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of all the truths i could not tell

Chapter Text

“Mama, what did Papa mean?”

Lyra Erso stays focused on the bag in her hands, neatly tucking in the last of her clothes, hoping the movement hides her shaking hands. “What did he say?” she asks.

“Whatever I do, I do it to protect you,” the young girl recites.

Lyra freezes.

Her eyes slowly lift from the bag to meet the warily curious green eyes of her daughter; she opens her mouth to speak, but no words come.

(the empire won’t kill me, krennic won’t kill me. they’ll keep me alive and working until my mind grows feeble and dim of old age)

“What does he mean, Mama?” Jyn asks again.

Galen will live, regardless of what she does. And, oh , it feels like a betrayal to leave him here, to stay with the plan and run, but Galen will live and Jyn--

What would Jyn become, left alone?

No matter what Saw Gerrera has done for them, she cannot trust him to raise Jyn.

“Mama?”

Lyra takes a deep breath and makes her decision. “It means that we need to run,” she says, and picks up the blaster from the table beside her.

They will follow the plan, and maybe one day she will be able to tell her husband how sorry she feels. Maybe one day she’ll forgive herself.

May the Force be with you, Galen Erso.

They run.

Chapter Text

They spend five years with the Partisans, and in that time Jyn becomes a soldier. As hard as Lyra tries to keep her home, Jyn constantly heads out on the missions Saw will let her on.

“You can’t fight the Empire by doing nothing,” Jyn snaps out, hostile and harsh. “You might not like it, Mama, but at least I’m doing something .”

Lyra sighs and drags a hand down her face. “Jyn, you’re thirteen years old and you’re building bombs ! It’s not worth it. This is what I feared about living with Saw.”

(this is why she didn’t leave you alone)

Jyn tries to push the thought away, but it grabs on, burrows like roots through her mind, and she can’t seem to forget it.

Two weeks later, out on a mission, Saw hands her a blaster and tells her to hide in an abandoned bunker until he comes back.

It’s a full three days before Lyra appears in the door, haggard and exhausted and clutching a blaster in her right hand like it’s a lifeline. She takes one look at Jyn and calmly announces that Vera and Kestrel Dawn are compromised.

Once again, they run.

~

There’s a Rebel base on Dantooine, Jyn knows. One of Saw’s men, Kev Garesh, mentioned it to her once. When Lyra asks Jyn where they should go next, Dantooine is the first name to tumble past her lips.

“Why Dantooine?”

“Kev mentioned it once,” Jyn says with a careless shrug. “Said there’s a Rebel base there.”

Lyra pauses, as though considering. “I don’t know if we should try and find the Alliance yet. We might not be… welcomed.”

“I’m the daughter of a high-ranking Imperial scientist and you’re his wife,” Jyn answers. “What could possibly worry them?”

Lyra doesn’t react--visibly, at least--to the sarcasm dripping from every word, instead staying calm and consulting the holographic star map. “I think there’s a small rebel cell on Kafrene,” she says at last. “We might be able to help them out. We’ll need new aliases, though.”

And thus Jyn becomes Tanith Pontha. A new identity, a new persona, a new set of small gestures to put on like a spare set of clothes. She learned, with Saw, about how to fall so deeply into a character that no one could ever know; yet another set of skills Lyra doesn’t approve of.

Not that Jyn understands why her mother doesn’t approve of disguise. Their entire existence is living under a cloak, hiding their true names from even the ones they trust the most. Out of all of the Partisans, only Saw knew who Jyn and Lyra were. The only reason he was allowed to know is because he was the one who rescued them. Saw knew.

(saw left her)

Jyn seethes at the constant hiding, the scurrying away to vanish into the shadows the instant it seems like trouble is coming, but a part of her understands it, even as she burns to fight. It’s hard and it’s frustrating and it scorches her to run, but her Mama wants it and so she grits her teeth and puts her head down and does it.

They charter a pilot to take them to Kafrene. It’s a long flight through hyperspace, halfway across the galaxy, from their previous home on Onderon, and it leaves Jyn with plenty of time to think. Why aren’t they joining the Alliance now ? Surely the Rebellion--still in its fledgling stages, according to Saw, although it certainly has grown since the Partisans’ split--would welcome their help; Lyra is a strong-willed yet open-minded historian with all the skills of a diplomat, and Jyn is a fierce fighter and clever , skilled already at the arts of slicing and sneaking. And even though Lyra’s justification does make some kind of sense, if they’re just going to be using aliases anyway why does it matter when they go? If the Alliance never finds out who the third member of their shattered family is…

By the time they arrive on Kafrene, Jyn is no closer to understanding her mother’s motives, and so she pushes the thoughts to the back of her mind. That doesn’t mean she’s forgotten , though. Just… postponed. She’ll confront Lyra about it another day.

(she tells herself that enough times, and she almost believes it)

~

Daeja and Tanith Pontha disappear barely a year later, after a newly recruited Imperial defector starts asking too many questions.

“We’ll be sad to see you go,” the leader of the small cell, Rina, says. She’s speaking to both of them, but her words are directed to Jyn.

Jyn, the small girl with the fire of a thousand suns lighting her green eyes, the furious strength of a warrior woven into her bones, and the seething need to fight filling her lungs with every breath; she is only fourteen, but she’s already risen high in the ranks of the cell, and her loss will be felt keenly.

“It’s for the best, Rina,” Lyra says with a small, almost wistful, smile. “Good luck, and may the Force be with you.”

“May the Force be with you as well,” Rina echoes, and then turns and vanishes. The pilot she’s left them with looks over the two of them for a moment, then shrugs a little and boards his ship, clearly expecting them to follow suit.

“So where am I taking you?” he asks in a crisp voice.

Lyra hesitates, shoots Jyn a look, then nods decisively. “Alderaan. Take us to Alderaan.”

~

Aurae and Liana Hallick don’t spend very long on Alderaan; just long enough for Jyn to use her slicing skills to forge quality scandocs and let them establish their identities. It only takes a couple months--but in that time, they start to fall into some semblance of a routine. It makes Jyn itch , her skin crawling with the need to move . Random is safe; routine leads to predictability, and predictability leads to sloppiness and being found and a blaster bolt to the head. (If you’re lucky. The unlucky ones are taken away and never heard from again, probably dumped on some Outer Rim prison planet, left toiling away the last years of their miserable lives in the barest  semblance of survival. If you’re quick enough, you can shoot the unlucky ones before they’re pulled on board an Imperial shuttle. Jyn’s done it before.)

But while Jyn chafes at the quietness of Alderaan, Lyra flourishes in it, like a flower basking in the sun. Her mother has always balked at fighting, preferring the diplomatic approach--if there was one. This time, at least, there’s a reason for them to be sitting still: Lyra is waiting for contact from the Rebellion.

Apparently, they’re finally going to seek the Alliance out.

The contact finally arranges to meet them at the spaceport, and it’s a mark of her confidence that Lyra has both of them pack all their belongings and bring the bags with them. The contact is tall, dark-haired and confident, his face a smooth, emotionless mask. A ship waits, the hatch open and inviting, behind him, but Jyn’s gaze is captured by his eyes. Dark and intense, flickering with the same deep burning Jyn feels in her own heart, they meet Jyn’s own eyes and in an instant she feels as though she’s been stripped to the bone. As though his eyes have seen straight through all the personalities and names and people she’s been and seen her for her she truly is.

(but that’s impossible, of course. she’s better trained than that)

There’s a long silence.

“My name is Aurae Hallick,” Lyra finally says, “and this is my daughter, Liana.”

The Rebel watches them for another long moment, searching Lyra’s eyes, then nods--apparently satisfied with what he sees. “Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

His voice rolls softly with an exotic accent that Jyn can’t place, one that she’s certain she’s never heard before. Before she can think better of it, she bursts out, “Whose name is that?”

“My own,” Cassian answers, almost sharply; his gaze sweeps over her again, appraisingly. Studying her, wondering why she’s so familiar with aliases.

(revealing her familiarity with false personas may not have been the smartest move, in hindsight)

“Thank you for meeting us here,” Lyra hurries to say, as though she can smooth over the awkward silence that’s descended over the three of them with simple pleasantries. “I take it we satisfied you, since you spoke freely to us?”

Cassian nods. “Your correspondence with the Alliance gave us the information we needed. General Draven wanted me to make sure you are who you say you are. Shall we?”

Jyn feels her eyebrows shoot up at the mention of correspondence with the Alliance, and she sends her mother a glare that Lyra steadfastedly ignores. Then the implications of Cassian’s last statement sink in, and she finds herself hiding behind a blank-faced front as she struggles to comprehend.

There’s no way he could’ve made a decision on them after only half a minute of silent observation; there’s still an entire flight to wherever the Rebel base they’re bound for is. And while on the ship--and maybe even after they’ve disembarked--Cassian will be watching them. Waiting. And if either of them slips up…

Well. Jyn’s fairly certain he knows how to use the blaster just barely discernible beneath his civilian coat.

She doesn’t dare shift her gaze to her mother, trusting instead that Lyra has come to the same conclusions. Instead, she lifts her eyes and stares into Cassian’s--a challenge. Within his gaze, she sees confirmation of her realization, and more--he knows that she knows, but he’s not going to say it aloud. And neither will she.

Tension shimmers in the air, thick enough to be almost tangible, until it’s abruptly snapped by a mechanical voice. “I have calculated that there is a seventy-three percent chance that Liana Hallick will attempt to disable you and redirect the ship as soon as we make the jump to hyperspace.”

The voice is immediately followed by the appearance of a tall, hulking black form in the ship’s open hatch--a shape instantly recognizable to Jyn. Acting on instinct, she jerks out the blaster on her hip, aiming it at the KX-series droid. “What the kriffing hell…” she starts, only to be cut off by a quick motion by Cassian.

“It’s okay, he’s friendly, just… put that thing away before someone sees you with it,” the spy manages to get out, and after a long second, Jyn does as he suggests. “Aurae, Liana, allow me to introduce you to my copilot, K-2SO. He’s been reprogrammed--he’s not dangerous.”

“On the contrary, I believe there is plenty of evidence to show that I am quite dangerous,” the droid says, and Jyn could swear that the flat voice is somehow sarcastic .

(which is completely ridiculous. droids don’t have personalities, everyone knows that)

“Sorry,” Cassian apologizes, shooting K-2SO a look that clearly says ‘shut up right this second’. “He tends to say whatever comes into his circuits. It’s a side-effect of the reprogramming.”

Before the talkative droid can respond, he hurries Lyra and Jyn up the ramp and onto the ship. “K, get the ship running. The quicker we get out of here, the better.”

Grumbling something under his breath (Jyn has no desire to know what he says), the droid climbs the ladder into the cockpit as Cassian closes the hatch behind the two women. “Sorry about him,” he apologizes again. “You can set your stuff down somewhere and sit; I’m going to get us into hyperspace, and then I’ll be back to answer whatever questions you might have.”

“Where are we going?” Jyn asks, ignoring the sharp look Lyra sends her way. She doesn’t move from her position in the center of the ship, staring at Cassian, even as her mother moves around behind her, sliding to a sitting position on one of the narrow, hard benches with her bag beside her. They have a right to know the destination, and Jyn silently tells Cassian this with her eyes.

He hesitates; she can tell even leaving her alone with a blaster makes him uncomfortable, and the idea of giving her the location of the Rebel base goes against every instinct he has. She lifts her chin and squares her shoulders, determined. “Trust goes both ways,” she tells him quietly, and after a moment he exhales heavily.

Resignation flits across his face and he nods, slowly, almost reluctantly. “Yavin 4,” he mutters after another long hesitation. “We’re inbound for Base One.”

Then he spins away, climbing fluidly up the ladder and vanishing in the cockpit; Jyn barely has enough time to settle herself on the bench opposite her mother before the ship rumbles and shudders around her, leaping into the air with a creaky, metallic groan. She doesn’t even have the time to get used to the motion of the ship before an almost-familiar lurch in the pit of her stomach signals the jump to hyperspace

(she could get up now, climb the ladder, shoot the droid in the back of the head and slam the butt of her blaster into cassian’s temple; take the ship wherever she wants to go, finally free)

(she could)

(she doesn’t)

Her fingers clench spasmodically around the edge of the black plastoid bench, her heart jittering in her chest, and her breaths shudder out of her in rhythm with the creaking of the durasteel walls.

She waits.

Chapter Text

Jyn steps off the ship, carefully, hesitantly, staying just behind Lyra, blinking in the sudden light. Yavin 4 is, apparently, a jungle planet; the U-wing has landed on an open space between two massive ziggurats, ancient stone accented with trailing greenery and faded carvings. Predictably, Lyra is entranced by the crumbling monstrosities; however, all Jyn can see when she looks at the ziggurats is the tactical (dis)advantage of building a base beneath the giant equivalent of an ‘X marks the spot’.

Of course, who knows how long the base has been here--she certainly doesn’t, at least--and the Empire hasn’t found the Alliance yet, so maybe it’s a decent location after all.

Cassian leads the two of them across the landing pad and into the hangar, and it seems as though he took her words about trust to heart, since he not only lets them walk behind him but also left his droid on the U-wing. Or maybe she’s overthinking things. But the apparently lack of concern about her and her mother is more than a bit unnerving. Everything is so… open, almost--Cassian didn’t even bother with an alias or ask them many questions. Nothing like the Partisans.

Saw would never have given out real names so casually, nor would he have let them see so much of the base. There would be bags over both Jyn and Lyra’s heads, their wrists in binders behind their backs, searched and disarmed and kept completely harmless until they were in the very center of the base. Jyn has escorted more than her fair share of men and women to the center of Saw’s stronghold. Some of whom ended up facing Bor Gullet.

(she doesn’t want to think about bor gullet right now)

Well, if the Alliance is going to be lax about security, she might as well take advantage of it. Quickening her steps, Jyn comes up alongside Cassian. “Where are we going?”

Cassian’s stride never falters, his face still and blank. “I’m taking you to Senator Mon Mothma. She and General Draven want to talk to you and your mother, to get a feel for the two of you. I'll then be asking you a few questions to determine what kind of training you'll need.”

Training. Jyn takes a breath, keeps her steps even and smooth, trying not to show any emotions on her face. Right. Liana Hallick would need training.

Liana Hallick had not spent five years among the Partisans.

Jyn wonders, idly, what the Rebellion would do with the wife and daughter of an Imperial scientist. After all, there's not really much that the two of them could do for the Rebellion, on principle; Lyra is a diplomat and a historian, with some knowledge of guerrilla warfare tactics from their time with Saw Gerrera, and the fierceness of a fighter when she has little other choice, and Jyn is a warrior, hardened and powerful and strong, with fire in her veins and steel in her bones and blood in her shattered glass smile. There's no doubt the Rebel Alliance could use them.

The only question is, would they?

Could the Rebels trust that Jyn and Lyra Erso wouldn't even ever dream of selling out the Rebellion to the Empire that stole their third member?

Jyn rather thinks not.

It's not necesarrily against the Rebels, the generals and senators and politicians who make up the core of the leadership of this ill-fated Rebellion against the all-powerful Empire; it's more like the idea that no matter how much Jyn and Lyra could bring to the table, there's always a chance that somehow, the Empire could use Galen Erso against them, to the downfall of the Alliance.

(hence why the aliases. lyra believes that the less they tell the rebellion, the better. even the senators like mon mothma, who would more than likely lean towards trusting the erso women, even they must not know. must not be allowed to know.)

Jyn lets a soft breath huff out between her lips and watched Cassian for a moment, then sighs and, shrugging internally, breaks the silence. "What kind of training?"

Cassian hesitates before answering. "Basic weapons training, hand-to-hand combat, simple tactics. The kind of things one needs to know to be a member of the Alliance. Depending on what you show aptitude in, you could be rerouted to a pilot--for flight training--or placed underneath an Intelligence officer to be assigned to that department. I would hazard a guess that neither of you are particularly political..."

Lyra snorts. "I consider myself to be a fairly decent diplomat, actually," she explains with a sarcastic laugh. "You'd be surprised at the things I can do. I really rather prefer talking over just blowing everyone up or shooting everyone. Violence is not always the best way to solve a problem."

"When the problem is as large as the Empire, Aurae, I don't feel like we have much of a choice," the Intelligence agent answers.

Lyra presses her lips together in a thin line, but doesn’t speak.

Cassian waits for a moment, then increases his pace ever-so-slightly, the blank mask back on his face; even his eyes are shadowed, hidden, and although Jyn prides herself on her ability to read people, she cannot find any emotion in his eyes. The face of a spy.

(and a good one, at that; surprising with how young he must be, only a couple years older than she is)

If Cassian notices her attempt, he shows no sign. (There’s no if about it; he’s too good not to notice. He just chooses not to react, for some reason she cannot fathom.) And then there’s no more time for conversation, because he holds up a hand to stop them in front of a door. There’s not much about the door to set it aside from all the other doors they’ve passed, but he steps forward with the same calm confidence he’s carried with him since Alderaan and knocks. There’s a second of silence, and then a voice calls out, “Enter,” just as calm and composed as Cassian himself, and then he opens the door and Jyn lays eyes on Mon Mothma for the first time.

(Later, the only thing she will remember from this first meeting is Mothma’s appearance; regal and calm and composed, everything her voice sounded like, a bastion of peaceful diplomacy in the storm-tossed sea of the Rebellion’s cold war. One of the things Jyn remembers is the look on Cassian’s face--deference and yet something more , something intangible, born of respect but mixed with something like disdain. Later, she’ll wonder if it’s related to the fact that Cassian is a spy; he’s seen the worst the Empire has to offer and more, has been through and done unimaginable horrors in the name of the cause, and yet while Mon Mothma is a strong leader she also still refuses to give up on a peaceful solution.

But that comes later. And right then, the only thing that matters is that they stay safe, uncompromised, they’ve survived the first investigation, the first test, but now comes the second, more thorough one, and if they fail this…)

(Later, she will also wonder if her own certainty about the coming war influenced her opinion of Mon Mothma in some way.)

“Welcome, Aurae and Liana Hallick, to the Rebel Alliance,” Mon Mothma says courteously. (Jyn has a feeling Mon Mothma always speaks courteously .) “My name is Senator Mon Mothma. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person. I’ve heard many good things from General Draven about you; he’s assured me that the two of you will fit in quite well here, and I want to pass along those assurances. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here today to meet you.”

There’s a small pause, wherein Jyn shifts uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny of both Mon Mothma and Cassian, and Lyra struggles to come up with an appropriate answer. “Thank you, Senator,” she finally decides on. “Liana and I are in your debt for making this transition possible. I know it’s not usually your custom to expose yourself like this…”

Mothma smiles, warm and welcoming. “Only because we don’t usually have people reaching out to us. In the cold war--for lack of a better term--that we’re in right now, it’s considered more prudent by most people to remain neutral.”

The datapad lying on the table in front of the senator chirps an alert, and a flicker of irritation crosses her perfectly schooled expression. She glances down at the datapad’s screen and purses her lips. “I was hoping to have a little more time to speak with you, but it appears I have other matters to attend to. Forgive me. Sergeant Andor, would you find them temporary quarters and then begin their evaluations?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Cassian-- Sergeant Cassian--responds with a crisp salute. Mothma acknowledges him with a quick nod, her eyes already drifting back to the datapad, and Cassian turns to Lyra and Jyn. “Ms. Hallick, Liana, if you would come with me, please…”

“Call me Aurae,” Lyra says back, then turns to follow him out the door. “Liana, are you coming?”

Jyn hesitates just inside the room, glancing back over her shoulder at the Senator, who is looking decidedly more upset with each passing second. As though she feels Jyn’s gaze, Mothma lifts her gaze from the datapad--

Their eyes meet.

There’s some strange, unspoken thing that flows between the two of them, in that moment; an acknowledgement, perhaps. (Of different views, of the futility of seeking peace, of the painful inevitability and hopelessness of war, and its cost)

And for a moment, Jyn almost begins to understand Mon Mothma.

Then Lyra calls out, “Liana?” and the moment shatters like spun glass, Mothma returning to her datapad as though nothing happened at all.

“Right behind you,” Jyn calls out, and leaves the room without looking back.

[=|=]

After what feels like days of questions (but is only three hours, according to the chrono on the wall), Cassian finally decides he’s gotten enough information from the two of them.

Jyn’s under no false pretenses--this was an interrogation, to see if they are worth the risk, to see if they’re who they pretend to be; she can only hope that his dismissal of them means they’ve passed. Not that his manner or tone could give her any clues. The entire time, he’s been cold and impersonal, asking questions with little regard for sentimentality or extraneous information, cutting to the quick, efficient and sharp.

She supposes that’s why he’s already an officer, at the tender young age of eighteen. (Or so she guesses; he looks around eighteen to her, and acts like it in rare moments--flashes of humor in his brown eyes when she cracks a joke raunchy enough to earn a reprimand from Lyra. There’s a hint of a smile flickering on his lips when she talks about her fierce desire to take down the Empire, and for some reason or another he doesn’t suppress the emotion in his eyes. Not that she can identify it, anyway. Everything about Cassian Andor is a mystery--not least, the reason why he runs around with that kriffing droid .)

“There you are, Cassian,” K-2 says, choosing that precise moment to shove his way inside the small room they’re in. “You have been gone for three hours and twenty-six minutes. This is an unreasonable amount of time. The ship needs repairs and I got wet and require an oil bath.”

“Hello to you too,” Jyn mutters under her breath, without thinking. She rolls her eyes at the droid’s antics, rising from the chair and stretching stiff muscles. “If we’re done here, are Mama and I free to leave?”

“Yes, of course,” Cassian answers quickly, following her example and standing. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a ship to take care of, and a droid who can most certainly take care of himself,” he adds when K-2 levels a vicious glare at him. (How a droid without a ‘face’ can glare is beyond Jyn, but she’ll be damned if he doesn’t somehow manage to make it happen.)

Lyra nods as though this is completely reasonable. “Of course, Sergeant Andor.”

“Which way is the mess hall?” Jyn interjects, deciding to ask the important questions now. And, besides, she’s hungry.

Cassian raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t comment. “I’ll show you there myself,” he says after a moment of consideration. “My ship can wait a few more minutes.”

She hesitates, then nods. This will work, even if it’s not quite what she had in mind; she’s not entirely sure she’s ready to socialize with the man who was quite prepared to kill her the instant she acted suspicious. “Lead the way,” she says, then, unable to resist: “Does the droid have to come?”

K-2 straightens, stares at her with an air of affronted dignity (she still doesn’t quite know how he manages it). “I’ll have you know that I am used to going with Cassian wherever he goes,” he begins.

“K, leave it,” Cassian says with a sigh. “Go get your oil bath, alright? Then you can help me with the ship.”

K-2 makes a noise that somehow approximates a grumbling sigh before turning and clanking away. Jyn nearly makes a comment about stealth, but falls silent at the look Lyra gives her--a look that clearly says to stop antagonizing the man .

Reluctantly, she stops.

“Anyway, the mess hall?” Lyra asks, stepping around Jyn to walk towards the door. “I think both Liana and I are ready for dinner. It’s been a long day.”

(a long day of sitting around doing nothing on a ship, she wants to retort. she doesn’t.)

(she thinks about it for a long time, though)

(possibly too long, by the look cassian gives her, as though he knows exactly what she’s thinking)

(and maybe he does. she still can’t read him)

Cassian nods. “Right, yes. This way.”

Jyn follows him down the hallway, almost painfully conscious of the stares of the soldiers they pass, and forces herself to walk with her head up and shoulders back. She will not let them intimidate her.

As though she hears the thought, Lyra turns and glances back over her shoulder, and when their eyes meet, she smiles.

[=|=]

The next few weeks are spent in endless rounds of training. Jyn only sees her mother at mealtimes and at night, and she sees Cassian even less often; maybe once or twice a week. Occasionally, he’s close enough to exchange a few words with; even though she doesn’t really like him, he’s one of the few people she knows at the base, and there’s something about him that almost dares her to find out everything she can about him. He seems to share that, at least, and she can only hope that she figures him out before he unearths her true identity.

(she’s beginning to like the rebellion. she really doesn’t want to leave it behind)

He disappears for a couple weeks, returns looking haggard and weary with K-2 quiet (for once) and almost dispirited at his side. A mission, she guesses, and one that didn’t go so well; or, maybe, success wasn’t as sweet or fulfilling as she’d thought it’d be. She could ask him, could go search the base during one of her breaks and corner him, but the thought has little appeal. She’s not even that curious. It’s just--

(what does it take to make that hard of a spy come home like that?)

Nothing.

It’s nothing.

(she doesn’t tell lyra about it, doesn’t want to see her mother’s eyes)

And then, nearly three months after arriving at Yavin 4, Cassian walks up to her one afternoon and says, “Come with me,” and the carefully constructed routine of the past weeks shatters.

[=|=]

“Where are we going?” Jyn asks, struggling to keep up with Cassian’s long strides. He glances over at her, alters his steps ever-so-slightly, matching them more to hers. “Cassian?”

(he never said she had to use his rank, and she does know his name, after all…)

“I have a mission,” he answers shortly, “and I’m allowed to take a few soldiers with me. I’ll need help. I’ve been keeping an eye on your training.”

And that, she thinks, might be the closest thing to a compliment she ever gets out of him.

“But where are we going ?” she persists in asking, giving him a meaningful look. “And what’s the point? What are we doing? I’m not ready to just leave--”

“I understand,” he responds. “Which is why I’m taking you to your room, first.” His voice drops. “I’ll give you more details when we’re someplace private. This is a confidential mission.”

Confidential. Right. “You’ll at least tell me what I need to pack, right?”

“You don’t need anything other than what you can carry on you.”

Jyn sighs, then nods. It’s not very specific, not at all, but at least she has a better idea of what to bring now. (Well, sort of. Not really.)

Lyra’s in their room when she steps inside, surprisingly. “Mama? What are you doing here?” she asks, frowning. “Shouldn’t you be out doing… whatever it is you do?”

(they don’t really talk about the daily routine too much. she’s not quite sure why )

“I heard you’ve been chosen for a mission,” Lyra answers, voice soft. “I wanted to come say goodbye. And to give you something.” She reaches up to her neck and unknots a plain cord, draws it out from beneath her shirt--a glimmering, roughly cut kyber crystal. “Trust the Force, Jyn, and everything will go as it should,” Lyra finishes, whispering Jyn’s real name almost inaudibly.

“You’re giving it to me?” Jyn feels her eyes widen with astonishment--the kyber crystal necklace had been a gift from Galen, and it was one of the only things Lyra still had to remember her husband by.

Lyra just smiles and nods, tying the cord around Jyn’s neck then stepping back. “You should get ready,” she says instead. “Wouldn’t want to keep your commanding officer waiting,” and there’s a tightness in her smile, a strain in her eyes, but she refuses to show it in her voice. “I’ll see you when you get back.”

Before Lyra can leave, Jyn takes a step forward and hugs her tightly, pressing her face into her mother’s shoulder, drawing courage and comfort from the familiar pair of arms around her. Then, slowly, reluctantly, she steps back, gives Lyra a smile and a nod and then goes over to her bed to get what she came for--a pair of clothes less distinctive than the Alliance uniform she currently wears, her collapsible batons, and her blaster. She changes while her mother leaves and then quickly wraps a scarf around her neck before returning to the hallway where Cassian awaits.

He doesn’t waste time asking her if she’s ready to leave or not, instead simply walking back down the corridor towards the hangar.

(a part of her notices that he keeps his strides short for her)

It’s not until they step inside his U-wing, however, that he speaks.

“Recently, Draven received some new intel from one of our informants. He asked me to verify the information. You and I will be travelling to an Imperial-controlled planet and spending a few days undercover in an attempt to, for lack of a better term, slice our way into the Imperial network in search of proof.”

At the mention of slicing, Jyn straightened. “I can help you out with that,” she says, only to be met by the smallest of smiles.

“I know you can,” Cassian answers, the smile flickering around the corners of his eyes and teasing his lips. “That’s why I asked you to come.”

“So,” she asks, slowly, hesitant, “where exactly are we going?”

“It’s your basic intelligence mission,” he says, evading the question. “I’ll evaluate your performance and see if maybe you’d fit in intelligence.”

“Cassian,” she says, staring into his eyes. “Where are we going?”

He swallows, takes a breath.

“Coruscant.”

Chapter Text

“Cassian,” she says, staring into his eyes. “Where are we going?”

He swallows, takes a breath.

“Coruscant.”

.

Coruscant .

A Core world, Jyn knows, the whole planet covered in one massive megalopolis, and very tightly controlled by the Empire. Not a friendly planet for a Rebel to be on.

“And this is the mission you thought would be a good test for me?” she finally chokes out, her voice rising with each word, staring wide-eyed at the man in front of her.

“Draven suggested it,” Cassian answers, as though that alone is enough to make it sensible .

(she can’t protest too hard without leaving him wondering why it is she’s so afraid of the empire)

(she can’t tell him that they might recognize her)

“And so just because your general suggested it, that makes it right?”

He sighs, shifts his weight from one foot to the other, and shrugs. “I follow orders.”

It’s as much a warning as it is a reason; even in only three months, it’s been whispered around the halls of Base One that fifteen-year-old Liana Hallick has trouble with obeying her superior officers. It’ll get her in trouble one day, she supposes; but if she’s (un)lucky, it’ll be after she’s ran again.

(she’s not sure how long they’ll stay, but in the end, they leave. some things are too important to be known, and if even the tiniest rumor starts to spread, they’ll vanish in the night)

(there’s no doubt it’ll happen. she only wonders how long it’ll take)

Cassian still stands there, waiting for a response; she blinks, shakes away the thoughts, and blows out a heavy sigh. “Fine, then.” Then, more quietly: “If I get captured, I’m going to murder you. Slowly.”

He stops on his way to the cockpit, turns slowly on his heel to meet her gaze.

She meets his eyes and gives him her sweetest smile.

“Are you coming, Cassian?” K-2 calls from the cockpit, breaking the moment; Cassian turns without a word and climbs the ladder, vanishing, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

It’s only a few seconds before the engines light, and she guesses they’re doing pre-flight checks; she finds a seat on the hard bench welded to the durasteel wall and sits down. (It’s oddly reminiscent of the trip to Yavin 4, the only difference being Lyra’s absence. She tries not to think about that.)

(She fails.)

She can’t believe this--that she’s embarking on a dangerous information-gathering mission on Coruscant , of all places, with a man barely three years older than her who she barely knows and cannot trust--it seems like utter insanity . Especially for her first mission.

(not her first)

(liana’s first)

So maybe it’s not her first mission, but as far as the Alliance knows, it is--and yet General Draven sent her on it anyway. Maybe he has suspicions? But they’ve only been on Yavin for three months , no one’s ever found out that fast before, because Jyn is good at slicing and she knows how to make scandocs and records and ident-chips out of nothing. (The Rebellion doesn’t know that, though. She’s showed them only as much of her slicing skills as she’s needed to use, because if she’s too good then it gets suspicious, and she really doesn’t want to leave them behind.)

(She highly doubts Draven would let them get far.)

The ship shudders around her, then lifts from the landing pad; Jyn curls her fingers around the edges of the plastoid bench and shifts forward, closer to the single transparisteel window, entranced by the sight of the planet falling away beneath her, the air turning to empty night.

She finds herself standing, staring out the window, watching the sphere of Yavin 4 fade away, when the ship lurches around her and the stars stretch out into endlessness--the sudden absence of a reference point sends vertigo spinning through her head, her stomach rolling uncomfortably, and she sucks in a quick breath and backs up until the backs of her knees hit the bench. She sits down, quickly, and waits until her gut settles before looking back at the window.

“Enjoying the view?”

Cassian’s voice startles Jyn from her almost contemplative silence, and she jerks her head up to look at him. “How long until we get to Coruscant?” she asks instead of answering; then, biting her lip, she adds, “And what aliases are we using? I don’t want to make a mistake because I don’t know my cover well enough.”

He holds out a datapad. “Everything you need to know is on here. This is an ident-chip for Kiera Asokah, who is sixteen and very committed to the Empire,” he adds, pulling a chip from his pocket with his free hand and holding it out. Jyn rises and takes both the chip and the datapad, stuffing the chip in her pocket before sitting back down and tapping the datapad’s screen to bring up the information on it. “I’ll be using a cover known as Joreth Sward. Sward is a well-established identity--the Empire probably has more info on him than it does on my real name,” he mutters, snorting a bit at the thought.

A pause.

“Anyway. Everything you need to know is on there,” he finishes, nodding at the datapad. “Including some information on my cover. You have the entire time we spend in hyperspace to familiarize yourself with the data; ask me if you have any questions. We’ll be in hyperspace for almost a solar day.”

Almost twenty-four hours, then--plenty of time to become a new person, at least for Jyn. “Okay, thanks,” she answers, already absorbed by the screen in front of her.

“I’ll leave you to it,” Cassian says, then turns and disappears back inside the cockpit. Vaguely, she hears K-2’s metallic voice asking about something, but she ignores it, focusing. There’s not enough time to be distracted.

The information scrolls across the screen, just on the edge of being too quick to read, and ever so slowly Liana Hallick becomes Kiera Asokah.

 

Name: Kiera Asokah

Age: 16 sol. yrs.

Height: 158.75 cm

Weight: 50 kg

Eye color: green

Skin tone: fair

Hair color: black

Mother: Vala Asokah (unmarried)

Father: unknown

Planet of birth: Coruscant

Brief history: Born on Coruscant, moved to Alderaan at age three. Left Alderaan at age fourteen (stowed away on an outbound merchant ship). Showed aptitude for trading; hired by merchant Joreth Sward as an assistant/apprentice…

The file goes on, explaining in more detail family life and upbringing, as well as the circumstances leading to Kiera stowing away; Jyn reads through it all, slowly getting a feel for the part she is to play in this charade. The file contains info about the mission as well, and she memorizes the details out of habit.

(Theoretically, the datapad isn’t going to auto-wipe once she exits the file--the Alliance isn’t as paranoid as Saw, doesn’t take the same kind of precautions--meaning that she should be able to reread the data whenever she pleases, but old habits die hard. And, anyway, it’s better to have everything memorized, not to need to look back over the details, because if the Empire were to get a hand on the datapad the loss would be huge.)

According to the chrono on the wall of the ship, it’s just over four hours later when Cassian once again leaves the cockpit and catches her attention.

“How’s it going?” he asks, his face and voice carefully neutral.

Jyn looks up from where she’s sprawled out on the plastoid bench, head resting on her left hand while she scrolls through the last of the file on the datapad. “Seems straightforward enough,” she says, wincing internally at the phrase--nothing straightforward ever ends up being simple, in her experience. “Although I probably just jinxed it,” she mutters under her breath, sighing. “Anyway, I did have a question. If we’re after confirmation of some intel, why are you using a merchant alias? Experienced spy like you should have a few deeper-access Imperial covers.”

Cassian nods. “That’s a good question, and I do. I take missions fairly regularly to keep those covers legitimate, in fact. The reason I’m not using one of those is because merchants and traders are less noticed--it’ll be easier for the two of us to blend in this way, and on a Core world like Coruscant we need the protection offered by that anonymity. The intel should be fairly easy to verify with access to the net and some slicing tricks.”

It makes sense when he explains it like that.

“Every mission carries a risk of exposure,” Jyn mumbles, thinking it through quickly. “Sward is a less valuable cover; less loss if it’s compromised. You’re on a mission with a new recruit who could screw things up easily enough. Must not be a super important piece of intel that you want verified. But it’s important enough that you’d risk going to the Core for it…”

Leaving the datapad on the bench, she rises and paces the perimeter of the room, completely missing the surprise in Cassian’s eyes as she walks past him. “So someone--an informant, not a spy, someone newer whom you don’t really trust yet--gave you a small piece of intel. The intel itself isn’t that big, but the connotations of it, the implications, those are huge and worrying to Alliance High Command, and because of the possibility that the informant is a plant and the intel is fake, they want it verified badly enough to send someone to the Core to do it. But because it’s not something huge in and of itself, General Draven doesn’t want to risk compromising one of your deep-cover aliases for what could turn out to be worthless.” She stops pacing, turns--

To find Cassian staring at her with something like shock written plainly on his face, mouth slightly open.

“That’s… good,” he finally manages to get out. “ Very good. I’m impressed.”

“Am I right?”

He nods. “But you still don’t get to know what the intel is.”

Of course not. Jyn rolls her eyes, then grins as an idea occurs to her. “Bet you ten credits I figure it out before we get back to Yavin.”

Cassian--who has wiped the amazement from his face, replacing it with his usual stoic mask--shakes his head. When he speaks, his voice is solemn. “I don’t gamble with Alliance intelligence.”

She grins mischievously. “Twenty?”

He doesn’t even blink. “Deal.”

(Jyn decides not to mention that if all they needed was net access and a slicer to find the intel, they wouldn’t need to risk going to Coruscant. Either the mission isn’t as straightforward as the file on the datapad portrays it to be, or there’s something deeper going on here. Or both.

Whatever’s going on, she has a feeling she’s not going to like it very much.)

[=|=]

According to Cassian, the mission to Coruscant is more than just a verification of whatever the intel is; it’s also a chance to trade some of the surplus supplies the Alliance has collected for some of the medical and mechanical supplies they’re constantly short on. It makes sense to Jyn, even if she personally thinks that the Alliance would do better to stick to Outer Rim planets for trading and bring credits when they go shopping in the Core. It does add authenticity to their cover, though, and mainly for that she doesn’t make any comments.

With about seven hours left before the return to realspace, Jyn retreats to one of two small side compartments each containing a cot and a tiny storage space. The door to the compartment doesn’t have a locking function, and there’s no handy space to store her blaster in reach; but it’s a place to sleep, and the only other person on board is Cassian, anyway, so there’s really no need for her usual precautions.

That doesn’t keep her from feeling vulnerable, almost naked , without them.

Still, the steady humming of the ship’s engines has a soporific effect, and only moments after lying down, her eyes flutter shut.

(please no nightmares)

 

She runs, coughing and gasping, through the smoke. The air around her is hot, choked with ash and dust, and the screams of the dying echo in her ears. Innocent civilians caught in Saw’s bombs.

Her bombs.

She’s been building bombs for years, now; detonated her first one when she was barely ten, a little over a year after Saw took her and her mother in, and the screams are no strangers to her ears. But there’s something about this--there were hardly any imps in the facility, just a bunch of terrified citizens, and they died to prove a point.

“Come, child,” Saw shouts from somewhere ahead of her; she gulps in another breath of smoky air and forces her legs to move faster. There have been other Partisans who were too slow, who didn’t keep up.

She never saw them again.

(she will not be like the others, will not be left behind)

A low rectangle appears in front of her; she skids to a stop just in time to avoid crashing into the durasteel wall. Just to her left there’s a door, and Saw stands beside it, typing on the keypad.

The door hisses open to reveal a small dark space beyond--a bunker of some kind. She barely has time to register this new development when Saw puts a hand on the small of her back and shoves her in; she stumbles, keeps her balance, and whirls around, a confused protest on her lips, to see him offering her a blaster.

Not just any blaster, but his own--a high-powered model stolen from an Imperial supply depot during a raid a couple months back. It’s one of his most prized possessions.

The protest dies on her lips, before she ever voices it.

“Wait here, child. I’ll send someone for you when the fires die down.”

Jyn takes the blaster, hands steady, and nods. “See you later. Who will you send?”

Saw only shrugs, then backs away. “May the Force be with you, child.”

 

She never saw him again.

Jyn wakes, gasping, tangled in her sheets, the image of Saw’s face--and his promise to her--seared into her mind.

It takes her far too long to notice that the door to the compartment is open. Even longer for her to realize it’s Cassian standing in the doorway, watching her, silent and impassive.

She wonders how long he’s been standing there.

“We’ll be dropping out of hyperspace in ten minutes,” he says after a moment. “You should get ready.”

As soon as she nods in acknowledgement, he turns and leaves the doorway--then hesitates, casting a look back over his shoulder at her. She can see the question burning in his eyes.

He stays silent.

Then turns again and walks away, and this time he doesn’t look back.

(Part of her wishes he would.

She shuts that part of her down before it comes up with anything else.)

She sits in silence on the cot for a few minutes, controlling her breathing. Saw’s abandonment of her still burns in her heart, cuts at her, and she knows it’s an overreaction but she can’t help but worry that Cassian is about to leave her behind too--and then she’d truly be all alone, without even her mother to comfort her when she cries.

After Saw left, she waited inside the bunker for three days. There was little water and even less food, and she didn’t dare leave to search for more--the city outside was crawling with stormtroopers and Imperial officers in search of the Partisans. Jyn had still trusted Saw at that point, had believed that the danger outside the bunker’s walls was what kept him away, convinced that he’d never leave her by choice. But even at thirteen she should’ve recognized his parting sentiment for what it was: a goodbye.

Saw never was one for sentiment or well-wishing, and while he professed a token belief in the Force just like most everyone in the galaxy, he rarely invoked it. Really, his use of the traditional good-luck statement should’ve been a clue: it was the closest he could get to a proper goodbye without leaving her suspicious.

(She never got to tell him goodbye.)

(It’s been over a year but she still misses him.)

By the time Lyra showed up in the bunker door, Jyn had finally begun to realize that Saw wasn’t coming back. Rumors had begun to circulate, rumors about who the mother-daughter pair were, about why Saw was sheltering them and treating Kestrel Dawn like his own child. It was too dangerous--if the Empire got word that Saw Gerrera was hosting the fugitive Erso women, not a single Partisan would survive to tell the story. Saw had had no choice about leaving them behind.

It was for the best.

Jyn sighs and climbs from the bed; she’s gone over the possible reasons for Saw’s departure a hundred times at least since he left. There’s no need to think about it now.

But she can’t quite get it out of her head.

[=|=]

The transition to realspace and subsequent landing at the Coruscant spaceport goes smoothly. Even so, Jyn still half-expects a squadron of stormtroopers to be waiting at the base of the ramp after K-2 shuts the ship down.

There are only two.

A routine inspection, to make sure they’re not smugglers, she knows, and there’s only two. If trouble strikes, she alone could take both stormtroopers out. Silently.

But nothing happens. The troopers don’t even blink at the sight of K-2, head drooped forward, eyes dark, in the pilot’s chair, doing a perfect impersonation of a powered-down droid. They do, however, ask a couple questions, clearly curious.

“Where’d you get a security droid from?” one asks.

“I picked it up in a scrapyard while looking for salvageable parts,” Cassian answers in a flawless imitation of a Core world accent. “It’s been very useful on trips to those less-reputable planets in the Outer Rim.”

“Smart thinking,” the second stormtrooper comments. It’s hard to tell through the helmet, but Jyn thinks he sounds impressed. “Well, you’re all clear. Have a good day.”

Cassian nods in acknowledgement, and the troopers turn and clank off, leaving the two of them alone.

“Is K-2 staying with the ship?” Jyn asks after a moment of silence.

He nods. “ It is, yes. Just like usual. Come, now, let’s get our lodging confirmed, and then we’ll come back and unload the merchandise. The routine is no different just because this is a Core world.”

She picks up several things from his answer, which she quickly commits to memory. One: Joreth and Kiera consider their droid an ‘it’. Two: the usual routine involves K-2 staying and guarding the ship while they go about their business, and Kiera is familiar with this routine. Three: Kiera’s never been to the Core with Sward.

She can work with that. “Of course, Mr. Sward. Lead the way.”

They rent a speeder for the afternoon--it’s just past noon, Coruscant time--and make the drive to the hotel in silence, broken occasionally by Cassian pointing out landmarks along the way. There aren’t many; the planet is hardly any different from any of the other planet-sized megalopolises which are so common in the Core, but there is the occasional interesting-looking building or memorial to some unknown person. Jyn tries to make an effort to pay attention, but she’s more interested in cataloguing potential escape routes and memorizing the route they’re taking from the spaceport.

They arrive at the hotel a few minutes later, and Cassian leads her to the front desk, where a protocol droid waits.

“My name is Joreth Sward. I need a suite. I’ll pay on a night-by-night basis.”

The golden droid peers at him for a moment. “May I have your credit chip, please?”

Cassian rummages around in his pockets, then produces a credit chip and hands it over to the droid. There’s a moment of silence, and then the droid passes it back. “Thank you, sir. Your suite is room seven on the fifth floor. The door has been keyed to accept both of your faces. Have a good day.”

He nods once, satisfied, and returns the chip to his pocket. “Come on, Kiera,” he says, leading her towards the turbolift. “We’ll take a moment to refresh ourselves, and then return to the spaceport.”

Jyn takes a breath, a comment on the tip of her tongue-- I’m not an idiot, you don’t need to tell me exactly what we’re doing --but bites it back and follows Cassian silently into the turbolift. She’ll give him a chance. And then… if he continues to treat her like a child, well.

The last man to treat her like a child had found himself lying dazed on the ground in about five seconds with a twelve-year-old girl standing over him, laughing.

She wonders what that would do to Cassian’s ever-present spy face. It’d certainly be worth getting in trouble to see the look on his face when she beat him.

Jyn hides her smile, and lets the thought of besting the trained intelligence agent satisfy her frustration, even as they leave the hotel behind and return to the spaceport.

One day, soon, there will have to be a fight somewhere , and then Cassian will have no choice but to acknowledge her skills. And if she has to start the fight herself, well… it’s been nearly six months since the last time she got in a real fight. Since before Alderaan.

Cassian can’t fault her for wanting to have a bit of fun.

Chapter Text

Cassian sighs and paces around the perimeter of the hotel room, thinking.

Liana is in the ‘fresher, taking a shower, and K-2 is back with the u-wing, meaning the suite is blessedly silent. It’s a relief.

He should be thinking about the mission; should be working out how to get Liana to slice her way into the ‘net for him without her getting suspicious; should definitely be figuring out how the kriffing hell he’s supposed to go about the second part of his mission. Instead, he’s wearing a path into the cream-colored shag carpet and thinking about Liana.

More specifically, about the fact that he very obviously witnessed her waking up from a nightmare when he went to wake her up for the transition to realspace on board the ship.

What could a girl like Liana have nightmares about? Fifteen years old, born on Alderaan, quietly fighting the Empire her whole life but only just now getting into the real fight--what could she possibly have experienced that would still be haunting her? He has the feeling trying to talk to her about it will be unsuccessful--Liana doesn’t appear to trust easily (another fact he finds interesting.).

It appears he’s been rather mistaken about her.

Liana’s deduction about the intel--from nothing more than his alias--had completely shocked him. Clearly, the fact that she is of average intellect in the classroom means almost nothing; she has common sense and she makes connections.

(She sees the world through the same lens as you, a little voice in the back of his mind murmurs. He pushes it away, shuts it up as quickly as he can. After all, there’s no evidence that Liana Hallick is good in a fight, can observe a battle from an outside perspective, can strategize effectively.)

(He’s grasping at straws, and he knows it.)

He pushes the thoughts away with a sigh, pulls out the datapad General Draven had slipped him during the mission briefing. There’s a drop point near where you’ll be staying, the man had said. We have a high-ranking Imperial--who prefers to remain anonymous to everyone except Senator Mon Mothma and myself--who will be dropping a datacard containing highly sensitive information. Use this datapad to communicate with him. Make absolutely certain the Hallick girl does not get a chance to look at it. In fact, the less she knows about why you’re really on Coruscant, the better.

So, somehow, Cassian has to get Liana to use her slicing skills (how the Force she picked those up, he has no idea) to let him verify the intel without her discovering what he’s verifying, pick up a datacard from a drop point without her knowing he’s ever left, and trade as many of the surplus supplies as he can for weapons and bacta. (Mainly bacta--it’s expensive, and the Alliance is perpetually running low on the stuff.)

It’s a tall order on the best of days. And with Liana turning out to be far more perceptive than he’d expected?

Well, at this point, it’s looking damn near impossible.

The shower shuts off a few minutes later, and shortly after, Liana emerges from the ‘fresher in just her shirt and trousers, her hair wet and loose on her shoulders. “Nice night,” she comments casually, stepping up next to him at the window. Without pulling her gaze from the cityscape, she adds in a much lower voice: “Have we got company here?”

“We’re all clear,” he answers in a normal volume. “You can speak freely.”

Nice thinking , he doesn’t say. Instead, he lets a small silence settle between them before he speaks again. “You should get some sleep. Big day tomorrow.”

Liana makes a noise he could almost call a scoff, but she nods. “You too. I don’t want to get killed because you made a stupid mistake from sleep deprivation.”

“How very thoughtful of you,” he mutters, then tosses her a lazy salute. “Yes, ma’am, as you wish, ma’am.”

Liana rolls her eyes, but the corners of her lips twitch upwards in the start of an amused smirk, and her green-grey eyes sparkle. “As you were, soldier,” she says casually, with a sardonic half-smile. “See you in the morning.”

“See you in the morning,” Cassian echoes, fighting to keep the laughter out of his voice.

The instant the door to her bedroom closes behind her, he pulls the datapad out of his boot and begins to type.

[=|=]

On foot, Cassian estimates it will take him twenty minutes to reach the arranged drop point. Taking the rented speeder would halve that, but there are quite a few more ways to blend in on foot than there are on a speeder. So, if he leaves the suite now , he should theoretically make it to the drop point about ten minutes before the Imperial informant does, giving him plenty of time to scout out the area--and prepare a backup plan, in case the entire thing is a trap.

He takes one last look at the datapad, then tucks it in his bag. Checks his boots and hidden pockets to make sure everything’s in place--knife in his boot, spare blaster inside his coat, the attachments to turn his blaster into a sniper rifle in his pockets. Everything is present and accounted for; he glances at the chrono on the wall, checks the one on his wrist to make sure they’re in agreement, and nods in satisfaction.

Time to go.

Cassian slips out of the suite, strolls casually over to the turbolift, stands calm and relaxed against the back wall as it descends, then walks straight past the golden protocol droid at the front desk and out the doors. He walks a few meters down the sidewalk, then casually raises his hood as though he’s bothered by the slight evening chill.

(He’s not, of course. Fest is a cold planet. The slight bite to the air is actually refreshing, after the stifling humidity of Yavin 4.)

A few more strides, and then he turns down a side street--never varying his pace, keeping up his casual air. A covert glance behind him reveals the street empty of observers; he pauses for a moment, then steps to one side and melts into the shadows.

He takes a more indirect route to the drop point, doubling back on himself a couple times, cutting through dingy alleyways, in the hopes of throwing off any potential tails. Even with the longer route, he still reaches the drop point with about five minutes to spare, according to his wrist chrono.

Perfect timing.

There’s nothing special about the drop point; it’s just another decorative statue on another street corner, the only distinctive feature about it being that it’s a bit dirtier, a bit more run-down, than the others, fallen into a state of disrepair.

And, of course, if you tug on one of the knobs on the durasteel tree’s trunk, it will open outwards to reveal a small cavity in the trunk.

That’s where the informant will be leaving the datacard, assuming this whole thing isn’t a setup; Cassian hopes to be able to have a conversation with the man, to get a feel for the intel the datacard contains, to see if this particular informant is one that will continue to be of use to the Alliance. It all depends what the ‘highly sensitive information’ is.

Exactly at the specified time, a shadowy form detaches itself from a wall nearby and casually strolls over to the statue. Cassian can’t distinguish much of anything in the low light, but he makes out the distinctive uniform of an Imperial science officer. In a flawlessly smooth move, the officer opens the knot on the trunk and slides a thin rectangle inside, then closes the trunk up again, all while appearing to dig inside the pocket of his thin jacket for a cigarette and lighter, which he produces with a flourish. Leaning against the statue, he lights the cigarette, drops the lighter in his pocket, and takes a long drag. To the uneducated eye, he looks like an officer taking a break for a smoke.

To Cassian, it’s obvious that he’s watching the surrounding streets closely, searching for any sign of pursuit. Nothing comes; the man finishes his cigarette, snuffs it out against the trunk, and lets the butt float to the ground. He straightens, turns as though to head back across the street--

Cassian clears his throat and takes a single step away from the wall.

The man jumps, just a little, then composes himself, turning quickly back and stepping into the mouth of the alley Cassian’s been loitering in. “You must be my contact,” the informant says in a low, hurried voice.

“And you’re the informant. A science officer, by the uniform,” Cassian answers.

“Of a sort.” There’s a pause. “I can’t stay for long--they’ll be looking for me.”

“I understand.” Cassian hesitates, then takes a deep breath and takes the plunge. “What’s on the datacard?”

“Something General Draven and Senator Mothma need to see,” he answers evasively. “I can’t give you any more than that, I’m sorry--but I have to be careful. It’s not just my own life I’m putting at risk, here.”

Cassian frowns, intrigued despite himself. “What do you mean?”

“There are teams of men working under me,” the scientist answers. “None of them even know what it is they’ve been researching. If Krennic suspects a leak coming from my division, he’ll have them all executed and replaced. Innocent men and women could die for absolutely no reason.”

And damn if that doesn’t just make Cassian even more curious. HisAnd his words seem to be a confirmation of the intel Draven received… “Draven received some intel from an anonymous source saying that the Empire has been researching the use of kyber crystals as a power source. The source said that the Empire is building something huge, the likes of which has never been seen before in this galaxy. I was going to try and slice my way into secure transmissions, to see if I could find confirmation, but I think I’ve just found my verification.”

The scientist--whom Cassian is beginning to suspect is the Chief Engineer of the Empire’s new project--winces a little, then nods. “The Empire has finished its research and has just entered the planning stage. That datacard contains all the information in the DS-1 file at this time.” He straightens, suddenly, and takes a step back. “I have to go--”

“What have we got here?”

Cassian whirls to see a small squad of stormtroopers--he counts five--approaching from the other end of the alley.

The scientist swears.

“Looks suspicious to me,” another trooper adds.

(he’s taken more than eight troopers before)

Cassian exchanges a glance with the scientist, who has angled himself so that his face is half-hidden in the shadows. The city is quiet; there aren’t a lot of people around to notice. He could take all the troopers out and never get caught. And Cassian has a feeling that it would be very very bad for the scientist to be caught with a Rebel.

Before he can consciously act on his choice, however, a small figure leaps out from behind a pile of trash, holding a pair of batons extended to their fullest length--one in each hand--and lunges at the stormtroopers. Their scarf falls from their head with the motion, and as they spin, Cassian finds himself staring at the green-grey eyes and dark hair of Liana Hallick.

[=|=]

There’s something ever-so-slightly off about the way Cassian’s acting when Jyn emerges from the ‘fresher after her shower. She can’t pinpoint what it is, not exactly, but she’d bet a substantial amount of credits it has something to do with the datapad stashed in his boot. Not that he has any idea she’s noticed it, of course; very few people would’ve noticed it.

But then again, very few people spent years observing people, learning to read them like a book.

When he suggests she sleep, she nearly laughs; instead, however, she banters with him for a moment, for a reason she can’t (won’t) identify, then vanishes inside her room. As soon as the door closes, she gets to work, tossing on a coat, strapping her blaster to her thigh, and tucking her collapsible batons inside her jacket. She pulls socks on over her bare feet and jams them into her boots, then pulls her still-wet hair up into a quick knot at the base of her neck and wraps her scarf around her head. Then, ready, she presses her ear against the crack in the door and waits.

Sure enough, it doesn’t take long before she hears him moving around in the suite; he disappears into what she thinks is his room for a few moments before returning, and then shortly after she hears the door leading to the rest of the hotel open and shut behind him. She gives him a moment or so, then opens her door and darts into his room, going straight over to his open bag.

Sure enough, on the top of his clothes there’s a datapad. She snatches it up and turns the screen on without thinking, then freezes as she sees what’s on it.

A log of messages between Cassian and an informant, detailing a time and a drop point at which to meet; Jyn wastes no time scrolling through them, memorizing everything relevant, and making sure the image of the drop point is replicated perfectly in her mind’s eye. She then drops the datapad back down and sprints to the door. There’s no time to waste;, and if she can follow Cassian then she’ll be less likely to get lost.

She doesn’t bother to wait for the turbolift, instead flying down the stairs two at a time and sprinting out into the lobby, where she quickly calms herself and walks steadily out the front door of the hotel. She’s just in time to see Cassian disappear down a side street; she slips into the thick shadows behind him and watches as he pulls a vanishing act that would’ve worked on anyone else but her.

But she knows exactly where to look, and while he almost catches a glimpse of her once, she manages to duck behind some cover just in time to avoid his searching gaze. She keeps up with him easily enough, and when they at last arrive at the drop point, she takes cover behind a handy pile of trash and waits.

Soon enough, an Imperial science officer shows up and casually slides a datacard in the drop point; he then proceeds to smoke a cigarette. He maintains his nonchalant act well, she has to admit; most people wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

Then he turns to leave, and Cassian steps into the open and clears his throat.

The conversation that follows is too quiet to hear, at first; Jyn creeps closer and does her best to listen, but she only picks up snatches. She picks up Cassian explaining what the intel Draven needs verified is, and has a moment to relish the thought that she’s just earned twenty credits before everything abruptly sobers. Because it’s then that she hears the scientist speak, and his voice is familiar in a way that should be impossible; she’s not even sure quite how she knows it, because it’s an instinctive spark of knowing, like the way a child always knows its mother.

Before she has time to ponder it further, however, half a dozen stormtroopers show up, and she doesn’t think, just reacts on instinct; throws herself forward and yanks out her collapsible batons, falling upon the stormtroopers like a miniature whirlwind.

It takes her all of sixty seconds to send all the troopers to the ground, and she turns back to Cassian with a triumphant grin on her face--

Then remembers she’s supposed to be back in the hotel room, asleep.

Whoops.

“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Cassian says, that stunned expression from back on the ship on his face again. Jyn can’t help but laugh; really, dumbfounded Cassian is surprisingly cute.

“I think ‘thank you’ might be appropriate right about now,” she says teasingly.

Cassian’s mouth opens, but no words come out--he closes his mouth with an audible snap, opens it again, then suddenly spins and swears.

The scientist is gone.

Kriffing hell ,” he mutters, then storms over to the durasteel tree statue and pulls the datacard out of the hidden compartment in the trunk. “I’m not even going to bother asking how you knew to be here.”

“I followed you,” she answers with a shrug. “And you did leave that datapad just sitting out on top of your bag…”

“What were you doing looking at my bag?”

She just grins unrepentantly.

Cassian sighs. “Anyway. There’s been a change of plans. Tomorrow we’ll be getting our trading done as fast as we can and then getting the hell out of here--they’re bound to crack down on security after news gets out about these guys.” He nods at the stormtroopers. “The less time we spend here, the better.”

Jyn nods. “Obviously. I’m not an idiot, you know.”

He arches an eyebrow. “Really? That’s news to me.”

She stares at him for a moment, then abruptly smacks his shoulder. “Shut up.”

He laughs, then, and shakes his head. “Come on, Liana. Back to the hotel. And this time, you should actually sleep.”

He starts walking, glances back over his shoulder to make sure she’s following; Jyn trails along just behind him, keeping an eye out for anyone who might have noticed the altercation.

There are a few moments of silence; then, with a lazy, lopsided smile, Jyn turns to Cassian and announces, “You owe me twenty credits.”

Chapter Text

The sun is just beginning to rise when Jyn drags herself out of her room and into the ‘fresher. A splash of cold water on her face helps to wake her up, and she wanders into the kitchen area of the suite--straight to the caf machine. The hotel provides a complimentary bag of grounds, enough for one pot if you make it strong; she starts it brewing and gets out a mug while she waits.

The machine is quick, and within a few minutes the caf is done brewing. She pours herself a full mug and clutches it in both hands as she makes her way over to the window. The sky outside is a deep, dusky lilac; the color reminds her of one of the flowering trees on Yavin 4, not so common as to be anything less than a pleasant surprise when one comes across the fragrant blooms. The beautiful flowers never fail to remind her of the gardens back on Lah’mu; and while it’s a memory that carries a measure of pain with it, it’s also accompanied by a bittersweet smile at the beauty and innocence and simple joy of childhood.

Streaks of deep crimson, vibrant coral, and pastel-pale pink creep over the horizon, like the sun’s reaching out with long fingers, tangling them in night’s coat to pull itself above the lip of the world. Jyn watches in silence, sipping on the hot caf, and sighs.

Time passes, the seconds slipping away uncounted; the first golden-bright rays stretch across the sky, driving away the shadows of night, and behind her she hears footsteps.

“There’s caf brewed if you want some,” she says without looking away from the window. “I made it strong.”

Cassian responds with a vague grunt; a few seconds later, the sound of a mug clattering against the counter is followed by the splash of caf into the cup. With mug in hand, he steps up beside her at the window. They stand in silence for a few minutes, drinking their caf, until the sun is fully risen.

“It seems I owe you an apology,” Cassian says finally, turning away from the window to look at her. “For underestimating you.”

“About time,” Jyn mutters under her breath. “Actually, it’s an advantage most of the time. It’s handy when enemies don’t pay you any attention because you don’t look threatening.”

(She realizes, only seconds after closing her mouth, that it might not’ve been the smartest idea to bring up the usefulness of being underestimated. Liana Hallick doesn’t know that.)

(why is it so hard to lie to cassian?)

She hesitates, briefly, looks over at him to see him watching her closely, a frown of confusion on his face, but he doesn’t speak. Just steps away from the window and sets his mug of caf down on the counter. “We need to finish up our business as quickly as possible today and get out of here. I need to get this datacard to Draven as soon as possible.”

Jyn nods. “Understood. Just tell me what you need.”

Cassian takes a deep breath. “Right. Here’s the plan…”

[=|=]

With the precious bacta carefully loaded, the u-wing takes off from the spaceport with no problems. Jyn stands behind Cassian, sitting in the pilot’s chair, for the takeoff--it’s not that she doesn’t trust him to get them out without problems, but rather that she feels much more comfortable watching it herself.

On second thought, maybe she doesn’t trust him quite yet.

As soon as they make the jump to hyperspace, she leaves the cockpit, knowing Cassian will follow her--he has yet to bring up what happened on Coruscant, after all. She has a feeling that her following him will get her in trouble, but she can’t quite bring herself to care.

“Liana.”

She casually drops to a sitting position on the bench, leaning back against the humming durasteel wall of the ship and crossing her legs. “Cassian,” she answers back in the same tone, quirking an eyebrow at him.

He takes a deep breath, looking down at her.

(here it comes)

“Based on your actions over the course of this mission, I’m going to recommend to General Draven that you be placed on the Intelligence roster with an active-duty status, effective immediately.”

Jyn gapes, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly around words she can’t say.

Cassian chuckles a little at the look on her face. “Your first few missions would include being partnered with a more senior agent, and there would be some more in-depth training specific to Intelligence--for example, resisting interrogation and torture.”

She finally regains control of her voice, enough to manage one word. “Why?”

He grins. “I like your initiative. I’m a good agent, and yet you tailed me from the hotel without me even noticing. If you hadn’t revealed yourself, I doubt I would’ve known you were there at all. Obviously, you’re good in a fight. And you appear to be good with aliases.”

I’m better at that then you know , she wants to say.

She doesn’t.

“What would I be doing?” she asks instead.

“You’d probably start by collecting intel from drop points around the galaxy,” he says after a moment of consideration. “Then meeting with informants, making contacts. That would progress into recruiting, deep cover missions, and infiltration.” He pauses, then stares into her eyes in what is unmistakably a challenge. “You up for the task?”

A smirk spreads lazily over her face. “Of course.”

“I have calculated an eighty-four point three-oh-seven percent chance that Liana Hallick will not be ‘up for the task’, as you have put it, and a sixty-two point nine-one-five percent chance that she will die on her first mission,” a vaguely superior, obviously mechanical, voice interjects from inside the cockpit.

Jyn and Cassian both turn as one, and in unison snap out, “Shut up , K.”

Their eyes meet; despite herself, despite the warning bells flashing in her head, the voices whispering that (he’s going to leave eventually), Jyn laughs.

[=|=]

The return to Yavin 4 seems to take an eternity.

When the U-wing finally lands, Jyn darts Cassian a look.

“Yes, you can go see your mother,” the spy says wryly, before she can even ask the question. “I’ll handle the debrief with Draven. Go on, now.”

“Please kindly rid us of your presence,” K agrees, unfolding his tall form from the cockpit. “There is no need for you to return.”

“K…” Cassian says with a sigh.

Jyn grins. “It’s alright. See you around.”

“I most certainly hope we do not,” the droid grumbles as she hops out of the ship and hurries away. She doesn’t wait to hear Cassian’s response, if he makes one.

Instead, she breaks to a run once she’s back inside the base, weaving through the few people still wandering the corridors late at night, and makes straight for the room she shares with Lyra. She stops in front of the door, keys in the code, and grins as it clicks open.

Lyra sits on her bed, rolling something through her fingers; she looks up when Jyn enters, and a bright smile leaps onto her face. “Jyn!”

“Mama,” Jyn breathes, and launches herself across the room. Lyra stands, enfolds Jyn in her arms.

“How did the mission go, sweetheart?”

(never stardust--not since lah’mu)

Jyn pulls back from her mother, sits on her own bed and bends over to unlace her boots. “It went well, I think. Cassian says he’s going to ask Draven to assign me to Intelligence.”

(She decides not to tell Lyra about the fight, the informant, or the bet. Lyra would be worried by the first two and heavily disapproving of the third.)

“Intelligence work is dangerous,” Lyra says with a soft frown. “Jyn--”

“Mama, everything is dangerous when you’re fighting the Empire,” she interrupts. “I know I’m only fifteen, but I’ve been training for this for years . Please, Mama… you can’t protect me forever.”

Something shatters deep within Lyra’s gentle green eyes. “Oh, Jyn ,” she chokes out, a single diamond-bright tear slipping down her cheek. “I know. I’m sorry. But--you’re the only part of Galen that I have left. The Empire took Galen from me--I couldn’t bear it if the bastards took you, too.”

“I’m sorry, Mama,” Jyn whispers, shocked. She’d never even thought--

(no, you didn’t, a voice hisses inside her mind. you never bother to think about anyone who isn’t you. is it any surprise that saw left?)

“Shh, don’t worry,” Lyra soothes, having regained a measure of control over her emotions. She opens her hand, revealing the object she’d been clutching when Jyn entered the room: a crystal pendant threaded on a dark brown cord. “I want you to have this,” she continues, stepping across the room to tie it around Jyn’s neck. “The pendant is a kyber crystal. These crystals were once used by the Jedi to power their lightsabers. The Force is with you, Jyn, no matter where you are. Remember that. Trust the Force, and all will be well.” She smiles, soft and sad. “I promise. Now get some sleep.”

Jyn nods, tucking the pendant under her shirt, and slides off the bed to pull out a t-shirt for sleeping. Outwardly she’s fine; inwardly, however, her thoughts are whirling.

(A kyber crystal. Power source of the Jedi’s lightsabers, and of the Empire’s DS-1, whatever that is. So why the kriffing hell does her mother have one?)

[=|=]

Lyra sighs, watching as her daughter burrows beneath the blankets on her small bed and closes her eyes. It wasn’t an easy thing, giving away the kyber crystal, but while she’ll miss the comforting weight of it around her neck, she knows she’ll sleep better at night knowing that the Force is watching over Jyn.

Almost against her will, she finds herself reliving the day Galen had given it to her.

Galen Erso is an engineer, it’s true, but first and foremost he has always been a crystallographer. The kyber crystals used by the Jedi are his first love. Lyra knows this, has known it from the very beginning. Galen will never love her like he loves his crystals.

But that’s okay. Really, it is. Lyra can love him enough to make up for it. And if she doesn’t think too hard, doesn’t look too closely, she can pretend the shining light in his eyes as he chatters to her about his crystals, the light that makes his face years younger and so much more carefree, the light she hopes to never see him without--if she’s careful to be ignorant, she can pretend that the light in his eyes is directed at her.

He asks her to marry him, and she agrees--she always agrees, has never been able to deny him anything--and they’re married shortly after. She gives him a ring that he’ll never wear--he’s always said that anything on his hands interferes with his research--and he pulls from his pocket a dark brown cord with a kyber crystal pendant.

Really, she should’ve known.

But then he begins to speak, and her world turns upside-down.

“Lyra, light of my life--I haven’t told you this enough, and for that I am more sorry than you can know--I love you. I hope that this kyber crystal is a sufficient token of my love, so that you will never forget it. Kyber crystals have always been used by the Jedi to power their lightsabers. Without kyber crystals, even the most skilled of the Jedi Masters is useless, for lightsabers are nothing without power. In the same way, without you standing behind me, I would be useless. Lyra, your love and support sustain me, give me the strength to make it through another day. Just like a lightsaber without the power to form a blade exists without reason, without your love to light my days and nights I would be purposeless--doomed to a life that cannot be called living, drifting without point and purpose through all the long years.”

She finds, suddenly, that she is crying.

Her right hand goes to the crystal resting against her sternum, and silently she swears that she will never take it off.

Lyra smiles, feels tears cold and wet against her cheeks, and thinks that it is only fitting that the crystal would be handed down to Jyn.

(she tells herself, repeatedly, that taking it off is not a betrayal of galen. she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to tell herself that enough times to make her believe it)

[=|=]

“This changes everything,” Davits Draven says after a long moment, staring at the screen in front of him. “Absolutely everything. Andor…”

“Yes, sir?” Cassian asks, his face carefully blank, hands clasped behind his back.

“Thank you for your suggestion regarding Liana Hallick.” The general sighs, scrubs a hand across his face. “I would’ve liked to have been able to partner the two of you for a few more missions, but it seems that isn’t going to happen. I’m sorry, Andor, but I need you to pull out Willix.”

Cassian tenses, swears on a harsh exhale. “General…”

“If I had another choice, I’d take it,” Draven snaps--then groans. “I’m sorry.”

He closes his eyes, takes several slow breaths, tucks the emotions away in the corner of his mind he doesn’t dare acknowledge. Only when he feels completely under control does he speak. “How long, and what do you need?”

“You’ll be going into very deep cover,” Draven says, relief palpable in his voice, although he doesn’t acknowledge it. “No contact with the Alliance whatsoever, other than occasional intel-dumps at the nearest drop point. I need you to keep an eye on this DS-1 project for as long as you can without being compromised. The Alliance must not lose Willix. Sward was a manageable loss, if you’d been compromised--Willix is the deepest cover we have.”

“I understand,” Cassian says gravely. “What happens if I can’t get any more intel without it looking suspicious? I don’t know a lot about Orson Krennic, but he’s ruthless and power-hungry and wouldn’t hesitate to make an example of me.”

“Get every last shred of intel you can,” the head of Intelligence says, “and get the hell out of there. And if you’re captured, well… I trust you won’t hesitate in using the lullaby, correct?”

“Of course not.”

Draven smiles, grim and knife-sharp. “Succeed in this, Andor, and you’ll have more than earned a promotion. And a holiday.”

“The Alliance can’t afford to give me a holiday, sir, with all due respect,” Cassain answers.

“Andor, if you manage to make it home in one piece, the Alliance can shove a stick up its collective ass--with all due respect, of course,” Draven adds, sarcasm dripping from every word. “Because I can personally guarantee that you’re going to need a holiday. And what Cassian Andor needs, Cassian Andor is going to kriffing get .”

Cassian suppresses a smile. “Of course, sir.”

“Get some rest. You’ll be leaving in the morning. Might want to say your goodbyes before you go--just in case.” There’s a softness to the general’s expression, one he almost never lets show, but it vanishes almost as soon as it shows. “And by the Force, Andor, leave the damn droid behind before he gets you killed.”

“Acknowledged, sir,” Cassian says. “I’ll take that into consideration.”

“See to it that you do,” Draven says gruffly. “Now get out of my office.”

Cassian snaps a salute. “Sir,” he says, then turns and leaves. As he walks back through the corridors to his room, he starts composing the goodbyes he’ll need to say before he leaves in the morning.

He very deliberately does not think of Liana Hallick, or the betrayal he’ll see in her fiery green eyes when he leaves without a single word.

Chapter Text

Jyn doesn’t even know Cassian’s leaving until he’s already gone.

In hindsight, it makes sense. He’s heading out on a mission of high importance, deep undercover in the heart of the Empire, and he has to leave as soon as he can. He hardly even knows her. He has no reason to waste time telling her goodbye.

(he might not come back)

She can’t quite understand why it hurts so much to discover that he left.

He was always going to, anyway.

[=|=]

She spends the week after the Coruscant mission learning from an Intelligence agent--Lana, her name is, or something like that. Jyn doesn’t really care. The lessons are all familiar to her, anyway; she learned to withstand torture under Saw, and resisting interrogation is the same technique, as least to her. She’s more interested in the schematics of Imperial bases and star destroyers; all bases follow the same base structure, and the star destroyers are all built to the same blueprint, making it easy to memorize their layouts. That kind of information could come in very handy on missions--whether she’s acting on orders from the Alliance or once again fighting her own private war against the Empire.

Still, the familiar lessons far outnumber the new information, and spending the greater part of every day being lectured gets old fast. So it’s a relief when Lana gets sent out on a mission, giving Jyn a few days’ break.

She’s wandering the base with nothing much to do--Lyra is busy doing whatever it is she does, and Jyn hasn’t made very many friends yet--when she ends up in the hangar, near where Cassian’s U-wing is usually parked.

That’s when she sees it’s gone.

She spends the rest of the day carefully slicing her way into Draven’s logs, which is how she discovers that Cassian left the morning after they returned on a long-term deep-cover mission, and he didn’t say goodbye.

(She covers up the irrational stab of betrayal with a sharp, cutting anger that she knows is even more irrational than the hurt is. But if she has to be irrational about Cassian Andor, anger is a much safer thing to feel. It’s easy to be angry. It raises fewer questions with answers she doesn’t want to know.)

[=|=]

She’s sent on missions; first, she always has a partner, but it doesn’t take long to progress to the point where Draven trusts her enough to let her work alone. She prefers working alone--she’s better without people tying her down.

(Sometimes, on the long flights through hyperspace, she wonders about Cassian.)

She sees Lyra less and less often as Draven gives her more missions, and the few conversations they do have turn strained very quickly. Lyra doesn’t like to talk about what she does, and Jyn can’t tell her mother about the missions. Draven was very firm about confidentiality.

And while it hurts to see the one constant relationship in her life slowly dissolve, Jyn does her best to ignore it. She has a cause now, and a purpose, and both of those are more important than relationships.

(she tells herself that, and hopes that one day it’ll be enough)

The distance between herself and Lyra doesn’t bother her.

(lyra was always going to leave her, anyway--everyone does)

The fact that she has no friends among others near her age doesn’t bother her.

(she’s gotten very good at hiding the hurt)

The fact that very few of the Rebels even know of her existence doesn’t bother her.

(she misses the feeling of belonging she hasn’t felt since saw left)

Really, she enjoys the isolation Intelligence work forces on her. And if she occasionally bemoans the lack of fellowship between her comrades and herself, well, it’s not like it really hurts .

(why can’t she stop thinking about cassian?)

And, anyway, being on Yavin 4 only reminds her of her isolation--whether she likes the solitude or not--and being in Intelligence means she spends more time offworld than she does in the base. And she likes it that way.

She starts picking up intel from drop points deep inside Imperial territory after about a year, and she suspects--although she doesn’t dare ask, because Draven never did discover she’d hacked his files and she’d rather he doesn’t in the future--that she’s picking up what Cassian drops.

She confirms it by leaving behind a small scrap of paper with one word written on it: Andor?

The next time she checks the drop point, there’s the usual datacard, and accompanying it the same piece of paper with one more word on it.

Yes.

The confirmation reassures her that he’s still alive, and she doesn’t respond further; however, the next time, Cassian’s left another note.

Who is this?

She debates with herself before responding with just two words: Liana Hallick.

They exchange no further communication, but the consistent drops continue; she’s often tempted to read the intel she transports, but the knowledge of what Draven would do if he found out stops her.

(For the moment, at least.)

And then, two and a half years after Jyn joined the Alliance--the longest time she’s spent in one place, as one person, since Saw--she returns from a short undercover mission in the Mid Rim (it was really a waste of her time, but the Alliance is perpetually short on Intelligence agents, and there aren’t any new agents who could use the practice) to see a familiar U-wing parked in the hangar, Cassian Andor leaning wearily against the side of the ship, still dressed in a crisp Imperial uniform, his face drawn and haggard. His eyes fill with a strange hardness at the sight of her, and he pushes away from the side of his ship to walk towards her.

Jyn’s exhausted from the mission, still reeling from the side trip she’d been ordered to make before going undercover, and she wants nothing more than to hug Lyra and fall into bebd and sleep for a week.

Cassian doesn’t give her that option.

Instead, he stops in front of her--cutting her off, keeping her from slipping away from him--and opens his mouth.

And Jyn’s world turns upside-down.

[=|=]

The first time Cassian speaks with the informant, he learns the man’s name.

It hadn’t taken too much maneuvering to get Lieutenant Willix assigned to Eadu, where the development of the DS-1 project is based. It takes some time, but after a couple months of firmly establishing Willix’s character and position at the base Cassian gets an opportunity to slip his informant a note.

That first, all-too-brief conversation is when Cassian learns that his informant is none other than Galen Erso, the Empire’s most brilliant scientist and engineer.

Over the next few months, Cassian finds himself beginning to genuinely like Galen, for all that the brilliant man has the tendency to start rambling on about things far above anyone else’s understanding. There’s a sorrow deep in the older man’s eyes, a clear indicator that he’s suffered losses just as great or greater than Cassian’s own, and despite the fact that neither of them speak of the pain they carry, it acts as a connection between the two of them.

Galen talks about what he’s building in the vaguest possible terms, preferring to spend more time discussing other important bits of information he gleans from Orson Krennic; when Cassian attempts to ask the engineer exactly why he’s holding so much back, Galen just shakes his head.

“Nothing is for certain, yet,” he says softly. “But I am working from the inside on this project. The impact DS-1 will have on the galaxy is incomprehensible; I would not terrify the Rebellion with such a horror without giving them hope as well, and that hope is not yet secured. You and I both know the Alliance waits, trembling, for an excuse to scatter like mice.”

The statement is very true, and Cassian has to agree with the logic.

(he’d never say it aloud, but even he, a man of action, would probably run from the truth of this weapon)

Galen drops more hints about the weapon, about what it is, but after just over two years he still refuses to give more details. When pressed, Galen will only reiterate the same reason he first used.

“Time is getting short, Galen,” Cassian finally snaps out late one evening, pacing around the perimeter of Galen’s private room--the only room on Eadu without cameras. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll have before I have to be ‘reassigned’. Suspicions are starting to grow, and I’ve heard the start of rumors.”

There’s the sound of a cupboard opening, and when Cassian turns, he sees Galen filling two glasses with Corellian whiskey. He hands Cassian one, and the spy takes it without comment.

“A toast,” Galen begins quietly, “to always running out of time.”

Cassian laughs, bitter and harsh and twisted, surprising himself--and makes the toast.

They drink in silence, for a moment; Galen refills the glasses once, then again, and then a third time, before he speaks. “The girl with you on Coruscant, two years ago,” he starts. “The one who attacked the stormtroopers. I assume she was with the Alliance--is she still alive? Do you know?”

There’s something in his voice, almost desperate, and Cassian feels his eyebrows knit together in confusion. “Yes, as of a few months ago she was the one picking up the intel drops I’ve made.” The bit of paper with the name Liana Hallick inscribed on it flashes through his mind for a brief second, accompanied by the image of those fiery green eyes. He shakes the image away; he opens his mouth, closes it, then sighs and asks the question. “Why?”

Galen smiles, soft and sad. “She has her mother’s eyes.” There’s a pause while the man takes a long swallow of whiskey and Cassian absorbs that information.

Liana does have her mother’s eyes, that’s true--but how does Galen Erso of all people know that?

The scientist stares off into the distance, a wistful look in his eyes. “She’s grown up so much,” he murmurs, an ache in his voice. “So different from my little Stardust. I never expected to see her again--and yet, of all the places in the galaxy that she could be, she was there with you. Lyra always put such faith in the Force; that is the only possible explanation. The Force must favor me and my sacrifice, to allow me to see my daughter once more.”

The air rushes from Cassian’s lungs in a rush, like a punch to the gut. Daughter .

He thinks back on what he knows about Galen Erso--a wife named Lyra and a daughter named Jyn, presumed to be killed by death troopers on Lah’mu.

Now he knows better.

They must’ve made it off Lah’mu somehow, and spent their lives hopping around the galaxy under various aliases. He’d noticed Liana’s unusual aptitude for, well, everything that made a good spy--she must’ve been trained from a young age.

No, not Liana. Jyn .

“Cassian?”

He blinks, looks back at Galen to see him staring.

“I take it that you didn’t know that particular piece of information,” the scientist says wryly. “I hope I didn’t just doom the two most important people in my life…”

“No,” Cassian manages. “I don’t--think so. I’ll have to discuss this with Draven. I think my time here is coming to an end.”

“I will be sad to see you go,” Galen says. “I have enjoyed our conversations.”

“As have I.” He pauses. “I should go. I don’t want to look too suspicious.”

Galen nods. “Yes, of course, forgive me. Goodnight, Cassian.”

“Goodnight, Galen.”

Barely a week later, Willix is reassigned once again.

He doesn’t tell Galen goodbye.

[=|=]

Cassian lands the U-wing and powers the ship off, then lowers the ramp and climbs out. He’s beyond exhausted and wants nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for a week, but he has Draven to debrief yet and some very worrying decisions to come to. He sighs and leans against the side of his ship, rubbing at his eyes.

That’s when he sees Liana--no, Jyn. That’s when he sees Jyn Erso striding across the hangar in civilian clothes, fatigue in every movement.

(Something flutters at the sight. He pushes it--whatever it is--away irritably.)

Before he can think, he’s pushing away from the U-wing and cutting across her path; she comes to a halt before him and lifts tired green eyes to his own.

He sucks in a deep breath.

“Hello, Jyn .”

Chapter Text

“Hello, Jyn.”

Ice wraps around her, settles heavy and sharp on her shoulders, locking her lungs in place and stopping her heart; she cannot move, cannot breathe, the world warping and twisting around her as though her name was the catalyst for some massive chemical reaction.

(he knows, how does he know, how could he possibly have learned--)

“I’ve been in very deep cover recently, on a mission,” Cassian continues, and his tone is nonchalant--as though he has no idea what he’s just done to her--but beneath his words is steel and his eyes are flinty, watching her oh-so-carefully. “Didn’t learn as much as I’d hoped--at least, not about the most important thing--but I did become acquainted with a very interesting man. He told me some… intriguing information. I must say, considering that he’s the creator of what seems to be the biggest weapon in the galaxy’s history, Galen Erso really is a surprisingly nice guy.”

(galen--no, that’s not possible, how--)

“Papa? You--you saw Papa?”

She hears her voice from far away, a desperate yet horrified whisper, strangled by a tangled noose of emotions she doesn’t feel--cannot feel--and yet something sharp and dangerously close to hope claws its way up her throat and bursts out without her permission.

“He’s--alive? Papa is--he’s not--I thought--but you saw him, you talked to him--”

Cassian doesn’t answer, just reaches out and suddenly his hand is wrapped around her upper arm like durasteel, and he’s dragging her with him through the corridors--

“What are you doing?” Jyn finally snaps out, some of her sense returning from behind the thick fog of shock descended upon her mind. “What the hell--let go of me, Cassian!”

He only grips her tighter.

She swings her left arm around, hand clenched in a fist, but he just abruptly increases his speed, yanking her off-balance. The punch doesn’t land.

“The more you struggle, the harder this will be on you,” he says, rigid and controlled, nothing but ice and knives in his voice.

(this?)

“What is this?” she demands harshly, twisting away from the spy. She’s good--of course she is, Saw trained her--but so is he, and she’s at a huge disadvantage. If she could just reach her blaster--

but no, she doesn’t want to hurt him, not like that; she just wants him to let go.

The door to Draven’s office hisses open, and Cassian storms in.

The general looks up, surprise and confusion in equal measures coloring his face until he gets control back. “Andor--what’s this?”

“Have Aurae Hallick sent here, please, sir,” Cassian responds. “I’ve become aware of some… rather interesting pieces of information considering these two women that I think you need to hear.”

“Let go,” Jyn says through gritted teeth.

Draven does something on a datapad sitting on the desk in front of him, then looks up again, pressing his lips together. “Andor, in the last two years Hallick has become an invaluable part of our Intelligence team. I don’t know what you’re doing--”

The door opens again, cutting him off, and Lyra steps in.

“Liana, you’re home?” she starts, then freezes at the scene in front of her. “What’s going on?”

She looks calm, confused and worried certainly, but mostly calm.

Jyn can see the barely-masked tension racing through every muscle, the way her mother is prepared to draw a weapon and fight the instant it seems like words won’t work.

“While I didn’t learn as much about DS-1 as I’d hoped, sir, I was able to build something of a friendship with Galen Erso,” Cassian begins.

Lyra freezes, face abruptly turning white, green eyes widening in horror.

“One of the interesting things he told me was that he recognized my partner when we met on Coruscant.”

What?” Jyn exclaims, throwing Cassian an accusing look.

He ignores her. “General Draven, sir, may I formally introduce you to Lyra and Jyn Erso, wife and daughter of the most brilliant scientist in the Empire?”

Silence, heavy and choked with shock, horror, fear, and a thousand other emotions Jyn cannot name.

Into that silence, Lyra says, eloquently, “Shit.”

[=|=]

Things have certainly gotten more complicated, Lyra reflects, than she had ever expected them to be two and a half years ago. She’d had faith in Jyn’s slicing skills, confident that their new identities would stand up to the Alliance’s background checks.

The irony is that they did.

Jyn’s and her identities weren’t discovered by anything more than sheer, dumb luck--just like Krennic found Galen on Lah’mu by accident. The parallel sends a foreboding shiver crawling down her spine.

“We have to run,” Jyn says, pacing.

“Jyn…” Lyra sighs. “Eventually we’ll have to face who we are. It was by the will of the Force that Galen and Captain Andor met, and our identities were revealed.”

Jyn rolls her eyes at the mention of Cassian Andor’s new rank, then presses her lips together. “I don’t want to leave--I like the Alliance--but don’t you understand what’s going to happen?” The girl takes a deep breath, clearly taming an impulse to shout. “The guards outside our room aren’t just standing around for fun, you know. Mothma might have some sympathy for you, but I’ve been exposed to sensitive information by being in Intelligence. For all they know, I could’ve been a double agent. There’s no leniency for me. The Alliance can’t afford it.”

Jyn turns again, her hand going to the crystal around her neck.

“Jyn--” Lyra tries.

“You remember what happened when Saw realized that his Partisans were figuring out who we were,” Jyn interrupts, clenching the kyber crystal tightly. “Left us behind on a mission--in the middle of a war zone, too.”

Jyn,” Lyra says, again.

“We’re dangerous, Mama. The Empire wants us. Saw knew it--the Alliance certainly does, too.”

“I told Saw to leave us behind,” Lyra snaps, when her daughter pauses to take a breath.

Jyn freezes.

“The Partisans were having too much of a violent influence on you, Jyn, sweetheart, and there were whispers about who you especially were. It was too much of a risk--I couldn’t take the chance that the Empire would learn about you.”

Something in Jyn’s frozen green eyes makes Lyra think she perhaps should not have mentioned this fact, but how else could she convince her daughter that the Alliance is still safe?

“You lied to me,” Jyn says, her voice perfectly calm.

“Not entirely,” Lyra hedges. “Saw did leave us--”

“But he might not’ve.”

(definitely should not have mentioned it)

“It was only a matter of time,” she says, her voice rising sharply, full of anger and fear. “We would’ve been left behind anyway, eventually, or one or both of us might’ve died--”

“You lied to me,” Jyn says again, and that flat voice is edged now with something dark and dangerous.

Lyra swallows.

“You’re my mother.” Jyn walks towards the door, every step precise and controlled. “I trusted you.”

“Jyn--”

Why, Mama?” she demands, spinning around, pressing her back against the door. “Why did you lie to me? What could possibly make you think that it would be a good idea? You know how much I hate it.”

“I--”

Lyra shakes her head, eyes wide, unable to find the words. “To protect you,” she finally settles on, but it’s a feeble excuse and she knows it. “Jyn, sweetheart, you’re still too young to really understand--”

Jyn makes a strangled sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “I’m seventeen, Mama, and one of the best spies in the Alliance, and I’ve been a soldier since the Empire took Papa when I was eight. I haven’t been young for years.” She pauses. “I have to--think. I can’t stay here right now. I’m sorry.”

And then she spins away, out through the door, before Lyra can say anything more than her name.

(definitely a terrible idea)

[=|=]

She lied.

Jyn shoves past the two Rebels standing guard outside the door of the room she shares with her mother, unable to suppress the hurt--and betrayal--that surges through her at the knowledge. Lyra, Mama, the one person she trusted in the galaxy, and she’d lied.

She buries the hurt beneath a tidal wave of anger, and it’s the fury and rage that sustains her as she storms through the corridors towards the hangar.

But she cannot stop wondering.

(what else did she lie about?)

(what if the aliases were never in danger?)

She breaks into a run at the entrance to the hangar, sprinting for her small ship--little bigger than an x-wing, it has a tiny ‘fresher with no shower and a closet-sized room that’s almost entirely filled with a cot--like her life is in danger.

(her life isn’t, no, but her sanity certainly is)

Jyn pulls the lever to lower the hatch, and catches a glimpse of Cassian--now a captain, thanks to his bravery on the long mission or some other bantha crap she didn’t bother to listen to--striding after her. His face looks like it’s been carved from stone.

She ignores him.

“Jyn Erso, where the kriffing hell do you think you’re going?” he snaps as he catches up to her.

She stands on the edge of the ramp, unashamedly using the height advantage to meet his eyes. “She lied to me,” she snarls, low and hard and feral, “and I know Draven’s going to accuse me of being a double agent, and I’m not but why would he believe me? So I’m leaving now, and you cannot stop me.”

Cassian raises an eyebrow, unimpressed, but something in his face softens. “I believe you, Jyn,” he says quietly, and his voice caresses her name.

(she refuses to like that)

(she doesn’t quite have a choice)

Something shakes, wavers on the edge of shattering, and she cannot show such a weakness--

“Do you now,” she says, then, harsh and cold. “You know what, Andor? I think you just want me to stay. And maybe I would believe that you have your own reason for trying. But you never told me goodbye.

She turns, walks the rest of the way into the ship, and closes the ramp. Moving as though in a dream, she enters the cockpit, starts up the engines, and then carefully takes off.

Cassian stands where she left him, motionless, and he’s still there when he disappears from her sight.

[=|=]

Cassian swears, loudly, and slams a fist into the wall.

Shit!” he snarls, punching the wall again. “Andor, you fucking idiot!”

“Cassian, statistically, your actions have shown you to not be an idiot.”

“Shut up, K,” he snaps back. “Go tell Draven that Jyn’s gone and I’ll be along in a minute to figure out what the kriffing hell we’re going to do about it.”

“Do not punch any more walls,” the droid advises as he leaves.

As soon as K’s out of sight, Cassian clenches his fist and drives it into the wall with all the force he can muster, then kicks the wall for good measure.

The only thing this accomplishes is splitting his knuckles open and possibly breaking a toe.

He isn’t limping when he walks into Draven’s office, and he’s managed to wipe off some of the blood on the back of his hand, but K still notices. Cassian shoots the droid a venomous glare, silencing K before he can speak, and turns to Draven with a stiff salute.

“Sit down, Andor,” the general says with a sigh. “We have a lot to talk about.”

[=|=]

Two years later:

Galen Erso scrubs a hand down his face and sighs. It’s done--the message to Saw. All that’s left to do now is to deliver it.

It’s taken him two years to build the flaw in the reactor, but he’s finally accomplished it, and not a moment too soon. Krennic’s been getting impatient lately.

Galen groans and rubs his eyes, suddenly exhausted. He wishes, vaguely, that Cassian Andor was still around, to take his message to the Alliance. The Alliance, after all, has more men and more ships than Saw’s Partisans do--

But no.

The Alliance is spineless and weak, cowards every last one of them. High Command would not have the courage to do what must be done. Saw, on the other hand, has more courage--and sheer recklessness, Galen has to admit--and will certainly not fail.

The Death Star must be destroyed, or the Empire will rule without ceasing over the galaxy for the foreseeable future. With the Jedi all but obliterated, there is no force--or Force, for that matter--in the galaxy that could stand against the power of the Death Star, if it is not destroyed.

Not for the first time, Galen’s stomach roils, guilt thick and heavy in his mouth. He shoves it away, reminds himself that there was no other choice.

(like always, the excuse falls flat)

He sighs, heavily, and forces himself to his feet.

“Bodhi,” he calls out, in a voice that tastes like ashes and blood.

The cargo pilot enters the room, twisting his fingers together nervously. “Are you ready, sir?”

“Yes.” Galen takes a deep breath, holds out the holo. “I need you to take a message to Saw Gerrera of the Partisans, on Jedha. Tell him it’s from Galen Erso and that it’s urgent.”

Bodhi nods, takes the holo, then backs away, eyes wide and wary.

Galen scrubs a hand across his face, again, suddenly feeling every one of his years piled on his shoulders, dragging him down. The temptation to just lie down, sleep, give in and give up, tugs incessantly at him--but Krennic will be suspicious, and he has to protect the scientists beneath him.

(he doesn’t let himself think about the others he needs to protect)

(it hurts too much)

Galen sucks in a sharp breath, holds it, and  lets it out slowly, straightening his shoulders. He must go on, no matter the cost. The message has been sent. Saw will see it, and he will act.

And maybe, just maybe, if he is extremely fortunate, his Stardust will see it too.

Chapter Text

Jyn sits in the prisoner transport, folds her arms, and glares at the door.

Wobani certainly isn’t the most miserable place she’s ever been, especially in the last two years, but it comes very close to taking that top spot. Honestly, though, why did the imps feel the need to put her on a prison planet as bad as this one? All she did was blow up an imperial facility. It’s hardly her fault that the imps just left all the materials she needed to build bombs lying around where she could… acquire them.

She snorts and shakes her head, wondering idly what her mother would say if she could see Jyn now.

(it’s not a very pleasant train of thought, and she abandons it quickly)

(then her mind wonders about cassian)

(and somehow that’s worse than lyra)

The transport’s stopped moving while she was immersed in her thoughts, and Jyn blinks, hearing the stormtroopers make sounds of confusion.

“What now?” one of them asks, turning to their partner.

The other shrugs. “I don’t know. Must be another pickup.”

“I thought we had everybody,” the first answers, turning to look at the back of the transport as it opens--

Just in time to be knocked out by a soldier in an all-too-familiar uniform. “All clear, sir,” he reports, nodding at another man.

“Liana Hallick,” the man in charge snaps out--that’s not the alias Jyn’s been using, she’s not that stupid, but--and then his head turns to her and nods. “You ready to come back?”

The young soldier steps forward, releases the binders; Jyn smiles sweetly at him before punching him in the nose hard enough to knock him unconscious. She spins, kicks the vaguely-familiar man-in-charge in the crotch, and sprints out--

Only to slam straight into the arm of something large and metal and black.

“Congratulations,” a mechanical voice says, laced with a familiar sarcasm. “You are being rescued, against my recommendation. But what do I know? My specialty is just strategic analysis.” K-2 wraps his hand around Jyn’s throat, lifting her into the air despite her struggles. “How perfectly awful to see you again, Jyn Erso.”

“Right back at you, K,” she manages, before the lack of oxygen catches up to her and everything goes black.

[=|=]

Jyn wakes up on board a ship with a few other Rebels, blasters trained on her, just in time to feel a sickening lurch as the ship drops out of hyperspace. Her gut twists and she makes a face, before glaring at the blasters aimed at her.

“You can put those away,” she mutters irritably. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”

“Your past behavior does not support your claim,” K-2 responds, almost cheerfully. “I would not recommend--”

“Okay, we get it,” she says, cutting across him before he can finish his advice. “I’ll just sit here and act like a prisoner.”

“Well,” one of the Rebels says, unsure, “you are a prisoner.”

She laughs, but the laughter has a distinctly bitter taste, like dust and ashes in her mouth. “I guess I am.”

(it’s no one’s fault but her own)

Her right hand comes up to grab the kyber crystal around her neck and her left goes to the tiny pocket sewn into the collar of her shirt. She’s not quite sure why she’s sewn the pocket into every shirt she’s worn--it would’ve been simple not to, but…

If she presses down on the pocket, she can feel a hard capsule beneath her fingertips: the lullaby. Every Intelligence agent carries one--a tiny pill, easily dry-swallowed. A suicide pill. In the event that a spy is captured by the Empire, the lullaby is the first defense. Swallow it, and you’re dead on the ground less than a minute later.

If you can’t take the lullaby, and Draven manages to hear of it, well… you just have to resist interrogation and torture for a few days at most. And then one night there will be a shadow in the door of your cell, and last words, and then a blaster bolt to the head.

Jyn’s done it before, for Draven: snuck inside a high-security Imperial prison with a silencer on her blaster and fired a single shot. She never learned their names, if she could avoid it. Just gave Draven their last words and let the general deal with the condolences.

Really, she knows why she’s kept the lullaby for so long. The cause is still important to her, and she knows too much to risk letting the Empire catch her.

The ship lands, jolting her out of her thoughts, and she stands, stretching the kinks out of sore muscles, noting the Rebels’ tension when she moves. They keep their eyes on her constantly, warily.

Not a single one of them trusts her.

Why should they? Really, if she’s being honest, she’s an Intelligence agent who spent her years in the Alliance under a false identity, and ran away when her true identity and its connections to the Empire were discovered.

Actually, she’s not even sure Draven would’ve told them about her previous involvement with the Alliance. In fact, the more she thinks about it, the more sure she is that he hasn’t.

“Come on,” one Rebel says roughly, and jerks on her arm. She yanks it away, in a single sharp motion, and turns to stare at him.

“I can walk on my own, thank you,” she says, ice and steel in her voice, and turns to walk down the corridors. “I’m pretty sure I know where I’m going.”

[=|=]

On the outside, Cassian Andor is perfectly composed: he stands tall and relaxed behind and to one side of Draven, hands clasped behind his back, his face empty of all emotion, his breathing even.

(some call it a spy mask--cassian calls it survival)

Internally, however, it’s a different story.

Jyn is coming home.

For some reason, the thought spins around and around in his mind, refusing to let him go, and with it comes the memory of her face the last time he saw her--the hurt and betrayal and rage burning in her eyes, and behind the flames barely-concealed fear--and her last words. You never told me goodbye. He’d broken that fragile trust that existed between the two of them, betrayed her by leaving on a dangerous mission without saying a word.

And now she’s coming home.

Nervous energy surges through him, his muscles itching for a fight, and he sucks in a deep breath and tries to control himself. He’s twenty-two, has been a spy for ten years and been fighting with the Alliance for fourteen, and here he is practically terrified over a girl.

(not just a girl. jyn erso)

Force, he really wants to pace.

“Calm down, Andor,” Draven mutters.

Cassian breathes, counting seconds, using the combat breathing he’d learned years ago.

The door opens, and Jyn walks in.

And, for a handful of tense heartbeats, he forgets to breathe.

She holds herself taught and upright, her muscles tight, her green eyes burning with a furious outrage, like twin stars. He meets her gaze, sees the way something flickers, something broken and sharp-edged and shaky--perhaps the shattered remnants of trust, maybe something else, he can’t quite tell. But she stares at him for a moment, forever and no time at all, and then her eyes harden, and she looks away.

He breathes again.

“Nice to see you again, Liana Hallick.” Draven looks up from the datapad in front of him. “Or should I say Jyn Erso? That was an impressive disappearing act you pulled two years ago. You’ve become quite the criminal.”

Jyn shrugs, unrepentant. “What is this?” she asks, ignoring Draven’s taunt. “Even the Alliance wouldn’t pull me out of Wobani just to court-martial me.”

“I’m sure you remember Captain Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence,” Mon Mothma says, serene and graceful as always. “Work with him, help us, and this is a chance for a fresh start. We’ll reintegrate you into the Alliance and dismiss all prior accusations against you.”

Cassian takes a deep breath, recognizing his cue. “When was the last time you were in contact with your father?”

He breathes a quick sigh of relief when his voice comes out steady, almost bored.

At the question, Jyn’s face slides into an expression he knows well--it’s one he’s seen on his own face. A spy’s mask. “Eleven years ago,” she says, and mimics his tone perfectly.

Technically, she hadn’t spoken to Galen on Coruscant, four years ago, so that would make the last time she’d spoken with her father…

When she was eight years old.

The day Orson Krennic came and took her father away.

Cassian barely restrains the sympathy and sorrow he feels at the realization, manages to keep it off his face with a supreme force of will. He takes a deep breath. “When was the last time you had any contact with Saw Gerrera?”

Lyra had given them information on all the aliases the mother-daughter pair had used; she’d said that the last time Saw had spoken to them was six years ago, but there’s a good chance that Jyn has sought Saw out sometime in the last two years.

Jyn shakes her head. “A long time ago.”

He hesitates, doesn’t want to pressure her, but… “He’d remember you, wouldn’t he? If you came as a friend, he’d agree to meet with you.”

Jyn shifts nervously. “Why are you asking me this? My mother could answer your questions.”

“Your mother isn’t a spy,” he answers calmly. “She’s working with a team of brilliant minds trying to decode the higher priority level Imperial communications. She’ll be coming with us, but staying in the ship with K.”

Jyn takes a deep breath, her eyes falling closed for a moment before she meets his gaze again. “What’s the mission?”

Draven clears his throat, and her gaze snaps over to him. “There’s an Imperial defector in Jedha, a pilot, with vital information about the development of a superweapon the Alliance has been tracking for nearly four years.”

“The DS-1 file,” she breathes, comprehension dawning.

“Yes.” Draven nods confirmation.

“And this pilot, he’s being held by Saw?”

The General hesitates a moment, then sighs. “Yes. There’s one other thing: the pilot says he was sent by your father. Galen Erso was in communication with us two years ago, but continually refused to give us anything detailed, saying that he was in the process of building a flaw into the weapon and he didn’t want to give us the weapon without giving us hope. Now, it seems he’s created that hope--but he’s chosen to put it in the hands of the Partisans.”

Jyn considers this for a moment. “So the mission, then, is to get access to Saw’s set-up on Jedha, find this pilot, and--what?”

Captain Andor’s mission is to authenticate the pilot’s story and then, if possible, find your father,” Draven clarifies, stressing Cassian’s role in the mission.

Cassian doesn’t outwardly react, but inwardly he groans. He doesn’t know a lot about Jyn Erso, certainly, but one thing he’d picked up on is her desire for respect. Not being allowed to claim a part of the mission as her own will grate on her.

Sure enough, at Draven’s words she stiffens, and green fire flashes in her eyes.

(he’d forgotten just how beautiful they are)

“So what, I’m just a means to an end, then?” she asks, voice laced with bitterness. “Why did you bother to extract me from Wobani, then?”

“Because I asked him to,” Cassian hears himself saying from a distance. “We worked well together before.”

She stares at him, and he can’t quite suppress the shiver that runs down his spine.

Then, slowly, her face closed and unreadable, she nods.

“Speed is of utmost importance, so you should leave immediately,” Mothma says quietly. “I’ll have Lyra meet the two of you in the hangar.”

The Senator leaves, and after a moment Jyn makes for the door as well. Cassian goes to follow her--only to be stopped by Draven’s call.

“Andor!”

He turns, raises a single eyebrow. “Sir?”

“Galen Erso is vital to the Empire’s weapons program,” the general begins in a low voice. “I know he was an informant for us for a few years, but the fact remains that he withheld information from us. He cannot be trusted.”

“What are you saying, sir? With all due respect,” Cassian asks, carefully.

“There will be no extraction. You find him, you kill him, right then and there.”

“Jyn’s not going to like that, sir.”

Draven sighs explosively. “I know. But this is war, Andor, even if the majority of the Council won’t acknowledge that yet. Sometimes, in war, we don’t like the outcome, but we have to deal with it anyway. Can I count on you to deal with it?”

Cassian takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, opens them again. Nods, once, sharply. “Yes, sir.”

He snaps out a quick salute, then pivots smoothly on one heel and leaves the office behind.

[=|=]

Jyn nods at Cassian as he leaves Draven’s office, holds up for a second to fall in beside him. They walk in silence for a moment, then--

“I kept the lullaby,” she says into the silence. “If the Empire had figured out that I was part of the Alliance, I would’ve used it rather than let them take me alive.”

He stares at her for a few strides, then shakes his head and looks away. “You didn’t have to leave.”

“I needed some time to think,” she responds, frowning a little. “Why does it matter so much to you?”

(She doesn’t mean to be so flippant, really she doesn’t; she’s honestly curious and more than a bit confused. And in her confusion, she retreats behind the familiar masks.

She really isn’t being dismissive on purpose. She’s not.)

Cassian freezes mid-step, spinning slow and controlled to face her, his eyes pinning her in place. There is an intensity in them that she’s never seen before, and a twisted anguish deep within his rich brown gaze that cuts into her with the force of a hundred vibroblades. In his eyes, Jyn sees pain and fear and desperation and something like self-loathing, enough and more than enough to equal her own.

This is Cassian Andor. This is the man behind the impeccable mask. He’s not emotionless and machinelike; rather, he feels too much, feels so strongly he would rather feel nothing at all than struggle with this deluge.

This may be the only time she ever sees beneath the polished, hardened exterior to the heart of the man.

(his gaze burns--his gaze, and the weight of it, and the implicit almost-trust that comes with the revelation; burns deep inside, an inferno roaring through her veins with every beat of her thundering heart, and something twists in a way she hasn’t felt in a very long time, in the soul she’s hardly sure she still has)

And then he speaks, and his voice is low, tormented, shaking with his uncertainty.

I don’t know.”

The force behind those three words rattles her bones and chatters her teeth like the tell-tale vibration of a bomb’s detonation, or like the raging growl of thunder right before lightning strikes; Jyn realizes, quite suddenly and with startling clarity, that there is a storm just barely contained within him, a storm clothed in flesh and masquerading as human, its true nature showing only on the rarest of occasions. (Whether it’s a thunderstorm or an explosion, it doesn’t matter, because she’s just unleashed it and she’s directly in its path.)

The air smells sharp and metallic of ozone and blood and ashes, and the hair on her arms stands all on end, and the-thing-that-is-Cassian takes a single step forward.

“I don’t know why it matters to me that you left,” he hisses, face contorting. “I don’t know why I trust you anyway, or want to; I have no kriffing idea why I care.”

And then he shudders, and breathes deeply, and steps back; the storm recedes behind the mask, the clouds parting, the static electricity dissipating.

“We’ve wasted enough time,” he says then, clipped and short and entirely business. “Come on, Erso.”

(her arm brushes against his as they walk, and a shock leaps from him to her, and her mouth tastes of burnt copper, and she swallows and makes herself walk normally even as flames sear through her once again)

(and maybe it’s her imagination, but she could swear that cassian feels it too)

[=|=]

Lyra waits beside the U-wing, silent and grim, face bearing the marks of many sleepless nights; she and Jyn exchange a look.

There’s a second of silence.

Then, quietly, cautiously, Jyn steps forward and wraps her arms tightly around her mother.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” Lyra whispers into Jyn’s ear. “I missed you so much. I’ve been so terrified, not knowing if you were dead or worse--”

Jyn melts into the embrace for just a heartbeat, relaxing her guard and smiling into her mother’s neck. “It’s alright, Mama. I forgive you. I’m here now, and I’m not going to leave again--I promise. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Lyra murmurs as Jyn pulls away.

Cassian’s bag--or, at least, Jyn assumes it belongs to Cassian--is tucked beneath one of the benches; her eyes pick out the exact location of his spare blaster in seconds, and in a practiced motion she slips the blaster out and into the empty holster on her thigh.

She’s still angry at the Imps for taking her blaster--Saw’s blaster--away from her.

She hears Lyra and Cassian and K-2 enter the ship behind her--she doesn’t know where K-2’s been, but clearly the droid is accompanying them to Jedha. Really, she’s not surprised.

“Why does she get a blaster and I don’t?” the droid complains.

Cassian whirls around to stare at her.

Jyn grins.

(smirks, more like)

“You know me, you’ve worked with me, and you know I’ll watch your back,” she says simply, staring right back at Cassian. “Jedha is a warzone; I need a blaster.”

His face unreadable, Cassian simply nods, once, and looks away.

“You’re letting her keep it?” K practically squawks, incredulous. “Would you like to know the probability of her using it against you? It’s high.”

“Let’s get going,” is all Cassian says.

“It’s very high.”

Cassian ignores K, Lyra frowns a little but says nothing.

Jyn looks the droid straight on and, completely deadpan, winks.

Chapter Text

Chirrut sits on an abandoned crate, staff between his fingers, and watches.

The fact that he is completely blind and therefore cannot truly ‘watch’ anything has occurred to him; like all untruths, however, he dismisses it. He does not have sight, but he has the Force, and thus he watches every swirl and eddy in its neverending current.

Once, he could have touched that current, molded it to his satisfaction--although he was not strong enough for the Jedi Order, he was attuned to the Force in all the ways that mattered, and his connection only grew when he lost his sight. The Guardians of the Whills gave him a home when the Order would not take in a sickly, pale, blind boy.

And then Order 66 came, and one by one the brightly burning minds sustaining the flow of the Force dimmed and went out, and the shining light of the Force faded and darkened into shadowed twilight, and suddenly Chirrut was alone, and he could do little more than compensate for the sense he had lost with the barest traces of fire that remained. He was--still is--alone in an unlit river that once gleamed with pure light, and every ripple and eddy echoes with loss.

And, as the Empire continues to strip Jedha of kyber, the light falls ever lower, like the setting sun.

(he cannot stop himself from fearing that it is dusk, now, that with the loss of the jedi the force fell into evening, and now the last vestige of sunlight is fading, fading, and night is so very close now)

But the Force has one last gleam left, yet, a single ray of light and hope, and the warmth of it gladdens him, and he dares to hope that sunset might last a little longer, that the coming night will not be everlasting.

There is a star coming to Jedha, and she burns brighter than any he has seen since the sunset began.

(and beyond her, perhaps, there is an inferno so glorious he can feel the heat of the ghostly flames even now)

(but only perhaps, and he does not dare to hope for anything greater than this)

Chirrut Imwe shakes his head at his own sentimentality, feeling rather like his husband with the gesture (Baze often shakes his head, at Chirrut and at sentimentality), and lets a smile spread across his face.

“May the Force of others be with you,” he calls out, and if there’s a tinge of self-satisfaction in the words, well.

Baze isn’t here to scold him, is he?

[=|=]

Those people unfortunate enough to be citizens of the Holy City of Jedha are either cautious, careful, eyes flickering around for the smallest sign of trouble, or they are like the man who’s just slammed into Jyn. Very much not on accident.

“Hey, you just watch yourself,” he snarls, eyes flashing and fists clenching.

Jyn stiffens, starts to turn--ready to fly into a fight--but Cassian’s hand on her arm stops her.

“No, no,” he tells the man quickly, tugging on Jyn. “Tourists, we don’t want any trouble, sorry. Come on,” he hisses, yanking Jyn’s arm hard enough to send a twinge of pain running up her shoulder. “Come on.

Jyn makes a face, but lets him guide her through the crowd. “This place is ready to blow,” she murmurs, watching a handful of stormtroopers march through the street near them. “What’s your plan?” she adds, after Cassian makes no response beyond a quick look at her.

He sighs. “I had a contact, one of Saw’s rebels, but he’s just gone missing.”

He hesitates before ‘missing’, and Jyn frowns ever-so-slightly and studies him more closely, but there are no clues to be found in his face. So she shrugs, and files it away for future reference.

“His sister will be looking for him,” Cassian continues. “The Temple’s been destroyed, but she’ll be there waiting. We’ll give her your name and hope she’ll get us a meeting with Saw.”

Jyn curls her lip slightly. If this is the plan Draven’s thought up, well, the Alliance has gotten more desperate than she’d realized. “Hope?” she echoes, raising an eyebrow.

Cassian shrugs. “Rebellions are built on hope.”

It sounds like something Lyra would say. Jyn shrugs, then tracks a stormtrooper as he grabs some unsuspecting citizen and holds them against the wall. “Is this all from your pilot?” she asks through gritted teeth, every muscle tight with the urge to intervene.

Cassian doesn’t answer.

Up ahead, a voice calls out, “May the Force of others be with you. May the Force of others be with you.”

The voice belongs to an obviously-blind man sitting on a crate, holding a staff. His blank eyes are focused onto Jyn, locked on her as though he can see, and she hardly notices when Cassian softly tells her to wait there.

“Would you trade that necklace for a glimpse into your future?” the monk--or so he appears--asks abruptly. Jyn tenses, tries not to react-- “Yes, I’m talking to you,” he continues serenely, and her eyes fly to him against her will. “My name is Chirrut Imwe.”

“How--” Shock closes her throat for a second, and she swallows thickly, tries again. “How did you know I was wearing a necklace?”

Chirrut smiles mysteriously. “Ah, for that answer you must pay.” Then, a spark entering his voice: “What do you know of kyber crystals?”

No matter who he is, Chirrut has no business prying into her life and mind. She blanks her face, hiding everything behind a mask--not that it would do anything for a blind man, but just in case anyone’s watching her, anyone close enough to hear. “My father said they powered the Jedi lightsabers,” she says casually, injecting as much meaning into her voice as she can without outright giving anything away.

Asking him, silently.

Chirrut laughs, then, showing white teeth--startling in his tan face. “The strongest stars have hearts of kyber,” he says, amusement thick in every word.

And then Cassian is back, his hand curling around her elbow once more. “Jyn, come on. Let’s go. We’re not here to make friends,” he adds, following her gaze to Chirrut.

Reluctantly, she lets Cassian pull her away. “Who are they?” she asks softly, glancing back over her shoulder one more time.

“The Guardians of the Whills,” he answers in a similarly quiet tone. “Protectors of the Kyber Temple. Only, there’s nothing left to protect, so now they’re just causing trouble for everybody.”

Something’s different about him, now, something subtle but all-too-real in the tightness in his lips, the wall in his eyes, the barely-there increase in his pace. Most people wouldn’t see it.

Most people are not trained Intelligence agents for the Rebel Alliance, either.

“What’s wrong?” Jyn whispers, darting another look at his face. “Cassian, what did you see?”

“You said it earlier,” he mumbles back. “This city’s ready to blow. We need to get out of here.”

“And the mission? Do we have a backup plan?”

Before Cassian can answer her, a squadron of stormtroopers marches into the square, blasters at the ready, in formation around a large armored vehicle. He swears under his breath--barely loud enough for her to hear--and his grip on her elbow tightens.

That’s when the grenade lands in the center of the square and goes off.

Chaos ensues, and Jyn laughs.

“I think we found Saw’s rebels,” she says with a grin as he yanks her into the shelter of a doorway.

(a part of her mind registers how close they are. the rest of her mind does its best to ignore that)

Cassian swears again, and starts to speak, but Jyn’s eyes are captured by a horribly familiar sight--

There’s a child, no older than four or five solar years, dirty and ragged from the explosion, tears streaming down her face--

Without thinking, ignoring Cassian’s shout, Jyn flings herself through the stormtroopers and the smoke, catches the girl and rolls away just as another grenade goes off. A young woman--the girl’s mother, Jyn realizes--steps forward, chokes out a hasty “Thank you,” and snatches the girl from Jyn’s arms, vanishing down a side street.

The stormtroopers return fire, and swearing, Jyn ducks into the dubious shelter of the armored vehicle containing what she’d bet are kyber crystals and watches for just a second--and then Cassian’s moving, just a little, and she realizes abruptly he’s adding attachable parts to turn his blaster into a sniper rifle.

She pokes her head out just in time to see the man on the roof, the Partisan throwing the grenades, fall dead to the ground.

And then the stormtroopers turn their fire towards Cassian.

(that won’t do at all)

(she can’t just allow that to happen)

Jyn pulls out her blaster--well, Cassian’s, but it’s hers now--and fires off three shots as she rolls out from behind the shipment vehicle.

Three stormtroopers hit the ground, smoking holes in their helmets.

She holsters the blaster and pulls out her batons instead, snapping them out to their full lengths. Another roll beneath several blaster shots, and she comes up to her feet in the midst of the remaining troopers; before they can get their blasters trained on her once more she moves .

Faintly, she sees Cassian leaning against the doorframe, staring at her in utter shock; he’s seen her fight once before, but it was a scant five stormtroopers that time. She winks at him when she gets the chance then whirls away, and everything fades into the rush of the fight.

Jyn ducks beneath a blaster, brings her baton down over the trooper’s helmet, cracking the plastoid, and he falls to the ground; she spins and kicks another in the crotch, drives a baton into the gut of the trooper behind her, and whirls with batons extended to take out another two.

The fight is over in a matter of moments.

Cassian shoves away from the doorframe, a stunned look on his face; he closes his mouth wordlessly, almost as though he’d been gaping (and maybe he has been, she wasn’t exactly watching). “That was… impressive,” he says, then shakes himself and beckons to her. “This way!”

She follows him down a narrow sidestreet, staying just behind and to his right, and then a hulking black shape appears and without hesitation she shoots the droid in the head.

“Did you know that wasn’t me?” a mechanical voice asks, and K-2 appears from behind the broken droid.

She smiles blithely. “Of course.”

She knows K doesn’t believe her.

She also doesn’t really care what the droid does and doesn’t believe.

Cassian shoots her a warning look, then turns back to K. “I told you to stay on the ship with Lyra,” he says.

“You did, but I thought it was boring , and you were in trouble,” K answers, and Jyn has the feeling he would roll his eyes if he could. “There are a lot of explosions for two people blending in ,” he continues, “and Lyra Erso is worried. She says the Empire is transmitting a lot of level one encrypted messages to and from the star destroyer. She is working on decoding them now.”

Before Cassian can do more than exchange a worried look with Jyn, there’s the sound of boots, and then--

Freeze right there!

“You know,” K says, almost conversationally, “I think you’re right. I should just wait on the ship.”

“Where are you taking them?” one stormtrooper asks K, then, coming forward with his blaster out.

The conversation that follows would be considered comical under any other circumstances; Jyn has only interacted with K a few times, and thus had no idea that the droid is such an abysmal liar. An interesting choice for a spy.

And one that ended with the two of them in binders, surrounded by stormtroopers.

(if she glares hard enough, maybe K will short-circuit? it’s a long shot for sure, but, well…)

Just as they’re marched to the end of the alley, a familiar voice echoes out.

“Let them pass in peace! Let them pass in peace.”

Jyn shifts a little to see Chirrut standing relaxed and confident, blocking the troopers’ path, and a tiny smile slides onto her face.

“The Force is with me, and I am with the Force. And I fear nothing, for all is as the Force wills it.”

And the, quite suddenly, he moves .

The staff whirls in his hands like a living thing, striking out at the troopers with a will of its own, and the ground is littered with bodies in white armor before Jyn can do more than take a single breath.

They hardly have time to relax before there’s another squadron approaching, and then suddenly a massive hulk of a man appears and tears the stormtroopers to pieces with what looks like a repeating blaster cannon--Jyn practically drools at the sight of it--and then everything is silent.

Into this silence, Chirrut announces, rather annoyed, “You almost shot me.”

The very large man walks over to them, slinging his gun over his shoulder, and says in a deep voice flecked with gravel, “You’re welcome.”

The man, who Chirrut introduces as Baze Malbus, walks over and opens the binders, casual and silent.

“Go back to the ship,” Cassian tells K sternly. “Keep me up to date on what Lyra Erso finds out. And wait for my call.”

K turns without a word and clanks away.

“Is he a Jedi?” the spy asks Baze after a moment.

Baze shakes his head, a half-smile curving one corner of his lips. “There are no Jedi here anymore. Only dreamers, like this fool.”

“The Force did protect me,” Chirrut protests.

I protected you.”

And then they are surrounded by soldiers, and Jyn with a start recognizes one or two of them, and sucks in a sharp breath.

Anyone who kills me or my friends will answer to Saw Gerrera!” she calls out.

“Any why is that?” one man asks.

She smirks, sharp and cold. “Because I’m the daughter of Galen Erso.”

“Take them!” the same man shouts, and then there’s bags being thrown over their heads.

The last thing Jyn hears is Chirrut’s annoyed, “But I’m blind !”

Chapter Text

He drifts through blackness, soft and empty.

Time passes, he’s sure, although why time should pass he doesn’t know--

He doesn’t know .

(what?)

(doesn’t know, doesn’t know , a child’s voice singsongs, high and bright and mocking. doesn’t know, doesn’t kn o w, do e sn`t k n 0 w, d 0 e s n o t o d k e n w t o s,  on and on and on and on and on and he screams and twists and still the voice chants, warping and twisting and deep and--)

(and there are sun-bright fragments of shattered crystals, kyber crystals, humming and burning, and one of them floats past him and he reaches , ignores the way the sharp edges cut deep into him, and blood runs hot down his hands--but he does not have hands right now, why is that?--but he clutches it close anyway)

(the crystal sings to him, and the child hesitates )

(he’ll do anything to make the child stop )

He struggles and struggles and shakes, and forces the crystal-piece inside him, and it hurts, but the child is panicking now, and so the crystal must be something important--

I’m the pilot , it whispers.

Yes!

The pilot, there is a pilot, brave and strong, who flew away from the--the--from something , and he has something important to say, he has to tell someone, yes, the pilot, he is the pilot .

( i know! he shouts, triumphant, and the child screams )

There are more crystals, more sharp-edged kyber-bright pieces of himself, and he is desperate as he grasps them, hoarding them in his arms--if he has arms--like they’re precious (they are), and he forces himself not to dwell on how they cut and tear and slice him.

Are you the pilot? Hey, hey, are you the pilot?

One of the fragments has a name in it. Bodhi Rook .

Galen Erso. Do you know that name?

(there once was a pilot, strong and brave, who risked his life running from the empire with a message to save the galaxy)

(he is the pilot, the pilot, but it was not his message)

(galen, galen, kinder than he ought to be, tired and worn, he knows that name)

His eyes snap open.

He only knows three things right now, but they are enough.

“I brought the message,” he says, and he knows he’s talking too fast, but he has to tell them, he doesn’t know who but he has to tell them. “I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot.”

There’s a man in the next cell over, staring at Bodhi with storm-dark eyes. “Good. Now where is Galen Erso?”

[=|=]

“Jyn, is it really you?”

Saw’s voice wheezes and gasps and groans, the voice of an old man. His body matches his voice in every aspect; it’s patched together with metal and bacta and an oxygen tank. He is diminished, fallen, broken and tired and weary, hardly reconcilable with the image Jyn has in her mind.

“It’s me,” she answers, finally, biting her lip.

“Child,” he murmurs, staring at her. “Where is Lyra? Where is your mother?”

“On our ship.” She hesitates. “You left me behind.”

Saw winces. “It was Lyra’s idea, and it was a good idea, even if we had it for different reasons. But I knew you were safe.”

“I was thirteen !” she exclaims, suddenly. “My mother was nowhere near! You gave me a blaster and promised you’d come back! It was three days before Mama showed up--I was terrified .”

“You were already the best soldier in my cadre,” he snaps back. “I was protecting you, and my Partisans.”

“Were our aliases really compromised?”

“There were whispers.” He takes a breath from the oxygen mask on his chest. “I couldn’t take the chance that the Empire would come looking.” A pause. “Is this a trap?”

“The Alliance wants my father.” Jyn closes her eyes, takes a deep breath. “They said he sent you a message with a pilot. I’m their way in.”

Saw nods, then. “Come here, child. I have something to show you.”

[=|=]

Lyra types furiously on the screen of the datapad, ignoring K-2SO’s occasional acidic comments. The droid is one of the most petulant, childish personalities she’s ever met, humans, non-humans, and droids alike; why Captain Andor cherishes him so is beyond her comprehension.

(she supposes it doesn’t really matter; the droid is here, and thus she must deal with him)

It’s been too long, she decides suddenly, since they left. They should be back by now.

“K-2, you can comm Captain Andor, correct?”

“Cassian told me to wait for his signal,” the droid says immediately. “I do not think that you count as a signal.”

Lyra sighs.

Before she can make an answer, though, the screen lights up beneath her fingertips, and the message displayed turns her blood cold.

(oh, no. oh, galen. what have you done?)

“K,” she says, slowly, carefully, not looking up at the droid, “I need the comm, please. I need to speak with my daughter.”

“Cassian said--”

In a sharp, violent motion, she jerks the datapad up to eye level, turns it around so that K can see what it says.

“Oh,” he says, after reading it. “Well. I think it would be a very good idea for you to contact Cassian.”

She nods once, not dignifying the obvious with an answer, and takes the comm. Reading the message one more time, she nods again, lets out a sigh. “Yes. Thank you, K.”

Then she takes a deep breath and speaks into the comm.

[=|=]

Cassian watches the man in the next cell and tries to plan his next move. Tries being the operative word, of course; he’s finding it nearly impossible to focus, something rather disconcerting to a field agent as experienced as he.

Chirrut drones on in the background, murmuring a litany of prayers; the constant repetition would be annoying were it not for the fact that Chirrut is quiet enough to be little more than background noise. And Baze stubbornly maintains his silence, a hulking shadow in one corner of the cell, anger bound closely to his tight muscles.

No, the Guardians are not the reason for Cassian’s distraction.

(in a corner of his mind, one he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge, he wonders if the problem stems from the fact that he’s not seen jyn since saw’s men put a bag over his head)

Something jumps out at him, suddenly: the man’s uniform, decorated with the Imperial insignia, but more than that. The uniform of a cargo pilot.

Cassian sucks in a sharp breath.

“Hey, hey,” he calls softly, “are you the pilot?”

The man doesn’t answer, just curls more tightly around himself.

Cassian swears under his breath, then frowns as something occurs to him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Chirrut asks, stopping his chant; Cassian ignores the blind man, leans forward instead.

“Galen Erso,” he says, low and careful, and hides an almost-smile when the man--Bodhi, he thinks--flinches. “You know that name?”

Bodhi’s eyes fly open, and there is a wild feverish light in them that is, if Cassian’s honest with himself, more than a little bit terrifying.

“I brought the message,” the pilot says, and his shaking voice spills past his lips like the words are leaves caught in a wind, trembling and twisting with every gust. “I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot .”

The words are smooth and rounded, well-worn, a mantra oft-repeated, and Bodhi clutches them like a lifeline in a storm. Cassian feels a sharp sting of guilt at what he’s about to do, but forces it down--he’s a spy, he can’t afford guilt.

“Okay, good,” he says, cold and blank and emotionless. “Now, where is Galen Erso?”

Bodhi stares, wide-eyed and shaking, and then the world falls to pieces.

[=|=]

“This is the message I received,” Saw says, and a holo of a worn face with familiar eyes appears, and Galen Erso begins to speak.

“Saw, if you’re watching this, then perhaps there is a chance to save the Alliance,” Galen says, and his eyes are dark and shadowed and sad. Jyn sucks in a breath, her throat closing, and almost unconsciously leans forward. “Perhaps there’s a chance to explain myself and, although I don’t dare hope for much, a chance for Jyn, if she’s still alive, and for Lyra, if you could possibly find them to let them know that my love for them has never faded and how desperately I’ve missed them. Jyn, my Stardust… I can only hope you are alive and well, with all the fury and grace I saw in you on Coruscant. I must hope you think well of me, that you remember me with fondness rather than hatred. And Lyra, my love, not a day has gone by that I have not thought of you, my own kyber crystal, and begged the Force to keep you safe.”

He pauses to take a ragged breath. “When I was taken, I faced some bitter truths. I was told that soon enough, Krennic would have the two of you as well. As time went by, I knew that you were either dead or so well hidden he would never find you. I knew if I refused to work, took my own life, it would only be a matter of time before Krennic realized he could complete the project without me. So I did the one thing that no one expected: I lied. I learned to lie, and I played the part of a beaten man resigned to the sanctuary of his work. I made myself indispensable, and all the while I laid the groundwork for my revenge. We call it the Death Star. There is no better name. And the day is coming soon when it will be unleashed. I’ve placed a weakness deep within the system, a flaw so small and powerful they’ll never find it. But, Jyn--”

His voice cracks, and he closes his eyes, takes a shuddering breath. “Lyra. My beloveds, so much of my life has been wasted . I try to think of you only in the moments when I’m strong, because the pain of not having you with me--our family--the pain of that loss is so overwhelming I risk failing even now. It’s just so hard not to think of you--of where you are--my Stardust, my dear Lyra--” and he shakes his head, refocuses with an obvious effort. “Saw, the reactor module, that’s the key. That’s the place I’ve laid my trap. It’s well hidden and unstable; one blast to it will destroy the entire station. You’ll need the plans, the structural plans for the Death Star, to find the reactor. I know there’s a complete engineering archive in the data vault in the Citadel Tower on Scarif. Any pressurized explosion to the reactor module will set off a chain reaction that will destroy the entire station…”

Perhaps he continues, perhaps not. Jyn can’t hear anymore, her thoughts buzzing in her ears like white noise, eyes swimming in static. It’s too much .

(he’s alive he’s alive he loves her he thinks of her this is the secret)

There’s a noise, somewhere, she can hear it, but she can’t tell what it is and it doesn’t matter anyway, because Papa --

(she thinks someone says her name, but everything is warped and sharp as shattered glass, and she is burning, and drowning, and she cannot breathe )

(and she stares, stares ahead, at his face, his mouth moving without words, and dimly she wonders how she got so short, and maybe she’s a little girl again, his little stardust, and the thought is so absurd she laughs, strangled and tight, and then it turns into a sob)

And, quite suddenly, Jyn is on her knees sobbing like a broken thing, and the holo is gone, and she curls one hand desperately around the kyber crystal until the edges cut deep into her, and then there’s a familiar voice.

“Jyn! We’ve got to go !” Cassian bursts into the room, running from the sound of his footsteps, and skids to a stop behind her. “I know where your father is,” he adds, sliding a hand beneath her arm and pulling her to her feet.

“What?” she chokes out, dazed, staring, unsteady and trembling and slow, and then she understands.

The sound was her comm, and the voice calling her name was her mother.

“Go with him, Jyn,” Saw says, painfully ragged. “You must go?”

“Saw?” Lyra’s voice echoes, tinny and small, from Cassian’s comm.

“Come with us,” Jyn whispers, thin and torn and desperate.

Saw shakes his head. “I will run no longer.”

“You must come with us!” she cries, fighting against Cassian, trying to wrench her arm away from him.

He doesn’t yield. “Come on , Jyn.”

Outside, through the window, the world is exploding, a wave of dust and light, and if she squints she can see the tiny black dot that is their ship, just barely outrunning the wave’s base, and Saw--

“You have to save yourself,” she says, one last line of bloody desperation.

Saw rips off his oxygen, stands proud and tall in front of his window as it shatters, and smiles. “Go, there’s no time. Save the Rebellion, child! Save the dream!”

(he turns to embrace the oncoming destruction, and she cannot save him)

Jyn screams, lunges forward; Cassian catches her waist and scoops her into his arms, suddenly enough to knock her off-kilter, and sprints through the twisting corridors to the front of the base. He sets her down, there, but doesn’t let go, keeps her from diving back after Saw.

(she’s vaguely aware she’s shouting at him, but the words are nothing in her ears, a jumble of screaming sounds, resolving into her father saying he’s laid a trap, and then saw tells her to run)

(and she still can’t breathe, hasn’t been able to since the message began)

And then they’re on board the ship, and she’s fallen against one wall, the durasteel shuddering a jarring rhythm in time with her heart, and the wave hangs over her head, and then the ship lurches and she’s flung across the room, into the other wall, and everything goes black.

Chapter Text

Cassian’s hands don’t shake on the ship’s controls. He flies straight and true, sneaking out from underneath the crest of the Jedha-dust wave, punching it into hyperspace before he really should , just to keep them alive, and then he sets the coordinates for Eadu and deliberately does not think of Jyn screaming in his arms.

Instead, he drowns his emotions, the way he always does, especially when it comes to Jyn, and leaves the cockpit, trusting K to keep the ship on the right course. The view he’s presented with is almost as bad as Jedha, in a way, the air thick with grief and futility and quiet resignation.

Jyn lays sprawled on the floor, pressed against the wall, where she must’ve been thrown in their wild escape; she’s awake, her eyes trained on him, but she makes no effort to move. There are ashes in her eyes, her brilliant fire gone cold and dead. It hits him harder than he’d expected, especially when he sees Lyra sitting on a bench, nervous gaze alternating between him and her daughter, and the concern and sheer fear in her eyes is paralyzing.

The big man, Baze, inspects his massive gun, but Cassian can see through the attempted casualness with ease; it’s not very convincing. And his frequent glances over at Chirrut belay Baze’s nerves. No, not nerves; it’s fear and sorrow and well-hidden pain that makes the man’s huge hands tremble. Chirrut’s in no better shape, either; he leans his head back against the wall, sightless eyes fixed on nothing, and murmurs under his breath, a soft rising and falling melody, rushing along the edges of hearing, heavy with mourning.

Cassian prides himself on his ability to lock away his emotions, but even he is helpless against the tide of pain rising in him, stirred up by the whispered prayers. So he stops focusing on them, pushes the sound away no matter how much he’d like to listen, and lets his eyes fall on Bodhi instead.

The pilot, still in his tattered Imperial uniform, presses himself into a corner and rocks back and forth, his eyes wide and wild. His lips move, forming half-finished words that disappear before he speaks, and his hands convulsively clench around nothing. “I’m the pilot,” he murmurs, almost inaudibly, shaking. “I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot, I’m the pilot.”

Jyn stirs a little at the repeated string of words, and a tiny spark flickers in her empty eyes. “Saw didn’t trust you, did he.” The words are as flat and exhausted as she looks, a statement rather than a question.

Bodhi shakes his head, the motion jerky and a little bit frightened.

Jyn exhales heavily and shifts her weight, preparing to stand; acting on instinct, Cassian extends a hand to help. She pauses, just for a breath, then lets him help, steps past him in the next second and crouches in front of the pilot, rests a hand on his shoulder. “Did he use Bor Gullet on you?”

Cassian doesn’t think he’s imagining the slight shudder in her voice. And he knows Bodhi flinches at the name, though he doesn’t know why.

And then Bodhi Rook speaks.

“I-I d-d-don’t know ,” he chokes out, strangled and gasping and desperate. “T-the crystals are all w-wrong, I c-can’t put them together, an-and it hurts .”

Every word sounds like it takes a lot of force to make it happen, and Bodhi’s panting by the end of his speech.

Cassian has no idea what it means.

Jyn, however, clearly does.

“I know,” she whispers, soft and soothing, and she leans forward to wrap her arms around the pilot’s shoulders, easing him closer, until his head leans against her. One hand gently cards through his long, dark hair. “I know. Everything’s going to be wrong for a while, like a puzzle with the pieces all mixed up. You have to spend the time sorting it all out, putting the pieces back where they belong, and it might not ever fit like it used to.”

Her eyes are haunted with a shadow of remembered pain, and Cassian can’t seem to stop staring. He wants--

(he wants to wipe it away, all that pain, so much for a girl so young, and yes he knows he’s only two years older than her but that doesn’t matter in the face of such deep anguish)

(he wants , and he cannot allow himself that weakness)

Lyra stirs, a strange expression crossing her face. “Jyn--” she starts, then stops, shaking her head.

“Saw made sure I could handle torture,” is all Jyn says, and she stares Lyra down and dares her mother to say anything more.

Silence.

And then:

“I saw my father’s message,” Jyn says, gently letting Bodhi go and standing. She doesn’t quite meet Cassian’s eyes. “He’s rigged a trap inside the weapon--they call it the Death Star, and they have no idea there’s a way to defeat it.”

“He did build it,” Cassian hears himself saying, and a part of his mind is shocked at the dry almost-sarcasm.

(it’s the best way, the easiest way, to keep her away from him, to stop him from wanting )

“Because he knew they’d do it without him,” she responds without missing a beat, and there’s a ghost of the fire she should have in her eyes, heat--even if it is only anger--scorching away the ashes of stars.

And, quite suddenly, he knows he cannot follow Draven’s orders, not anymore, not with Jyn around.

(not with those eyes staring at him)

He has to tell her.

And that’s when he realizes--

“The message, your father’s message. Do you have it with you?” he asks, and when Jyn tenses he feels sick.

“It was a holo,” she starts, and trails off when she meets his eyes.

“Was.”

“Everything happened so fast.”

( you drug me out , she doesn’t say--she doesn’t have to)

He doesn’t speak, and her face pales, her eyes darkening. “You don’t believe me.”

“I’m not the one you have to convince,” he says quietly, and doesn’t let himself flinch at the fact that she thinks he doesn’t trust her.

(he’s always trusted her, in some sense, ever since they met)

(it never was the wisest decision, but he didn’t really have much of a choice)

“I believe her,” Chirrut says then, pausing in his chanting.

(it’s only the depth of raw emotion hiding inside the chants that stops cassian from rolling his eyes)

“That’s good to know,” he says, soft and sincere, and takes a long breath. Chirrut is a good man, a strong one, and bears his pain well.

Cassian knows this, because he thinks he knows what the Guardian’s chants are.

A prayer, for each and every one of the dead of Jedha.

[=|=]

Jyn watches Cassian, finding more meaning in the flickering emotions in his eyes than he’d expect her to--she’s gotten a lot better at reading people in the years since the mission to Coruscant, and he’s hardly seen her since then. And she can tell he’s struggling with something, some decision he’s trying to make--

And then his eyes settle and still, and she knows he’s chosen.

“You should know,” he starts, focusing on her, “that Draven has given me orders to assassinate your father as soon as I’ve located him.”

Ice snaps into being around her, muscle and bone and blood held captive by the force of her disbelief.

(she shouldn’t be surprised, isn’t really, because draven would never just allow a potential threat as huge as galen erso to live)

(she’s not surprised, no)

(but it’s cassian whose finger will pull the trigger, cassian who will strip away her last chance at a family, and that shouldn’t feel like a betrayal but it does)

“This is not an order I intend to follow,” and it takes Jyn too long to realize that Cassian’s just said it, that he’s defying Draven .

As soon as the implications register, the ice of fear and betrayal burns away, flames of hope and anger and something she can’t (won’t?) put a name to surging through her in its place. “The message said that the Death Star’s plans are stored in a data vault on Scarif, but if we have Papa we might not need to try and steal them.”

It’s a long shot, she knows, because it’s more than likely that Galen doesn’t know the architectural structure of the weapon he’s designed, but she has to find a way to convince the Alliance to keep Galen alive. She doesn’t want to lose him again.

(she doesn’t think lyra will even survive a second time)

“We need to have a plan,” Cassian continues, “or there’s no way we’ll be able to successfully extract Erso from the research facility. Bodhi, you’ll be in charge of getting us a way out, a shuttle of some kind that won’t raise as much suspicion. I know the facility well, or I did--I spent two years undercover gathering information and trying to figure out what they were building--so hopefully I can get in and out without being spotted.”

“I’m coming with you,” Jyn says without thinking, because there’s no way she’ll just let someone else run into an Imperial facility and rescue her father, and she’s dying for some action anyway , and she’s forgotten--

(she cuts the thought off, quickly, but it still sneaks through the back of her head and refuses to be hidden away)

(she’s forgotten how it feels to be a part of the alliance, the heady excitement of planning a mission, infiltrating some imperial base and getting back out again)

(and one part of her mind remembers how good of a team she and cassian made, and suddenly she’s wondering about her decision to leave, to hide)

“And I, as well,” Lyra adds smoothly. “It has been too many years since I’ve seen my husband, and just because I have no particular love of fighting doesn’t mean I can’t aim a blaster.”

Cassian opens and closes his mouth, then nods slowly. “Right. So the Erso ladies and I will extract Galen, and Bodhi--”

“I will be going with him,” Chirrut interrupts, serene as ever.

Baze snorts. “Good luck.”

(jyn can’t quite tell if he’s being sarcastic or not)

Chirrut simply beams, blank eyes unerringly seeking Baze out. “I don’t need luck,” the blind Guardian proclaims. “I have you!”

Jyn fights to keep her lips from curving up in a smile, and then she meets Cassian’s eyes and sees the warm--regard in them, and the smile slides away in an instant.

That’s when K calls out from the cockpit, “Cassian, we are exiting hyperspace,” and quite suddenly there’s no time to think, or even to breathe, and she’s left with the dizzy sense that she’s missing something.

[=|=]

Bodhi tries not to shake, standing behind Cassian in the cockpit, and desperately searches his mind for the information the Rebel needs. “Keep it low,” he remembers after a moment. “They have landing trackers, patrol squads. You’ve got to stay in the canyon, keep it low.”

“There’s a twenty-six percent chance of failure,” the droid intones. Failure of what , Bodhi doesn’t know, because it could be the failure of the mission or the failure of landing successfully or even the failure of staying low, who knows, and his mind is spinning in circles again.

“How much farther?” Cassian asks, and Bodhi looks and looks and looks but he can’t find it--

“I don’t k-know,” he says, and he shakes a little, and Jedha is gone, his mother and his sister, and he needs to focus. “I’m not sure, I never really come this way, but we’re close, we’re close.” He breathes. “I know that .”

“Well,” K-2SO says, “now there’s a thirty-five percent chance of failure.”

“I don’t want to know ,” Bodhi snaps out, and tries not to shake, and then as an afterthought: “Thank you.”

And then the canyon around him looks familiar, and urgent terror stabs him, because they’ll be seen , and desperation lends strength to his voice as he shouts, “ Now , put it down now !”

“The wind--” K starts, and Bodhi cuts the droid off.

“If you keep going, you’ll be right over the shuttle depot-- watch out!

He reaches, jerks the controls away, noses the ship down hard , and dimly he’s aware of Cassian calling, “Hold on tight! We’re coming down hard!”

But none of it matters , because the wind catches the ship and tries to flip it over, and Bodhi struggles, wraps both hands around the controls, pushes , and suddenly he’s thankful for the endless storm because it hides the sudden grinding, twisting shriek of metal slamming into rock. The ship hits the ground with more force than he was expecting, skids along, and he yanks the nose up a bit--it’s too late, the ship is ruined, they’ll have to steal a ship now, but maybe he can make it smoother--and pulls them into a spin, and then they come to rest against one of the massive rock formations and everything is, quite strangely, silent.

And then he hears Chirrut’s voice, floating to the cockpit in the quiet. “I take it we’ve arrived?”

[=|=]

Draven stares at the encrypted message, reads it through again, as though there’s a chance the content will have changed somehow.

It hasn’t.

Intel confirmed. Jedha destroyed. Mission target remains on Eadu. Message speaks of a weakness specifically engineered by Erso, which lines up with statements made by Erso previously. Attempting extraction. Will contact with mission results.

The general swears, slams his hands down on the table, a part of him glorying in the way the Rebel who brought the message flinches.

“Sir?” The Rebel straightens, struggling to hide his nerves behind a mask. “We tried to respond and the signal went dead.”

(draven is a master of masks; the only rebel good enough to match him is captain andor)

( how did andor hide this from him?)

(perhaps he didn’t--perhaps there was nothing to hide, at first)

(that erso girl is ruining his best agent)

Draven realizes he’s clenched his fists, and with an effort he relaxes them; he can’t quite keep the scowl off his face, though.

(how did the erso girl hide her true nature from him so easily?)

“Sir?”

“Squadron up,” he orders absently. “Target Eadu. Make sure that damn engineer is dead, and the rest of his family too, if you can manage that. Kriffing Ersos will destroy everything,” he adds, snarling, under his breath. Wisely, the Rebel pretends not to hear.

“Sir,” he acknowledges, snapping out a crisp salute, and spins and leaves.

Draven watches him go, and gradually realizes that he was wrong. There isn’t just one Rebel whose skill in masks matches Draven’s own.

There are two.

Chapter Text

“I take it we’ve arrived?” Chirrut says, and his voice is so light and easy--as though this is nothing more than a vacation, instead of a desperate and dangerous mission for the sake of the galaxy--that Jyn wants to scream. Or laugh. Or both.

“Obviously the ship just wrecked itself,” she chokes out, slightly hysterical--and that just won’t do, she’s a trained spy after all. So she breathes, deeply, concentrating on the pattern Saw taught her, (in-two-three-four, hold-two-three-four, out-two-three-four, hold-two-three-four, repeat), and imagines her emotions as water, rolling off her face, and when she speaks again she’s calm. “Yes, we’ve arrived.”

Chirrut stares at her, only she knows he can’t be staring, because he’s blind, but she can’t shake the feeling that he’s seeing her anyway--seeing her deeper and more clearly than anyone ever has before.

Then Cassian leaves the cockpit, Bodhi right behind him, and the moment shatters. “K,” the Captain says, “I need you to get the comms back up. Bodhi, I’ll need you to get a shuttle near the platform, down at the base if you can, where the turbolift is. Jyn, Lyra, you’re with me.”

“May the Force be with you,” Chirrut calls as Jyn turns to leave, and she glances at him over her shoulder and offers a faint smile.

Then she’s outside.

The storm is even worse than it sounded inside the ship, the rain soaking her skin within moments; she turns to Lyra and makes a face, and has the delight of seeing her mother laugh.

“What’s the plan, Captain Andor?” Lyra asks. There’s a fierceness to her voice, a lioness in her eyes, and Jyn thinks she knows why: this is the Empire that stole her husband away, who took away her peace and pushed her into war. Lyra may not appreciate violence--especially when trained into children--but it makes her all the more powerful when her enemies force her into it.

Jyn can’t help but look forward to what’s about to come. The Empire will never know what hit it.

“We’ll have to find Galen once we get up on the platform,” Cassian answers after a minute of thought. “I should be able to get through most of the security protocols still.”

“So you were--here, on that deep-cover mission?” she asks before she thinks.

He nods. “I got to know your father some. He’s a good man.” And then, he offers her a smile--tentative and unsure, but warm and bright and brilliant.

A rush of--something flows through her, warmth and, well, happiness of a sort, and she smiles back without thought, and the rain is still just as cold as before but she can hardly feel it.

(what is this?)

(there’s no answer, and this is really not the time to be thinking about it, so she pushes it away for later)

They arrive at the turbolift after a few more minutes of walking--simple and plain, silver durasteel, more utilitarian than she’d expected. It ascends quickly, hums almost too quietly to hear; and then there’s a ding and the doors slide open, and everything’s moving too fast.

(why is it so fast?)

Cassian leaves the lift first, Lyra follows, and Jyn slips out behind them; her eyes land on the scene on the platform, then, and everything stretches--

(the man in white, it’s the man in white, and there’s a firing squad around him, and engineers, and papa in a dark suit off to one side)

(papa, it’s papa)

Cassian swears under his breath, pulls her down behind a crate, says something that she can’t hear because Papa is there, and--

“We’re too late,” she realizes as he says it again.

“They found him out.”

“Gentlemen,” the man in white says, and she can barely hear him over the blood rushing in her ears, but she has to listen, has to know. “One of you betrayed the Empire. One of you conspired with a pilot to send messages to the Rebellion. And I urge that traitor to step forward.”

There is terrified silence, the engineers frozen in place.

“Very well, I’ll consider it a group effort, then,” he continues, with a shark-sharp smile. “Ready!”

The black-armored death troopers lift their blasters into position.

“No, please,” someone whimpers.

Jyn trembles, fighting the urge to fling herself in front of the innocent men and women; Cassian rests a hand on her arm, gently, and holds her in place, and she bites her lip but forces her eyes open. She will bear witness.

“Aim, and…”

Stop!”

(papa no papa what are you doing)

Galen runs forward, shouting desperately. “Krennic, stop! It was me, it was me, they had nothing to do with it. Spare them!”

“Fire!”

The blasters go off, rain hissing when it hits the bolts, and the engineers fall dead without a sound.

(jyn closes her eyes and sucks in a sharp breath, and struggles to keep from screaming)

An arm wraps around her, pulls her close--it’s Cassian--and she lets out a soft sound and leans into him, lets his solid strength comfort her. She breathes once, forces her eyes open again to watch, to wait--they have to rescue Papa, they have to.

Cassian, Cassian, can you hear me?

Jyn twists, turns to see Cassian fumble with his commlink, whisper in a low voice, “I’m here. You got it working?”

Affirmative, yes, although we have a problem. There’s an Alliance squadron approaching!

She freezes, chokes on a breath--Cassian swears under his breath. “No, no, no, tell them to hold up--we’re still on the platform!”

“Jedha,” Krennic is saying. “Saw Gerrera. His band of fanatics. Their Holy City. The last remnant of the Jedi. Gone.”

“You’ll never win,” Galen snarls, and she can’t wait any longer--

Then the x-wings come, and fire strafes the platform, and Jyn screams, tearing herself from Cassian’s grip. “Father!”

She catches his hand, pulls him towards her--and Lyra is there now, flinging herself at Galen, sobbing something incoherent, and Jyn backs away, lets Lyra take over, and they’ve almost made it back to the turbolift when the platform explodes right behind them--

Jyn rolls, bruised and sore, into the shelter of a wall, flips over just in time to see her Papa slam into the ground and lay there, still, Lyra huddling next to him.

(no no no no n o)

“Papa, Papa, Papa,” she babbles mindlessly, flinging herself to his side; the squadron is pulling out, flying away, and the Imps are leaving, and it doesn’t matter. “Papa, it’s me, it’s Jyn.”

“Jyn, my Stardust,” Galen murmurs softly, his eyes flickering to her face, and his eyes are so tired.

“Papa, I’ve seen your message. The hologram, I’ve seen it,” and she’s shaking, why is she shaking, why does this hurt?

(why?)

“It must be destroyed.”

“I know, I know,” Lyra chokes out, sobs pouring down her face. “We will, Galen, love. I promise.”

“Jyn. Look at you,” and he smiles, and then one rain-soaked hand presses into Lyra’s cheek, ever-so-soft and gentle. “Lyra, my love. I’ve so much to tell you…”

His eyes fall closed.

And Lyra screams.

[=|=]

When Galen falls, Lyra knows.

It’s over.

Everything has been for naught--all she’s done, all the fighting, and she still can’t have Galen back anyway.

She flings herself down next to him, choking and sobbing, bends to press a kiss to his lips, because he will not die without one last kiss. She will not let him.

(she’s shaking, screaming, inside; he’s dying, he’s leaving her, he’s leaving, he promised, she loves him and she needs him)

And then Jyn is there, and Galen speaks, and he calls her his love, and then--

“I’ve so much to tell you,” and his voice dies, and his eyes close, and no!

She screams.

The pain and rage and loss and grief floods out of her, at that second, burns through her in a raging torrent, and it’s all gone too fast, she hasn’t even said she loves him yet, and he can’t just go, he promised he wouldn’t leave her--

(and she’s hyperventilating, choking, every breath shredding her throat, and the cold rain lashes her, cold and sharp and biting, wind roaring around, and everything is in flames, and knives stab her heart, she’s bleeding, and--)

“Come on, we’ve got to go, come on,” Captain Andor says, but she can’t leave him, they promised each other, and--

“Mama?” Jyn asks, but that’s not enough, she can’t--

(she can’t breathe, can’t think, there’s nothing but the pain, the endless anguish overwhelming her, a flood, a raging tide, relentlessly drowning her)

(krennic, you bastard, she thinks, and sobs)

There’s a stormtrooper running at them, one of those death troopers clad all in black plastoid, blaster upraised, aimed at Jyn, and that can’t happen, and Cassian must survive too, she’s seen the way they look at each other--

(she used to look at galen that way)

“Not my daughter,” she shouts, suddenly, and she’s on her feet, and she can hardly see through the pain, but it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t need to see, “you can’t take her too, you bastards,” and then she’s flinging herself forward, slams into the trooper, and then there’s the edge of the platform and she can’t stop herself and it doesn’t matter anyway--

(and she’s falling, falling, and she’ll be with galen again at last)

(she promised, after all)

(she closes her eyes before she hits the ground, pictures galen’s face young and carefree and smiling)

(and everything fades, fades)

(and then blackness deeper than the dead space behind the stars)

Lyra Erso dies as she has lived: protecting her daughter to the last.

Smiling.

[=|=]

Lyra grabs the death trooper Jyn didn’t see until it would’ve been too late and throws herself over the edge of the platform before Jyn can react.

It takes a second to register, that she’s just watched her mother kill herself, and then she’s screaming and running towards the edge, because she has to--has to--

“Jyn, there’s nothing you can do!” Cassian grabs her arm, tugs her back, and how dare he!

(she knows he’s right, she knows, but she can’t--)

(and papa’s still here)

“Papa--Mama--” and she can’t speak, can’t breathe, and she’s sobbing, and suddenly she can’t fight anyway, and she sags back against Cassian in resignation.

“That’s it,” he murmurs, holding her close, running a hand over her hair. “Easy.”

“I can’t leave them,” she whimpers faintly, staring up at him. “Please, Cassian--”

“We have to move,” and there’s genuine sorrow in his voice. “Come on, help me?”

(you’re a spy, jyn, you know how to handle grief)

The ice, the numbness, falls over her; she grabs her blaster, steps away from Cassian’s sheltering arms, focuses.

Two stormtroopers fall, and then Cassian grabs her hand and tugs her into the turbolift, and they’re descending, and then they’re stumbling out, and the rain still pours down--the stolen shuttle waits for them at the bottom, the ramp out, but off to the side there’s a body and she can’t leave.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he says, forces her into the ship before she can go to look. “Okay, K, we’re ready.”

The stolen shuttle takes off, and suddenly, she can’t handle it anymore.

“You lied,” she says, perfectly calm, blank, the numbness steady now. “You said we’d get him out, you promised.”

“I had no idea the squadron was coming until it was too late,” he answers evenly.

But he doesn’t meet her eyes.

“Those were Alliance bombs that killed him,” she continues. “Deny it.”

(i dare you, she doesn’t say. she wants to, though)

“Jyn--” he starts, then grits his teeth. “You can’t just decide when you want to care. You disappeared for two years, in a stolen ship without so much as a by-your-leave, and now the Rebellion is real again? Some of us live this. Day by day, hour by hour. I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old. You aren’t the only one who’s lost everything.”

He’s breathing hard by the end of his speech, but his face is still perfectly blank, the perfect spy’s mask.

She must’ve said something to upset him.

(she doesn’t wonder what, no, she doesn’t)

He’s turning away now--he doesn’t expect anything from her, he doesn’t need to, but--

“I was eight,” she whispers quietly, and then turns to sit with Chirrut.

Cassian stops.

She doesn’t keep speaking. There’s nothing more to say, not around these others.

“Yavin Four,” the captain says after a moment, with a heaviness in his voice. “Make sure they know we’re coming in in a stolen ship.”

The shuttle lurches into hyperspace, and Jyn looks up to see Chirrut, Baze, and Bodhi watching her with quiet confusion in their eyes. Well, all except Chirrut, who already seems to know. As she sits, staring back into his milky-white eyes, he reaches out and puts a hand on her arm, then softly begins to chant.

It sounds like a prayer, a lament.

Silently, head bowed, she lets the tears fall.

Chapter Text

They’re going back to the Alliance.

Right now, Yavin 4 is the last place Jyn wants to be; she can’t fault the whole Rebellion for orders that most likely came from Draven, the reasonable part of her mind knows, but she’s not exactly in the mood to be reasonable right now. The Alliance killed her parents.

(it wasn’t cassian’s fault)

(she really should apologizes--he didn’t lie on purpose)

She rises, offers Bodhi a faint smile, squeezes Chirrut’s shoulder, and makes her way to the cockpit; stands in the entrance for a moment and just watches the streams of light passing by outside the viewport.

Jyn knows Cassian knows she’s there, but he doesn’t acknowledge her. She’s not sure if that’s courtesy--giving her the time to prepare herself--or anger, the same anger she roused in him when she called him a liar. The same anger that let slip the first piece of personal information she’s ever heard him tell.

(i’ve been in this fight since i was six years old )

(you aren’t the only one who’s lost everything)

She sighs, hesitates, then takes a deep breath. “K, could I speak to Cassian, please? Alone?” she adds, when it’s obvious the droid doesn’t intend to move.

K grumbles, but unfolds his massive metal body from the copilot’s chair and clanks away. As soon as he’s out of earshot, she takes his spot, pulling her knees to her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs, staring out the viewport.

She doesn’t move when Cassian turns to look at her, instead staying focused on the stars streaking by.

(if she looks, she’ll lose her composure)

(she can’t)

“I just wanted to apologize,” she says after a moment, letting out a small sigh. “For what I said earlier. I--I know what Draven’s like, why he wanted--no, needed --my father dead. No loose ends.” She pauses, tilts her head to one side, thoughtfully. “I’m not sure I was supposed to survive either. I lost any respect he might’ve had for me when I--left.”

“You were in shock,” Cassian says, inscrutable as always. “Angry. Looking for somewhere to put it. I’ve seen it before.”

(i’ll bet you have, she could say)

(she doesn’t)

(she doesn’t want to fight with him anymore)

“So being called a liar didn’t upset you?” she asks instead.

There’s a pause, a thousand different possibilities floating through the air.

“I didn’t say that,” he says at last, and something is different about his voice.

“That’s right, you didn’t,” and where are these words coming from, she was supposed to be apologizing . “There’s a lot of things you don’t say. I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old . What does that mean?”

“Just what it sounds like,” and his voice is definitely tight now, she’s not imagining it. “I started fighting the Empire at the tender age of six.”

“Just a child,” she whispers, something akin to sorrow piercing the numb fog surrounding her.

“Was there a reason you came in here?”

She’s upset him now. Again .

“I--”

Jyn stops, takes a deep breath.

And, ever-so-slowly, she turns to look at him.

“Cassian,” she murmurs, and he turns to look at her. “I’m sorry. I-I know that I’m not the only one who’s lost things to this war. I,” and she hesitates again, feeling her composure starting to crack. “I didn’t want to run away,” she says suddenly, and like the words are a key to her emotions she feels a tear roll cool and damp down her cheek.

“I didn’t want to leave,” she continues, shaking, “but I was so scared . And--we always left, when people started to figure out who we are. And Mama--she lied about Saw, and I just… I needed some time to think.”

There’s silence for a moment; Jyn drops her eyes, watches the floor instead of the man in front of her.

Then:

“I was born on Fest,” Cassian starts, quietly, and her head snaps up so quickly she winces. “When I was six, my older sister told me to hide upstairs and stay silent.” He swallows convulsively. “The Empire killed my entire family--I never did learn why . I’ve been fighting ever since.”

A bit of a smile crosses his face, and there’s nostalgia in his eyes. “Trust goes both ways.”

[=|=]

Jyn walks into the council room, pushes her way up to the table, and stops directly across from Draven.

The General looks resigned, exhausted and worn, more tired than she can remember seeing him in years. The sight does nothing to diminish her anger.

He killed her parents. He deserves to lose some sleep over the matter.

“You wanted my father killed,” she says, cutting directly to the point. “Not only was he the man you needed most if you hope to defeat the Death Star, he was a trusted and valuable informant for you for years . Why did you have him killed?”

Draven takes a long breath. “Your father had been withholding vital information about the Death Star from us for years. There was no longer any certainty that his word was trustworthy.”

She waits, but he says no more.

“That’s it,” she says finally, distantly surprised. “You didn’t even ask him why he did it, you just decided to kill him.”

“I would think, Miss Erso,” Draven begins, “that you would understand the necessity of my actions, given that you served under me for two years. This is war . Sometimes, we make difficult decisions. I am sorry for your loss, Jyn,” he adds quietly. “I have… some experience with losing parents. It is not an easy thing.”

She ignores his last statement; she can’t think about that right now, can’t lose the tenuous grip she has over her emotions. She has a promise to keep, after all, and if she’s too emotional there’s no way the council will approve a mission to Scarif. “Listen--I just…” She pauses, takes a deep breath. “I know none of you have seen the message, but I have and I know what it says. And it doesn’t matter that Draven’s had the primary eyewitness killed . There’s a Death Star and we have to stop it; otherwise, Yavin will be just another Jedha.”

“This is nonsense ,” one of the councilors spits out, shaking her head.

“What reason would my father have to lie? There is a weakness.” Jyn stands proud and tall, spearing the doubting councilor with her burning gaze.

“I don’t believe there is a Death Star,” the woman returns.

“Shall I show you the dust that is Jedha?” Jyn snaps in return. “I was there when the Death Star fired on the Holy City! It’s gone , completely, and the rest of that moon will be uninhabitable for--years, a nuclear winter. You can’t tell me the Death Star doesn’t exist.”

“If it’s war you want, you’ll fight alone!” another councilor shouts, joining the fray.

“Councilors, please ,” Mothma starts, only to be cut off.

“To risk everything , based on what? The testimony of a criminal who abandoned the Alliance? The dying words of her father, an Imperial scientist?” adds another man.

“If the Empire has this kind of power, what chance do we have?”

“What chance?” Jyn repeats, shocked. “The question is, ‘What choice ?’ Run? Hide ? Plead for mercy? Scatter your forces? You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now !”

Yes ,” a Rebel in the back whispers gleefully.

“Every moment you waste is another step closer to the ashes of Jedha,” she adds. “Send your best troops to Scarif. Send the whole rebel fleet if you have to. We need to capture the Death Star plans if there’s any hope of destroying it.”

“You’re asking us to invade an Imperial installation based on nothing but hope ?” It’s the second female councilor from before, anger and fear in equal measures on her face.

(hope? rebellions are built on hope, cassian says)

“Rebellions are built on hope,” Jyn says, a half-smile on her face.

“There is no hope.”

“I say we fight !” the Mon Cala, Admiral Raddus, booms out.

“I say the Rebellion is finished ,” the first councilor snarls, and Jyn knows what Mothma’s about to say before she says it.

“I’m sorry, Jyn. Without the full support of the council, the odds are too great.”

Jyn nods, once; gives Draven one last long look and then turns on her heel and leaves the room. There’s no reason to stay, after all; and, technically , she is free to go, but where is there to go? The Rebel cause has been her life for eighteen years and now there’s a planet-killer on the rise; how is she supposed to just walk away from this? When the ashes and dust of Jedha still cling to the soles of her boots beneath the Eadu mud?

She shakes her head, once, and storms to the hangar; the declaration of the council feels like poison festering in her veins. They said no , they’re all too spineless and weak to do what must be done.

(for the first time, she understands her father)

“You don’t look happy,” Baze rumbles.

She shakes her head again, rolls her eyes. “They prefer to surrender ,” and she spits the word like saying it could remove its poison.

“And you?”

“She wants to fight,” Chirrut says serenely.

“So do I,” Baze snorts. “We all do.”

A little half-smile spreads across Chirrut’s face. “The Force is strong.”

Jyn sighs, smiling sadly at the two Jedha men’s faith in her. “I’m not sure four of us is quite enough,” she says with a little laugh.

“How many do we need?” Baze asks, looking over her shoulder, and something shifts in her gut.

“What are you talking about?” She’s already turning, however; her eyes land on Cassian, smiling a little, and behind him are probably two dozen men and women, just waiting. She recognizes one of them as the Rebel from the council room earlier, the one who wanted to go to Scarif. “Cassian?”

“They were never going to believe you,” he starts, and she rolls her eyes.

“Thanks for the support,” she mutters, a bitter chuckle escaping; Cassian shakes his head, though, and she falls silent.

They were never going to believe you,” he continues, “but I do. I believe you. Some of us… most of us, we’ve done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion. We’re spies, saboteurs, assassins. Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. Every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause that I believed in, a cause that was worth it. Without that, we--all of us, we’re lost. You worked under Draven, you understand. Without the cause, everything we’ve done is for nothing. And…” he hesitates, takes a deep breath, straightens his shoulders. “I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now; none of us could.”

A grin spreads across her face as he finishes his speech, and she finds herself stepping closer, staring up at him.

“It’ll be a bit cramped,” Bodhi calls as he walks over, “but we could all fit. We could go.

“We could indeed,” she murmurs; turns and glances over her shoulder to see Chirrut smiling and nodding.

“Okay,” Cassian says, a smile on his face. “Gear up! Grab everything that’s not nailed down. Go, go, go!”

“Jyn,” and she turns to see K-2 leaning casually against the stolen Imperial shuttle. “I’ll be there for you.” A pause, then: “Cassian said I had to be.”

She rolls her eyes, but there’s a faint trace of a smile on her face as she turns back to Cassian. “I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad,” she says after a moment.

He grins. “Welcome home.”

The oddest impulse seizes her, then; she can’t tell why , but it feels like it has to be done.

So she leans onto her tiptoes and presses a kiss to his cheek, and whispers a quiet ‘thank you’.

Then turns away, ignoring the wolf whistles from the other Intelligence agents (she recognizes a few of them, her old instructor Lana among others), walks straight to the shuttle and doesn’t look back.

(if she had, she would’ve seen cassian standing frozen, one hand reaching up to touch the spot her lips had been)

(but she doesn’t look back, and so she doesn’t see the tiny smile that crosses his face; nor does she see the way his eyes soften as he watches her go, a look that he has not worn in many years, and the little flush on his cheeks)

(she just walks away, oblivious to the emotional turmoil she has just bestowed upon him, and climbs inside the shuttle, and it is only then that she lets herself smile)

Chapter Text

“May the Force be with us,” Jyn says to the men and women pressed together in the ship’s cargo bay; she offers them a smile and hopes it’s as steady as her voice.

She’s exhausted, heartsick, and more than a little bit conflicted, and she could probably--well, there’s no probably about it--use a nap, but she’s still so high on adrenaline (she’s doing this, she’s defying Draven, and she kissed Cassian) she can’t even consider sleep.

There’s a general murmur of assent, and Jyn pokes her head inside the cockpit just in time to hear Bodhi stammer out, “R-rogue One,” and prepare to take off.

“But there is no Rogue One,” the Rebel on the other end of the line says, confused, and then: “That’s an impounded Imperial shuttle, you can’t--”

“Rogue One, taking off,” Bodhi says mildly, and then they’re gone. As soon as the shuttle is clear of the planet, he punches it, and Jyn grabs onto the wall for support as they lurch into hyperspace.

She turns and looks back out into the hold. Chirrut and Baze sit next to each other, Chirrut holding his staff and murmuring prayers as always and Baze inspecting his blaster cannon; Cassian leans against a wall and offers a smile that she easily returns. In the cargo bay, the men are teasing each other, calm and lighthearted as though they weren’t embarking on what could be a suicide mission.

“Where’s Aryn?” she hears someone ask.

“I didn’t tell her I was going,” the same Rebel who spoke up for her at the meeting answers; Jyn finds herself drawn into the conversation in spite of herself.

“You’re going to be in a world of trouble when we get home, Kev.”

“It’s worth it,” Kev answers softly. “We just found out a couple days ago that she’s pregnant--we want to keep the baby. That’s why I’ve got to get these plans, you know. I don’t want my child growing up in a galaxy where the Death Star exists. Enough children have already lost their innocence to the Empire’s blasters. I have to make sure that my kid isn’t one of them.”

[=|=]

The door to the turbolift shudders closed in front of her, and Jyn struggles to support Cassian and breathe.

She’d thought it would be--not simple, but the Force was with them, and doesn’t that count for something?

(here: they land, and everything’s going according to plan, and Admiral Raddus shows up with the fleet and they have hope)

Maybe, maybe. The goodwill of the Force counts for something, she supposes, but just like always it’s not enough (it’s never enough).

(here: they’re inside the vault, and the file’s called Stardust, and it’ll be so easy, it’s selected and everything, and just as she gives Cassian a triumphant smile K-2 locks the vault door)

(here: the droid’s voice whines and croaks and freezes, dries up into a pile of dust and ashes and blows away on the wind, and K-2 is gone, and they must climb)

The shield gate was open for a bit at least, and there must still be someone out there to hear the plans; if there’s anyone left of her men, though, she can’t tell. She lost contact with Bodhi a while ago.

(here: she screams when Cassian falls, but she forces herself to climb without looking back, climbs until the pain has fled and there’s only exhausted numbness left; there are no tears on her cheeks, although she dimly thinks there ought to be, and her entire body feels like lead. Which is funny, really, because bodies are made of flesh and not metal, that’s why Cassian fell with a hollow thunk and didn’t get back up, and if only he’d been made of metal maybe he’d still be here. Or she could’ve fallen in his place; somehow, it’s far more important and pleasing to her that he be alive, even if it leaves her shot and broken and fallen.)

She tugs Cassian with her when the door dings open, staggering across the burning sand. There’s a shape in the sky, looming far too close to be a moon, and coming ever-closer, filling up the whole azure dome above her head with Imperial grey menace.

The Death Star, coming for her. Galen’s other child.

(here: the antenna isn’t aligned, of course it isn’t, and she limps out to the very edge of the tower and flings her battered, metal body against it until it’s straight, and then she turns back to the computer and sees Krennic laughing with a blaster aimed at her head. Krennic will shoot and she will die, and fall like Cassian, the heaviness of her lead self pulling her down deep into the ocean, and she will die without fulfilling her promise.)

Her legs give out a few steps from the water’s edge, and she sinks down with as much grace as she can manage, still trying to support Cassian. He’s injured just as badly as she is, more than likely worse, and he has to be in incredible pain. The less she jostles him, the better.

“May the Force be with you, Rebel Alliance,” she chokes out, leaning against Cassian, crying at last. The Force has never been worth enough for her, but maybe, just maybe, that little bit extra will help the Alliance finish what she’s started.

(here: Krennic starts to shoot and she starts to dive, and then a blaster fires and Krennic topples to the hard floor, and she looks up and sees Cassian clinging to life and a blaster, and the smile on his face is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen)

Green lightning splits the sky as the Death Star fires, and Cassian lifts a trembling hand to her cheek, lifts her chin and stares into her eyes. “Your father would be proud of you, Jyn Erso.”

“If I have to die with anyone,” she whispers, voice quivering, “I’m glad I get to die with you.”

The beam strikes the ocean, sending a wave of white light roaring at them.

Cassian leans in and kisses her, light as a feather then firmer, and she winds her arms tightly around him, holding him close, and oblivion wraps around her and she smiles.

(here: someone’s shouting, desperate and pleading, begging her to wake up, but she can’t, she won’t, here she has Mama and Papa and Saw and Cassian, here is not a world where a girl who just found out she’s pregnant will forever wait for her husband to come back home, here is safe and her family, Baze and Chirrut and Bodhi and even kriffing K-2 are all here, and she clutches oblivion with both hands and holds it close until it burns.

The last thing she feels is an arm, wrapping around her and pulling, and then she knows no more.)

Chapter Text

How he manages to get out of the shuttle bay before the grenade explodes, Bodhi’s not sure. Maybe it’s the Force, finally giving him a bit of a hand. Maybe it’s something else.

Whatever it is, he’s alive, with no way to contact his friends, and no way off this Force-forsaken planet.

He sprints towards the nearest landing pad, as hard as he can, and again he’s lucky--there’s a shuttle waiting, no one around, and Bodhi flings himself into the cockpit and begins the startup sequence, praying desperately that this works.

It works.

He finds Baze and Chirrut first, by the master switch, surrounded by bodies; Baze cradles Chirrut in his arms, but the blind man is alive and entirely uninjured, just in a coma of some sort.

“I am one with the Force and the Force is with me,” Baze says by way of explanation.

(It’s not really an explanation, but that’s okay. Bodhi thinks he understands.)

“Get in,” is all he says, though.

Baze gets in.

The Death Star is in the sky, now, and Bodhi knows that he’s almost out of time; if Cassian and Jyn are still alive, there’s only two places he’ll find them. Either on top of the Citadel Tower, or on the beach.

There’s only enough time to look at one place.

He chooses the beach, and hopes he’s not wrong.

(He’s not.)

“The Force is with us,” Baze says. “That’s what he’d say, the dreamer.”

Somehow, Bodhi doesn’t think Baze has the same… contempt, lack of faith, that he used to.

“Yes,” he says, then brings the shuttle down hard on the beach as the Death Star fires. “We only have seconds, Baze, we have to get them!”

He stumbles out of the ship as Cassian kisses Jyn, shouts at them as he runs; neither of the two respond, and in desperation Bodhi starts dragging them, ignoring how it exacerbates their wounds, because both of them are unconscious now and it doesn’t matter anyway if he can’t get them offworld.

Baze grabs Jyn in one arm, slings her over his shoulder, and wraps the other around Cassian’s shoulders; Bodhi slips beneath the Captain’s other arm and together, he and Baze get them inside the ship. He achieves liftoff as the white light reaches them, and the heat sears him (and everyone else, he’s sure) before Baze gets the hatch closing and Bodhi slams the shuttle into hyperspace, not caring that the calculations aren’t complete, and hopes that the Force isn’t done yet.

The ship shudders; being so close to the Death Star is very bad for its health, and there’s no way it’ll make it all the way back to Yavin 4 in hyperspace. The nearest planet, if Bodhi’s recalling correctly, is Tatooine. If they’re lucky--if the Force is still around--Jyn, or Cassian maybe, will have a contact there, someone who can get them medical care and a ship.

Bodhi inputs the coordinates, and hopes that the Force is still with them.

[=|=]

Jyn wakes up.

From this simple fact alone, she decides she must’ve been unconscious, not dead; because generally, dead people don’t wake up.

(papa, mama, saw)

(all dead)

(never waking up)

“I’m not dead,” she says after a moment, relishing the sound of her voice.

“That would seem to be the case,” another voice cracks near her ear; she jumps, pushes herself to a sitting position to see Cassian sagging against the wall, watching her.

The first thing she thinks of is the fact that he kissed her.

The second thing, that he only did it when death was upon them.

Perhaps, the subject of Cassian kissing her should not be quite so important, given everything that’s happened recently; Jyn can’t seem to get over it, though, and so she decides to ask.

“You kissed me,” she says, staring at Cassian.

The spy actually blushes.

Bodhi cuts him off before the conversation can go any further. “Do either of you have contacts on Tatooine? This ship got blasted by our friend the murder-moon before I could get her off Scarif, and we’ll be in a lot of trouble if she goes to pieces in hyperspace.”

Somehow, the Death Star sounds a lot less menacing when it’s referred to as a “murder-moon”. Jyn can’t help but crack a grin at the phrase, but she abruptly sobers as the import of Bodhi’s statement hits her. “I… I know a guy,” she says after a moment. “Kinda.”

Cassian raises an eyebrow.

“I was eleven,” she huffs, and glares at the floor. “He was the last person to ever beat me in a fistfight. It was embarrassing.

Cassian snorts.

“Anyway, I think he goes by Han Solo now,” she continues, “and he gave me a long-range comm frequency for him in case of emergencies. He’s… he takes a bit of getting used-to, but he really is a decent guy.” She takes a breath. “He can probably even get some medical care for Cassian and I, as long as he’s in good with Jabba…”

“Why don’t you go ahead and contact him,” Cassian suggests.

She nods, gets to her feet with Baze’s help, pauses to look down at Chirrut. “What’s wrong with him?”

“He was one with the Force,” the Guardian says sadly. “He never could do more than see, with the Force. It is why the Jedi did not take him into the Order. He used the Force, earlier, became one with it and threw the master switch. It may take some time for him to recover.”

It’s the most she’s ever heard Baze say at once.

Jyn nods, then limps over to the long-range comm and inputs the frequency Han gave her, takes a deep breath. “Han?” A pause, then: “It’s Kestrel Dawn.”

“Space Princess?” a male voice asked incredulously. “No way. Where’ve you been all these years?”

Space Princess? Cassian mouths.

Jyn stifles a chuckle. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Listen, Han, I need some help, and I don’t have a lot of money with me, but I can pay you later. Some friends of mine and I have ship issues, and we also need medical attention--is there anything you might be able to do?”

There’s a pause. “You’re asking a lot, Kestrel--or whatever you’re calling yourself now. Jabba and I aren’t exactly what you’d call friends , but… I’ll see what I can do. Go ahead and land. I’ll meet you in the Mos Eisley cantina. Comm me when you get close.”

She hesitates, glances at Cassian, then shakes her head firmly. “We need the medical help first. It’s--a bit of an emergency.”

Han snorts, the sound clearly audible across the comm. “Whatever you say, Space Princess.”

Jyn can picture him leaning back, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“I don’t want to know what you got yourself into this time, little Spitfire,” he continues with a sigh, “but I’ll help you out all the same. Get me your coordinates when you land.”

“Thank you, Han,” she says, letting out a long breath and hanging the comm up. “That’s settled, then. Try and get us as close to Mos Eisley as you can, Bodhi,” she adds almost as an afterthought.

Bodhi hums an affirmation, but doesn’t look up from his laser-like focus on the shuttle’s controls.

There’s a brief silence.

And then, slowly, Cassian looks up at her, completely deadpan, and says, “Space Princess?”

Jyn groans.

[=|=]

The healer Han recruits doesn’t have access to the kind of technology that even the medbay back on Yavin 4 has, but what she lacks in equipment she makes up for in knowledge.

“I’m going to wrap your ribs,” she tells Cassian calmly. “There’s not much else that can be done for broken ribs without a bacta tank. I can give you some painkillers as well--for the both of you.” She pauses, biting her lip. “You might want to avoid any firefights until you get yourselves fixed up properly.”

She cleaned the blaster wound on Cassian’s shoulder already, covered it with bacta and bandaged it tightly; it doesn’t take long to wrap his ribs, which she does with a deft hand, and then her attention moves to Jyn.

There’s a blaster wound in her calf, which the healer--who still refuses to give out her name--doctors in much the same way she handled Cassian’s; then she mutters over Jyn’s right knee for a few minutes, fussing with a cold gel and bandages. “I don’t know just what you’ve been doing,” she grumbles irately, “but if you keep doing it, you’ll have no knee left in less than a standard year. It needs ice and rest and some physical therapy to strengthen the ligaments and tendons. Both knees do, actually. I’m worried about the ACL on your right knee, though.” She bites her lip. “It feels like it’s very close to tearing, and even though bacta works wonders you’ll still probably need surgery to reattach the ligament. You won’t be able to bear any weight on your knee if it tears.”

“I can fix that later,” Jyn answers, neatly sliding off the woman’s kitchen counter and rolling her trousers leg down. “There’s a medbay back home. Thank you,” she adds with quiet sincerity.

The healer snorts in exasperation, but smiles. “Thank me by not dying,” she retorts sharply. “Now go on, get out of my house!”

Jyn gets out.

She and Cassian meet up with Bodhi, Baze, and Chirrut outside the healer’s house. “Han went to the cantina,” Bodhi says, eyes darting around him nervously. “Said he had someone to meet.”

“He’s a smuggler,” Cassian begins thoughtfully. “I wonder if he could be trusted to smuggle us --back home.”

“He might be,” Jyn answers, nodding slowly. “If we paid him.”

“That’s settled,” the spy says with a nod. “Cantina, you said?”

[=|=]

Jyn steps into the cantina carefully, pausing to let her eyes adjust to the low light before moving far enough forward to let Cassian and Bodhi follow her in.

They’d left Chirrut and Baze with the healer, who’d seemed eager to try a few techniques on Chirrut, still deep in a coma. So it’s just the three of them--which, actually, will make things easier. Hopefully there’ll be less chance of a fight getting started without the two Guardians.

Following her instinct, Jyn heads towards the back corner of the cantina, where the noise levels is lower and the band is more like the background music it’s supposed to be. Sure enough, her eyes pick out the massive form of a Wookiee standing guard over a booth with three men seated at it.

“Is that a Wookiee?” Cassian chokes out under his breath. Despite his tone, his face is as blank as ever when she turns to look at him; he was quiet when he spoke, but loud enough, apparently, for said Wookiee to overhear.

The Wookiee lets out an exclamation as he turns, and Jyn lets a grin stretch across her face. “Chewie!”

She barely gets the name out before she’s enveloped in Chewbacca’s massive, furry arms; she lasts less than ten seconds before she’s thumping against his chest. “Put me down, I can’t breathe,” she says, and the Wookiee must hear her because he sets her gently back on her feet and turns away.

Cassian raises an eyebrow and Bodhi looks vaguely terrified, but Jyn ignores both of them, instead striding forward to lean against the table. There’s a man--a kid, really, innocence in every muscle--with blonde hair staring openly at her, eyes wide; next to him an old guy in odd, dark brown robes. Jyn gives them each a cursory inspection before turning to Han. “Hey, flyboy, I’m calling in that favor you owe me.”

“I thought the healer was the favor,” Han says in dismay, shaking his head. “No way, nope. I’m not your personal chauffeur, Space Princess.”

She rolls her eyes at the nickname, sighing. “We’ll pay. But, Han--we don’t have credits on us, there’s no way we could get a ship, and we can’t stay on Tatooine. It’s not even that far. But Chirrut’s still in a coma and we have to get back.”

“These two have already agreed to pay me seventeen thousand credits to take them to Alderaan. I’m sorry, Kestrel--”

It’s at that second that Cassian leaves his position as lookout and says, urgently, “Jyn, we’ve got company.”

She swears and turns a bit to see four stormtroopers standing at the bar, two of them holding holos--herself and Bodhi. The bartender shrugs, then points in their direction. Jyn instinctively reaches for her blaster, only to recall abruptly that she lost it on Scarif--

“Cassian, your spare blaster?” she hisses.

“Lost it on Scarif,” he mutters back. “Sorry. Only four, though. I can take them.”

“Why the hell are they here?”

He shrugs. “Must’ve tracked us from Scarif. There was still at least one star destroyer near the shield gate when we got out, right?”

“The last star destroyer jumped to hyperspace just after we exited atmo,” Bodhi confirms, his voice only shaking a little. “I picked up some of the comm traffic. They were all after a blockade runner. I thought we were okay.”

Cassian freezes. “The plans,” he chokes out, and then the stormtroopers are at their table.

“You there!” one of them barks. “Jyn Erso! You are known to have been instrumental part of the invasion of Scarif. You will tell us where the plans are, and perhaps we will let you go free.”

Jyn laughs, bitter and cold and harsh. “All I did was pull the lever. Sorry to disappoint, boys, but I’ve got no more idea who heard us than you do.”

The other three troopers step forward; Cassian draws his blaster and shoots all four with quick precision.

Even the band stops playing, for a second.

Han looks rather impressed. He opens his mouth to say something--only to be cut off by the old man in the robes.

“Do you have any idea what you wear around your neck?” he asks calmly.

Jyn chokes.

“Why do you care?” she finally asks, pretending she’s not trembling.

He just stares. “My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is Luke Skywalker. It’s a pleasure to meet you. We’ll see you in docking bay ninety-four soon enough, am I correct?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes slide from Jyn to Cassian, to the faded insignia on Cassian’s collar; he holds his gaze there for just long enough to make it noticeable, then winks. “We’d be glad to offer you our assistance. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Moving out of the way to let him slide past, Jyn frowns. “I don’t trust him.”

“Neither do I,” Cassian agrees. “But this is our only chance.”

“W-what about Chirrut and Baze?” Bodhi asks.

“The Falcon is small,” Jyn answers quietly. “There’s not room for the both of them, especially with Chirrut in a coma. They’ll have to find their own way back home.”

Cassian looks pained at this, but he nods agreement. “We need to get out of here before more stormtroopers come looking for their buddies.”

“Docking bay ninety-four?” Bodhi confirms.

Jyn grins, slowly. “Docking bay ninety-four.”

“I still haven’t said yes,” Han grumbles from the booth; Chewie lets out a grumbling array of noises, and Han sighs.

“We’ll see you soon,” Jyn calls over her shoulder and grins wider. “Whether you want to or not.”

Then she steps into the street and leaves the cantina behind.

Chapter Text

With Baze and Chirrut firmly ensconced at the healer’s house, all the credits Jyn had on her in Baze’s possession and the healer refusing to let the couple leave until Chirrut is restored to some fashion of health, the remaining members of Rogue One’s crew meet at docking bay ninety-four with no small amount of trepidation between the three of them.

“I don’t think this is a very good idea after all,” Bodhi says nervously, doing his best to not-obviously stare at the stormtroopers milling about the spaceport.

“It’s the only idea we have,” Jyn mutters, wishing now more than ever for her own blaster.

“That doesn’t mean it’s good,” the pilot retorts, and then Han appears on the hatch and frowns.

“Are you coming?”

Jyn nods, gestures for Bodhi to precede her into the Falcon; just as she goes to step past Han, however, there’s the sound of a commotion in the spaceport and a squadron of stormtroopers sprints at the ship, blasters ready.

She whips out the blaster she’d… acquired earlier and starts firing before the troopers have a chance, knocks enough of them down with Cassian’s support to clear some space before Han jerks her all the way inside the ship by her collar. “Strap in,” the smuggler barks out, slamming the button to close the ramp then turning to sprint towards the cockpit. “Chewie, get us out of here!”

The ship takes off before Jyn can heed Han’s advice; she clings to the wall as the G-forces tear at her and waits. The acceleration sequence is over in a moment, and both she and Cassian are free to make their way into the central hold, where Luke, Obi-Wan, and a pair of droids wait.

“Where’s Bodhi?” she asks, noticing the missing member of Rogue One almost immediately.

“Cockpit,” Luke announces dramatically. “Which is where I’m going right now. This idiot’s going to get us all killed!”

With that rather worrying pronouncement, the boy--despite being around the same age as Jyn, he’s far more naive--vanishes into the cockpit.

Jyn exchanges a look with Cassian, then follows.

Bodhi is arguing with Han. “Listen to me, this is wrong! I know where we’re going! These calcs will take us towards Alderaan!”

“That’s the point! ” Han shouts back. “The old man paid up front. All I’ve got from you guys is a promise I’m not sure I should trust, knowing who gave it! You don’t even have any credits. We’re going to Alderaan.”

“Han, this is important,” Jyn says quietly, breaking into the argument. “It’s life or death for the galaxy.”

“Not my problem.”

It’s something she might’ve said herself, not too long ago, when she was on the run from the Alliance and trying to convince herself the cause didn’t matter.

“Draven will pay you,” she says after a moment, turning to look at Cassian with a question in her eyes. “Won’t he?”

Cassian shrugs. “We did commit mutiny,” he offers.

“You did,” she says. “I haven’t gotten my rank back yet.”

The Falcon leaps into hyperspace then, away from the tie-fighters chasing it; Han turns to stare at Jyn like she’s grown an extra head. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Cassian shouldn’t be the only one in trouble,” Bodhi mutters. “We all did it.”

“We need to get in contact with the Council,” Jyn says, leaving the cockpit without answering Han. “We need to know if they got the plans.”

“Plans?” Luke asks. “What plans?”

The little astromech droid whistles and flashes its lights; Jyn thinks it would be jumping up and down if it could.

“Now, R2, don’t be ridiculous,” the golden protocol droid says primly. “I will not bother these people with this insane notion of yours.”

“Why are you going to Alderaan?” Cassian asks in lieu of an answer, ignoring the droids.

Luke hesitates.

“Trust goes both ways,” Cassian says with a shrug, giving Jyn a small smile. The smile quickly changes to a grimace, however, and he grits his teeth. “I think the painkillers are starting to wear off.”

“Are you hurt?” Luke asks, looking worried. “How?”

“Blaster bolts will do that to you,” Jyn answers almost sharply, gently tugging Cassian into the hold and sitting him down in a chair. “Han, is there a med kit on this piece of junk?”

Han looks mildly offended. “I’ve got one somewhere. I think,” and he vanishes into a small side room to search.

“How are you doing?” Cassian asks softly.

“I’m fine,” she answers, which isn’t entirely true, but she doesn’t want to worry him. If she had to guess, she’d say he’s broken more than just his ribs--or, rather, he’s injured somewhere the healer couldn’t see. You don’t fall multiple stories and come out of it with just a few broken ribs and bruises.

Luke turns, rather helplessly, to Bodhi. “We don’t--you haven’t even told us who you are, or where you’re going,” the blond complains.

Bodhi shrugs a little. “D-don’t ask me, I’m just the p-pilot.”

(His stutter is back. Jyn tries, rather unsuccessfully, to ignore how much the fact aches.)

“Me too,” Luke exclaims, his whole face lighting up. “Er, I’m a pilot, I mean.”

His enthusiasm is contagious, and Jyn barely manages to bite back a smile; it’s about then that Han emerges, victorious, from the side room with a red bag in one hand, which he hands over right away.

Jyn digs through it, finds a bottle of painkillers--there’s a small bottle of morphine with needles and syringes, but she doesn’t want to use it unless absolutely necessary--and hands Cassian two pills. He swallows them dry.

“We should begin your training, Luke,” Obi-Wan says mildly from where he sits off to the side, observing.

“Wait,” Luke says, his voice suddenly firm. “I want to know.”

“Kenobi,” Cassian says suddenly, something clicking in his voice. “I thought I recognized that name. I’ve seen it in old records. You’re a General.”

The old man smiles serenely.

“I’m Captain Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence, and this is Jyn Erso.”

“Who also was in Intelligence, once upon a time,” Jyn adds quickly.

Cassian snorts a little. “And this is Bodhi Rook. We need to get back to Base One and see if those plans made it safely back.”

“What plans?” Luke asks again.

The little astromech droid beeps again, more insistently this time.

“I say, R2, calm down!” the golden droid snaps back.

“What’s he saying, 3PO?” Luke asks.

“He keeps going on about a secret mission for the princess, which is absolute rubbish,” 3PO responds.

“Princess Leia?” Jyn and Cassian ask the question simultaneously, realization flashing through their minds at the same time.

Alderaan.

Home of the Organa family, the staunchest and most outspoken supporters of the Rebellion--and Bail Organa has just recently promised the Alliance a fleet and increased support; not publicly, technically, but there is no hiding the way both Bail and Alderaan itself feel about the Empire, and in any case when one is the King of one of the most prosperous planets in the galaxy, one has no secrets. Even on Wobani, the gossips had been talking about Bail’s decision.

For years, the Empire has had to simply put up with Alderaan, because how do you silence an entire planet?

Jyn lifts her eyes to Cassian’s and sees the sickening realization mirrored there. “We can’t go to Alderaan,” she whispers through numb lips.

“Why not?” Luke demands.

“We just can’t,” Cassian says, steel lacing his voice.

“We must,” Obi-Wan says regretfully. “These droids must be delivered to Bail Organa.”

“Why?” Jyn challenges. “What’s so important about them?”

R2 beeps.

“What plans are you talking about, R2?” 3PO asks.

“P-plans?” Bodhi asks, eyes widening.

Jyn freezes.

“Don’t be ridiculous, R2. That doesn’t exist,” 3PO reprimands sharply.

“What doesn’t exist?” Han asks, drawn in despite himself.

The golden protocol droid shakes his head. “A Death Star.”

[=|=]

Had there been any real choice in the matter, Baze is quite certain he would not have chosen to remain behind on Tatooine while the young ones take another path. He is not a sentimental person, but the crew of Rogue One has become a family in more than one way. After all, there are some things a group of people cannot experience together without becoming friends. Raiding an Imperial data vault and escaping the Death Star twice is one of those things.

If Chirrut were awake, he would’ve found a way for all of them to stay together.

If Chirrut were awake, it would solve many problems.

Baze sighs and stares down at the bed. He has never been much of one for praying; he’d lost his faith in the Force sometime during the Clone Wars, watching all the atrocities the Force never changed. Oh, sure, the Force exists; there’s no doubt about that, not when one’s seen Jedi Masters at work. But with Jedi and Sith alike gone from the galaxy--well, there are rumors that Darth Vader has some otherworldly power, an allegation Baze can’t entirely dismiss even though those who whisper such things are few and far between and have never seen the man in question themselves--there is no one left who the Force will listen to.

Except, somehow, impossibly, Chirrut did use the Force, for more than just a replacement set of eyes. Not a single blaster bolt hit him--and that, Baze could just put on the inherent inaccuracy of stormtroopers, were it not for the fact that the black-armored death troopers did not, as a rule, miss their targets. And it was more than that, too; Chirrut had done something that Baze couldn’t see, and then suddenly the death troopers were lying scattered about in pools of dark blood and Chirrut was lying unconscious on the ground.

Unconscious, and silent.

It’s been almost twenty-four standard hours since Scarif.

Baze doesn’t think he’s gone that long without hearing Chirrut pray since Baze returned to Jedha after the Clone Wars.

(He doesn’t believe in the Force, he says, and he truly does mean that. But he enjoys Chirrut’s prayers anyway.)

Baze breathes in.

“I am one with the Force,” he mutters under his breath, trying the phrase on, “and the Force is with me.”

It doesn’t quite fit; Baze has never been one with the Force, and he knows the Force has no particular desire to be with him.

But…

“He is one with the Force and the Force is with him,” he says, a little louder this time, and yes.

“He is one with the Force and the Force is with him,” and then, “ Save him.”

[=|=]

There are many words that have been used to describe Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, words like witty and charming and beautiful and intelligent and formidable. (She finds the last one especially pleasing to hear.) There is another word, however, and it’s often used in a… less than complimentary way: defiant.

(It’s defiant when they’re trying to be nice, anyway. She’s also been called all sorts of less flattering things, all with the same approximate meaning.)

She herself prefers stubborn.

Really, there is a difference between the two words, she muses, keeping her eyes pointed at the door to the cell. Defiance brings more of a ‘standing firm to your beliefs when faced with persecution’ type image to the forefront of her mind, whereas stubborn is just sheer contrary assholery. Whatever you tell me to do, I’m going to do the exact opposite . Defiance does have its place, especially in politics, but oftentimes she’s watched her father have to resort to simple stubbornness to succeed.

Leia sucks in a deep breath, practicing the combat breathing she’d picked up during the time she snuck into Rebel training classes, forcing her muscles to relax. The straps on the chair she’s been jammed into are just on the edge of too tight; she can barely move, and the fabric is cutting into her wrists and ankles almost enough to make her lose her circulation. It’s all very calculated, down to the positioning of the chair--it’s at an angle where, in order to see the door straight-on, she has to crane her neck: something almost impossible with the way the restraints are done.

She huffs out a trembling breath and goes back to contemplating the difference between defiance and stubbornness.

(It’s a bit easier to think about trivial technicalities than it is to wonder exactly when the Imperial interrogator is going to show up.)

Time passes; no more than an hour or two, certainly, or she’d be feeling more of the effects of hunger and thirst. And then, just as she’s beginning to relax a bit, think that maybe she’ll be left alone, the door slides open with a smooth hiss.

Leia Organa is no stranger to fear; she knows Imperial interrogation techniques well. She’s watched holos.

She was expecting an interrogator.

She could withstand an interrogator.

The… person who walks through the cell door, after the guards file in--standard procedure, backup in case the one being interrogated manages to get free, although she’s never seen so many--and the torture droid (not what it’s really called, of course, but right now she’s a little too afraid to recall the exact specifics) crams itself inside is not an interrogator.

The carefully rehearsed defiance on Leia’s face falls away as she stares into the reflective black mask belonging to Darth Vader.

(Leia Organa knows what fear is like. When you are the daughter of the ruler of your homeworld, and a secret Rebel sleeper agent, in a perfect position to do lots of damage and just waiting for the call, fear is an almost constant companion. She has no shortage of experience with fear.

But sheer, unadulterated terror?

That’s a completely new feeling.)

One thing’s for certain, she knows, struggling against the restraints to no avail: she has no desire to feel this way again.

Ever.

The droid extends an arm-like apparatus with a needle on the end of it; Leia instinctively jerks away from it, heart pounding, adrenaline lending strength to her muscles.

It’s not enough.

“And now, Your Highness,” Darth Vader says, “we will discuss the location of your hidden Rebel base.”

She barely feels the needle prick her arm, but the effect is instantaneous; heaviness flows through her veins, a thick blanket of lethargy settling over her, the energy to fight gone as though it had never existed. The whole world is hazy, seen through smudged glass, shapes warping and twisting before her eyes. Her thoughts float away, unmoored from their tethers, the crystalline structure of her mind unbound in an instant, and the strange warmth enveloping her is kind enough she can’t quite bring herself to care.

(She’s a child, dancing through sweet summer sunbeams, chasing motes of dust through the air; the dust shimmers with things incomprehensible to her, like the drugs used in interrogation commonly induce severe hallucinations and there’s a girl on base named Liana who’s your age--maybe the two of you can spend some time together? She doesn’t know what either of those bits mean, but she knows they’re hers somehow--or maybe not. Maybe they don’t belong to her. But they’re precious. She knows.

Thunder rumbles in the distance, and the sunlight turns thin and cold, and there’s an ominous pressure bearing down on her; she struggles to pull in armfuls of dust, but she can’t grip it very well and there’s so much and there’s no time--

Somehow she knows that certain pieces are more important than the others; there are things that must not be lost. Secrets that must not be told. She knows this, even though she doesn’t know why. So she grabs the bits that are so important and clings desperately to them; curls her small body into a shield and closes her eyes tightly and endures as the rain pours down and soaks her to the skin, as lightning crackles around her, sparks across her skin, and she screams and screams and screams again at the pain of it all, like the very atoms that make up her body are being torn apart one by one, and through it all she refuses to let go of those dust motes even when raw and bloody and shredded. She knows the storm will stop, the pain will go away, if only she gives up the dust; but something deep inside her rebels against that notion, and a voice she can’t quite recognize murmurs be stubborn, love, and she recalls sheer contrary assholery and refuses to let go.

She will not let go.

She will not let go.

And then there is a howl of pure rage, pain so powerful the world whites out, turns to sharp-shattered static in her ears, and then she is alone. )

Chapter Text

“A Death Star,” C-3PO says.

There are two immediate reactions: Han and Luke look vaguely confused bordering on worried; Jyn, Cassian, and Bodhi, on the other hand, exchange matching looks of horror.

“Princess Leia must’ve been on the flagship,” Cassian forces out; though his face is pale and his muscles tight, his eyes are hard and focused. “If she’s been captured…”

“She’s my friend,” Jyn says quietly. “Or rather, Liana’s friend. We met a few times when she came to Base One with her father.”

“S-so we have the p-plans again?” Bodhi asks, eyes wide with fear. “W-we have to take them b-back--”

“If Leia’s been captured, we have to find her and get her out,” Jyn snaps, fear lending harshness to her words. “You have no idea --even if all she gets is lifetime on a prison planet, she’ll be destroyed --and there’s no way that light of a sentence is going to be her punishment.”

“I need to talk to Draven,” Cassian says, “find out the situation back at base.”

“What are you talking about?” Han asks finally.

At the same time, Luke goes, “Hang on, you know her? The girl in the message?”

“What message?” Cassian asks, turning on the farm boy.

R2 beeps and rolls up to Jyn. “This is all complete nonsense ,” 3PO declares, glaring at the other droid. “ Look at what you’ve done.”

“Will someone please explain to me what the hell is going on !” Han shouts, punctuated by a warble from Chewie.

Jyn gives Cassian a look; he hesitates for just a moment, then nods.

She takes a deep breath. “The Death Star is a planet-killer,” she says slowly. “My father built it, but he placed a trap in the system--a flaw in the reactor module. Cassian, Bodhi, and I were part of a team that invaded Scarif and sent the plans to the fleet. We didn’t expect to live.”

“A planet-killer?” Han mutters, shaking his head. “No way. That’s not possible.”

“T-tell that to Jedha,” Bodhi mumbles almost acidically. “And Scarif,” he adds after a second, shrugging.

Only Jyn notices when Obi-Wan suddenly goes pale and leans against a wall for support; she catches his eyes and starts to say something, only to be halted by a subtle shake of his head. The color returns to the old man’s face after a moment.

“Listen,” Han says after a few seconds of thought, “say I believe you. I might even let you off for free. But I’m still going to Alderaan first, because that’s what I’m getting paid for.”

There’s a beat of silence, and then Obi-Wan says, quietly, “Come, Luke. Let’s start your training.”

[=|=]

When she finally comes back to herself, the drug still hazy in her mind, the first thing Leia sees is a pair of stormtroopers standing watch. The instant her eyes are fully open, one pops out the door and says something; before she can really comprehend what’s going on, she’s out of the chair, her hands in binders, being marched towards the door of her cell. She staggers, legs not quite remembering how to support her weight, an oversight meriting a cuff from the stormtrooper on her left (or is it her right?). She flinches a little, struggling to reach for her customary defiance through the floating bits of her brain.

Darth Vader waits outside the cell; the air around him hums like a hive of angry bees just waiting on orders from their Queen, and the sensation (sparks on her skin, starbursts in her eyes, static on her tongue) makes her gasp, jerking back. But the stormtroopers don’t stop and neither does the humming, and Vader just turns sharply on one heel and sets a brutal pace down the corridor, and it’s either walk best as she can or be dragged, and Leia is a Princess and proud of it. Being dragged--by anyone --is far too undignified for her position. So she walks with her head held high and slowly she gets used to the humming, and she tries to put the pieces of her shattered mind back together again.

There’s a lift that takes the small group up several levels; and then there are more corridors, a twisting path she can’t hope to memorize, and then a door that slides open at their approach. The control room, she thinks, looking around; and then she catches sight of two things simultaneously and she feels herself start to fall.

One: Governer Tarkin stands in front of a huge wall screen.

Two: she knows the small green planet being displayed.

Gravity tilts, the station swaying beneath her feet; she sucks in a deep, sharp breath. “Governer Tarkin,” she spits out, maybe a little less sharp than she should be, “I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

“Charming to the last,” Tarkin says smoothly. “You don’t know how hard I found it, signing the order to terminate your life.”

“I’m surprised you had the courage to take responsibility yourself,” Leia hisses.

(She’s still falling.)

“Princess Leia,” the Governer says, “before your execution I’d like you to be my guest at the ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.”

He sounds so confident. “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

“Not after we demonstrate the power of this station.” Tarkin smirks. “In a way, you have determined the choice of planet that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide the location of the Rebel base, I have decided to test this station’s destructive power on your home planet, Alderaan.”

“No!” she gasps out, in full freefall now, mind spinning and spinning and spinning around. “Alderaan is peaceful, we don’t have any weapons, you can’t possibly…”

“You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system,” he says, and advances on her, slow and menacing. “I grow tired of asking this. So it’ll be the last time. Where is the Rebel base?”

The intercom crackles, something about the approach to Alderaan; Leia chokes on her horror--and then she remembers.

( if you’re being interrogated , Liana Hallick says, green eyes intensely burning into Leia’s own, believe the lie. Become the lie. Forget the truth until the lie becomes the truth--hide everything else inside a safe place in your head.)

(Dantooine, she thinks, the Rebel base is on Dantooine, and she repeats and repeats and repeats it and then she closes her eyes.)

“Dantooine,” she whispers softly, lowering her head, opening her eyes to stare at the metal floor beneath her feet. “They’re on Dantooine.”

There’s a beat of silence, then: “There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable.” And then: “Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.”

“What?” she breathes, horrified, hardly able to think, the bastions of her mind crumbling away (and she can still feel the storm battering down on her tiny cold body).

“You’re far too trusting ,” Tarkin hisses, smug superiority oozing from his smile. “Dantooine is too far away to make an effective demonstration. But don’t worry, we’ll deal with your Rebel friends soon enough.”

“No!”

Vader is gone, but the world is still all empty air rushing past her ears; she cannot think, cannot breathe, can hardly see--eyes fastened on the small green orb in the viewscreen--and then a vivid green beam of light shoots out from the station and all she can do is stand helpless and watch as her planet explodes into space dust.

Her world.

Her life.

Mama, Papa, friends, everything.

All gone, gone, gone.

She screams, and it echoes in her ears, around and around and around. There’s a river roaring through her blood and her bones and rattling around her head, a river of screams, a million souls ripped out of existence before their time, crying out in horror and fear and then--

gone.

(Vaguely, she feels the stormtrooper guards grab her by the arms and drag her away down the corridors, into the lift and back down to the detention level; a tiny part of her coherent mind bemoaning the loss of her dignity but the greater piece still echoing with aching silence , cold and whistling with wind.)

(Alderaan is gone .)

She doesn’t realize she’s crying until she’s thrown into a cell and left there; but once she notices the tears slipping cool and damp down her cheeks she begins to sob, and there’s nothing in the galaxy that can stop her.

Leia Organa lies broken and empty and alone on the harsh metal floor and sobs until she’s choking on the crushing guilt of an entire world.

[=|=]

“I never thought I’d meet an actual, living Jedi,” Jyn murmurs to Cassian, watching as Obi-Wan runs Luke through some training exercise, lowering the blast shield on a helmet and putting it on the younger boy’s head.

“There aren’t very many left,” Cassian answers in a similarly quiet voice. “If there are others besides Kenobi, the Alliance hasn’t heard.”

Han mutters skeptically, watching the exercise; when Luke finally manages to deflect the shot the seeker robot sends, the older man just shakes his head.

“Mama always told me to trust in the Force,” Jyn says softly. “I was never sure if I should believe her or not. Always thought that if the Force does exist, it certainly doesn’t seem to care about us much--but maybe I was wrong.”

“Looks like we’re coming up on Alderaan,” Han says, cutting off the quiet conversation; he, Chewie, and Bodhi head into the cockpit without further ado.

There’s a shudder as the ship lurches out of hyperspace. Instead of resuming the smooth travel of spaceflight, though, the Falcon bounces around, shaking and groaning; Jyn gives Cassian a look and then follows Luke and Obi-Wan into the now-cramped cockpit.

The sky is full of rocks and dust.

“What do you mean? Where is it?” Luke’s asking as Jyn enters.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, kid. It ain’t there. It’s been totally blown away,” Han says sharply back.

The world tips upside-down.

As though from a great distance, Jyn hears herself muttering, “No, no, no.” Others are talking, saying words she can’t quite understand; she stumbles back, feeling Cassian’s arms come tight around her, holding her up.

“Breathe,” Cassian whispers in her ear.

“We have to get the plans back to the Alliance,” Bodhi says from somewhere, his voice only shaking a little. “W-we have to stop it.”

“The only thing I’m worried about stopping right now is this TIE-fighter,” Han says, pushing the Falcon faster.

“Perhaps we should just let it go,” Obi-Wan interjects.

Jyn sucks in a trembling breath and steps half out of Cassian’s arms, peering through the crowded cockpit to see the small fighter.

“He’s headed for that small moon,” Luke says, pointing at the spherical shape growing ever-larger on the horizon. No more than a minute later, the dull grey ‘moon’ becomes clear to Jyn’s eyes--

Cassian swears in that other language of his. “That’s no moon,” he hisses, hands tightening around Jyn’s arms.

“I have a very bad feeling about this,” Luke says slowly, gaze flickering between the three members of Rogue One.

“Full reverse, now,” Bodhi says urgently, “before their long-range scanners pick us up.”

“That’s not a moon,” Jyn says, her voice a barely audible thread of sound that somehow everyone seems to notice. “That’s the Death Star.”

“Why are we still moving towards it?” Luke shouts as the Falcon shudders around them but doesn’t stop moving.

“We’re caught in a tractor beam! It’s pulling us in!” Han shouts back.

“But there’s gotta be something you can do!”

“There isn’t,” Bodhi cuts in, eyes wild. “We’re t-trapped.”

“We need a plan,” Jyn hears herself say.

Everyone’s attention instantly snaps to her.

“We aren’t prepared to infiltrate the Death Star,” Cassian says, shaking his head. “Our aliases are useless in this situation.”

“Scanning crews usually consist of two stormtroopers,” Jyn says, and she really doesn’t want to say this but what choice does she have? “Cassian gets one--you’ll need his experience. Bodhi can pass as a pilot, even though his flight suit’s a bit beat up.”

“No,” Cassian says firmly. “You’re not doing this, Jyn. We’re not staying here any longer than necessary. There will be enough stormtroopers around to get enough armor for all of us.”

Bodhi shakes his head. “Someone n-needs to stay with the ship,” he says. “I can’t be a s-stormtrooper.”

“If we give them something to look at, they won’t notice the rest of you,” Jyn says, talking to Cassian only now.

“And if they find out who you really are?” Cassian shakes his head. “No. No one is sacrificing themselves, got it?”

Han takes a deep breath. “What he said, Space Princess. Right, then,” he continues in a much cheerier tone, the moment left behind, “I’ll get to work modifying the logs. Kid, you and the old man can help jettison escape pods. I’ve got an idea.”

Chapter Text

The cell door hisses open, jerking Leia from a light sleep; she sits up slowly and stares at the three stormtroopers clustered outside her cell with no small amount of trepidation.

But the stormtroopers don’t speak.

“Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” she finally says to the one in the lead, more than a little confused.

He reaches up, pops off his helmet--revealing the face of a young blond. “What? Oh , the uniform. I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you,” he says, tossing his helmet to the ground.

Leia blinks, vaguely wondering if this is a hallucination brought on by drugs--something to prepare her for her execution, perhaps.

Then another stormtrooper removes their helmet and says, “Your Highness.”

Her head whips around so fast she feels her neck twist, staring at the familiar face. “Captain Andor? Did Draven send you?” she manages after a moment, shocked.

(No, that’s stupid. If Draven had sent him, Cassian would be here alone with a silenced blaster.)

“We sent ourselves,” another familiar voice says, and the shortest stormtrooper pops a helmet off to reveal the tousled black hair and intense green eyes of Liana Hallick, also known as Jyn Erso.

( That had been a shock to find out, although Mon Mothma had tried to be kind when delivering the news. When Leia had heard that Jyn Erso and Captain Andor were leading an unsanctioned raid on Scarif, she’d leapt at the chance to be the one to bear the transmitted plans back to the Alliance, all the while inwardly weeping--certain that she would never see one of her few true friends again. To see Jyn alive, impossibly alive, sends a thrill of joy sparkling along her spine, helps to relieve some of the pain of Alderaan.)

“Liana-- Jyn,” she corrects herself quickly, shaking her head, “Scarif was destroyed--we thought you were dead.”

“Explanations will have to wait,” Jyn says, “but it’s nice to see you again, Leia.”

The princess nods, steps from her cell, starts to follow them down the corridor--only to see another man tearing towards them with his blaster out. “Can’t get out that way,” he shouts, wild-eyed. Behind him, a massive Wookiee warbles an agreement (or something, anyway. Leia doesn’t exactly speak Wookiee.).

“Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route,” she snaps out, struggling to keep her calm.

(If this doesn’t succeed, Vader will come back, and he will hurt her, and more planets will be lost.)

(If this doesn’t succeed, the entire galaxy will be hopeless.)

(They must succeed.)

“Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, Your Highness,” the man says back, and the sarcasm is so thick she can practically taste it.

Luke grabs her by one arm, then, and pulls her into the dubious shelter of a nearby alcove; she doesn’t know who’s inside the cell behind her back, but she hopes they don’t particularly mind the noise. And it is noisy, what with the constant blasterfire sizzling down the corridor and impacting in the walls.

She can see Cassian and Jyn on the other side of the corridor--the other man and the Wookiee are farther down on the same side, just barely in view--working flawlessly together like they’ve done it a thousand times, and smiles just a little. Maybe this rescue isn’t doomed, after all.

That, of course, is when Wise Guy (she still hasn’t gotten his name) speaks up.

“I can’t hold them off forever! Now what?” he shouts, and Leia feels her patience crumbling.

Jyn gives Cassian a look.

“No,” the spy says immediately, then sighs. “There’s not much choice. Go on, I’ll cover you.”

Jyn nods once, touches his shoulder in thanks, and then rolls across the corridor, shooting as she goes. She ducks into another alcove further down, repeats the process a few times; then Leia loses sight of the other girl and can only wait for Jyn’s shout of, “All clear!”

She rushes down the corridor to see Jyn collapsing a pair of batons and stowing them in her sleeves, looking quite pleased with herself--and limping.

“What’s wrong?” Leia asks, eyeing the undamaged stormtrooper armor with suspicion.

Jyn shrugs it off. “It’s from Scarif. No big deal, just aggravated it with the fighting.”

“They’ll know we’re here by now,” Luke says suddenly, frowning. “So much for trying to sneak out.”

Wise Guy grins. “Give me a honest firefight over sneaking around any day. Han Solo, by the way,” he adds, turning to Leia. “Captain of the Millennium Falcon.”

“Smuggler,” Jyn says, rolling her eyes.

Han’s grin turns into a smirk.

Leia sighs. “ Such a pleasure to meet you,” she mutters as she steps into the turbolift.

(Maybe, just maybe, sniping with Han Solo will distract her from the weight of Alderaan.)

(Maybe.)

(If she’s lucky.)

[=|=]

It’s almost too easy to get the extra stormtrooper armor, although finding a set small enough for Jyn is a challenge; Bodhi and the droids are well-hidden in the smuggling compartments on the ship, a small commlink left with the pilot in case of emergency. Obi-Wan Kenobi (or Ben, as Luke continues to use) drifts off on his own to go dismantle the tractor beam, and Jyn has complete faith that he’ll succeed, but there’s something in the Jedi’s eyes that leaves unease trickling through her veins like cold water. She can’t put a finger on it, but it’s as if the old man knows what’s about to come and has resigned himself to his fate.

It’s quite worrying, to say the least.

But Luke doesn’t seem to notice and Han doesn’t care, and while she’s sure Cassian picked up on it too she can’t find the words for her disquiet, so she doesn’t say anything at all.

The closest she comes is a mumbled, “It’s too easy ,” to Cassian as they march through the durasteel-grey corridors.

Because it is.

Even with Han buckling up the inquiry on the comm, drawing a horde of stormtroopers down on them, there’s still this feeling that they’re being allowed to rescue Leia, to leave; she’s sure that if the Empire knew the stolen plans are inside the Falcon it would be different, but it still raises the question of why?

Why is it so simple?

The turbolift doors slide open; she pokes her head out, looking around carefully--the coast is clear, but not for long. Hopefully Obi-Wan will be almost finished.

“Let’s move,” Cassian says, taking point; Jyn falls in beside him and draws her blaster again, eyes cataloguing every bit of the corridor, picking out ambush points with the ease born of long practice.

“We’re too noticeable,” she says in an undertone, catching Cassian’s eye. “Too many people together.”

He nods, turns to look back at the others. “Han, Luke, you take the Princess and go. We need to split up. Jyn and I will meet you in the hangar.”

“Hang on, wait,” Han says, shaking his head. “I take orders from only me.”

“You took orders from Saw,” Jyn reminds him, frowning.

“That was a long time ago,” Han says, but she can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s given in. “Fine. Come on, Your Worship, you heard the Rebels.”

“Oh, come off it, wise guy,” Leia says, but she goes with the two men and the Wookiee anyway. “May the Force be with you,” she tosses over her shoulder, and then they’re gone and it’s just Jyn and Cassian left.

“Helmets,” she says. He nods.

“Yes. Helmets.”

[=|=]

Cassian’s the one who finds the pair of stormtroopers dozing off on their watch; a bit of very careful sneaking and the helmets are removed, and the troopers never even stir. Stormtrooper armor is bulky and confining, and the helmet changes the way Jyn sees and hears, but she summons the cold detachment of intelligence work and forces herself to relax. Being too tense could be a death sentence.

No one bothers to even glance twice at the pair of stormtroopers walking (not jogging--jogging would indicate a problem and garner unwanted attention) towards the hangar. It’s interesting, she thinks; the Empire’s incredible machine-like efficiency--the very thing they pride themselves on--is what makes it so easy to slip inside. Still, it’s not over yet--it won’t be over until the Falcon is safely away and into hyperspace--and there’s so much that could happen.

(It’s not easy, it’s never that; relatively speaking, though, there is some level of ‘ease’ to spying on the Empire. With the right documents and the right uniforms and the right self-presentation, you can become anyone--the system is so deeply impersonal that no one even notices… until you mess up.

On the other hand, everyone knows everyone else in the Alliance, or at least knows of everyone else, because in an organization so small and close-knit as the Rebellion you can’t help but recognize every face.

Maybe there’s some benefits to being so small after all.)

“I’m beginning to think we should’ve grabbed Leia and left the others to the stormtroopers,” Jyn murmurs to Cassian when the corridor is empty again, forcibly pushing away her musings. Now is not the time.

He doesn’t answer. Which shouldn’t be surprising, because Cassian only ever goes out of character when he feels safe enough, and walking through the Death Star is hardly safe, but it’s still a bit annoying if she’s honest with herself.

(It wouldn’t be annoying normally, but everything about the station sets her on edge, sends warning vibrating along her teeth and prickling in her fingertips, and she desperately wants to hear a familiar, safe voice.)

She rounds a corner just slightly in front of Cassian and sees Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie, accompanied by the droids, sprinting across the floor of the bay with stormtroopers in hot pursuit. An idea clicks into her brain; she doesn’t even glance to her left, knowing he’ll have thought of it at the same time as she, just pulls her blaster and runs towards the fray and starts firing. To the casual observer her shots look wild and desperate, but years of sighting on the run mean every bolt flies true, finds purchase in white plastoid.

It’s not until they’ve nearly caught up with the droids that Jyn reaches up and pulls off her helmet, not trusting Han or Luke to note the fact that she’s shorter than the average stormtrooper in the heat of battle. She flings the helmet at a nearby stormtrooper, idly interested in the fact that the bulky plastoid headpiece actually makes a decent projectile, and then follows the helmet with a shot.

(She nearly shoots Cassian in the frenzy, has sighted and is about to pull the trigger when a corner of her brain catches the cool, machinelike precision of his fingers on the trigger of his own blaster; she jerks away even as she fires and the bolt impales some other stormtrooper.)

Cassian finally catches her arm, drags her backwards up the Millennium Falcon’s ramp, shooting all the while; Luke waits at the top of the ramp as well, still firing, and there’s a low rumble of engines (Bodhi was true to his word; the ship’s been ready to fly since they appeared in the bay), and Jyn starts to back inside.

Then Luke screams.

“Ben!”

An odd humming sound rattles her bones, even with the cacophony of the firefight; she turns just a little and her eyes catch on a blur of blue and red light.

Lightsabers.

It’s the old man--Obi-Wan, General Kenobi, who might just be the last of the Jedi--locked in combat with a figure in black. Darth Vader, maybe (because it’s said Vader uses a lightsaber and wields the Force and who else would be on the Death Star than the Emperor’s right-hand man). Probably.

And he’s winning.

Jyn doesn’t need to be a Jedi (or an expert in lightsaber combat) to see that; her own knowledge of fighting hand-to-hand and her years’ experience of observation shows her well enough. Old Kenobi is tiring rapidly. He won’t last much longer.

And then, just as Vader prepares to swing his red blade, Obi-Wan deactivates his own and steps back and she knows what’s about to happen, she sees the resignation in every line in the Jedi’s body, and she watches with a writhing scream muffled in her throat as the brown-cloaked man gives himself up.

What happens next is inexplicable, defying all logic: Vader’s lightsaber hits Obi-Wan’s side and passes through an empty cloak; the rough brown garment hits the durasteel floor in a pool of fabric and the lightsaber hilt lands on top.

The old man is gone.

“Jyn, move,” Cassian hisses.

She blinks, snaps out of her shocked stupor, takes Luke’s other arm and helps Cassian drag the screaming, sobbing kid inside with no small amount of sympathy.

(She remembers her first deaths, remembers sobbing in Saw’s arms as he explained, gently, that the injured must be left behind or they will all die.

You must understand, child. If someone is too injured to keep up, he must be left behind, because he only slows down the rest of us. You wouldn’t want even more to die because of sentiment, would you?

Little Jyn had tearfully shaken her head and listened when Saw said that it’d get easier in time.)

(She remembers icy-cold rain, darkness and blasterfire and torpedos, the whine of x-wing engines, Stardust and not my daughter! and liar, liar, liar, and falling into infinity)

(She has no way of knowing this is not Luke’s first taste of death, of ashes lying cold and bitter and bloody on his tongue.)

The hatch closes and the three of them stumble into the main bay, sliding into chairs as Han and Bodhi and Chewie fling the Falcon away and into hyperspace; Jyn heaves an exhausted sigh and starts the process of divesting herself of the hated plastoid armor.

It’s only then that she notices she’s been shot in the knee.

Chapter Text

Leia wants nothing more than to curl up in a corner of the bay and cry herself to sleep, to mourn the loss of family, friends, her whole world-- but there is work to be done. They’re not out of the clear yet.

(Ben Kenobi is dead, and Father is dead, and Mother, and--)

She jerks herself to her feet, the motion sharp and violent, and strides into the cockpit; through the viewscreen, the stars streak by, soft white smears against the black void of space. The sight is beautiful and, somehow, soothing. Hypnotic, too: Leia knows instinctively if she spends too long staring out, she’ll fall asleep, and that’s not possible right now. Not now.

The Wookiee’s gone… somewhere, she doesn’t know where , exactly, and it’s not like the Falcon is a very large ship (if one can even call the hunk of junk a ship) , so Chewie’s sure to resurface sometime soon. But for now, Leia’s alone in the cockpit; it’s a refuge she really shouldn’t be seeking out, not yet, there’ll be time for grieving later, but before she can turn back a wave of dizziness crashes over her and her knees buckle.

She manages to catch herself on one of the seats before she collapses, and she drags herself into it and lets it take her weight from legs too weak to hold her any longer. Her head falls back and her eyelids flutter closed (entirely without her permission), and a tiny, choked whimper escapes before she can bite it back.

She buries her head in her hands to muffle it.

“Princess?”

Somehow, Leia finds the energy to snap her head up; she turns to see one decidedly uncomfortable Han Solo staring at her from the pilot’s seat, something strange and unreadable shifting in his eyes. “I--” she starts, and then coughs. She sucks in a deep breath and swallows, trying to wet her dry throat, before continuing. “I didn’t know you were in here.”

“What happened?” Han asks, softly--softer than she’s ever heard him speak before, the acerbic edge to his voice melted away.

“What do you think?” she tries to snap back, but she’s too exhausted to summon any emotion beyond a hollowness that echoes in every syllable. “I just watched my planet die,” she whispers, shaking, “and it was my fault.” A breath. “Why am I even talking to you? What do you care?”

There’s a long silence, broken only by the humming of the engines.

Finally, Leia goes to stand, heaving herself out of the seat. “I should--”

Her voice cuts off as the dizziness returns, swamping her, choking her, robbing her of all breath, and suddenly she’s falling, vision gone suddenly black. “Easy, easy,” a voice says, just barely registering, and it takes her a moment to realize it belongs to Han.

Han, who’s got his arms around her, lifting her from the cold floor and gently laying her back in the seat. “Easy there, Leia.”

It’s the first time he’s ever used her name.

“He was in my head,” she chokes out, hardly aware she’s speaking, panting for breath as the crushing feeling starts to return to her mind. “I--I felt him, he was--I couldn’t--”

“Breathe.” Han’s voice goes stern, hard, for a moment.

She flinches.

“Leia,” he murmurs, then, on an indrawn breath, and what is that emotion she hears?

She forces her eyes open, finally, vaguely focusing on his face. “Vader,” she says slowly, her tongue thick and heavy and swollen. “It was a storm, he was, the storm, I. I don’t. I can’t remember.” Panic spears her, hot and bright and burning, and her breath catches. “Han, I can’t remember what I told him.”

“Look at me,” Han commands, and something in his voice makes her listen. “Leia, I want you to breathe along with me. In and out, in and out, nice and slow. That’s it,” he says, smooth and rhythmic.

The panic lessens its grip on her chest, just a bit, enough that she can take a deep breath. She wants to breathe deep, greedily inhaling oxygen, forcing it through her lungs, but Han said--Han said-- breathe along with me, and so she does, she does, because right now the simple fact of breathing is all that’s keeping her sane. Because if she stops breathing, she might never start again, she might fall into her mind and never wake up, she might--

“Breathe, Leia.”

Obediently, Leia breathes.

Minutes trickle by, and slowly her vision clears. She realizes Han is crouched down in front of her, resting on one knee, his hands wrapped loosely around her own, just barely cradling her. Grounding her. It’s so unlike the smuggler’s previous behavior that it’s almost as though there’s a different person entirely before her. Gone is the rakish grin and smug gleam in his eyes; instead, his face is entirely serious, his eyes dark with worry.

“Back with me?” he asks after another few minutes, when the utter terror in her eyes has calmed.

She nods, tentatively, and slowly, consciously, relaxes every muscle in her body, one by one. Another round of breaths and she tries to speak. “Thank you.” A pause, and then: “I should go, I have things I need to do--”

Han cuts her off with a single shake of his head. “You need to sleep, Princess. Whatever you need to do can wait. We won’t hit Yavin space for several hours, yet, and you’re dead on your feet. When was the last time you slept?”

She considers for a moment. “In the cell, I think, after I was interrogated. I--”

“I mean really slept, not the last time you were knocked unconscious,” the rogue smuggler clarifies. Still, his hands tighten a fraction around her own.

She shrugs. “A while. Before--” Her voice cuts off, and she swallows, shudders. “Before Alderaan, Alderaan,” another gasping breath, “before Alderaan died.”

A tear slips from her eye despite her best effort to stop it.

Han doesn’t speak, just slips his arms around her and holds her close, lets her cry herself out on his shoulder, never once complaining about the awkward position he’s in. He just stays there, balanced on one knee, and rocks her gently, murmuring quietly soothing nothings into her ear and stroking her hair (long since let out from her buns) until all the tears are gone. Then and only then does he ease her back into the seat, scrabbling around behind him with one hand and finally pulling out a survival blanket. Without a word he tucks it around her small, curled form, brushing his fingers over her cheek in the process.

“Sleep, Leia,” he whispers, sounding almost choked by… something she can’t identify.

“Don’t leave me alone,” she begs, small and broken and weak.

Han stops, looks down where she’s wrapped both of her small hands around one of his larger ones. “Please?” she breathes, looking up at him through damp lashes, and he’s utterly lost.

“Okay,” he says, and sits down in his seat. “I’m here, Leia. I’m always here, I promise.”

“Stay with me,” she murmurs, on the edge of sleep, somehow still watching him.

“Always,” he breathes, unable to look away. “Always.”

With the tiniest of smiles, Leia Organa sinks into sleep.

[=|=]

Cassian lowers himself onto the floor with a groan, exhausted, every muscle screaming. Something pops and scrapes in his back with every movement; he’s never felt this before, but his rudimentary knowledge of med tells him that it’s more than likely a bad sign. And throwing himself into a fight on the Death Star could’ve only made it worse. Avoid firefights, the healer on Tatooine had said.

He’s done a bang-up job of that.

Hopefully, he hasn’t finally hurt himself badly enough that the Alliance medics can’t save him.

The ship hums around him as it speeds through hyperspace, comforting in its familiarity; if this blasted pain would go away he could actually take a shot at getting some sleep. Doesn’t seem likely, though, all things considered. And, anyway, he should be planning. Who knows what reception they’ll get when they land back on Yavin. After all, they did disobey direct orders…

“Be honest, how bad does it hurt?” Jyn asks quietly, sliding down the wall to sit with him. The red bag in her hands has an array of painkillers in its depths, he knows--about the only thing that can help him right now.

“Enough,” is all he says, but he lets her make eye contact, and he lets her see everything when she does. “How’s your knee?”

Jyn makes a face at the bandaged joint. “It hurts, but it’s bearable,” she tells him. “I took some pain pills already, just waiting for them to take effect.”

Cassian lets out a sigh, his head falling back against the durasteel wall. “We did it,” he whispers, staring down at her.

“We did it,” she echoes, a ghost of a smile on her lips. It dies away almost immediately, of course, but at least it was a smile. “Want some morphine?” she asks after a moment.

He shakes his head. “No, I need to think.”

“You need to sleep,” she corrects, and then sighs and leans into him, dropping her head to rest on his shoulder.

Without thinking (easy as breathing, and as natural), Cassian slides his arm around her, tucking her into his side. Jyn nestles close, all the tension leeching out of her all at once. They stay like that for a few minutes; and then, just as he’s about to fall asleep, he hears her voice.

“You kissed me,” she whispers, her voice muffled by his shirt. “Why did you kiss me?”

Once upon a time, he would’ve hesitated to share such a revealing truth, but not now. Not to her. “We were going to die,” he says into her hair, pressing his lips to the top of her head. There’s a pause, and then the rest of the truth comes spilling out: “I didn’t want to die without kissing you.”

Silence.

Cassian swallows, suddenly nervous, and pulls back a little bit; as though the motion’s a cue, Jyn lifts her head, twists a bit to meet his eyes. All her masks are gone and he can see a sharp vulnerability in her green eyes.

“I’ve--I’ve never done anything like this before,” she says slowly, uncertain.

“Neither have I.” He hesitates, and then adds: “but I’m willing to try, if--if you are.”

Her smile hits him like the sun breaking from behind clouds, warming him all the way to his toes, and he can’t help but smile back. “Yes,” she says, slowly, and then, “ yes.”

This time, Cassian doesn’t hesitate. He leans in and kisses her, hard.

Over on the other side of the bay, Bodhi says, loudly, “ Finally!”

[=|=]

Luke Skywalker sits alone at the table the Wookiee had been playing chess on just hours earlier, staring at his hands. Bodhi is still broken, still lost, all jagged edges not quite fitting together, but he can recognize the loss in the slump of the younger boy’s shoulders. After all, Bodhi knows the feeling intimately.

(There is red Jedha dust in the creases of his uniform, dark Eadu mud caking the soles of his boots, Scarif sand in his hair, ashes on his tongue.)

So he lowers himself into the chair next to Luke and wipes his sweaty palms on his pants.

“Hi,” he says, rather awkwardly, and shifts a bit. “Uh, are you okay?”

Mentally, he slaps himself. Are you okay, the dumbest question he could’ve asked right now. But to his surprise, Luke doesn’t seem to feel the same; a shadow lifts from his blue eyes and he lifts his head.

“Me?” There’s a little surprise there, which makes Bodhi wonder, just a little. “I… I don’t really know what I am anymore.”

Bodhi smiles a little, at that. “Neither do I,” he says. “I’m lost.”

“It’s like…” Luke hesitates, trying to compose his thoughts. “Back home, we have water pirates. My Uncle, he owned a water farm. Sometimes water farmers got killed--it’s an occupational hazard,” he says, his face twisting at the words. “But it was always other farmers, not anyone I knew.”

“What happened to your uncle?” Bodhi ask, knowing the answer but asking the question anyway.

“He died.” Blunt, sharp, straight to the point. “So did my aunt.”

“And now Obi-Wan,” Bodhi says quietly, beginning to understand.

“Yeah.” Luke offers a faint smile. “I miss them.”

“I’m from Jedha,” Bodhi says, and waits a moment. “Everyone’s dead, now. I miss them all the time.”

“Does it stop hurting?” the young pilot asks.

Bodhi shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe we can find out together.”

Luke nods, slowly, a tentative smile spreading across his face. Just then, Bodhi looks over across the bay and sees Cassian lean in to kiss Jyn, and he cheers.

“Finally!”

[=|=]

Baze considers buying a ship, but even on Tatooine ships are expensive, and he’d have to sell his blaster cannon to have anywhere near the credits for one. And that is not a sacrifice he is willing to make. As far as he can see, there are two options remaining: steal a shuttle and risk bringing the Empire down on the Alliance, or pay someone to fly him and then kill the pilot before they reach the base.

And it’s imperative they reach the base soon; Chirrut has yet to come out of the coma, and Tatooine is a dangerous place. They can’t stay much longer. One way or another, they will be offworld tonight. They must be.

Which is why Baze is out wandering the streets of Mos Eisley instead of back at the healer’s house where’s he’s been staying, his blaster cannon slung over one shoulder, red armor on. He may not be Cassian, but he can tell when someone’s tailing him; years of living under Imperial occupation on Jedha sharpened his eyes.

While he can spot a tail easily enough, losing them is another story altogether, and Baze has never been one for subtlety anyway. So he ducks into one of the winding sidestreets, and when the little man follows, he spins around and slams his forearm into the man’s throat, pinning him against the wall.

“What do you want?” he growls.

“I come from… the almighty Jabba,” the man wheezes. “He… has seen you seeking… a way offworld… and has a deal… for you.”

Baze lets up on the pressure, just enough to let the man breathe. “What is this deal?” he demands. He’s wary of the man: Jabba is notorious all across the galaxy… and yet, this could be the chance he’s been looking for.

“There is a mighty beast wreaking havoc on the almighty Jabba’s associates,” the henchman says, looking pitifully grateful to be able to breathe again. “In return for ridding Jabba of this menace, you will be provided with transportation offworld.”

“So I kill this thing, I get a ship with a competent pilot, no questions asked?” he confirms, emphasizing the last three words by pressing against the henchman’s throat again.

“Yes, yes!”

Baze nods, satisfied. “You will take me there. Now. And on the way, you’ll tell me what it is I’m fighting.”

The henchman shifts uneasily and then says, “A Krayt dragon.”