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Steady as she goes

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Yavin IV base is bigger than any of Saw’s hideouts ever were, but it’s still easy to find people. Especially when you know where they live.

Jyn doesn’t bother knocking, just punches in the code she’s seen Cassian use once and committed to memory. She didn’t intend to use it for nefarious purposes, to be honest, but old habits die hard.

The room is just as she’d seen it before, and pretty much as she had expected before she did, in perfect order because there’s just nothing in here that could make a mess, no personal knick-knacks or holos. Some people travel light, some live light as well, no trace to leave behind and nothing to lose.

The only exception she’s ever made was the kyber crystal, she wonders if Cassian has something like this.

Maybe it was K2, maybe it’s past tense now.

“Leaving early to avoid the rush?” she asks, leaning against the doors and watching him as he packs. Change of clothes, weapons, a small satchel. When he’s done there’s almost nothing left in the room.

“I caught a mission on Nar Shaddaa. If it runs longer than expected, I will indeed meet you at the new base,” he tells her matter-of-factly before looking up. She can tell when he notices the patch, his mouth twitching in something like a smile. “Well. Sergeant Erso.”

She tugs at the insignia self-consciously. “I guess somebody finally noticed I was sticking around and decided to make it official,” she mutters. It feels strange, being a part of this, officially. Being a part of anything, really. “Not getting rid of me now,” she adds jokingly.

Cassian takes a step towards her and she looks up, something warm tightening in her stomach.

“I’m glad,” he says, and for a second he looks like he wants to add something, opens his mouth but no words form. She waits for a beat, than another, their breathing matched, but then Cassian is stepping away and turning to zip up his bag and Jyn moves to sit down on the single chair in the room.

“So, do I get paid now?” she asks and gets an amused little grin in return.

“Officially, sure. But to be honest, I have about three years of backpay still due, so there’s that. But on the good days, we get fed.”

She snorts. “Best arrangement I’ve had in years, to be honest,” she says, aiming for a smile, but the one she gets is mixed with concern and she isn’t quite ready for that, so she changes tac. “So what’s interesting on Nar Shaddaa?”

“If I said it was classified, would you accept it?”

“Probably not, but you could try,” she tells him and he shakes his head at her even though he’s grinning.

“An old acquaintance of mine has a lead on bacta shipments. Best lead on bacta we’ve had in months,” he says, and something about the repetition, something about the way he says acquaintance worried her. He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself of something, a haunted look in his eyes even as he’s smiling.

“That a mission for Draven?” she hazards casually, and gets her answer when he looks away before he speaks.

It’s not that she hates Draven, but if she ever gets a chance to punch him, she might take it.

“It’s a mission for the Alliance,” Cassian says, his tone clipped. He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself more than her. “We’ve been low on bacta for months now, and with the Empire bent on finding and eradicating all Rebel cells, we need it more than ever.”

Well, there’s that, and she can’t argue with that. She can’t give up either, because his flat tone and clipped words remind her or the ride from Eadu, of the justifications he’s offered then, the perfect spy mask crumbling.

Jyn knows about justifications, she knows of ends and means, but she also knows how Cassian looks when he’s ready to die for a cause he really believes in, she knows the warmth of his smile and the feeling of his steady hand in hers. It’s worse now than it’s been before, she thinks, before he went against orders because he had faith.

“So,” she drawls, making a show of dropping the subject, Cassian’s shoulders slumping in relief and disappointment. “I’ve heard it from a good source you’ve been offered a promotion and refused.”

“You have sources now?” he shoots back and she shrugs, holding his gaze innocently. “I’m not high command material,” is all he offers and she supposes they’ll have to agree to disagree.

Except for the agree part.

“Even though it’d allow you to pick your own missions?”

“Jyn,” he says, and to be honest, she’s a little fond of the exasperation in his voice, it’s a familiar ground.

She raises her hands to indicate surrender before glancing at the datacard he’s turning in his hand, like he’s trying to decide whether to pack it or not. “Need some help with that?”

He glances down like he’s seeing the datacard for the first time, then nods as if making a decision. “Hold on to this for me,” he says, pressing it into her hand.

“What is it?” she asks curiously.

It takes Cassian a moment to answer, like he’s weighing options. “It’s Kay. K2 I mean. He was a little bit paranoid, something he’s picked up from me I’m afraid. Made back-ups of… well, himself, I guess.”

Jyn looks down at the small card in her hand, blinking quickly. “So, we could get him back?”

“In theory, yes. In practice… this was for the case of a memory wipe or a deprogramming. With the unit destroyed-” he shrugs, turning back to his bag, moving things inside needlessly, clearly trying to busy himself with something, anything. “We’d need another droid from the same line, and they’re not something you just stumble upon, especially not something you bring back intact. I’ve… I’ve lucked out with Kay the first time.”

She turns words in her mind before choosing silence instead, reaching out to touch his forearm briefly. “I’ll keep it safe,” she tells him and slides the card into her vest pocket, tapping it slightly for emphasis. “You be careful out there.”

“No promises,” he tells her, but his hand closes over hers briefly in something that feels like a promise nonetheless. She nods and steps back, tosses him a sloppy salute in lieu of what she wants to say but what would be unfair to put on him now.

When the doors close behind her she contemplates her options even though she’s already pretty much decided. Step first of the plan, find Bodhi.

*

That day they met, she almost didn’t notice Cassian. It was by design, she knew that, the way he stuck to the shadows, his stance casual and unassuming. Darven was the stick, all threats and matter-of-fact menace, Mothma was the incentive, the calm and the talk of freedom.

Jyn had been on both sides of an interrogation process before, got arrested a few times, captured a few others, and as Saw’s apprentice she listened and watched intently as he worked to get the information he needed. She knew to look past the stick and past the incentive, to whoever was watching from the shadows, because that’s where the real intel was.

Still, she almost hadn’t noticed him before Mothma introduced him, before he stepped into the dim light, and that was both annoying and almost impressive.

That same mix of feelings held while they travelled to Jedha, the acknowledgement of his competence against his role as her minder. Still, she grudgingly appreciated it when he agreed to let her keep the blaster, something in his expression shifting when she spoke of trust, his jaw clenching as he schooled his face down.

Neither of them trusted each other and yet. And yet she followed him through the streets of Jedha and willingly turned her back on him in the fight. And yet she led him to Saw even though she could have disavowed their connection and had Saw’s men dispose of him.

And yet he came back for her when Jedha was crumbling, even though, as she realised later, he had the info he came for, and taking her to Eadu could only interfere with his mission.

She never had let herself trust him and yet she felt his betrayal acutely, in a way not at all warranted by their short and begrudging acquaintance.

It was as if her heart knew something she didn’t yet, something that made it freeze when he slipped away from the briefing room in the middle of the Council’s meeting, and something that made her chest tighten when he volunteered to follow her to Scarif.

It’s terribly inconvenient, and yet.

*

Bodhi looks at her for a very long moment after she explains the plan. For a man who has the constant need to fill the uncomfortable silences, he stays awfully quiet.

“Well, no one can say you don’t go big on gifts,” he says finally, dragging himself up to sit more comfortably. “I certainly hope I’m on your lifeday list.”

“You want your own homicidal droid?” she asks and Bodhi shrugs.

“I was aiming for some decent booze and some warm socks, but now you’re offering… No thank you.”

Jyn grins at him and pats his shoulder gently. He doesn’t wince anymore when she does that, so that’s healing at least, but she realizes it’d be so much quicker if they actually had access to enough bacta to fill a tank and not made do with patches.

And that’s why she couldn’t quite argue with Cassian, why she knew it wouldn’t work if she tried.

“What you need is a trading outpost controlled by the Empire,” Bodhi tells her. “An unimportant one, with rudimentary security,” he adds and she waits as his eyes flicker as he considers the options. “You’ll need a team.”

“You’re not going,” she says immediately, because she sees him turn the mission details in his head and while there’s no one else she’d like to have watching her back, he’s gonna need time and bacta before that’s happening. “But I do need you to be the brains of this,” she adds and it takes Bodhi a moment before he relents and nods, pulling up a map on his screen.

It takes them half a day to put it together and less than that to find volunteers. There’s a couple of Pathfinders who feel like they owe her a favour, and while she disagrees, she’s not above using it for this. There’s a couple of soldiers who gravitate in unasked, because the word gets out that this is about K2 and for Cassian and apparently that’s enough for some.

There’s even a C1 droid who rolls in to help K2 but mostly just insults everyone and gets into a squabble with Janson.

The most challenging part is not going to be the Imperial compound, they think, because it’s on a podunk of a planet in the middle of nowhere, but getting a ship out of Yavin IV. And it’s not like she wants a reputation for stealing rebel ships to go off on unauthorised missions but she’s not entirely opposed to getting one if necessary.

But then, somehow, general Syndulla finds out and authorises their take-off and Jyn is on the ship with a bunch of people who banded together to steal a droid because she asked them to, and Senesca is trying to pilot while at the same time arguing with the C1, now painted black and red in an Imperial disguise it apparently had ready…

And she thinks, this could be home. This is something like home.

*

The first time in her entire life Jyn felt completely free was on the ledge at the Citadel tower on Scarif, staring down a barrel of a blaster.

The man in white had haunted her dreams for so long, the man who killed her mother, who took away her father, who killed Cassian just moments ago. Standing on that ledge Jyn had nothing more left to lose, and that feeling of exhilaration rushed through her veins, sang in her ears.

He was the one who would lose everything now, whose lifework and ambitions were going to crumble around him, and in that moment, Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen and Lyra, was content.

She expected the shot and flinched instinctively, but the pain she was bracing for never came, and instead Krennic was tumbling to the ground and she was looking at Cassian, stumbling and in pain and alive and for the first time in her life she was looking at someone who came back.

He kept coming back, she realised, for her, to her. On Jedha, on Eadu, on Scarif, his hand on her shoulder and his voice filled with urgency.

There was a hand on her shoulder then too, holding her close, stopping her from… exacting revenge, she supposed, from taking that one final step.

The first time in her life Jyn felt completely safe was in that elevator, the lights flickering around them, the battle still raging on around them, but the sounds of explosions drowned in their shared heartbeats.

Nothing left to lose, and yet everything she needed.

*

By the time they come back with the droid, most of the base has been packed up, the last ships leaving for Hoth. They got a brief reprieve and enough time to move safely as the Imperials are still in shock over the loss of the Death Star, but it’s a borrowed time and it’s running out.

Baze and Chirrut are still on Yavin IV when she arrives, but she can tell it won’t be for long. Baze clasps her shoulder when she approaches them, looking more apologetic than she'd expected from him.

“You’re leaving,” she says. It’s not a question.

“The Force has a different path for us,” Chirrut tells her, his voice filled with fondness. “Jedha might be gone, but we’re still its Guardians, there’s work to do.”

“He means he wants to take up a life of a vagabond preacher,” Baze translates with warm exasperation.

“It was your idea,” Chirrut points out.

“I said we’re not exactly Alliance material. The whole pilgrimage is your damn thing,” he grunts and turns to Jyn. “So, we’re leaving,” he tells her flatly and she laughs, stepping into the hug he offers her. “We’re starting with Ord Mantell, definitely not my idea. We’ll try to send word when we can, if you ever need us.”

“Thank you,” she says, reaching out to squeeze Chirrut’s hand. He steps closer, his head tilted as if he’s listening for something intently.

“You’ll be alright,” he tells her, with surety she envies him. “You still shine.”

She supposes it’s a good thing. She watches them step away, arguing all the way up the ramp of the ship, but though she feells sadness well up in her, there’s no sense of loss. She’ll see them again, they’re family now.

She spends the first few days on Hoth repairing the damage done to the droid during its acquisition and then gets on the data restoration. It lasts for a few hours, the white lights in the droid’s eyes steadily flickering with increased intensity as it charges up.

 

“Kay?” she asks and then finds herself being held up by the throat and gurgling the rest of her sentence out.

“Who are you?” the droid asks, his tone mildly inquisitive, as she kicks him in the shin. “Where’s Cassian?”

She stops struggling. She wants to laugh, because she plain dumb didn’t ask from when the backup was, but it’s a little difficult to laugh now. “Nar Shaddaa,” she tries to get out and it takes Kay Too a moment to decide to let her go to actually get his answers. “He’s on a mission on Nar Shaddaa. I’m Jyn Erso,” she says, scrambling back to her feet. “I’m a friend of Cassian’s.”

Kay Too gives her a long look, head tilted. “There’s no data to support this claim. We shall see.”

It’s still a better second first impression, she thinks.

*

They limp back home more than anything else. Bodhi got them a ship, but the hyperdrive is done for and there’s a battle raging on in the space above Scarif, an increasingly losing battle with the last remnants of the Alliance force still left in the system and what feels like the full might of the Imperial fleet.

Thankfully, nobody seems to be paying attention to a damaged Imperial cargo ship drifting away to the other side of the planet and away from the battle as they consider their destination. Anywhere that can be reached without entering the hyperspace, and that really limits the options.

Cassian knows somebody who can help and it’s a stretch, but Bodhi gets them there, only admitting to the shrapnel piece still wedged in his side after they land. Baze spends the entire flight either sleeping or passed out, Chirrut praying at his side, their hands clasped.

Tonc and Gabby, the only two of Cassian’s volunteers who made it to the ship, are quiet on the bench, Gabby unsuccessfully trying to clean her helmet’s visor from blood and managing to get more smudges on it.

Cassian passes out from blood loss halfway through, after three times waving away Jyn’s concerns and protesting he was perfectly fine and that she should take the remaining bacta patch for the gash on her back.

By the time they get to Cassian’s friend, by the time they fix the ship and head home, by that time the Death Star is gone, like a bad dream.

Alderaan is also gone, and even though she had seen the destruction on Jedha and on Scarif, even though the words planet killer and Death Star rattled in her mind deafeningly, a whole planet gone in the blink of an eye still doesn’t seem like something that could have happened.

She meets Leia Organa for a brief minute, younger than her and pristine in a regal dress, who comes by the medbay and shakes her hand. “I’m sorry about your father,” the Princess tells her, and Jyn can only blink for a moment, floored. “Thank you for everything you’ve done,” the woman adds, sincere and warm, and Jyn stares at Cassian for a long moment after she leaves.

“Did that just actually happen?” she asks finally and Cassian laughs hard enough to start coughing, the machine next to him beeping alarmingly.

*

She reaches a detente with Kay Too - she has Tonc verify Cassian is indeed alive and on a mission and Kay Too agrees not to go on a killing spree. It’s something of a progress.

The first days on Hoth are a study in boredom; she gets a couple of patrols of the base vicinity, but there’s nothing around but snow and frozen rock, and some really angry wildlife. Bodhi is busy with teaching the new squadron Skywalker and Antilles formed about the Empire protocols he knows - they’ve had a number of Imperial deserters, but mostly fighter pilots who are not familiar with cargo schedules and code deliveries.

Bodhi walks around in a daze for at least two days when they tell him they’re calling the new squadron Rogue, if he wouldn’t mind.

Cassian comes back on her sixth night on Hoth, the sound of the door sliding open rousing her from a restless sleep. She shifts on her cot, making room for him to sit down. “Hey,” she says, reaching out to touch his jaw instinctually.

There’s a fresh bruise there, but his eyes are bright and he’s smiling.

“So, I saw Kay,” he mutters, his hand finding hers. “Gave me the scare of my life, I almost shot him.”

“Scare of your life?” she teases and he inclines his head with a rueful grin. “Didn’t think of that,” she says apologetically. “Should have waited in your room to let you know-” she starts and trails off when his fingers lace with hers and he brings their mouths together. Her breath hitches right before the kiss and she’s breathless too soon, pulling away with her lips tingling.

His hand is on the back of her neck and he doesn’t let her go far. Not that she wanted to.

They’ve kissed before, yes, but the first was when they expected to die in the next few moments, and the second time Cassian passed out midway, and she wasn’t sure he even remembers that one.

This time… this time he leans back in, soft but insistent, and she scrambles forward on the cot, rising to her knees and running her fingers through his hair, trying to get as close as possible.

“Welcome home?” she mutters against his lips and he huffs a laugh.

“For tonight,” he agrees. “Tomorrow… there’s a mission on Ord Mantell, if you’re interested. Apparently some two fools have been picking up fights with the Black Sun.”

Jyn can’t help but laugh, because of course they have. “Sounds like a party.”