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fingerprints still mapped on her skin

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She stumbles climbing up from the cargo hold, less from hurt than fatigue, but Cassian studies her anyway. There's unwelcome familiarity in this gesture. He must see something he doesn't like, though she's not certain what, because he abandons the co-pilot seat and joins her.

"Shouldn't you be transmitting to the Rebellion?" she mutters, watching his boots come closer. She is too tired to watch his face; there will be grief, and she cannot handle someone else's alongside her own.

He heaves a weary sigh. She feels, rather than sees, his shrug. "When we are further from Imperial territory."

This is a lie. Her father, too, will be in Imperial territory. They will not leave it if they truly fly to him.

After a moment, he crouches. Their faces are level. Still, she stares at the deck floor. There's a cluster of blaster marks right beneath his boot, old and faded and tired. It matches everything else on the ship, she thinks. Weapons, component parts, passengers.

"Are you injured?" he asks, almost urgent. "Did Saw Gerrera's men hurt you?"


"Did he hurt you?"

His message, her father's message, had stabbed through her heart like ice, and she had collapsed onto her knees when it flickered out. And then he'd made her leave him again.

"No," she says, closing her eyes. "He just died."

She thinks of waiting in those barracks until dawn, then finding the rebel base empty; she thinks of the long, frigid walk from New Jedha to his temple, old grief rising like tide. When her family farm turned to dust, he had been there. Now he is not. There's an ache in her chest she thought she'd never have to deal with again, and yet here it is, returned. She has mourned this relationship for years. It should not clog her throat like the duststorms of Tatooine. Yet. Yet.

She wonders if Cassian understands. If he left his agents until they despaired of an extraction and a driving purpose became dust. Waiting. Waiting. Gone.

"Jyn," he says, velvet steel, and avoiding the subject altogether, "I saw the grenades knock you down. Let me see your back."

Jyn almost does it. But K-2SO swerves its head back, though it says nothing, and voices drift from the cargo hold.

She shakes her head. "I'm fine. I ran onto the ship as fast as you."

He waits, silent, the patience of a spy undercover.

Blessed quiet. She has the strength to lift her eyes; he's serious like she has not seen before, gaze steady. Trust me, it says. She shouldn't. She does.

She stretches her arms, muscles in her back pulling taut. Fire lances down her right flank. She grits her teeth. "My back's fine. It's here." She drags a palm where her flesh screams, slamming a door against the pain. "Burn, I think."

"Bactagel," he says decisively. There's a scuffle of a pack dragged closer. She fists her hand into her jacket and lifts. The rough fabric of her shirt scraps against skin, the pain blessedly distracting.

Another pause while he pulls out what must be a medpac. The pain in her side dulls to a throb. Dig your fingers into pain, Saw Gerrera had instructed, when she barely came up to his waist. Control it, child, or it will control you. Choose when to feel and when to fight. He had been so proud when she managed, and she would have done anything to feel that approval again.

She would have call him father, if he had not left her life without warning, just as he entered. Papa called her Stardust; in his absence, she wanted to be steel. Saw Gerrera had wrapped her hands around a well worn blaster when she was seven, around a baton when she was nine. He had drawn her maps of each city they occupied, the desolation the Empire left in its wake, and then starmaps when they left. When she faced the ring at thirteen, he had watched her bruises form, and when she was sixteen, he had grinned over each victory. There were many victories. There were many skirmishes in city boundaries, explosions in enclosed spaces. He waited for her after most.

She twists slightly. White stars of pain burst behind her eyes, and Saw Gerrera's voice fades.

Cassian makes no comment, though she's certain he sees.

"Ready?" he asks instead. She nods.

Coolness slides over her flaming skin, as soothing as rain. His fingers are unexpectedly gentle. Jyn breathes in, out, deep and slow. She follows his movements through the absence of burning, which does not seem right. The urge to glance over her shoulder strains at her neck. It should come from suspicion; it does not. She stares instead at K-2SO.

His fingertips trace the edge of her ribcage, an inch from her breast. He does it again, a slow caress to rub the gel in. His palm fits with care around her side.

There's nothing but the cool air as he reapplies gel to his fingers. She heaves out a slow, steady breath. When he comes back, his hand slides further forward, brushing more firmly onto the plane of her abdomen; she locks her muscles tight to hold in a gasp. It feels like a whisper against her flesh.

It feels like she wants to say harder, so she bites her front teeth to her lower lip and traps the word in her throat.

Inch by inch, the ache fades, starting from the top and working down. In this, at least, Cassian is nothing if not methodical. Her breaths come more easily, though she had not noticed difficulty before.

Her discomfort is now a twinge, but distraction remains. Where pain left, light touch has returned, and his fingers ghost across her skin like air. Light-fingered, she thinks, which fits. One thief recognizes another. He simply puts those fingers to better use.

He smooths more gel onto her skin, reaching the curve of her waist. A different fire springs in its wake, leaving sparks she almost tastes. Instead of burning, there is warmth; instead of threat, there is comfort. Her muscles waver. She wants to relax into this. Comfort is rarer than joy, more dangerous, so Jyn cranes her neck to watch him dip his fingers for the last time into bactagel, and apply it to her burn.

It is a bad idea. She sees the slowness of his movements, not lazy, but precise. His warm skin against hers, over hers, tracing down a jagged line where a knife nearly ended her in the Ring of Kafrene. He is nothing if not efficient; she is a fool to think it feels like a promise.

"Saw Gerrera raised you," he says abruptly. Her words back on Yavin IV.

Memories crash through the distraction of his touch. She had stayed at the barracks until dawn, and then longer, and then she returned to their headquarters. Walking in was like entering the cave again, still and silent and empty. It had not been a question of forgiveness so much as understanding; still, she had not been able to forgive him that.

And now -- now. Now he is scattered by laser beams. Now her chest weighs heavy with the memory of his lined face, the static of her father's message offering hope. This, his final request. This, his final gift. Jyn, Saw Gerrera called her. My Stardust, Papa said, and she, a creature of steel, almost was again.

Jyn has hesitated too long. His brow furrows and he glances up, but it is again too much. She looks ahead before their eyes can meet.

"Yes," she says.

"And then you parted ways?" he asks. He is probing for more.

"Yes," she says again. It is not a lie. It's just not the entire truth.

His thumb traces the curve of her hip bone, then lifts. Cassian is done. She realizes her pulse is thundering in her throat, her ears. She makes another mistake, glancing up at his eyes. His hand has dropped to his lap, but with his eyes he traces the splatter of bruises throbbing on her lower back, the shiny scar where a Stormtrooper's blaster fire caught her on Onderon when she was ten. She feels his gaze drag across her skin, almost like physical touch.

If she were prone to wagers, which she is, she thinks she'd find similar marks across his body.

Cassian doesn't look at her when he rocks back onto his heels, gathering his supplies. She tugs her shirt down, repositions her jacket, and holds in the wince.

A beat. Cassian stands, nudging his pack back into the corner. The moment, whatever it was, is over. Jyn tells herself she is not sorry to see it go.

"I need to contact the Alliance," he says, voice carefully neutral, and she nods.

She breaths in, out, slow and deep; there is no discomfort, only the faintest lines of warmth around her waist. The air tastes of lightning, of the aftershocks of hope.

Cassian does not meet her eyes when he heads towards the hatchway. A moment later, his fingerprints still mapped on her skin, she follows.