Jyn doesn’t realize at first, and neither does Cassian. She just follows blindly after he exclaims and pulls her along, tripping over the ramp into the shuttle because the glare is so bright that she can’t make out a thing, even squinting.
Once they collapse into a heap on the deck, Bodhi shouts, “Hang on back there!”
She shuts her eyes and clings to the dirty metal with one hand and Cassian with the other. All she can see is white behind her eyelids, but it’s blessed relief to hear the harsh sound of his breathing in her ear, feel the grit of sand under their bodies, even smell the engine grease and ozone of the starship.
He came back for us. And we made it.
She’s still shaking from adrenaline and elation when she hears the shriek of the hyperdrive subside and opens her eyes to see who else had managed to evacuate.
“Lighting short out? Least it wasn’t the hyperdrive,” she quips lightly, squinting. The burning afterimage in her vision has faded, but it’s odd that even the emergency guidance lights aren’t on in the cabin. She’d figured Imperial ships would have better backup systems than the junkers she’s used to.
Cassian stiffens, then cups her cheek with his hand.
She blinks and jerks back, startled when she feels his breath in her face.
“Jyn… you can’t…?”
The euphoric relief she’d been feeling turns into icy realization.
She swallows and blinks hard, trying to make out a display, his eyes, even the bulkhead... “The lights are on, aren’t they?” she asks almost in challenge, trying to keep her voice even.
She feels the motion in his neck, but she doesn’t really need to see him nod.
Jyn tries to take it in stride, determinedly ignoring the itch to rub her eyes. This is probably some temporary effect, like the lingering reverse color image after staring at a light for too long.
And if it isn’t, there are prosthetics and bionics available. Probably spend the rest of her life paying them off, though.
Anyway, Chirrut’s blind, and he's plenty capable.
‘Course, he’s used to living in a world he can’t see, and he’s always with Baze. Plus maybe the Force guides him, but she has no kriffing clue how that all works. It’s got to be practically magic- a Blue Squadron fighter reported that Chirrut had flagged him down to get him and Baze off that beach.
Cassian’s been talking her through their route so she doesn’t stumble, and she knows from the pained, shallow way he breathes that she’s supporting him as much as he’s guiding her now, but she doesn’t dare to hope that this can continue.
Maybe she won’t have to, anyway- from what she saw of the Rebel Alliance, they’re swimming in more credit than she ever saw in Saw Guerrera’s camp. Money means newer tech and proper medical facilities.
She’s still steeled for the worst once the medical droid examines her: Jyn’s plenty used to paying for her own mistakes, and she’d stared Death in the face.
Her father’s creations, faced off for one beautiful, terrible instant.
She has no illusions about who ended up losing.
But it’s still hard to hear both diagnosis and prognosis from the medical droid:
“I’m afraid you are suffering from both photic retinopathy and photokeratitis: your eyes were severely damaged when you gazed at something of great photic intensity without sufficient visual protection. I am assuming this is the same source of the epidermal burns you survivors also must be treated for. What’s interesting is that retinal injuries usually result from viewing stars in eclipse-“
She barks a humorless laugh, scoffing at her own foolishness. “Oh, it was a star, all right. To think I was proud of myself for not flinching or looking away…”
She lifts a shoulder, half resigned, half annoyed. “Am I like this forever, then?”
“Immediate bacta treatment will aid the healing of your skin and corneas, relieving most of your discomfort in a few hours. Unfortunately internal recovery will take much longer. Your visual acuity will return gradually over one to six months.”
“Six months?!” Cassian bursts out.
She holds up a hand, equally bewildered but still hoping. “Aren’t there other options?”
“It is possible to surgically replace damaged eyes with bionic replacements, restoring the semblance of sight immediately, but there would still be a period of adjustment of several weeks as the optic nerves and visual centers of the brain learned to process the altered input signals, and lifelong maintenance requirements besides. Most patients prefer their original organic components, and as there is a high probability of spontaneous recovery, waiting for your retinas to heal themselves is the course of treatment I would advise. Any lingering visual defects can be corrected via surgery at a future date.”
She swallows. “So that’s it? I get used to this for a few months if I want to keep my own eyes?”
“I would be happy to discuss every treatment option in detail, including risk assessments and maintenance. For now though, you have been given top priority for the Bacta tank, and I would recommend easing the discomfort of your burns immediately.”
“I will treat Captain Andor while you are in the tank,” the droid assures her.
It's not what she meant, so she exhales and turns to where he should be, wishing she could see his face so she could gauge his expression. Neither of them had bargained for this.
She starts when he takes one of her hands, inhaling jaggedly as he murmurs. “I’ll be right here when you get out. I told you you were home, didn’t I?”
She smiles, telling herself it’s just the scratchy feeling in her eyes that’s making tears threaten. “Make sure they give your ribs a proper scan. Scared the life out of me when you fell,” she insists.
She could swear he’s smiling when he replies. “Yes, ma’am.”
Jyn likes to think they’re both recovering admirably.
She’s slightly ashamed of how relieved she is that Cassian’s badly hurt enough to be placed on medical leave too. She can’t imagine having to learn the way things work here without him, getting his mandated short walks while helping her acquire basic issue clothing and toiletries and memorize the number of steps from the medbay to his quarters, his quarters to the mess, and the mess to the hanger.
(Life in the Rebellion means always knowing your evac procedure.)
The most frustrating part of his fractured ribs is the prohibition on activities that might overly strain his cardiovascular system. The medical droid had seemed to suspect something when Cassian had mumbled agreement, because it had made a point to clarify. “I’m afraid that also means no sexual intercourse until your ribs are sufficiently healed. The likelihood of sustaining a repeat fracture or collapsed lung during vigorous intimate contact is around-“
“…You droids are all the same!” he groaned.
“-of course, you may enjoy less strenuous forms of sexual contact, such as-“
“-I understand! It’s fine!”
And it is- that part of their relationship is more than fine. His warm words and constant casual touches ensure she always knows how wanted and welcome she is.
Sharing his bunk is partly pragmatic, too: she doesn't have quarters (or a position) and they can support each other while they're still on the mend. The other, more "personal" benefits are just a natural extension of what's been building between them since before Scarif, and being forced to take it slow is probably wise, considering.
The Alliance is a lot friendlier than she had expected too- she gets greetings and full meals even though it'd be easy enough to breeze by her or skimp on portions. It's oddly disarming to live among those who don't live in a state of suspicious defensiveness and she wonders, a little, if this is what life before the Empire was like.
Still, proper meals and positive attitudes don't make up for being literally, constantly in the dark. She soon realizes how much she took reading people's expressions, signs and computer displays for granted. So many of her memories are visual, and it gives her a pang to realize she doesn't know what half the people she's met look like, whether Cassian closes his eyes when they kiss, or even what's on the holos he keeps next to the bed.
Not that she isn't familiar with the timbre of his voice, the smell of his skin and taste of his mouth; how quick he is to hold her when the impenetrable black nothingness makes her feel like she’s falling, lost in some void. She just wonders if her memory of his smile has distorted because she keeps bringing it to mind, like a holo gone grainy from being put through too many transfers.
She also worries about how nerfherding useless she is like this and it’s hard not to view herself as a liability, no matter how many times Cassian assures her that she’s more than earned her place here.
And then the Death Star obliterates Alderaan. Not just a city or an island- the whole planet.
She can’t seem to stop crying.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I didn’t even know anybody on Alderaan,” she protests, swiping at her cheeks with frustration.
His voice is rough with emotion, and he pulls her close. “No, it makes absolute sense. …It’s exactly what we tried so hard to stop.”
The fact that he understands perfectly makes her cry all the harder, although there's a kind of relief in it.
They've both lost everything before; they’re still losing this fight.
But they’ve got each other to lean on anyway.
Chirrut and Baze arrive with the Medical frigate they’d been taken to after Scarif as the Alliance meets again in desperation. Bodhi is even more subdued than usual as they sit together in the Mess Hall, the only remaining members of Rogue One, minus Cassian because he’s with the bigwigs in the strategy meeting.
So much for medical leave, she reflects bitterly.
Chirrut is almost annoyingly cheerful.
“So! Look at all of us who survived to tell the tale! We heard that a well-timed kick to a grenade delivered both you and your ship. Your foot has healed, Bodhi?”
“…Yes. Easier to immobilize and set bones in an extremity,” he says apologetically, and Jyn frowns.
“It’s not your fault Cassian got shot off that data archive,” she reminds him.
“I know, it’s just… his recovery is taking so much longer, I-” he breaks off when somebody claps him on the back.
“And I was luckiest of all! Just knocked unconscious for a short while. Unfortunately, Baze managed to get himself a concussion during that time. They took very good care of him on the Vanguard, though. Induced a medical coma and even did a kind of surgery. The Alliance is kind to its friends.”
Baze grunts agreement but says nothing.
“And you, Jyn. It seems your path is still clear before you.”
She frowns and recoils, stung. I’m blind, you-
…who knows exactly what this is like.
She sits in stunned realization before she swallows and speaks. “…I’ve been a fighter all my life, but I don’t know how to move now that I can’t see. Could you-?”
He sounds like he’s smiling, and she can picture his confident posture. “Teach you? Of course! Why else would the Force have brought us here?!”
Baze snorts. “The Rebel Alliance was meeting and brought us along.”
He’s probably right- it might have just been logistics. But Jyn reaches for her neck, touching the crystal hidden there reflectively, and Chirrut smiles.
Trust in the Force.
She’d never realized someone so seemingly wise could be utterly infuriating.
“It’s not like I’m a Jedi! This is insane. How am I supposed to know where that chair is?”
“I am also no Jedi, as Baze would be happy to tell you. But we have other senses besides our eyes. You must learn to rely on them. Now, listen to my staff.”
She sighs and tries to focus her hearing.
And her eyes widen when she notices a low hum, creating an undulating ripple of a wave through the room.
A wave that is breaking a few steps to her left.
“What is that? How-?”
“That- is the sound of a mind opening,” he declares.
Behind them, Baze snorts, exasperated. “There’s a sliver of kyber at the end of his staff, which resonates with the Force. You can use that resonance to navigate, if you know to listen for it.”
“Who is the teacher?” Chirrut demands.
“I’d say both of you are,” Jyn interjects quickly, alarmed.
To her relief, that mollifies both of them.
She doesn’t mind Chirrut being right about the big things, though.
Cassian is positively shaking with excitement when he relays the news: Princess Leia of Alderaan is en route back to headquarters with the plans after a long and harrowing escape.
And she gets goosebumps when Chirrut suddenly sits bolt upright next to her as the room fills for the Death Star brief.
“There will be no need to run,” he states, like a curious realization.
“The Rebel Alliance has only survived this long because we always have an escape route planned and efficient evacuation procedures,” Cassian informs him wearily.
“That’s so. But Jyn: take a listen for what changes.”
She pulls out her necklace and gives it a few small whirls, tracking the resonance washing over the room.
There are a lot of bodies and obstructions- but a young man starts and turns toward her as if she's just shouted his name.
She blinks, bewildered.
“Chirrut,” she mutters.
Chirrut’s positively beaming, and he gives a friendly wave to the stranger. “The Force is strong with him.”
Cassian sounds skeptical. “He’s a farmer from Tatooine who aided the Princess in her escape. Intelligence is vetting him now.”
Chirrut sits back, as if the matter has already been decided. “There will be no need to run,” he repeats. “Today we witness hope go from seed to bloom.”
It’s months before she watches the footage, but he’s right. The young man is the pilot who triggers her father’s carefully hidden trap.
And the Death Star explodes like a brilliant flower across the heavens, no longer anything but stardust.
Cassian’s grateful to be alive, to be sure, but he’s more grateful after the heady reminder that bodies can feel pleasure as well as pain.
There was rather too much of the latter in the aftermath of the Scarif mission. His own ribs had felt like a terrible cage- perhaps Chirrut was more right than he cared to admit. He and Jyn have had to limit the ways they connect physically, break off too many passionate embraces.
Medical had been most unimpressed when one particularly intimate encounter had ended in him needing a lung re-inflated. They'd both taken the restrictions seriously after that.
But Jyn's just as eager to forgo lunch and race back to their quarters once Medical finally clears him.
There’s nothing quite like the giddy freedom of full body contact, of kissing and touching until she's bucking impatiently under him, of sinking himself into the woman he loves at last, hearing her moan with the pleasure of it and clutch at him with her thighs and hands and sweet heavens above, even inside.
His entire body is keyed up like a live grenade, and he's so hard that he knows he won't be able to last long, stubbornly ignoring his aching ribs as they start to race towards the inevitable.
Jyn's so beautiful in her arousal, flushed and breathless and trusting. Her eyes are unfocused and unseeing in a way he’s used to now, but her rapturous cries --and the wanton way she's grabbing at his ass-- leave him no doubt that she's enjoying each hungry thrust as much as he is.
And he’s learned a thing or two about what she likes over the past weeks, so he ducks his head to suck her nipple.
She convulses right off the bed with a long, inarticulate cry, and his hips go rigid as he explodes with her, shouting.
It takes them both some time to come down, and he wallows in the involuntary spasms that keep her shuddering around him occasionally, in how good it feels to be totally intimate at last.
She smiles smugly, panting and pressing a kiss to his cheek. “I think… this is my new favorite way to get warm on Hoth.”
He huffs a laugh. “Well, we need to keep you warm as much as possible then,” he promises.
She chuckles and lets her head loll back against the pillow, sighing.
And frowns quizzically before she widens her eyes and turns her head a couple times.
“There’s a light on over there, isn’t there?” she says, pointing.
He turns lazily to look before he lifts himself off her with an astonished grin, whooping and pulling her close.
Chirrut, Baze and Bodhi eventually return to Jedha. Their people need help to rebuild their lives without the Holy City, and they go with plenty of supplies and the promise of continued support from the Alliance.
Given Medical's recommendation that Cassian remain on light duty for several more months, he and Jyn volunteer for a different kind of assignment, one suited to a small team.
It’s feels fitting, somehow, for the last remaining members of Rogue One to continue to be trailblazers, finding and preparing new base sites for the Alliance.
There’s a long list of criteria for base locations, so Cassian had also made it a top priority to acquire a new body to upload K-2SO’s backup into.
“He's proven invaluable to mission success, for strategic analysis, as a copilot or on the ground,” he'd argued. General Draven had looked over Cassian’s report and lifted a brow. “I suppose we need one ruthlessly objective member on your team, even if it's a droid who's too honest.”
Cassian had ignored the pointed remark. It's hard to argue that it wasn't his feelings for Jyn that had made him deviate from orders and go rogue when everybody knows they're coupled. And it doesn't matter anyway- it came out right in the end.
Once K-2SO is functional again, they compile lists of promising planets and moons by comparing habitability, Imperial/Hutt activity and stellar traffic, then scout locations.
They draw little suspicion, looking for all the world like a young couple searching for a safe place to build a home. It actually reminds her of years ago, finding a homestead on Lah’ mu with her father and mother. Even the steps are the same: surveying land with good water sources, natural sensor deflecting properties and few natural hazards like predators and seismic activity, then setting up shelter and quietly stockpiling supplies.
She likes how it feels like making a fresh start.
And she doesn't know if it's the Force or just nature taking its course, but she's grateful when it becomes ever easier to see the colors of sunsets and the winks Cassian gives her when he's teasing Kaytoo.
There are always missions that take top priority, and Jyn doesn't hesitate to volunteer once the Alliance hatches a plan to destroy the new Death Star before it reaches completion.
"You'll need to slip into Maintenance at night, and find your way to the master console in complete darkness. Then you'll have to manually replace the work order and get out again without leaving a trace. Our "Imperial" crew will then have the "correct" work order to take command of the shuttle right out of maintenance. It's crucial that the Empire do not suspect that it's missing."
Jyn considers for another moment and nods calmly back at Admiral Akbar.
"I can do it."
"Turning on any sort of light will almost certainly lead to immediate discovery."
"It's fine." Her eyes light up with humor, and she grins. "I promise I can manage in the dark."
General Draven clears his throat. "Captain Erso was visually impaired for several months following her participation in the Rogue One mission, sir. It's why I recommended her specifically."
The admiral regards her with surprise. "Is that so, Captain?"
Jyn smiles wryly. "I don't recommend staring at detonation flashpoints, sir. Left me with a useful kind of perspective, though."
"Well, I'm grateful we have such a capable volunteer. Getting that ship is vital to penetrating the defense around the Death Star."
Jyn lifts her chin. "Happy to help destroy any Death Star."
It always makes her uneasy when Cassian has missions alone in enemy territory, but there’s no helping it. They need current shield codes for the shuttle Tyridium, and his informant will only pass the information in person, to keep from leaving an electronic trail.
She can’t quite meet his eye as she unfastens the necklace from around her neck and tiptoes, retying it firmly around his.
His eyebrows lift with surprise. She’s never without the crystal- it’s as much a part of her as her hands or the stubborn tilt of her chin. “You would give me something so precious?”
She shrugs a shoulder. “Used to be afraid to have anything worth losing. But I’ve learned that I’d rather not live like that.”
She smiles then, and looks him straight in the eye. “…I want you to have every bit of the Force on your side. And I expect you to bring it back.”
He smiles and cups her cheek tenderly, understanding.
“Yes, my love.”