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precious and fragile things

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I was on the phone with her when they died.

Cassian pulled his face out of his hands and sat up straight in the pew. When was the last time he had come to church that wasn’t death related? Even his job required it, except it had never been personal then. He felt haunted by the biblical scenes in the stained glass windows and had difficulty looking forward, as if he might catch eyes with the one of the statues and be judged terribly. His own eyes were dark and guarded, the bags under them more prominent than normal. Anyone that glanced at him would immediately skid their eyes away. He preferred it that way. He didn’t think he could take anyone’s pity right now.

“Hey,” a quiet voice whispered to his left.

When Cassian looked over, he saw that it was Jyn. She appeared torn between looking wary and nervous. Two very different emotions in his opinion, but maybe that just came from years of doing interrogations. This was not the time for him to analyze what her facial expression meant, but he couldn’t help himself. It was second nature to him and, quite frankly, helped him retreat into his mind for a brief moment.

Without saying anything, he scooted over on the pew and allowed her to sit down next to him. She swept the back of her modest black dress under her legs as she sat down. He had never seen her so quiet or still before, although he could tell by the slight bounce of her left foot that she was indeed nervous or at the very least uncomfortable. Her eyes darted around the church like she’d never been in one before, overwhelmed by the vastness and piety of it all. It caused her to press her lips into a thin line and hunk down further in her seat than him.

Jyn was not a quiet woman. From the moment he’d first met her on what could only be described as a blind date of doomsday disaster proportions, he had realized that. It had grated on his nerves for the longest time. She had a worse mouth than a sailor, was not afraid to state her opinion even if it caused awkward moments, and was brash in the kind of way that drove people that actually cared about her mad. Granted, he’d accidentally insulted her profession before realizing she was a crime journalist, but he was a cop, so it was only natural.

Today though she was almost deathly quiet. Cassian closed his eyes. He hadn’t meant to think of it like that, not with the two caskets up front, and shame flared in his gut. It had taken a few years, but he and Jyn had learned to become civil with one another, perhaps almost friends, for the sake of their best friends. Cassian remembered thinking it was unfortunate, terrible luck that the very friend who set him up on a blind date with Jyn began to date the friend that set Jyn up with him. He hadn’t wanted to deal with a woman that he considered difficult and aggressive. And yet, as time went on and their friends got married, those concerns became less and less.

He still wouldn’t say that they were close, but right now, strangely, she was probably the only person in the room that he could tolerate sitting beside him.

Glancing at her out of the corner of his eyes, Cassian noted the makeup she was wearing. She didn’t wear it often - didn’t need to, if he was being honest - but he could tell that she’d been trying to hide the bags under her eyes that mirrored his own. “Did you sleep any last night?”

“Did you?” Jyn countered sharply, her bright green eyes throwing daggers at him. Almost immediately though, her eyes softened or at least some of the fire he always noted in them seemed to die out. She looked back down at her clenched hands in her lap, most likely the safest place. “Sorry, that was– that was out of line.” She took a deep breath and leaned back against the pew. “I’m not good at this.”

“Funerals?” Cassian’s eyes flickered to the caskets again, unbidden, before he returned them to her. The safest place to look. “I doubt anyone is.”

“Goodbyes,” Jyn told him, like they were two completely different things. He knew that her mother had passed when she was young, only a few years older than him when his parents had been killed, and that she wasn’t close to her father for some reason. Honestly, while he’d known her for years, he only knew the barest details of her life. The same could be said of her for him. They were two terribly evasive people. “I’m used to people just…vanishing from my life, but I didn’t think…”

“That they would?” Cassian finished for her.

Jyn shook her head. “Shara was a reckless bastard, even after she and Kes married, but she settled down after Poe was born at least.” A wry, humorless smile twisted on her lips. “I remember when she told me that I was going to get myself killed or at the very least hurt if I kept ‘chasing after homicidal bylines’. I thought, ‘Who took Shara and who is this?’ She sounded like such a worrywart, like a mom.”

“I got the same lecture from Kes often enough,” Cassian admitted.

The smile disappeared from Jyn’s face. She didn’t smile a lot, from what he’d seen of her, like she had only a certain amount of them and couldn’t afford to give them away. “And yet we’re the ones still here and they’re…”

As a cop, Cassian had done a lot of his fair share of comforting people. It wasn’t something he liked to do or was especially good at, but he was a hell of a step up from his partner, Kay, who didn’t seem to understand emotions at times. A part of him felt guilty for slipping back into the role of cop comforting a grieving friend, but it was familiar and safe and so he reached over to take one of Jyn’s hands. She flinched at first, like she might pull away at the offer of comfort, but then tightened her grip when her eyes caught sight of something.

The moment Cassian followed her gaze, he wished that he’d remained focused on Jyn. Sitting unaware in the lap of one of his parent’s friends was Poe, a dark-haired boy of two, playing with one of his toys. Cassian’s heart plummeted sickly into his stomach. The friend, Han Solo, was talking to him, an obviously forced smile on his face, while his pregnant wife, Leia, sat as still as a statue beside him. Despite the smile though, he looked awkward, like he didn’t know what to do with a kid.

Cassian tore his eyes away from the two, unable to look at them anymore. It should’ve been him holding Poe, but he’d needed some time. He dreaded the moment that he would have to face either of them. Poe was too young to understand, but did Solo know? Would there ever come a time he would have to tell Poe?

I was one the phone with her when they died.

His eyes fell on the caskets again. Closed. Car crashes were not known for being kind.

“Kes would’ve been pissed that we can’t all stare at his handsome face one last time,” Jyn said suddenly and it was so ridiculous, so utterly true and maudlin, that Cassian’s throat constricted and he almost cried for the first time in years. He just wanted to hear Shara’s voice tell him that it would be okay - that eventually he would be able to sleep again and not think of her abrupt scream on the other end of the line.

*

Jyn glared at the lawyer while Cassian stared at the document in his hands like it might change right before his eyes. It wasn’t an angry glare. She wasn’t angry at the lawyer, who was just doing their job. Glaring just seemed to be her…natural go-to when anything other than perfect came up, which just so happened to be almost all the time. This was not perfect. In fact, this was a disaster waiting to happen. She didn’t know what Kes and Shara had been thinking when they’d come up with this absurd plan.

“Having a kid changes things,” Shara had told her smugly over a beer one night. “Makes you realize what’s important.”

She didn’t think this was what Shara had meant.

“This really just depends on whether or not you agree to this,” the lawyer, a woman named Sakas, sighed. She looked tired and unused to carrying a wiggling child. Everyone seemed uncomfortable around Poe, like they didn’t know what to do with him. “You can always say no, but if you agree, legally, you will both be his legal guardians.”

She all but shrugged her shoulders, at a complete loss of what to do. Clearly this was an unusual case. She had been friends with Kes and Shara as well, having gone to school with Kes, but it was one thing representing her friends and quite another to pass off their child to someone else. When Poe became too much, she set the little boy down and watched as Poe rushed to hug an energetic Golden Retriever. Cassian finally looked up at her, folding the document and placing it back in the envelope Sakas had handed him.

“I don’t really know what else to do,” Sakas said. Her voice was stretched thin. Jyn wondered if Sakas had allowed herself time to grieve or if she’d been holding it all in for Poe’s sake while watching him. “Neither of them really have any family to speak of and the distant relatives they do have live in other countries. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to look. Even then, it wouldn’t be fair to Poe. Shara wanted him to grow up in the home she and Kes built together. He has a life here. I don’t… I don’t want to take that away from him too.”

“I’m not certain we’re the right fit for the job,” Cassian said, the first words he’d spoken since he had read the document and Sakas had explained what was going on. The right fit for the job. He sounded so professional.

Jyn snorted. That was one way of saying it. Another was that they were two volatile, admittedly selfish people that didn’t know a damn thing about raising a kid, much less with one another.

“Shara and Kes seemed to have faith in you two,” Sakas told them carefully.

Cassian’s eyes dropped back to the ground. He was good at keeping eye contact with someone, unless he felt an immense amount of guilt. She knew about the phone call. Shara hadn’t been driving while on the phone when the crash had happened, but it still took something out of Cassian, even when she knew that he saw death on a regular basis being  a cop.

“So what?” Jyn questioned. “We just…uproot our entire lives? Move in here together and raise Poe like a family? Not to be insulting, but that’s pretty crazy.”

Jyn didn’t want to admit that she was afraid, but she was. Honestly, she didn’t know a damn thing about what it meant to be in a  family. Her childhood had been complicated at best. After her mother’s death when she was eight, her father had tried to raise her, but spent so much of his time at work, perhaps lost in his own grief, that she had practically raised herself. She’d bounced through multiple boarding schools after she turned thirteen, either from expulsion or just plain running away, until her father had more or less given up. She was messy, loud, wore the same bra for five days, and could barely cook mac n cheese without setting off a fire alarm.

How in the hell was she supposed to take care of a kid?

Not to mention Cassian, who she knew for a fact was completely devoted to his job. Kes liked to tease him that he was married to the force. He didn’t work on a clock like a lot of cops. She remembered the time that he’d missed a New Year’s Eve party because he’d apparently been undercover for a week straight. He wasn’t exactly dependable parent material. What had Kes and Shara been thinking?

“I know, I know,” Sakas said, sounding like she was close to begging. “I can see what I can do – maybe find other family or someone else that will take him in – but if not…” She shook her head. “He’d be put in the system.”

No,” Cassian quickly jumped in, “Kes would’ve been devastated if that happened. I would never be able to forgive myself if I knew there was something I could’ve done and I just let Poe go.”

Sakas frowned. “It’s not going to be easy. You’re two very single, independent people. I know that this is asking a lot of you. I’m sure Kes and Shara would’ve talked with you about it beforehand, but this was added in just a few weeks ago” She rubbed at his eyes. They were red, not from crying but obvious lack of sleep. Jyn knew the signs of sleep deprivation very well. “He asked when they were coming back home and I…I didn’t know what to say. I barely know what to do.”

“Then stop thinking about it,” Cassian told him, laying a comforting hand on Sakas’ arm. It made Jyn think of when he’d taken her hand at the funeral. He’d held it during the entire service. She normally hated to be touched, but she had clung to him like he was the only thing keeping her grounded that day. If she hadn’t, she might have honest to god screamed and that didn’t seem appropriate during a funeral in a church.

“Are you sure?” Sakas asked.

“We’ll do it. We’ll take care of Poe.” When Cassian glanced back at her, somewhat warily, Jyn nodded her head in a jerky manner. It was what Shara and Kes had wanted. They knew what kind of awful position their possible deaths would put Poe in. Out of all their friends, only Jyn and Cassian truly knew one another, got on semi-decently, knew Poe, and lived in the vicinity. “Shara and Kes trusted us with their son. I’m not going to throw that trust away. We’re adults. Poe is a child. We should do what’s best for him.”

For an absurd moment, Jyn wished that Cassian would reach out to take her hand again, to tether her to reality because she was afraid, just as she had been when she was rushing to the hospital after hearing about the crash. But she kept her hands clenched at her sides and looked back to Poe instead. This was not going to be easy. Everything was going to change.

*

Cassian grunted. “This is…weird.”

“All the words in the dictionary, and you’re going for that one?” Jyn asked him. “A little weak, if you ask me.”

He rolled his eyes, but didn’t stop helping Jyn maneuver the mattress up the stairs. After a week of finding her curled up on the couch every morning while he slept in the guest bedroom, he’d gotten her to admit that she felt uncomfortable sleeping in the master bedroom, specifically the bed. He hadn’t even thought about it when he’d offered her the room with more space. They’d discussed it and thought that replacing it with her bed and moving the old one into storage would be best.

Neither one of them talked about how they’d taken down some of the pictures. They left the ones out in the other rooms for Poe, but had begun to slowly erase any personal touches in the places they slept. It turned out that neither one of them had ever learned how to personalize and decorate their living spaces.

Lucky for both of them, neither had had a problem moving out of their old places. Cassian’s lease had been coming up anyways and Jyn had shared a cheap apartment with her friend Bodhi. It still made an awkward time to live together. He could still remember a time when she’d hated him. Thank god there were two bathrooms. The house was large enough where there were moments he could forget that she lived here too.

Except, of course, when it came to Poe.

Cassian had tried to explain it as best and gently as he could, but death was a very abstract concept to a two year-old. One day it seemed like he understood, morose and weepy, crying for his mom or dad, and the next he would be fine and would ask about them like they’d just gone on a trip. Those were somehow worse. He could handle the bad days, watching from the couch as Jyn held Poe close, her hand cupping the back of his head and bouncing him in her arms as she paced the living room. The other ones put both of them at a loss.

“Did you get it when your parents died?” Jyn asked him.

They dropped the mattress down on the ground and looked at one another. Personal conversations like this weren’t his forte. He was good at being evasive - it was perhaps his best talent - but he also knew that Jyn wasn’t good at them either. She was too blunt and ragged around the edges. Still, they were living and raising a child together. It was probably time that they got over that and actually learned a few things about one another that either of them couldn’t just look up.

Cassian sat down on the mattress even though it was close to the floor. He’d quickly understood Jyn’s reluctance to touch the bed, no matter how pristine and cozy it looked. “No, I guess I didn’t.” It didn’t hurt as much as it used to, thinking and talking about his family. They had died in an awful way. It was probably one of the reasons he’d decided to become a cop. “I thought they were sleeping at first.”

“I knew my mom was gone when she died,” Jyn said. “I don’t know how; I just knew.”

Brain aneurysm, his mind supplied. Very sudden. He was not going to admit that he had looked it up after that bit of knowledge had accidentally slipped in during a conversation with Kes.

“Do you think they picked us because we know what it’s like to lose our parents so young?” Cassian asked. He had spent a lot of waking moments questioning why Kes and Shara had chosen them out of everyone. There were some logical reasons for it and some very compelling arguments against it. He would not say that he and Jyn were the most stable people nor the most compatible. She was combative and he was set in his ways. Even when they got along, there was always that underlining of tension between them. “That we’d fight to make sure that Poe didn’t suffer alone like we did?”

“God, you make us sound so broken,” Jyn told him. There was a hint of dark humor in her voice, telling him that she had been avoiding those same questions. He was excellent at reading people. Jyn had been difficult from the start, but he was starting to learn her behaviors and habits. She bit her lip and then sat down next to him, her knee accidentally bumping into his. “You’re good with Poe though. Better than me. He likes you.”

“Yeah, but he feels safer with you,” Cassian pointed out. Jyn turned to give him a look that he was very familiar with on her face - the kind that said that she didn’t believe him. “When he’s scared or upset, he goes to you. He trusts you.”

A very faint smile came on Jyn’s face. It was the first smile he’d seen from her that didn’t look forced. Even though it was almost not there, it still made her look very pretty. The thought that he wanted to see it more often crossed his mind. He shoved that thought far away.

*

Jyn was minding her own business, trying to be quiet for once, reading a police report while lifting her eyes to the park every few minutes, when the woman next to her asked, “Which one’s yours?”

“What?” Jyn looked up from the report and blinked in irritation. The woman, for her part, didn’t seem taken aback in the slightest. She merely raised a challenging eyebrow. “Uh, none of them.” The woman’s other eyebrow raised to join the other and Jyn hastily corrected herself, “I mean, he’s not mine. I’m his…guardian.”

That was the correct word, but it felt wrong. Did a mere guardian allow a sniffling little boy curl up against her at night after having a nightmare? She couldn’t remember being given that much after her mother’s death. Clearing her throat, Jyn pointed at Poe, who was dangling from the monkey bars with Cassian holding onto him in case his little hands slipped. Poe had been insistent about doing the same things as the bigger kids.

The woman’s face softened. “Your life must’ve turned on its end. It’s really admirable that you took him in.” She didn’t ask about Poe’s parents, but maybe she didn’t have to. There was something very final about the term “guardian”. It said that Jyn wasn’t a mother, but was watching over him anyways. Jyn wasn’t looking to talk about her newfound struggles concerning parenthood being thrust upon her with a stranger. The woman smiled. “And it’s great that your husband took it into stride as well and is so involved.”

Jyn choked on air and coughed. “My husband?” She peered at Cassian, who had shifted Poe onto his shoulders as the little boy reached from bar to bar. Blush rushed to her cheeks. Shit, how long had it been since she’d actually blushed? Bodhi had questioned if she was capable of it. “Oh, hell, no, no, he’s not my husband. He’s, uh, he’s…a friend. Well, he’s also Poe’s guardian. We’re kinda working together. It’s complicated.”

“As if raising a child isn’t already,” the woman laughed, seemingly amused with how flustered Jyn had become. Jyn was extremely grateful that Cassian was distracted by Poe. He would’ve mercilessly teased her about this. Whenever he figured out something that got under her skin, he used it to his advantage. Slick bastard. “Whatever the case, it looks like you’re working things out. Together. Kids need structure.”

Before Jyn could reply, Poe was waving a hand at her and shouting, “Jyn, come play on the swings!”

Jyn was up and placing the files in her bag as she said, “Duty calls,” and headed that way. It felt like the perfect time to escape. She definitely did not want to talk about the strange arrangement between her and Cassian. But when Cassian looked up at her and smiled, so effortlessly, so at ease for the first time in weeks, her heart leaped in her chest. Something about the way he was holding onto Poe’s feet but focused on her, welcoming her into his world, made him look terribly handsome.

She was not going to think about it, much less talk.

*

It had been four nights since he’d come back to the house and all Cassian had been able to do was get in a brief call at one in the morning on the second night to tell her, “I’ll return as soon as I can, I promise,” before he’d been forced to hang up. His captain, Draven, was not a man that tolerated personal calls while on the job.

The first two months of this new and abrupt co-parenting arrangement, Cassian had been given some leeway and hadn’t been put on any assignments. He had known that it would last for only so long, but he thought that Jyn might have gotten hopeful. He tried not to think about how he felt. On one hand, it was his job and a large part of who he was - this was where he was most at ease and himself, even when he wasn’t - but on the other hand, he had grown…comfortable with a more peaceful, if not sometimes messy, life with Jyn and Poe.

No, he didn’t come home to greet her with a kiss and sometimes he found himself alone entertaining a child while she was off chasing leads for a story, but it was a life. His favorite moments were when they were all together, though he would never admit it.The three of them sitting on the couch watching a movie, his arm slung over the back to where he could touch the nape of her neck if he moved his hand a little closer, Poe lying between them with his feet wiggling on Cassian’s thigh and his head in Jyn’s lap so she could run her fingers through his hair.

It almost felt like what he used to imagine family would feel like.

And then Draven handed Cassian this assignment and he couldn’t turn it down, not when he’d been working on this case for months. Jyn hadn’t liked it – he could tell by the twist on her lips and the sudden emotionless look that had fallen across her face – but she had nodded her head and told him to go.

Before he’d walked out the door, she managed to say, “Be safe, got it?” like the words had to be dragged out of her mouth. There had been a hint of need in them though that had caught him off guard. He was still thinking about those words when he opened the front door and slunk inside like a dog with its tail between its legs after being caught making a mess.

There would be no sneaking in for him though. The second he shut the door, one of the tableside lamps flickered on to illuminate Jyn, as if she’d been waiting on him for the last few days. “So he returns,” she announced, accusations already dripping from every word. “I thought maybe you’d finally gotten sick of us and left.”

Cassian bit his lip to refrain himself from snapping back at her. He was exhausted, worn down from working basically non-stop for four days, and just wanted to sleep. Honestly, he’d been looking forward to coming back to this, to her and Poe, but he should’ve known that she would make things difficult.

“Four days, Cassian, four fucking days!” Jyn hissed at him. He almost flinched, but straightened his back instead. He knew how long he had been gone. He’d been counting the hours, not that she would know. She got to her feet and prowled towards him, like a lion would prey. He was used to people trying to intimidate him, but somehow, she put him on edge. “Four days I’ve had to try and explain to Poe why you weren’t here. Four days I’ve had to tell him that you were coming back when I honestly didn’t know if you would.”

“I’m not just going to walk out on him,” Cassian snapped, unable to stop himself. He knew that Jyn always saw the negative in people, knew that she rarely saw anything else, but he wished she wouldn’t think so lowly of him after what they’d gone through together for the past two months. He had been there for them both, hadn’t he? And he hadn’t complained once.

“You could’ve died, Cassian!” Jyn exclaimed, glaring up at him. She was close enough to touch now, her chin tilted up and her jaw set. “What would I have told him then?”

All at once, it hit him. She was baiting him, looking for an argument, but he couldn’t meet her. He had to back down. She was mad at him and the situation, yes, but there was more to it than that. He hadn’t seen it before because the glare of the lamp had put shadows over her face, but now that was right in front of him he saw that  there was something in her eyes that didn’t say anger so much as fear.

Her father had more or less abandoned her, hadn’t he? She was afraid that Cassian would do the same thing, not just to her, but to Poe as well. It surprised Cassian. He hadn’t ever known her to be afraid of things, but maybe he had been misinterpreting her for years.

“I’m not going to leave you, Jyn,” Cassian told her gently, placing a hand on her cheek, “either of you.”

A startled look flittered across Jyn’s face, like that of a scared animal, but she didn’t pull away like he was afraid that she might. Touching was something that Jyn didn’t do. She hated getting close to people. He thought that she had tolerated it whenever Shara had hugged her and usually stuck to shaking hands with Kes. It was like she had put a physical barrier up between her and other people. But he wanted to scale it. He wanted to see what was on the other side. And honestly that scared him a little too.

“You can’t promise that,” Jyn whispered, staring him in the eyes. There wasn’t any fire in them anymore though and the fear that he’d barely been able to glimpse became more apparent. She looked like she wanted to run and lock herself in the bedroom, but still, she didn’t move.

“I know and I’m sorry,” Cassian said, “but I can try.”

“Everyone leaves,” Jyn told him. “They always do.”

“I won’t, at least not of my own accord,” Cassian promised.

Somehow, without thinking about it, they had gotten even closer to one another, so that their chests were touching. She was clad in her pajamas, a tank top and shorts, and his clothes were rumpled and still smelled of sweat and smoke, but it felt like one of the most intimate moments of his life. The urge to kiss her struck him so violently that it made him hesitate to breathe. His fingers curled into her hair. It had been a while since he had wanted to kiss anyone so bad.

“You should get some sleep,” Jyn said in a quiet, husky voice. Still, she didn’t move away from him. “You’re probably tired.”

“Yeah.” The word rumbled in his chest as he looked down at her. He should go to bed. He did not want to sleep.

In the end, Jyn made the decision for him and probably for the best. She took a single step back and his hand fell away from her face. “Glad you came home in one piece.”

He smiled a little and could’ve sworn that a hint of blush covered her cheeks. It was hard to tell in the dim light from the single lamp behind them. “Me too.” She nodded once and then turned to walk up the stairs towards her room. He did not miss the fact that she had called this place “home” for the first time. It was better that they hadn’t kissed. They did not need to complicate matters any more than they already were, especially for Poe’s sake.

But holy shit, did Cassian want to kiss Jyn senseless.