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Stardust

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“No one soldier in a rebellion needs to live the whole way through.”

“That sounds awfully contrary of you, soldier. Should I reassign your mission?”

Cassian’s hands flinched as they constructed his sniper rifle. He turned an icy glare at Draven. “I will extract the target.”

“You don’t need to be so thorough. The heart will do.”

“The heart is the target,” he replied, now flowing easily through the motions to gear up for his drop-off. “Though I don’t believe in ancient superstitions.”

“It’s what people need to hear right now. We’ve found ways around it, should we fail. All we need is the story that we’ve delivered the heart of a star to the princess in captivity. Should that fail, we have genetic material enough for a clone or two to keep the faith that she survived, an immortal princess. You don’t look convinced.”

The statement was jarring, accusing. Cassian glanced up from his blaster. “I don’t need to believe. I’m in this rebellion because I’m doing what I think is right. I don’t need a false icon.”

Draven laughed, clapping him on the back. “That’s more like it, soldier. It’s fallen only a few clicks from here, so to prevent startling it, here’s your drop-off and you can continue on foot.”

K2 stepped forward, the one tool that would guarantee it capture, but Cassian waved it off. K2 had a habit of trying to defend Cassian’s methods, which made him feel worse.

“K, you’ve never countered anything like this. It’s not in your programming. Stay with the ship.”

A good liar used true statements to hide what they actually meant.

It wasn’t killing the star that bothered him, it was treating one life like it was better than the rest. He knew Princess Leia couldn’t have known about the plot the council cooked up, the immortal queen of the rebellion’s cause; even if he failed, it could be synthesized every few years with replacement princesses. His mission, if successful in every way, could make for the stuff of legends. But if he failed or not, it had to be on the books anyway for evidence of the cover-up.

The wooded terrain made navigation difficult, but there was a faint glow in the distance that solved the problem before it ever became one.

He found the crater, found the star lying in it. He knew that all he had known about stars was flipped on its head on this planet, that this was the only safe place on could land. As soon as the star was spotted falling by one of their scouts, he was sent to find it.

He knew, on paper, what he would find.

And it lay in base of the melted stone, which was cooling rapidly in the night, cloaked in silver and with long white hair. Its form was female, but Draven warned him against that as one would a knife-wielding prostitute, and Andor was not the sort of soldier that would have that be his downfall.

“Did you see a falling star around here?” he called out, just to see if it was awake.

The star sat up, its hair whipping around like a lightning strike.

“Just about,” the tone was flippant, he saw a grimace upon its face as it tried to get up.

“Are you alright?”

He entered the crater, easily walking across the slick melted stone with heavy boots. The star was lovelier close up, with a shock of messy white hair and white eyes, but otherwise, perfection didn’t distance him from the face that looked back at him. There was something unbearably human about the heart he sought. He’d seen plenty of celestial beings, but none of them had such easily emotional faces, or a grounds of a sullen expression to take away from their divinity.

“I can’t stand,” it lowered itself from palms to elbows, and he was vaguely convinced it was ready to pounce on him anyway. “My ankle.”

“This one?” he knelt, keeping the guise of a struck dumb, helpful benevolence until he was as close to it as he needed to be.

“Do you always go poking around, looking for fallen stars?”

The look on the star’s face was irritable, the large eyes in its humanoid face flickering nervously at the dark woods surrounding them. He didn’t like befriending his targets, but he certainly felt sympathy for the star.

He decided to make it quick.

“This happens every day,” he glanced up at the sky. “But it could only be here, on this planet, that we could find one. The atmosphere is just thin enough to keep it from burning up into stardust upon entry. Any other planet’s atmospheric pressure would break it to pieces. So luckily for you, we brought something to safely transport you. A carbonite freeze.”

It glared at him. “Me, or the thing you’re really after?”

He adjusted his weapon, wondering if it even deserved the truth. Did anyone deserve it more than the people who already died by his lies?

“We have a nice little box that will keep your heart from collapsing,” he informed the star evenly.

The star didn’t think to flinch away in time, and like lighting his hand was wrapped loosely but firmly around the bruised limb. His human kindness was gone, he was all cold efficiency. It hissed and tried to kick him away, but only managed to hurt itself further.

“I’m not going to squeeze,” he said, but the conditional nature of that promise was terrifyingly obvious before he even continued speaking. “I won’t squeeze, if you give me what I want.”

A strand of silver hair flopped in the star’s face, it blew it aside. Air filled those lungs, just as it did his.

“And what is that?”

This was supposed to be easy. This was supposed to be less human, not more.

“To make this as painless as possible.”

That was the truth, given freely to reveal exactly what his intentions were.

It was an impossible feeling, the allure and glamor of this girl-shaped thing. The shimmer to her.

It. Her. It.

“Pity for you won’t persuade me to lie back and die.”

Her good leg swung at him. He could tell if she wasn’t injured, fragile as she looked, she could win this fight. He crawled his body forward, held her down, and exposed the flesh above her heart. She wriggled, shrieking under him, her fists landing on his chest. He forgot the ankle or the leverage it gave him, he just grit his teeth and raised his kyber knife, the only thing shy of a lightsaber that would crack her open. She flinched at the fight of it.

“Look familiar?”

“I don’t know, has anyone ever filed down one of your mother’s bones and stabbed you with it?” she spat back.

He held one hand to her throat to keep her down, but the bladed hand kept the knife aloft.

“I have to do this.”

“I’m sure there’s a reason for immortality that tempts you. But you don’t have to. The minute you tell yourself you don’t have choice, you’ve made the wrong one.”

Flecks of silver covered her entire body and face like a spray of freckles. They kept catching the moonlight, there was a shimmer like water surrounding them in the black stone crater.

He had to get close to see it. Such was the risk of any intimacy.

“What’s your name?”

He hesitated. “Cassian.”

She might as well have a piece of him, if he was going to take her heart.

Her head lulled back against the stone.

Her neck arched up, vulnerable. “Cassian, who are you giving my heart to?”

She sounded ready, passing the flame of herself into his open hands. He remembered the panic in her eyes when he had arrived. She was lost. Maybe her fear made it easier for him to-

“Are you...making this easy for me?”

She turned her icy eyes back up at him. “I can’t cross the atmosphere of this planet. I can’t go home. Might as well.”

He took a deep breath, his head bowing. “I’m sorry.”

“So who is it for.”

“The Princess.”

She sighed, a cold coo that furled on its way up to his ears like a thin smoke. “That sounds romantic. I heard about romance before, when I was above.”

His shoulders shook. Her light eyes turned assessing. He couldn’t stop looking at the silver covering her skin, the faint glow she still had.

“I hope she’s worth it…” there was a longing in her tone, like she wouldn't mind the sacrifice. She would have been a better rebellion soldier than he was. 

“It’s not- it’s not like that. She’s a rebellion leader, and we need her to, to…”

To be just as much as a piece of it as we all are.

Leia didn’t know about this mission. She would never sanction this.

Because no life had meant more than the other, Cassian had never spared one for the cause.

But he let her go. Shoved away and sat back on the stone with his head in his hands. He tossed the knife aside.

She crawled backwards on shaky legs, staring at him with both a coltish expression and posture. Her white and silver face was vulnerable, confused. 

He pointed at the sky.

“Your family is right there. They’re not leaving you. They’re never leaving you. It’s their turn to watch you.”

She took a shaky step towards him. “Why…?”

He shook his head. “I can’t. Just go.”

Like a flash of light, she was tearing off into the woods away from him. Her stride was incredibly shaky, the limp was obvious.

The stars watched, and they waited, because that’s all they could do.

 

He’s in a shootout on Tatooine, he’s outnumbered and outgunned. He doesn’t protect his life with the righteousness many of his comrades do. It’s not worth more than any of the lives he’s taken.

A well-aimed shot takes his blaster right of his hands, the metal warped and unusable. He grimaces. Lifts his hands. Perhaps this is the time of atonement.

A blast ripples through his chest, right under the eaves of his ribcage. He has no back up. No one to call for help. Atonement is all he can pretend to be comforted by. He’s bleeding on the sand. There is no hope, no sparing, final shot to end it all. He usually supplied that mercy, little that it was. He was left to die.

He doesn’t die. He half-believes his final judgement is to bleed out for hours, but the pain ceases after a few minutes. He chases blackness, he chases light; but all he can see is that which is right in front of him.

He knows the wound he received. Hollowed between his ribs, punched the air straight out of his lungs. K2 could have put and arm through the hole in his torso. Knows why it should have killed him, in the way he knows his own name and the color of the sky on Fest.

He knew where she was. Where she could not leave, for risk of melting into dust. He wondered if he should go there next. If she was waiting for him.

The star did not only forgive him.

She gave him her heart.

Chapter Text

Jyn had kicked at the door closing behind them, managing to drag Cassian backwards by the hands bound at both their backs in her assault on their captors. Her attempts were futile; they were caught.  

Jyn wanted to rage against the door for a little longer, but the height difference was killer on Cassian’s spine, and and he voted they sit down, try and make contact with Bodhi back at the ship, and wait. He fumbled a comm out of his pocket, and tried to sit down without breaking a wrist on either of them. The restraints tying them were unforgiving, and that would prove easier said than done. 

Not only were they captive, but they were captive together, just after Cassian suggested he be reassigned to a team that “better suited him” and Jyn refused to speak to him since. So this was two prisons in one.

“You don’t need me, you’re all effective soldiers in your own right. The rebellion is starved down to the bones of resources, so I might as well help train my own team if we have a functional one.”

“It’s functional because you’re in it.” were her final words on the matter, and him, since they dispatched and he made the suggestion. 

“Bodhi?” he had to tilt his head down to speak at the comm in his hands, stuck at hip-level. He saw that Jyn flinched, jaw tightening, when his face drew closer to hers. He pretended not to notice. 

There was a crackling over the comm. 

“Where are you two? We can’t find a reading.”

“Cargo hold in the belly of the ship,” he ordered, speaking quickly and clearly, “We should be in 307 or 308.”

“You were counting the doors when they led us out here?” Jyn snapped, and Cassian shushed her sharply as Bodhi confirmed their position and told them to hold tight. 

They stood there in silence a moment, back to back, trying very hard not to touch. 

“You counted the doors,” she said flatly. Jyn had been too busy to remember someone could help her out of this to seek that information. 

“Yes, to call for back-up.”

“See, there’s still stuff you can teach me,” she said dryly, “instead of some young little trainees.”

He tried to open his mouth, explain that it wasn’t like that, but her tone just made it so hard to have this conversation. She already wanted him gone, he had no clue how to make her want him to stay.

“Looks like we’ll be stuck here for a while,” he murmured. She shushed him back. He sighed. “Let’s at least sit down.” 

She tried to drop her weight, and he hissed in pain. To her credit, angry at him as she was, she lifted back up immediately. “How should we do this?”

“Press your back against mine,” she felt his weight shift against her. Their counter-weight offered support for them to slowly lower down, but it took maneuvering. Seated on the floor, he could practically see her flat stare at the wall, he pictured it so clearly in his mind. 

“What if we get murdered before we’re rescued?”

She felt him shrug, pressing his back against hers again.

“Then I should probably tell you something…” he cleared his throat. He felt her take a soft inhalation, as if bracing herself for something. “Jyn…I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I-I saw you naked one time when you were changing when we were traveling to Hoth. It was an accident. I’m so sorry.”

His tone was slightly amused as she shoved her shoulders back against his. 

“Easy,” he said in a moment of quite laughter. He couldn’t see her smile, but he could feel it. “You can tear me apart all you want when Bodhi rescues us in an hour, provided we don’t get murdered by Smugglers.”

He knew he could tell her he wasn’t going anywhere, when this was all over. When he could look in her eyes. For now, they’d get through this together. 

Jyn sighed, her head tilting back, the base of her skull cradled in his shoulder. “Murdered by smugglers…an hour stuck here with you…I can’t quite decide which one sounds more fun.”

Chapter Text

Jyn was comfortable with the risks of taking her across the atmosphere. Cassian was not.

Han insisted the carbonite freeze would keep her intact to cross into another planet, where the very tricky threat of dissolving her into a heap of metallic stardust was a real one despite his assurances.

But if Krennic caught up with them, she would still be in her human form, just with a heart cut out of her chest. They were running out of ideas.

She was confident it would work. It may have helped that she’d already glimpsed Captain Solo’s greatest secret: a closetful of dresses and had deduced that they were the Captain’s personal wardrobe. Whereas Cassian was so jaded to the strangeness of this adventure that he didn’t put the pieces together. Jyn slid a hand on Han’s leg on night at dinner, and with a smug smile, snapped a support of a garter belt that was lurking underneath his trousers. If Han was lying about planetary re-entry, Cassian was entrusted with the task of informing the whole crew (wookie included). That had kept him honest through most of the journey.

She was so cool about, about to be frozen. So unbelievably calm, straightening her shoulders as Solo had Lando offer a carbonite freezing chamber for her to be lowered into, to be turned into undetectable cargo.

She straightened her shoulders, locking eyes with Cassian as she was about to be lowered down. He found himself stumbling forward, being guided back at the elbow by Han. He still leaned towards her as she sank down.

“Are you alright?”

She gave him a firm nod.

“I’m fine. It’s going to be okay, Cassian.”

The floor was now level with her chin; and in a blink her head was underneath, a fog emerging from where she was being frozen into a block of carbonite.

Cassian knew in his head why this was happening. For there to be no extra pulse to detect onboard, no suspicious celestial body lurking about, and it was harder to blend her into the crew of a the Falcon. And that this might be the only thing keeping her from disintegrating into stardust once they crossed this planet’s atmosphere. 

Her frozen expression was peaceful when she was raised back up and loaded on the ship.

She was so calm, then why was he such a disaster?

Han joked it was one less mouth to feed during transport, and Cassian had to hold his anger in his fists and not use it like the tool it was to knock some of the smuggler’s teeth out. Solo managed to take some pity, instead of making Cassian slave away at the engines like he’s been smugly doing for most of the voyage, he allowed the Captain a quiet, safe passage alone with Jyn. Even if Jyn was in a state of hibernation.

Her hands twisted free of the solid square she was trapped in, extended fingers splayed out. Cassian sat across from her, watching her encased in metal, the face he had a growing fondness for was sleepy and serene.

He stared at his useless hands, trying to swallow the terror as the Falcon lifted off and was near crossing the atmosphere. She was frozen in carbonite; she wouldn’t feel a thing. She would be fine. Han had warned him that hibernation left one a bit scrambled, but after that, she’d be as good as new.

But the risk, one he had been so flippant about before, now terrified him. He had thought nothing of carving her heart out and loading into a carbonite chamber during the mission that led him to her. But that was a long time ago, before that heart had saved him.

He glanced up at her.

“I wonder if you can hear me.”

Of course only silence responded. He laughed in spite of himself, shaking his head.

“Send me a sign if you can hear me,” he suggested, and it was just smooth and metallic Jyn that looked back at him. He still found himself possessing the right bravery to speak:

“In this line of work, I don’t know much about love.” Cassian was sure he was projecting the pensive stare on her sightless eyes. “I never...encountered it. Not like stories. But after some of the things I’ve done, many of them, really, you see what people care about in the last moments. I always felt pity for the ones who called out to… for that. That love was what mattered to them, in the end. I’ve met people who have done horrible things, some were still as focused on their greed in the final moments. But some, they broke down for the people they loved. Sometimes the person, and it sounded so…like they meant so much.”

The vacuum of space in the window beyond her shoulder gave him nothing to fix his eyes on. He just looked at her, and her extended hands. Curiously, he rose and intertwined their fingers. Hers were cold. Somehow her current state made all of this easier to say, her raised pedestal above him, her stony face.

Jyn thought human love was adorable.

She giggled about it when he told her that the men who cried wildly at her in crowded cantinas were not looking for love, but a sort of shadow of it, and she denied there being multiple types of love; just one, and just selflessly and just perfectly and the kind of thing that made sad stories bearable.

“I know a lot about love,” she said smugly, tossing her shock of white hair over her shoulder. “I’ve seen it.”

He couldn’t help but laugh, and her hand swung out to pinch his side, which somehow, after braving torture and battle, was incredibly sensitive to her punishing touches.

“Tell me what you know about love,” he growled in her ear, and she shivered, but she was a naturally cool creature.

“Unconditional,” she tilted her head back gleefully as she said the word, because it was as firm and unchanging as her place in the sky, “Unpredictable,” she smiled at the novelty, having lived for so long and grown bored so easily, “Uncontrollable, unbearable..."

She shivered, looking woefully at Cassian.

"and...strangely easy to mistake for loathing,” she was walking backwards as she listed off her observations, but slowed to a stop in front of him. The crowd around them barely noticed that the star at the center of Cassian’s universe had gone still, and his rotation around it was similarly altered.

When he’d gone back for her, after she’d saved his life, he’d been cruelly let down by his expectations. The star whose heart had saved him had cooled upon his return, having been stranded on a strange world for so long, and his attempts to rescue her weren’t greeted with the warmest of regards. He was half-convinced if Krennic hadn’t been chasing her, she never would have followed him.

“I loathe you,” she had whispered once, his hand tight around her wrist, half-dragging her through the forest.

He had wondered in that crowded cantina when the time to tell this cool-hearted, celestial being that she had seemingly given her heart pretty readily, he had the scars to prove the validity of such a claim. But he held his tongue, because maybe it was a life debt, or some other complexity in the story. Maybe he had misunderstood, or her heart had changed.

Humans seemed to be an unpleasant performance to her, but she thought love was funny and precious and seemed completely detached from the fact that she had anger and sadness and humor inside her; so love really wasn’t as impossible as she was pretending.

The more he wanted to convince her of that, the more convinced he found himself.

Cassian laughed humorlessly as he looked at his carbonite-frozen companion.

“I don’t know Jyn. You seem to know so much more about love than me, because you’ve been watching for so long. I can’t offer you much, but if you wanted to teach me… I’d like that. It’s been so hard to bear it for so long, but if we could try, maybe you would be right.”

He looked down at their hands, metal and flesh intermingled. He tilted his head up to her frozen face.

“You seemed to have given me your heart once, Jyn, and I’m grateful for it. And if I can keep it, I want you to have mine. I know yours is worth more, but...we can find a way to make it fair? Your heart, in exchange for mine.”

The unflinching stone gave no reply. He sighed, defeated in his ineffective speech, and lowered himself to chair. He felt rather silly about the whole thing, but if Jyn was slowly turning into dust in her chamber, he would feel worse than that for never having said it out loud.

Entry into Tatooine was as nondescript as usual; Han’s gruff orders echoing from the hull in a way that made Cassian chuckle to think of the silk stockings the smuggler secretly had on under his trousers.

Lando entered the hull once they had landed, Han waiting in the doorway with a nervous expression. The spy's stomach dropped. Maybe the smuggler had not been so sure.

Cassian watched as the frame was released, and the star was lowered gently to the floor.

She was still in human form, limbs and fingers and eyes that flickered when the chamber released her. She was covered in a fine sheen of sweat over her usually silvery glow, and the shine she’d been giving off was diminished. He mourned it, and felt silly again, because he wasn’t sure she’d even be alive when her foot touched the ground.

And she moved, her brow twitched, and her face furrowed in discomfort, but then her eyes fluttered open and she sort of smiled at him.

“I said it was going to be okay,” she said softly, and her legs gave out.

He caught her readily, something she would hold a grudge about.

His heart thrummed readily, relieved and happy, because he would have given his final moments for any of them to be spent with her. 

He felt the pulse of her own heart, her left breast crushed against his chest, her breath ghosting his neck. 

While she still grumbled into his ear that she could walk just fine on her own, Cassian was more than willing to carry her to the inn on Tatooine they were using as a hideout.

He searched her face for evidence she had heard any of that, despite the sleep, but she betrayed none to him. In fact, her eyesight was shotty and unfocused, her limbs limp with a mild hibernation fever, and she took the opportunity to fall asleep in his arms for the whole trip.