your mindset make you a very dangerous man. However I also think that your mental health issues do not necessarily make you more dangerous to others, and even if you were perfectly healthy you would be just as dangerous, so you see the bind I’m in.”

“You’re wondering if you should arm a dangerous man,” he says, in a toneless voice to match hers, and she throws him a sad smile.

“What would you do?”

“I’m a soldier, ma’am,” he replies slowly. “That’s all I am. A good soldier. So what you’re really debating here is whether there should be armed forces in the world. That feels like a very big question.”

She chuckles a little, and nods. “Maybe. I still have to be able to live with my choice.” She sighs. “I think it’s time I give your boss another call.”

“I think he’ll be delighted,” Cassian can’t keep himself from saying, and she raises a brow at him.

“And even if I decided to give the go ahead, I would demand that you continue to see me. Your issues take time to sort through, and I’m not happy with where you are right now.” She sighs again. “But I understand that you’re scared, and I don’t think we’ll make much progress as long as you can’t feel safe. I’ll make a few calls, and I’ll think about it. This is not a promise.”

“Thank you,” he says softly, and she throws him a small smile.

Not a promise, detective.”

He sighs, and nods. “I have a question, though. What did you tell my boss about why I’m still here?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because he stopped asking how long it will take. He’s cutting me slack. It’s not like him.”

“He’s sending you back into the field unarmed, with a target on your back, detective,” she says mildly. “I would not call that cutting you slack. He is risking your life.”

“He was the one who suggested I come to work for him when he heard I needed out of my assignment,” Cassian replies sharply. “The least he can ask in return is that I do my work. I owe him. So what did you tell him?”

Mothma sighs. “I told him you need to work through this now or it will get worse, and influence your work.”

He throws her a wry smile. So she can be evasive, too. “What diagnose?”

“I'm not allowed to tell him that. He made an assumption, I told him I could not comment."

"What did he assume?"

She throws him a hard look, suddenly looking slightly uncomfortable. He realises he's slipped into the tone he reserves for interrogations, and doesn't fix that.

"You're allowed to tell me the diagnose, right? I'm the patient."

She sighs. "The term is being thrown around a lot, and it describes a very diverse –“

“PTSD, yes?” he interrupts sharply and she sighs and returns his humourless smile.

“Yes. I think a military man like Draven finds it easier to understand the urgency of therapy if he slaps a familiar label on it.” She eyes him for a moment. “You don’t look convinced, detective.”

“I know people with PTSD,” he replies slowly. “I don’t think I have what they had.”

She smiles mildly. “Like I said, it is a broad term. There are a lot of variations. But your symptoms tick a lot of boxes.”

He sighs and shakes his head at her, smiling at her against his will. “He didn't tell you he was in the army, did he?"

"It's rather obvious, really."

"You got a good read of my boss over the phone.”

“That’s my job, detective,” she replies lightly. “And I must have called him five or six times in the first few weeks alone. He said he wanted updates, and I was hoping he might get you to open up a little. I shouldn’t have bothered with him, I suppose,” she adds under her breath with a strange little smile and shakes her head. “I’ll see you on Thursday, Mr. Andor.”

 


 

 

“It’s my lucky charm, Jyn,” her mother says as she fixes the clasp of the necklace. “It will always protect you.”

“I never stopped thinking of you, stardust, I never – not a second I didn’t want to cut and run and find you, you have to believe that, Jyn…”

The explosion of the small house is bright and violent in the faded darkness, and she wants to run down and see –

A voice over the phone, a sharp accent – “You’re listed as emergency contact. Private Rook will recover. They are sending him home as we speak. Can I count on you to pick him up at the airport, Miss Dawn?”

“Mister Gerrera has left for the airport early yesterday morning,” says a hotel clerk with a smile that looks like it was permanently stitched on his features. “He has paid for your room up until today. Would you like to prolong your stay, madam?”

Then she is back in the darkness again, the air is cold and smells of the rain that is hammering against the window panes. “There’s so much I have to tell you, stardust,” he breathes into her ear, pulls her close for the shortest of moments. His voice is different, so much older, broken, and yet it’s just the same… “I’m so sorry, Jyn. I’m so sorry. Run. Go. Go now.”

And then she’s back in that alley, her father’s hands heavy on her shoulders. “You have to go with Saw, stardust, I’m so sorry, but I have to go somewhere and you will be safer here. You go with Saw, Jyn, alright, you do that for me…”

 “Everything I do, I do to keep you safe, do you understand that?” Her eyes are wide and scared and she doesn’t know why her papa is talking like this right now but she nods. “Don’t forget that, stardust. Please don’t ever forget that.”

“I promise, papa,” she whispers –

 

She wakes with a start, sheets clinging to her like they’re about to strangle her. She shrugs them off with hectic movements, swings her feet out of the bed before she’s even realised where she is, nearly loses her balance. She takes a few shuddering breaths and angrily rubs at the wetness on her cheeks, but new tears keep coming.

She can’t go back to sleep. She can’t. She keeps having these dreams. All week. And if it’s not old memories, it’s bizarre, dizzying fever dreams that make no sense at all.

That’s probably what she’d be in for if she tries to go back to sleep now.

Either that or… or fantasies her brain comes up with when she’s halfway asleep. Those wrack her just as much, though for a wholly different reason. They leave her wanting, and nothing helps.

She sighs and traipses towards the kitchen, blinking through the blurry veil of tears, desperately hoping she hasn’t woken Bodhi. Not again.

The only time he’s ever imposed on her was the months after Afghanistan, where he was held hostage and nearly died. And he tried not to be a nuisance, even then; even when he sat on the floor all pale and shaking and asked her if she could hear the explosions, too.

What happened to her, in comparison?

Sometimes she wonders why he puts up with her at all. She doesn’t know why she’s so dramatic.

The clock on the oven reads 4:13. Jyn sighs and pours herself a glass of water, then curls up on one of the chairs to get her feet off the cold tiles, and stares into empty space.

There’s so much I have to tell you. Everything I do, I do to keep you safe. I have to go somewhere.

She shakes her head irritably and presses the cool glass to her forehead. None of this makes the least bit of sense. What did he want to tell her? And why didn’t he? How could he know they were coming for him? What the hell happened that night?

She shivers and hugs her knees closer to her chest.

Her head just won’t clear. She doesn’t have enough information – hell, she has nothing. And worst of all, the only other thing that her mind supplies is the memory of another voice. This one doesn’t hurt quite as badly, but it stings all the same –

Believe it or not, I’m trying to find out why.

She sighs and stares at the clock blinking at her through the dark kitchen in a disgusting, violent green.

4:27.

With an annoyed little groan, she gets to her feet and pads into the hall, careful to make no noise as she files through Bodhi’s jacket pockets until she finds his wallet. The white slip of paper tucked behind his ID seems to glow a little in the dark.

The handwriting strikes her, it’s so neat it’s almost funny. It looks like it came out of a printer, all perfectly aligned with the edge of the sheet.

What a fucking control freak, she thinks, and realises too late the thought puts a slight smile on her lips.

She grabs her phone from her nightstand and resumes her previous position, taking turns to stare at the slip of paper, at the clock, at the phone.

It’s five in the morning now. (She will admit it is mostly spite that makes her decide that if she does this, then it must be before six AM.)

She picks up her phone, very slowly, and then stares at that for a while.

She can’t believe she’s doing this.

There’s no other way, though, she tells herself firmly, and doesn’t believe herself.

She has other options, safer options, and also a very good idea of why she’s rejecting all of those.

Fuck it.

He picks up after the second ring.

“Bodhi?” His voice is too clear for the early hour, far too clear, and suddenly it hits her that he was probably sitting somewhere staring at a clock in the dark too, and not sleeping at all.

“No.”

“Jyn.” There is something profoundly wrong with the way he says her name, it’s so warm, so intimate, and she blamed it on the accent before but there in the dark with the green digits of the clock blinking at her, she doesn’t believe it has to do with anything other than him.

“Are you okay?”

That suddenly seems like a very big question to answer. “I need to know what happened to my father. I can’t do it alone.”

“I don’t have much to go on.”

She’s not sure what to say to that.

“Jyn. Why are you calling at five in the morning?” he asks after a while and she thinks she can hear a smile in his voice and that makes her a little mad.

“I didn’t call to apologise.”

“Of course not.” His quiet voice, still with that smile in it, is a jarring contrast to her defensive tone.

“I’m not sorry! I was right. You’re an ass for not telling me,” she snaps.

“Probably.”

What a jerk. He takes all the fun out of insulting him, too, Jyn thinks angrily. People shouldn’t be this level-headed this early in the morning. She takes a moment to collect herself.

“You are. But you said you’d help me. You said you’d look into it, so I guess… I guess I’m over it.” There’s no calm, clever response to this and it feels like a victory though it probably shouldn’t.

Well, in for a penny, she thinks and takes a deep breath.

“I guess we could meet for a coffee or a drink or something, I could tell you what I know.”

“Guess we could,” he replies slowly and she bites down a smile.

“When do you get to work?”

He sighs a little. “In an hour or two. I can meet you after.”

“When is that?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe nine,” he says quietly and she shakes her head.

“Six to nine. Are those the working hours for all employees, or are they exploiting the immigrants?”

“Very funny. Where do I meet you?”

She grins to herself. “You don’t. I’ll be in the neighbourhood anyway. I’ll pick you up.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I don’t care. See you then,” she says and hangs up before he can answer, and thinks she might be able to look like nothing happened when Bodhi wakes up – or maybe get a few hours of sleep, actually.

She stretches her arms and yawns.

Bed it is.

Nothing to do about that small smile about her lips for now. Nobody’s awake to see it.

Chapter Text

Kes Dameron sighs deeply and leans his head against the dirty mirror of the elevator.

“I don’t like your working hours, Andor. Why am I on the Bronx case again?”

“Because Draven told you to?” Cassian replies drily, at the same time Wedge Antilles smirks at their young colleague and says:

“Because I can handle mine long as I don’t have to babysit you at the same time, Kessy.”

Kes snorts and gives his partner a good-natured shove. “Two days, Antilles. I give you two days before you come running and say you can’t do shit without me.”

“Someday maybe, kiddo,” Wedge replies with a headshake and taps his foot in annoyance. “Christ, was this freaking elevator built in the fucking twenties or what?”

Kay snorts. “Don’t worry, Antilles, you’ll be with your stale beer and your rugby game in no time at all.”

The elevator finally stutters to a stop, then the doors open and all four of them trot out into the hall like a small hord of zombies. They must make for a great image, Cassian thinks with a sarcastic little scoff. The DEA’s finest.

In their defence, it is past nine, and they’ve all sat bent over paper work for hours on end.

Then he spots someone in a dark jacket sitting on a bench outside the building, feet up on the worn wood, and immediately feels a lot less drowsy.

Kay follows his eyes. “Who is...?” He sighs. “Jesus, Cassian. What the hell is she doing here?”

“She?” Wedge repeats, sounding rather awake all of a sudden and eying Cassian with sudden interest.

Kay switches to Spanish without missing a beat. “Can you please tell me why the hell you thought bringing her here was in any way a good idea?”

“You know that thing you do is kind of rude?” Wedge says, smiling mildly, plainly used to being the only one of them to not speak any Spanish (and comfortable enough with it to not change a thing about it).

“You guys remember that I speak Spanish, right?” Kes says drily and Kay groans. Then suddenly, Kes stops and shakes his head, a disbelieving smirk pulling at his lips.

“God. I’m a terrible detective.”

“Where does that self-awareness come from all of a sudden?” Kay gives back sarcastically.

Kes ignores him and turns to Cassian. “You’re wearing an ironed shirt.”

“So?”

“So I never knew you had an iron,” Kes replies matter-of-factly. “I also didn’t know you did this.”

“This?” Cassian repeats with a little scoff.

“Women. Waiting for you after work,” his young colleague says gleefully and Cassian sighs.

“I really don’t need to answer that, Dameron,” he mutters and shakes his head.

Wedge, perhaps sensing the tension, claps Kes on the back, slowing his steps, and says: “So, you up for the game?”

“Sorry, man. Got a furious pregnant wife waiting at home who can’t wait to murder me for missing dinner. Again.”

“I don’t envy you.” Antilles laughs and adds in a slightly lowered, no less cheerful voice: “I think this might be the first proof that Andor’s actually human.”

Kes shrugs. “Nah. I’ve seen him eat a couple times, too.”

 

“Explain this again?”

“Back off, Kay,” Cassian says mildly, runs a hand through his hair and heads for the exit, leaving the other two behind. Kay, annoyingly, keeps up the pace.

“By the way, your ironing skills need work,” Kay mutters, shaking his head, and pushes the door open.

Cassian rolls his eyes. “Yes, thank you, mother,” he mutters and buries his hands in his pockets. It’s not like he could argue this point – while his colleague always wears shirt and tie in such impeccable state they look like they came straight from the store, and wears them with the stiff demeanour of a mannequin as well, Cassian’s clothes have, for the most part, seen better days. (Come to think of it, he probably wears them like that, too.)

He’s come to appreciate a good jacket and a decent pair of shoes, but everything else is bought cheap and usually thrown away if stained badly, and half his shirts and sweaters are all washed out and frayed at the seams. If for some reason he does have to make an effort and dig up the iron from the back of the closet, he tends to put more wrinkles into the fabric than he smooths out, and this time has been no different.

Kay is still shaking his head, a frown around his pale eyes somewhere between mild amusement and grudging concern, but falls back a few paces in a rare display of social skills, and Cassian suppresses a small sigh of relief.

“You know, when I said you coming here was a bad idea, I meant that,” he says, fighting down a smile.

She turns her head to face him like she’s surprised to see him, then gets to her feet and pushes the phone into her pocket. “Yeah, right. I’m sure you’ll be the centre of the horrible DEA office gossip for weeks on end.”

“That’s hilarious,” Cassian replies drily, his voice just a touch off from where he’d like it, again.

She brushes a strand of hair behind her ear and squints into the light of the street lamps. “It kind of is.”

He sighs and buries his hands deeper in his pockets as his partner walks up behind them.

Kay looks her up and down and says, in a dry tone that probably is supposed to imply something: “I see. The woman.”

Jyn frowns at Kay while Cassian does his best to resist the urge of hiding his face in his hands.

“Uh, this is… Kay, my partner. Just ignore him.”

Predictably, Jyn ignores that and looks at Kay with an inquisitive kind of aggression. “What’d you just call me?”

“…dubious and questionable, I’d get on board with, Cassian,” he says drily, disregarding her question completely, “but I’m not quite sure about the rest.”

Cassian turns to his friend in confusion and exasperation, hands half raised, then takes a deep breath and rolls his eyes at Jyn. “Ignore him,” he repeats with a sigh and turns back to Kay. “Can you stop quoting… whatever it is you’re quoting?”

“Arthur Conan Doyle, Cassian,” Kay says with a heavy sigh of his own, just as Jyn supplies:

A Scandal in Bohemia.”

Kay turns back to her looking mildly impressed. “Well, would you look at that. Your girl has read Sherlock Holmes.”

“She’s not –“

“I’m assuming you’re comparing me to Irene Adler for a reason?” Jyn asks, looking mildly amused at this point.

“Yes,” Kay says, looking torn between disgruntled and mildly pleased someone is finally getting his jokes. “You’re making him make incredibly stupid decisions, and he’s not usually stupid. Well, not very stupid.”

“I may not have a gun permit, but I can still hurt you,” Cassian says, only half joking. “Goodnight, Kay.”

“Cassian,” his colleague says softly, turning away from Jyn, “I really don’t think –“

Goodnight,” he repeats quietly, serious this time, holding his gaze until Kay sighs and nods.

“Fine. Fine, on your head be it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

There’s a very palpable trace of reproach in his partner’s voice, but Cassian ignores that and nods.

Jyn watches him go with a strange little smile on her lips. “Charming, that one. Are the giggling schoolgirls with you, too?” she asks, nodding towards Dameron and Antilles who are making their way to the parking lot decidedly too slowly.

Cassian sighs. “I told you not to come here.”

“Yeah, I see why you were worried. They’re a terrifying bunch,” she replies drily, walking towards the busy street, hands in her pockets.

“They’re sharper than they look,” he says and allows himself a small smile.

They walk in silence for a while, the cooling air doing wonders to purge the drowsiness of the stuffy office from his head. He has forgotten how small she is, he doubts she’d reach to his nose even with heels, not that she’d be wearing any. Her concession to the warmer weather seems to be swapping her combat boots for light, battered running shoes.

It’s always fight or flight with her, even down to the clothes. Cassian sympathises.

He takes a few deep breaths and misses the pressure against his side, misses wearing shoes he could hide a knife in, and takes a few more breaths in a semi-successful attempt to slow his heartbeat a little.

She doesn’t notice, or does a good job pretending not to.

“Where to?” she asks idly after a while.

For a moment, he debates getting further away from the precinct, then spots a dingy fast-food joint down the street, and decides stoners and college students are probably second best to no audience at all.

“I need something to eat. Have you had dinner?”

She shrugs. “Bodhi’s not home.”

“So that’s a no?”

Another shrug. “The last time I tried to cook, I accidentally set a piece of baking parchment on fire, so I figured best not try again when there’s on one around to call an ambulance.”

He bites back a laugh and nods towards the restaurant. “Okay. How’s pizza?”

Jyn frowns. “Pizza’s fine, but… I think we might stand out a little, personally.”

“Why?”

She shrugs. “Too old for that place.”

“I’m twenty-seven, thank you very much,” he replies with a small smile and she throws him a surprised look.

“Seriously?” 

Cassian wonders fleetingly if he should be insulted, but then again people have failed to guess his age correctly for as long as he can remember.

“It’s a goddamn fast-food chain,” he mutters as he opens the door for her. “I think we should be okay. My colleague takes his grandmother here,” he adds and she raises a brow.

“Which one? Not Mr stiff-upper-lip, right?”

“No, not Kay. God beware. The young one.”

She smirks. “The pretty one.”

Cassian snorts and fishes the menu out of a stack of advertisement flyers with some difficulty. “His wife and our poor desk clerk seem to think so, yes.”

It was a very transparent thing to say, he thinks, and also thinks he should have been able to react a little less predictably.

“Where is Bodhi?” he asks, staring blankly at the list of pizzas without really reading.

“Out for the night,” she says, in a tone that makes him look up to see her smirking down at her menu. “You might have spared me another three months of having to listen to him whine, you know? I’m grateful.”

He smiles a little. “Chirrut looked pleased, too. I thought he was going to burst from not saying anything.”

The waitress that finally comes to take down their order has long fake nails that make a horrible tapping sound on the display of the tablet in her hand, and raises a painstakingly plucked brow when Cassian orders a pizza and a large coffee.

There is a moment of silence after she leaves, then Jyn says slowly: “Anyway, they’re seeing a movie or something.”

Cassian nods. “Well, if you see him, tell him he owes me a coffee.”

“He owes you a coffee?” she asks, brow raised, and sounding mildly alarmed. “You didn’t bet on him asking anyone out, right? Because seriously, it’s been ages since he’s even set foot –”

He grins. “Because Arsenal lost the match.”

“Christ,” she mutters, shaking her head. “Yeah, he won’t forget that anytime soon, I wouldn’t worry.”

“He better not,” Cassian replies with a shrug. “I’m catching up on him.”

“In your dreams.” Jyn takes her coke from the waitress. “Don’t bet against Bodhi where football’s concerned, ever. He’s got a sixth sense or something. You don’t know the money I’ve lost.”

“He said you hate football.”

“I do!” she replies, green eyes bright with just the hint of the smile she keeps off her face so carefully. “So betting on it and winding Bodhi up is the only fun I get out of it.”

He bites down a smile of his own and takes a sip of what might be the third worst coffee he’s ever had in his life.

“That’s heartless,” he gives back, “how can you hate football?”

It’s less of a joke than he intended, really – somehow most of his good memories from ages seven to eighteen seem to include football in some way, be it playing in the backyard, all scraped knees and no rules and laughter, or listening to the matches in the rec room, all of them huddled around the old radio on what were technically not enough chairs to fit them all, in a reverent silence they never really held up for that long in church on Sundays.

He pushes the thought away, and takes another sip of coffee to wash away the sudden taste of dust and sunlight and yearning.

You forget so much, she said back on the rooftop.

There’s something about this girl that makes him careless. (Also, he thinks idly, maybe Kay was right. Maybe she makes him stupid, too.) There’s something about her that takes him back.

It terrifies him, it does, but he’s strangely grateful, too.

“Jyn, listen,” he says slowly, “I know I should have –“

“Don’t,” she cuts him off in a flat, quiet sort of voice, her eyes on the table, and he nods.

They go back to their drinks. The pizza arrives, but she doesn’t touch it. Cassian busies himself with painstakingly cutting his into equally sized slices.

There’s another issue he ought to discuss with Mothma, probably.

“So,” Jyn says slowly, still not looking at him, “you’re not allowed to talk about my father at all with a civilian, I take it.”

Cassian scoffs. “Civilian? I think, given your relation and the fact nobody knows you’re even alive… and I would bet my entire salary you know perfectly well how to build a bomb… I think the term here is suspect.”

“You can’t seriously think I had –“ she starts, sounding genuinely offended, and he grimaces.

“No,” he answers softly, finding her green eyes despite better knowledge. “I don’t. I believe you.” He sigh and forces his gaze back to his plate, pokes at his pizza. “But I shouldn’t. I don’t have a shred of evidence you didn’t do it, you were there, you had motive, opportunity… and I’ll get more than fired if someone finds out I’m looking into this whole thing at all.”

She still doesn’t look quite placated, but doesn’t press the matter any further. “Why?”

He sighs. “Because we were explicitly told not to go near this case. Not just by our own boss, but higher up than that. The file is officially sealed by the DA’s office, and honestly I’m not sure I want to know what my partner did to even get it to me.”

A slight frown pulls at her brows. “So… someone high up must have their fingers in the whole thing then, right? If they’re trying to cover it up?”

Cassian shrugs. “I don’t know. I don’t get it. We were trying to cover it up. There was a whole cover for the operation. I wasn’t even supposed to be on the case. If they’d just gone through with what we had, it would’ve all worked out. They would just have to say we were trying to apprehend your father for trafficking and the murder of his wife and daughter and he blew himself up before we could stop him. Instead, they just slammed the lid on everything and it looks corrupt to anyone with half a brain.”

Her frown deepens. “The DEA was supposed to arrest someone for murder? Who would’ve bought that?”

He shrugs. “We had a handful of people from Scotland Yard there to sell that story, and it wasn’t really supposed to convince anyone… the whole story was designed as a failsafe. If we’d have got your father, he would have been tried for aiding and abetting in cocaine trade, not murder.”

“Is that normal?” she asks slowly. “To have a whole cover-up story for an arrest?”

“It wasn’t where I trained,” he replies drily, “but then again, we weren’t usually arresting presumed dead genius chemists.”

She ignores that. “Then why do it?”

“Because someone knew we’d need it,” Cassian replies darkly. “But then they didn’t use it, so… I don’t know. It makes no sense.”

Jyn scoffs. “Looks like we came to the same conclusion.”

He chuckles and takes a few bites of pizza. “I don’t know how to get a handle on this. Maybe we should start from the beginning.”

She raises a brow and sips at her coke. “Which one? Birds and bees? Big Bang?” She stops, grins a little. “Oh, sorry. You’re probably Catholic? Adam and Eve, then?”

He chews on another slice of pizza and shakes his head. “I’ll save the laughter for a better joke, okay?”

That gets him an almost imperceptible smile. “Fine,” she says after a moment, fiddling with the blunt knife. “Um… he was a chemist, Oxford graduate.”

He nods. “I know that. Your mother was a geologist.”

“Yeah. They met on campus, the usual. Dated for ages, didn’t get married for years. Mum was serious about her work, and good at it. Well, that’s what my father told me. She always drove me all over the island, you know, up North to Scotland or down to Brighton, and put all those stones into my hands and told me their names and I forgot all of them and got them mixed up.” There’s faint laughter tracing through her voice now, and the same wistful glint in her eyes that he must have had moments ago when they were talking about football. It makes her look younger than she is, and older at the same time, a little worn and a little lost and a little happy.

It hurts a bit, but he can’t stop looking.

“What did your father do?”

She shrugs. “I’m not sure. He had a big office at home, I remember that, and sometimes he had really important projects and I wasn’t allowed to play there or make noise. I don’t know, I always figured he might have been writing another paper.”

“Wouldn’t he have needed a lab for that? As a chemist?”

“Well, not necessarily. There’s a lot of theoretical stuff, and he was away sometimes, and I don’t know what he did when Mum took me on our trips. He didn’t usually come along.”

Her green eyes are clearer now. He finishes his plate.

“Did he ever have friends visit? Like, friends from university, colleagues, anything?”

She scrapes her teeth over her lower lip, deep in thought. Cassian swallows his lukewarm bite and fiddles with the collar of his shirt.

He doesn’t know how he started breaking a sweat in early summer – Christ, he was born more than two-thousand miles south of this place, this should be nothing. This is nothing. Jyn is still nursing her coke.

“I don’t really remember anyone. At least not someone who’d have come more than once. But again, I was a kid. I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t see.”

He nods, tries to clear his head, then gives up with a sigh and decides he can delay this for just a little while longer – maybe a breath of fresh air could help. “Okay. Um, hey, if we… if we have to do this, we could at least do it somewhere they serve better drinks, right?”

A small smile flickers across her face for a moment, a frail, fleeting thing, but he’ll let it count. “Yeah. That sounds like a deal.”

She motions the waitress and he sighs.

“Okay, let me –“

“No,” she says with a faint grin. “If I let someone take me out, they’re not buying me cheap pizza and a coke. I’m not fourteen.”

He laughs a little. “That’s fair.”

“Yeah, split the bill, please,” she says, without even bothering to turn her head towards the waitress.

He shakes his head, smiling to himself, and digs a handful of notes out of his wallet.

She may not smile at the waitress, but she tips rather generously. A pragmatic sort of kindness.

How fitting.

The air outside has not cooled by a lot, much to his disappointment, but when he sees her shiver slightly as she pulls the zipper of her jacket shut, he wonders if it’s really as warm as he thinks it is.

“There’s a place down that street,” he says after a while, just to fill the silence, “but it’s full of cops.”

She frowns, then asks slowly: “Is there a football game on? American football, I mean?”

“No idea,” he answers with a shrug and glances at his watch. “But… there’s a rugby game about to start. My colleague wouldn’t shut up about it.”

She smiles a little and nods towards a small neon sign. “Sports bar. Nobody’s gonna care about us for at least…” She frowns. “How long is a rugby game?”

Cassian laughs. “Why would I know that?”

They find themselves a very small, sticky table that is deserted due to its bad vantage point of the television.

“What are you drinking?” she asks.

“I can –“

She cuts him off with an impatient nod. “Yeah, I’ll get served sooner, what d’you want?”

He sighs and hands her some money for the drinks with a pointed look. He’s feeling strange, and probably shouldn’t be drinking at all, but hell

“Tequila. A real glass, please.”

Another of her fleeting smiles, then she’s disappeared in the crowd around the bar. She isn’t gone long enough for him to get his head straight.  

When she sits down, he realises the table was not a good choice – it is too small, and the way they’re huddled in the corner their knees are almost touching underneath the worn wood.

He takes a sip of his drink, then another; casts a quick glance around the room to see everyone engrossed in the game and decides the noise level is safe.

“Do you know… do you know why you went to London, in ’00?” he asks tentatively, and thinks he hasn’t interrogated people in too long if this feels so difficult.

Or maybe that’s not the point.

She bites her lip again and he closes his fingers more tightly around the cool glass. He has to pay attention. He needs to listen; Jesus Christ, he’s twenty-seven, not seventeen, this should not be so hard.

“They wouldn’t tell me, but something was going on. My father had got a call, and then my Mum came, said we were going to London for the week-end, to visit a friend. She a bag already packed for me, for a couple of years she did that. I never questioned it, I thought that was normal... It was June, it was really warm, but she packed jackets, for autumn. I don’t know who called, but we were running from someone.”

“Who did you visit?”

“Saw. The man who became my guardian. He had a flat near Shoreditch Park, roughly an hour on the tube to Belgravia. We were on our way to seeing someone, I don’t know who, but my father said they had something we needed. I’ve been thinking, maybe passports,” she says quietly and shrugs. “I don’t know.”

She looks very composed still, but there’s a splinter of something lost and dark in her eyes.

Cassian sighs and pauses for a while, eying her closely. God, he’s getting so sentimental. He’s a cop, damn it, he should not mind doing this, shouldn’t mind asking questions like this – but he does. He doesn’t want to ask a single one of them.

“What happened?”

Chapter Text

“What happened?”

His voice, once again, is very quiet, too soft, too warm, too… everything, for this place. Not for the first time, she thinks he has a sort of voice that belongs into the dark, into late summer nights somewhere warm and quiet. Not into a crowded bar full of rugby fans, anyway.

She doesn’t know why she trusts him – she knows why she’s here, in a way, but she doesn’t know why she trusts him. It’s probably stupid, but damn it, she is tired, so tired of not allowing herself to trust anybody except for Bodhi, not ever, not for a second –

She always thought she could handle it. She always thought that Saw had taught her well, that the world had taught her well; she always thought she could stand her lonely life.

Turns out, though, that she is not as strong as she had thought.

“We were walking down the street, it was late, really late. My father got a phone call, I think it was Saw, then he looked at me and he…” Her voice falters for a moment, the words quite stuck in her throat.

This is private, says a voice in her head, very firmly. This is yours. This is all you have left.

His dark eyes are watching her just a little too closely over the slightly too small table, and he nods. “He said goodbye?”

“Everything I do, I do to keep you safe, do you understand that. Don’t forget that, stardust. Please don’t ever forget that.”

“I promise, papa.”

She swallows, and drops her gaze to the sticky table top. “Sounded like it, in a way, yeah.”

He nods, takes another sip of his drink, fingers closed around the glass a little too firmly. There’s something sitting in his eyes she could mistake for worry, if she wanted to. But he’s a cop, a liar, an excellent liar. He could make her see a lot of things, if he wanted to.

“Mum pulled me down the street, then the next. Then we stopped.”

She had looked so sad, so desperate, Jyn doesn’t think she’ll ever forget that look on her mother’s face. Lyra was a woman who smiled a lot, and she thinks this is why that memory hits her so hard; her mother’s tearful, strange smile as she’d unclasped her necklace and put it around her own neck.

“It’s my lucky charm, Jyn. It will always protect you.”

“She gave me her necklace,” Jyn says softly, and despite herself reaches up to touch the crystal, warm and achingly familiar on her skin. She hates it when it’s cold, which is why she hardly takes it off – it wasn’t that night, it was still radiating her mother’s warmth.

“And she told me to wait. She said Saw would get me, that I had to hide and that he’d fetch me. Then she ran off. I don’t think that was the plan, I think she was supposed to go with me, but… anyway, she told me to stay there.”

He leans back in his chair, eyes still on her, and waits, still with that look in his eyes. They’re too warm for all the darkness in them, Jyn decides, that’s what’s so strange about them.

After a while, he smiles a little, the strained, tired kind of smile that makes him look ten years older than he really is. “You didn’t listen.”

“No,” she replies. “Would you?”

There’s a very strange look flickering over his face for just a moment, then he takes another sip of his drink and it washes away.

“I didn’t,” he replies softly, in a voice so full of pain it makes her shiver.

“There was a man with my father, in the alley,” she resumes slowly after a moment. “He was a little shorter than him, and he wore a white jacket. He was British, or he sounded like it. He had two bodyguards with him, pointing guns at my parents. He was talking about a project, said he needed my father back on the team, that they were close. That he would take us all with him, that we’d have a good life… Mum said we were going to be hostages, he said we would be guests of honour or something, I don’t…” She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “She said we wouldn’t go. That he’d never win.” Her voice gets a strange pitch that she can’t get rid of. “And she pulled a gun from her handbag and pointed it at the guy in the white jacket. And one of the bodyguards shot her,” she finishes in a strange, empty little voice.

He looks sad, a little lost, too, but he doesn’t look surprised.

“You know that?” she asks, still with a hoarseness that embarrasses her.

He nods reluctantly. “I didn’t know how exactly. But there’s a forensic report. Parts of it were forged, but… yes, I know she died.” His voice is still soft, but he doesn’t avoid saying it. Probably because he knows that not saying it only makes it worse.

She is grateful.

His eyes flicker to her empty glass, then he wordlessly shoves his own across the table, and she scoffs.

“You think that’ll help?”

He shrugs, dark eyes flickering back up to meet hers, and throws her a hollow look. “I think you can tell yourself that it helps. For a little while.”

She opens her mouth to reply, then shuts it again.

Maybe that’s it, she thinks, somewhat surprised. Maybe this right there is why she trusts this man, even though she shouldn’t. He understands.

She picks up the glass and raises it for a mock toast, but the sardonic smile won’t come. “Cheers,” she says quietly, and it sounds altogether too serious.

Again, that broken little smile tugs at his lips, then he drops his gaze.

The tequila burns on her lips, and it’s warm where it runs down her throat, which, admittedly, is a small comfort.

Underneath the table, her shin brushes against something other than the table leg, and she doesn’t pull away.

He doesn’t look up or say anything, but for just a moment there’s a hint of a smile that almost makes him look his age.

“What happened to your mother?” she asks after a moment and he frowns.

“What?”

“I just told you half my life’s story. I think I can ask something in return,” she says flatly and he smiles.

“And you’re asking that?” There’s a spark of something new in his dark eyes now, something that she can’t quite place. “A depressing story? That’s what you want?”

She almost smiles back. “I didn’t say that’s all I want. But we can start there.”

He scoffs and takes back his glass to finish the last of the drink, there isn’t much left, but he takes his time.

“She opened the door for the men who came to kill my father. I suppose she must have looked right into a barrel. Two bullets, one to the chest, one to the forehead head when she was already down, to be safe. I bet they never knew her name.”

All this is said in a very sober, almost robotic sort of voice. Jyn isn’t sure if she regrets asking.

“What was her name?” she asks and doesn’t quite know why, but it brings his brittle smile back for a second or two.

“Juana,” he replies softly and adds, more to himself than to her: “I’m older than she was now.”

Though normally she is very good at pretending that she’s a heartless bitch – so good, in fact, that she believes herself sometimes – this is one of the moments she realises she isn’t really, and as good as she’s got at telling herself well mate, we all had it hard in life, her throat goes a little dry at this.

Christ.

“What did you mean, you didn’t listen?” she asks and he shrugs with that same rehearsed nonchalance, that same empty eyes that Jyn knows so well, and answers, his voice back to that professional detachment:

“I came home to a crime scene that day. Our neighbours told me not to go inside the house. I ignored them.” For a moment there’s a cynical little smile playing around his lips. “In hindsight… I might sleep better now if I had not done that.”

She’s not sure what it is, but something about what he said makes her picture it. Not the murder, or his mother, but him – six years old with big dark eyes and scraped knees and a school bag and, probably, an old dirty football tugged underneath his arm. It’s hard to get the eyes right, though; she can’t quite imagine what he’d look like without the darkness and exhaustion in them.

She keeps her knee where it is, pressed against his, and emptily stares down at the table top for a moment. A part of her wants to get up and get another drink, just to get herself a moment to breathe, but, embarrassingly, the bigger part of her has no interest in moving an inch and that part wins out. She shouldn’t let it, probably. This level of indulgence is dangerous. She’s making herself so vulnerable, bloody hell, what is it about this man, she should know better, really –

But maybe in some ways, she’ll always be starved for warmth, for touch; and she’s had a bad couple of days and doesn’t feel strong enough to fight it.

She sighs, then slowly resumes her own story, half to get back to why they’re really here, half because she just doesn’t know what else to say.

“It was weird, the moment she… My father never screamed. It was… like he’d seen it coming. And the other man didn’t even blink. He told my father that he’d find me if he didn’t do what he’d told him to, that there was no choice. He dropped something on the floor, piece of paper, and then they all just walked away, calm as anything, like nothing had happened. And my father just stood there,” she says softly, watching the glass that spins between his fingers. “Then he picked up the thing on the ground and – I don’t even remember if he checked if she was still –“

Her voice falters for a moment, and she makes a very lazy attempt to cover it up with a cough. An odd look flickers across his features, but he doesn’t interrupt.

“Saw came soon after,” she resumes. “My father told him something, I didn’t hear most of it, but he said something about how if he didn’t do it, they’d just find someone else… I think Saw was the one who called the police, the DI was a friend of his or something. He was on the phone for ages, I guess that was when they made the deal to declare me dead too.”

“You have to go with Saw, stardust, I’m so sorry, but I have to go somewhere and you will be safer here. You go with Saw, Jyn, alright, you do that for me…”

She closes her eyes for a moment, takes a few breaths. Somehow, speaking about this never gets any easier, even though this is the third time she’s told the story.

“That was the last time I spoke to my father before… before the day –“

“Okay,” he says, quietly, thankfully sparing her the struggle to the end of that sentence. “That’s all you remember?”

“Yes,” she answers, still staring at the table top and trying to chase the image of her mother from her mind. It won’t go.

“It’s not your fault,” he says very suddenly, and it’s so out of left field and yet so scarily what she yearns to hear that it physically makes her flinch.

“What?”

“What happened to your mother. It’s not your fault.”

She feels her jaw tense. Too close. She’s letting this man way too close. “Of course not. Why would I think that?”

His eyes are on hers, warm and still and more open than she’s ever seen them. He shrugs. “It’s all I ever thought about. If it was my fault. If they’d hate me, for being alive instead of them.”

“It wasn’t my fault, but I could –“

“There’s nothing you could have done,” he cuts her off, very calmly, and it makes her furious.

“You can’t know that.”

“Look, if there’s one thing I know, it’s ballistics, Jyn,” he replies with slow, deliberate words. “The man who shot her was tall, and you were a child. You could have stood right in front of her and he would have hit anyway. So, there is nothing you could have done to save her. It’s not your fault.”

That knocks all air out of her lungs. She doesn't know what's more overwhelming: how much he just assumes to know about her, or how painfully accurate it is. It's pretty audacious, really - she would beat most people to a pulp for talking to her about this night like they were they, like they could even begin to understand -

But then, he's different, isn't he? He does know. He probably did everything she did, probably shook his mother, begging her to get up; he probably had to wash her blood off his hands too. And somehow, for all the cruelty of what he just said, it somehow lifts a little weight off her shoulders. For a moment, the room starts spinning dangerously, then she catches herself – courtesy of repressing that particular memory for almost two decades, probably.

Still, she feels very light-headed, and suddenly the noises of the bar that have faded to imperceptible background noise are dialled up tenfold and she gives a jump at the sudden racket.

Due to this, she makes the mistake of looking up and meeting his eyes – somehow, they’re both caught unawares in that moment, and she is anything but ready to see the longing and the genuine concern on his face. It’s too much, far too much – Jyn is not a person that people look at like this, she hasn’t been since that night in the alley. She keeps her head down and she’s not seen, and that’s the misery and also the whole point. People don’t see her. People don’t look at her like that, not even if they’re broken and lost and dangerous themselves.

She doesn’t know how to handle that look.

There’s also a trace of fear in it, and that makes it all even worse because again, he understands. He sees how insane it is, for both of them, to do what they are doing, how idiotic and masochistic and completely irresponsible –

And at this point she has to admit, at least to herself, that when she tells Bodhi she doesn’t want anything other than Cassian’s help and possibly sex – it’s just not the truth.

And this is not something she should allow herself to think.

His fingers brush against her wrist, very gently, like he needs to get her attention (which, in this moment, is quite frankly an absurd concept).

“I can take you back to your apartment,” he says, and she notes that somehow despite the way he’s looking at her he makes that sound like an innocent offer and also that he’s probably the only person on the planet who makes a point of not saying I can take you home, and she’s probably the only person on the planet who’d notice and appreciate that.

She shakes her head before she knows what she’s doing, then adds, mostly to save face: “No. I need another drink.”

Chapter Text

He shouldn’t be drinking. Not in a place full of strangers, not with his thoughts wandering off into wildly unhelpful directions even without any help, not with her shin against his underneath the table, warmth radiating through the fabric of his jeans.

He shouldn’t be drinking. He’s being so careless. He’s pretty sure he hasn’t missed a single movement she made since they’ve sat down, but he – he of all people – he isn’t sure he knows how many exits there are to this place, he realises suddenly and grips his glass tighter. There’s the door they came in through, he reminds himself, and chances are there’s a service entrance in the back, but he can’t be sure. Probably no windows in the bathrooms, so that’s a dead end. He’s got his back to the wall, which is good, and if he smashed the glass in his hand on the table it would probably produce at least one shard large enough to use as a weapon at least once, but he’s pretty far from the door and there’s no cover on the way to it, so if there was a gun involved he’d need a miracle to make it there –

Stop it, he tells himself firmly and loosens his grip around the edge of the table. This isn’t Juárez, and there’s nothing to worry about.

Still, it’s a little distressing how easy it is to turn his mind to other things.

“It’s late,” she says quietly, but makes no move to get up. There’s still a little left of her drink, and he doesn’t really need his watch to tell him that this is not true, it’s not even eleven; but he gets what she means – there’s something about this moment that feels very finite, and the unavoidable short-circuiting of the electricity in the air is so close he can almost taste it.

He wonders, while he empties what he thinks is his fourth glass, at what point all of this started feeling so inevitable – long before they sat down at this table, definitely. That afternoon on the rooftop three weeks ago seems too early; not saying he didn’t want anything to happen then, because God, he did, but…

Her quiet voice in his ear, in the dark few hours before sunrise, and sitting at his table in that empty apartment long after she’d hung up, staring at the walls and seeing the shadows for nothing but what they were for the first time in too long. A different sort of yearning spreading in his veins and pooling hot somewhere in his chest – or maybe the exact same thing. Maybe the feeling is the same, maybe he’s just forgotten what it feels like to long for something he can actually reach.

It is irresponsible and stupid and he’s risking too much and he’s probably wasting her time, and he shouldn’t be drinking, but he can’t help himself.

A part of this feels distantly familiar, how he feels oddly calm and peaceful but also like he’s made of nothing but bare nerve endings, how he’s all anxious anticipation and yet drawing out the moment like his life depends on it. It feels familiar and strange at the same time, and it is all scaring him half to death, but he can’t resist. It’s been too long since felt that there was anything new under the sun for him.

And maybe it’s the drink, but for the moment, he feels strangely removed from all of it – from the fear and the exhaustion and the lack of weight at his side, from the blood on his hands, even - and he’s not sure what that leaves him with, but it’s a chance to breathe and he’ll take it.

He catches her gaze half by accident and can’t look away. Her eyes are bluer in this light, somehow. There’s a lot of summer about her for someone from a place as cold as London, in the faint freckles on her nose and the blues and greens and the way her hair never really seems to stay in the place she intended it to.

A faint, faint smile pulls at her lips, and he thinks it’s the first that’s really been for him – not for something he’s said or something he’s made her remember, but for him, and he’s ridiculously grateful.

Christ, he should not be drinking. That’s about the only thing he’s sure of at this point.

“I’m getting out of here,” she says slowly, in a quiet, odd tone that clashes with her choice of words – he doesn’t blame her. If he had any idea how to put any of what is going through his head into a coherent sentence, he would, but it all sounds dishonest, or creepy, or comes out of nowhere. He doesn’t even think he’d do any better in Spanish.

He wets his lips and nods – his mouth feels far too dry for the four drinks he’s had. God, he really is reacting to this like a teenager.

“Do you have it far?”

“No. I walked here.” There’s a faint smile playing around her lips now, and he’s not sure when that started but she doesn’t avoid his eyes like she used to.

He gets to his feet and follows her, drawing a breath of cool night air a little too desperately. Public areas like this are still not for him, as it would seem, not really – it’s lucky he’s as distracted as he is, probably.

She falls in beside him and says idly, like they don’t both know how much of a charade this entire conversation is by now: “I don’t think Bodhi’s film has even started yet.”

“That’s late for a movie,” he replies, fighting down a smile. He wonders who they’re playing this game for, at this point.

She nods, buries her hands deep in the pockets of her jacket. “Some kind of special screening, I guess. He’s got a very specific taste in movies.”

“Specific?” He keeps her talking, out of instinct in a way – he doesn’t want this, this stupid idle small-talk and the empty back-and-forth. It’s just that he feels like he’s caught in that calm, silent moment before a thunderstorm, when the wind picks up and the world seems to stop for a heartbeat.

It’s not that he feels any uncertainty about where this night is going to end – what scares him is not knowing what it will do to him. She wrecks his nerves just looking at him, and since he’s met her he gets those fits of panic in the middle of the night and he keeps seeing ghosts and he tells people things that he shouldn’t and…

She’s dangerous, even now; how much of a wreck might he be afterwards?

And it hits him very suddenly that tonight is the most he’s ever touched her – and by that meaning his knee brushing against hers underneath the table and neither one of them even acknowledging it happened.

He could touch her, easily, she’s walking very close, and the idea is ridiculously tempting, and yet… he has a feeling that once he does, it might not be something he can come back from.

There’s a thought just tugging at the fringes of his mind as he watches her shudder in the cool breeze and pulling her jacket tighter around herself, watches the shine of the streetlamps on her hair where it disappears in her collar –

God, he’s such a fool. Such a selfish bastard. Because, something that nobody really understands, and Mothma certainly doesn’t, is this: he’s keeping people at a distance, yes, and a part of that is punishment, but another part of it is protecting them. He’s decided at eighteen that he wasn't going to make his father's mistakes, that he wasn't going to let his fight cost the people he cares about their lives; and he’s got people killed after that, good men, but he’s tried where he could.

This is the antithesis of trying. If the wrong people see her with him – hell, they probably don’t even need to know who he is for her to get into trouble over him. She’s a criminal, and he’s with the cops, so there’s that; he’s an immigrant without a Green Card, and even that might be enough.

He’s not a good person; he tries to do good but he’s not a good person. And half a year or so ago, he waited in the rain to shoot her father and he’s not sure if she’s understood that and he doesn’t know if he can bring himself to put it that directly.

Still, the street is quiet and the cars that pass them by don’t slow down and she shivers again and without really thinking about it, he puts an arm around her and pulls her close, because he’s a fool and a terrible person.

She doesn’t seem the least bit surprised by that, just scrapes a smile off her lips with her teeth, and grips the back of his jacket for balance after a few steps.

She only barely comes up to his chin like this, which thankfully allows him to wipe off the strange little smile on his face before she can see.

Some part of him is slightly surprised at how she leans into him because it speaks of a trust he definitely hasn’t earned, and trusting people she shouldn’t really doesn’t seem like a thing Jyn would do – but another part of him isn’t surprised at all.

Because yes, they’re both painfully slow to trust, but then again he has a feeling they both know there are far more dangerous ways of opening up to people than this. And he feels like this has been a long time coming; so long, in fact, that he can’t really remember a time that he’s seen her when he didn’t at least for a moment think about kissing her, about his fingers underneath her shirt, about what her hairdo looks like when the pins come loose. He has no way to tell if it’s been as bad for her, and some part of him doubts it, but at whatever level - this is mutual.

For a while, he’s entertained the thought that maybe once the tension between them shorts out, he could be the same as before, but by now, he’s fairly sure that’s not happening. One thing just seems to lead to another, and even if he gets what he wants he doesn’t think it’ll be enough – not enough to walk away, at least.

And even though technically, nothing has happened yet – it’s already far too late to walk away from this. He fights down a rueful little laugh at himself. God, he’s an idiot; he’s such an idiot but her hair tickles his neck and his skin prickles where he can feel her hand on his back and somehow he just doesn’t care enough to let go.

She’s very warm against his side and the pressure of her weight there is bringing an inexplicable amount of comfort, and it takes him a very long time to realise why that is: that for the first time in several months, he can walk down the street without breathing around the missing pressure of his gun.

In that moment, she stops without warning. It catches him off guard and he stumbles into her just a little bit, and when he’s caught himself she’s suddenly very close; close enough to count the freckles on her nose or the specks of gold in her eyes that catch the orange glow of the street lights.

He can smell her perfume, just barely, and all of it goes straight to his head.

In the end, he thinks she kissed him, not vice versa – not that it matters the slightest bit when her fingers tangle in his hair and there’s a soft shaky moan against his lips that sends a shiver down his spine. His heart beats very fast somewhere in his throat and very distantly he worries he might not manage to convince his brain that it isn’t for fear, because a part of him is certainly panicking, and yet all it does is make his head spin a little and he gets lost even further in the softness of her hair and her pulse underneath his fingertips. Her lips are almost unbearably warm on his, just a little chapped so that there’s a touch of roughness to them, and a faint trace of vodka and the ghost of tequila that makes his head spin just a little more and makes the faint ache in his chest spread all the way to his fingertips.

For the fraction of a second, he thinks if he has to make himself this vulnerable he should at least do it behind closed doors, but then she tugs him even closer and the thought slips his mind.

She’s so close to him and all his brain seems to know how to do is inform him of every single spot of him that’s touching her and he’s fairly certain he doesn’t know much more than his own name at this point, and only knows that because that’s the only thing he’d want her to say right now.

By the time they break apart, no more than just a few inches, he’s a mess, plain and simple – it takes him a few seconds to even be distressed by any of it; the fact he has no idea how many cars have passed them by or if there was anyone else on the sidewalk at some point or the fact his heart is still beating too fast and he can’t seem to do anything about it or the fact his hands are shaking. He’s a sniper, for Christ’s sake, he can’t have shaking hands – and yet somehow, his eyes find hers and the thought fades into insignificance.

She looks as messed-up as he’s feeling; wisps of dark hair falling from the bun at the nape of her neck, cheeks flushed and lips full and very red in the warm light. Still, there’s something very guarded and hesitant in her expression when she says, too softly and a little too slowly for it to sound at all casual:

“You can come upstairs if you want.”

She looks at him in that intent way like she’s somehow not certain of his answer, and he almost laughs – hell, he would laugh if he had the breath to spare.

“For coffee?” he gives back, his voice so hoarse and embarrassingly breathless that the sarcasm in that is hardly discernible, and reaches up to push a stray strand of hair behind her ear, encouraged by the slight grin tugging at her lips.

“Fuck no,” she replies softly, and he hears himself laugh a little, which is a very strange sound there in the quiet night somehow. The spark of carefree mirth in her eyes doesn’t last very long, but it feels like an immense accomplishment to have caused it all the same.

He bends down to kiss her again – he’s not very tall compared to most Americans but she’s just tiny and this would all be much more feasible on a bed, or anywhere that’s not a jagged damp brick wall, really – and he manages to keep his wits about himself just long enough to sneak his hand into her right hand pocket where she predictably keeps the door keys. Not much longer, though, because her teeth scrape his lip and her hand sneaks under his shirt and she’s so close and this really needs to be taken elsewhere very soon or else he’ll go insane.

She pulls away and turns towards the door very abruptly, audibly out of breath, and rummages through her pockets for a moment until her eyes fall on the keys he’s holding out to her. For a moment, she looks torn between apprehension and amusement, then she rolls her eyes and snatches them out of his fingers with a scoff.

“Who’s the thief now?” she mutters, throwing him a strange glance, and he’s very much placated just by how long she fumbles with the keys before the door is open.

He winds up having precious little recollection of the stairwell – just enough to remember they’re up on the third floor, not enough to recall so much as the colour of the walls – but there’s something about the tiny hall of the apartment that strikes a chord with him, the neat stacks of shoes next to the door and the ten or so framed pictures crammed into the tiny stretches of wall between the doors leading out of the room and the thick little carpet on the floorboards.

Jyn kicks off her shoes where they land beside the shoe rack, in a very fluid, practised motion that make him realise Bodhi must be sorting them away for her when she comes home, because she’s clearly not in the habit of doing it herself. Her jacket is left underneath the coat rack along with his, which is the point where most of his analytic thinking is back out the window, except –

“Jyn… Jyn,” he murmurs, very gently pushing at her shoulders, not even really pushing her away, just preventing her from getting closer. Even that feels too far, though. “Exactly how drunk are you?”

She raises a brow. “Is that your police upbringing? You gonna make me walk on a straight line?”

He sighs. “I just –“

She looks up at him, a strange glint in her eyes, and replies softly: “Look, I know you’re a good liar, but even you can’t tell me you wouldn’t have done any of this without alcohol.” He doesn’t respond to that and there’s a triumphant little smile flickering around her lips.

“Well, so would I,” she replies softly, and adds in an offhanded tone: “Besides, trust me, this is not me being drunk.”

There’s an implication somewhere in there that he doesn’t like at all, but thankfully she doesn’t give him time to linger on it. Her hands are tugging at the collar of his shirt and her lips trail down his neck where he can feel his own pulse much too fast – and she stands on tip-toes even for that, a realisation that makes something warm and tingly spread in his chest.

His fingers catch on the pins in her hair and she lets out a little hiss against his skin. “Ow, wait. Wait,” she mutters, a hint of laughter in her voice as she fumbles with the hairpins.

“Sorry.”

The pins clatter to the floor somewhere in the doorway to her room, and that last bit of hesitation in her comes crumbling down right with them.

The light from the street casts a strip of yellow onto the wooden floorboards and paints strange patterns on the walls in the corner of his vision. He returns his attention to her before he can start seeing the wrong things in them.

It occurs to him very suddenly that he’s not keeping up very well, because she’s out of her jeans and he doesn’t remember when that happened, and he has exactly zero idea of how and when they ended up on her bed, and he also really doesn’t know if she’s locked the front door; and all that should worry him a lot more than it does. He can’t bring himself to linger on the thought at all, actually – which on one hand seems fairly excusable at this point, but then again… he’s a sniper. He’s supposed to be in control of his breathing. He’s supposed to be in control of his heartbeat. He’s supposed to be able to focus –

Her hands are all over him, pulling down his jeans, and he responds half out of reflex. He pulls her down to him and trails kisses down her throat, all while his blood is rushing in his ears so loudly he thinks she must hear it too, and his pulse is throbbing all the way to his fingertips.

He only regains his sense of orientation long enough to be vaguely amused that of course he’s all hazy and barely keeping up and she has him pinned beneath her. It seems very appropriate to the way they’ve been so far, to the way he’s been lately – and he’s perfectly happy with letting her call the shots, even though he could do with taking it at half the pace. But he’s not sure if things are actually going this fast or if he’s just not keeping up well enough, and he doesn’t much care either way.

He stares up at her, and he thinks he shouldn’t be seeing her this clearly by the light of the street lamp outside the window – her eyes are dark and hungry but there’s a sparkle of gold and green around the edge and her lips are swollen and pink and God, she might just be the most beautiful person he’s ever seen in his life.

He is not very objective right now, of course. He knows why all this is so much to handle, he knows. And it’s a dangerous thing that he shouldn’t be allowing himself and it’s wrong and selfish and terrifying but there’s no turning back anymore. Not now that he’s seen her like this and her nails dig into his shoulder until it hurts – in fact, long before all that.

You forget so much.

(There’s a half-forgotten undefinable something about her, something that feels like he should remember it even though he knows he has nothing to remember. He doesn’t think he’s ever had more than a faint, fleeting taste of this. It’s intoxicating now, and still feels more familiar than it has any right to.)

 


 

 

After, there is just heavy breathing, limbs tangled and pulse returning to normal too slowly.

He slowly traces a finger over her waist where is fairly sure he might have held on tight enough to leave a bruise. He presses his eyes shut and buries his face in the crook of her neck.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” he whispers.

She shifts to a more comfortable position, curls up against his side like she was always meant to fit right there, and instead of the heat that surged through his veins for the last half hour – the last two months, really – he feels warm. It’s a nice feeling.

“Don’t worry about it,” she mutters, her breath warm on his skin. This sounds like she was going to say something else – and the only thing that springs to mind is I’ve looked worse, and he really, really hopes he’s wrong. But he usually isn’t.

He doesn’t ask. That wouldn’t be fair – not now, not here, not naked in the dark with their pulses mingling; it’s not fair to ask a question like that when her guard is down, when they’re vulnerable.

(That’s as far as it goes – honour amongst thieves.)

He glances down to see her eyes have fallen shut; and though it’s probably still just hormones, it hits him once again how beautiful she is, even in that dim light of the streetlamp outside, nestled into him, the way her lashes curve against the thin skin underneath her eyes...

He wants to kiss her but holds himself back, just pulls her a little closer and tries not to smile at the little sigh she gives.

Eventually, she falls asleep, her small body warm against his and her silky hair between his fingers; and he allows his eyes to fall shut. Sleep won’t come, not in those unfamiliar surroundings, but he’s content just resting. It’s so… God, it’s so peaceful.

Chapter Text

When Bodhi comes back, she sits by the open window in the kitchen, lights turned off to keep the insects out. He frowns at the sight.

“Are you okay?”

She looks up from the orange glow of the cigarette and throws him a smile that feels insincere somehow.

“Yeah, sure.”

He pulls up a chair and sits, still looking worried. “You’re smoking.”

She raises a brow at him. “Sorry, mum.”

Bodhi ignores the quip. “You only smoke when you’re upset.”

She tries for nonchalance, but predictably, it doesn’t even remotely work on Bodhi. “Do I?”

He sighs. “You’re really okay?”

“Yeah, Bodhi, I’m fine. How was your evening?” she asks with a small smile that’s a definite improvement on the first and offers him the cigarette. He shakes his head and leans back in his chair, failing badly at wiping off the grin.

“None of your business.”

“Oh, is it?” she says, grinning back. “Got to see any of the movie, or…”

“Oh, don’t be crude,” he says indignantly and gets to his feet to put up a kettle. “The movie was very good, thank you, you should see it.”

Jyn smiles. “Good for you, Bodhi,” she says.

He returns the smile for a moment, then turns back to the teapot. “So how was your… oh, sorry, right. We’re not calling it a date.”

“We talked, you know,” she mutters, turning the cigarette in her fingers. “About the night mum died.”

Bodhi frowns again. “Are you –“

“It was okay,” she says quietly and takes a drag from the cigarette. “He was good about it.”

“Okay,” he replies, slowly. “So… that’s not what you’re upset about. So I’m assuming something else happened?”

“None of your business, Bodhi,” she gives back and flicks the stub out of the window.

He puts two cups of tea on the table, suddenly smirking. “Okay, you’re not upset. You’re confused.

“Anytime you wanna stop that, Sherlock,” she mutters with a headshake and takes a sip of her tea.

“It was good, then,” he says, brown eyes sparkling.

She rolls her eyes. “Oh, piss off, Bodhi.”

He continues to look far too amused for a moment, then the grin disappears, and he asks cautiously: “So, are you… are you seeing him again?”

She shrugs and swirls her tea in her cup. “He said he’d help figure out what happened to my father, so… I guess, yeah.”

He throws her another smile, a softer one this time. “Isn’t that convenient.”

“Shut up,” she says, but there’s a small smile tugging at her lips that ruins the line.

Bodhi sinks a spoonful of sugar in his cup and adds, still in that amused voice with a touch of scolding to it: “Throwing the poor man out at two in the morning, though, that’s a bit rude.”

Bodhi!”

He shrugs, holding her affronted gaze. “Well. It is.”

“Shove off.” She throws him a dark look. “If you’re so worried for his sleep you can give him a free coffee in the morning. He said you owe him one anyway. What with Arsenal losing and all.”

It’s a good diversion, she thinks, and can’t help being a little proud of herself when Bodhi immediately shakes his head and says firmly:

“I couldn’t bet on Barcelona. That was a point of national pride, okay? I’m not ashamed of that. I was just hoping they’d try a little harder.”

“You still lost the bet,” she teases, smiling, and takes a sip from her cup.

“Yeah. I took one for the team,” he repeats firmly.

“Sure,” she mutters, shaking her head, and gets to her feet. “Well, I’m going to bed. Thanks for the tea.”

He throws her a small smile and asks, very quietly: “You really okay?”

“Yes,” she sighs and pats his head with a small grin. “I am. Stop asking. Goodnight.”

He returns her smile for a moment and nods. “Night.”

She stops in the doorway, smiling a little. “So, what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Are you gonna see him again?”

“None of your business,” he repeats and unsuccessfully tries to hide his grin in his teacup.

Jyn stalks off to bed with the little smile quickly fading from her lips, no less confused and worried and no more likely to sleep than before.

So much for the calming effects of cigarettes.

She’s got through the world so much better since Saw ditched her, since she started to keep her head down and keep everyone but Bodhi at arm’s length. Since she contended herself with the absence of sadness, because happiness to her has never been anything but a bloody minefield, and what’s the point of being happy when you’re going to be infinitely sad later on?

She’s got by so bloody well. Kept her life so nice and simple.

She stares at the ceiling in the dark and waits and waits, and catches herself thinking she’d almost prefer the nightmares over the mess in her head.

So, are you… are you seeing him again?

The answer she should have given, the answer that she would have given a month ago, is no. Is of course not. Is why would I? Is it’s just sex, Bodhi.

To be fair, they didn’t talk about it, so she can’t know, not really. (Except she can.)

To be fair, she didn’t “throw him out”, so much as merely pointed out Bodhi would be back soon, and he took that as his cue to leave. (Except there were probably few other ways one could take that.)

To be fair, he didn’t seem reluctant to go, not in the least, and he was the one to tell her he’d find the door on his own, and left without another word, and she could take the easy way out and tell herself that he got all he wanted; and maybe she should tell herself that. (Except she can’t, because he kissed her the same way he looks at her, too long and too tender and with too many things implied.)

For someone who’s had three glasses of vodka mixed with very little else and half a glass of tequila on top of that… for that amount of alcohol, she has an alarmingly accurate memory of the whole thing, and she doesn’t quite think that’s a good sign.

The tea hasn’t quite washed away the taste in her mouth, and the warm heaviness in her limbs won’t go either.

 


 

 

Cassian stares at the file on his computer. He has been doing exactly that for almost four hours, and Kay has already told him as much twice - ever the helpful partner that he is - and the worst thing of all is that both of them know exactly why he can't concentrate. Which Kay has pointed out as well, of fucking course, verbally, for everyone to hear...

He doesn't regret any of it, though he probably should - what he does regret is that he's not going to stay away from her. 

And once that thought has formed in his mind, he spends the rest of his morning trying to ignore all the reasons why he should force himself to do that and all the ways it could end if he doesn't...

By noon, he feels both worn out and restless at the same time, and somehow he doubts any amount of caffeine is going to help. But he has another two hours of work to while away and an appointment with Mothma that he’s very much not looking forward at all. And so he stifles a yawn and a diffuse feeling something bad is about to happen, and drags his feet back to the office kitchenette, where Dameron and Antilles stand discussing over one of their cases.

He pushes past Dameron, who is holding a dangerously high stack of folders, and Antilles, being the senior officer, holding a doughnut. Cassian makes a beeline for the coffee machine, listening to the other two’s conversation without real interest.

“So, what about the contact in Juárez?”

“We had a CI on him,” Dameron says defensively and Antilles sighs.

Had?” he repeats, voice slightly muffled by the doughnut. “Great. I take it they got the usual treatment.”

The young agent grimaces and fiddles with the topmost file that is almost slipping off the pile at this point. “Yeah. Federales lost him some three months ago – hang on a sec, um… he was a bookie of some description for one of Tarkin’s underlings, uh –“ He finally puts down the rest of the stack and runs a finger down the page. “Yeah, here. The usual. Man called Rodriguez, died aged twenty-eight, bullet to the temple –“

Cassian’s thoughts skid to a sudden halt, and he feels like the shock comes before he even recognises what has caused it. His cup clatters out of his hand, spilling boiling hot coffee across the counter. Antilles and Dameron stare at him in mild shock and confusion while muddy brown drips down the white front.

“Full name?” Cassian asks in a tense voice and doesn’t bother to contain the flood even as it starts dripping onto the floor; it comes out too loud, too harsh. Dameron’s warm eyes flicker up at him in slight concern.

“Sorry?”

“The name, Kes,” he says, still in that horrible voice, so he adds a feeble: “Please.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure, hang on, uh… Félix Rodriguez Vásquez. Why? You got something on that case?”

The breath lodged in his throat escapes, and after a moment he starts rummaging through the cupboards for something to clean up the mess with shaking hands.

“Just… thought it was an old colleague,” he mutters. Antilles’s phone rings and he hastily leaves the room, looking none too sad about the disturbance, but Kes’s warm eyes don’t relent.

“You okay?” he asks slowly and hands him a kitchen roll.

“Yes,” Cassian snaps back and snatches the roll from his hands. “Thank you.”

Kes doesn’t look convinced, but after a moment he retreats with a slow nod. Kay, however, is suddenly leaning against the doorframe, eyeing him closely. Cassian hasn’t heard him come in, which isn’t the only thing worrying about the whole situation.

“Rodriguez. Name doesn’t ring a bell. One of Tarkin’s men?”

“No.”

Kay’s frown deepens. “I didn’t know you left behind anyone else to worry about.”

Cassian throws his colleague a dark look and wordlessly continues mopping up the coffee, then drops the dripping lumps into the bin and refills his cup again.

“If you need help looking for someone –“

For half a second, it’s tempting. God, it is. He wouldn’t even have to know anything specific, just let Kay hand him a proof that he’s alive, that would be enough, just a status, just –

But no. He made a choice all those years ago, he deliberately sparked that fight – and it has worked, hasn’t it? His best friend left the city to go to university without even telling him where, and Cassian had taken away his only reason to ever come back. And even if someone wanted Cassian to tell them where Gael Rodriguez was, he’d have no idea whatsoever.

It was as safe as he could make him, and it had to stay that way.

“Drop it,” Cassian cuts him off, in a voice that sounds too harsh to be inconspicuous. He avoids Kay’s cool blue eyes and grabs his jacket.

Kay doesn’t budge from his position, but his eyes follow Cassian as he leaves.

Cassian spends the next two hours staring at a file with no idea what it’s about, unsuccessfully trying to chase the whole incident from his mind.

 

 


“What happened?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You missed your last appointment. What happened?”

He goes for blunt honesty, partly to see if that will throw her off, partly because he doesn’t have either the patience or the mental capacity to think of a decent lie right now.

“I had sex.”

She doesn’t look fazed. “That’s usually not a cause for worry.”

“No.”

“So what happened?”

“I don’t feel comfortable talking about my sex life,” he says flatly, and she smiles.

“I don’t think that’s the problem here, detective. I think we both know sex isn’t what upset you.”

He sighs and doesn’t answer. So that doesn’t work on her. He’ll remember that.

“When was the last time you’ve been in a relationship, detective?”

Cassian glances up at Mothma, slightly startled. She can ask about his sex life if she absolutely must, it’s a psychiatrist thing after all, isn’t it, something with Freud and all that? She can ask that, fine, but this – this is private. There must be something that’s out of bounds.

“I don’t see how all this is relevant to whether or not I’m to be trusted with a gun, doctor.”

She gives him her annoyingly patient smile. “It’s about your ability to form an emotional connection to other people.”

“And that is relevant?” he repeats, with a warning undertone this time, but she doesn’t take the hint. At all.

“It is vital to your judgement in a situation that might require you to pull the trigger.”

Cassian slowly takes a few deep breaths. Oh, screw this, if she wants the truth, she can have it. Be fucking careful what you wish for.

“You have my file, right?”

“I do, but I was asking about your private life.”

He ignores that, and inquires calmly: “What does it say about my work in Mexico?”

Still that mild smile. “Detective, I’m not asking about your work.”

“I was undercover for two years, that is in there, yes?”

She sighs and concedes. “Yes, it is.”

Cassian fixes her – it is time to make her understand something once and for all. “I buried two colleagues during that time, one of them was a friend. His girlfriend was buried beside him. Twenty-seven years old. She was pregnant.”

Mothma looks pale, but he presses on, voice level and calm. He’s done with these questions.

“They did not open the coffins during the funeral. You see, the way we found them… we identified them by fingerprint because their faces weren’t recognisable. She died at least an hour before he did, chances are they made him watch. He died more slowly, lost more blood, they were probably trying to make him talk. Guess he didn’t, or I’d be dead, too.”

Her eyes look a little glazed over, and Cassian leans back in his chair and adds, very softly:

“You see, back then emotional connections were a luxury very likely to get everyone involved killed. If I have trouble making them, it’s mostly out of habit.”

She watches him closely, and then after a moment, despite the fact there’s still a slightly greenish tinge to her complexion, there is something oddly triumphant about the set of her jaw.

“When was the last time you felt completely safe, detective?” she then asks slowly after a long period of silence, and that catches Cassian off guard.

He wants to tell her that’s a ridiculous question, that he’s perfectly safe right now – but he isn’t. He isn’t. He hasn’t been safe for years, definitely not for the last four, but even before that… before that, he was a man armed to the teeth in the middle of a warzone, which isn’t exactly what he’d call safe.

Before that, then – when he was training to become a cop in the middle of a place where police was usually said like it was an insult, and where half the force’s loyalty lay somewhere far more substantial than the law? Not completely safe, no…

So, before that – when he woke up screaming at night, when he hung around shady bars spying for the cops; when he still dreamed of the weeks he’d spent holed up in some derelict safe house, trying to hide his tears from the policemen outside the door?

It hadn’t felt safe, though he guesses it must have been safer than what came after.

“Detective?”

He blinks a few times, then shakes his head, fidgets in his chair. Suddenly the missing weight of the gun is throbbing like phantom pain in a lost limb again. He could lie. It feels like he should, this feels too close for comfort –

What’s she implying, anyway? He’s not paranoid, he’s right. He spied on one of the most influential men of one of the biggest cartels for two goddamn years, and stated that in court, if anyone finds out, he’s a dead man walking. The only thing that protects him is a grave with a fake name on it, and a few files with his real name that have “deceased” stamped across them. The only thing that protects him is that people think he is dead, a misinformation that is painfully easily disproved...

It’s not paranoia if it’s justified, right?

He feels a little dizzy.

“When was the last time?”

He gives a helpless little shrug. “I don’t know. Home, probably.”

“Home with your family?”

“Yes.”

She watches him for a while, something in her steely eyes that looks dangerously like pity.

“I miss it. More than I used to, I mean,” he says and doesn’t know what makes him say it, but he keeps talking. It is strangely relieving. “I don’t know when it started. I just – it’s not just my family, it’s… I miss everything. I feel like every time I look out the window I expect to see a different city. Why does that happen?”

“Do you feel more anxious than before?” she asks after a moment.

“More than before they took my gun,” he replies after a moment of hesitation. It can’t hurt to try and remind her of why he’s here, every now and then. Even if she won’t react to it.

“Panic attacks?” she presses on, in her calm, level tone, and he gives a helpless shrug.

“I suppose that’s what you call it.”

Mothma nods, very slowly. “When does that happen?”

“At my apartment, when I’m alone. Mostly at night, when I can’t sleep.”

“What exactly happens to you?”

He shrugs. “It’s… dizziness, I don’t really know where I am, I can’t really concentrate on anything. I lose control of my pulse and breathing gets more difficult. I got sick a few times.”

She notes something down. “Do you have pills against these panic attacks?”

“It wasn’t this bad in Mexico, but I got anxiety medication when I was undercover. I have a couple left, I don’t like taking them.”

“Why not?”

He grimaces. “Because the point is I’m not in control of my body. If the pills are in control, that’s not much better.”

She sighs a little. “The heart is not a muscle that you can consciously steer like the rest of your body, detective, so being in control of your pulse is a very relative term. The pills are to help break the cycle.”

He throws her a wry little smile. “There are ways to influence the heartbeat. Anyone who meditates can tell you that.”

“You don’t strike me as someone who meditates,” she gives back with an equally sardonic smile.

“I was trained with a precision rifle. A low pulse is helpful, so they taught us a few things. I used to take the pills for that, just for better aim, the first few times. I learned to do it without them, for the undercover work, too. It helps to know your body, to find your tells when you’re lying to someone.”

She makes a note, and he thinks he’ll never be any less annoyed by that habit of hers – or any less scared of what happens if someone ever gets their hands on that little book.

“How did you know?” Cassian asks softly. “I never mentioned it.”

She throws him her sad little smile again. “You said you missed your country, your city. More than before. People usually do that because they don’t feel comfortable where they are. We want to go back to more familiar surroundings, to a place we know, because that’s usually where we feel safe.” She sighs and closes her book. “Do you have any idea what could be triggering these panic attacks?”

“Not really.”

“Do you get them at work?”

“No. Like I said, sometimes at night when I can’t sleep.”

She sighs again. “So, still trouble sleeping, then. Every night?”

He shakes his head, because panic attacks are bad enough if someone reads her notes, but insomnia is worse because that means he’s slower, weaker. He can’t let her write that down.

She eyes him for a little while, clearly waiting for him to elaborate, so he asks instead: “Do you think it’s because of the shooting?”

A faint smile tugs at her lips. “I think we both doubt that, detective,” she says gently, then adds after a while: “I don’t know much about your work, but you’ve been put in a lot of situations that demanded a heightened state of alertness over a long period of time, following people for a long time as a policeman or firefights during your military service, for example?”

She pauses, and he nods, slowly.

“And your file says you have spent two consecutive years undercover. I imagine there is very little opportunity to let your guard down in such a situation.”

That’s putting it so mildly it sounds like it came straight from some kind of ad campaign, he thinks wryly, and nods.

“Well, a possible explanation for your panic attacks would be that you’re simply working through the things you’ve shut down now that you’re on leave, things you were under too much stress to deal with before. And, well, the longer people shut things away, the harder they usually are to sort through.” Mothma sighs, puts her notebook away and leans back in her chair, her clear blue eyes on his, strangely soft for once. “You’ve been under enormous strain for a very long time, and that has done damage. It will take time and effort to heal and it will not go away altogether, but there isn’t a way around it.” She pauses, watches him, then sighs and adds, in a firmer, matter-of-fact kind of voice:

“There are techniques to better get you through these attacks, did someone talk to you about that before?”

“I used to count things when I was a child,” he says slowly. “Count every round object in the room, something like that.”

She smiles a little. “That works, yes. Some people find it helps to touch something solid, find a nearby wall. Anything that helps ground you in reality. Describe the floor you’re standing on, name things you can hear or smell. And remind yourself of what is happening to you, however scientifically exact you need to. Understanding usually calms people.”

She waits for him to nod, then adds slowly: “And – I know you probably won’t do it, but I’m going to tell you anyway – the people around you should know that this happens to you. That way it will be easier for them to handle and in return easier for you.”

Cassian throws her a thin smile and says flatly: “Depressing as that makes my social life, everyone I know is familiar with panic attacks, doctor. At least half of them probably have them too.”

She sighs. “It would still be good if you warned them you have them. But that’s up to you, of course.”

“Alright. Thank you,” he mutters and gets to his feet.

“One last question – out of curiosity, you don’t have to tell me.” This time, her smile looks a little less practised, a little more real. “There was no note of you ever seeing a psychiatrist as a child.”

“We had these group sessions sometimes,” he says with a shrug. “They… didn’t help. No one, really.”

“So the counting. Who taught you?”

He chuckles and shakes his head. Damn, that woman catches everything.

“My roommate. Gael,” he says, forces himself to put it that way, say the name, too, because he knows he’s avoiding that, and he knows he’s avoiding it because it hurts and she would know that, and she’s seen enough for one day, and he’s been haunted by his ghosts all morning. “He used to do the same.”

Chapter Text

He comes in around three, hair damp from the drizzle that hasn’t stopped since the evening before. She can feel his eyes on her, but he walks past her table without a word and makes a beeline for the counter. Jyn can feel Bodhi frowning without even having to look up from her magazine.

“The usual?” Bodhi asks, and there’s a trace of reproach in how he says it and Jyn wonders if Cassian can hear it too.

He shakes his head. “I’ll have it here.”

Bodhi nods, a little too approvingly. “Sure.”

“Make it two.” She can hear him smiling. Oh, he sees through Bodhi alright.

“Coffee? You sure?” Bodhi repeats, raising a brow, and Jyn barely contains the urge to bury her face in her hands.

“Yes,” Cassian replies slowly, while Jyn tries to catch her friend’s eye across the room, but he pointedly avoids her dark glare and smiles at his customer.

“You’re good.”

“Bodhi,” he mutters, digging money out his wallet. “You can’t judge my character by how good I am at guessing people’s drinks. But, uh, nice try.”

Bodhi frowns a little and fiddles with the coffee machine. “You can sit, I’ll bring it over.”

“Thanks.”

She looks up at him from over her magazine. She’s not sure what to say. She’s not sure what she wants to say.

She’s not sure if there’s something she wants to hear, either, except she kind of wants to know that this wasn’t some kind of drunk slip-up. She doesn’t want big declarations. Actually, if there was one, she’d run straight for the hills. She just wants… god, she doesn’t know. She wants something.

He motions towards the empty chair across her. “May I?”

“You order me a coffee before you even ask if you can sit here?”

Okay, this was not what she was going for, whatever that was.

He shrugs. “You could drink it without me.”

Jyn glances down at the table top and shoves the chair away from the table with the tip of her shoe. “Sure. Sit.”

“Thank you,” he says as he sits down, which irks her for some reason.

“Are you okay?” he asks after a moment, too quietly for Bodhi to hear over the sound of the coffee machine.

“Yes,” she gives back, a little too forcefully. Damn it, why does she have to be like this? She forces her eyes off the table top to look up at him and adds in a gentler tone: “I’m fine, seriously.”

He nods, and his eyes flicker up to her face for a moment. They look warmer in the light, brighter. “Good.”

Bodhi comes with the coffee and throws her a glance. It’s a quick, small thing and it hits her that they’ve perfected this, this little discreet you-alright kind of glance, and that’s probably a sad thing.

She throws him a smile and he gives an imperceptible little nod as he puts her cup down.

Cassian smiles a little as Bodhi walks away and conveniently slips out the back. If she’ll ask about it later, he’ll probably make up some vague excuse about some urgent thing he had to discuss with Baze.

A small smile tugs at her lips, too.

“He’s a good guy, isn’t he?”

“The best,” she replies softly, then takes a breath, looks up and shoves his cup across the table. “Your turn.”

“My turn?” he repeats, frowning up at her.

“Yeah. I told you everything I know about what happened. Your turn.”

He sighs and turns the cup in his hands. “Your father had a friend in Oxford. Not a close friend. He was an exchange student from Sydney, they were in the same courses sometimes.” He reaches into his jacket and gets out three pictures.

She frowns down at them, they’re all headshots of men in their late twenties, early thirties.

“You don’t know which one it is?”

He smiles wryly. “We know. It’s to prevent you from believing you recognise someone because you think you should.”

She stares down at the pictures for a while, and then –

“Him.” She whispers and holds one of the pictures out to him. Her voice is shaking, just a little. She tries to stop it, but it’s no use. “I know him, I - that’s the guy. The man in white. He’s… he’s younger here, but I think –“

He nods, rests a hand on her wrist, and Jyn cannot believe how much this affects her after the last time she’s seen him. “Yes. That’s the man I was talking about.” His fingers pull back, slowly this time, tracing along her skin.

“He graduated a year before your father did, and came to America, made crooked friends. He started working for one of the cartels and rose in the ranks.” He throws her a thin smile. “He wasn’t a great chemist, going by his grades, but he’s a good businessman. Doesn’t flinch back from the shit they do.” He falls silent and returns his eyes to his hands.

She stares down at the picture. The man’s smile looks disdainful, in a way, and his eyes look cold.

“Who is he?”

“His name is Orson Krennic.” He sighs, turns his cup around in his hands. “About four years ago, our people started to report a man who was hanging around Krennic. It took us a while to confirm who he was, the man who finally brought us a picture, he, uh, he…” Cassian shakes his head, takes another sip of his coffee. “We don’t know where your father was in-between, what he was doing. But in the last four years, it looked like they were overseeing some kind of special project. Our people think they might have been doing something to the cocaine.”

“That’s why they needed a chemist?”

“We don’t really know,” he says gently. “Every one of our informants who got close… disappeared.”

“Got killed, you mean,” she says flatly, and he laughs, a small hollow little laugh.

“Yes. Probably trying to make the coke with cheaper means, or faster, or… we don’t really know what else it could be.”

She nods, slowly. “But how did that get him killed? I mean, if he was cooperating -”

He hesitates, then replies gently: “We don’t really know what happened or what he was planning. But he slipped away from Krennic, got half the cartel to panic. The night he died, our plan was to arrest him while he was on his own.”

She stares at the empty cup in her hands for a moment, then frowns a little. “You said you were backup. If my father was alone, why did you need backup? He always had the worst believable aim.”

“The cartel was very close to getting him back,” he says slowly. “We had orders to get your father that night. It was our only chance. We couldn’t let him go back -”

She suddenly remembers something else, and feels a little sick. She feels her fingers close around the cup. Special arms training.

“Sniper. Right?”

His eyes flicker up at her. They’re so warm, and strangely blunt. “Yes.”

“You were supposed to shoot him. If he ran.” Her voice sounds strange to her, hollow somehow.

He doesn’t look away. “It was an exit strategy. But yes.”

Jyn exhales, slowly. “D’you think you would have done it?”

He smiles that horrible cynical smile. “You’re asking a guy who you know got suspended over shooting two people, Jyn.”

“That was self-defence.”

He’s still looking at her, and the smile vanishes as soon as it came. “If there was no other way, I would have, yes. That’s why they asked me, rather than the Americans. Because they know I’ve done it before.”

“For the cops?” she asks tonelessly, after a while. This should probably affect her more. Maybe it’s shock. Or maybe she’s just that heartless.

“For the army, mostly. And… twice undercover,” he replies in a very quiet, very calm voice that sounds rehearsed. He sounds… he sounds a little like Bodhi.

She swallows a few times, trying to get rid of the stale taste in her mouth.

“I didn’t know how to tell you,” he adds softly. “I’m sorry, Jyn. I should have.”

She takes a few deep breath and finishes her lukewarm coffee, then she nods. “Well. You didn't do it, right?” She traces patterns on the table top for a while, then her eyes fall back onto the photograph next to her cup. “Do you think he blew him up?”

Cassian shrugs. “Don’t know. It would make sense for him to do that, but… we wouldn’t cover up a cartel hit.” He sighs. “I don’t know what’s going on, Jyn. I’m trying to see if there is any more we have on it, but… I don’t know. It still doesn’t make any sense.”

She traces Krennic’s sharp features with her eyes. “What about him? Krennic? He would know.”

Cassian smiles grimly. “Well, I’m sure it wouldn’t take too much of a beating to make him talk, but you’d need a small army to get to him, that’s if you can find him, and we have nothing on him to warrant seizing him in the first place. He’s an American citizen. We can’t get to him. If we could, we’d be all over it. He works for the big guys, reports to a patron.”

She sighs and falls silent for a while, staring at the table top, then asks slowly, in a voice that sounds much more insecure than she would like it to: “You are looking, right? You’re not just saying that?”

“I can’t dig too much at a time. People would notice. Most of the office doesn’t trust me, because I wasn’t born here. But I am looking, Jyn,” he replies softly. “I promise.”

“Do you?” she mutters, and feels a small smile tug at her lips despite herself.

He returns the smile for a moment, and it doesn’t look quite so broken this time. Some of the bluntness of before has vanished from his eyes. “Do you want me to leave?”

She considers, for a moment.

If there was no other way, I would have, yes.

She wonders if that would have been worse. Hearing her father got shot in a DEA operation, instead of watching the place she last saw him go up in flames. Probably not. Besides –

He didn’t. Her father died in an explosion, and nobody shot him. And maybe the knowledge that Cassian might have should bother her more, but it doesn't and she's okay with that.

She doesn't owe it to her father to be upset about this as well. She doesn't owe him anything, does she? He left her behind. He was her father and she loved him, but he left her behind.

So she shakes her head. “No. No, I don’t.”

He smiles faintly, then starts idly turning his empty cup in the saucer and says slowly: “Listen, um, about Friday –“

“Is this the part where you tell me you don’t usually do this?” she asks, and regrets it immediately. Why does she sound so hostile all the time?

To his credit, he actually laughs at that. “No. No, it’s not.” He doesn’t quite look nervous, but his fingers are still playing with the cup. “I just –“

She hates how awkward this is, and cuts him off, this time in a voice that is slightly too quiet for her taste. “We don’t have to talk about it.”

He’s going to take that the wrong way. He must. There is no way to not take it the wrong way.

There is something wrong with how her words relate to her thoughts.

He glances up at her with a slight frown. “Okay,” he replies softly, and she thinks, maybe he does get it.

“I talk about ‘how I feel about things’ way too much as it,” she jokes feebly, making speech marks with her fingers, and he grins.

“She really asks you that?”

“Sometimes,” she replies with a shrug, shoves her sleeves up a little and leans back in her chair. “I always thought that was a myth, you know. That psychiatrists ask that.”

“I don’t know,” he says, smirking, “I think I saw Silence of the Lambs too often to imagine anything realistic at all.”

She grins, still tugging at her sleeves. She probably does that too much, going by how stretched and deformed they are. “That’s not a good starting point, no.”

His eyes flicker down to her arm and he frowns a little. She follows his eyes and remembers why she was wearing long sleeves. Damn it.

“What happened?” he asks in a painstakingly neutral tone, nodding to the greenish bruise on her skin, and she grimaces. Just by the shape of the bruise, four green lines near the elbow, it’s pretty clear what happened, so she shrugs.

“Client. You know, some people think they need to emphasise their point.” The frown stays, so she adds lightly: “I hurt him more, don’t worry.”

That puts a slight smile on his lips. “I can imagine.”

She pulls at the sleeve and asks, in a very obvious attempt to change the subject: “D’you want more coffee? I think I’ve watched Bodhi enough to operate that thing.”

He smiles and shakes his head. “I should get back to work.”

A smirk pulls at her lips and she doesn’t make an effort to stop it. “You could just be late.”

“My boss would not agree.”

“Does he have to?”

He hesitates for a moment, then shrugs and replies with a small smirk: “He’d probably never even know.”

“So, coffee?”

“No. I can have that at the office," he says, still smiling. It's still unsettling, the way he looks at her. But not necessarily unsettling in a bad way.

 

Chapter Text

“You’re late,” Kay says drily, without looking up from the file on his desk.

“Late?” Cassian repeats drily. “I hope this really couldn’t wait until the morning.” He shakes his head at his colleague and walks past their desks to get a cup of coffee. He makes a point of not counting how much he’s had, which is good, because the number for today would probably be concerning.

There’s still a light on at the other end of the office, in Antilles’s and Dameron’s corner. Cassian frowns, and then frowns a little more when he sees there is still hot coffee left. Kay lives on black tea, and Antilles only ever resorted to coffee when the soda machine down the hall broke, so…

“Kes?”

The young agent looks up from his computer. He looks worn in the blue light of the display.

“I thought we wrapped up the case this afternoon.”

Kes shrugs and returns his eyes to the screen, shuffling deeper into his chair. “Just finishing up.”

“It’s past ten, Dameron,” Cassian says softly.

“Coming from you? Seriously?” Kes gives back drily, still not meeting his eyes.

“True. I have no one waiting up for me, though.” Cassian sighs and takes a sip of his coffee. “The file can wait.”

“Again. Coming from you?”

Cassian sighs. “So do you… do you know what it’ll be?”

“What?”

He grimaces. “That’s not how you say it, is it?” He shoves his hands down his pockets and shakes his head. God damn it, he’s so tired. “The kid, boy or girl?” he elaborates, switching to Spanish.

A faint smile pulls at the corner of Dameron’s lips. “I didn’t want to know, but Shara insisted. We’re having a boy.”

For half a second, he feels himself returning his colleague’s smile, then he remembers Kes’s wife's warm brown eyes and wonders how much that child will look like… He shakes his head to get rid of the thought, not overly successfully.

“Well, good luck with that,” he mutters, but the joke sounds lame even to him. “This can’t wait?” he repeats, nodding towards the monitor. Kes tenses immediately.

“Save the interrogation, Andor, alright?” he bites back. “I just want this wrapped up.”

“Alright,” he mutters and retreats with a frown. “Take it easy.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kes mutters, closing the file, and adds in a tetchy tone: “I’m going home, see?”

Cassian tries for a smile. “Good night.”

Kes nods, but eyes him warily as he leaves. Cassian sighs. This isn’t good. This isn’t good at all.

He decides to keep an eye on it for now. It might be nothing – maybe Kes was just put on a case with links to Juárez, and was told to keep Cassian away from it. Or maybe not.

He returns to his desk and takes a long sip from his cup.

“What did you want, Kay?”

Kay digs up a thin binder from the stack on his desk while Cassian sits down.

“So, all I had to go on was a last name common as all hell, not just in Mexico, mind you, and an age. Do you know how many people called Rodriguez work in law enforcement in Mexico City alone?”

Cassian frowns up at his friend, taken aback. “What, I - I told you to drop it, Kay.”

“I was just taking a look.

He drops a thin file on Cassian’s desk. He stares at it for a moment, then flicks it open hesitantly and stares at a blurry photocopy of a Mexican driver’s license.

“What the hell is this?” he asks very softly, his voice faltering towards the end.

“Tax returns and credit card receipts of one Gael Rodriguez, born in Mexico City in November ’87, admitted to an all-boys orphanage aged five...” Kay looks rather a little proud of himself, like a magician revealing an empty box to the audience.

Cassian struggles for breath. His heart feels wrong, and very much not functional.

“I told you to stay away from this!” he stammers, slamming the folder shut.

Kay sighs. “Yes, but you looked worried. So I looked into the man’s finances to be safe, there was nothing fishy at first, I wasn’t going to bring it up – I don’t think I’ve seen such an upright citizen in years. I mean, the man buys flowers, regularly. Admittedly, those don’t have to be for his wife... He also pays a nanny and a piano teacher, and all the reason I found him was donations. Roughly a grand to the orphanage, every year like clockwork since he graduated.” He pauses for a moment, possibly for drama, then adds: “However, there’s also an annual grand to the Federal Police, since October two years ago.”

Cassian’s breath feels like it’s lodged in his throat, and for a moment, he forgets to tell Kay to shut up. “What?”

“It’s strangely official for a bribe. I mean, it doesn’t even go to a specific station, but I can’t really image that timing is a coincidence.” Kay sighs. “Look, I don’t know what that means, all I can tell you for now is that if that guy’s up to something shady other than giving his hard-earned money to the police for no reason, he’s doing a fantastic job of hiding it. I can try to find out more if you want -”

“No,” Cassian says sharply. “You’ve already gone too – this,” he jabs at the file on his desk in anger, “this links him to the DEA. Do you know what that can mean for someone? What if someone makes the connection to me?”

“I see. I got that the wrong way around.”

“How about you stop speaking in fucking riddles, Kay?” Cassian snaps, uncertainly fiddling with the file as he does. He can’t leave it at the office. He can’t throw it away, either, not here… he should probably burn it, that seems safest…

“You’re not scared of him, you’re scared for him. You might have told me that, you know,” Kay says matter-of-factly, then suddenly his eyes narrow and he snatches the file out of Cassian’s hands and starts leafing through the pages.

What now?

Kay’s finger traces a handful of numbers, then he nods, slowly, and hands him the file back. “I missed something.”

Cassian gives him a very dark look and waits for his colleague to elaborate.

“The flowers probably aren’t for the wife, look,” Kay says, indicating a balance near the bottom of the page. “Here. Flowers and gas at a petrol station.”

“What am I supposed to be looking at, Kay?” he bites back, unwillingly staring at where he’s pointing.

“The location. The date.

“What about the date?”

Kay gives him an annoyed look. “Have a look at your passport one of these days, Cassian, that’s your birthday.”

“So someone I used to know spent money on my birthday. What are the chances?” Cassian replies drily. “That was, what, a Tuesday?”

Kay sighs and shoves the file across the desk. “Someone you used to know drove all the way to Juárez, to buy flowers? Four days after Christmas? Instead of being home with his wife and children, like everyone else in the world. For two consecutive years?”

Cassian’s eyes flicker down to the list, and indeed, there it is. A gas station in Juárez.

His head starts to spin. He feels very cold all of a sudden, despite the warm coffee mug in his hand.

“Who buys his wife flowers at that time of the year anyway?” Kay asks airily and flicks back a few pages. “It’s not her birthday, either. And even if it was, why’d he drive all that way just  to get them at a petrol station?”

He keeps talking, but Cassian has already stopped listening. Kay is going off into a wildly wrong direction, because, not for the first time, he forgot to factor in sentimentality.

Cassian shivers. He feels like he’s falling.

You can’t tell anyone, Andor,” his former boss had said, very firmly, in that last phone call before Cassian had walked across the border and headed north. “You have to be dead for all intents and purposes, at least for a few years.”

“There’s no one left who’d need telling,” he’d replied with a shrug, and meant it, too. “There’s nobody left to miss me, sir.”

Looks like he was wrong about that.

God, this is everything he tried to prevent –

He runs a hand through his hair, tries to catch his breath. There are more urgent things to be dealt with.

“You filed for this? Under your name?”

Kay sighs. “Under my name, yes, but… I called in an old favour. There shouldn’t be much of a paper trail.”

Cassian grimaces. “Well, there’s still a trail.”

“Yes, but unless someone actively went looking for it –”

“You had no– I told you to leave it. You should’ve left him alone, Kay,” he says, in a sharper tone this time.

 “Why are you so worried for that guy?” Kay inquires, without inflection. “Looks like he got into trouble all by himself.”

“Not everything in Mexico is a fucking drug trade, Kay,” he snaps.

“I didn’t say that. What do you think he’s doing?” Kay gives back, completely unfazed by his friend’s unusually aggressive tone.

Cassian resists the urge to throw something or possibly take hold of his colleague and shake some sense into him, and gets to his feet instead. “He’s visiting a grave.”

For a moment, Kay looks very confused, then the penny drops. “Oh.”

Yes.

“But,” Kay says, slowly, after a short pause, “wouldn’t it have the wrong name on it?”

“There’s a file on my undercover work,” he snaps, “one that ends with me in a car crash. You wouldn’t have to bribe too many people to get your hands on it.”

Kay sighs. He doesn’t look even remotely as embarrassed as he should. “Alright. We don’t have to do anything about it. I just thought you would like to know about the money.”

For some reason, Cassian’s mind flickers back to that list Mothma made him write.

He’s the only one on your list still alive.

“I told you to drop it, Kay,” he says icily. “That was an order.”

Kay frowns down at him. “I was trying to help, Cassian. I don’t understand why you’re so upset about this.”

He replies, very quietly in a dreadful biting tone that he didn’t intend: “You don’t have to understand this. You don’t have to, because this is my past, my life, and you had no right –“ He stops, takes another deep breath. “It was a fucking order.”

“You should have made that clear.”

“I wasn’t being vague, Kay,” he bites back. “Don’t go behind my back again, or you will regret it.”

“You don’t have to threaten me, Cassian,” Kay replies in his usual clipped, calm voice, looking more affronted than afraid.

“You know,” he says flatly and grabs his jacket, “I thought that too.”

 

He’s on the bus before he knows what he’s doing. It’s this or the shooting range – and he can’t go there, not now, not with this thing on his mind. Because every time he hears that name he sees his scrawny twelve year-old self and he can’t believe what that kid has done, and it makes him sick. The blurry picture from that driver’s license is etched into his brain and – God, he’s so cold.

He shoves his fingers deeper down his pockets, gets off the bus at the next stop. The air doesn’t really clear his head, but it’s a start.

He’s at the street corner when he starts asking himself what he will do if she’s not home, then realises he has no idea. He sighs and digs his phone out of his pocket. God, it’s far too late to bother her. He shouldn’t call. He really shouldn’t call.

They don’t call each other, never have except for that first time. They run into each other at the diner, or at Mothma’s, and occasionally leave together. They don’t call each other. Calling would make whatever this thing between them is a thing, and he’s not sure which one of them is less equipped to deal with them being a thing.

It’s not like he doesn’t want more – more than the occasional sex, the occasional few hours in the dark they don’t talk about, more than him sneaking out the door like a thief in the middle of the night because, again, if he asked to stay it would ruin the fragile equilibria of whatever it is they have. It’s already so much to take in, and they’re probably both scared of how much it could be.

He wants a lot of things, suddenly. That is scary, too. He got used to the ache of that diffuse, unspecific longing in his chest, but this is different. He wants – silly things, really. Like waking up in a bed that’s not cold, or kissing her, just like that, without it leading to anything. Just because he can.

He shivers despite the warm weather, and stares down at the phone.

He shouldn’t call. He really, really shouldn’t call her in the middle of the night like the needy idiot he probably is, but damn it, he’s so cold and if he goes back to his empty shoebox of an apartment, he doesn’t think he’ll make it through the night without losing it.

She picks up after the second ring, and if she hears the relieved sigh he gives at that, she doesn’t let on.

“Hi.”

“Did I wake you?”

She gives a tired little laugh. “No. I can’t sleep.”

He sighs, grips the phone a little more tightly. He really shouldn’t –

“Can I come over?”

“Sure,” she says, without pause. He smiles a little despite himself. “When?”

He glances at his watch with a grimace. “Um… five minutes? I – I’m basically at the door.”

“Okay,” she replies slowly, in an oddly insecure voice. “I… yes, but… I’ll look horrible.”

“I doubt that.”

“Charming. I do, though.”

“You can say no, Jyn,” he says softly. “I know it’s late. If it’s not a good time, I’ll –“

“No, I didn’t mean…  I just – no, it’s fine. Come on over.”

“Alright,” he replies slowly. “Half an hour.”

Jyn laughs. “What, you’ll just stand out on the street for thirty minutes?”

He grimaces. “Probably.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Come upstairs.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

She opens the door with her hair tied into a haphazard ponytail that doesn’t quite hide the greasy roots. He’ll admit she looks worn.

Still, the first thing that dismays him are her bare feet on the cold tiles.

She’s dressed in an oversized football tricot - he’d be irritated because clearly it’s a man’s shirt, but it’s an Arsenal tricot and it makes him smile a little instead. The thing has Bodhi written all over it, and Jyn somehow manages to wear it with equal parts disdain and affection.

“You’re right, that is… that is horrible,” he mutters and she shakes her head at him.

“It was a very spiteful Christmas present,” she replies with a shrug and closes the door behind him. “Long story.”

She steps closer and the smile fades. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

He sighs, shrugs; then without meaning to closes the last distance between them and rests his head on her shoulder. “Not really.”

“Okay,” she whispers, running her fingers through his hair. “Okay.” She presses a kiss to his lips, badly aimed, and smiles a little. “D’you want a tea? A drink?”

He shakes his head. “Thank you.”

Jyn links her fingers with his and tugs, gently. “Come on.”

He presses her hand, and the world slowly stops spinning.

 

She curls up into a ball on his side, almost making him feel guilty about how much space he is taking up on her bed. Her eyes seem tiny, but she looks dead-set to stay awake.

“What’s with the football?” she asks suddenly and rests her head on his shoulder.

“What?”

She laughs a little. “I’ve been wondering. You don’t seem like… you know, a sports person.”

“I don’t?”

She shakes her head, smiling, and her hair tickles his skin. “So, what’s with the football?”

He smiles into the dark. “It’s always been there, that’s all. My father played with me, sometimes, when I was young; he always promised he’d take us to a game when we were older. And I tried to teach my brother,” he adds softly. “That didn’t go so well. He mostly fell over the ball. My grandmother got really mad at me because she had to fix his trousers all the time.”

She laughs a little.

“We had footballs at the orphanage, too. It was all we ever did, really, I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a scraped elbow or a healing knee until I left there. We were always playing, or listening to matches. Just before I turned seventeen, my best friend came of age and he left the orphanage. I hadn’t slept a single night in maybe eleven years without him in the room, it felt very lonely somehow. He saved up his salary of his first job to take me to a game for my birthday, talked our social workers into letting me stay with him for the week-end. It was the best time we ever had.”

He can feel her smile against his shoulder for a moment, then she asks, very quietly: “What happened to your friend?”

“Nothing, I hope,” he mutters and shrugs a little. “Last time I saw him, he left the city, to go to university.”

She’s quiet, but he can sense the unspoken question.

“He didn’t want me to join the cops. He wanted us to get away from the life our parents had. He did everything for it. Studied, all the time, kept out of trouble. But I didn’t want to back down, I didn’t want to let them to scare me out of my hometown. When I signed up, he… he knew he couldn’t stop me, but he said that he didn’t owe it to me to watch me get myself killed. He left a week later. I think he’d still hoped I’d go with him.”

There’s a strange little laugh on his lips that doesn’t feel like joy at all. “He was right, in a way. I’m glad he didn’t see…” He takes another deep breath and adds, very quietly: “Kay looked him up. I didn’t ask him to, he just… picked up on something I said.”

Her hand curls around his arm so tightly it hurts.

“He got married, got kids,” he mutters, staring at the ceiling in the dark.

“That’s nice,” she whispers.

“Yes. Still wish Kay hadn’t told me.”

“Why?”

“Because I wasn’t supposed to know. That was the whole point, that I didn’t know where he was, and also… I keep… I keep thinking, Marco… my brother, he’d be twenty-six now. He could have that, by now, a family, and…” he stutters, too fast.

“Cassian –” she whispers, her voice almost too quiet to hear, and doesn’t sound like she has anywhere to go with that sentence.

“He visits my grave, Jyn,” he says numbly, the words breaking out despite himself, and he can physically feel her stiffen beside him.

“Marco?” she asks, sounding slightly alarmed.

“Gael.”

“Your friend?”

“Yes.”

“What grave?” she asks softly, mild worry in her voice.

“My grave, in Juárez,” he replies tonelessly. “I had to get out of my undercover assignment, so I faked an accident. That’s why I’m here, really. Part of that was a fake funeral. Well, the gravestone says Gabriel Chavez but… all my files say deceased, too. I never thought anyone would care…”

“Shit,” she whispers after a moment, and he smiles humourlessly.

“Exactly.”

She edges a little closer and is silent for a while, then asks tentatively: “You can’t tell him?”

He stares into the dark for a while. “I… the point was… not having things that link him to me. Make it as safe as I could. And, well, I’m not supposed to contact anyone I know in Mexico, anyway.”

“D’you think he’s in any danger?” she asks softly after a moment.

“I don’t know,” he mutters and runs his fingers through her hair. “Mothma says I’m paranoid, so I don’t know if I could tell,” he adds in a feeble attempt at a joke.

She doesn’t reply to that and drops her head on the pillow. He falls silent for a while, allows himself another moment of soaking in the warmth, then forces his eyes open with a sigh.

“You look tired,” he mutters, and brushes a few stray strands of brown hair behind her ear. “I’ll let you sleep.”

She gives a soft, non-committal noise but makes no move to untangle herself from him. He gets dressed, finding his clothes on her messy floor in the dark with some difficulty. She sits up a little and watches, head leaned against the wall.

“I’m sorry I kept you up.”

She raises a brow at him and gives back with a faint smirk: “I am very much not complaining.”

“Thank you, Jyn,” he says softly and her smile softens for a moment, then she adds drily, eyes flickering down:

“Again. I’m getting something out of this.”

He laughs and shakes his head, then despite himself runs a hand through her hair. “I’ll find my way out. Sleep well.”

“Okay.” She drops back into the pillow with a sigh. “I think I actually might,” she mutters and throws him a small, tired smile as he leaves.

 

He’s missed the last bus, and despite his exhaustion he doesn’t mind the walk itself. But still, somehow things feel too quiet.

There are no other pedestrians, but there’s a car with Texas number plates that passes him twice. He hides in a shadowy doorway for a while and it drives off, probably just a tourist who got lost.

Cassian leans his head against the wall, zips up his jacket and wills his heartbeat to slow down. God, he misses his gun.

Slowly and deliberately, he takes a few deep breaths and lets three more cars pass by, then walks on, hands balled into fists in his empty pockets.

Five street lights until the next intersection. Eleven windows. Three doors.

Deep breaths.

Four more cars pass, but none of them slows down. None of them has a passenger.

He’s fine. He still wishes for a knife at least.

 

He gets back to his apartment after a small detour that was probably not strictly necessary, shucks off his shoes and fishes his phone out of his pocket to set an alarm, only to find he has roughly three hours of sleep left – and a text.

It’s alarming in a way that this is what it takes to finally slow his breathing.

He has typed a reply and hit send before he realises with a soft curse that the text will probably wake her.

The phone buzzes again just when he’s put it on the nightstand. He squints at the bright screen in the dark, and fails to suppress a smile.

It is frightening, what she does to him, in a very different way than the rest of his life is. It scares him half to death, really, but somehow at the same time, it seems to be the one thing that helps.

He’s asleep moments later, and doesn’t dream.

 

 

[02:51]
let me know if I can help, okay?

 

[03:28]
I will. Thank you.

 

[03:29]
good night

 

Chapter Text

“Tell me about the last couple of days, detective.”

He shrugs, and leans back in his chair. “Nothing special. We closed a small case.”

Her blue eyes narrow and she cocks her head in slight dismay.

“You don’t sound very pleased.”

Cassian scoffs. “The people we’re getting with this… they’re small fish. Not even worth mentioning.”

“Small fish?”

“They’re… their people across the border won’t even care if we arrest them. Actually, they might not even know. It’s…” He grimaces. “I know we have to start somewhere, but –“

“But?”

“It’s frustrating.”

“Frustrating?”

He throws her a dark look. “Can we not do that?”

Mothma gives a thin smile at that. “I thought you were happy to be back in the field.”

“Well, that’s the point,” he says flatly. “I’m not. Not really. I mean, I haven’t really been since I left Mexico, but now… We’re just getting the small cases. I think my boss got worried someone recognised me at the shooting or something because… he was always supposed to keep me away from our Mexican contacts if possible, but…” He sighs. “Right now, I feel like he’s just shielding me from every link there is. Which is frustrating, yes,” he says pointedly and there’s another flicker of amusement in her eyes, “when you’re supposed to work on Mexican cartel traffic.”

“He might just be worried for your safety, detective. You and your co-workers are probably armed for a reason.”

“I don’t care why, really,” he replies flatly.

She pauses for a while, then says slowly: “I didn’t have the impression you enjoyed the work you did before. The undercover work.”

He shakes his head. “That’s not it. I didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t…” He searches for the right term, doesn’t find it, settles on the next best thing. “…I didn’t do it because I enjoyed it. I hated it, every second of it, but… I knew it was important. What I did mattered, it was leading somewhere. Now what do I do, every day? What difference does it make? It’s like we were trying to kill a tree by ripping off the leaves one by one. It’s so pointless.”

She takes that in, quietly, makes a note in her little book.

“It really bothers you, doesn’t it?”

He scoffs. “Why else would I tell you?”

At that, she smiles. “Because something else happened and you don’t want me to know, so you talk about work instead.”

“Work is the topic I avoid, ma’am,” he replies drily, but she doesn’t take the bait.

“My list of the things you avoid, detective, is about to need a new page soon, and your work has to do with less than half of it.”

He opts for stoic silence, which he supposes is a little childish, but there is nothing he could say to that. Mothma sighs, sits up in her chair and straightens the book on her lap, eyeing him closely.

“You see, I thought you were distracting me because something has changed,” she states matter-of-factly after a while.

“What makes you say that?”

“You seem… calmer, maybe,” Mothma replies.

He supresses a smile. “Do I? Does that mean I can have my gun back?”

She shakes her head, smiling mildly, and ignores the question. “Are you sleeping better?”

Cassian shrugs. “Some nights.”

“Any of your attacks?”

“I got close a few times,” he replies flatly, “but not as bad, no.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

He doesn’t respond and after a moment she adds gently: “Maybe you could tell me what changed.”

He sighs. “I’m… I would talk about it. But not with that,” he adds slowly and nods towards the notebook in her lap. “Not if you write it down.”

“Why?”

“Because someone could find that book.”

She smiles mildly. “I do lock it in a safe at night.”

He throws Mothma a sardonic smile in response and replies calmly: “And if I held a gun to your head, would you not open it?”

Her blue eyes flicker up at him in surprise, worry almost, then she sighs and closes the book.

“Alright, detective. But you do realise this means I will probably have forgotten everything you told me by next week.”

Her jokes aren’t usually this feeble, Cassian thinks. He does feel bad for scaring her, but it did the job. A means to an end.

“All the better,” he replies with a shrug. “Write something else in there, for the rest of the session. Say we went over the shooting again, something like that.”

She doesn’t look pleased with being given orders, but nods, slowly. “Shall I write you’re coming to terms with it, then?”

He smiles at the sarcasm in her tone. “No. That wouldn’t look very convincing, right?”

“No,” she says flatly and places her notebook on the side table. “What happened?”

He looks up at her for a moment, mildly annoyed. No. He will keep this, this tiny sliver of privacy. “I think you know all you need to know.”

She sighs softly. “I can assume, I suppose. So, how are you coping with change?”

He almost laughs. “I wouldn’t call it coping.”

“Well, what would you call it?”

Cassian shakes his head. “I think I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know, sometimes I feel better, then it’s worse, it’s not…” He shrugs. “I do sleep better, I think.”

“Well, does it feel like a good or a bad thing to you?”

“Both, or… neither, really,” he replies, then adds quietly, eyes firmly on the small stain on the armrest of her chair: “Just feels like a lot.”

“You really aren’t on familiar ground here, are you?” she asks after a moment in a gentle tone, and he scoffs.

“You could say that.”

To his slight surprise, she smiles at that. “Well, it feels just like that for most people, detective. But I can imagine it is a lot to handle for you both.”

“It is what it is, right?” he answers, eyes still on the blue fabric, and smiles faintly.

“Do you feel safe with her?”

He pauses, wonders, then says slowly: “It’s more like I… I forget to worry.”

“That’s not the same?”

“I don’t think so,” he replies quietly, “but maybe I don’t remember the feeling right.”

The truth of the matter is, he’s not sure that he remembers the feeling at all. It’s been so long, so many years – twenty-two, in September – and there is a hue over all of it like in an old faded photograph, a taste of nostalgia to every memory that makes him doubt how accurate they are, after all this time.

“Well, do you think you’re happy?” she asks after a while.

“Yes,” he answers slowly, “maybe, yes.”

“Maybe?” she repeats mildly. “Seems like a yes or no question to me.”

He grimaces. “Well, I am. I am, but then I remember that I shouldn’t be.”

“Do you not think you deserve happiness, detective?”

He throws her a tired smile. “Not sure I do, no, but that’s not the point.”

She sighs and sits up in her chair, folding her hands in her empty lap. “Then what is?”

Cassian sighs. It’s hard to say the words without letting them take him back – back to that thrice-damned graveyard, back to the faded photograph stuck to the wall over his bed; back to the street in front of a cheap café, hurrying past the big windows so the tears won’t fall before he’s out of sight, the paper in his hand crumbling into a firm little ball between his fingers –

“I always told myself I could learn from my father’s mistakes. I swore I would never end up like him.”

Mothma frowns at him, and he continues, in a slightly firmer voice:

“Well, it’s a choice you make. If you want to fight for something you believe in, you have to do it alone. My father wanted to have it both ways, and the people he loved died for his fight, even though they had nothing to do with it. I don’t want anyone to die for me,” he adds softly, still trying to shake the memory of that day, the stale aftertaste of the coffee, the clicking of an empty lighter.

“I made my choice a long time ago, and this… this is selfish. I should be better than that, after so long, but –“ He stops, sighs, digs his fingers into the upholstery of the chair. “I’m exhausted. I don’t have the strength to fight this, and I don’t want to, but I should. I should.” He gives a hollow little laugh, suddenly, when he remembers a phrase Antilles said with a shudder the other day, as a joke. “We become our parents, right?”

She eyes him for a moment. “Don’t you think she has a word or two to say in that? Don’t you think this is her choice as much as yours?”

He sighs. “Maybe. But I feel like it’s a lot to ask. A high price, and there are other people with… less strings attached.”

Mothma sighs. “I think most people come with plenty of strings attached, detective.” She seems to see he doesn’t find much comfort in that and adds slowly: “Do you remember the story I told you about King Frederik’s experiment?”

He frowns. “The one with the babies?”

“Yes. People need other people. It’s in our essence, humans get lonely, and it makes them sick. You are both very lonely people and you understand each other probably better than anyone else can, so if you can help each other, why should there be anything wrong with that?” She eyes him closely and sighs again. “I understand where that idea comes from, I do. But that’s not a feasibly resolution you have, detective. It’s an ill-conceived promise of an angry, devastated little boy. It’s not something you have to hold on to. You were six years old, and you had lost everything. There’s a lot you would do and say in that situation, you don’t have to stand by it.”

But I did, he thinks. I did, and it worked.

“Maybe not,” he says quietly and, after a quick and somewhat relieved glance at the clock, gets to his feet. “But it doesn’t feel like something I could live with.”

Mothma gives an impatient little sigh. “Look, I may be overstepping now, but for her sake as much as yours, do consider the chances of anything happening to her against the chances of you just making you both very miserable in what is already a very hard time.”

He sighs and shakes his head. “I know, I just - I’m just not convinced it’s worth the risk, ma’am.”

She smiles a little. “Maybe you should ask her about that, detective. I’ll see you on Friday.”

 


 

 

Having the weight of the bracelet gone from her wrist is a relief. It’s not that she’s generally opposed to wearing two-hundred year-old expensive jewellery into dingy bars – the thrill of that is the fun part, actually, and jewellery is always nice and easy compared to books or paintings – but today… today she doesn’t really feel up to it, and she’s glad it’s almost over.

She shortens the strap of her bag and makes her way to the drop point, a little too swiftly perhaps. But she knows, even though it doesn’t feel like it, that this is the dangerous part – not carrying the goods but carrying the money.

She buries her fingers deeper in the pockets of her hoodie and adjusts her earplug, but no matter how loud she turns it up, it doesn’t quite seem to shut out the claustrophobia of the subway.

The subway car is packed like a tin of sardines – she did intend for that to happen, timing the drop-off to rush-hour, but it’s annoying.

Jyn leans her head against the hull and sighs. Her evening isn’t looking up. Bodhi told her a hundred times that he didn’t mind if she’s home, but… she can’t. She would mind, if it was her, and for God’s sake, Bodhi hasn’t got anyone’s attention in far too long and she’ll be damned if she does anything to disturb the two of them.

And Luke is nice, too, as far as she can tell. For the past six years, Bodhi always did have better taste in men than she did, so she supposes that shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise – but still, Luke seems a sweet kid. Also, it turns out he’s an excellent sparring partner; Chirrut suggested she train with him two days ago. She still has the bruises, and almost didn’t win.

He comes to the diner on an almost daily basis, and she’d probably think that was a bit much if it wasn’t about Bodhi. But while it amuses her, she can’t really begrude Luke anything. He’s… he’s so pure. So idealistic, naïve almost, and he talks so much.

Maybe that’ll be good for Bodhi, though. Maybe he’s had a little too much silence in the last few years.

She leaves the subway with a relieved sigh, squeezes her way past the crowds at the station and enters a small diner across the street. At the table by the counter sits a young man in front of two cups of coffee. It’s not the guy she dealt with before or the one who handed her the bracelet, and he
is wearing a bright orange basecap and a blue jacket, all as discussed. She makes her way over to him and places the bag at her feet before sliding onto the bench opposite him.

“Il n’y avait pas des croissants”, he says without looking up from his coffee; his French is horrible but she’s satisfied with the signal and shoves the bag towards him underneath the table as she reaches for the coffee.

“Did it go well?”

“All good,” she replies and takes a sip of her coffee.

The man reaches down and takes a quick look into the bag, then nods and leans back in his seat. “Good work.”

She flashes him a wry smile and stirs in her cup. “Well, you can tell your friends.”

He laughs and digs a brochure out of his pocket. Jyn slides it across the table and scoffs.

“Cruise boats? Really?”

He says nothing and gets to his feet while she flicks open the leaflet to take a look at the two thousand-dollar bills inside. When she nods, he reaches for the bag underneath the table.

“It didn’t really belong to the empress, did it?” she asks quietly with a slight smirk, and the guy shrugs.

“Some Austrian royalty,” he replies indifferently. “Probably not her, though, no.” With that, he turns to leave, a hand protectively resting on the bag with his precious cargo.

She pockets the leaflet and the money in it without hurry, then spends a long while staring at the half-emptied cup across the table, quite unable to find the motivation to get up and leave.

She’s in the completely wrong part of town.

Maybe she can sit out rush-hour here, and then – yeah, then what, she thinks with a small groan and stirs in her coffee. She told herself she wouldn’t go back until at least one in the morning, Chirrut and Baze aren’t home...

She doesn’t mind, usually. She used to roam the streets of London, and then the streets of wherever in the US she and Bodhi landed in, like a stray cat. Unafraid of dark alleys or drunks.

It’s not so much that she’s started to feel the darkness, she doesn’t think. It’s not that she feels the danger of it, of walking street after street after street through shady parts of town, of drinking alone in crappy little bars with sticky tables.

She feels the loneliness of it, now. It’s hard to swallow down once you’ve let it bubble all the way to the surface – she’s learned that the hard way, but somehow, she’s let it happen again anyway.

Doing stupid things shouldn’t be so ridiculously easy. It’s not fair.

She gets out her phone and then stares at that instead of her coffee cup for a while, until temptation gets the better of her.

 

[08:03 PM]

Bodhi’s occupied our flat for the night.
Need something to do. Buy you a drink?

 

As if that isn’t painfully embarrassing enough, Jyn suddenly realises how early in the day it still is – at least by their standards. Or perhaps there just is no early for insomniacs.

Still. Crap.

 

[08:04 PM]
Shit youre still at work right?

 

[08:04 PM]
sorry

 

She wonders, not for the first time, how she can be so careful, so thorough on the job, and so sloppy the rest of the time. It’s not like she doesn’t care.

Mothma would probably say it’s because nobody else ever cared.

She shrinks further into her seat, stirs absent-mindedly in her coffee and tries to blend out the noise of the street filtering in through the thin window pane. It’s getting harder to ignore.

Her coffee is growing cold.

 

[08:12]

Yes

 

[08:12]
Didn’t see the message. Sorry.

 

[08:14]
I’m out in an hour. Did you eat?

 

She closes her eyes and tries to purge the smile from her lips, but no use.

It shouldn’t be so easy, being this careless. It should make her nervous, but it calms her down instead.

 

[08:14]
not yet

 

There’s no reply for a while, then –

 

[08:17]
You really want to go out?

 

She breathes a small sigh of relief she didn’t know she was holding.

 

[08:17]
no

 

Just don’t want to be alone. She doesn’t type that. It’s hard enough just to think it – and she has a feeling she doesn’t have to explain this. Not to him.

 

[08:18]
Meet me outside at 9:30?

 

[08:19]
good

 

Jyn doesn’t mind big cities, she’s spent the better part of her life outside of varying boarding schools in the metropoles of the world – never particularly liked them, either, though. She would miss small stores and cobbled streets and seeing the stars at night, if she let herself miss that life that she lost so long ago. She would miss not constantly being surrounded by strangers who smell of stale beer or greasy pizza.

Miss the fresh air and the little garden with the old yew tree in the corner where her father had mounted a swing for her…

She avoids the city centre where she can, but there is simply no better cover for a job. Even if someone was trying to follow her, tailing someone through the subway at rush hour is a feat she wouldn’t trust many people to pull. It’s safer, and it’s far from the flat, from Baze’s diner, from Bodhi.

Still, she could imagine a great deal of places she’d rather be than sandwiched between a man in a suit agitatedly whispering into his Blackberry and a guy with a huge gym back who smells accordingly.

She shrinks into the corner as much as she can, trying to decide whether or not her music is more or less unnerving than the noise around her, then pockets the earphones.

Twenty more minutes. They chose a quieter part of town when they moved partly because they simply couldn’t afford the rent anywhere else, but mostly because she’d thought the comparably quiet atmosphere would be good for Bodhi. At this point, she feels like it is more for her than for him.

Twenty more minutes. The DEA office isn’t far from the station.

Twenty more minutes, she reminds herself and stares through the dirty glass pane onto the pipes and cables passing by. It would be nice to sit on a real train, she thinks idly, like the one she used to take from boarding school to London – an actual train with seats that people haven’t spilled five different beverages on, with actual countryside rushing past the windows. Maybe even the sea. Maybe she could just get off and find the beaches again that her mother used to walk with her, the ones with the pretty rounded pebbles that she played with as a child, or the white cliffs along the Channel, or –

She shakes her head and tries to brush the thought aside. It’s stupid to let herself dream of England, of home – because the two are not synonymous, and she’d just be disappointed if she went back.

They’re gone, and it can never be the same.

They’re all gone, and she shouldn’t let herself dream.

 

Chapter Text

He’s leaning against the wall at the next corner, just far enough away so he won’t be visible to his colleagues from the window. She’s not sure that should amuse her as much as it does – because clearly she only sees the advantage of his position because she would have done the same.

There’s a small smile flickering over his lips for a moment, and she thinks he looks a little better. Still tired – she’s only ever seen him look tired, really – but not as beat as the last time.

Returning the smile is more reflex than deliberate choice, and she doesn’t worry about that anymore.

He falls in beside her, hands deep in the pockets of his jacket that seems far too warm for the time of year, and the thought makes her smile to herself. Either British summers have left their mark on her after all, or he’s still not adjusted to the colder climate.

“How hungry are you?” he asks abruptly after a block or two. “Because I don’t know if –“

“I’ll eat whatever,” she replies with a shrug, and thinks he can’t possibly know how true that is. But after some of the things Saw’s men dished out to her over the years, she seriously doesn’t believe there is anything in the world she wouldn’t eat.

He nods and they walk side by side in silence for a while. She appreciates that, how quickly they learned to be comfortable like this without having to talk, how easily their steps match even walking so close that her arm brushes against the worn sleeve of his jacket with every other step.

The air between the houses is warm and stuffy, but she breathes far more easily than she has all afternoon. Maybe it’s the walking that grounds her a little.

She glances up at him and wonders for a moment if he really looks any different or if she’s just starting to see things she didn’t before. She still maintains he looks older than twenty-seven, by a good deal – there’s a tension in the corners of his mouth, lines around his eyes like someone who’s looked into bright sunlight for a long time, the angles of his jaw that are just slightly too sharp. But there’s something in his eyes that’s… maybe not hopeful, but stubborn. This is a part of him she didn’t see at first, but he still clings to something. There’s still faith, though she’s not sure in what, or whom.

He returns her look for a moment, then asks gently: “Are you alright?”

She smiles a little. “Yeah.”

He eyes her for a while longer, then nods and walks on. “So Bodhi threw you out? That doesn’t sound like him.”

She sighs. “He didn’t. He just – Luke’s coming over. I didn’t want to be in the way.” She shrugs, bumping into him a little as she does. “Usually I’d just hang out at Chirrut’s or something, not that Bodhi ever needed the flat to himself in the last year or so… but well, Chirrut and Baze are away for the weekend.”

“And I’m your last resort,” he says drily. She shoots him a dirty look and he grins back at her.

“Do you like him?” he inquires after a moment.

“Luke? Yeah. He’s nice, you know? Thoughtful. He’s one of Chirrut’s students.”

Cassian frowns. “Really?”

“His teacher retired a month ago or something. Chirrut asked me to train with Luke while they’re gone. He’s not half bad.”

There’s a smirk playing around his lips now. “Did he beat you?”

“No,” she answers indignantly. “But he got close. You wouldn’t stand a chance, by what I’ve seen.”

Cassian raises a brow. “Did you ever consider I just didn’t want to hurt you?”

She wouldn’t admit to the warmth that bubbles up in her chest at that under torture, but she lets herself appreciate the feeling for a second, before returning his smirk and replying: “Well, I could kick your ass even if you did.”

He laughs. “Probably.”

He stops in front of a big grey block of apartments and leads her through a corridor with a flickering neon lamp. None of the doors have name plates, or so much as a doormat in front of them.

She has lived out of a suitcase for more than eleven years, and she’s no stranger to living on bare necessities. Even now, if she was asked to pack a bag with everything she needs, she doesn’t think she’d have much trouble choosing.

Looking at his place, she wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bag like that somewhere already.

The flat has a bedroom and a kitchen, both of them with a small window looking out over the street. The lights of the passing cars make the shadows glide across the walls before he turns on the lights.

“It’s not exactly… nice,” he says slowly, like he’s only just realising this.

She shrugs. “I’ve seen worse,” she mutters and follows him into the kitchen.

He frowns a little at that but doesn’t ask, and gets a few things out of the fridge.

“Can I help?”

“No,” he says lightly, “just needs to be heated. Do you want a tea?”

She frowns at him and takes a seat on one of the spindly two chairs, taking in the more than sparsely furnished kitchen, and asks: “You have tea?”

He smiles a little. “Yes. For Kay.”

“Oh. Alright.”

He puts on a kettle, then hands her a cup and a teabag and says, a little defensively: “He keeps saying I do it wrong.”

Jyn laughs. She’s not very surprised, after the things she’s seen and heard about his colleague.

“Do you want one?”

Cassian grimaces and shakes his head. “No. Not a fan.”

She shakes her head at him and glances at the pot that he is stirring in. “What is that?”

He shrugs. “I’d say chili, but it misses half the recipe. It’s, um… edible.”

“Smells good,” she replies and he smiles a little.

“There’s bread, and I think there’s still wine. Unless Kay had all of that.”

She laughs and grabs the paper bag he’s pointing at, then sits down at the small table and watches him for a while, until she notices something odd.

“Where did you learn to cook?” she asks, frowning a little.

“I helped my grandmother, and my mother,” he answers with a shrug. “And we sometimes had to help in the kitchen at the orphanage. It’s the closest I get, I guess,” he adds softly, and Jyn sighs. She doesn’t need him to finish that sentence to know how it ends – the closest to home.

“Bodhi always forces Baze to make scones for us,” she mutters. “And once in a blue moon, he makes fish and chips, makes a huge mess. They’re getting better, though. Another few years and he could sell them.”

“You don’t cook?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess I learned to eat what’s there before someone else does. The food at school wasn’t all that great, and Saw didn’t think much of cooking. Unnecessary comforts and all.”

He turns around to face her and leans against the counter. “Your guardian, right? What did he do for a living again?”

“Private security firm,” she answers quietly. “Basically ran a small army for hire. My mother once said Saw was born into the wrong century. Not enough revolutions in this one.”

He frowns and asks slowly: “When you said he took you to the Middle East…”

“Yeah,” she replies flatly. “Iraq and, you know, wherever there was some kind of civil war. He wanted me to join his company, too, prepared me for it for years, took me out of school a lot.”

“You didn’t want to?”

She shrugs. “His idea of an initiation rite was to leave me behind a few miles away from the fighting. That kind of pissed me off," she finishes in a very feeble attempt at sarcasm.

He looks upset, but there’s no pity. She appreciates that. “At eighteen?”

“A few weeks before my seventeenth,” she corrects brusquely.

He sighs, but he doesn’t say anything, just looks at her. Something about the bitter, angry look on his face tells her he’s not altogether unfamiliar with that kind of childhood.

She doesn’t know why, but the silence, the quiet understanding - it helps, more than any and all empty I’m sorry’s ever have. She tries for a smile, but she doesn’t quite know how well it turns out.

It’s odd somehow, how easy it has become to hand him information, even though she knows he’s gathering pieces of the puzzle just like she does. She can’t say when it stopped feeling like a high-stakes game, but it’s easy now. It’s nice, even.

He pushes off the counter with another heavy sigh. “Drink?”

“I’ll stick with tea, thanks,” she mutters and gets to her feet to take a bowl from him, then jokes, feebly: “You didn’t pour tons of spices into this to make fun of the European girl, did you?”

A faint grin pulls at his lips and he shrugs and hands her a piece of bread. “Find out for yourself.”

She shakes her head at him and tries, a very small spoonful just in case, while he helps himself to a bowl. She doesnt have much time to actually taste anything because it is unbearably hot, not helped by her reflexively swallowing it.

“Oh my God, it’s hot,” she whimpers, blinking away tears, and he frowns at her.

“There’s almost nothing in there, Jyn,” he points out, but sounds somewhat unsure of that himself. She shakes her head and hastily takes a sip of her lukewarm tea.

“No, it’s… not too spicy. Just hot.”

He takes the empty seat at the table and replies drily: “Yes. It was boiling.”

She rolls her eyes at him and demonstratively blows on the next spoonful before eating – more to tease him than anything else, though.

“It’s really good. Apart from the temperature,” she says, and a proud little smile tugs at the corner of his lips. He wipes it off, but not before she sees it.

It is good, though, much better than anything she and Bodhi ever managed to cook up. Not that that’s a feat, really, but… it has been quite a while since she’s had decent food that wasn’t Chinese take-away or pizza. She didn’t take him for someone who cares about this kind of thing, but just going by the fact that the only cupboard in his flat that looks to be well-stocked is the shelf with the spices, it seems he does. She likes the thought of that, somehow. It's such a peaceful thing.

“So, did your partner dig up anything else?” she asks slowly after a few minutes of eating in silence, and can see him tense, just a little.

“No,” he says and scoffs. “He hasn’t apologised, of course. Not that I thought he would.”

Jyn raises a brow. “He does this kind of thing a lot?”

Cassian shrugs and stirs in his bowl. “No. Never like this, but he isn’t… he can be difficult. There are things he doesn’t really understand, he’s always been very… factual, um… rational, I suppose.”

“How long have you been working with him?”

“Two years,” he replies quietly. “But we met before, in Mexico. He was sent to the cartel I was placed in to investigate an older case, it was…” He sighs. “A misunderstanding. He had more information than they thought the DEA had, I had nothing to do with that, but… The DEA didn’t know there was an undercover cop there, I don’t think they meant to put me in danger, but when Kay came, people got suspicious that there was a mole.” He shakes his head, looking a little spooked, and closes softly: “Anyway, he put himself on the line to protect my cover, caught a bullet. Probably saved my life. Everything I got after that… if they’d sent someone else, none of that would be with the police now.”

She sighs. “Doesn’t give him the right, though.”

“No,” he answers with a small grimace. “But he thought he was helping. He means well.”

She still doesn’t think that changes anything, but doesn’t argue.

“There’s something wrong with one of my other colleagues,” he says in a calmer tone after a moment. “He’s hiding something.”

“How do you know?”

Cassian smiles faintly. “He’s not very good at it.”

“What do you think he’s doing?”

“I don’t know,” he mutters. “He’s too… good to sell out to anyone, too idealistic. But I don’t know what else it could be.”

She raises a brow at him, grinning, and gets up to make another cup of tea. “And the former undercover cop can’t find out?”

He throws her a dark look. “I didn’t want to pry. It could be nothing.”

She shrugs. “Who says it’s work? He could be cheating on his wife or something.”

“He wouldn’t,” Cassian replies simply, then adds in a resigned tone: “I should probably find out. He’s been strange all week.”

She eyes him for a moment, then asks slowly: “What happens, if someone at your office tells them where you are?”

“If they tell the right people? Someone will kill me,” he answers in a flat tone that doesn’t betray anything.

“What did you do to them?” She’s not sure if that’s something she can ask, but… she’s looking for puzzle pieces, too, and she wonders what it is that he’s so scared of.

Cassian sighs. “They’ve brought someone to trial, based on a lot of things, but… also on my statements.” He gives a bitter little smile and adds: "They locked him up, too, but... a month later, he just walked out of there again. That's how it goes. But chances are he's pissed about it anyway."

“Who is he?”

“The man in charge in Juárez,” he replies hesitantly. “Krennic’s boss, if you want to put it like that.”

She nods slowly. “And you made them think you were dead so they don’t come after you for that.”

“They were going to find out,” he says very softly, something sitting in his eyes now that makes him look much younger, and fragile. “If I’d just disappeared, they would have known it was me, but I couldn’t…” He clears his throat, and continues, the words coming a little too fast and a little too quiet: “I couldn’t stay. It was too much, I couldn’t… I would have cracked, one more day and –“ His voice trails off. He looks a little pale, and lost somehow.

She sighs. “It doesn’t sound like you’re to blame for anything, Cassian.”

He looks down at his hands tracing patterns on the table top with a wry smile. “I am, though. I told them not to get me out, before I left the force. I thought I could take it.”

She grips the warm cup in her hands more tightly. She knows the kind of look on his face, knows the feeling it betrays – the constant nagging feeling of having disappointed someone. She knows there’s no point in saying anything, even though she would mean it. She has tried to fight that feeling herself, for years and years, but no matter how often she tells herself that she never even really knew her parents well enough to know what they would have expected of her – it doesn’t go away.

What is unfamiliar is the sudden urge to walk over to the table, take his hand or…

She leans against the counter, letting the edge dig into her hip, standing just where he stood half an hour ago. Who does she think she is? She can’t fix this for him any more than anyone else can fix it for her.

He sighs and gets to his feet. “You want anything else?”

She shakes her head and manages a smile.

There’s a short, slightly awkward pause while he puts away the dishes, then he says slowly:

“We could see a movie.”

She can’t quite stop herself from grinning at the feeble suggestion. “Yeah, like what?”

He shrugs, a small smile twitching around his lips too. “I don’t know.” He watches her for a moment, then asks hesitantly: “Did something happen? Today?”

Jyn sighs. “No, I… job went off without a hitch. I just…” She shrugs, avoiding his eyes. “Don’t know, some days are just worse than others.”

His dark eyes linger on hers in that calm, patient way that she has so much trouble reconciling with his fear and paranoia, then he nods.

“You know, actually a movie doesn’t sound so bad,” she mutters, and he smiles a little.

 

The film he picks out isn’t half bad, but Jyn misses most of it. There is no couch or television, so they watch sitting on the bed, the movie playing on a laptop precariously balanced on one of the chairs. The warm air and the soft whooshing of the cars passing by outside the building make her sleepy, but the tension in her muscles doesn’t ease up, even when she pulls up her feet and lets her heavy head rest against his shoulder.

At some point, he pulls her closer, fingers tracing idle patterns on her waist, which doesn’t exactly help her focus.

“Are you paying attention?” he asks quietly after a while.

“Yes,” she gives back reflexively, and he grins.

“The main character, what’s his name?”

She laughs a little and rests her forehead against his shoulder. “I got nothing. Sorry.”

Still smiling, he reaches over to brush the strands of hair behind her ear that have, as per usual, escaped her bun. He takes his time, touch so light and careful the brush of his fingertips against the skin of her neck makes her shudder.

It hasn’t been long since she’s last seen him, maybe two days or three, but when she kisses him, she feels like she had to wait years for it. She buries her fingers in his hair and pulls him closer, closer… It’s a little scary still, how much this helps, how easily the diffuse tension in her shoulders melts away under his lips.

It’s scary how dependant on outside help her well-being has become, but it’s not hard to push that thought aside, not when she feels so much better than she has all day – not whole, not perfect, but so much better.

After a moment, he winds out of her embrace and reaches for the laptop; not, as she thought, to switch it off, but to turn up the volume.

“Sorry, am I interrupting your favourite part?” she asks sardonically, brow raised, and he throws her a smile.

“Very thin walls,” he answers in an undertone.

She gives an undignified snort. “Seriously?”

“You haven’t met my neighbour,” he argues, quite serious despite the rare trace of mirth in his voice. “The idea of that guy hearing… ugh.” He shudders and Jyn collapses onto the mattress, giggling.

“Now I really feel like a teenager.”

“We can do something about that,” he mutters, eyes dark in the blue light of the screen, and leans down to her, pulling her hair loose from what remains of the hairdo. She meets his lips, hungry and perfectly awake, and fleetingly hopes that Bodhi gets to have things like this, too, something so completely, stupidly easy and good.

 

“How likely do you think am I to interrupt something I don’t want to know about if I leave now?” she mutters into the pillow a while – a long while – later. The prospect of having to move isn’t a thrilling one, not when she is so comfortable and pleasantly exhausted and it’s dark and warm…

But she’s letting herself impose far too much already, and a bus ride won’t kill her. She can sleep all day tomorrow if she wants to, even though she can’t quite kid herself into thinking it’d be the same.

“I don’t know,” he mutters and pulls her a little closer. “Give them until the morning to be safe.”

God, she’d like that.

“No, I shouldn’t keep you –“

“Jyn. Just stay,” he says softly, in a voice that makes her breath hitch.

“Bodhi’s gonna worry about me,” she argues feebly and he smirks.

“Bodhi has other things to worry about right now.”

“I don’t want to be a nuisance –“

He sighs and cuts her off with a kiss.

“Jyn. Please.” It comes in a whisper, hardly audible and resonating with need and loneliness and all those things so familiar she can almost taste them on the tip of her tongue.

He kisses her again, and she can feel her resolve give.

What can it hurt? What will it even change, in the end? It's too late. She’s well past the point of no return anyway.

“Okay,” she mutters against his lips, and can feel him smile.

She feels heavy with exhaustion, and it’s dark and warm and quiet and safe, and she drifts off to sleep almost instantly.

Chapter Text

For the first time in over a month, it’s the alarm on his phone that wakes him. Sunlight streams through the windows and makes the dust on his floor uncomfortably visible.

He’s bleary enough to be startled by the slight movement beside him for a moment, then remembers and feels warmth bubble up in his chest.

Jyn gives a faint groan and shifts just enough to bury her face in the pillow.

He runs a hand through her dark hair where it spills over the white sheet, watching the copper reflexes in the sunlight.

She woke up at some point during the night, jolted awake, breathing ragged, and didn’t go back to sleep for a long time. She was crying, but she tried hard to hide it, so he pretended not to hear a thing, even though it stung.

She stayed. It’s more than enough for one night.

He lets his fingers trail down to her bare shoulder, sighing softly. He can’t save her from her nightmares, but God, he wishes that he could.

“Jyn,” he murmurs, and she just groans again, doesn’t move. He leans over and presses a kiss to the back of her neck.

“Wake up.”

She gives a pleased little hum, then asks blearily: “What time is it?”

“Six thirty.”

She rolls onto her back to give him a dark glare out of half-closed eyes. “Are you kidding me?”

He smiles. “Coffee?”

She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “No, no, don’t make an –“

Cassian sighs and buries his nose in her hair. “I was asking if you want coffee, Jyn.”

She hesitates for a moment, then turns to face him and throws him a very tentative smile. “Fine. I kind of do.”

He smiles, lets his eyes fall shut for a moment and takes a few deep breaths, then climbs out of bed, fishes his jeans off the floor and gets fresh underwear and a shirt out of the wardrobe.

“Do you want any breakfast?”

“Not at six thirty I don’t, thank you,” she says darkly, words muffled by the pillow, and he grins as he makes his way into the kitchen.

She pads into the room when he gets the coffee out of the cupboard and leans against the doorframe, in nothing but her underwear and his wrinkled shirt.

It is by far the most beautiful sight he’s been treated to ever since he moved into this apartment.

She catches him looking and casts her eyes down, blushing a little.

“You really always get up in the dead of night, then?”

“The sun is out, Jyn,” he says mildly, trying in vain to fight down a smile, and she glares up at him again.

“It’s six fucking thirty, Cassian.”

“Six forty,” he mutters, then adds, the smile fading: “I don’t usually sleep this long.”

Her green eyes meet his, soft and sad, then she pushes off the doorframe and crosses the distance between them in a few quick steps.

“We got what, six hours? Six and half?” she mutters, looking up at him, and he smiles faintly.

“Yes. Lately I go on three,” he replies softly, and when he sees her frown, he shakes his head and reaches out to run a hand along her cheek. “Thank you.”

Her frown deepens. “I didn’t do anything.”

“You did,” he insists gently and pulls her closer. “So thank you.”

There’s a hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth and she rises on tip-toe to meet him halfway. Her lips are soft on his, warm and gentle. He doesn’t remember waking up to something like this, and it’s a dizzying thought. He isn’t sure he’s awake enough to handle it.

She has both hands buried in his hair and her body pressed against his in ways it is far too early for him to even think about and she’s smiling against his lips and he feels… so free.

He gives in to her kiss for a moment, then pulls away, before the ache in his chest can spread to his fingertips. “I really need coffee. Are you sure you don’t want anything else?”

“Well, a drink would come in handy,” she replies with a smirk and he frowns.

“It’s not even seven in the morning.”

“So?” she asks playfully and sinks down on a chair with a languid sigh. “I never even got a cigarette last night.”

“Just coffee, then,” he mutters, shaking his head, and she gives a shrug and grins at him.

“Better than nothing.”

“Not sure you’ll still say that once you’ve tried the coffee,” he replies softly.

He can’t stop. It’s so stupid but it’s so addictive to make her smile and he can’t stop.

The hand holding the spoon shakes just a little and he spills a little coffee powder over the counter.

Deep breaths. You’re still in control of this. Relax.

But the truth is – he isn’t in control. He’s never brought a woman to his place, and has ample reason for that, and yet he just threw every last bit of caution to the wind and, what’s worse, he can’t even bring himself to feel sorry about it. He’s risking his life, for nothing, for pleasure, and he doesn’t even regret it. He doesn’t know himself at all right now.

She does something to him, something hot and strange and all-consuming and it’s fucking terrifying.

He busies himself with the coffee machine, trying to catch his breath, then walks over with two cups of coffee and sits down across her.

“Thanks,” she mutters and throws him a fleeting smile.

“It’s just coffee, Jyn.”

She takes a sip, then grimaces and laughs a little. “Yeah, and it’s really pretty bad. I meant…” She vaguely waves a hand and her eyes drop to the table top. “Thank you for sheltering me, I guess.”

He raises a brow at her and replies drily: “Yes. I very selflessly took you in.”

Jyn smirks and sips her coffee. “It’s good, though,” she murmurs, hesitantly. “It… it helped.”

He supresses a shudder at the vulnerability in her voice and clutches his cup. “Good.”

They drink in silence, her bare feet brushing against his underneath the table. He can’t tear his eyes away, from the way the collar of his shirt rests against her pale neck; her messy, loose hair and the shadow of her eyelashes on her skin. It’s such a strange thought, to have her sitting in his crappy kitchen.

Oh Lord, he’s in trouble. He’s in so much trouble.

 “If I don’t find anything in the next week, I’ll…” he says after a long time, catches her gaze and puts down his coffee. “I’m going to steal my partner’s ID, get access to your father’s files.”

She frowns. “I thought he got you the files months ago.”

He grimaces. “He did. But if I let them catch me, I don’t want it to look like he had anything to do with it.”

“Let them catch you,” she repeats doubtfully. “What’s the point? You could get fired for that, Cassian.”

“Calculated risk,” he answers with a shrug. “My visa is tied to this job. Firing me would basically be signing my death sentence. My boss won’t do that. He might tell me what he knows so I don’t keep looking. The case has been dead for months, not so big a risk for him.”

Her frown deepens. “What are the chances of you actually learning anything? Don’t do it.”

“I’m not finding anything, I need to make a move.” He sighs. “None of it makes any sense, and someone has to know what happened. Draven’s in charge, he must know something we don’t.”

Jyn sighs. “Don’t do it. There’s no rush, Cassian. It’s not like…” Her voice catches and she gives an impatient headshake. “It’s not like he can get any more dead.”

He watches her, something bitter pulling at the corner of her mouth, and leans back in his chair.

“I just remember how it feels. Not knowing. Waiting.”

She returns his look, then says slowly: “When I was a kid, my parents took me to this fair, and there was a maze with mirrors and glass panes for walls. I was so scared because I couldn’t see the way out, and I kept running into walls.” She returns her eyes to her hands and adds, very softly: “That’s kind of what it feels like.”

He falls silent for a while, then asks softly: “How did you get out?”

Her eyes flicker up to his face, and she considers for a moment. “I closed my eyes,” she replies slowly. “Felt my way out.”

He nods, and feels a bitter little smile pulling at his lips. “Yes. That is what it feels like.”

Her eyes bear into his. She looks so vulnerable, suddenly. “I know… I know it won’t go away,” she mutters, running both hands over her face. “I’m trying not to tell myself it’ll help, knowing what happened, who did it, because… it won’t help.” She swallows, then adds softly: “Right?”

He sighs, thinks back to the long nights spent sitting on his bed with a cheap torch, staring at a handful of worn, badly copied pages of a file, unmoving, usually refusing to put out the light until Gael or one of their roommates started throwing pillows or at least expletives. The day Alejandro told him who gave the order, the photocopies gave way to a handwritten list and a growing collection of newspaper clippings, and he started staring at those.

He still has that list, tucked between folded bedsheets in the back of his wardrobe. He remembers the names more clearly than the songs his mother used to sing or his grandmother’s prayers.

“I don’t know. Sometimes.” He sighs. “Most of the time it doesn’t.”

There’s a hard look sitting in her eyes at that and she gets to her feet and slowly walks around the table. She places a hand on the inside of his knee and leans down to kiss him, roughly, bruising almost. He pushes the chair away from the table to make room for her, then when that isn’t enough pulls her on his lap, slips his fingers under the hem of the shirt and up her bare back. She shivers underneath his hands, breath quivering slightly on his lips, and her fingers dig into his leg, sharply, until it hurts. He breaks away just a little to rest his forehead against hers and she wraps her legs around his back.

“I know,” he murmurs, eyes closed. “I know. But you’ll be alright. One way or the other.”

She gives a helpless little laugh. “Doesn’t feel like it.”

“Trust me,” he whispers, stupidly, and leans forward to kiss her again.

She sighs against his lips, fingers curling around his collar, tugging him closer, teeth scraping over his lip. She’s warm on his lap, almost feverishly so, and it’s a lot of bare skin to handle this early in the day. She doesn’t let go.

“Now you’re just trying to make me late for work,” he mutters breathlessly, and she grins at him, eyes dark.

“You keep saying they don’t let you do anything. So be late.”

“Jyn-“

She opens the first two buttons of his shirt and presses a kiss to his throat, humming. “Thirty minutes. Come on.”

He sighs. “I can’t –“

Her lips wander up his neck, to his ear, while her hands trail down to the waistband of his jeans. “Live a little, Cassian.”

He pushes his fingers into her hair and bites his lip to stop the moan rising in his throat.

The clock on the oven reads seven thirteen. If he takes the bus instead of walking – it’s not like anything is going to clear his head for the day, anyway – so if he takes the bus… They left piles and piles of old files to sort through last night, and Kay is better at finding stuff in paperwork anyway…

He can be ten minutes late.

“This can not become a habit,” he says breathlessly, taking too long to remember the word, and she cracks a victorious little smile and kisses him, excruciatingly slowly.

He’s not optimistic about the thirty minutes.

 


 

 

“Bodhi?” she calls from the door, purposefully stopping in doorway. “Bodes, you here?”

“I’m here,” comes the answer from the kitchen, then Bodhi appears in the door with a steaming mug in hand and a faint smirk. “Don’t look so nervous, I’m alone.”

“Good,” she mutters, kicks off her shoes and hangs up her jacket. “Didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Jyn, I told you, it’s… I really wouldn’t’ve minded if you’d been home, I mean, you live here-”

“It’s fine, Bodhi,” she replies, throwing him a fleeting smile, and helps herself to a tea. “I didn’t sleep on a park bench.”

“Oh?” He follows her into the kitchen and sits down across her, smirking again.

Jyn shakes her head. “No, no, you first.”

“Me first?” Bodhi scoffs and sips his tea. “What are we, fifteen?”

“Come on, Bodes,” she replies, leaning over the table a little. “I’m not asking for details.”

“That’s good, ‘cause you’re not getting those,” he gives back drily, and she grins at him.

“So there are details. That’s good.”

Bodhi rolls his eyes at her, but smiles a little. “It was nice, we had pizza, um, kind of emptied all the wine.”

Jyn grins. “It’s okay, I forgive you.”

“Did you know he has a twin sister? She’s a lawyer, she comes by the diner for lunch sometimes. I met her yesterday.”

Jyn chuckles. “I don’t remember anyone, no. And you’re terrible at distracting me.”

“She’s scary. You’d like her,” Bodhi says with a smile, then asks cautiously: “So, can I guess where’ve you been all night?”

She grins down at her teacup fleetingly. She can’t help it. “I had a job in the afternoon, and Cassian got off work when I came back so I picked him up. His place is freaking depressing, by the way. I mean, it’s almost worse than our dorms at the army.”

Bodhi scoffs. “Figures.”

“He cooked for us,” she adds softly. “I… I can’t even remember the last time someone cooked for me. I mean, other than you and Baze.”

Bodhi throws her a shaky smile and refills her cup. “No sneaking out at three in the morning this time. Is that personal growth or did you just, like, fall asleep?”

“Fuck off,” she mutters without edge, shaking her head at him and fighting down her smile, and carefully pours milk into her tea.

His smile widens. “No, it’s good, Jyn. Good for you.”

She sighs and stirs in her cup for a moment. “It’s stupid is what it is,” she mutters, staring at her hands. “I’m making myself so vulnerable, it’s... it’s stupid.”

“Jyn,” Bodhi says in a strained voice and reaches for her hand. “It’s not stupid, it’s human. It’s okay to need other people around, and it’s okay to like them.” He sighs a little. “No matter how often you say you don’t. Besides, this has been going for what, two months now? If you are starting to trust him, that’s not exactly a gross overreaction.”

She scoffs, eyes still fixing her hands. “No, I… I like him, I do. I do.” Just feel like a total idiot for it.

Bodhi smiles. “Look at us go, huh?”

“Yeah, I know,” she says sardonically. “Us of all people. Who would’ve thought.”

Chapter Text

Cassian watches their youngest agent all week, and finally catches a moment when Wedge and Kay have left to grab lunch, Draven has locked himself in his office, and they are alone.

“Kes,” he says softly, shoves a mug full of coffee across the table and pulls up a second chair to his desk. “Listen. You’re hiding something, and you’re not hiding it well. The wrong person sees it, they are going to get it out of you.”

Dameron looks at him with what he clearly thinks is a blank face, but he looks scared. Cassian sighs.

“You’re a textbook case, Dameron. Married, first child. Just… apply pressure, and –“

“Are you threatening me, Andor?” Kes says sharply. “You forget that I have a gun and you don’t.”

Cassian smiles. “And you’d do it, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah I would, so you better stop smiling, asshole –“

Cassian shakes his head. “Sit down, Kes, drink your coffee.”

Kes glares at him, and Cassian sighs.

“Kes, sit. I’m not threatening you. Why would I?”

The young agent drops down on his chair, one hand still on the top drawer. “I don’t know, you keep coming at me! What have I done to you?”

Cassian shakes his head. “You’re jumpy. I’ve seen people act like this before, and it didn’t end well for them. I like you. I like your wife. If you need out of something, maybe I can help.”

Kes frowns. “I’m not doing anything, Andor.”

“How did you wind up working for a government agency, Dameron?” he asks softly. “You’re a terrible liar.”

“And you’re a condescending ass,” Kes snaps and leans back in his chair.

He grimaces. “Sorry. I mean it, though, I can help you.”

“I’m not doing anything, Andor,” Kes says firmly and Cassian shakes his head.

“No, listen, I’m not. And it’s nothing to do with you, Cassian. I promise. I swear, I wouldn’t… Look. It’s not even illegal,” he says softly. “It’s not illegal, but I can’t tell you. I can’t tell anyone. I cannot lose this job and I will if anyone –“

“Okay, okay,” Cassian murmurs and holds up a hand. “Is there a third party?”

“I – no, I – I just told you I can’t talk about it.”

Cassian sighs. “You don’t trust me.”

“Sorry, man,” Kes mutters. He stares into his coffee for a long time, then shakes his head. “No. No third party. I just… I was looking at old pictures for a case and I… I found something upstairs probably really didn’t want me to find, and now I don’t know what to do with it.”

“Something they don’t want you to find,” Cassian repeats softly, suddenly feeling oddly dizzy. The DEA isn’t like his old bosses. They don’t keep a lot of secrets, at least not in this office.

“I can’t tell you, Andor. I can’t.”

“Erso,” he says slowly. “The explosion. Right?”

Kes frowns. “How did you –“

Cassian shakes his head impatiently, cuts him off. “Show me.”

“Did you not hear me? I can’t –“

Cassian sighs. “Kes. I –“ He pauses, eyes his colleague. Twenty-six. Like Kay. Clever, also like Kay. But softer, madly in love with his wife. He could use that, Kes might understand why he’s… but no. Not with his job, not with Shara on the line.

Good-hearted, but a touch temperamental, impulsive. Righteous.

That’s the thing to bet on.

“Okay. Just… you’re not trying to sell this to anyone, are you?”

“What, no!” Kes looks affronted, and Cassian suppresses a smile. He hopes to God nobody else has recently attempted to play Dameron, because it’s alarmingly easy.

“I just –“ He sighs. “It’s not right. I mean, are they doing that to us, if we die somewhere? Just slam it shut, no answers for anyone? For our families, our girlfriends?”

The thought stings a little, for the first time. He’s never had anyone worry about him before – well, nobody that he knew about.

Cassian sighs and shoves the thought away. Not now. The guilt isn’t helping.  Concentrate.

“Are there answers to be had?”

“Cassian. I can’t,” Kes says sharply, warm eyes narrowing.

“Yes, okay,” he replies with a sigh. That was sloppy, Cassian. “So are you doing something about it?”

“The guys who died, they had wives, kids, they should know. I… I want to tell them – but I can’t…” He sighs. “I don’t know what would happen to me if someone finds out I did that.”

Cassian shrugs. “Depends on how deep this goes.”

Kes smiles wryly. “It’s not a conspiracy. But enough for a scandal if it falls to the press. They’d definitely fire me.”

Cassian sips his coffee and considers for a moment. “Okay. Look, Shara’s parents live out of the country, right?”

“Yes.”

“And when your son is born, they’ll come to visit, I guess.”

Kes nods, frowning.

“Find out the addresses of the families, write down what happened. No details, no names, neither yours nor the people involved. Don’t tell them who you are, tell them you’re doing this because it’s the right thing, don’t mention your family. Type it. Let Shara write the addresses on the envelopes. There are usually letterboxes at the airport. Post them when you pick up your in-laws. That’s all you can do. Nobody gets hurt.”

Kes nods, slowly. “That actually… sounds like a decent plan.”

So he does know what happened.

“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” Cassian replies drily. “I’m good at this, Kes. If I wasn’t, I would be too dead to sit here.”

“You’d be a lot easier to trust, though,” Kes says with a faint smile, matching his tone.

“I don’t profit from selling you out, Kes,” he says firmly. “I like having people like you around. You are far too upright to stab anyone in the back, that’s good for me, I don’t want to have to worry about my own team.”

“See, that,” Kes says, grinning, “that kind of logic, that’s why I can’t trust you. You’re kind of scary, do you know that, Andor?”

He smiles back and finishes his coffee. “I won’t say a word, Kes. That’s all I’m saying. You don’t have to worry.”

“Nope. Still scary.”

“How did you find out?”

Kes shrugs. “Like I said, I was looking at old pictures from one of those parties Tarkin used to throw. Saw a familiar face that wasn’t supposed to be there. They only sealed the file on the op and the stuff on Erso, but they didn’t seal anyone else involved.”

“Someone who wasn’t supposed to be there?”

Kes freezes, then sighs and glances Cassian up and down. “Great. Fuck you. Nice work.”

“You’re a bit of an easy mark,” Cassian replies with a small shrug. “You should pay more attention.”

“Remember what I said about condescending?”

Cassian smiles. “What happened?”

“Cassian, I’m serious. If my job is on the line, so is my family. I’m not kidding. I’ll come after you.”

He nods. He doesn’t doubt it, either – Kes is a good-natured kid, but he does believe that if he ever does shoot someone, it would be for this. Cassian might let him, too. But for now, he’s getting impatient.

“Yes. Noted. What happened?”

Kes sighs. “Remember Alvarez?”

“El Paso office, one of the guys who died?”

He grimaces. “Yeah. His father was Mexican, one of Tarkin’s guys. That was in his file, they knew. Probably sold it as his motivation to join the DEA, you know. Intimate knowledge of the other side and all.”

“But?”

“He was there, on that picture. Toasting Tarkin’s underlings.”

Cassian frowns. “You think he was one of them?”

Kes shrugs. “Probably just on the pay roll. That picture was old, his father was still alive. It could be nothing, but… he wasn’t undercover, there was nothing in his file, and… I was thinking of the pattern, you know, the explosions, and I don’t think they were previously installed bombs, because you’d use one detonator for those, right, but they didn’t go off at the same time. And, well, it was hardly more than a shack, so it wouldn’t take that much to bring it down.”

Cassian frowns. “So?”

“Grenades. Three are feasible for one man, and it’s not like we were checking our own guys for explosives. And anyone who was close enough to him to see anything didn’t make it out.”

Cassian nods. It makes sense, except – “Why would he blow himself up, though? He was a mole, not a martyr.”

“Well, he probably thought he’d get out. Overestimated the architecture. I’m not even sure if he meant for that many of our people to die. He went in second, he was pretty far ahead when it happened, far away from the others. Probably wanted to jump out of a window after the first explosion. It’s just that the building collapsed on them.”

“So that picture is all the proof you have?”

Kes shrugs. “That and the fact they slammed the case shut so quickly. If it was one of us and they missed a mole in El Paso, they wouldn’t want that getting out. Not after it got three of us killed, and Kay getting impaled and all.”

“Probably not.” Cassian sighs. “No, it makes sense. I mean, if you say the picture was old… we don’t even know how long he might have been working for Tarkin. Christ, and El Paso of all places.” He scoffs. “No, they wouldn’t want that getting out.”

“I just don’t get how they found out in the first place. They can’t have found this or they would’ve classified it, too,” Kes mutters, but Cassian just smiles to himself.

The file on the operation misses a forensic report, now that he thinks about it. It makes sense now, all of it. They wouldn’t just forget to send forensics to an unexplained explosion site, but they would send all discovered evidence through a shredder afterwards, because sneer at his police though they may, the gringos are no saints.

Wouldn’t be the first time there was a grenade pin or two left in the rubble.

So they’re even keeping secrets from the people with access, which is an oddly relieving thought, because that means Kay didn’t keep any information from him.

At least not this time.

“It doesn’t matter how they found out, Kes,” Cassian says and sighs. “There’s nothing we can do. Tarkin killed Erso and our guys, and that’s that. It happens. Write your letters, leave it be.”

“Leave it be?” Kes repeats, a hard glint in his eyes. “Your partner nearly died. Mine, too. They fucking hid all of it. And you want us to leave it be? I should take this to Draven.”

“Do you think Draven doesn’t know?” Cassian scoffs, and Dameron replies, too loudly:

“Well, then he can tell me how well he sleeps at night.”

“Dameron,” Cassian says slowly, matching his harsh tone, but careful to keep his voice down. “I joined the cops ten years ago. I’ve lost thirteen colleagues since, four of them my partners. Welcome to narcotics. Write your letters. Go home to your wife. Let it go.”

Kes glares back at him. “Is that an order?”

Cassian gets to his feet, fixing his colleague intently. He didn’t lie, he likes him. That, and he’s seen too many young men like him go down for their own goddamn idealism. Himself, perhaps, included.

“You’re DEA, Kes, you have plenty of enemies across the border. You don’t need to make enemies here. So we’ve been lied to. Get over it. The fight is with them,” he adds more calmly, nodding to the white board in the corner, old Tarkin glaring down on them from the top of Kay’s meticulously drawn map of the cartel.

Kes tries hard to look indifferent, and Cassian thinks he will get better at it, soon. The job will see to that.

“If that’s an order, capitán?”

Cassian sighs. “I’m trying to help you, Kes,” he says softly. “And don’t ever call me that again.”

Dameron raises a brow. “Draven does.”

“I can’t tell a general to shut the fuck up, can I?” Cassian replies with a shrug and picks up his coffee cup. “Look. The people who have to know what happened will know. We let them bury their dead. Only thing we can do for them is get the bastards who ordered it.”

Kes scoffs. “Sure. Easy-peasy.”

Cassian shrugs. “There’s a good chance Tarkin will go down, Dameron, if the case comes through and the Americans support his arrest. Some luck, and we can take a couple of his men down with him.”

“That’s a shitload of ifs.”

Cassian scoffs and shakes his head. “Welcome to narcotics,” he repeats softly and walks away, making a beeline for the stairway and steps out into the warm afternoon sun.

The sidewalk is almost deserted - not unusual, lunch time is over for most people working in the neighbourhood, but it makes the empty space underneath his jacket throb. He leans against the warm wall, half for support, half for the reassuring stability of the brick.

He feels for his phone, and for the first time in years wishes for a cigarette.

He hasn’t seen her in almost a week, he hardly gets out of the office at a reasonable time recently and stupid though it is, he thinks about her so much it almost warranted calling, just to hear her voice. Now he wishes nobody had given him an excuse to actually do it.

He puts off the call by dialing Bodhi’s number first.

“Cassian? What’s going on?”

He exhales slowly. “You at home tonight, Bodhi?”

“Uh, if… yeah, if I have to be? What’s wrong?”

He smiles wryly into the phone. “Define wrong. I’ve found something, I… I think I know what happened to her father.”

“Oh. Wow, I didn’t… I didn’t expect…”

“I know. Neither did I,” he mutters. “I’m going to tell her, I have to – I think she might need you, it would… be good if you could be there.”

“Yeah, sure. Of course. Thank you for the heads-up,” Bodhi mutters, still sounding slightly startled.

“Thank you, Bodhi.”

Cassian sighs and leans his head against the wall, soaking in the sun for a moment, willing it to calm him. It’s almost warm enough here to pretend it wasn’t the wrong side of the border.

She picks up after the third ring. “Hey.”

“Hi.” He lets his eyes fall shut and clears his throat. “Are you free tonight?”

“Sure, yeah, I – what happened, you okay?”

He chuckles humourlessly. “I’m fine, I just… I need to talk to you, I – where are you?”

“At the apartment,” she replies slowly. “Haven’t really done anything. I’m watching a movie. Why? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Jyn,” he says slowly. “I – my colleague, that I told you about, remember? It wasn’t what I thought, he… He found something. About your father. He didn’t know what to do with it.”

There’s silence on the other end of the line, just soft breathing.

“I think I know what happened,” he continues softly. “I can’t get away now, but I can tell you tonight. If you still want to know.”

“I –“

“Think about it. I’ll come as soon as I can. Okay?”

There’s silence for a moment, then, somewhat weakly – “Okay.”

“Jyn,” he murmurs, eyes still shut, desperately wanting to hear her voice, know that she’s really okay, even though he knows she’s not. He wasn’t, when they told him.

“See you tonight,” she says softly, and hangs up.

He leans his head against the warm wall and takes a deep breath. A part of him wishes it didn’t have to be him telling the news, or at least that the news wasn’t it was us.

Well, in a way it wasn’t, but then it was. It was them. They let this happen.

Oh well. Just another weight on his conscience.

“The fuck you doing on the smoking spot, man?” Antilles calls from across the street, sandwich in hand. “We don’t need anyone else taking up a habit,” he adds with a smirk, nodding towards Kay. “This one already smokes enough for all four of us.”

Kay shakes his head, takes a languid drag from his cigarette and glances at the coke in Wedge’s hand. “Well, and you’re drinking enough of that beverage to give all of us diabetes, so pipe down.”

Cassian lets his head fall back against the with a soft groan. “You’re in a great mood,” he mutters, pushing through the door. “So he still doesn’t talk?”

“Of course he didn’t talk,” Kay says indignantly and Antilles just shrugs.

“You weren’t seriously expecting him to?”

Cassian sighs, makes his way to the interrogation room and stares through the two-way mirror. “No, but I was hoping.”

“Break’s over?” Kes pokes his head through the doorway, throwing Cassian a very unsubtle nervous glance.

“Yes,” Wedge says flatly, joining them in their staring, and takes a bite of his sandwich. “What do we do?” he asks with a full mouth.

“Offer a deal,” Kay suggests feebly, and Antilles snorts.

“Yeah. Like that’s gonna work.”

Cassian sighs heavily. His patience is running out fast, and he’s fairly sure it has nothing to do with the smuggler behind the pane.

“Fuck it. He doesn’t want to play nice, we can play dirty, too.”

Kay raises a brow at him. “Well, technically we –“

“What, you wanna go in there again and try to scare him?” Wedge asks, not sounding convinced, and Cassian shakes his head.

“No, he’s not going to talk. Where’s his file?”

Kes waves a folder at him, but he doesn’t take it, keeps staring through the glass.

“He lives with his mother, right? Any sisters, brothers?”

“Two brothers,” Kay replies without glancing at the file once. “Pablo and Miguel. Nineteen and thirty. Same employer, apparently. Miguel has a son and a daughter.”

“The mother won’t know anything,” Wedge says slowly.

“No,” he mutters, looking at the young man in the empty room next door, weighing their chances. “Can we get the older brother on the phone?”

“Yes,” Kes replies after a pause, sounding doubtful, flipping through the pages. “Here.”

Cassian plucks the file from his fingers and walks over to his desk, reaching for the phone.

“What are you doing?” Kay inquires stiffly and he scoffs.

“I can talk to his brother, Kay. That’s legal. Calm down.”

His partner leans against the desk with a disgruntled look on his face while Cassian finishes dialling the number.

There’s the muffled voices of children shouting in Spanish in the background, then a slow “hello?”. In English. Cassian smiles and puts the man on speaker before replying in Spanish.

“Good evening. Who am I speaking to?”

“Who’s asking?”

“Miguel, isn’t it? Can I call you Miguel?”

“Who the hell are you?”

Kay throws him a pointed look that spells you said legal, and Cassian rolls his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m speaking to you on behalf of the DEA, you know what that is, right?”

“Fuck you, asshole,” Miguel spits, and Cassian smiles grimly.

“Listen, we don’t need to locate you, Miguel, so hanging up doesn’t help you. It just hurts Hernando.”

The man on the other end of the line falls silent. The children race by in the background.

“Your brother is not talking to us, Miguel.”

“Of course he isn’t talking to you assholes. He has nothing to say. He did nothing wrong. And I don’t have to talk to you, either.”

“He will go to prison, Miguel. One way or another.” Cassian sighs. “But if he doesn’t give us anything… the Americans won’t waste tax money on keeping him here. Prison in Mexico for your little brother, Miguel. He killed two people, a woman, too. She was seventeen. Imagine if someone lets that slip, or if the others learn he was in the US. Nothing more dangerous for a rat than prison.”

“My brother isn’t a rat, he’s not going to give you shit –“

“Doesn’t matter, don’t you see?” Cassian cuts him off softly. “He just needs one person to think he is. How long do you think he’ll last, Miguel?”

“Fuck you.”

“Someone is going to knock on your door soon. Talk to him, and we can make Hernando safe. We don’t care about him, we care about your bosses, your bosses’ bosses.”

“Son of a bitch, who the fuck do you think you are?”

“You’re in no kind of danger. Our people are discreet. Your bosses will never know either of you talked.”

“They’ll kill him if someone talks!”

“In a few years, they might not even remember him. Tell them he’s dead. I’m sorry, Miguel. If you don’t help us, your little brother’s going home in cuffs, and we both know how well he’ll do there. You don’t have the money to get him out, and don’t tell me your bosses will care. We’ll send our guy, tonight or tomorrow or the day after, in the evening. I’m sure you’ll be home,” he glances down at the file, “to put José and Marina to bed.”

He can see Kes’s jaw set across the room, then starting to translate for Antilles in an undertone.

“Fuck you,” Miguel repeats weakly.

“I’m sure you love your brother, Miguel. Let the man in. Goodbye.” He hangs up and catches Kes’s cold glare.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“He’s our only lead in weeks, Dameron,” Cassian snaps. “He works for a cartel, he’s not a fucking saint.” He turns to Kay. “We have men in Chihuahua?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Okay. We need to get someone down there. Someone who knows how to handle it,” he says, and Kay nods. Kes shakes his head and disappears into the break room, Antilles leans against the doorframe with an odd look on his face.

“Is there a problem?” Cassian snaps, and Wedge shrugs and follows his partner.

Oh well. Just another weight on his conscience.

 

 

She opens the door for him, looking a little pale, but calm. “Come in.”

“Is Bodhi here?” he asks quietly, and she nods.

“Okay.” He lets her pull him close, rests his head on her shoulder.  He can feel her lips on his hair and can’t suppress a little shiver. The knot in his stomach loosens, just a little.

“Bad news?” she whispers and he shakes his head, moves up a little to press a kiss to her lips.

“No, no. Just news.”

She looks back at him with a hard little glint in her eyes, face inches from his, and throws him a grim smile. “That’s not what you look like.”

“I’m just tired. It’s been a long day,” he replies in what he hopes to be a neutral tone.

She nods and pulls him towards her room, closes the door, sits down on the bed. “Tell me what happened that night. I want to know.”

“It’s not lifechanging, Jyn,” he replies tentatively. “Won’t make anything better.”

“Tell me,” she repeats. “I want to know.”

“Okay,” he mutters, sitting down next to her, takes a deep breath. “The DEA didn’t order it, but they were the ones who covered it up afterwards. That’s why it was so sloppy, they didn’t expect the explosion, but they didn’t want a scandal, so they shut the whole thing down.”

“That makes no sense.”

He sighs. “The team sent to get your father, they weren’t all from my office. We called in guys from El Paso, they were more familiar with Krennic and your father, they’d been watching them for a long time. My colleague noticed one of the El Paso guys on an old photograph, from one of the cartel gatherings.”

“Undercover?”

“No. He was assigned to the office at the time.”

Jyn frowns. “So you had a mole?”

Cassian nods, slowly. “Yes. There are two other things. The pattern of the explosions doesn’t fit bombs that were previously planted, because they didn’t go off at the same time. That, and there were forensic reports missing from the file Kay pulled on the operation.”

She throws him a mildly annoyed look. “Cassian, I have no idea what that means.”

“We can’t be sure unless we find that report somewhere, but… our guess is hand grenades.”

Her frown deepens. “The cartel sent someone to blow him up with fucking hand grenades? That’s not their MO, is it?”

“No, it isn’t,” he replies softly and shakes his head. “Tarkin was fucking clever about this one, I’ll give him that. They didn’t send anyone. They let their mole do it. They knew the DEA would cover everything up for them just so they don’t have to admit they’ve been spied on for God knows how long.”

She’s silent for a while, then asks slowly: “What happened to the guy? He got away with it?”

“No,” he replies gently. “He’s dead. Blew himself up, too, maybe by accident. My guess is they set him up with more powerful explosives than he was expecting.” He sighs. “Jyn, I don’t know what your father knew or had on him, but if they risked blowing up their eyes and ears in El Paso to make it go away…”

She sighs and stares at her hands. “Then it was big.”

“Yes. Either Krennic realised your father was going to betray him or his boss heard about Krennic’s fuck-up, one of them must have ordered it, they’re the only ones who could’ve authorised a mole of that value to do that.”

Jyn stills, suddenly. “Jesus. He wanted to tell me. That’s why he called.”

“He called you?” Cassian repeats softly, mind racing. “Your father called you?”

She nods, very slowly, still fixing her entwined fingers. “Yeah. The morning before it happened. I had a voicemail. He told me… that he was in trouble, that he had to see me, he gave me an address, a time. I didn’t want to go. I was late. I didn’t… didn’t get close. I saw one of your trucks, I didn’t want to get in trouble. So I waited to see if he was gonna get arrested, and then – then –“

Her voice cracks, and her knuckles turn white. He carefully pulls her hands apart and takes them in his. “I thought you heard it on the news or something,” he mutters, tracing circles over the back of her cold hands.

She shakes her head, green eyes painfully bright, blinking rapidly to keep the tears from spilling over. “It was almost… almost beautiful. I thought it’d be louder. It was just so bright.”

“Christ, Jyn,” he whispers and pulls her close in one swift, unpolished motion with a small shiver.

She buries her face at his shoulder, cold fingers balled up against his chest, and goes completely still.

“I’m sorry,” he mutters into her hair, a stupid, pointless thing to say.

“Should’ve told you,” she says, without moving an inch, her voice muffled by his t-shirt. “Might’ve helped.”

He sighs and runs his hands up her back, shaking his head. “No. You didn’t have to tell me anything.” He pulls her closer, close as he can, for just a moment, then asks slowly: “Do you want me to leave you alone for the night?”

Her hands ball up in his shirt and she gives a tiny little headshake. “Stay.”

“Okay,” he mutters, pulls her onto his lap so he can shift to a more comfortable position and rests a hand on the back of her neck, circling his thumb over the tense muscles. “Of course.”

She stays still there for a while, then leans back to look at his face, eyes dry. She looks composed, and he tries not to think of the implications of her getting that look on her face so quickly.

“Thank you. You didn’t have to do that for me.”

“You deserve to know. He was your father,” he whispers, and feels like an idiot repeating just what he berated Kes for hours ago, but it’s true. It’s stupid, but it’s true.

“Still. Wasn’t your responsibility,” she insists quietly, still holding on to the front of his shirt. “Thank you.”

He throws her a faint smile and carefully shoves her off him. “I’ll make a drink. Or d’you want tea or something?”

She gives a breathless little laugh that makes him hope this wasn’t quite as hard on her as he thought it would be. “No, I don’t want a fucking tea. There’s vodka in the fridge, and, uh, other stuff in the kitchen cupboard.”

He gets to his feet. “Okay. What do you want?”

“Anything, don’t care,” she says in a lost sort of voice. “Thanks.”

When he returns with two glasses, she sits on the corner of her bad, hugging her knees against her chest. There’s something lost sitting in her bright eyes, and he wishes he hadn’t seen it before, but he has, day after day after day, ever since he was six years old, whenever one of the boys thought nobody was looking.

He sighs and hands her a glass.

“Thanks,” she mutters, now fixing the clear liquid instead, fingers wrapping tightly around the glass.

He frowns a little and puts his drink down on the window sill. “Are you cold? You look cold.”

She gives a small shrug and goes back to staring at her glass. He picks up a blanket crumpled on a chair in the corner and carefully drapes it around her shoulders before he sits down at the edge of the bed and takes a sip.

The cold liquor burns in his throat, but it doesn’t get rid of the chill sitting in his bones.

He puts down the glass and holds out a hand. “Come here.”

With a small sigh, she shoves her feet underneath the bedsheets and edges closer, resting her head against his shoulder, fingers still closed around the glass.

She lets him thread his fingers through her hair, buries her face in his neck, very still.

“I’m okay,” she murmurs then, gripping his shirt, in a quiet but firm voice. “I’m handling it.”

He nods, slowly, pulling her closer. “Okay. Good.” He presses a kiss to her hair and falls silent. There is nothing to say, except maybe – maybe he should have known. Maybe he should have recognised the signs, maybe –

There’s a cruel irony in all of it, he thinks grimly and pulls her a little closer. History repeats itself, he knows that, but still, it makes him shudder to think that the two people he’s cared most about in the last twenty years now have something other in common than the misfortune of knowing him. A link other than being the only ones left still breathing.

“Are you going to get to them, Cassian?” she asks after a long time, staring at her drink. “Any of them?”

He buries his nose in her hair and exhales shakily. He told Kes they would.

He told Kes what he needed to hear.

Maybe he should tell her the same, but…

“I don’t know, Jyn,” he whispers after a long moment of hesitation. “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

 

 

When she wakes up, he’s already dressed, crouched next to her bed.

“Hey,” he says softly, eying her with those sharp dark eyes of his. He looks worried. “Bodhi made coffee.”

“When d’you get up?” she asks blearily, and he grimaces.

“Half an hour ago. Had to head down the street, and make a few calls.”

“At seven AM?” She frowns, glancing at the alarm clock.

He throws her a wry smile and runs his fingers through her hair. “You are still surprised?”

She smiles a little. “Yeah, not really.”

He sighs and gets to his feet. “Breakfast?”

She drops back into the pillow and throws him a dark look. “You staying for it?”

“I can stay for coffee,” he answers, smiling faintly.

“Good,” she mutters, eyes falling shut.

“That offer is limited to the next half-hour. I can you bring you the coffee, but you need to be awake. Deal?”

“No, no,” she murmurs and shuffles the blanket down a little, not opening her eyes. “I’m getting up. I am.”

“I would not bet money on that,” Bodhi calls from the kitchen, and before Jyn can reply there’s a quiet, chiding: “Bodhi, don’t.”

“He can make jokes, Cassian,” Jyn mutters into the pillow, slowly blinks her eyes open and adds in her flatmate’s general direction: “And you bloody well can bet money on that.”

Cassian leans against the doorway, still looking worried.

“Really, I can, you know, bring you –“

Jyn climbs out of bed with a sigh and tries to flatten her hair into a somewhat less horrifying shape, while desperately trying to avoid looking into the mirror. She is not sure what possessed her getting involved with someone who somehow looks good on three hours of sleep in last night’s clothes.

“Stop. I’m up.”

“Jyn –“

She throws him a strained smile that probably looks as forced as it feels. “Cassian. I’m up, and I’m just as fine… arguably fine as I was yesterday, alright?”

He sighs and buries his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, I…”

“Uh-huh,” she mutters, and kisses him on the cheek. “You sleep okay?”

He nods, pulling her closer for a moment, and she tries hard not to fall into that that dark sad hole in her head just because she’s warm and someone’s willing to hold her. She mostly fails that.

“You really alright?” he asks softly and she grimaces into his shirt.

Yes, I – Well. Just please stop asking, okay,” she mutters and pulls out of his grip, with a little too much force. “Come have some actual coffee, it will change your life.”

She pads into the kitchen and takes a cup from Bodhi, who has the same annoying spark of worry in his eyes.

“Don’t boast with my coffee, Jyn, please boast with your own accomplishments,” he says in an only slightly wobbly attempt at humour, and hands her a paper bag. “We have croissants if you want them.”

Jyn frowns up at him. “We do? What happened?”

Cassian comes in after them and sits down across her. “Bodhi is overpricing his coffees, that’s what is happening.”

“The bakery was a suggestion,” Bodhi replies, grinning feebly, and hands Cassian a cup of coffee. “And from what I’ve heard, this will be worth it.”

He takes a sip and sighs. “Yes. Fine. Worth it.”

Bodhi gives a shaky little smile that falls right off his lips again too soon. They both drink their coffee, throwing her subtle sideward glances (that are only subtle in Cassian’s case, really), until she loses her patience.

“Okay. Jesus,” she mutters and shoves the paper bag towards Bodhi. “You, eat that. Both of you, stop threading on eggshells. I am fine.

Bodhi sighs, reaches for the bag and casts his eyes down. Cassian remains silent and leans back in his chair.

“I said don’t,” Jyn adds sourly in his direction, and he just throws her a moderately well-faked smile and shakes his head at the croissant Bodhi is offering him.

“Fine, then I’m taking these with me,” Bodhi mutters and gets to his feet. “Make Baze jealous.”

Jyn smiles faintly. “That could actually work. You might get a raise out of it.”

“Yeah, in my dreams,” he replies drily. “See you for lunch, Jyn?”

“Sure.” She tries for a smile while he leaves. It comes out a little better, but not by much.

Cassian watches her for a while over the edge of his coffee cup. He looks exhausted, and she knows he lied about sleeping well – somehow, every damn time she jolted awake during the night, he was already up, and she is starting to wonder if he slept at all.

“You alright?”

“What, me?” he asks, frowning at her. “Yes.”

“Really?”

Cassian sighs. “I don’t know. I feel… weird. Like something bad is going to happen.”

She bites her lip and waits for him to go on, but he doesn’t. “Why?”

He scoffs and gets to his feet. “I don’t know. It’s almost September.”

“September?”

“Yes. Not my lucky month,” he mutters with a small headshake, puts his cup into the sink and leans down to press a kiss to her hair. “Look, just – be careful, okay?”

She frowns up at him. “With what?”

He sighs and buries his fingers in her hair. “I don’t know. Just worried the bad luck is contagious,” he murmurs and presses another kiss to her lips.

“I can take perfectly good care of myself,” she says a little too loudly and he throws her a rueful smile.

“I know,” he mutters. “Paranoid, remember?”

“If it helps you, I don’t really plan on leaving the house at all,” she says after a moment, trying to return his smile.

“You just said you’d meet Bodhi for lunch.”

She groans and rests her forehead against his shoulder. “Shit. You’re right.”

He laughs and runs a hand through her hair. “I have to go. I’m gonna be late. I'll see you soon, okay?”

She tries very hard to convince herself that this is the point where she lets go of his shirt, or maybe kiss him so she can’t say anything rash.

Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it – “Tonight?”

Shit. Oh Shit. Oh no. She closes her eyes for a second.

“We’re in the middle of a case, Jyn,” he says slowly. “I would probably not be here before midnight.”

Well, damn it – in for a penny, in for a pound. “Yes. And I’ll probably be wide awake until three.”

He sighs. “Alright. Fine, I’ll try.”

“You’ll try not to sleep at the office?” she gives back, raising a brow at him.

“Okay, that’s it, I’m leaving,” he mutters, smiling faintly, and throws her a strange long look before he leaves.

A part of her very uncharacteristically wishes for a goodbye kiss, but she feels pathetic enough already for being the sad girl begging not to sleep alone, so she tries her best to swallow down the thought.

 


 

“Tell me, detective,” she says slowly, scribbling into her notebook, “would you say you feel better than you did in February?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replies drily. “I can’t stand the cold.”

She throws him a sharp, reproachful look. “Joking. I can’t remember if you did that before.” She sighs. “I went back to a few things I discussed with your boss, and I noticed he addresses you with your military rank,” she says after a while. “Did you ask him to do that?”

“I asked him to stop,” Cassian replies testily.

“Why? It’s an achievement, isn’t it?”

“An achieve –“ He breaks off, shakes his head. “No. Not to me.”

She eyes him, silently, waits for him to go on.

“The army… wasn’t a good time. I don’t need the reminder.”

She still waits. She’s not going to drop this, it’s not the first time she’s tried to bring up his army days either, and he’s not talking about that. It would bring back things that he is really glad he manages not to think about for a while.

He leans forward in his chair. Shock hasn’t worked so well the last two times, but who knows. Third time might be the charm, and clearly just avoiding it doesn’t do the trick.

That and at least manipulation is something he is good at.

“Do you know the sound a human head makes, when you hit it with a bullet at thirty meters?”

Her eyes widen, just a smidge.

“I do,” he says quietly, and let’s that sit for a while. “That’s not the kind of memory you want to keep.” He sighs. “I know what I did. What I am. I don’t need to be reminded of it.”

“What you are?” she repeats, and he smiles grimly, shaking his head.

“I… you know, I can think of a single commandment I haven’t broken. One out of ten, that’s not a good…” He takes a breath. “I’m not a good person. Sometimes I’m almost glad they’re all gone. I don’t know how they could… what they’d do. If they had seen the things I’ve done.”

She sighs. “You chose this life because of what happened to you, didn’t you? Because you lost your family. It might have gone very differently if you had not lost them.”

He gives a helpless shrug and answers softly: “But I’m good at it. It’s all I’m good at. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I don’t remember… not fighting. Not being scared. Not waiting.” He laughs a little. It doesn’t sound good even to his own ears. “I can’t remember, I don’t – I don’t feel like I know who I am, without that.”

“Without what?”

He gives a helpless shrug. “I don’t know, control? Fear?”

She nods. “It can be difficult to heal a wound that you’ve grown so used to,” she says gently, and he suddenly feels like there’s a small weight pressing on his chest. “When you live with something for so long, it starts to feel like a part of you.”

She waits for him to say something, but he doesn’t think he’ll get a single word out, suddenly. He feels strangely… caught in the act, but not really in a bad way.

“It’s quite common for a few character traits to take charge in hard times,” she says very gently, “but that doesn’t mean the rest of you goes away. Your fear and your loss are not all you’re made of, and if we can chip away some, you will not disappear along with it.”

He’s not sure he believes her, but maybe, just maybe – she’s a psychiatrist, isn’t she? If she doesn’t know, who will?

But still, he feels like everything he is was built on the tension in his shoulders, and the constant whirr of fear in the back of his head, and he’s scared that without that foundation, painful and exhausting though it is, everything else will just collapse.

“Did you have any more of your attacks?” she asks after a while and he sighs.

Damn it. He was hoping she wouldn’t ask, which was stupid, of course. But it takes effort not to lie, even now. This still feels too personal, too dangerous, too close. Too much.

“Yes, couple of days ago,” he answers slowly, and sees that she doesn’t write that down. He’s grateful.

“Did you get through it any better than you did before?”

He sighs and stares down at his hands. He tried, he tried not to wake her – and damn it, he was supposed to comfort her – but… it doesn’t take much, never has; an oddly shaped shadow, the wrong sound at the right time of night. He doesn’t even know what it was that time. It’s not like it matters.

Of course he woke her, he’s not surprised – she’s not a heavy sleeper, and goddamn it, he was fairly sure he’d just suffocate at some point. It helps, most nights, the warmth, her soft breathing instead of the silence.

But it doesn’t work like that, of course. They can’t be fixed, not by Mothma and not by each other, because well, this isn’t a fucking children’s book.

She came after him, because even though he somehow found his way to the cold bathroom tiles, he didn’t lock the door behind him. Came after him and got him a glass of water and held on to him until it was over.

“No, not better,” he answers hesitantly. “Worse than last time, I think. It was just… just over more quickly, maybe.”

He hardly noticed her coming in, doesn’t really know how long she must have sat next to him whispering his name before he even looked at her, not quite sure what else she said either. There was some Spanish in it, slow and hesitant, he noticed that, at least. It helped, and it stung, all at once.

He hadn’t meant for her to see any of it, not ever, preferably. Not like this, not crying and gasping on the floor, still shaking from the vomiting. Helpless. Defenceless and undisciplined like the child he vowed so many times he would never be again.

“Getting worse?” she asks slowly. “Worse how?”

He shrugs. “Just… worse.”

“Do you think it got worse for a reason?”

He sighs and thinks about that for a moment. “I think I’m realising that… It just makes me nervous.”

Mothma frowns. “What does?”

“I’m not used to it. Having something to lose, for me, isn’t… is not a good thing.”

“Not being alone is helping you,” she says slowly. “Don’t you think? That it has helped you a great deal so far?”

“I know,” he answers, then adds hotly, because he can’t help himself: “I just – I’m so helpless. I’m of no use to anyone, half of the time I’m not even in a position to defend myself, and…” He takes a deep breath, shakes his head, wrings his hands. “I have too much time to think about it. That’s probably the problem.”

“So you have less to do at work lately?” Mothma inquires.

“Well. I can’t help with drugs busts unarmed, so I have to stay on the side lines, making calls, going through files. We actually have more to do lately, but it means less work for me and… It’s clearly not good for me.”

“You said you still have your pills, detective,” Mothma says after a long moment of silence, and he glances back at her, slightly confused.

“Yes. I took them once. They really didn’t help.”

She sighs a little. “I would quite like to prescribe you new ones. If you’ve had them for over three years, I’m not sure if they are even still effective.”

“I don’t need them,” he repeats stubbornly. “I don’t like taking them.”

“You don’t have to take them,” she answers gently. “They’re for emergencies.”

He opens his mouth to argue, but she goes on before he can say anything.

“You are making progress, you know? I just don’t want you to be taken unawares when things get hard to handle.”

“Fine,” he concedes with a sigh, and she nods. So he’ll have another bottle of pills at the back of his closet. If it makes her happy, so what.

“Just keep a few on you. Like I said, you can save them for emergencies.” She gets out a pad and scribbles something on it. “Ask Sandra for the prescription. The people at the pharmacy will tell you how much you need to take.”

He nods, not convinced, and gets to his feet. “Alright.”

“Will you take them, if you have to, detective?” she asks, almost as an afterthought.

His first impulse is to say yes, because that’s what she wants to hear. The second is say no, because that’s the truth.

But then he remembers Jyn there in the dark, bare feet on the cold tiles – and maybe, just to get that look off her face –

“Maybe, yes.”

“Why?”

He scoffs and stares at his feet, and she nods, slowly. “Very well, detective. I’ll see you…,” she glances down at her notebook, “on Friday, and I think I’ll see if I can get a hold of your boss in the meantime.“

Cassian nods absent-mindedly, a hand on the handle of the door, and then gives a small start when his phone starts buzzing. He fishes it out of his pocket with a frown.

“Alright. Is that all? I have to take this.”

“Yes, I just –“

“Thank you,” he mutters, hurries out of the room and accept the call. “Antilles? You have something?”

 

 

“Andor, on a word?”

Kay frowns at Cassian over the desk. “What did you do, Cassian?”

He gets to his feet with a shrug. “Nothing. Or you know something I don’t?”

His partner sighs and puts down the folder in his hand. “You know, I apologised.

“You didn’t even know what to apologise for, Kay,” he mutters, shaking his head, and tags after their boss.

“Sir? You wanted to see me?”

Draven doesn’t look up from the stack of papers on his desk. “Yeah. Sit.”

Cassian frowns and steps into the office, hands in his pockets. “Did I piss you off, sir?”

A wry smile flickers over Draven’s face. “No more than usual, capitán. Just paperwork. Sit.”

Cassian does as he’s told, slowly, eying the papers on Draven’s desk. “Paperwork, sir? I thought the visa was settled for three years?”

It’s Draven’s turn to frown. “She didn’t tell you? She said you’d had a session when she called.”

“Tell me what?”

His boss smiles faintly and holds up a document, folded like it came in an envelope. “It’s not your visa. I got mail from your therapist.”

Cassian’s head starts spinning violently, and the small empty space underneath his jacket starts throbbing again.

She said she’d talk to Draven. She said so. He fucking missed it. Kay was probably right, he is so far off track at this point he doesn’t even remember what it felt like to be on it.

“I do have one question, though, Andor,” Draven says softly, letter in hand. “Did you have to shoot them, the day Darklighter died? There was no way of having them arrested? No other way that could have played out?”

“Not unless you expected me to die trying to bring them in, sir,” Cassian asks flatly, still trying to clear his head.

“The people in this office don’t understand that you can’t catch these people by playing fair. We do, you and I,” Draven says slowly. “But I need to know that you still know the difference between cutting corners and crossing the line, Andor, because I brought you here and I am responsible for what you do.”

“Sending me out with a sniper rifle in an operation that was barely legal in the first place wasn’t crossing the line, sir?” Cassian asks quietly and Draven sighs.

“All I need you to tell me is that this isn’t personal.”

Cassian throws the elder man a sharp look. “Of course it’s personal, general. It always has been.”

Draven sighs again and shakes his head. “I don’t know anyone who deserves finding them as much as you do, Andor, and if you do and you put a bullet in their heads, I can’t say I’d blame you. It just can’t be on my watch. Is that understood, capitán?”

Cassian sighs. “Yes, sir.”

“You’re lying to me right now, Andor?” Draven asks sharply.

“No, sir,” Cassian replies solemnly. “Understood. Not on your watch.”

It’s not a lie. Oh, there are people he would shoot without so much as flinching, if he had the chance, but it’s not like he’s going to get to Tarkin holed up in goddamn exile, anyway.

“Hope so,” Draven says in a tired tone and fishes a pen out of a drawer. “Because if you go on a personal vendetta with a gun I allowed you to have, I will personally put your ass behind bars and I swear, I will ground you on the most American patch of land I can find for the rest of your life. That understood as well?”

Cassian smiles faintly. “Understood, sir.”

“Good.” He gets out the keys for his top drawer, reaches inside and places the content on the desk with a small sigh. “Then we can all finally move on from this shit. Let poor Biggs rest in peace.”

Cassian nods absent-mindedly, staring at the gun on the table. He still feels a little dizzy, and he feels like there should be more air in his lungs.

“Go on, take it,” Draven says, almost gently.

Cassian blinks rapidly, trying to get his oddly blurry vision back to normal, and reaches out to take the gun, too slowly. A part of him somehow doubts it’s going to be solid when his hand reaches it.

“Andor, you alright?”

“Yeah, sure. Just fine, sir,” he says, fingers wrapping around the cool metal, and realises moments later how that reply sort of belied the point, because Draven switched to Spanish and Cassian followed suit without even noticing.

“That’s what I thought,” his boss mutters with a mild smile. “This permit is tied to the condition that you continue therapy for three more months, once a week.”

“Yes. Understood.”

Draven sighs. “Taking that thing away from you after what you’ve been through, that was cruel. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to do it.”

“I know, sir,” he mutters, fingers curling around the gun more tightly. “Not your fault.”

“Just saying, kid,” Draven answers drily and gets to his feet. “That’ll be all.”

“Yeah. Thank you, sir,” Cassian mutters, absent-mindedly checking the safety and tugging the gun into his waistband – just like old cartel days, he thinks bitterly – and walks out, still not quite feeling like his balance is functioning the way it should.

“Oh, Andor?” Draven calls from behind him across the hall. “One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Shooting range results, on my desk, by Thursday.”

Out of the open office door, Cassian can just barely hear Kay snort with laughter.

Chapter Text

She closes the door of Mothma’s room, and almost runs straight into someone.

Jesus. Sorry, I didn’t see – ” she mutters, then looks up and freezes. “Cassian?”

“Hi.” He leans against the wall with a soft sigh and throws her a little smile that looks too shaky for his standards.

“What are you doing here, you said you had –“ She breaks off, shakes her head. It doesn’t matter. She scans his face and concludes he looks well enough, except his eyes look a little wrong somehow.

“You okay?”

“Yes, I just… They, uh, they gave me my gun back,” he replies softly, and she could be wrong but she thinks he’s talking just a tad too slowly. “So I’m supposed to… talk to her again.” The smile he throws her at that looks fairly humourless, but much more real. “They still think I’ll do something stupid with it.”

She returns his smile faintly. “Well, will you?”

“No,” he answers with a faint shrug, then adds in a very quiet voice: “Well, I might make an exception for a few people, if I ever get the chance.”

“Don’t tell her that,” she mutters, only half joking, and he raises a brow at her.

“Don’t worry. I’m pretty good at keeping secrets.”

She laughs a little. “You really okay?”

“I think so,” he mutters, glancing away, and shrugs. “Doesn’t change as much as I thought it would, really.”

She nods, and some part of her wants to reach out and take his hand, but no. Not here. That’s too private.

“Okay.” She shoves her hands into the pockets of her jeans instead, then adds haltingly: “I can come over later, if you want me to.”

He sighs and shakes his head. “No. There’s a big shipment coming in tonight, I have to be there.” His dark eyes meet hers. “Friday, though?”

That’s four days, she thinks, then wipes the thought away. He knows that, damn it. He can count. But still, it’s four days. That makes it seven since… well, she’s sure he knows that, too.

“Okay.”

He eyes her for a moment, then nods slowly. “Alright. Fine. Coffee in an hour?”

She really wants to fight the smile, and also she thinks that maybe there is no point in them not touching in public if he’s going to look at her like that. A part of her is still unsettled by the idea that anyone would ever look at her that way, but it’s addictive nonetheless – or maybe because of that.

“Yeah. Sounds better.”

A small smile twitches around his lips. “Good.”

Jyn eyes him for a moment longer, then drops her gaze, grinning. “You know she planned this, right?”

“Planned what?”

“She told your boss to send you here when I had an appointment.”

He scoffs, shaking his head. “Oh God. You’re right.”

Despite the smile still playing around his lips, there is something sitting in his eyes, a spark of fear. She’s not sure if it’s new or if it’s something he’s now allowing her to see. She supposes there’s always been a trace of it, somewhere, tucked into the warmth and darkness in his eyes, but it’s clearer now, more prominent, more specific perhaps.

Jyn throws Sandra the receptionist a deeply annoyed glance, fleetingly but with fervour wishing they were alone for just five goddamn minutes –

Well. Not that she would be opposed to more than five minutes. Her fingers itch to try and take his mind off it.

Put yourself together, Jesus. She’s grown far too accustomed to certain luxuries anyway; she’s letting herself get all restless and needy, and she gets so cold at night.

She needs to stop.

At some point, sooner or later, she’ll be alone again. She can’t let herself take it for granted that for now, she’s not.

“See you there, then?” she mutters and he nods, still looking at her intently, then carefully pushes past her, fingers lightly brushing against hers for just a second before he disappears in Mothma’s room.

She sighs, eyes following him down the corridor, then she turns to throw another glare into Sandra’s direction who promptly buries her nose in her cheap romance novel again.

She’s somewhat tempted to ask Sandra if spies get payed better than receptionists or if maybe she’s getting longer holidays out of this, but then thinks better of it and leaves the practice without another word.

Not worth it.

 


 

 

When he comes into the diner, Bodhi, Luke and a pretty, very short woman sit at a table by the window, the woman talking agitatedly to the pair of them, brushing her dark hair out of her eyes with a small, impatient movement. Jyn is listening to a guy leaning against the counter who seems to be trying very hard to look bored.

She throws him a smile and hands him a cup of coffee, then turns back to the man to her right.

“That’s bullshit, Solo, and you know it. And I mean, even if you could, what would a guy like you do with a bar, huh?”

“I’d do a better job of running that place than Lando does, Dawn, and the question isn’t if I can beat him, the question is when…

Cassian drifts away from the pair of them leaning over the counter and trading their wry little grins because they’re the only ones in on their joke, sits down at his usual table and stirs in his coffee.

“So,” the man at the counter says, glee very thinly veiled, “did I just see you smile at that guy?”

“Wouldn’t want to scare away Bodhi’s regulars.”

“Uh-huh, that’s not what I’ve just seen.”

“Then maybe get your eyes checked, Solo, and stop playing matchmaker,” she replies flatly, and Cassian very slowly and deliberately turns his cup in his hands.

He’s not listening in on them, it’s just that the guy’s voice carries, and for Christ’s sake, it’s not like he’s surprised that she knows other people, even when they’re so obviously -

He’s not jealous. He’s not. He’s not the type – well, he wouldn’t really know.

Granted, he could be somewhat possessive, as a child. But that wasn’t jealousy, was it; no more than it was a seven year-old kid just wanting to keep the only person around that cared about him. It hadn’t been jealousy so much as it had been him clinging to the only semblance of family that remained.

The only semblance of family, who now puts down flowers on a grave with a stranger’s name on it. Who probably dreads September as much as he does, now that it will mark two years since he got the news of that car crash – news of Cassian dying at twenty-five, a year younger than his mother; he would have made that calculation at some point, Cassian is sure, with the pictures hung on their wall they each knew the faces of the other’s family as well as their own’s –

What have you done, Cassian?

His fingers grip the edge of the table and takes a few deep breaths, willing himself to focus. Cup of coffee. Table. Diner. US.

On the ID in his pocket, his mother’s recognisable last name is missing from his and his badge no longer says police and he’s twenty-seven; he’s twenty-seven and not sixteen and this isn’t Mexico.

What have you done?

His fingers tug mechanically at his left sleeve. He takes up his cup with both hands to stop them.

Deep breaths.

He takes a sip of his coffee, burns his tongue, puts it down again. If he inhales deeply enough, he can feel the holster of the gun.

He’s got more options than running this time, a way of keeping the people he cares about safe that doesn’t mean leaving them behind and letting them haunt him, even if it means noises that echo in his head for years, even if it means blood splattering on his clothes –

The jacket he wore on his eighteenth birthday still had the faint stains on the left sleeve, near the hem, they had never come off… so what does it matter, in the end, if he is the one to pull the trigger or not –

What have you done, Cassian?

“Hey.” A hand waves before his eyes, then Jyn sits down in the seat opposite with a slight frown on her face and shoves a sandwich across the table. “You still with us?”

“Yes, yes," he replies reflexively, and she just leans a little closer, frown deepening.

"What's wrong?" she asks, very softly, and he tries to pull himself together.

"Nothing. Just… thinking, you know.” He shrugs and throws her a small smile. The frown doesn’t disappear. This woman sees right through him, somehow, probably more than Mothma ever will. The thought is amusing, at this point.

She turns in her chair, throwing Luke’s sister and the guy she was talking to earlier a faint smile. They appear to be leaving – he missed that, damn it – and she only resumes after the door has fallen shut behind them.

“Thinking about what?”

He considers, for a moment, just shrugging and changing the subject, but she’s still looking at him, and she’d know. Besides, he doesn’t feel so dizzy anymore. She’s a much more stable fixture than his cup of coffee.

“My friend, in Mexico, he… he still doesn’t… well, he still thinks I’m dead. It’ll be two years since he found out, in a few weeks,” he mutters.

She sighs and clutches her cup. “That grave is in Juárez, right? Where you were undercover?”

He nods and she settles in her chair with a slight frown.

“Do you think they were suspecting you were the mole?”

He grimaces. “I don’t know. I had a feeling they did, but… I wasn’t sure. No way to know, really.”

“Because if they did know…” She sighs and turns her coffee cup in her hands. “Then they could be watching the grave, right?”

He nods. “Yes. I’ve been thinking about that, too. And I don’t –“ He sighs and stares into his cup. “I don’t know, I’d like to believe that makes him safe because clearly he has no idea what really happened, but…”

“But they think you’re dead too, and he could have still known something about what you were really doing,” Jyn answers slowly and bites her lip. “You can’t at least make him stay away from there? I don’t know, send a colleague or something?”

He sighs. “I don’t – I don’t know, I have to do something, but I’d just make it worse, I – Maybe Kay can find a way,” he mutters with a faint humourless smile, “he seems to be good at meddling lately.”

She throws him a faint smile. “I don’t think it’s meddling, Cassian. He’s your friend, besides, he’s got kids, you should – you should do something. Keep him safe, I mean… that’s what you were trying to do in the first place, right?”

He sighs again and nods. Her shin brushes against his, green eyes still on his, and her fingers curl around the cup in front of her.

“You sure tonight is a good idea?” she asks slowly, frowning at him. “You seem a bit… out of it.”

“No, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m –“ He shakes his head and takes up his coffee. “Better. And – I just need to get back to where I was, at work, I mean, before it all… you know. Before the shooting.”

She sighs and nods, eyes returning to her coffee. “Okay,” she mutters. It doesn’t sound very convinced, but she says no more, just returns the pressure of his knee underneath the table and sips at her coffee.

“I’ll be fine, Jyn,” he says softly and allows himself a moment of looking up at her.

“Yeah,” she mutters, smiling a little, and swirls her coffee in her cup. “I know.”

She finishes her cup and pries at her food for a bit, then sighs and shoves the plate over to him.

“Haven’t eaten, have you?”

He grimaces. He must look somewhat worse for wear – he got up early to go for a run before work, skipped breakfast for that. Didn’t sleep so well, either, which probably doesn’t improve matters.

“It’s a stake-out. There are always sandwiches or something.”

“Oh. Risking your neck comes with catering, that’s great,” she says flatly, throwing him a pointed look. “Eat. I’ll get you a tea.”

“I have coffee, Jyn, and I don’t even -“

She gets to her feet. “You’re too used to coffee, it’s not going to keep you awake.”

“Jyn, sit down, you don’t have to –“

She brushes a hand across his shoulder in passing and smiles faintly. “I know. Eat.

He sighs and picks up a sandwich. “Alright.” He swallows a few bites, then gets to his feet, sandwich in hand, and gets up to join her. “So, who was the woman who just left?”

“Leia,” she answers with a slight smile. “Luke’s twin sister. She’s a lawyer, finished law school this year.”

“She looked…” He searches for a fitting word.

“Bossy?” she supplies with a faint smile. “Guess she is. Luke does whatever she tells him to, and so does Solo.”

“Solo?”

“Her boyfriend. The guy I was talking to when you came in.”

He keeps his eyes on the sandwich, picks at the lettuce. “Sounded like you knew him.”

She shrugs and pours boiling water into the teapot. “Not really. I mean… I ran into him a bunch of times in Calrissian’s bar in the city. The Falcon, you know it?”

He nods. “Yes. Arrested a few small dealers there a while back.”

“Yeah,” she says quietly, nodding. “Calrissian and Solo tried to throw them out for a while, then at some point I guess they gave up.”

He scoffs and finishes his sandwich. She hands him a cup of strong black tea with a little milk in it and throws him a small smile. “He’s not a bad… well, I don’t know. He can be an arse, but…” She shrugs, then adds with a sly little grin: “He’s crazy about her, though. Did nothing but stare at her the whole time they were there. I didn’t take him for the type.”

He hides his smile in his cup. The tea is awfully bitter, but he doesn’t really mind. The feeling is growing dangerously familiar – a warm cup of something someone else has made for him. It’s a dizzying thing.

“Type?”

She shrugs again. “I thought he’d do anything to maintain his reputation.” She takes a sip from her cup, still smiling faintly. “Guess not.”

He returns her smile. “Well, she looked like she could handle him.”

Jyn laughs for a bit and stirs in her cup. “Eat,” she says flatly without looking up, and he sighs and picks at his sandwich.

“Are you doing alright?” he asks after a while and her eyes flicker up at him, then for a moment towards Bodhi and Luke sitting on a table by the window.

“Yeah,” she answers softly. “I’m – I’m okay, yeah. Just tired.”

Her green eyes are fixed on his, calm and open. It hits him how much that has changed, since he first saw her almost half a year ago in Mothma’s sickeningly sunny waiting room. It feels like a good thing, and he hopes it really is.

He reaches for the milk to make his tea more bearable and lets his hand brush against hers. She doesn’t flinch away this time, and smiles a little.

He finishes his tea and glances at his phone with a sigh.

“Gotta run?”

“Yes,” he mutters, grimacing. “Thanks for the tea.”

She nods. “Sure.”

There’s a look on her face that he can’t decipher, and he really doesn’t like being back to that.

“I’ll see you soon, okay?” He pushes his hands down his pockets and says goodbye to Bodhi and Luke on his way out. Bodhi’s dark eyes follow him through the door as he leaves.

But he’s hardly left the building when he hears steps behind him, and turns around to see Jyn coming after him.

“I forget something?” he asks and she shrugs.

“You could say that.”

Before he can open his mouth to reply, she rises on tip-toes and kisses him and, God, it’s so tempting to give in, but –

“Jyn,” he mutters against her lips, not quite managing to pull away. “Not out here.”

There’s a fresh glint in her eyes now, reckless almost, and even though she’s feeding his paranoia, he can’t say he doesn’t like it. “Sorry. I know.” She straightens his collar and adds, very quietly: “Good luck.”

He grimaces, and swallows down an empty reassurance. It should be fine, but then again, the last time he thought that, his colleague was shot next to him. “Thanks.” He should say something a little more meaningful – damn it, he misses her all the time – but he can’t get to thinking about that now, it’ll just distract him all evening.

Jyn steps away, and he feels annoyed by that even though it’s what he asked for. She buries her hands in her pockets and sighs. “Friday, right?”

He nods. “Friday. At the latest.”

She bites her lip. “Okay. I’ll hold you to that,” she mutters, then returns inside.

Twenty minutes later, he is sitting in the passenger seat of a car next to Kay, who has only pointed out he seems distracted four times so far, still trying to determine whether the gun at his side feels like a good and reassuring thing or if it makes him feel dirty. His phone buzzes.

“Could you be less alert if you were actively trying, Cassian?” Kay asks drily without averting his eyes from the windshield while Cassian fishes for the phone in his pocket. He doesn’t answer, just glances down at the phone and feels himself smile a little. The mess in his head feels slightly more manageable for the moment.

 

[07:47]
let me know when you’re back?

 

[07:48]
Will do

 


 

 

“The British Army just confirmed twenty-two of their own to be among the hostages –“

“Mister Gerrera has left for the airport early yesterday morning. He has paid for your room up until today. Would you like to prolong your stay, madam?”

“There’s so much I have to tell you, stardust…”

“It’s my lucky charm, Jyn. It will always protect you.”

“I never stopped thinking of you, stardust, I never – not a second I didn’t want to cut and run and find you, you have to believe that, Jyn…”

 “Don’t forget that, stardust. Please don’t ever forget that.”

“I promise, papa…”

“Everything I do, I do to keep you safe, do you understand that?”

“I’m so sorry, Jyn. I’m so sorry.”

“Jyn.”

“Jyn, wake up. Hey. Wake up. Wake up, you’re okay. You’re okay.”

She draws a deep breath, sitting up. It’s dark around her safe for a rectangle of yellow on the floor and something is tightened around her limbs and –

“It’s alright. Come back. Come back. It’s okay.”

There’s a hand on her shoulder and she tries to move away, but her legs are tangled and…

“It’s okay.” The hand tightens around her shoulder. “You were dreaming.”

Soft. She’s sitting on a mattress, and the thing around her legs is just the sheets… She takes another few shaky breaths. She knows this place. She’s at the flat, she’s fine.

“That’s it, that’s it.” He’s just a black silhouette against the light from the hall. “Come here,” he mutters and she lets him pull her close, still trying to catch her breath.

The warmth is good, for the moment, it clears her head; but the stiller the world gets, the bigger the lump in her throat becomes, and she isn’t nearly awake enough to fight the tears.

Gone, Lyra Erso’s blood spreading across the cobbled street, Galen Erso walking away from his crying daughter; sitting alone in a shabby hotel room with the faint sound of explosions in the distance, gun in hand and then the bright light of the explosion…

Gone. All gone now.

He doesn’t say anything, just pulls her a little closer, running a hand over her shoulders. A part of her wants to pull away, curl into a ball and wait for it to be over, shut off, but the bigger part of her wants to succumb to the comfort, and not move at all for as long as possible.

She supposes she’s given in to far worse instincts than this, so she buries her face in the crook of his neck, and stills. It usually passes as quickly as it starts. He mutters something into her hair that doesn’t reach her, voice low and soft.

Jyn draws a few deep breaths and disentangles herself from him, trying to blink away the tears.

He runs a hand over her cheek and smiles faintly. “Better?”

She nods slowly. “Cassian?”

His smile turns a little strained. “Hi.”

Jyn frowns. Did she miss out on three days? She can’t have, can she? Then again –

“I’m confused.”

“You said to tell you that I got back okay,” he replies in a sheepish tone and throws her a lopsided smile.

Okay. So it’s still Tuesday. That’s reassuring. “Bodhi let you in?”

“I met him on my way here. Sorry I woke you, you were –“

“No, I’m glad you did.” She inspects him more closely. “What happened? Why are you here?”

“It went well. All went as planned. And one of our men in Chihuahua got a lot of information on our case from an… an informant, so we made some progress there, too.” He shrugs and throws her a small smile. “So I figured I could come in late tomorrow.”

“Meaning eight AM or…?”

He laughs and buries his fingers in her hair. “I’ve missed you.”

“Good,” she mutters, smiling, and presses a kiss to his wrist. “Now, detective, you can keep kneeling on the floor and ruin your knees or you can shut the door and come to bed.”

He smiles and gets to his feet. “Okay.” He shuts the door and pulls off his jacket. It takes her a moment to realise why he kept it on in the first place – takes her, embarrassingly, until she sees him pull the gun out of the holster and gingerly placing it on the shelf near the bed.

He didn’t want to scare her.

Something warm bubbles up in her chest, spreading all the way to her fingertips.

“Seriously. Come here.”

He laughs softly. “Can I get off my shoes first?”

 


 

When he taps into the kitchen the next morning, sunlight is painting patterns on the kitchen cupboards and Bodhi is standing by the stove, fiddling with the coffee machine.

“Morning,” he says in a strained sort of voice and Cassian grimaces.

“We thought you were out already.”

A wry grin flickers across Bodhi’s face. “I figured.”

“Sorry,” Cassian mutters, tugging at his t-shirt, and throws him a pained smile.

Bodhi shrugs. “Yeah, I own headphones. You want coffee?”

“No, thanks, just…” He reaches for the glasses and a bottle of water, feeling the blush creep up his neck.

Bodhi watches him pour the liquid with a little too much intent, then takes a step towards him and says, very quietly: “Cassian, um, there’s something you should know.”

He pauses, bottle in hand, and leans against the counter, bothered by the sudden change of topic. “There is?”

Bodhi nods, dark eyes too big for his face, darting nervously across the room. “Galen… Galen Erso called –“

“I know he called her, she told me.”

“No, he, uh –“ Bodhi shakes his head repeatedly, rubbing his hands on his jeans. “I mean, yeah, he did, he called her.” He takes another stuttering breath, then says hesitantly: “But he called me, too. Before.”

Cassian blinks, once, twice, and it’s all he can do not to drop the bottle in his hand. “Galen Erso did what?”

Chapter Text

“Come here,” she mutters, eyes half closed, and reaches out a hand. “Don’t even try to argue, Andor, you have ten more minutes. Come here.”

“Alright,” he says softly, placing a glass of water on the bedside table. “Not arguing.” He drops onto the mattress with a sigh and pulls her close, sheets and all.

“Bodhi isn’t at work,” he mutters into her hair and she bursts out laughing, burying her face at his shoulder.

“Whoops. Damn it. I’ll buy him fancy tea or something,” she murmurs and turns her head to press a kiss to his neck. “Worth it, though,” she adds with a slight grin and he gives a pleased hum, eyes shut, but his smile is a little weak, and it fades a little too quickly.

She sighs and buries her fingers in his messy hair. It’s growing long, falling into his eyes. She can’t say she doesn’t like it, it looks good on him; but the soldier in her flinches at the impracticality of it, and another part of her winces because this is just one more sign of the poor care he takes of himself.

“Should I have let you get more sleep?”

At that, his fleeting grin is slightly more convincing. “No. Absolutely not,” he gives back, eyes still closed, and pulls her closer. “I think I needed that.”

She doesn’t fight the smirk pulling at her lips. She noticed that, but then again she was probably every bit as needy, so she can’t really tease him with that even though it’s tempting.

“Good,” she mutters instead, and shifts until she can reach up to kiss him.

He looks up at her, eyes worried and sad and glowing with warmth.

Affection, to him, always seems to be tied to fear and grief, she honestly doesn’t think he can feel one without the other, and seeing that still hurts a little, in good and bad ways – a small, selfish part of her is perversely pleased to see someone so afraid to lose her, even if she doesn’t understand why. She isn’t proud of that thought, but she can’t get rid of it as much as she tries.

“Good,” he answers softly, then sits up with a sigh and gently pushes her off his lap. “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry but… I have to get to work.”

“No,” she cuts him off firmly, climbs out of bed and fishes a t-shirt and a battered pair of trousers off the floor. “You’re eating something first.”

He smiles and shakes his head, reaching for his gun. “Jyn, I’m fine –“

She sighs, takes it out of his hands and pulls him towards the kitchen – no Bodhi, he probably heard them and cleared out. “Yeah, Cassian. And it’s breakfast, not medicine. You don’t just do it when you’re sick. Just in case nobody ever told you that.”

He rolls his eyes at her, but sits down at the chair she’s pointing to.

“Here,” she mutters, putting on a kettle and setting a bowl of cereal and an apple before him. “Healthy shit. Good for you.”

“I’m good, really –“

She flops down on the chair opposite and glares at him until he obediently starts taking a few spoonfuls of cereal.

“Jyn,” he tries again gently after a few more bites. “You don’t have to –“

“Take care of you?” she finishes, brow raised. “I do have to if you won’t do it.” It’s out before she realises the implications of that sentence, and she wants to bite off her own tongue. Oh God, did she just really say that? Damn hormones. She should just learn not to talk for an hour or two after sex, apparently.

She fights the urge to stare at the floor until the embarrassment has passed, because she can’t take it back, but she needs to see if she’s gone too far, though she has no idea what to do if she has.

He sighs and tries to look annoyed, but his eyes look far too soft for it to make an impression.

She can almost taste the relief.

“You don’t have to worry about me. I’m…,” he pauses, eyes her for a moment, considering, then goes on slowly: “Really. Things weren’t… haven’t been this good for a long time.”

She feels a sad smile tugging at her lips. “Are you sure you can even remember a stage where there was no reason to worry about you, Cassian?”

What are you, his therapist? Just shut the hell up, Erso.

He scoffs and finishes the cereal, and doesn’t reply.

“So you’ll talk to Kay, then? About sending someone?” she asks slowly after a long pause, tracing the rim of her teacup with one finger.

Cassian sighs and stares darkly at the apple she’s given him.

“He probably did you a favour, you know?” she presses on softly. She doesn’t want to meddle, but this thing is clearly upsetting him and God knows he’s nothing but stubborn and most definitely capable of making his own life more difficult than it has to be. “If you can prevent something bad from happening now, you know… if he hadn’t looked him up, you wouldn’t even have known.”

He nods, slowly, still not looking up. “I suppose so.”

“Hey,” she mutters and nudges his shin with her bare foot. “It’s gonna be fine, okay?”

He throws his bowl a thin smile and nods, then picks up the apple and gets to his feet. “I’ll eat it on the way,” he says at the dark glance she throws him, smiling faintly.

“You’ll throw it away on the way, huh?” She sighs and leans against doorway, watching him gather his things. Something’s wrong, she thought it was the business with Kay but clearly it isn’t.

He shrugs into his jacket, the gun perfectly hidden from view now – she can see it’s there just by the way he stands now, like he’s always slightly off balance without the extra weight.

He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. “We’re still mostly just waiting for things, so if you… I guess I’ll be out early.”

She frowns. That comes completely out of nowhere, and he sounds hesitant, and worried.

“Okay…?”

“You can call me if you need anything, if you don’t want to be –“

“What’s going on?” she cuts him off, fed up with the beating around the bush. Something is not right, he keeps looking at her like that, like he’s about to tell her someone died or…

“Bodhi –“ He pauses, looks up at her, then goes on in a calmer tone: “Talk to Bodhi, he has something important to tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

He sighs and shoves his hands into his pockets. “He made me promise I’d let him talk to you about that in person.”

She frowns up at him. He’s threading on eggshells, which isn’t something he generally does, except when it’s about –

“What the hell are you two gonna spring on me?” she asks, too quietly, and he grimaces. Her throat feels tight all of a sudden.

“I had nothing to do with it, Jyn. I swear I didn’t. He told me this morning.”

“Told you what?”

“I promised,” he mutters with a rueful, flat smile. His eyes search her face for a moment, then he takes a step towards her, very slowly, like he’s still expecting her to pull away – and a part of her considers it, too, because he is keeping something from her and…  

But she trusts him, not because she has to, but because she wants to, and she has no intention of letting her past ruin that for her, no matter how loudly Saw’s voice is echoing through her head at every turn.

He sighs and pulls her closer, resting his forehead against hers. “Look, Bodhi did something stupid but… he should get a chance to explain,” he mutters and kisses her, gently, his hands cupping her face but barely touching, like she’s something breakable. Breakable isn’t a word she would apply to herself, ever, but somehow… She does feel fragile, lately – she’s edged closer to the cliff and for now, she’s enjoying the view, but she’s very high up, and the fall might break her.

The only good thing is, she knows he understands. She knows he’s feeling the vertigo, too – they’re so alike that it’s almost painful, in those moments when she looks at him and sees herself.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be leaving now but…” He sighs. “I’ll leave you both to it, but, really, if you need anything, you call me, alright?”

She looks up at him, and there it is, just for a second – all her own insecurities and all that grief and caution and guilt, and again she wonders when he stopped hiding all that from her, and if he’s aware how much of it she sees.

“Yeah.”

His eyes are still on hers and he looks like he wants to say something else, then gives an almost imperceptible headshake and kisses her again, roughly, all his previous control lost, until her heads starts to spin.

He is out of the door before she manages anything more than “bye”.

She leans against the wall, staring after him, the world still spinning. She’s so afraid, suddenly, so dizzy and so afraid to fall.

She will. She will eventually, she’s known that ever since she let a guy with sharp dark eyes light her cigarette, even before that, before her father died – she’d been okay for so long. Too long.

She just wasn’t expecting Bodhi to have any part in it; caring, innocent, sweet Bodhi who would never hurt a fly. She thought it would be her. It has always been her, every damn time, and this time she could have just walked away before it was too late. She could have and she didn’t – she had to ask for a bloody lighter and now she’s in far too deep to stop.

 

She closes her eyes for a moment and wills herself to take a few deep breaths, pockets her phone and pulls her hair up, then tries to convince herself that wearing shoes is silly, but does anyway in the pretty vain hope that it’ll put her more at ease.

Bodhi’s standing in the kitchen, fiddling with his goddamn kettle once again.

“Apparently we need to talk,” she announces flatly, and it comes out too loud and too harsh. Bodhi flinches, and the sight stings but she doesn’t apologise. Bodhi did something stupid, Cassian said.

First she needs to get the lay of the land, needs to know what the hell Cassian was on about.

Protect yourself first, Jyn, or you’ll be no use to anyone.

It was Saw who taught her that, and as much as she doesn’t want to heed that man’s advice – it’s kept her alive so far.

He looks at her with those goddamn big dark eyes of his, and she feels bad for snapping at him, but he looks so sorry and something inside her snaps into place, and it’s quiet in her head. Good. She can shut all that nonsense out, deal with it later. She used to be good at that.

“Yes,” he mutters, nodding. “Let’s… tea, okay?”

Bodhi did something stupid. Bodhi did something stupid.

“You’re stalling,” she says slowly and he nods, turning his back on her.

“Yeah. And when you yell at me, I want tea.”

She leans against the doorframe, straightening her back.

“What did he tell you?” he asks, fiddling with the kettle.

“He wouldn’t tell me anything,” she answers quietly. “Just said you fucked up.”

“Yeah,” he whispers, staring at the pot, at his hands, and when he reaches for the tin with the tea, she notices his fingers shaking. “I did.” The kettle starts hissing and spitting, and she can’t hear her breathing over the noise. It bothers her, for some reason – it’s a familiar feeling, a bad feeling, how loud everything seems suddenly.

She sits down at the table and starts picking at where the white paint peels off the table top at the corner while Bodhi fills the pot. The clattering of the cups in his hand is ringing in her ears.

He places a steaming cup in front of her, spilling a little murky tea-and-milk on the white surface, sits down across her, then gets back up.

“Jyn, I –“

She stares down at the cup, fingers clasping around the edge of her seat. She doesn’t know what she’s expecting but… they don’t confess things to each other. It’s not like they tell each other everything but they do not have secrets.

And she doesn’t feel scared, which is the worst, because objectively she knows she is and she doesn’t feel it and –

“Bodhi, whatever it is, just say it.”

He stares down at her with his dark eyes, and nods. “Look, Jyn, I… I wasn’t… I didn’t mean to…”

“Will you just fucking spit it out?”

Bodhi leans against the wall and takes a slow breath. “Okay, um, I’ll… I’ll try to start at the… okay.” His fingers close around the still-steaming cup and some tiny part in her, despite everything, cringes at the sight of it.

“In, uh… In maybe November, last year, I… I got a call. Some guy with a really forgettable name and a bit of an accent, says he’s a psychiatrist for the Army, and they were checking up on me, to do with… you know, the therapy and all, improve procedure for other soldiers. He asks me a bunch of questions, just normal stuff. How I was sleeping at night, if I’m holding a job, if I’m going out, just… just normal.

She finally manages to tear her eyes away from his hands and looks up at him. He’s staring into the murky depths of his tea.

“So it takes about, what, fifteen minutes, and he thanks me and ask if it’d be okay if he calls again, and I like, I have nothing to do, right, so – and well, the same guy calls again, every two weeks or so, and he’s… just nice, you know, he doesn’t ask anything super-personal or out of the ordinary and he listens and… I thought nothing of it. I never used any names or anything, and he never asks about anyone in particular like he’s got special interest in them and…” He sighs and swirls the cup in his hand, still not looking at her, and when he goes on, his voice is very quiet, the words coming out faster and faster until she’s having trouble to keep up. “So in January, week or two after New Year’s, he calls again, asks some more questions, less than the other times, nothing unusual. And then he says, ‘you’re a good person, Bodhi, I’m really grateful for that’. And then he says ‘thank you’ and hangs up, and well, I think that’s fucking weird, right, and I – I was going to tell you about it… I don’t know, something happened and it got away from me and I kind of forgot it happened and –“

“Is there going to be a point to all this?” she asks quietly and he sighs.

“Yeah, I’m –“ He takes a sip from his cup and makes a broken little sound. “Look, couple of days later, you… well, remember how you played me that call on your answerphone? From your father?”

She nods, very slowly. “So?”

“I… I recognised him. His voice,” he says softly. “It was the… the guy who called me, the army guy.”

What? Why the hell would –”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he replies with a nervous little scoff. “And, you – you were so upset and it was such a crazy thought and I just -” He shrugs a little, then adds: “Well, I told myself I was imagining things and, well then he…” He stops, glances up at her, then looks down at his hands again.

“So I… I kept thinking about it, but I wasn’t going to say anything, I mean, even if it’d been him what’d be the point, it wasn’t like anyone could’ve asked him so why was I going to… to add up on your… you already had so many questions unanswered and…”

Jyn stares at him. “So why are you telling me now?”

“Well, I…” He sighs. “You know, I was still wondering if I should tell you or not and you just kept getting worse and… I get a letter maybe a month later, no return address or anything, and it’s just an envelope and… and it’s…” His eyes flicker up at her suddenly, big and dark and shiny and he looks so anxious and beneath the strange state of mind she’s in, somewhere between shock and wanting to hit something, she hates being the cause of it.

“It was from him, and I just… I didn’t know what to do. Like, I wasn’t just going to walk up to you while you’re sat in a dark room at three in the afternoon and say, hey, I know you just had the most terrible thing happen to you but here’s something that will probably make it all even worse…” He runs a hand over his face and mutters: “And then every time I think now might be – then you just decided to go talk to someone about it, and then you were just getting better, and then you were doing so well and I thought now I could… and then the whole thing with Cassian happened and you were so mad at him and you’d just met him and I, I…” He exhales shakily and runs the back of his hands over his eyes. “I swear I don’t know how it happened but suddenly I’d done this thing to you and… and you were going to hate me and I just… you’ve done so much for me and I’m so ashamed and every day I didn’t say anything it just got worse,” he whispers, back to staring at his hands clenched on the table top, knuckles white. “Fuck, I’m… I’m sorry, I had no right, I – I really just didn’t want to see you get hurt anymore.”

He shakes his head, then suddenly he gets up, so quickly he almost tips the chair over, and leaves the room.

Jyn stares after him. She feels like she’s moving through water, or more like she’s standing in a river with a strong current and masses of water are rushing past her. In the corner of her vision, there’s a small, ragged doll lying in a crumpled heap on the ground, and muffled gunshots in the distance somewhere and the ghost of a gun in her hand, and her eyes hurt from the bright explosion and somewhere across the field there are three bold white letters across the mens’ chests and –

Bodhi of all people. It’s almost funny. She wonders how she’s got so careless – it’s different with Cassian, because she knows it’s stupid to trust him… but Bodhi. Damn it, seven years and she never saw this coming, and Saw would be ashamed of her. Saw would have –

He comes back into the room and places an envelope on the table, very gently. She looks up at him, not really seeing anything, then glances down at the white paper.

“Can you say something?” Bodhi asks very softly, and she picks up the envelope and runs her fingers across the edges.

“Okay,” she mutters. The paper is smooth underneath her fingers. “Why the fuck are you telling me now?”

He shrugs a little. “I just wanted to give you a break, Jyn, I – I wanted it to be over for you, you know, but… The, um, when you told me that – that maybe your father had something. Something the cartel wanted. And it, uh, I realised that maybe if he went to the trouble to send a letter as a failsafe maybe there’s something in it that… well, that could help get the people who killed him, and…” He sighs. “So that’s why I asked Cassian about it.”

She scoffs and puts the envelope down. “Yeah. Might be way too late now. It’s been over half a year.”

“I know,” he replies softly, back to clutching his cup. “I – God, Jyn, I – I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry, I –“

“It’s done, Bodhi,” she replies flatly. Her head is empty.

“Yeah, I – I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

She doesn’t think she can stomach hearing him say that even one more time. In fact, she doesn’t think she can take another goddamn word anymore. She needs air, and a few drinks, and a fucking cigarette. She gets to her feet, stuffing the envelope down her pocket and grabbing her keys, a jacket and her gym bag on the way out.

“Jyn –“

She keeps walking.

Chapter Text

She doesn’t check how much it takes until she has finally got herself to a point where her body is as exhausted as the rest of her, but it feels like a long time. She brushes a strand of hair from her forehead, sticky with sweat, stops the sandbag with both hands and rests her head against it for a moment, trying to catch her breath. The muscles in her arms and legs are shaking, and she probably won’t even be able to get up in the morning – then again, that would require her to actually lay down in a bed for the night, and for now, even as she’s feeling pleasantly drowsy and worn out, she doesn’t really see herself go back to the flat in a bit.

No, really not.

She lets go of the bag and starts hitting it again. There’s something calming about the sound, pat pat pat pat pat, left-right-left-right-left. Step back. Kick, low, high, left-left-right-right…

Training with others is more efficient, in a way, keeps her on her toes, but she likes this better. Mothma says it’s about control, but she doesn’t believe that. It’s about feeling her strength without having to be around anybody else, doing what she does well in silence, in her own time.

That, and she couldn’t stand Luke right now, both because he’s so painfully upbeat and because he’s, well, with Bodhi.

Enough for now, she decides, and drops down to stretch. The clock on the wall reads three PM. She sighs and rests her head on her knees, takes deep breaths and stares at her right hand where she’s knocked the skin over her knuckles bloody.

She’s tired, and angry and sad and bored, all at once.

With another sigh, she pushes to her feet and grabs the wipes to clean the smudges of blood off the sandbag, then drags her feet to the shower. She wonders what day it is, and how there aren’t any students around by now.

 

Turns out it’s Chirrut, of course – he doesn’t say anything, but when she comes down the stairs, hair damp and tousled, he smiles at her over his steaming cup of coffee and beckons her closer.

“Have a cup, Jyn,” he says in his usual, cheerful tone.

“No, I –“

“Do you not have time for your old friend anymore?” he gives back and winks at her, and she sighs and joins him at the counter. Soft music is playing from the speakers in the corner. Something about the simple melody and the deep, gentle voice tugs at some half-forgotten place in her heart.

“Fine.” She takes the offered cup, an incredibly delicate little thing that she remembers Baze telling her about - an anniversary gift. The thought makes her smile a little.

“What’s so funny?” Chirrut asks and she shrugs.

“Just trying to imagine Baze holding that cup. He’d crush it.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised.”

Jyn rolls her eyes at his suggestive smirk and shakes her head at him, then takes a tentative sip from her tea.

“Baze’s sister sent it for his birthday,” he replies. “What do you say?”

“Not bad.”

He nods in faux seriousness. “You’d rather it was black.”

“And you’d rather it was green,” she gives back and he laughs, then falls silent, swirling the tea in his cup with great care.

“Still,” she mutters and hands the cup back to him carefully, “not bad for white tea.”

She slips down from her chair and ties up her still-damp hair while he refills his cup, gently swaying to the swelling music.

“Did you know, little sister,” he says suddenly, smiling at her over his cup of tea, “that your name resembles a Mandarin word?”

“No,” she replies in a dull tone, grabbing her bag. “I didn’t.”

“The word means gold,” he adds gently, placing a hand on her forearm. “Your parents named you well.”

Gold. For just a second, she sees the flash of sunlight reflected on the battered watch on her father’s wrist as he points to the periodic table on his wall.

“Do you remember which one stands for gold, stardust?”

Her throat tightens just a little, and she forces a smile, staring at her feet. “I don’t think they knew any Mandarin, Chirrut.”

“Fate, then,” he replies, still smiling. “Did Bodhi tell you what was troubling him?”

She looks up at him and frowns. “You knew?”

“There was something on his mind for a long time now,” he replies, shrugging. “I’m surprised nobody else saw.”

Jyn sighs, half at his thrice-damned omniscience, half at the stupid play on words. “Well, tell me next time, won’t you?”

“It wasn’t mine to tell, little sister,” he replies in his well-practiced sage tone and sips at his tea. “Are you going home?”

“Not going back to the flat, no,” she mutters and slings the bag over her shoulder. “Get a drink somewhere or something.”

Chirrut sighs. “You’re not alone, Jyn,” he says, a rare touch of real seriousness in his voice. “And you won’t be.”

God, she wishes she could believe in that. Again, her throat tightens and her eyes sting a little. She blinks the memory away as best she can and stands up straight.

She picks at the fraying seams of her bag and adds softly: “Thank you. For the tea.”

He nods, his smile back on his face but fainter now, tinged with the sadness he so rarely allows himself. “Anytime.”

 

Six hours, four cigarettes and three drinks later she’s out of cash, out of patience, and overall ready to drop. Which was the idea, of course, but she feels so drained, so empty.

She sighs and stares at the glass on the stained counter. The ice is long molten, watering down the already suspiciously weak vodka. She hasn’t had a drink on her own in a long time, months, in fact. It feels odd, somehow, the taste of the drink on her tongue and no one there watching her, nobody sitting beside her; and what’s more, she misses it. Mothma would be pleased that she’s admitted that to herself, she thinks grimly, turning the glass in her hands. The vodka’s got all warm, and she honestly thinks if she takes one more sip she will throw up. Still, she’s vaguely cold, and there is something creeping up on her that feels suspiciously like sadness.

Fuck it.

She pushes off the counter and makes her way to the door, pulling her thin jacket tighter around her shoulders. It’s past ten at this point, but that at least is not something she has to worry about.

The air outside hasn’t cooled off much and is almost as stuffy as the inside of the bar, and she feels immensely let down by that. She just wanted something to clear her head, for Christ’s sake –

Put yourself the hell together for thirty more minutes, Erso.

She drags her feet to the closest bus stop, drops her bag at her feet, leans against the wall and digs out her phone.

[10:28]
Hi

[10:28]
Are you okay?

[10:29]
I’m okay

You still at work?

[10:29]
No. Where are you?

[10:30]
in the city waiting for the bus

can I come over
?

[10:31]
Of course. Did you have dinner?

[10:31]
not hungry

[10:31]
Okay so you didn’t.

 

She scoffs down at her phone, but feels slightly better by the time the bus pulls up.

When he leaves, an unwelcome voice in her head says softly as she slips into the last row, fingers wrapped around the phone, she is going to regret letting herself get to that level of dependency.

God, she’s scared of that day.

Her reflection in the dirty window looks ghostly pale, and the city is eerily quiet and dark, except for a family walking along the pavement as the bus comes to a stop at a red light. The mother has a picnic blanket tucked under her arm, the man by her side is carrying a little girl on his shoulders.

Jyn fixes her attention on untangling her headphones.

 

He’s waiting in the doorway when she comes down the dismal corridor, dark eyes scanning her from head to foot.

“Hey,” he says softly and closes the door behind her. The lights in his place are off except for the one in the kitchen, documents and pictures in neat stacks taking up the small table.

“Have a seat, I have dinner left,” he mutters and walks past her to the fridge.

“I’m not hungry,” she repeats with a sigh, drops her bag by the door and sits down opposite his stack of files. “What are those?”

He shrugs and piles some food on a plate. “Well, technically I’m employed to co-ordinate our office with Mexico, so they give me some of their mission reports to sort through for stuff that concerns us.”

She smiles faintly, aligning one of the stacks with the edge of the table. “So what do you do if I just read them now while you’re making food I don’t want?”

He puts the plate and a glass of water on the table and returns her smile. “Wait until you get bored, I suppose. They’re not, um… very exciting. Do you want bread?”

“I’m not –“

“Eat a little, okay,” he cuts her off softly and she sighs and pulls the plate towards her.

He takes a seat across the table, his smile slowly fading from his lips, then suddenly he frowns and reaches out to catch her hand, thumb tracing along the edge of her grazed knuckles.

“What happened?”

She shrugs a little. A part of her wants to pull her hand out of his grip and tell him it’s nothing, the part that tells her that her hunger for touch has surpassed dangerous and gone straight to absolutely catastrophic.

His hands are warm against her skin though, so she doesn’t pull away.

“Training. It’s fine.”

He sighs, gets to his feet again and disappears into the bathroom for a moment. When he returns with disinfectant and a little bottle of ointment, she throws him a dark look and returns to stabbing at her food.

“Cassian, I said it’s

“I heard you. I want to,” he replies, throws her a faint smile and reaches for her hand. “May I?”

 She rolls her eyes and holds it out to him. “Fine. Knock yourself out.”

“I never understood that expression,” he says lightly as he dabs disinfectant onto her knuckles. It stings a little, but mostly it feels very strange to have this done by someone else – she’s always been the one to take care of her wounds, alone in a room, like something shameful to be hidden away.

“Yeah, no idea,” she mutters, watching him work with light, experienced movements.

“You’ve done this before.”

He shrugs and rubs a little ointment over the grazed skin. “At the orphanage. Kids got into fights, fell during a football game. The little ones liked us better than the social workers, so...”

Jyn smiles faintly at the mental image.

Cassian sighs and runs a thumb over the back of her hand. “Are you really alright?”

“Don’t know,” she answers quietly, avoiding his eyes. It’s hard to tell – she feels upset, deep down, but she can’t even put her finger on why, if it’s the fact that she’s suddenly carrying her father’s last words in her pocket or the fact Bodhi kept them from her after everything they’ve been through or –

She’d just like to not think about it at all, preferably.

A wry little smile flickers over his features and he nods. “You don’t have to talk about it, if –“

“Good,” she mutters and gets up to put her plate away. “Let’s not, then.” It comes out too sharp, too harsh. She sighs, wipes her fingers on the kitchen towel and rests a hand on his shoulder. “I’m just… very much for not talking right now.”

He links his fingers with hers and presses a kiss to her palm. “D’you want to sleep?”

Sleep sounds tempting, but then again… she can almost hear her father’s voice with every little rustle of the paper in her pocket, and she thinks she’ll see him too if she closes her eyes, so she shakes her head.

“No.”

His eyes flicker over her face, then he gets to his feet and tugs at her hand, gently. It’s more an invitation than a request, really, and that more than anything is what makes her cave in. She’s making herself vulnerable, and after today she should really know better, but she’s just so tired, and so cold. So she takes a step forward and rests her head against his shoulder, and he pulls her closer, fingers balling to fists in her shirt.

He’s warm, a palpable barrier against the emptiness gnawing at the fringes of her thoughts, and that seems enough to shove away the guilt for now.

“I just wanted this to be over,” she whispers and he runs a hand up and down her back.

“I know,” he mutters into her hair. “Did you read it?”

She shakes her head. “I don’t know if I even want to.”

He runs his fingers through the loose strands of hair around her face. “You don’t have to, Jyn.” He sighs. “Alright. What do you need?”

Jyn makes an attempt at a smile that doesn’t turn out too well. “Distraction. I want distraction.”

 

“Apparently my name sounds like a Chinese word,” she mutters, pulling the sheets over her shoulders, and links her fingers with his.

“What word?” he asks with a faint smile, and she scoffs.

Gold. According to Chirrut, anyway. He might’ve made it up though, knowing him.”

He looks… odd, for a moment, distant, then his smile widens.

“What?”

“Nothing, I…,” he shakes his head, then adds, after a moment: “It’s… it’s accurate.”

She frowns at him, wondering if he’s making some kind of joke. “Accurate?”

He nods, biting at his lower lip, and untangles their fingers to run a hand through her hair. “There’s some gold in your eyes,” he adds quietly. “It’s very distracting.”

She snorts. “Have you been sampling the goods at the office, detective?”

He grins but shakes his head, fingers tightening in her hair and pulling her closer. “There is. You can see it in the right light.”

“God, you’re such a sap,” she mutters against his lips in a feeble attempt to hide the fact it sends a shiver down her spine – the mere idea of someone looking at her so closely, and the idea of having let someone look so closely. Her chest tightens a little, but she makes a point of not letting him see it.

He smiles faintly – she feels it more than she sees it, and something about that too tears at her heart. She hates her brain for doing this, cataloguing every tiny little thing she’ll miss when it’s gone, it’ll just make everything so much worse, but she can’t help herself.

Her throat is tight again, and she closes her eyes to stop the stinging.

The sensible thing, at this point, would probably be to start talking to Mothma about the subject. About him.

But she can’t, she won’t. This is so private, so precious, and she instinctively wants to hold it all as close as she can, press it to her chest like that ragged little doll she used to have - like a stupid child who thinks that’ll mean nobody can take it from her.

There’s a broken little sound she can’t quite swallow down in time, and he sighs softly and runs a thumb over her cheek.

“It’s not just your father, is it?”

“No,” she gives back softly, and he nods.

“Okay,” he mutters, pulling her closer, and her fingers ball up in his shirt against her will.

“I’m scared,” she breathes into the fabric.

“Of what?”

She falls silent, unsure what to say, if she should even say anything at all, then she gets out, barely audible:

“Being left behind, I guess. Losing... losing my balance.”

“Jyn –“

God damn it, she knows that kind of voice. That voice that’s so full of warmth and hurt and that at some point, soon, will say those words that she still dreams about, that she’s heard too often –

You will be safer without me.

She pushes away so she can look at him, properly. “No, look, I – I know you care about me, and that’s… I –“ She pauses, closes her eyes. This sentence isn’t going anywhere. She doesn’t have any ways to express any of that feeling.

“Jyn.”

She shakes her head and starts over. “I know you care and I know you think I’m better off without you because everyone who ever cared about me seems to think that, and maybe I am. But it’s my choice, and not yours, and you don’t get to make it for me.”

He looks at her, something hard twitching around his lips, and she sighs and reaches out to touch the corners of his mouth where the hardness sits.

“Hey. I know. I know you’re afraid. But…” She closes her eyes and smirks at how incredibly sappy she of all people suddenly sounds, even just in her head, but says it anyway. “I don’t think we would be… if it wasn’t worth it at least a little, right?”

He meets her hard gaze with his own and catches her hand. “I… I don’t know how often I need to have this conversation,” he mutters and she smiles faintly.

“I’ll set some time aside. But no more than once a month.”

He laughs a little and pulls her closer, biting his lip. “Jyn, I –“

She cuts him off with a kiss, long and hard, before he can go on, because this entire conversation is far too much already, for both of them. It’s easier to get lost in this, in skin and warmth and a pulse underneath her fingers, limiting her focus to tracing along a jawline or –

He sighs against her lips, smiling, and returns her kiss for a little while, then pulls away. “God, Jyn, don’t you get tired?”

She hums and rests her head on his shoulder. She is tired, but she’s scared of her dreams.

“Tell me something,” she mutters.

“What?”

“Don’t know,” she murmurs, tracing a finger along the line of his collarbone. “What’s something you’ve never done in your life?”

With a strange look on his face, he answers, quietly: “This. Never done this.”

“What, sex?” she gives back with a grin, which is the cheap, easy way out, but that’s what this was supposed to be. Easy distraction.

“You’re doing pretty good for that, then.”

Cassian scoffs and rolls his eyes at her. “No, not – I’ll take it.”

“Never?”

He shrugs a little. “Not really, no. Guess I never lay low long enough.” He smiles faintly and thinks for a while. “Um… skiing. I’ve never done that. You?”

“Skiing?” She nods. “Yeah, a few times. Snowboarding, mostly, though.”

“That’s cool.”

“It’s fun,” she mutters, continuing her traces down his arm. “You should try it someday. Okay, well… um, let me - Never bought flowers, like, in a shop.”

He smiles wryly. “I stole them, sometimes. From gardens, maybe a rose at the market. Not from other graves or anything. I don’t think they would’ve… approved, but it didn’t feel right, going to the grave and not leaving anything.”

“Wonder what that’s like,” she mutters numbly. “Visiting the graves.”

“It helps, sometimes,” he says slowly, after a while. “In some ways.” He sighs and buries his fingers in her hair. “I… Sometimes I’m not sure if I remember my father’s face,” he adds, very softly.

Jyn almost laughs. “I’ve wished I could forget it. A lot of times.”

“Yes,” he murmurs. “I think I wanted to forget it, too. I blamed him for what happened. I don’t know if I hate him. I used to tell myself I do.”

“Used to?”

“It was his fault,” he replies softly. “It was. But I guess…” He pauses for a moment, then adds: “I guess I understand. He couldn’t help it.”

She sighs and links her fingers with his. “It can be hard on your own.”

“Yes,” he mutters and presses a kiss to her hair. “We should sleep a bit, Jyn.”

“Probably,” she replies darkly, but slips into a pleasant numb haze almost instantly to her own pleasant surprise. At least for a few hours.

 


 

 

“The boy won’t eat,” abuela says indignantly over her shoulder, like Cassian wasn’t sitting right in front of her. “You tell him. Maybe he’ll listen to his father at least.”

Inés,” mamá says softly, but his grandmother doesn’t budge.

“He’s six years old, Juana, and he’s behaving like a baby.”

His father sighs, hangs his worn jacket over his chair and crouches down next to Cassian, who fixes his eyes on his plate.

“What’s wrong, son? I thought this was your favourite.”

“I’m not hungry,” he mutters.

His father throws him a small, conspiratorial smile. “Eat a little, eh? We don’t want your abuela to think you don’t like her food anymore.”

Cassian sighs and looks up at his father, at the face that everyone says will be his one day. Papá looks tired, as always, but the smile is still there.

“Didn’t you hear what happened?” he asks quietly. “I was… I was supposed to –“ His voice cracks, despite his best efforts. “I was supposed to look out for him and –“

“Oh, dear Lord,” his grandmother mutters. “We found Marco, didn’t we, and he’s safe and sound and asleep in his bed, Cassian.”

Cassian makes himself look at his father. “I’m sorry, papá,” he whispers.

Javier sighs and puts a hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, kid. It’s all good now. Don’t let it happen again, mh?”

“I won’t.”

His father gets to his feet and runs a hand through Cassian’s hair. “Eat something, Cassian.”

He walks around the table and drops down onto his chair, throwing abuela a worn smile as he takes a plate from her. “Thank you. Sorry I’m so late.”

“How is it going?” mamá asks softly and he nods.

“We’re close. Two more weeks of keeping this under wraps maybe, then we can publish.”

Cassian’s food has got a little cold, but he feels better than he has since he and abuela lost sight of his brother on the market this morning.

His mother smiles at him over her glass of wine.

 

He wakes, not with a start but slowly, the warm memory trickling through his fingers like water.

Once it’s gone, he stares into the darkness, feeling oddly empty and yet a little less broken, all at once; and his throat tightens and he can’t tell if it’s for grief or relief.

Jyn shifts a little in her sleep and he turns to bury his nose in her hair.

You look just like your father when he was your age, he thinks, and we become our parents.

Chapter Text

He wakes to the gentle shuffle of the sheets, her knees pressing into his back. He turns to find her leaning against the wall, sheets haphazardly pulled up to cover her bare legs, in the t-shirt he wore the night before, her hair tied up at the nape of her neck.

She’s very still.

It takes a moment for him to notice the piece of paper in her lap, and wake up enough to put two and two together.

He can’t think of anything to say, so he reaches out to place his hand on her arm; he tries to do it slowly, but makes her jump anyway.

She glances at him, just for a moment, with an empty sort of look. Cassian slowly pushes himself up to sit next to her, staring at the dirty white wall opposite.

“You okay?”

She takes a breath, then exhales, slowly. “You should see this.”

He can feel his fingers tense on her arm, just a little. “Jyn –“

“Not – not because of… well, this,” she mutters, vaguely nodding towards his hand on her arm, then runs a hand over her face. “Just ‘cause… DEA should see it.”

He reaches for the letter in her hand, very slowly. “You sure?” he asks quietly, but she just nods, resting her head against the wall, still with that blank look on her face.

There is no dear Jyn, no my dear daughter, just, somewhat appropriately –

I don’t know where to start.

Cassian sighs, and looks up from the narrow, untidy writing. This is too private, and he shouldn’t be reading this. “Which part?”

She vaguely indicates a sentence somewhere in the middle. “That bit, there.”

that I couldn’t stop them, but I could try to hurt them, play the long game. I have wanted to give up, Jyn, but this is what I could do, and as long as I stayed close to them I could try to make you safe. Krennic has grown to trust me a lot more than he should. For years, I have been collecting names, figures, location and pictures, anything I could get my hands on that might hurt these people. I’ve put all of this information into a bank vault in El Paso - the bank believes I’ve locked some valuable heirlooms there, and they cannot access it without the password. Taking these pictures was a big risk and I doubt I’ll be able to hide from Krennic for long, so if I am not there to do this, you will be able to open that vault. Take this letter to the DEA, tell them I stole evidence linking both Krennic and Tarkin to known traffickers and corrupt officials. I tried to keep that bank vault secret, but I don’t know for sure that Krennic doesn’t keep an eye on it, so for God’s sake do not go there on your own. I know I have no right to ask this of you, and I don’t expect you to – just give them this letter. Or throw it away, if you don’t want to. Don’t risk this life you’ve built, Jyn, not for my sake –

He scams the rest of the letter and finds an address and an account number near the bottom, though no password. He stares at the writing, the smeared pen, and wishes he could come to some other conclusion, but… no sugar-coating. Not for her.

He puts down the letter and catches her looking at him. God damn it, she looks so lost, and he has to bite down a surge of anger at Galen Erso. His daughter doesn’t deserve this.

His fingers itch to pull her closer, but he doesn’t want to startle her, so he stays still and just hands her the letter back.

“Well?” she asks, very softly, and he sighs.

“This, uh… this is something to wake up to,” he mutters, avoiding her eyes.

“You don’t believe him.”

He shakes his head. “No, I – Doesn’t matter what I believe, Jyn, it’s just…” He gets to his feet. “I’ll make us coffee, okay?”

“Cassian –“

“I’ll make coffee,” he says, grabbing his jeans off the floor and making his way into the kitchen.

“I don’t want coffee, I want you to answer my question.” She tags after him and sits down at the kitchen table, eyeing him closely. “Do you believe him or not?”

Cassian sighs and stares at the coffee maker. “I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, Jyn,” he repeats gently. “They’re not going to go for this.”

“Why not?”

He pours the coffee and sits down opposite her.

“Because this could easily be a set-up, and even if it’s not… it’s been a long time since he wrote that letter, so even if there was anything in that bank there’s no guarantee it’s still there, and they won’t risk sending agents in the middle of Krennic’s territory with so little to go on.”

Jyn shakes her head and gets to her feet, letter still in hand. “No, but – what if it is still there? They killed him for this, Cassian, it has to have been important, I can’t let that be for nothing –“

“Jyn,” he begins, but she cuts him off.

“No, look, you of all people can’t tell me it’s not worth the risk,” she says flatly, fixing him with a dark glare. “You keep saying you aren’t getting anywhere, and this might just be sitting there –“

He grimaces. “They won’t go for it, Jyn. They just won’t.”

“You can’t know that until we try to –“

“Jyn, you can’t even prove this is his handwriting,” he says softly. “You were eight when he left. Let alone the fact you’re legally dead and you’d have to prove he’s your father in the first place, and even if they did believe that… this could still just be the cartel throwing us for a loop. They won’t go for it.”

She scoffs, fixing him with a hard glint in her green eyes. “My father died for this, and you’re telling me to do nothing?”

Cassian sighs and wraps his fingers around his coffee cup. “I didn’t say that. I just mean… this is nowhere near as simple as he thought it would be. They’re never going to believe you.”

She shakes her head. “He had no reason to lie! What’d be the point of that?”

“Jyn, look – I don’t believe he’s lying,” he says gently. “I really don’t. From where I’m standing, it makes perfect sense, but…” He grimaces and shoves her cup towards her. “Jyn, come on, sit down. Please.”

She still eyes him with that hard, defiant look on her face, but slowly sits down at the table and picks up the cup of coffee.

“Again, it makes sense from my point of view,” he repeats quietly, “but from my boss’s point of view, Galen Erso’s daughter is dead and I believed that you are who you say you are because I wanted to sleep with you. From his point of view, I believe that letter because I am sleeping with you, and because I’m desperate for any kind of progress in getting Tarkin because trying to get him convicted almost got me killed, and my psychiatrist probably thinks I am fixating on Tarkin due to the paranoid schizophrenia that she diagnosed me with.” He runs a hand over his face and sighs deeply. “Neither one of us is a credible source, Jyn. They will not go for it.”

She grits her teeth and shrugs. “I’ll try it anyway.”

He looks up at her, takes in the defiant determination on her face, and caves in.

“I can… I can try to give it to my boss, tell him it came from a CI I can’t give up… though that won’t exactly make it more attractive to him.”

Jyn frowns down at her coffee, idly spinning the cup in her hands. “CI, huh? What’s that short for again?”

Jyn-“ He grimaces, but sees her wry smile, eyes still on a stain on the table, and shuts up again.

“Well, guess it applies.”

Cassian has seen this before, too many times – she’s grieving and angry, and nothing he says will sit right with her for now, and there’s no use in trying, but…

“That’s not what I think of you, Jyn,” he says gently, even though it just gets him a little scoff just as he thought.

He drinks his coffee and watches her for a while, but she doesn’t look up.

“Look, that’s what I can try. Do you want me to try?”

Jyn’s cup keeps spinning. “I don’t know if trying is…” She sighs, shrugs, stares at her hands. “You really think they wouldn’t believe me?”

Cassian grimaces. “No. They won’t believe you, there’s no proof. You’d just sacrifice your safety for nothing. There’s no guarantee this will work, but… if they’ll go for anything, they’ll go for this.”

Her finger traces idly over the paper for a while. “Okay,” she says then, though she doesn’t sound convinced. “Try it.”

He nods. “Alright. I’ll try.”

Jyn finishes her coffee and grimaces a little when she swallows it down. “Thanks,” she mutters, throwing him a half-baked smile, and returns her eyes to her cup.

“Hey.” He slowly reaches for her hand on the table. “Jyn.”

“I’m okay,” she says softly, glancing up at him. “I’m handling it.”

She looks a little shaken, but there’s still that determined glint in her eyes, and she’s sitting up straight.

He closes his hands around hers, smiling a little. “Good.”

She scoffs. “You get good at it, don’t you? Sucking it up.”

Cassian shrugs a little and runs his thumb over the back of her hand. “I guess. More coffee?”

 


 

 

“I like you, capitán,” Draven says drily, looking up at him. “I believe you know that.” He sighs and taps the paper on his desk. “But this is… well, there’s a roughly eighty percent chance it’s some kind of trap, either because they want to make us look stupid or because they just feel like blowing up a few DEA agents. Either way…” Draven shakes his head. “Do you trust that source, Andor?”

“Yes.”

“And since when do you have CIs I don’t know about?”

Cassian throws his boss a wry smile. This is going exactly as he thought it would, which is not promising.

“And you’re not willing to give them up because they’re in danger, or because I would not trust them if you told me who it was?”

He grimaces. “Both, I suppose.”

Draven nods slowly, brows raised. “I suppose you know my answer to your suggestion we send our agents into a bank within spitting distance of the border that a handful of cartel members go to, based on a single statement by a source you are not willing to disclose, and that I take responsibility for that suicide mission, capitán.”

Cassian grimaces and shrugs. “I know how it sounds, sir. But I had to try and run this by you. If this is true, it could get us Krennic. Maybe even Tarkin.”

“The chances of it being true are astronomical, capitán. I thought you knew how this works by now.”

Cassian sighs and stares at the bogus report he typed up. He could try for the truth, since this isn’t working, but –

He gets to his feet, adjusting the gun at his side, and nods. “Had to try, sir.”

Draven frowns up at him, then his features smoothen and he sighs. “I had hoped that therapist would teach you to make things a little easier for yourself, Andor,” he says quietly, and Cassian can’t help but laugh.

“Thank you for your time,” he replies sarcastically and walks out.

“Was this about Chihuahua?” Kay asks and gestures towards Draven’s office when Cassian passes his desk.

“No,” he replies absent-mindedly, shoving the report into his back pocket. He’ll have to burn that when he gets back to his apartment. Most of it is half-truths, but still, he can’t leave it lying around…

“Alright then.” Kay gets up from his chair and grabs a bunch of documents off his desk, the sudden movement startling Cassian back to the present.

“Kay,” he says softly, catching his colleague by the sleeve, “about the… about the grave, did you –”

 “Yes, I sent an old contact of mine who lives in the area,” he replies with a small sigh, readjusting the stack of files in his arm. “He saw him yesterday.”

“Did you –“

“I only told him what he needed to know,” Kay says patiently. “That the man is visiting an undercover cop’s grave in Juárez. He didn’t ask for further explanation, so I suppose that level of idiocy speaks for itself.”

Cassian feels his fingers twitch, but doesn’t say anything. “And?”

Kay scoffs. “And nothing. He said he knows the risk and doesn’t care. Carlos tried to convince him it was too dangerous, but… well, I’m starting to see where you get your manners from.”

Cassian raises a brow, rapidly growing impatient with his friend. “Meaning?”

“Replies were, I quote, it’s none of your business, what the hell do you care, try and stop me, and, upon further insistence, fuck off.

Rationally, he knows this is bad news, and even on a more emotional level it’s tearing at his heart, but he smiles faintly nonetheless.

You honestly have to stop talking like that to people, Cassian, because nobody’s ever gonna give you a job if you keep swearing all the fucking time.

“So practice what you preach, asshole,” he mutters under his breath, still grinning, then shakes his head and looks up to find Kay frowning at him.

“I’m sorry, are you talking to me?”

“What? No, no.” He sighs and pats his colleague on the shoulder. Kay looks a little alarmed at this point.

“Thank you, Kay.”

Kay nods, still looking mildly concerned, and steps back towards his desk to put down the files in his hands. “He isn’t going to stay away. Actually, Carlos suggested we might have encouraged him to go.”

He sighs again. “We have three more months to come up with something.”

Kay looks up at him from behind his desk. “You’re going to have to tell him, Cassian.”

“You’re not telling him anything.”

Kay frowns a little. “Well, no. Clearly he wouldn’t believe you’re alive unless he heard it from you. I said you have to contact him.”

“I won’t do that,” he answers softly. “I can’t do that.”

“There is no logical reason for you not to.”

“Of course there is,” he snaps. “I’m supposed to be dead, Kay. Dead people do not call their childhood friends.”

Kay throws him a pointed look. “We can scramble your signal. We have government funding at our disposal.”

He scoffs. “And let half a dozen extra people know I’m calling someone I shouldn’t? That is a great idea.”

Kay sighs. “You’re being ridiculous, Cassian. Even if there were corrupt people involved in –“

“I know that for a fact, stop saying if.”

“… even if there are, why would anybody be looking for a dead Mexican cop suddenly deciding to talk to a man he hasn’t contacted since graduation?”

“I – Jesus, are you really this…” He groans. “I am not worried they are watching my end, I am worried they are watching his. I’m not risking it, Kay, end of story.”

Kay looks like he wants to say something else, but Cassian shakes his head.

The thing is, he wants to agree. And maybe he should, maybe he’s being paranoid, maybe it’s stupid. But he's already allowing himself so much risk, and this is a choice he made back when he was strong and angry enough to face the consequences, back when he was true to his word, and what kind of terrible person would he be if he let himself break the one promise he managed to keep in his life? Besides –

“Can’t sleep?”

Cassian frowns down at the boy standing in front of his bed in the dark. He’s taller than Cassian, a year older, too, and other than the fact they seem to share a room now, Cassian doesn’t see a reason why he’d get up at night to talk to him.

“I’m not tired,” he replies, a little sharper than he intended.

The other boy’s face is almost completely cast in shadow. He’s told Cassian his name when he showed him around three days ago, but he didn’t make a point of remembering it and now it’s too late to ask.

“It’s pretty cold in here,” he says in his warm voice. Cassian doesn’t trust him. He’s given him no reason to be nice to him.

“I know where Anna keeps the spare blankets. I don’t think she would know if we took one.”

Still, maybe there is no reason for him to be nice, but there’s no reason why he would lie, either, right?

“I’m not cold,” he concedes, and when the other boy doesn’t return to his own bed at that, he adds slowly: “I just can’t see the door if I lie down.”

He looks confused. “See the door?”

Cassian nods and gestures towards the mattress above. “It blocks the view.”

“Why do you want to see the door?” he asks, frowning at him.

“Someone could come in,” he explains quietly. “That way I’ll see them first.”

“Everyone else here is asleep, Cassian,” the boy says slowly, frowning at him.

“I don’t mean the people here,” Cassian answers quietly, eyes flickering back to the door. “The people papá was writing about.”

The other boy looks at him, clearly trying to understand, then after a moment shrugs faintly and nods towards his own bed. “You can see the door from my bed. We can switch.”

“Are we allowed?” Cassian asks quietly, and the other boy smiles a little.

“Probably not. But if we just don’t ask, they’ll probably never find out.”

Cassian looks up at the other boy in surprise. His eyes are a very light colour, Cassian notices suddenly, even in the semi-darkness of the room.

“Really?”

The boy shrugs and switches his pillow for Cassian’s. “I don’t mind.”

For the time, Cassian wonders if maybe he really is just being nice to him.

“Thank you,” he says slowly, and the other boy smiles faintly.

“Gael,” he supplies quietly, and Cassian gives back, out of reflex and in a far too defiant voice:

“I know.”

The older boy’s bright eyes clearly see straight through his lie, but he doesn’t say anything else.

Kay clears his throat, frowning at him. “Cassian?”

The good thing is, these memories don’t make him as dizzy as snippets from his childhood used to lately, or at least this one doesn’t. But there’s something small and heavy in the pit of his stomach at the thought and –

A piano teacher. For the daughter. He shouldn’t have looked, he shouldn’t know that, but… The girl is six now. When she was born, he was with the army, training with a precision rifle. A part of him wants to know her name.

If staying away has made any difference, even the slightest – then the answer is no. And her father would agree. There has to be some other way, and if he has to find a way to close the entire goddamn graveyard down.

“No. It’s my decision. You said you won’t go behind my back again.”

“Yes. I did. But you’re not being reasonable –”

Cassian glares at his colleague. “Kay. I said no.”

His colleague frowns at him, then nods. “Well, like I said, I can’t do anything anyway. But I really do not believe there is another solution to this, Cassian.”

He sighs. “I’d just really like an option that doesn’t make things worse,” he mutters and nods towards the files. “What are those?”

“They sent back the report from Chihuahua, I was supposed to give it to Kes for translating,” Kay replies with a shrug, “but well, we did not have a lot to do, so I’ll just drop it off with Antilles right away.”

He nods. “Can you forward me the original?”

“On your desk,” Kay answers, collecting the files back into his arms. He sighs and turns to leave, then stops in the doorway and adds in a quiet voice: “I do not believe this is your fault, Cassian.”

Cassian frowns at him, taken by surprise. “I –“

“What you did was reasonable, well, to a degree. This turn of events was just… unfortunate,” Kay says and Cassian smiles faintly.

“Thank you, Kay.” He pauses, then forces himself to add: “I’m sorry about… I know you wanted to help, and I shouldn’t have blamed you for what’s happened. It’s… probably for the best, after all.”

Kay nods. “Yes, it probably is.” He glances at the clock on the wall and sighs. “Goodnight, Cassian.”

“We should get a beer soon,” Cassian says, which is a feeble attempt, but he’ll let it count.

“Is that your old definition of soon or the new one?” Kay replies with faint sarcasm, and leaves the office before Cassian has a chance to reply.

A part of him likes the idea, somehow – of there being a before and an after.

He hesitates for a moment, watching his friend go, then shakes his head at himself. He can’t go this alone, even though it might feel safer, and Kay – he can count on Kay.

“Kay. Wait.” He starts after his colleague, file in hand. “Are you free after work?”

His colleague raises a brow. “I don’t have anywhere to be.”

“Good,” he mutters and tries for a smile. “I found something you should see, and I’ll, um, I think I’ll need your help.”

Chapter Text

“How have you been, detective?”

“I haven’t had the urge to shoot anybody, so you don’t have to be concerned,” he says quietly and she raises a brow.

“How reassuring. You look tired. How are you sleeping?”

“I’ve had a long night.”

“Does that mean things have improved for you at work?”

Cassian smiles a little. “In a way.”

Mothma returns his smile and leans back in her chair. “If you are going to respond to all my questions in a sentence or less, I could just mail you a questionnaire the next time. Did you get those meds I prescribed you?”

“I did.”

“Have you taken any?”

“No.”

She sighs. “Have you had any attacks this last week, then?”

He shakes his head, careful not to move his hands and keep his face blank. He’s not lying, strictly; he just doesn’t feel like telling her about the fact he chose not to sleep at all last night. How after Kay left he got out the list of names hidden in the back of his closet, stared at it for a long time, ran his fingers along the worn edges of the cheap, yellowing paper.

That part was sentimental. The part where he sat down to write an actual detailed report was not, but still, part of the plan or not –

Writing up almost everything he knows about the woman he spends all his time thinking about is exactly the kind of sick he has come to expect of himself.

“We had a talk about your relationship some time ago, detective,” Mothma says, smiling faintly. “I seem to remember you having that exact look on your face. So we could talk about that again, perhaps. Did you speak to her about it?”

“She agrees with you.”

“And are you going to respect that choice?”

“I think I can help her,” he answers slowly. “And maybe when she’s better, she can make the choice to spare herself the pain.”

“Or maybe you can learn to stop punishing yourself, detective.”

He returns her smile and shrugs. “I suppose we’ll wait and see.”

“A stalemate. How romantic.”

He scoffs. “Did you really expect us to be?”

“Not her so much,” she gives back with a faint smile, and taps her pen to the cover of her notebook. “Are you happy with where you are, detective? With her?”

He scoffs. “I think I’m incredibly lucky to be anywhere.”

She raises a brow. “That sounds like a no to me.”

Well, the thing is – they are at a stalemate. There’s no moving forward, because any further step would mean…

He’d bite off his tongue before he says anything, before he so much as thinks the words. Everyone he ever said them to is dead.

Even if he’s not strong enough for anything else – it’s ridiculous, and superstitious, he knows that, but it’s a risk he’s not prepared to take.

“I’m not very good at being happy, doctor,” he says with a shrug, “maybe this is just as good as I get.”

Mothma eyes him for a while, then sighs. “As long as you believe that, I’m afraid it is.”

Her blue eyes are still on his, and he wonders if she intends that as a challenge, and feels a sardonic smile tug at his lips.

“I could do without the motivational poster quotes, ma’am,” he says drily, and his therapist puts her notebook down with a resigned nod.

“You’re enjoying it, sometimes, aren’t you?” she asks with a faint smile.

“Enjoying what?”

“Being difficult.”

Cassian laughs. “Well, I’ve been told I’m very good at it, so…”

She raises a brow. “Told by whom?”

“My grandmother, all the time,” he replies with a shrug, and his insides only clench a little at the memory. “People at the orphanage, the social workers mostly, and the psychologist that did those group therapy things with us. And… my boss is probably about to start saying it.”

Mothma’s blue eyes are sharp and serious again. “But they didn’t tell you that when you were intentionally annoying them, were they?”

“I’m pretty sure I was trying to get on my grandmother’s nerves, doctor. I was six, and probably annoyed because she didn’t let me play football with the other kids or something.”

“What about the people at the orphanage?”

“I didn’t really understand what they wanted me to do,” he replies with a shrug. “Apparently it wasn’t what I was doing.”

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing. I was just keeping my head down, I hardly ever spoke to any of them. I guess it’s just what they said when we got in their way.” He is probably handing her something here, so he adds: “One of the priests was just really afraid some of us might be gay, so I suppose he said that to everyone who didn’t punch anyone at least once a day. So he did this a lot.”

It’s not a lie, but he’d feel better walking out of this place knowing she thinks some of his issues spring from some repressed sexuality conflict. He imagines she could find a Freudian thing there, which is probably a cool thing for her, and he’d feel less transparent under her gaze.

Win-win, basically.

“Just you?”

“No. But more than the others, for a while,” he mutters, dropping his eyes to his hands. “He stopped, though.”

“He stopped?”

“Yes,” he replies and shrugs. “Maybe he caught me looking after our Spanish teacher or something like that.” There was a suspicious correlation between the moment that happened and a long straight bruise appearing on his friend’s shoulder, along with a habit of touching his cheekbone and snapping at people for a handful of days. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it, so Cassian never asked. He did wonder, though, how he’d shut the man up, because the mere fact he hit a teenager sure as hell wouldn’t have been enough for blackmail.

Mothma nods slowly and makes a note in her book. “Do you mind talking about your time at the orphanage, detective?”

“No.”

She looks up at him, eyeing him closely. “You told me a while ago that you didn’t feel safe there.”

“I don’t really feel safe anywhere, ma’am. It wasn’t their fault.”

“Would you say you liked it there?”

He shrugs. “It was alright. I liked it, sometimes, yes. It wasn’t home. There was no way it could have been.”

Mothma nods. “Of course not.” She notes something, then adds casually: “You were there for a long time.”

“I would have left if they’d let me,” he gives back drily and, to his annoyance, she makes another note.

“You don’t have a lot to say about it, though.”

“Not a lot happened.” He glances up at the clock on the wall. “Are we done, ma’am?” 

Mothma sighs. “That depends, detective. You seem nervous. Are you going to tell me why?”

Cassian smiles. “No. Active case.”

“I’m asking what you find upsetting about it, detective, not details of the investigation.”

He shakes his head. “I am not talking about an active case.”

She closes her book and leans back in her chair. “For someone who keeps everyone around you at a distance that meticulously, you’re trying to protect a lot of people, aren’t you?”

He throws her a wry smile. “Isn’t that the point of a cop, ma’am?”

“Whoever they are, Mr Andor, I doubt they need protection from me,” she gives back gently and Cassian shakes his head.

“I know that. It’s not the point.” He gets to his feet, and swallows the thank you, ma’am on the tip of his tongue. He doesn’t need her calling his boss because she thinks he’s about to do something stupid.

Because, well, he’s about to do something stupid, and he’d rather not have Draven know that until it’s done.

“Goodbye.”

“See you next week, detective.”

He nods and walks out with unhurried steps, making sure not to smile at Sandra when he says goodbye to her on his way out, because he never does.

 


 

She’s helping Chirrut’s students put away the equipment when he comes in. A part of her wonders, not for the first time, if anybody else at the diner has realised why he’s wearing a jacket even when it’s unreasonably hot outside. Baze probably has.

She heaves the sand bag into the storage room, wipes her hands on her shirt and turns to him.

“Your boss change his mind?” she asks lightly, more as a joke than because she’s really hoping. She is trying not to hold a grudge, she really is. She knows he tried.

Cassian scoffs, shakes his head and watches the kids file out of the room.

Jimmy waves at her and she raises a hand to wave back, and Cassian smiles faintly.

“That one has a crush on you.”

“Of course he has,” she gives back flatly. “Why wouldn’t he?”

He shrugs, still with that slight grin on his face. “I wouldn’t know.”

She feels something warm bubble up in her chest, but makes a feeble attempt to cover up her smile with a scoff. “Yeah, sure.” She pushes her hands into the pockets of her sweatpants and glances up at him. “Did you, um… did you want anything, ‘cause I’m supposed to meet Luke for training in five, so –“

He leans against the wall, a little closer than is probably socially acceptable and not nearly close enough to be satisfying. Christ, she really has got far too used to having him around.

She literally woke up next to him about thirty-six hours ago, and has no damn business being this hungry for touch.

“How do you plan to get there?” he asks, no beating around the bush. She likes that about him.

For a moment, she considers playing dumb and asking what he’s talking about, but looks up at his serious, calm expression and sees no reason to do it.

“Probably rent a car.”

“Long drive.”

She shrugs. “I guess after half a year, one more day won’t matter, right?”

He nods, still looking at her. That stillness in him is a thing she wonders about, if it’s something that came with the trauma or if it was there before. She can’t picture him without it. His eyes look warm in the sunlight filtering through the windows, a shade lighter than usually. Something about him looks different than before, but she can’t put her finger on it.

“Let me come with you.”

Jyn blinks. “What?”

“If you’re really doing this, I want to help,” he says simply.

She blinks again. “I – on your own?”

He sighs. “Kay will do what he can to help, but… we’ll need him here, so…”

She stares at him, still not sure she heard that right.

The only thing as palpable in his eyes as the longing whenever he talks about the country he was born in is fear, and Juárez seems to be the worst of it and this could literally get them killed and –

Why?” she finally gets out after too long and Cassian sighs.

“Because you’re right,” he says softly. “If that information is there and we didn’t go after it… then everything these men do after that is on us.”

He looks calm, but there’s a tension in his jaw now, and she has a feeling she couldn’t change his mind if she wanted to.

“I don’t… I don’t expect you to help me, Cassian,” she says slowly.

“I know.” He’s still looking at her with that warm look on his face that makes her knees go weak, and it hits her that he does.

He does know – he understands how even if this goes to plan, it won’t make anything right, and why she has to do it anyway.

And he’s not doing it for her, she can’t claim that – but something in his warm eyes tells her he wouldn’t do it without her. They’re in this together.

What a strange feeling.

“Okay,” she mutters, very faintly.

A small smile tugs at the corner of his lips. He’s very close now, inches away, though she doesn’t remember moving – this keeps happening to them, somehow, and it used to scare her quite a bit, but she’s definitely in too deep to care at this this point.

A part of her, a big part, wants to kiss him, but she doesn’t want to shatter this quiet, sunlit little moment. She doesn’t want to cheapen it; he isn’t doing this for her and she doesn’t want him to feel like she thinks he is.

So she just nods and returns his smile. For the first time in the last three days, she is calm, and the sunlight falling through the big window front is warm and soothing on her bare arms.

“Am I interrupting something?”

They both give a violent start, jolting backwards so they’re suddenly at an awkward distance from each other, and Jyn turns to Luke with a breathless “not at all” that doesn’t sound very convincing.

“I did interrupt something,” he says with a grimace, backing towards the door. “You know what, I’ll just like, come back in a few –“

“No, please, I was just,” Cassian stitches a smile on his face that looks a lot more convincing than hers probably does, “just leaving.”

Luke shrugs and drops his gym bag in the corner. “If you say so,” he mutters with a shake of his head, grinning faintly.

“We won’t be long,” she hears herself say before she really knows what she’s doing. The sudden disruption of that moment of peace has left her oddly startled, and they should really talk about this.

Luke must see something on her face, because he jumps in a little too readily with a cheerful “yeah, just a few rounds today, like maybe half an hour”.

Jyn suddenly realises she has a semi-valid reason to keep him around, and smiles faintly. “You can hang around if you want. We usually have an audience.”

He treats her with such care, like such a breakable thing, and before they do something as monumentally, stupidly dangerous as this, she feels like he could do with a little reassurance that he’s the only one who sees her this way.

Luke raises a brow. “Guys, please keep me out of things that require his kind of look being passed between you, okay?”

Jyn rolls her eyes. “It’s not a sex thing, Luke. Is Chirrut not coming?”

“I am here,” comes a voice from the hallway. Chirrut marches through the door, a hand trailing along the wall to guide him, then sits down cross-legged next to Cassian, grinning into Jyn’s direction. “And going by the tone of your voice, it is a bit, little sister.”

“Oh, shut up, both of you,” she snaps, and out of the corner of her eye she can see a faint smirk play around Cassian’s lips as he sits down next to Chirrut.

Luke rolls his shoulders and steps closer to her, saying in a light tone: “Okay, I know you’re looking to impress here, but it’d be cool if you don’t actually kill me.”

Jyn grins at him. “So fight back for once. I thought you were Chirrut’s friend’s best student.”

Luke smiles faintly. “If I manage to actually hurt you, Bodhi would like, not talk to me for the next nine weeks, and I have a feeling Cassian is one of those people who just look like they couldn’t kill you, so… yeah, I’m not gonna do that.”

“I’m pretty sure Bodhi’s going to be more pissed at me because he’ll know I asked you to come at me and you didn’t,” she sighs. “I’m not gonna kill you, Luke, and neither one of them is going to give you grief over a bunch of bruises they’re not even going to know about.”

Luke raises a brow at her. “Oh, he’s not gonna know about them?”

She feels the corners of her lips twitch up, just a bit. Fair point. And God, the sooner, the better.

“Come on, Skywalker, we training or not?”

 

Cassian lingers behind as Luke makes his way towards the showers, followed by Chirrut telling him off for moving his feet too slowly (“I know I am blind but I can hear it, kid.”), and she looks up from her gym bag to catch his dark eyes on her.

“Was this about putting me at ease or were you trying to impress me?”

She returns his grin. “Did it work?”

Definitely impressed.” He sighs and touches a hand to her arm, then pulls his fingers back. “That… that looked like it hurt.”

“It did, and I should have seen it coming,” she replies with a shrug and throws him a sharp look. “I keep asking Luke to actually try to hit me because that’s the point of training, so don’t look at me like that.”

He smiles and drops his eyes to his shoes. “I’ll try.”

Jyn bites her lip and locks the door to the supply closet. “We need to talk about this.”

“We do,” he replies softly. “But not here. Can I come by –“

“Yes.”

The bright, warm little smile that tugs at his lips makes her knees grow embarrassingly weak. “Okay. Good.”

She nods, like an idiot, but she hopes that some of that warmth pooling in her stomach is showing on her face. “Yeah. Good.”

He leans against the wall next to her, closer this time. There’s worry sitting in his eyes, but the smile is still there.

“Anyone about to come in?” he asks softly, and she shakes her head.

He raises a hand, very slowly. “Can I –“

She smiles back, just a little. “What?”

“Kiss you.”

She doesn’t reply, just pushes forward and grabs him by the worn collar of his jacket. She can still feel that little smile underneath her lips.

“You don’t really have to ask,” she mutters and he shakes his head.

“Yes, I do,” he says quietly, fingers catching in her sweaty hair. “I can make it by eight, I think. Ask Bodhi to be there, too –“ He catches her frown and adds in a gentle tone: “Don’t worry. Nothing illegal, no danger. We’re just going to need people here.”

“Okay,” she replies hesitantly. “I’ll ask him.”

“Good. I’ll see you then,” he mutters, then grins faintly and adds in a lighter tone: “You lied to Luke and Chirrut, Jyn.”

“No, I didn’t,” she protests, but his grin just widens.

“You did a bit.”

Jyn rolls her eyes and shoves at his shoulder. “Idiot.”

“You can admit it.”

“Look, I was trying to make you feel better,” she gives back, grinning up at him. “If you liked what you saw, that’s not on me.”

He smiles back, but it turns a little sour. “I don’t think I want Mothma to tell me what that says about me.”

She shakes her head and steps closer, leaning her head against his shoulder. She doesn’t need Mothma for this, and she doubts he does – they have lost too many people who didn’t fight back.

“We’re going to put up a fight,” she whispers into his shirt. “We are.”

He nods, nose pressed into her hair. “We are.”

Chapter Text

There is only one stranger – relative stranger, really; she’s heard so much about Jonathan Kay at this point – but still, the lanky blonde hovering in the doorway immediately makes an awkward silence spread around the flat.

“Anybody want tea?” Bodhi asks hopefully and Kay turns his attention to him, apprehensive.

“What kind of tea?”

Bodhi looks somewhat affronted anyone would question his stock of tea. “We have Ceylon, Assam, Earl Grey, Sencha, Darjeeling –“

“Sounds like they will get along,” Cassian mutters under his breath and she smiles to herself. And maybe when she passes him her hand brushes against his, because apparently she is now a person who allows herself that kind of indulgence. Besides, this whole gathering already seems so absurd and so completely and utterly unreal to her – it’s like a dream, right, what she does right now doesn’t really count.

“Guys? Tea?”

Cassian shakes his head and takes a seat – the one facing the door that doesn’t have the window right behind it, and Jyn wonders what it says about her that she notices.

It takes Kay another full minute to decide whether or not their Darjeeling is worth his while, and another two for Bodhi to sort them all out with steaming hot drinks, the only sound the kettle and the soft clanging of teaspoons.

She catches Cassian’s gaze across the small table. He looks tired again, tired like when they first met. That’s on her, now… God, what is she doing? She should’ve just got a car and left, and left everyone in this room well out of it. What right does she have to ask them for favours? She doesn’t know Kay, and Bodhi – Bodhi doesn’t owe her anything. He’s put up with her, hasn’t he, all those years; if anything, she owes him a favour. A million favours. After everything he’s done for her, is she really going to drag him back into everything he’s just struggled free from, guns and adrenaline and war? What does that say about her?

And Cassian… he would do this without her, no doubt, or something else that could get him killed. If he saw the slightest chance of that helping his cause, he’d do it. But that’s not what scares him, is it? That’s something he’s lived with for a long time now, and it’s almost like putting his life on the line is making him feel better. No, that bright spark of fear in his eyes certainly isn’t for himself, and that is somehow worse. It’s for her.

How the hell did you spin that one, Jyn?

She watches him watching her, and thinks how wonderful a patient he must be for Mothma, compared to her. Not that either of them is particularly forthcoming, of course, but he’s so aware of himself, every emotion, every thought neatly labelled and filed away. She’s just scared, and has no idea for whom, or even of what exactly, and she’s not even sure if any of the possible consequences have sunk in at all.

“Jyn?”

She gives a start, eyes flickering up to Bodhi who is holding out a cup, a shaky smile on his face.

“We can… come back later, if you two are –“

“Haha,” she mutters and wraps her fingers around the cup. “Cheers.”

Kay folds his long limbs onto one of their small chairs, suspiciously sniffing his tea; Bodhi takes a seat next to him and watches her with dark, expectant eyes, distantly worried. God, has she seen him not look worried all year, really?

Next to her, Cassian shifts in his seat ever so slightly, just enough to draw her attention to the gun in her peripheral vision, which doesn’t do much to relax her. Bodhi sits up a little too straight, the stance painfully reminding her of their army days. (Kay too looks like he swallowed a steel rod, but she imagines that’s just who he is as a person.)

 “You’re caught up, right?” she asks in Kay’s direction, and he bristles.

“Cassian told me what you intend to do, but I’m still failing to see how exactly this is an actual working plan, so by all means, go over it again,” he gives back, causing Cassian to sigh softly.

Jyn turns back to Bodhi and begins, with a little too much force:

“I’m gonna go to El Paso. The…” She takes a breath, resumes. “My father. He said he left something for me. I have to see if it’s still there.”

“Like money?” Bodhi asks slowly, and she shakes her head.

“Evidence.”

Bodhi frowns, then casts his eyes down to his teacup. “Won’t… won’t that be dangerous?” He turns to Cassian and Kay and adds in a voice that somehow manages to sound confused and quietly reproachful: “Shouldn’t the DEA do that?”

She sighs, and meets Cassian’s dark eyes for a moment. There’s a grim little smile sitting in the corner of his eyes.

“It’s too thin. Our bosses don’t trust a source like that, they won’t risk it. So we’re on our own.” He looks at Bodhi and his expression softens slightly. “I’ll go with her. It’s still… it’s not ideal. If they find out what we’re there for, it will be dangerous.”

You had to say it, she thinks darkly, throwing him a dirty look, then adds towards Bodhi:

“But they might have never even known what exactly my father took, and they have no idea we’re coming for it now.”

Bodhi’s frown doesn’t vanish. “Do – do you really think… do you think your father would want you to do that, Jyn?” he asks very hesitantly, and Jyn feels her jaw tense.

I doubt they wanted any of this for me.

“No. But they killed my mother,” she replies flatly. “And him, too. And I’m not the only one they did this to, not by a long stretch,” she adds after brief consideration, forcing herself not to look at Cassian. “So if I can help stop that, then I will.”

Bodhi nods very slowly and is quiet for a while, stirring in his cup. He hates it, of course, that’s not exactly surprising.

“Bodhi, it’s my choice, I’m –“

“I know,” he says in a quiet, firm voice, looking up at her. “I’m not arguing, I get it.”

She blinks, thrown off. In the millions of versions of this conversation that she’s gone through the previous night, staring at the ceiling in the dark, there wasn’t one where he didn’t argue –

There’s something sitting in his dark eyes beneath the fear that she was expecting, something stubborn and wounded, and suddenly, she feels like an idiot. Of course he gets it. Who knows more about being thrown into a fight you didn’t want by people who were supposed to protect you, and being too afraid to do anything but cower and take it, than Bodhi? Bodhi, reprimanded half his life by everyone around him for something that was a part of who he was, that wasn’t up to him; Bodhi who’d only ever wanted to fly and still had the scars to show for the price he paid for that?

“So I can do something to help, right?” he asks, before she can open her mouth to say anything. “That’s why we’re sitting here.”

Cassian throws her a glance, then nods. “Kay could use help.”

“Our colleagues aren’t entirely reliable in this scenario, seeing as we’re going directly against our boss’s orders,” Kay says pointedly, throwing Cassian a dark look.

“I don’t know if we could trust Antilles with this,” Cassian explains in an even tone.

“We could really use Dameron,” Kay gives back, in a tone that tells Jyn they’ve had this argument before.

Something sparks up in Cassian’s eyes at that. “We’re keeping him out of this, Kay. He’s not a very good liar and besides, he’s… He’ll have a son in a few weeks. We can’t get him in trouble.”

“Okay, so…” Bodhi frowns. “So you’re gonna go to El Paso and… and what? Do you even know where to look, or…?”

“He had a vault in a bank there. He left me the account number,” Jyn says slowly.

“Do… do they just let you see in there if you have the number?” Bodhi asks, still frowning. His tea, half finished, is growing cold on the table. “Because… because you can’t prove that you’re, like… your passport doesn’t even have the right name in it.”

She’s thought about that too, and then decided she won’t think about it again. That’s a bridge to cross when they get there, hopefully.

“His letter said I can open it.”

“Like I said, it’s…” Cassian sighs. “It’s not ideal.”

“Okay, but… so you just have to go to the bank and ask to see the vault? And then… take whatever’s in there and leave?”

It sounds so simple, she thinks with a sigh. That’s always a good sign for a stupid plan.

Cassian grimaces. “In an ideal world.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, El Paso is very decidedly Tarkin’s turf. Krennic’s turf. So if we ask for Galen Erso’s account… chances are there’ll be an employee calling Krennic the next minute.”

“They might not, though,” Jyn adds quickly, attempting a small smile towards her best friend. “Maybe Krennic never found out about that account, and then they won’t know to look out for anyone asking about it.”

“Well, the odds of that are extremely low. If Krennic was that stupid, he’d have died a long time ago,” Kay says flatly and Jyn throws him a dark look.

“Thank you. Helpful.”

“I’ve done more stupid things, if you remember,” Cassian adds quietly, looking at his friend who returns his glare, unperturbed.

“Maybe, but that was before you were out of it for so long. And you’re not going in alone this time, Cassian, you’re going in with an untrained civilian –“

“A civilian who was groomed for guerrilla warfare since she was about twelve, completed over two years of infantry training in the British Army and has a very realistic shot at killing my martial arts obsessed boyfriend with her bare hands,” Bodhi suddenly says in a matter-of-fact kind of tone, cutting them both off. “So not untrained. Or civilian, for that matter, I don’t think that really applies.”

Jyn is slightly taken aback; Bodhi has been against her threatening to beat people up since day one, but this almost sounds like he’s taking comfort in the fact that she could. She is, however, a little flattered, too.

“Well, be that as it is, she’s still not trained to run this sort of –“

“I am, actually,” she says with a sigh. She didn’t think she’d have to wait for Kay to get with the program here. “I’ve snuck stuff I wasn’t supposed to have out of places before, alright, so can we maybe focus on how we won’t be noticed by the cartel that runs the neighbourhood, because that’s where I see the problem.”

Kay raises a brow at her, then looks at Cassian and sighs. “You know, I can’t tell if that’s at all reassuring.”

“So you’re going into the bank. What do you need us to do?”

“I have some old CIs in the area,” Kay replies with a look of resignation on his face. “If we ask them the right questions, hopefully we can get them to tell us when the coast is clear without ever telling them who we’re looking for. The more we can be in direct contact with while they’re inside, the better. That way, we might be able to warn them if anyone important is coming.”

“If we can map out where Tarkin, Krennic and their underlings are before we go in, we’ll know how much time we have to get back out,” Cassian adds. “We can’t just go on what we know when we leave here because these guys move around all the time. We’ll need someone to keep the information updated.”

“And I also need to go in to work for as long as possible so Draven doesn’t realise Cassian is ignoring direct orders and common sense until it’s too late to stop him,” Kay adds sourly. “Which I can only repeat I will do under protest.”

“I don’t like it either, Kay,” Cassian replies in a tired voice, and she isn’t sure how true that is. She isn’t sure he knows how true that is, either. “I’m not enjoying going behind his back, but if there’s a chance to get this kind of evidence, we have to go for it and you know that,” he adds, with some more vigour to his voice this time. “Besides, we’ll have a perfectly valid excuse for my absence.”

“I know all that, but I don’t have to like it,” Kay says flatly and takes a sip from his cup.

Bodhi sighs. “This really doesn’t sound like a… good plan.”

“Well, the facts are we have no reinforcements and it relies mostly on things we can’t know beforehand, so it’s…” Cassian sighs and trails off, and Bodhi throws him a pointed look.

“I was hoping you would reassure me here, mate, not tell me it basically all rests on blind luck.”

“It’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” he gives back with a shrug. “That’s what I can offer.”

He’s never really spoken about his work in Mexico, but even from what little she knows she can tell that statement offers even less reassurance than the first one.

“I’ve definitely done more stupid things,” she adds tersely, attempting a smile towards her flatmate that doesn’t have the desired effect. “You should know.”

He scoffs and drops his gaze on his cup, stirs in his tea for a while, then asks: “So, when?”

“We’re leaving Saturday.”

His eyes flicker back up in alarm. “This… this Saturday?”

“Krennic is usually in New York in the first week of the month at least for a few days, so Monday afternoon is our safest bet that he won’t be there,” Cassian says and Bodhi frowns.

“Well, if everyone knows he isn’t there, his people will have their guard up, right?”

Cassian nods. “They will, but Krennic handled Galen Erso himself, he hardly allowed contact to anyone else, and if he knows that Galen hid something that could hurt him, Krennic definitely won’t have told his men about it, not if they could use it against him. So at least they won’t know what exactly we’re coming to get.”

“Great,” Bodhi mutters sardonically, and a small smile flickers around Cassian’s lips.

Kay sighs and turns to Bodhi. “Do you know how to operate a computer?”

“I… can use google?”

Cassian’s colleague throws him an exasperated look. “I’m not optimistic about our odds.”

“Yes, I heard that the first twenty times,” he mutters. “We’ll just have to hope it goes okay. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“We could go with you,” Bodhi argues quietly, and Jyn feels her throat tighten, but Kay shakes his head.

“We would just draw additional attention, and I have more resources at my disposal here at the office.”

“That, and Kay was stationed in El Paso a few years back, somebody could recognise him. They keep very close tabs on the local DEA.”

“Okay, but I could –“

“No,” Jyn says flatly. “Kay can use a second pair of hands, and I’m not going to drag you back into…” She trails off and shakes her head, caught in his dark eyes that are looking at her defiantly across the table. “No, Bodhi. Besides…,” she adds with a feeble attempt at a grin, “Chirrut would kill me.”

“He’ll kill me if I let you do this,” he gives back darkly.

“Not if you let him sponsor the operation with free tea,” Cassian says quietly, and she feels her smile turning a little more real.

“Actually, he’d probably be delighted to call in at the bank and distract the employees.”

“You don’t really mean to include the blind martial arts teacher from down the street, do you?” Kay asks in an exasperated tone, and Cassian shrugs.

“Realistically, how much worse would that make it?”

Kay gives a weary sigh. “Well, you’re right. It probably wouldn’t decrease your odds by more than one digit.”

The faint grin on Cassian’s lips stays for a moment, then he wipes it off. “You can say no,” he says softly. “If you don’t want to help, say no, walk away. You don’t have to do it.”

“That would just decrease your odds even further,” Kay says indignantly, “and as I keep saying, they’re not exactly high to begin with.”

Cassian sighs. “Kay. You’d be a huge help, that’s why we’re asking. But if we’re asking too much –“

“Well, we’re still sitting here, aren’t we,” Bodhi says in a quiet, flat voice, cutting him off. “And I don’t know, I kind of feel like I have to do it. Like he said, you really think we’ll opt out of trying to get you out of there alive?”

“Besides,” Kay adds, still in his slightly peevish tone, “I suppose I still owe you.”

Cassian scoffs and looks down on his hands. “You don’t owe me your job, Kay.”

“I agree. So I hope you’re sure there is a realistic chance this will pan out.”

Jyn glances at Cassian, not quite sure what reply to expect, but he just throws his colleague a terse smile.

“There is. It’s risky, but what we have to gain – We’d get Krennic, we could realistically make a strong enough case against Tarkin to get him extradited…” He gives a short, humourless laugh and adds in a quieter, less firm voice: “Kay, this could uproot most of the Juaréz cartel. This kind of thing – this is what we’ve worked for for years, and – God, it… It would effectively make all my problems in Mexico just go away. That’s… I think that will motivate me to make this work, right?”

“They’re not expecting us. Even if they’re tipped off, what are the chances there’s even a plan in place for this?” Jyn adds. “The chances aren’t that bad, really. Everything we’re discussing right now is a failsafe.”

Cassian’s eyes flicker towards her, for just a moment, trying to gauge if she really believes that. The answer is, she doesn’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because she has to do this, and he has to do this, and that’s the end of that.

 

 

The daylight is starting to fade, but she doesn’t bother turning on the lights. She opens the window and lights a cigarette.

“Cassian’s not staying?”

She shakes her head and takes a drag, and thinks there's the real advantage of smoking, how casual it makes you look from the outside. She's fine, doesn't she look fine? “Shooting range, I think.”

Bodhi is quiet for a while and pours himself another cup of tea. “You’re scared.”

She scoffs. “I’d be stupid if I wasn’t.”

“True.” He sighs. “It has to be… it has to be this Saturday?”

“No point in waiting another month,” she answers softly, staring out at the fading blues and yellows over the buildings outside.

She can’t help but wonder if there’s some other argument for the date, though, something Cassian hasn’t told her about.

Besides, we’ll have a perfectly valid excuse for my absence. Out of all the things endlessly rotating in her head, that remark is what’s taken hold – probably because this seems the least unsettling to think about. The rest just makes her chest all tight.

September. Not my lucky month. That has to be it, right? What else would Cassian label a ‘valid excuse’?

She takes another drag of her cigarette, then flicks it out of the open window and gets out her phone.

There is a public library three blocks away, open for another two hours. For a moment, she stares at the screen. He wouldn’t want her to know – if he did, he would have just told her, right? But if it is, shouldn’t she know? Wouldn’t it affect him, if it’s his family?

He never has to know she found out, does he, she should just make sure. If it is what she thinks it is, it’ll be safer, won’t it, if she knows what’s going on…

She stuffs her phone back into her pocket, her mind made up; then grabs the fags as well after brief consideration. “I’m heading out for a minute. I can bring back dinner?”

Bodhi throws her a very strange look, and she suddenly realises this could be one of the last –

Don’t, Jyn.

“Pizza?” he asks quietly, and she attempts a smile.

“Yeah, sounds good.”

 

The library could use some more windows and is stuffed to the brim with students bent over textbooks, positively reeking of desperation. She makes her way past the rows of books and the tables and sits down at one of the computers at the back.

Apparently, Cassian’s paranoia is rubbing off. She spends twenty minutes randomly googling Mexican journalists, cartel members and memorable historical events, deciding she wants the browser history to look like someone was doing a school project, before she actually starts looking. Entering a name would make it look too much like she is researching a single event, so instead, she adds 1995 to her query and scrolls down a list of journalists killed in Mexico City, clicks a bunch of them for good measure, until she finds the right name.

And there it is. There it is.

September 4th. Javier Andor Vélez and family.

September. Not my lucky month.

She stares at it for a long time. So on Sunday, it will have been – twenty-one years. Jyn swallows with some effort, and stares and stares. A valid excuse.

She finds a newspaper article from the day after, a short and sober report of the killings of the three journalists, their families that died with them hardly more than a footnote, no explicit mention of children at all.

Still it seems so real, suddenly, seeing it there in print. She wonders if that’s what it felt like for him, when he read her father’s file. If that is why he chose to help.

Marco… my brother, he’d be twenty-six now, she thinks, and feels her heart clench just at the memory of how he says that name, if he ever does – with a little wince, a little annoyance, and that helpless, endless affection that she remembers all too well, that love towards a family member you never knew long enough to ever have a real fight with.

She takes a few deep breaths and tries to collect herself. She clicks around the list a bit more for good measure, adds a few different years to the browser history, pulls up the article on Sicario and a few other movies, searches for a few published works on the subject until she’s satisfied with the false trail she’s laid. But then, just when she’s getting ready to leave –

It’s not even an obituary, not really, just a slightly blurry photograph and a handful of lines published a few days after the murders, and she doesn’t understand half of them, but she gets the gist. For a while, she just stares at it, then she gets to her feet and walks to the front desk.

“Can you show me where I can print something?”

Chapter Text

Kay sighs and flicks the balled-up paper in his hand into the paper bin. “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

“What?” Cassian asks, looking up from his file.

“You know who said that?”

“No. Let me guess, Napoléon?”

A tiny smile tugs at Kay’s lips. “Not even close. Sigmund Freud.”

Cassian puts his coffee down with a scoff. “Seriously? You’re quoting Freud at me now? Am I fucked-up enough to deserve you psycho-analysing me, too?”

“Somebody has to,” Kay replies flatly and stares at the whiteboard. “When are you leaving?”

“I’ll leave before lunch, tell Kes I don’t feel well or something.” He sighs and closes the file. “And what are you implying I’m burying?”

Kay raises a brow at him. “First of all, Kes won’t buy that.”

“He doesn’t have to, and Draven will assume I’m sitting in my apartment, staring at walls or something. What am I burying, Kay?”

“The need to do exactly that under the influence of some kind of socially accepted toxin?” his colleague gives back drily and gets to his feet.

“Kay, this is my second language,” he says and attempts a smile that doesn’t turn out too well. Kay looks genuinely worried, and Cassian feels a tragically familiar pinch of guilt. He shouldn’t have let this happen in the first place – don’t get attached to your colleagues, damn it, isn’t that the first order of business, Cassian? If he’d paid attention, Kay wouldn’t be upset and Cassian wouldn’t feel bad because of it.

Then again… people need other people, Mothma said, and he knows she’s right. He does. He’s always known that, contrary to what she probably believes – the concept he’s struggling with is that other people need him, too.

But Kay… in some ways, Kay has always been the exception, because Cassian would be dead without him, but Kay would be dead without him, too. His shooting abilities are barely this side of passable, and as great an analyst he is, out in the field, he thinks too much. There were at least four instances just in the time they were partnered where, without Cassian’s intervention, he’d have got shot. That and Kay’s razor-sharp focus that he’s incapable of leaving at the office has never exactly made him the popular colleague – and Cassian knows that feeling, too. He’s been that kid since he was seven. They both are the odd ones out, and have been for a long time; they’re both foreigners, and they’re both the killjoys at the bar who can’t stop talking about the job no matter how many beers they have.

In fact, they’re once again at the office so late that Kay has dared to light a cigarette indoors because the chances of anyone still hanging around to catch him are so low at this point.

He takes a drag and frowns at him. “Oh, so you’re saying you don’t want to sit in a dark corner and cry into a glass of mezcal, then?”

Cassian grimaces at the file in his hand. “Isn’t that my overall state of mind?”

Kay moves to the window to flick some ash down onto the pavement. “That’s very funny.”

“Well, no. Not as long as I have other things to worry about.” He kicks back his chair and takes a sip from his cup. The coffee has gone cold. “You know what’s funny about all this?”

“No. I fail to see any hilarity in this stupid plan, Cassian.”

Cassian feels a wry grin tug at the corners of his mouth. “If I’d been killed undercover, you know, putting my life on the line twenty-four seven, doing…” His voice catches. Damn, it’s late, but he can’t afford his poker face to be this rusty. He clears his throat. “If they’d killed me then, no one would have cared. Just another file sealed, and they’d have sent someone else in a few years and the rest of the world would have never known the difference. But now?” He shakes his head and stares at the badge on his desk. “Now if they kill me, someone will have to get off their ass. Now they shoot a DEA agent, right, with American colleagues and an American boss. I mean, I flee my own country with a semi-fake passport and suddenly, my life has value. That’s fucked-up.”

“Easy, Camarena,” Kay says drily, flicks the cigarette out of the window and sits back down. “The only thing you’ll do is make Draven lose face when it’s all over the papers that the guy he asked to be assigned to his office went off on his own, because of a screwed-up operation in January that killed several other American agents. Not to mention one that was buried so sloppily we could probably use some advice from your old precinct.”

“Still. You can’t tell me it wouldn’t be in the fucking papers.”

“Sure. You might even make it into a rally speech, knowing that clown they want to elect president,” Kay mutters, shaking his head. “Why are you still using printed maps like a caveman? You know that one was accurate three years ago.”

Cassian sighs and nods. “Yeah, I know. I know.” He’s stared at Google maps for over an hour already, and the map was intended to provide some physical stability. The adrenaline at the prospect of finally, finally being back in the game, somewhere something he’ll do has the chance to make so much as the slightest difference, is dizzying. But all the ways this could go wrong, and all the ways it would kill him if anything – those won’t leave his head either, and they’re making him vaguely sick.

“Come on,” he mutters and gets to his feet. “I’ll buy you a beer before we run through this again.”

 


 

 

Jyn rolls her shoulders, rubs a hand over her aching neck and casts a look around for Bodhi.

“Jyn.” Chirrut shuffles into the room from the kitchen and smiles at her. “Will you have time for a cup of tea before you leave?”

She decides not to ask who told him and sits down on one of the wobbly bar stools. “I’m picking up the car at noon.”

“Good, good,” he says, pouring two cups of green tea. “Why didn’t you leave yesterday?”

She smiles to herself. Leave it to Chirrut to ask the questions she takes hours and days to ask herself. “The cartel guy will be out of Juárez on Monday, and Cassian’s boss won’t get suspicious if Cassian doesn’t come in to work tomorrow.” She takes the cup from him and stares into the steaming pale green liquid. “It’s the day his family died.”

Chirrut nods, pausing in his tracks for a moment. “He’s clever, your policeman, isn’t he?”

Jyn shakes her head, unable to wipe the smile from her lips, while Chirrut makes his way back into the kitchen and re-emerges with a plate full of cookies.

“He’s not a cop anymore, Chirrut, and he’s not mine.

The blind man smiles at her and takes a cookie. “Oh, but you and I know he is, little sister,” he says nonchalantly and there it is, that dumb little flutter in her chest. It feels childish, a silly, teenage thing to do, but she’s not sure why – she’s pretty sure she never felt this way as a teenager.

“Now try the cookies, Baze wants to know if they’re improved.”

“You can’t improve his cookies,” she gives back, but takes one anyway.

Chirrut shakes his head. “You can’t keep flattering that old man like that, Jyn. It will go to his head.” He dips his cookie into his cup and pensively takes a bite. “Did you see Luke?”

“Not today, why?”

“He told me about his sister’s mentor. A former state attorney, a very big name with important people, I gather. I suppose she and her brother could be very helpful for your plans.”

She frowns, then nods and takes a sip from her tea. “Maybe, yeah.”

Chirrut smiles and runs a finger along the edge of his cup until it starts making a faint, high-pitched sound that sends shivers down her spine.

“Are you afraid, little sister?” he asks after a moment, without hurry, like he’s making perfectly normal conversation, and she’s glad that Chirrut’s the one to ask this question – because she’s not sure if she could look anyone in the eye if they asked her. It’s a very simple question, on the surface, but it’s been keeping her up those past two nights, and it’s making her feel strangely light-headed.

She takes a deep breath and curls her fingers around the warm china. “Yes, I think. But I’m not sure…” She sighs. “I think I’m afraid. I know I should be. But it doesn’t… it doesn’t really feel like it’s really happening yet, you know?”

Again, Chirrut’s finger travels along the edge, making the china sing, and he nods. “Do you think it’s the right thing to do?”

She’s grateful for that question, as out of left field as it seems, because this is one she knows the answer to.

“Yes.”

The blind man nods, and when his finger rounds the cup once more, the sound seems more pleasant, almost soothing. “Then I believe you can trust your instincts. They’ve got you out of trouble before.”

She smiles to herself and snaps the cookie in her hand in half. “You could say that.”

“And I trust Cassian knows how to use that gun of his.”

She doesn’t bother asking how he knows about the gun; of course, Baze might have told him, but she firmly believes that Chirrut just knows things. He always has.

“Yeah, he goes to the gun range the way other people go to the gym,” she mutters and shrugs. “I think he has that covered.”

“He thinks that gun is what has kept him alive,” Chirrut says with a headshake, like that was some kind of ridiculous superstition.

“A gun seems pretty useful when you spend half your life waiting for people to burst through the door, you know,” she gives back drily, but Chirrut just smiles.

“Weapons don’t keep anyone alive, little sister. We keep ourselves alive, and sometimes we keep each other alive, that’s all.”

Jyn glances up at him, the familiar milky-white eyes on hers, very calm as always. She never really noticed how familiar her trainer has come to be over the years, but she knows all the faints lines forming on his face, every greying hair, every one of his deliberately mismatched shirts and scarves.

She smiles a little and empties her cup, then nods. “Maybe, yeah.”

“This old fool getting all philosophical with you again, Jyn?”

Baze enters, a paper bag in his huge hands, and throws his husband a fond, exasperated look, then starts wrapping up the remaining cookies without hurry. “So, are those any good then?”

“Like you don’t know they’re perfect,” Jyn gives back, and Baze nods to himself.

“Put some cardamom in there this time,” he says gruffly. “If anyone wants to know.”

He slips them into the bag and shoves it over the counter. “For the road.”

“No, I –“

“Take it.”

“Food keeps us alive, too,” Chirrut says with a sage nod, eyes crinkling.

Jyn shakes her head at him and swallows, just once. She doesn’t like how much it feels like she should say goodbye. She won’t, though.

She won’t say it.

“Yeah, alright, I think I’ve heard that said somewhere,” she mutters, and manages to keep the smile on her lips from wobbling. “Thanks.”

She reaches for the bag and Baze’s large hand covers hers for a moment. “Good luck, little sister.”

She tries to scrape together enough wherewithal for a reply, then just opts for a nod and heaves the bag off the counter with what is now a decidedly shaky smile.

“I’ll see you guys soon, okay?”

“Of course,” Chirrut says with a smile. “We’ll keep an eye on Bodhi in the meantime.”

She nods. “Yeah, that’s good. Thanks.”

It feels strange to walk out of the diner, worse than the flat felt this morning somehow.

Put yourself together, Erso, she tells herself irritably, adjusts the strap of her bag and clutches the – unsurprisingly heavy – paper bag to her chest. Just get the damn car and then let’s hope you still remember how to drive.

 

She brings the car to a halt three streets down from Cassian’s block of apartments where, of course, Cassian is standing looking like he’s been waiting for hours. She isn’t even two damn minutes late.

He drops a backpack onto the back seat and climbs in, balancing two cups of coffee.

“Your boss buy it?”

Cassian shrugs. “He didn’t see me. Kes bought it, and he’ll sell it for me.” He grimaces slightly, fiddling with the seatbelt. “Don’t know how he survives this job, he can’t stop feeling sorry for people for a minute.”

Jyn sighs. “Well. He’s the youngest, right?”

“Yes.” He gingerly places one coffee cup in the cup holder next to the steering wheel, then leans back in the seat, hands wrapped around his own cup.

He looks tired, but there’s a focus sitting in his dark eyes now and a barely perceptible tension to his whole body. It reminds her of the tense, hypervigilant man she first met in Mothma’s waiting room, but it’s not the same, not quite, and she’s glad for that.

She wonders if this is the point where ordinary people would conversationally say something like thank you for not letting me go alone, or maybe admit that she didn’t sleep so well those past two nights, or –

(Or maybe admit that she’s gone and put her nose into something that’s most definitely private and she should have just asked him about it – but no. Ordinary people wouldn’t talk about that, because ordinary people don’t have tragic stories about their family’s murder, Jyn.)

“Do we need a lawyer?” she asks instead, and wants to slap herself a little.

“What?”

“Luke’s sister works for this really important lawyer. Chirrut remembered it.”

“You told Chirrut what we’re doing?”

“Not really,” she says with a grimace. “But you know him, he acts like he’s in the know.”

She can see him smile, very faintly, out of the corner of her eye. “How important is this lawyer?”

“Bail Organa.”

He curses under his breath. She likes to hear him do that; it’s the only Spanish she ever hears him speak, and she’s rather pleased with herself for how much she catches – but then, her vocabulary in most foreign languages consists largely of curses.

“I’ll let Kay know,” he says, reaching behind the seat for his backpack. “We have a lawyer we can go to, but… he usually works for Draven, and he’s swamped with the rest of our cases, so we might actually need someone else.”

“Tell Bodhi, he’ll get in touch with her,” she mutters, frowning at the map on her phone in annoyance. She likes driving, always has, but making her way out of the city is a bloody pain. She’s lost already.

Cassian sighs and snatches her phone out of her hand. “Left lane, turn left on the corner. Eyes on the road.”

She wants to roll her eyes at him, but the driver behind her angrily honking as she cuts into the lane before them loses her the credibility to do it.

“Yes, mum.”

Cassian thankfully ignores her lame joke and zooms out the map, eyeing it intently. “How far do you suppose we can make it today?”

“Depends how far we get in the first few hours, I guess,” she replies with a shrug, “but I’ve had a look last night, and I figure we could make it to the Texan border. We might have to stop for coffee a few more times for that, though.”

“Yes, at least that far. The more time we have tomorrow to have a look at the surroundings, the better.”

Jyn smiles wryly and follows the file of cars ahead onto the interstate. “You know the name of every street on that block, don’t you?”

“I still want to take a look at it.”

“Yeah, me too.” She reaches for the coffee cup and adds, a little too quietly and too late: “Thanks.”

“For what?”

This. Everything. I don't know. “The coffee.”

He smiles faintly and reaches for the paper bag on the backseat. “God, that smells good.”

“Right?” She tries not to think about the sting in her chest at the idea that someone would bother to pack an entire bag of stuff for her to take on a trip that might or might not get her killed. Tries not to think about the fact that Baze was probably up most of the night to make all that, for her. She was never, never the person who had lovingly hand-made food to share with anyone, and now she’s so old that a bag full of baked goods almost makes her cry. God, this year has really made her all weepy and soft.

“There’s fresh cookies on top.”

He takes a bite and closes his eyes. “What did he put in there? Something’s different.”

Jyn scoffs and shakes her head to herself, pleasant warmth pooling in her stomach. Of course. “Cardamom. He thought you might ask.”

Again, that faint, feeble smile. She wonders how much sleep he’s had, and if he thinks she doesn’t see the way he’s been scanning the other cars ever since he got in.

“Are you alright?”

“Of course,” he says reflexively and she sighs.

“Really?”

His eyes flicker to her for a moment, and this time he seems to think on it for a moment. “Yes, I am.”

He seems to believe that, but she’s not sure she does.

His hand brushes against hers, and she remembers how he actually did this on accident, back in spring at Baze’s, what feels like a hundred years ago.

“Are you?”

She hesitates for a moment, then nods. She’s been feeling slightly sad since this morning, since she left the flat with the taste of Bodhi’s coffee still on her tongue and since walking out of the diner with Baze’s food and Chirrut’s cryptic words echoing through her head, but… for the first time in so, so long, she doesn’t feel helpless. She’s doing something, after all those years she’s doing something, however stupid, to finally get back at the man in white that has haunted her dreams since she was eight.

“Yeah. I’m alright.”

Chapter Text

She taps her finger on the stirring wheel very lightly and overtakes a rusty silver Ford. The interstate is getting much less crowded now they’ve left the city behind, and she’s unreasonably content with the sunlight filtering through the windshield, pleasantly warm on her arms, and the smell of Baze’s cookies and the coffee filling the car and the soft music from the radio.

“I used to listen to music,” she says idly. “I mean, really listen.”

Cassian takes a sip of his coffee. “What kind of music?”

She shrugs. “All kinds of stuff. Songs on the radio, like, in the places I went with Saw, and back in England, in boarding school.” She smiles to herself. “I had an iPod, I think I stole that thing somewhere.”

He shakes his head, grinning.

“What? Don’t tell me you never stole anything. I don’t believe that.”

He laughs, running a hand over his face. “Cigarettes. I took them from the social workers. When they annoyed me, I stole their lighters, watched them go through their pockets fifteen times looking for them,” he adds with a mischievous grin. “Oh, and tequila, once. That was… probably the worst hangover of my life.”

“You drank the whole bottle alone?”

“No, but half of it. It was too much.”

She laughs, then suddenly realises something. “Oh my God, is that why you had the lighter? Back when we met. You didn’t even know how to use it.”

Cassian grimaces, a sheepish smile tugging at his lips. “It was Kay’s. He didn’t… he didn’t really get on my nerves. I just… I get worried I forgot how to do it. It’s a useful skill, saved my neck a few times, so I… Mothma said it’s a control thing. She said I get scared of a danger I can’t define, so I create a limited danger. That’s probably the better explanation,” he says with a wry smile. Then after a moment, he adds very softly, the joking gone from his voice: “I stole a gun. When I was fourteen, from some drunk in a bar. Never used it, but…”

“Yeah. I used to nick Saw’s stuff. Thought it’d help with the nightmares,” she mutters, keeping her eyes on the road. “They almost kicked me out of school for a switchblade in my room. Got rid of the gun after that, before they could find that, too.”

Cassian sighs and offers her another cookie. “You should’ve hid the knife in the mattress.”

“I know. Thanks.” She shakes her head and scoffs. “The best part was when they tried to call Saw about it though, and he just went yeah, my mate gave her that for her birthday. He genuinely had no idea what they were making such a fuss about.”

She’d expected him to laugh, but he doesn’t, just nods and watches the landscape rush by. “Alejandro was like that, too.”

“Who’s that?”

“He was one of the policemen who hid me after the murder. I worked for him later on, as a lookout. Nobody cared about a teenager hanging around somewhere, so I got better intel than his men. Gael hated it, I think he tried to punch him or something,” he adds, smiling faintly to himself. “Alejandro didn’t think much of him after that. He didn’t get… I didn’t care if it was dangerous, really. I just wanted to feel like I was doing something.”

“Yeah,” she mutters and nibbles at her cookie. She gets that, she thinks – it feels good to do something, to finally fight back against the people that stole away her life as she knew it. Even if right now, she is just driving through the sunny landscape, and it feels much less like a fight and much more like a holiday.

If they weren’t off to steal something from under a cartel’s nose, it could even be romantic, she thinks. And then frowns at herself because this is not a thought that sounds like her at all.

“He punched a cop?”

Cassian shakes his head and laughs. “At thirteen. Fucking idiot. That was usually my part, doing stupid stuff like that. If I’d done that… he would have listed all the things that could’ve happened for a month.” He sighs, fixes his eyes on the cookie in his hands and shrugs. “He wanted to keep me out of trouble I guess, but I…”

“Didn’t want to keep out of trouble,” she finishes softly. “Yeah, it was like that with Bodhi and me, too. People picked on him all the time back in the army, and he somehow thought it was a bad idea for me to beat them up for it.” She smiles grimly. “Made ‘em stop though, so I didn’t see why not.”

He laughs a little, then lets his head fall back against the headrest and looks at her.

“Did you like it? In the army?”

She sighs, staring out at the bright white streaks of clouds on the horizon. Did she? Sometimes she thinks she did; at least it felt good to see she was actually doing something just as well as everyone else.

“That wasn’t really the point,” she decides after a while. “I was good at it. Good enough for them to overlook a few things to keep me, anyway.”

“Did you finish the training?”

“No. I finished fuck-all in life, really,” she replies bitterly and reaches out to take a sip of her coffee only to find it’s gone cold. “Anyway, um… the stuff you asked for is in my bag if you want to take a look.”

He throws her a quick sideward glance, looking like he wants to say something, then nods and reaches for the bag on the backseat.

The first thing he produces is the badge, but he doesn’t really do more than glance at it; the wallet he flips through for a bit, checks the cards in it.

“We need to get you some lose change,” she says, and he frowns.

“I have –“

“Pesos. A few notes, some coins, just in case. You’d have those if you lived near the border, right?”

“Probably.” He nods and puts the wallet back, then fishes out the passports. She watches him inspect the UK one out of the corner of her eye, the temporary visa, then the Mexican passport.

There’s another soft curse. “I could swear this was real.”

She nods and suppresses a proud grin. “Yeah. Bodhi agreed the UK one checks out, too.”

He shakes his head, staring at the passport and the green card in his hand. “Jesus. I hope ICE doesn’t have their eyes on who made this.”

She slips up, and smirks. “Yeah, I don’t want me to get deported, either.”

Cassian frowns up at her. “You – you made these?”

She shrugs. “Yeah. Not the badge, but the rest… After Saw – he used to get me my papers, me being dead and all. So when I left him, I decided I shouldn’t have to depend on other people for that kind of stuff. It’s paid the bills too, when it had to. But I don’t do it a lot, too dangerous. Especially stuff like the green card, you get too many of those circulating and they’ll find you. Plus, the material’s hard to come by, so…”

He scoffs, eyes back on the documents. “Jesus. So is your –”

“No,” she cuts him off, still smiling. “Mine’s real. I mean, it’s got the fake name on it, but… they issued it.”

He shakes his head again, smiling slightly to himself, and puts everything back into the bag. “Okay. That I was not expecting.”

She scoffs. “How d’you think I made anyone think I finished school? Schools should invest in better security, you know, it’s like they don’t know people could hack them, or walk in and print a certificate,” she adds idly, and he shrugs.

“If you have the right job, that’s true for most places. Kay got my friend’s tax returns with two calls, someone owed him a favour.”

“Oh, that’s reassuring,” she mutters, and Cassian smiles.

“Why, you told me you pay your taxes.”

There it is again, without warning, that silly little flutter in her stomach. A part of her can’t believe he remembers that dumb joke, and another part of her isn’t surprised at all.

“Well, two phone calls and probably some illegal shortcut,” Cassian concedes and Jyn frowns.

“What, Kay? Illegal? Really?”

Cassian shrugs. “He can get impatient with red tape, if he feels like it’d be important, or easy. I guess we have that in common.”

“How d’you wind up working with him, anyway?”

“Kay?”

“Well… DEA, I guess. You weren’t with them in Mexico, right?”

“No.” He sighs. “It was Draven. My boss. I… we were assisting the DEA with a raid in the city; I was nineteen then, maybe. They put me on the front lines anyway, because I knew the neighbourhood. That’s how I met him. I think he might have suggested my boss sign me up for the army, actually. He seemed to like me or something, I don’t know, he asked for me on his cases a few more times, and, um…” His eyes flicker to the cup in his hands, seeming strangely blank for a moment. “After the whole thing with Kay… Kay worked for him, pretty much since his first day on the job, I think – anyway, one of them seemed to realise I was in over my head. Draven contacted my old boss and offered he’d get me a visa and a job, if I could get out.”

“That’s… nice of him,” she says hesitantly, and he scoffs.

“I know, I didn’t understand why he did it, either.”

Jyn nods. “You ever ask?”

Cassian throws her a look and empties his cup. “Right after thank you.”

“What’d he say?”

“In this kind of job, you save who you can.” Cassian shrugs and adds softly, staring out of the window: “He’s not wrong.”

Yeah, that sounds like Cassian alright.

She sighs, fixing her eyes on the road ahead. “Is that what you’re doing? Saving who you can?”

“It was a part of it, I guess. For a while,” he replies slowly after a small pause, and she smirks.

“Yeah? What was the rest?”

He throws her a quick glance, a faint smile tugging at his lips, then returns his eyes to the window. “Like you don’t know.”

“Do I?” It’s supposed to be a joke, but she wonders if it comes out like one. Because she really is not sure she knows – well, she does know why, but she doesn’t know why. She’s a mess with a knack for petty crime and hand-to-hand combat, really, and Cassian has enough problems of his own. She knows why he’s helping, and he cares about her, she knows that, too – but she still wonders what kind of reason she’s ever given him for that.

“You know it’s messed up, right?” she mutters, still staring ahead. “Us, the whole thing?”

(It is, though, it is. It’s so messed up. She’s up to her ears in something that should have only ever been a means to an end, and it’s somehow monopolised her emotions and every second thought. The way he looks at her – God, it’s… it’s everything she ever dreamt the damn antidepressants to be, and she doesn’t even want to consider what it might feel like to lose it. She’s so out of her depth, and he is too. Maybe that’s the scariest part, really; this thing between them, what he does to her, it goes both ways. She doesn’t believe she was meant to be part of something like this. She doesn’t think she was built for it.)

Cassian sighs, staring into his paper cup. “I know, yes.” He glances over to her, his eyes warm in the sunlight, and adds in soft voice that sends a shiver down her spine: “It is, but… I’m happy, you know? Maybe it’s stupid, but I’d do it again.”

She tries to stop the smile, but it’s no use. “Me too. That’s not what I meant.”

“I know.” He exhales slowly, fixing his eyes on the road. His poker face is better than hers, which doesn’t surprise her; but he looks pleased, anyway.

“Is there something savoury in our ridiculous lunch bag?” she asks idly after a while, and he scoffs and picks up the paper bag.

“I have no doubt there is. Um… eggrolls. And the muffins look savoury.”

“Muffin, please.”

His mask slips and there’s a small, soft smile breaking through, and when he hands her the muffin, his fingers touch hers a little more than strictly necessary.

(She can’t believe he’s like this, still. They’ve been sleeping with each other for months, and he acts like a thirteen-year-old. And she responds in kind, clearly, because she’s all flustered and blushing because a boy touched her hand. It’s ridiculous.)

“Thanks.”

 

“There’s a gas station in half a mile, let’s stop,” he says into the relative quiet, squinting down at the bright screen into the dwindling light.

“We refuelled three hours ago, Cassian. I think we’ll be fine.”

He smiles. “I was thinking coffee. And it’s my turn.”

“I’m fine, I can keep going –“

“My turn, Jyn,” he says. “You’ve been driving for hours.”

She can’t argue with that; and she is starting to feel a little exhausted, so she shrugs and obediently stops at the small gas station. It looks somewhat run-down, but the warm yellow lights inside seem welcoming in the dusk.

She gets out of the car with stiff legs and stretches her arms. The air is still warm over the asphalt, but there is a slight, pleasant breeze.

When she returns with two steaming paper cups of cheap black coffee, he’s leaning against the car and absent-mindedly staring at where the last daylight is disappearing on the horizon. He looks sad, she thinks, and she knows the moment he sees her he’ll wipe that off his face. She sighs, thinking of the article stuffed into her backpack somewhere, and wonders if she’ll work up the nerve to show it to him.

She’s not sure if it’d help or make it worse, but it feels like something he should see either way. Forgiving her father for leaving her behind… well, she’s not sure if she’s quite there yet, but she thinks it’s lessened the pain, and maybe it could take away some of his, too.

She walks over and, just as she thought, the moment he sees her his expression changes almost imperceptibly.

“It won’t be great,” she says softly, holding one cup out to him, and he shrugs and takes a sip.

“It’s coffee. And I’ve had worse. Bodhi is just spoiling you.”

She laughs and leans against the car next to him. “Yeah, true.” She throws him a sideward glance.

She hasn’t kissed him in almost a week, and she’s stupidly aware of it. But she gets it, September is a bad month for him… still. She’s probably standing a little too close, even though it’s a very unsatisfying substitute.

“If you need… space, I guess, then –“ she says slowly, and he cuts her off.

“No,” he says, almost reflexively, in a small voice that tears at her heart a little. “No. I don’t. Please, don’t… space isn’t really helping.”

Oh, she thinks, and might have said it out loud because Cassian scoffs and closes his hand around hers.

“I thought you –“

“No,” she mutters, shaking her head, and puts her coffee down on the roof of the car. “When I do, I’ll tell you.” She tugs him closer by his collar and tries and fails not to let his relieved little sigh go to her head.

He tastes of cheap, burnt coffee, and the spice in Baze’s cookies. The space between them and the noise of the traffic and the dingy gas station melt away almost instantly, and it takes no time at all for that pleasant ache to spread all the way to the tips of her fingers. He sighs, fingers digging into the fabric of her shirt, and pulls away, shaking his head.

“We have to keep going.”

She tries to glare at him, but she’s probably too out of breath for that to look convincing. “You’re no fun,” she murmurs, and he grins.

“Yes, I know.” His thumb traces over her neck, and she wonders if she should be embarrassed at how her pulse flutters against his skin.

“Later.”

“Yes. That’s the plan,” he mutters, grinning at her, then lets go and hands her the coffee back. “Come on.”

Chapter Text

She’s always liked the music they’re playing at this time of night best, the more niche stuff and the soft old rock songs that have filled the car for the last hour or so. Jyn is back on the passenger seat, staring out into the lonely darkness with heavy lids. It feels like hours since they’ve last passed another car.

It’s been Sunday for a while now, and she knows how after so long the anniversaries tend to be neither worse nor better than any other day, but she wonders if he’s noticed. If it hurts.

“You still okay?” she offers quietly, hoping he’ll just take that as a question about him driving if that’s what he wants to hear.

Cassian nods, then after a moment adds in a detached sort of voice: “Last… last year was bad. But that was… I should’ve seen that coming.”

She sighs, pulls her legs up and turns in her seat so she can look at him properly. “Why?”

“When I left Mexico… that was the first or second of September, so…” He sighs, taps his fingers on the wheel. “I always told myself if it gets bad, I can get on a plane and go to the graveyard. I never did that, but it helped, and that was the first year I… I couldn’t go back. The name felt worse than before, too.”

“The name?” she repeats, and tries not to let the idea sting. She’s had a dozen fake names for years, and a lot of the men in her bed never knew the real one… but Cassian is different. Granted, he found out, she didn’t tell him, and she’s not sure if she ever would have. Still, though…

But Cassian smiles, very faintly, and hands her his wallet. She fishes out the license and inspects it. It doesn’t look fake to her, but then she’s never forged a Mexican license – nor ever seen one, actually.

“Looks fine to me.”

Cassian nods to himself, fingers tapping again. “Mothma never noticed, either. The last name.”

Jyn frowns. She knows that’s his last name – well, balance of probability. Of course, the murdered reporter she found could have been someone else, but then why would the son of a dead reporter take another dead reporter’s name to make himself less conspicuous?

He’s still smiling, but there’s something sad underneath. “It’s just one. There should be two.”

Jyn feels her cheek flush. “Right. God, I’m stupid.”

“No, you’re not. Actually, it’s… I know a few people who dropped one name when they came here. It’s easier, to fit in.”

“Is that why you did it?”

“No. Andor isn’t rare, a lot of people are called that, but my mother’s name would have made me fairly easy to find, so they took it out of my files before they gave me to the orphanage.” He sighs and adds in a quieter voice: “Maybe it was necessary, but I felt bad about it. Still do, sometimes.”

She shifts in her seat. A part of her wants to reach out, put her hand on his arm or something, but he didn’t make any move to touch her when she was driving, neither the first nor the second time, so she supposes she shouldn’t, either. She tries not to read into that distance between them that just comes and goes for no apparent reason, but finds that alarmingly hard.

Maybe you have let him too close, Jyn –

But then they’re both in a habit of overthinking everything. It probably is the date, or this ridiculous plan, or the border drawing closer. Maybe she’ll just ask him, later.

“After he died, I felt like that too, sometimes. My father,” she says quietly, turning the pendant around her neck between her fingers. “I wondered if it looked like… like I was ashamed of him, and I got so used to the other names, you know? I know my real name, but… it sounds more fake than the others sometimes.”

He nods, eyes fixed on the road. “When I came here, my first month, Kay called me in the middle of the night. I answered the call and then I… I couldn’t say anything. Because… I knew I shouldn’t ever say my cover name again, but I spent so much time terrified of saying my own name by accident that…” He trails off and gives a faint shrug.

Jyn lets her head fall back against the headrest and scoffs. God, what a messed-up world they live in. He looks so calm when he says these things, too; and she gets that. She gets how he learned to push the bad memories from his mind, at least far enough to talk about it. Most of the time, anyway.

“Saw used to yell at me so much, every time I got the name wrong. Don’t think I slipped up since I was nine.”

A terse little smile tugs at the corner of his mouth. “I don’t think most people think about their names that much. I don’t think this is normal.”

She grimaces and turns to watch the landscape passing in the darkness. “Meaning you never told Mothma any of this, right?”

“It didn’t come up,” he replies smoothly, and she smiles, the fabric of the headrest scratchy against her cheek.

“Of course not.”

She falls silent and stares out the window for a while, at their faint, ghostly reflections on the glass. Just as she starts to feel herself drift off, she catches sight of a sign beside the road.

“Texas.” Her voice cuts through the comfortable quiet far too loudly for her liking.

“Texas,” Cassian repeats with a grim edge to his voice. His eyes look black in the dark, but underneath the bitter pull around his mouth, there’s something else. A… well, not joy. There’s still hurt, but again, she thinks he looks less torn, less scattered. There’s what looks, at least on the surface, like steady, healthy focus. It’s fascinating to her; this is the Cassian a good many people have probably come to fear.

It’s a good, good look on him, but deep down it makes her sad to see it. She’s very aware of how much she is a product of the wars her parents fought, the wars coursing through Saw’s veins, the war that tore Bodhi out of the sky. She knows that, and she’s too far removed from the person she might have been without all of that to regret it. But seeing it in other people like this leaves a bitter taste.

“I’m not that tired, we can drive for another hour or so –“

Jyn shakes her head. “I don’t even know how far out the next town is. Let’s just… call it a night. We said we’d go until the border.”

“Alright,” he mutters, squinting slightly against the streetlights ahead. “I think that’s a motel sign.”

She scoffs and stretches out her legs. “We’re really going full neo-noir on this whole thing, aren’t we?”

Cassian smiles, very faintly, as they drive by the sign that flashes no vacancies in red. “I thought that’s your favourite kind of movie.”

Jyn shrugs and fails to wipe off the grin. “Probably.”

It’s true, a part of her likes this. The way the darkness softens around the yellow streetlights lining the road, the warm air heavy over the flat, dry plains and the music still softly warbling from the speakers… it’s weirdly romantic, and she doesn’t know if that’s a weird thought but it’s true.

She can’t remember having things be romantic before, and even if it’s just a little moment in the completely wrong place and time – she’ll take it.

He throws her a little glance, then fixes his eyes back on the road. He doesn’t say anything, but still… lately, sometimes she almost thinks he can hear her thoughts.

They drive past rows of flat little houses, most of the lights turned off, a few shops with dark windows; then they turn into a smaller street by an equally plain and unilluminated little church.

He parks the car next to a banged-up SUV, the only other car on the parking lot, and shuts off the motor with a sigh.

“Okay, maybe I do need a little sleep,” he mutters with a wry smile and reaches for his bag on the backseat while Jyn climbs out of the car and makes her way towards the dingy office. The middle-aged woman behind the desk gives her a very disapproving look when she asks for just one room in her best American accent, and Jyn glances at the little wooden cross on the wall and almost laughs because sure, the pre-marital sex is what’s going to land them in hell.

She closes her fingers around the cold keys, feeling the jagged edge digging into her palm. It still doesn’t quite cut through the strange dreamlike haze of the warm summer night, and she’s not sure if she even wants it to. It feels so nice. She doesn’t trust it – because risking your life over some shady cartel business shouldn’t feel nice, should it – but damn it, she’s enjoying it. She deserves nice things, for a little while, after all this time.

The room turns out to be surprisingly clean, at least at first glance. It’s tiny, and the small window offers an atmospheric view over the nearly-deserted parking lot, but the dingy bathroom doesn’t contain any horrors and the bed doesn’t creak when she throws her backpack on it, and she’ll take that over a pretty view any day of the week.

She reaches for the switch next to the bed and one of the small lamps haphazardly screwed to the walls flickers to life. It barely serves to illuminate the room far enough to make out Cassian where he’s standing by the door, but her tired eyes welcome the twilight. She drops down onto the mattress with a sigh and watches Cassian take in the room just as she did a minute ago; exits, bathroom, under the bed under the pretense of taking off his shoes, then the window. That one is a weak point, strategically; it goes out onto the balcony, so it doesn’t offer a second exit, and it’s comfortably floor-length so anyone without a key would just have to throw it in to –

“Stop,” she mutters and he looks up at her with a sheepish look in his eyes.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You don’t have to. You’re rubbing off on me.”

He sighs and gets to his feet, throwing her a small smile. “Sorry.”

She reaches out to catch his hand and pulls him towards her. “Nobody knows where we stopped, not even Kay and Bodhi,” she says softly. “And the lady downstairs thinks we’re just two people looking for someplace discreet to hook up.”

He grimaces and steps closer. “I know.”

“But?”

He shrugs. “Better safe than sorry.”

He sounds like he means that, and she can’t find any signs of distress on his face in the soft light, just the worry that’s been sitting in his eyes since that evening in her kitchen. She doesn’t suppose that’s about to go anywhere.

“You okay?”

He nods and slowly reaches out to tug her hair behind her ear. “Are you?”

“Yeah.” She grins up at him. “Maybe I am enjoying this. Just a little.”

He smiles and his eyes soften, dark in the dim light. She tries to remember the way he looked at her when they met, because surely it wasn’t warm and open and hungry like this – but all she can think of is that evening on the rooftop, him standing at least a foot away but looking at her like they were inches apart, like he was trying to find something; that night in the bar, her knee pressed against his and something on his face very much like the drink burning in her throat, and then later that night and all those times since then and Christ, if she could ask for one thing, it’d be this, just this for as long as she’s got and –

Shit.

Damn it, she can’t even say this feeling snuck up on her. It’s been there a pretty long while now, actually, but suddenly it has a name right there at the tip of her tongue. And the world is so quiet and his lips are so soft on hers and she feels so warm and God, she hopes she doesn’t say anything. She hopes he doesn’t say anything.

She can’t have these words be goodbye again.

So she just pulls him down to her, shaking fingers fiddling with his shirt, his belt, his jeans, teeth scraping his lips. She needs this, too; she’s missed him in her bed for what, a week?

She needs this, she want this, so much. She wants heat and skin and a few precious minutes of oblivion, free from the fear and the darkness on her mind for a little while, but she should probably admit to herself at this point that it's not just that. It's probably not even the main reason.

She's still scared of even thinking, let alone saying what she's feeling out loud, and she couldn't bear to hear Cassian say anything. Not right now, not when their future is this uncertain. That and well, words have never really been her strong point to begin with. But she feels like they're making it clear enough. She feels... loved, beyond any doubt, at least for a few hours at a time, and she'd forgotten what a glorious feeling that is. It's addictive, and she hopes she manages to return the favour.

The rest can wait. The rest has to wait – until the whole thing is done.

 


 

Even in the satisfied, drowsy silence after, something has changed. She’s so close still despite the stuffy, warm air, legs tangled with his and holding his hand. A part of her usually flinches back after sex, just a little – he’s sure she thinks he doesn’t notice, but he does. There’s always this little moment where she seems to pull back, like she’s weighing if it’s all too much, like she’s considering disappearing, almost instinctively.

It wasn’t there this time.

He buries his fingers in her hair, a little damp with sweat, and feels the bruise over his collarbone throb faintly. The shirt collar should hide it, though he’s not sure if he’d mind if it doesn’t.

“Jyn,” he begins softly, but she presses his hand and shakes her head.

“Don’t.”

He sighs, pulls her closer and obediently falls silent. They’ve clearly swapped one unsaid thing for another, and he understands she can’t spell it out. These things are hard for them.

Still, the unwelcome thought that he might not be given enough time to find out for himself this time feels heavy enough to choke on.

“It’s just, this… this is scary for me,” she whispers, eyes still firmly closed. “It’s not that I – I do want it,” she murmurs, her voice even quieter. “I do. But it’s… it’s hard. I don’t know why.”

He feels a bitter smile tug at his lips. “You don’t have to explain that to me.”

She sighs, blinks her eyes open and shifts to the pillow to look at him. “I don’t want you to think it’s your fault.”

“No, Jyn, I know –“

“Good,” she cuts him off quietly, then she smiles a little. “I think that might be it, though. I’m not used to… to someone understanding those things. Seeing them in the first place, really.”

He runs his fingers through her hair where it spills out on the pillow and sighs.

“I disappeared when I was six,” he says softly, then adds with a scoff: “Maybe that’s why I wasn’t really scared to work for the cops as a kid. In a way I really thought I was invisible somehow. But I mean, in the last twenty years, I… I don’t know if anyone really saw me, and I didn’t want them to. If someone had seen me, knew who I was… I would’ve died.”

There’s a long moment of silence, then she laughs softly. “Yeah, it’s just… mafia 101, right? You’re dangerous. You know too much.”

He grins and presses his lips to her knuckles. “Don’t worry about me. I can keep a secret. Silent as the grave.”

She throws him a dark look. “That’s not funny, Cassian.”

He grimaces and presses another kiss to her hand, closing his eyes. No, it isn’t. It really isn’t, but there’s nothing he can say to change that, and making light of it seemed better than silence, at least until he said it. He made peace with the idea of his death a long time ago, and he’s still surprised how much that’s changed all of a sudden.

“What happens, if we find everything the letter says? Best case scenario?”

Her eyes are open now, calm and awake. He bites his lip and wonders if a lie would make it better.

“If we get every bit of evidence it says in the letter… best case scenario, we convince DEA to pressure the government into mobilising the Feds and extradite Krennic and Tarkin to the US, and arrest and convict their men.”

“After that.”

He sighs and lets his eyes fall shut. He doesn’t want to lie, and doesn’t think he could force himself to, but that doesn’t mean he enjoys saying it. “Then Juárez is up for grabs, and the vultures will start circling, and people will start killing each other,” he says, his voice catching slightly. “And they’ll keep dying until Palpatine finds a way to settle the mess, and hopefully all that will piss useful people off enough to make them work with us.”

“That’s the best case scenario, huh?” He can’t hear any surprise in her voice, and thinks he’s an idiot for ever thinking she wouldn’t get it.

“I don’t know. It’ll be a win for us, I suppose,” he replies drily.

She sighs. “So does it ever end?”

“We have to believe it will, you know, someday. That it’ll be different. Who knows how long it takes, but… at some point, it’ll be better. We need that hope.”

It sounds stupid, like a slogan he’s been made to recite or a lie he’s been telling himself, and maybe it is. He’s been saying it for too long to remember, but he believes it, wherever it came from.

She watches him, dark eyes flickering over his face, then she wets her lips and says very softly: “That’s pretty much what our fathers thought, right?”

“I suppose,” he replies, then belatedly takes note of the plural. “Our fathers?”

Jyn grimaces. “I… I googled him. No one’s gonna find anything,” she adds hastily before he can open his mouth. “Public IP, and I made it look like some kid’s school project about Sicario.”

He almost laughs. “I am really rubbing off on you.”

A fleeting smile tugs at her lips. “I just wanted to know if I was right about the date. I… I should have asked.”

He doesn’t really think that’s fair – he could have told her, too, and he knows he was more absent than he had to be the past few days. He brought this on himself, really.

She misinterprets his silence as a reproach, gnaws on her lower lip. “I’m sorry.”

Cassian shakes his head. “What did you find?”

“Not much, really. A few of his old articles, and there was something his colleague wrote after… after the murders. Did you see that?”

He scoffs, despite himself. “It wasn’t like the cops were bringing me the papers every day. They were pissed enough they had to play babysitter.”

“I thought maybe you went looking after.”

He sighs. “Not for his stuff so much. I was… I felt like he killed them, for his articles. Reading them felt like… I don’t know, condoning that choice.”

She bites her lip again. “Well, it… it didn’t sound like he thought that was a choice. It sounded like he thought he was doing it for you. But,” she grimaces, shakes her head. “My Spanish is pretty bad. I guess you should see for yourself.”

He hesitates for a moment. “Why?”

She shrugs and doesn’t look at him. “I don’t… I feel like it helps. I… I thought it would hurt less if I hate him, but it doesn’t.” She throws him a wry grin. “I don’t like to admit everyone was right about the whole forgive-and-move-on shit, either. But I guess they have a point.”

“You sound like Mothma,” he says with a slight smile, and she laughs a little and shoves at his shoulder.

“Eww. We just had sex, take that back!”

He grins. “Sorry. But you do.” He sighs and traces his fingers along her arm absent-mindedly, feeling her shiver underneath his fingertips. "That's not a bad thing, you're probably right, but..."

"I'm not... trying to tell you what to do, I just thought..." She trails off, then pulls out of his arms, pats over to her bag in the dark and pulls a folded paper from a side pocket. “I’ll put it here,” she says softy and places it on the desk in front of the window. “You don’t have to read it, but…”

“Maybe tomorrow,” he mutters and lets his eyes fall shut. “Come here.”

She climbs back into bed, but keeps far too much distance for his liking. He opens his eyes again and finds her watching him in the dark.

"I'm not mad at you, Jyn," he says softly.

"I... I wasn't sure if I should say anything," she answers, fingers digging into the pillow. "But I didn't... I was so mad at Bodhi for not telling me."

"I'm not mad," he repeats quietly, but it still doesn't seem to reach her.

"You don't have to read it. I don't want to... make it worse," she whispers.

"You won't make it worse, Jyn." He sighs, pulls her back into his arms and buries his nose in her hair. He wants to feel her there against him, just in case - he feels exhausted enough to think he'll be able to sleep, but in case the memories come creeping up on him, he hopes she'll help keep them at bay.

"This helps. A lot."

She burrows closer and he feels her lips brush against his jaw. "Good."

He lets his eyes fall shut. He's too tired to explain it, but just before he drifts off, a warm wave of realisation washes over him; he's warm and the silence doesn't feel so painful, and for the first time in a decade, he doesn't have to face the anniversary alone.

 

When he wakes up the next morning, faint sunlight is filtering through the worn curtains and the hideous alarm clock in the corner reads five to seven. A whole four hours, then, he thinks bitterly and wonders if there’s any point in trying to go back to sleep. Jyn makes a small sound when he shifts to his side, and he feels the worry settle on his chest again. God, if anything happens to this woman, he’d –

No, he’s awake now, and he feels like there’s a weight on his chest, pressing down on his lungs. The clock has a date on it, too, like he doesn’t know what day it is, like he needs the reminder… He’ll suffocate if he keeps lying here.

Jyn shifts when he gets out of bed, and by the time he’s got dressed she’s turned to look at him.

“We really have to leave so early?”

He shakes his head and forces a smile. “No. I just need some air. I’ll get us breakfast, okay?” he mutters and pulls the sheets up over her shoulder. “Get some more sleep.”

“’kay,” she mumbles into the pillow, and is asleep before he’s out of the door. She doesn’t see him hesitate for a moment, then grabbing the folded paper on the desk along with his wallet.

The air outside hasn’t cooled much, but there is a slight breeze that soothes his nerves a little.

Put yourself together, Andor, he tells himself firmly. You’ll make it worse.

The paper in his hand rustles in the wind, and he stares down at it, deliberating. It might not be a good lane to go down… but then again, maybe today it is. Maybe today, it’ll help. It’s not like he’ll be able to chase the ghosts from his mind, anyway.

He walks across the parking lot and finds himself in front of a flat, nondescript little building, but the sign in front of it and the open door bring a rueful smile to his lips. If someone told him this was his grandmother’s work, somehow from beyond the grave, he’d believe them.

He makes his way past the people filing out from an early service, absent-mindedly makes the sign of the cross and takes a seat in the pews near the back. It’s not a particularly pretty church, nothing like the ones he remembers, but it feels right somehow, even though a part of him feels like a fraud. How often has he insisted there’s nobody there to pray to?

He sighs and unfolds the print-out, squints at the few narrow lines of text in the dim light. Eduardo. He thinks he remembers this reporter, there’s a faint, faded memory of an elderly man in their garden next to his father with a beer in his hand –

 

When his son was born, I asked one of my colleagues if he would really keep doing this. Maybe report football games instead, see his child grow up. He said he’d thought about it. “But then I saw the way he looks at the world,” he said, “and I’d be ashamed to let my son live in the world I see, when he could live in the one he sees instead.”

Next Sunday, we will bury three of my friends and colleagues, including him, along with their families, along with their children. And this better world we tried to build for them… it’s looking bleak right now. I hope that the rest of us will keep trying, and I hope that in that world, whenever it comes, people will remember the price that was paid for it.

 

He folds the paper again, once, twice, very slowly, then pushes it into his pocket. He needs to remember to burn that.

He swallows and stares ahead at the candles, the flickering red light up on the altar blurring in his vision, and thinks he’s lucky that Mothma never asked if he’s still angry at his father, because he doesn’t think he could give the taste on his tongue a name if he wanted to.

Fuck, twenty-one years. The years have made it easier to push away the images, he’ll admit that, but still… a part of him is horrified, every time, that he’s survived them by another year. That he’s yet another year older, another year further away from the kid they knew. His brother wouldn’t recognise him, probably, with how old he’s grown.

He folds his hands, despite himself, and somehow pieces together the Lord’s Prayer. He’d have got a slap for how long it takes him back at the orphanage, and from his grandmother too if she could see him. Still, he hopes it counts as trying.

Look, I don’t know that you’re there, he thinks bitterly. If you’re even listening. But if you are, I hope you looked after them. I hope you had a damn good reason to take them.

He closes his eyes, takes a few deep breaths. Damn it, he’s not nearly Catholic enough to start crying in a church. He tightens his fingers, until his knuckles turn white.

You took so much. It has to be enough. You have to keep her safe. Please, I’m trying but I can’t give anything else.

I’ll live with what you did to me, but you can’t have this, too. You have to keep her safe. Please.

Please.

Chapter Text

Jyn drops on the driver’s seat and takes the two cups of coffee from Cassian.

“How judgy did she look?”

He puts on the seatbelt and digs through the paper bag on his lap. “Very judgy.”

“To be fair, she’s not wrong,” she mutters, squinting against the bright morning sun as they turn onto the main road. “Like, at all.”

“About us going to hell?”

“About what we were doing in there,” she replies with a grin. “Christ, I can’t see anything. Did you see where I put my sunglasses?”

“Yes.” He reaches for her backpack, fishes out the battered case and checks them for stains. “You won’t see much more with them on,” he mutters and tries to clean them with the hem of his shirt. “Here.”

“Thanks.” She settles into her seat, turns down the radio a little and smirks at the face he pulls when he takes a sip of his coffee. “Told you the coffee would get cold.”

He shrugs and leans back in his seat, smiling faintly. “Worth it.”

She turns right onto the highway, humming in agreement, and takes a sip of her own cup of room temperature latte. Not blushing, because she is a grown woman who can think about these things without – who is she even kidding.

“How long ‘til we get there?”

“Under nine hours today,” he replies drily. “A little less than six-hundred miles.”

She nods and tries to pretend she’s having iced coffee, but doesn’t manage to fool herself. “You should try and get some more sleep, Cassian.”

“Probably,” he mutters, eyes drifting off into the distance. “But I don’t think that’s happening.”

Jyn sighs and nods to herself. She wonders if Mothma ever suggested he should take sleeping pills, but she can about picture how well that would have gone and she supposes their therapist probably did, too.

She rolls down the window a little, relishing in the airstream on her skin and the warm leather underneath her fingers. The old music on the radio sounds vaguely familiar, like something her mother might have listened to; something that might have played in the car when they drove to the coast on the weekends.

She very suddenly misses the Jammie Dodgers her mother used to pack for those drives. Damn, she used to love these things. Her father used to glare at her mother every time she put them in the cart because they would always fall apart the moment you bit into them, and the crumbs would go everywhere and the jam would make any surface sticky forever, but she loved them.

“Jyn?”

She blinks in surprise and closes the window. “Sorry. D’you say something?”

“Just asked if you want any food.”

“Uh… yeah, please.” She squints at the road sign and adds softly: “I was just thinking of the biscuits my mother used to bring on drives like this.”

“Biscuits?”

“Cookies.”

He throws her a look. “I know that. I meant what kind.”

“They don’t sell them here, I think. They are so sweet, I bet I wouldn’t even like them anymore,” she adds and laughs. “Besides, they’d just melt anyways, they have a kind of jam in the middle. We’d have the stuff everywhere right now.”

“Well, we’re not treating this car very well anyway,” Cassian replies drily, glancing at the crumbs on the car mat.

“Trust me, it’d be worse. My father would get so annoyed with my mother for even buying them in the first place, because of how his car would look when we got back.”

He smiles faintly and hands her a piece of bread. “What was he like?” he asks softly, throwing her a sideward glance. “Your father?”

Good question, she thinks bitterly. She spent so much time trying not to think about him, trying not to miss him, not to ask herself how he could leave her behind, what she had done to deserve it… she isn’t sure if she knows anything about the man, in the end.

“I don’t… I don’t really remember what he was like with other people, you know?” She sighs. “But he… He wasn’t always around, they both weren’t, but he was my favourite person in the world. I thought he was the smartest person alive. Like, he was fun, he played with me and all, but he’d always be explaining things as we were doing it. Like why my doll fell off the couch, or why he was faster on the slide on the playground than I was, or why the milk mixed in with his tea even when you weren’t stirring it.”  She pauses, takes another sip of her cold coffee. Force is mass times acceleration, Jyn. You see, the molecules, what the tea is made of, they move around when the tea is warm, and so do the milk molecules.

Do you remember which one stands for gold, stardust?

“Sometimes after he’d worked a lot, he’d try to explain to me what he was doing. Well,” she feels herself smile a little. “he taught me some basic chemistry and then said that’s what he was doing.”

“He taught a pre-schooler chemistry?” Cassian interjects with a slight frown, and she shrugs.

“Once I could read, he’d just point at bits of the periodic table and taught me what element it stood for, that kind of thing. The year before… before my mum died, he explained a few reactions to me, too. That’s basically how I learned math. You know, two molecules of oxygen plus four hydrogen makes two molecules of water. And an explosion,” she adds with a smirk. “That was the fun part.”

“The explosion?”

“Yeah,” she shrugs. “It helped me later, actually, with Saw.”

“He let you build explosives?” Cassian sighs, a dark look in his eyes, and leans back in his seat. “I guess we’re all lucky I’m never going to meet that man.”

She wonders about that warm feeling in her stomach at that reaction. She didn’t mind what Saw did at the time, not one bit, really – she liked it so much better than school. What Saw asked of her was something she was good at; she was small and fast and a quick study. It felt so good to be exceeding someone’s expectations for once, when at school everything made her feel sick and sad and even just the smell of the textbooks reminded her of all the wrong things.

But still, she knows it wasn’t right, and it wasn’t good for her on the long run. It’s done, and over, and the memories aren’t as hard to handle as the rest – but still, she’s touched by how angry he looks.

“He wouldn’t have cared, trust me,” she mutters and watches the cars file by on the other side of the road, thinking. “He really liked astronomy. My father. My mother too, actually, but papa would wake me up some nights and we’d wrap up in blankets and go look at the stars.” She smiles to herself, faintly surprised. “I… I’d forgotten about that.”

He watches her in silence for a while, a smile playing around his lips.

“What? Are you laughing at me?”

“No. No, I just –“ He shakes his head, still smiling. “You couldn’t really see the stars at night where I grew up, but… we made these trips every year or so. When the orphanage got a donation, I guess, they took us out to the country somewhere. They weren’t that exciting, but I was always looking forward to the drive back because you could see the stars out there. I got a book about the constellations,” he adds with a distant, wistful look in his eyes. “I only found the North Star, though.”

“When was that?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know, I was pretty young, maybe nine or ten or something? That was before Padre Andrés came, so… still the Nineties.”

So, were we looking up at the same time, then? She watches the landscape rush by outside and grins about her newfound ability to think these ridiculously sappy thoughts. She doesn’t recognise herself in that at all… but as long as nobody else knows, she doesn’t necessarily hate it.

“You should’ve told me that yesterday,” she says, still unable to wipe the smile off her face. “I bet I could still show you one or two constellations.”

“You’re right, I should have.” Cassian’s smile wavers, just a little, then he turns to watch the fields outside pass them by. “Did Kay call this morning?”

“No. Is that a bad sign?”

“No, probably just means they haven’t figured out where the key players are right now.”

“Krennic and… Tarkin, right?”

Cassian nods, fiddling with the map on her phone. “Yes, mostly these two.”

“But Krennic is the one who could know about the vault, right?” she asks and finishes her coffee. “Why do we have to worry about the other guy too?”

“Krennic knows more about you and your father, but I’d rather deal with him than with Tarkin,” he replies tersely. “He’s, um… Krennic is the financial brains, he takes care of business. But he’s a foreigner, some white guy… no matter how much money he makes them, nobody trusts him. He’s got some pull, but his people are all bought. In a way, he’ll always be on his own. But Tarkin… his family was a big deal in Mexico City since forever, and he’s had a lot of time to rise through the ranks. He’s respected. Palpatine trusts him. The money isn’t his thing, he’s a tactician, he’s the one who keeps their people in line, the cops, the politicians.” He sighs. “Krennic’s not a fighter, he has no idea how that works. Tarkin, though… well, they didn’t just hand Juárez over to him back in the day. You don’t cross that man. Definitely not twice,” he adds under his breath, and she grimaces.

“You make Krennic sound like a piece of cake,” she mutters, and he scoffs.

“The thing is, if your father had what he says he had, we will make Krennic pretty desperate. And his men wouldn’t exactly die for him, but they won’t have a problem with shooting us.”

She scoffs. “Yeah, probably not.” She leans back with a sigh and taps her finger on the sun-warmed steering wheel. “What do you know about Krennic? Like, how do you go from chemistry student from Australia to… you know, drug lord underling?”

Cassian shrugs. “Not sure. I don’t think our people really looked into it, I mean… most of us can’t afford to care anyway. We know everything about him since he appeared on Tarkin’s radar, but before that, we just know what’s in public records. Born and raised somewhere around Melbourne, somehow scored a place at Oxford. That’s where he met your father, he studied chemistry for about a year. He seemed to be pretty bad at it, though. After that year he left and got a business degree in Chicago instead. Must’ve met people there. He started out doing their money laundering, then some bigger things.”

“I still don’t get how my father fits into any of this,” she says quietly, still tapping.

The road stretches out in front of them until the horizon, straight as a line. She’s not sure if she likes it. A part of her still misses old houses and winding lanes and green hedges and little forests, she realises with mild surprise.

She didn’t know that about herself. Not anymore.

Why didn’t she know that about herself?

“Like I said, Krennic clearly wasn’t good at chemistry,” Cassian says quietly. “I suppose your father was just the one he remembered when he needed a chemist.”

“Lucky us,” she replies darkly, and he grimaces.

“Yes.”

She sighs and pushes her sunglasses up her nose. “What d’you think they had him do?”

“Every cocaine production needs a chemist for something.” Cassian shrugs. “One of our guys said it looked like they were trying to make the coke cleaner, you know, so they can sell it for more. Or just… making it so they can use cheaper materials, or ones we can’t trace as easily.”

She tries to imagine her father – all knitted sweaters and overlong hair and battered sneakers and empty teacups on every surface and scattered books and documents and his old chalkboard up on the wall almost white with his tiny, messy writing – tries to imagine him in a cocaine lab in some jungle like she’s seen on the television.

She can’t.

Then again, she also can’t imagine her father in some dingy old shed getting blown to bits, not even after she’s seen it.

“Sounds so simple,” she mutters and he throws her a little glance, then falls silent for a while, probably trying to give her a moment with her thoughts.

She appreciates the gesture, but she’d rather not dwell on it.

“Alright, walk me through the plan again.”

Cassian sighs, runs a hand over his face and eyes the shops lining the road. “Can we… can we get more coffee first?”

 


 

The sun is already dipping behind the rooftops when they finally arrive in El Paso, and he has to be careful not to let his eyes stray to the horizon.

Jyn has her feet up on the dashboard, staring aimlessly out of the window and idly tapping her finger against the glass to the music.

“Is this the fifth Johnny Cash song or is that just me?” he asks, and she smiles a little.

“You recognise Johnny Cash? Who would’ve thought.”

He scoffs. “One ride in my boss’s car and so would you.”

“Your Mexican boss?”

“No, Draven. I want to say the CD got stuck in his car, but it was on purpose. Do you want to know how many times you can get through that record from Mexico City to Veracruz?”

“I’m guessing a few times,” she replies and returns her eyes to the street. “Okay, turn right here. Are you sure this isn’t too close?”

“We can get something further away, if –“

She stretches out her legs and brushes some crumbs off her trousers. “Nah, it’s fine. There’s a park nearby. I figure we can make it look like that’s where we’re going.” Jyn leans back in her seat with a sigh. “Let’s just hope we’ll find a good dumpster we can covertly tape a gun to before that.”

“Let’s hope we won’t need it, you mean.”

“Yeah,” she says softly, and sounds as convinced as he’s feeling. “Take a left at the end of the street.”

They park the car and get a room key, minus the judgemental looks this time around. Jyn pulls her hair loose from the hair tie and stuffs the gun into her backpack along with a trash bag and a roll of tape.

“Map?”

“I don’t need a map.”

“No, but we need to look like tourists.”

She throws him a look.“These days, people have phones for that.”

“Fair point.”

She nods and adjusts the sunglasses. “Let’s go.”

 

He walks down the path without hurry, hands buried in his pockets, and doesn’t really realise where he’s going until something just slightly beyond the trees catches his eye. He comes to a halt on the dry yellow lawn, stupidly transfixed by the bridge half a mile or so to the east. Somehow, despite all the time he spent poring over maps… it’s so much closer than he’d thought. It’s - it’s just over there. What would stop him from just going; how long would it even take, thirty minutes, an hour? It wouldn’t be the city he catches himself missing, of course. In fact, it’d be where his subconscious likes to set his nightmares - and even if it was Mexico City it wouldn’t be home, and yet…

Ahead, the land stretching towards the horizon in the dwindling light doesn’t really look any different, but his chest aches just looking at it. Maybe it wouldn’t be home, but… it might be close. It might feel like it was, just for a moment, and –

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” he mutters, still struggling to pull his eyes away. “Yes, of course.”

She frowns up at him, eyes green and soft. “You sure?”

“I’m fine,” he says, a little firmer. “Let’s get something to eat.”

 

 

That night he dreams of her. It’s a strange dream, compared to his usual ones – it’s so calm, so still.

He dreams he’s walking through a pretty, old-fashioned train. Outside, they pass rolling green hills under a pale blue sky streaked with clouds, and just on the horizon a glimpse of the sea, bright cliffs; the train goes by too fast to make out details. In one of the compartments, a woman is singing a song, a high-pitched child’s voice joining in, tentative and off pitch.

By a window, a young woman sits, a heavy book resting against her knees. He knows without any proof that she is going home to see her mother, the way one simply knows things in a dream, just like he knows that he’s only passing through.

She strokes a strand of hair behind her ear, long locks of brown that fall almost to her elbow, and a part of him explicitly notes the smooth, empty patch of skin underneath her collarbone, as if something should be there.

She raises her eyes off the pages for just a moment, glances up at the landscape passing them by, then turns to look at him. A brief smile flickers around her lips, then her green eyes return to the novel in her lap.

The train rattles gently on the tracks.

He walks on.