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you keep coming back, coming back again

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“Mr. Evo,” a reedy-voiced man says, stepping into the grimy light of Cassian’s cell. “I have some unfortunate news about your wife.”

Wife. The word rolls around in his head, a strand that connects him back to her, but it doesn’t even begin to express what Jyn is to him. Not even close.

“My wife?” he asks, leaning back against the duracrete of his cell and sliding his features into boredom. The whole cell is barely two square meters, including the wall with a bench not quite long enough for him to stretch out on. The chains tying him to the wall don’t permit it anyway. More importantly, the implant matched to Jyn’s vitals has lain dormant within him, quiet as long as she lives. “What about her?”

The man – the same detective who had pulled them off the street before a well-timed explosion had allowed Jyn to escape – nodded gravely, clasping his hands behind his back. The brown of his uniform reveals that he is only local enforcement, neither skilled enough nor rich enough to cut it in the Imperial Academy. Lucky for Cassian, at least, if not the detective.

“Your wife stole a shuttle,” he continues and Cassian leans his head against the wall, indifferent. He feels a large bug skitter across his boot as he barely looks at the detective.

“And?” he asks, Evo’s cocky grin stealing across his features. “She’s good at that. Better than your lot, anyway.”

The detective’s face hardens into a revealing mix of irritation and sympathy.

“She didn’t get far,” he says and Cassian finally, at last, meets the detective’s stare. His heartbeat picks up despite himself, an irregular pulse beating inside him. Years in Rebel Intelligence have taught him to question everything he hears and reveal even less, but sometimes – it can still be a challenge.

She’s alive. I’d know if she wasn’t alive. She’s -

A holovid flickers to life in the detective’s palm and an image of a shuttle taking off hovers in the mottled air between them. The shuttle looks just like the one that Jyn had been running to when all hell broke loose, but he knows better than to trust anything he sees. Cassian’s features shifts between Evo’s and his own as the shuttle speeds away, TIE fighters from the local garrison rocketing after it. The shuttle rattles in the air as the fighters fire at it and Cassian leans forward, his knuckles clenched around the edge of his prison bench despite himself. Evo, he thinks, would have very different beliefs.

Alive, the implant within him promises. Alive.

“I must warn you,” the detective says, “there were no survivors.”

Before his eyes, a TIE fighter lands a lucky shot, tilting into a roll under the shuttle’s belly. A moment and then –

The shuttle explodes into a million fragments, fire bursting to ashen dust in the murky atmosphere. On instinct, a strained breath escapes him as he stares at the holovid, the possibility of Jyn being up there struggling to make headway in his mind. Larger pieces of the shuttle careen low and burn brightly in their descent. Jyn, a voice within him calls. His eyes are frozen, locked to the holovid as he careens between training and paranoid fear.

Stardust.

+

They’d snuck on to this rock a few days ago, posing as travelling merchants with a deal for the local prison. Security systems were hard to come by and labor was cheap, so most small towns on the edge on the galaxy relied on guards and contracting with Imperials instead of investing in a major security overhaul.

That this prison was a transit point for captured rebels on their way to more secure locations was, of course, of no interest to merchants Evo and Mila.

(Of no interest at all.)

The morning after they’d made contact with the local constable, they’d returned to their shared quarters with a sigh of relief. Once Cassian gave the all clear with the scanner, Jyn had thrown her bag into a corner and started peeling off the extra layers the temperature on this planet had required.

“We should just hole up in this room,” she announces, shooting him a wry look. He suppresses a smile, leaning against the wall across from the single bed and watches as she pulls her boots off, wriggling her toes in her socks. There’s a hole in one and her big toe peeks out at him. “Order room service. Charge it to the Rebellion.” She grins at him and he tries to look stern.

He fails.

“I don’t think this place has room service,” he says, cataloging the room as it is. Recognizing a shift in the nightstand or cabinet or bed could be their only clue that their cover had been blown and stage two of the mission was ready to start. “Or much of anything else.”

“I saw fried likchi in the street stalls,” she offers and he narrows his eyes at her even as his mouth starts to water.

“There isn’t time,” he says and peers out the window at the street below. “Our contact will be here in an hour.” Jyn arches an eyebrow at him as his stomach rumbles. “We have ration bars,” he adds and drops the curtain to conceal the window again.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” she says as she brushes past him to the ‘fresher, taking her hair down to repin it. The mirror is higher on the wall and from the corner of his eye he watches her stand on her socked toes, reaching up to see better. He’s seen her hair down twice before – times that he, captain in Rebel Intelligence and seasoned soldier most definitely does not think about when his mind wanders.

(Most definitely.)

She frowns as she brushes her hair out with her fingers, the cropped edges catching in tangles that she tugs out with efficient focus. He’s staring by now, distracted by the way shorter pieces catch at her neckline and the way the lighter shades of her hair catch in the fluorescent light of the ‘fresher. In a moment, however, she’s swept her hair back up into her customary bun, tucking loose edges behind her ears.

“What?” she asks and he startles, realizing he’s been caught as she looks back at him in the mirror. He shakes his head, playing it off.

“I think you might have been right about that fried likchi,” he says.

(He doesn’t drink in her delighted grin. He doesn’t.)

+

The meet with their contact goes smoothly, out of sight from prying eyes interested in new merchants. As they slip out of the alley, his hand clenches around the data chip their contact had brought them.

Prison schematics. Guard shifts. Imperial shuttle schedules.

When they get back to their shared room, they don’t even bother turning on the lights, operating by the street lights filtering through the curtain. Exhausted as he is, his senses are attuned to every small noise Jyn makes as she undresses once more, rolling her shoulders in relief, cracking her neck, a soft yawn.

“You want the wall side?” she asks, her voice stealing over to him in the dark. He nods, fatigue pulling at his tongue, as he follows her to the bed and they pull the covers over them. Her feet are cold and she pulls them away hastily, mumbling an apology.

“It’s fine,” he murmurs, already half asleep as she curls onto her side. She sleeps lightly, on guard even in rest, and he’s adjusted to her in his bed over time between the nights she’d snuck into his quarters after Scarif and the many missions in between. “You’re fine.”

She mumbles a reply, shifting back to him and hesitantly – as if now, after all this time, she will disappear from a sudden movement – he wraps his arm around her waist.

“How are you always warm?” she asks and he laughs, relaxing into the moment. The bed is better than some, worse than others, but no matter how much denial he musters throughout the day, it slips away in the dark.

“Rebel Intelligence training,” he jokes and almost hears her smile in her sleepy reply.

He doesn’t fall asleep until her breaths grow even and calm next to him, and for once that day, he doesn’t question why.

+

“Nice doing business with you,” Mila – Jyn – drawls as the constable turns the security upgrade over in his hands. “More where that came from too.” Her accent is a mix of Corellian and underworld and the constable looks up in irritation.

“I’m not paying until I’ve verified it works,” he bites, clearly annoyed at having to resort to purchasing from possible criminals instead of reputable suppliers. It must be tough, Cassian thinks, lording over poverty. “If it works,” he adds and Jyn shrugs indifferently, crossing her arms as Cassian unsubtly rests his hand on a blaster.

“If you don’t want it,” he says, “we can always find another buyer. Plenty of buyers in this part of the galaxy.” His voice is smooth, practiced honey as he pretends to reach out for the upgrade and lets Evo stifle a laugh as the constable pulls it away protectively.

“Half now,” Jyn says, all business and the constable nods. “You got nothing to worry about. Mila and Evo only sell quality. Ask around.”

They walk out of the constable’s headquarters with a bug planted under his desk, a bundle of credits they’ll transfer to the Alliance, and a security upgrade that won’t actually work when the guards tests it – but will dump code they’d written together which would overwrite the prison security in their favor.

As they walk away, they don’t spare a glance for each other, holding cover as long as they’re exposed. Inside, he knows she’s as satisfied as he is – at least on that front.

(There is time to hope – but not to dream.)

They eat their last meal of the day in silence, going over the prison schematics their contact had brought them once more. Tomorrow, there wouldn’t be any margin for errors.

“It’s going well,” Jyn says as they shift around in the small bed, getting as comfortable as they can. He arches an eyebrow at her and she frowns. “More than usual,” she amends and his eyes slide shut as she pulls herself closer to him, a hand on his hip.

“The code is good,” he says, catching the scent of her hair as she shivers next to him. “The meeting went well. It could have gone worse.”

She looks up at him, frowning again. “It still could,” she says and he locks eyes with her.

“I’ll watch your back,” he promises and she nods, the line of her mouth tight with determination.

“And I’ll watch yours.”

(That, he thinks, is one thing he knows for sure.)

+

The local police meet them halfway to the station – earlier than expected.

He and Jyn should have separated first.

They know what’s coming – have planned for this – but there are still a few tense minutes before their contact and her band of street kids set off an explosion at the local water plant that starts a fire heading straight towards the police station. The street cops scatter, yelling and trying to coordinate a fire crew, but the detective who intercepted them keeps a strong grip on Cassian’s shackled arm as he pretends to try and escape. Ahead of him, Jyn knocks the cop holding her in a headbutt and kicks him when he goes down, taking off and disappearing into the crowd.

Ahead of her, a shuttle with K2 waits with reinforcements.

Run, he thinks, pretending to struggle some more. Run, Jyn.

The detective knocks him hard on the head and he goes out like a cheap light.

+

There’s no reason she would have taken off, but there’s no reason for Evo to think that. His breath comes shorter as bends over, tapping into a blind rage that the holovid feeds with ease. When he looks up at the detective again, the man takes a cautious step back as Cassian lunges at him. The chains shackling him to the wall rattle and a sneer curls the detective’s mouth as he takes him in.

“You’re dead,” Evo growls and the detective shakes his head as Cassian yanks at the chains again.

“No, Mr. Evo, you are,” the detective says and the adrenaline of the moment fuels Cassian’s scene, lungs heaving with unspent fury. “You’ll see your wife soon enough again. The constable is most displeased with you.”

The implant lays quiet within him still and Cassian allows himself a grim smile, a mad threat to the detective as he backs out of the cell, motioning to the guards to shut the door. As they move to close the door, struggling with the keypad, a second stretches out in pregnant silence before a shockwave hits the hallway.

Cassian’s grim satisfaction grows and he crouches back into the cell, ready to spring to action. The code they’d hacked into the prison has been activated.

Only one person could do that.

The guards are scrambling and in frustration the detective shoots the keypad, the door slamming shut with no way back open.

(He’s not worried.)

It’s annoying, being trapped from the action, but he takes the minutes he’s given. He has to strain to reach the lock pick in his boot but once he gets it, the wall chains obligingly unlock from his wrists, clattering to the cell floor.

A moment later, a detonator goes off on the other side of the door and as he blinks away the smoke, Jyn steps through the ruined doorway, her truncheons out and the detective prone on the floor beside her.

“Surprise, honey,” she says, falling back into her Corellian drawl. “I came back.” Behind her, freed Rebels make a run for the ship K2 undoubtedly has parked outside the back of the prison. She offers him a hand and helps pull him up. As he steps outside the cell, blinking at the shift in light, he grins down at her.

“Surprise?” he asks, amused, and she shrugs, looking down the hall and taking a shot at a ‘trooper taking aim at them. Cassian touches the spot where the implant rests above his hip.


“I knew you had my back.”

Jyn stares at him – shining, jubilant, victorious – and pulls him down into a bright kiss, standing on her toes to reach him.

(It takes him half a heartbeat to sweep her up against him.)

+

“Is this really the time?” K2 asks as Jyn drops a kiss on Cassian’s lips as he straps into the pilot’s seat again. He’s pretty sure he hasn’t stopped smiling since the first one, and he’s shot a few stormtroopers since then. Behind them, packed into the ship’s cargo bay, comes the noise of thirty-odd rescued rebels excited for the return to base.

“Shut up, Kay,” he says, grabbing Jyn’s hand to pull her back just once more.

Once they’re landed, once command debriefs them, and once the base is filled with the celebration of a rescue, there will be time again. Until then, he’ll steal what he can.

(He learned that from her.)

The droid makes a disgruntled noise and turns to look at Jyn who looks far too proud of herself.

“I put the probability of pairing between you two at thirteen percent,” K2 announces and Jyn looks over at Cassian, quiet with possibility.

“You’ve been wrong before,” Jyn says and there’s a note of worry in her voice that wasn’t there before. K2 stares at her a moment longer and then faces the controls again.

“I have already said your behavior is continually unexpected,” K2 states, fiddling with the controls, and a smile creeps back across Jyn’s face. Cassian’s fingers tangle more tightly with Jyn’s for a brief second before she slips away again, back to the rebels.

“Kay,” he says fondly, “shut up.”

Finis