wise men say, only fools rush in.
Jyn was, by some unholy streak of bad luck, the only granddaughter in a veritable sea of grandsons, a situation made worse by the fact that her parents had moved nine hours’ flight away from the rest of her mother’s (rather traditional) family, so growing up and all through college, she only ever saw them once or twice a year — at which point they always wanted her to tell them “all the juicy details of your love life!”
And they never wanted to hear the truth, which was that there were never any juicy details, only bad decisions and awful exes, and as to her other accomplishments — like, hey, I got into grad school, which I spent a whole year working myself to death to do! or I’m on the shortlist for a great internship at NASA this summer! — they brushed off, always wanting to know if there was a boooooooy.
This Christmas was shaping up to be no better than the rest of them, and Jyn was just… tired. Tired of the questions and tired of the “I am more than the men in my life” conversation that she had been having for the better part of twenty-five years and tired of the “jokes” about her biological clock ticking away, and… She really just didn’t have the energy for it this year. Grad school was harder than she’d expected it to be, and her thesis was completely stalled, and she hadn’t actually gotten the internship she’d been hoping for, and with one thing and another —
“I just don’t think I can make it this year, is all,” she was saying over the phone, pouring a much-needed glass of wine.
“They’re getting old, Jyn,” her mother replied, slightly admonishing. “There won’t be many more of these Christmases, and you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”
She doubted that somewhat. “I know, but — "
“Your papa is eighty-seven years old,” she cut in. “This could easily be his last Christmas.”
“The man is a horse!” she growled. “He’s healthier than I am, he’ll live to be a hundred.”
“You don’t know that,” Lyra countered, and she wondered if she knew something Jyn didn’t, or if she was just guilt-tripping her. Probably just guilt-tripping, knowing her mother. “You never know that.”
She let out a long breath, then took a deep draught of her wine and bit back a sigh. “Money is tight, and it’s a long flight,” she tried, but her mother scoffed.
“I’ll buy your plane ticket,” she snapped. “You know I will. Jyn, they’ll be really hurt if you don’t come. You always complain about it, but they do love you, a lot more than you know. They hate being so far from you, they wish they could be more involved in your life.”
Dammit. Dammit. Why did she always know which levers to pull?
“Fine,” she sighed, running a hand over her face and already planning the rant she was going to give her brother about this. “I’ll go.”
“Good,” Lyra said, with a sigh. “I’ll get four tickets, for the whole week.”
A whole week. She wasn’t sure she could stomach it.
“Thank you,” she replied instead, and because she felt obligated, “I do love them, you know that.”
“I know,” her mother said, like she believed it, at least.
She was already a little tipsy when she got to the bar — in a cab, because she knew herself — but whatever, it was just her usual group of friends, and they had all seen her in significantly worse states than “kind of tipsy and ranting about her asshole family”.
Jyn was the second to arrive, after her adopted brother Bodhi, who had already gotten a round corner booth for the group.
“Hey,” she said, sliding into the booth and making a courtesy glance at the menu even though she already knew what she wanted, “you spoke to Mum today?”
“Yeeeeeeah,” he replied, with a heavy sigh. “She pull the ‘you don’t know how many Christmases you have left with them’ guilt trip on you, too?”
“Ugh, yes,” she groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “It always works, too, dammit.”
“I know,” he moaned. “Look on the bright side, we’ll spend Christmas and New Years’ in England, again.”
“Whoo,” Jyn deadpanned, and then as the waitress arrived, “Sauvignon blanc, please.”
“Better than New Years’ in New York, honestly,” Bodhi said, with what appeared to be a game attempt to look on the bright side. “I always hear everybody complain about never being able to get around the city for the whole week.”
“You say that like I ever plan to leave my flat during that whole week.”
“I’m just saying,” he went on, sipping his beer, “we don’t have it that bad.”
“Why are you always so stupidly optimistic?” she countered, blinking rapidly in false fascination. “It’s like a curse.”
“Hey, you don’t have to be here.”
She rubbed her face, a bit angrily. “I know, I know,” she sighed, accepting her glass of wine. “A lot of people would love the chance to go to England for the week, and a lot of people are gonna be cold and hungry and we’ll be warm and fed, but… ugh, they’re just so aggressively… them.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” he muttered, raising an eyebrow. “Remember that ‘I can’t believe they took him into their lives and he ended up gay’ thing?”
“I will never forget,” she replied darkly. “Or forgive.” Bodhi shrugged, and was probably about to say something ridiculously-nice and kind-hearted, so she held up a finger. “You can forgive, if you want. I’ll hold the grudge for you. I don’t mind doing it.”
He rolled his eyes. “You need anger management.”
And you need to learn how to stand up for yourself, she thought but didn’t say, because it would have genuinely hurt him. “No, I need people to stop being assholes,” she countered instead. “And I need these specific assholes to quit grilling me about my bloody love life, for once,” she added in a growl, and he made a face.
“You could always bring a fake boyfriend,” he suggested lightly.
“Literally no one will believe that,” she snapped. “And who would I bring, anyway?”
“I bet Cassian would do it,” he said. She rolled her eyes and took another drink.
“Yeah, right,” she muttered, but — it wasn’t a bad idea, taking a fake boyfriend so they’d leave her the hell alone, and Cassian had been her best friend besides Bodhi for a long time now, since her sophomore year of college. For an all-expenses-paid trip to the English countryside, he’d probably sign on.
They might actually buy it, too.
She wondered, as she spotted him walking in with Han and Leia and waved the three of them over, how drunk she’d have to be to actually suggest it to him.
The answer, it turned out, was “surprisingly not very” but there were mitigating circumstances.
Namely, she had fielded the usual call from her grandmother, who was “so excited” that she was coming, was she coming alone, or was she planning to bring a plus-one?
She almost said no, but the last time she’d done that it had turned into a lecture about how she shouldn’t be afraid to fall in love, they were all just dying to meet her Mr. Right, ha-ha none of us are getting any younger! And all she’d wanted was to beat her head against a wall until she blacked out.
So instead, she told them yes, for once, there would be a man joining her, but they’d have to just wait until they could meet him in person.
Gran had been absolutely delighted, and the conversation had been over in record time.
She’d laid her head on the table upon hanging up, and had yet to raise it.
“You have a boyfriend?” Han asked finally, sounding aghast, and she groaned.
“No, but she wasn’t gonna leave me alone.”
“I can vouch,” Bodhi chimed in. “The last lecture on your eggs drying up lasted, what, an hour?”
“And a half,” she groaned, picking her head up and covering her face with both hands.
“So, are you just gonna fake a nasty breakup?” Leia suggested, and — hey, that wasn’t a bad idea — Bodhi made a sound of trepidation.
“You could just bring a fake boyfriend,” he offered again. “Fewer questions, bad fake tears, and everyone asking me about how you’re doing.”
“I’ll do it,” Han said immediately, and when Leia gave him a look, he shrugged. “Their family lives outside London in some, like, nineteenth-century manor. I’ll be Jyn’s fake boyfriend to go on that trip.”
“What are we talking about?” Cassian asked, joining the table with her drink, and his own.
“It’s not a manor,” Jyn snapped, taking her drink.
“It’s kind of a manor,” Bodhi disagreed, and she glared at him.
“Han wants to be single, apparently,” Leia said, by way of answering Cassian’s question.
“What?” Cassian asked.
“I… told my grandmother that I’d bring a boyfriend with me to Christmas,” Jyn sighed. “It was the only way to get her to — oh shit,” she cut herself off as her phone buzzed, and three text messages came in one right after the other, from three of her cousins. One was congratulatory, one was a joke about what poor fool would date her, and one was a demand for pictures and full description so that the cousin could decide if he was worthy. Apparently gossip traveled much faster than she’d expected, or else the family was already starting to gather. She tossed the phone to Bodhi, who burst out laughing.
And then the little shit snapped a picture of Cassian.
Both of them asked, “What are you doing?” at the same time, albeit in wildly different tones — Cassian confused and a bit affronted, Jyn in absolute horror. Bodhi just grinned.
“Hey, Cassian, wanna come to England for Christmas?” he asked, grinning.
“You can say no,” Jyn said, burying her face in her hands again. “Leia had a great idea about faking a bad break-up.”
“I’ll give you pointers,” Leia drawled, and Han spluttered.
“I… can’t really afford a plane ticket,” Cassian answered carefully, but Bodhi waved it off without looking up from the no-doubt mortifying text message he was sending from her phone.
“Mum and Dad will buy. You think either of us can afford transatlantic plane tickets?”
“Wait, wait, you’re just gonna ignore my offer — " Han started, but both she and Bodhi cut him off with a simultaneous loud yes. “Well then why not Luke?” he grumbled, crossing his arms, but Leia scoffed.
“If either you or my brother go to spend Christmas in England without me, I’m gutting both of you like fish.”
“That’s fair,” Luke said sagely, joining the group, finally. “Why is this even on the table?”
“Jyn talked herself into a corner with her grandma,” Han explained. “Now she needs a fake boyfriend for Christmas.”
“Why doesn’t Cassian do it?” Luke asked, and Jyn scowled at him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Cassian giving him an affronted look.
“I do not need a fake boyfriend,” she snapped. “I really like Leia’s idea, it buys me time. I can probably even use it over the summer, ‘oh I’m still so upset I haven’t gotten back on the dating scene’. It’s a great idea.”
“Mm, you could talk about how you were really looking forward to introducing him to the family over Christmas,” Leia offered, finishing off her beer. “You just loved him so much.”
“The break-up just destroyed me, Gran, I’m so sorry,” she said in a high-pitched voice, and Leia laughed.
“Okay, but I already sent Kent pictures of Cassian,” Bodhi cut in, and she rolled her eyes.
“Pictures?” Cassian repeated. “Plural?”
“Kent thinks you’re handsome.”
“Give me back my phone,” she snapped, reaching over the table to grab it and, after a brief fight that threatened to spill Luke’s fresh drink, succeeded. Cassian leaned over her shoulder as she checked her camera, and then when she found no pictures there (at least, of tonight), she checked the messages that Bodhi had sent to Kent. “It was just the one,” she sighed, showing it to him. He made a face. “I’m sorry.”
(Kent did, apparently, think he was handsome, though.)
“I’m not holding it against you,” he replied, shooting Bodhi a glare that he answered with a winning smile.
“Seriously, this is stupid,” she said, shoving her phone into her coat pocket and ignoring it buzzing again. “You don’t have to come, if you don’t want to.”
“You want to,” Han stage-whispered, and she glared at him. “Have you seen their grandparents’ house? It’s like something out of goddamn Jane Austen.”
“Only you,” Leia sighed, burying her face in her hand, “would equate something to “goddamn” Jane Austen.”
“I read,” he countered.
“No, you saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie because you had a crush on Kiera Knightley.”
“And it was a great movie.”
“It was a good movie,” Luke agreed, and Leia made a noise of exasperation. “But Cassian might already have had plans for Christmas.” Everyone looked at him, except Leia and Han, who had begun arguing over whether liking the movie made Han the woman in their relationship. (“You’re being really traditional with these gender roles,” he grumbled, mimicking Leia’s usual arguments with airy superiority, as her jaw dropped gently open. “I’m perfectly comfortable in my masculinity, I don’t mind at all admitting that I enjoyed that movie.”)
“I don’t,” Cassian replied, somewhat distractedly, glancing at the brewing argument on the other side of the table. “Did I just hear Han Solo say the words ‘traditional gender roles’?”
“Yeah, you did,” Leia snapped. “Mister Toxic Masculinity himself.”
“I listen to what you say,” Han snapped back, and Leia actually looked a bit mollified. “Jeez, if you’d rather I ignored you, I can do that, too.”
After a moment of ringing silence, in which Leia seemed to soften slowly by degrees, Jyn glanced at Cassian.
“You don’t have any Christmas plans?” she asked, studiously ignoring the (actually kind of sweet and romantic) scene beginning to unfold.
“Not really, no,” he answered, shrugging. “It’s just my sister, and she’s out in Chicago with her family.”
“What did you do last year?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Baze and Chirrut put on — their words — the “strays’ Christmas dinner”. Good cooks.”
“Yeah, it was actually really nice,” Luke chimed in, a hand over the side of his face so that he didn’t have to see his twin sister kissing her boyfriend. “I was planning to go again this year.”
“They’re doing it again?” Leia asked, pulling away from Han and looking intrigued. “I wasn’t sure if they would.”
That… actually sounded pretty nice, honestly. Baze and Chirrut were the nicest older couple (well, in their own ways; Baze was gruff and prickly but genuinely kind underneath, and Chirrut was incredibly friendly but loved to screw with people’s heads), Chinese immigrants who had come to America together under uncertain circumstances, an explanation for which had never been offered and Jyn had never asked about, and set about making themselves a comfortable little life in New York. She’d be willing to bet that the strays’ Christmas Dinner was Chirrut’s idea to start off with, but Baze had been the first to ask about what they’d make this year.
Luke and Leia were orphans practically from birth, raised by their now-dead aunt and uncle, and if Han had any family left, he was estranged from them. Cassian’s parents had died when he was young, and with Jyn and Bodhi’s relationship with their own family being so strained and distant… “strays” was a good way to describe them.
“Yeah, I asked Chirrut about it the other day,” Luke replied. “I offered to bring something, but he said they had the food covered. I’ve got presents, though.”
“That sounds a lot better than our family in England,” Bodhi said slowly, making eye contact with Jyn, who sighed.
“What part of “amazing manor in the English countryside” is worse than that?” Han countered, aghast, and Jyn made a face.
“It’s hard to explain,” she muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose. “They’re all so… traditional and gossipy. I’d rather be here with you guys, honestly.”
“So gossipy,” Bodhi sighed. “And I’m pretty sure that Gran is still holding out for me to find the right woman.”
“So, here’s what you do,” Han started, leaning forward and gesticulating wildly, “you two stay here, and me and Leia go to your family manor in your place.”
“I can work with that,” Leia said immediately, and Luke gaped at them.
“You’d go to England without me?”
“You can hide in our luggage,” Han replied, without missing a beat, and Luke made a face, looking down at himself in exaggerated confusion, as if wondering when he suddenly became small enough to fit into a suitcase.
It was definitely a case of the grass always being greener, she thought. To someone who’d practically raised himself, and had spent most of his life living paycheck to paycheck, never sure if he was going to be kicked out of his flat this time next month, spending Christmas in a fancy manor in the English countryside sounded divine. But to someone who had spent her life growing up in a family that had always seemed to judge her and find her wanting, with impossible standards to uphold and perfect being the only acceptable way to be, spending Christmas in a small New York flat with friends who never judged her and never demanded that she be anything other than exactly what she was sounded like the perfect holiday.
She met Bodhi’s eyes, and saw the exact same feeling fly across his face.
“It sounds… interesting,” Cassian said enigmatically. “English countryside?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi answered, “a bit outside London. It was built in the 1800s, but Gran and Papa bought it about forty years ago.”
“And your relationship status matters because…?” he asked, and Jyn sighed.
“Anything that isn’t perfect is unacceptable,” she replied. “Mum left the whole continent to get away from their expectations, but she still goes back once or twice a year and so we’re stuck with them too.”
“Ah,” he said, drawing the syllable out, “and you being single is imperfect.”
He seemed to be mulling it over, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.
(Full disclosure, she had a bit of a crush on him. Just a bit! He was certainly attractive and they’d been friends ever since getting stuck together on a lab when he was a senior and she was a sophomore taking classes that she really ought to have put off. He’d helped her pass and never asked for anything in return (although she’d insisted on buying him a drink), and the idea of a week being his fake girlfriend sounded… awkward, if she was being completely honest with herself. He’d always seemed so untouchable, unfazed at everything.)
“You really don’t have to,” she said quietly, and he glanced at her.
“I don’t have to pay for it?” he asked, and she shrugged.
“Unless you just want to go souvenir shopping or sight-seeing, no.”
He seemed to think about it for a moment, glancing around the table, before shrugging nonchalantly. “I’ll do it,” he said, as though it was nothing. “It sounds fun.”
She doubted that, but Bodhi grinned. “It’ll be something,” she said. “That’s for sure.”
Her mother had sounded… skeptical when she’d said that they’d need a fifth plane ticket, but she’d agreed without any real fuss, and so it was decided.
Jyn would, if pressed, blame Bodhi. He seemed okay with it.
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this,” she grumbled to him, as they stood at the bar to pay their respective tabs. “Even if they buy it, it’s gonna be awkward as hell.”
“Mm,” was all Bodhi said in response, and she poked him hard in the arm.
“I’m counting on you to have my back,” she growled. “After you pulled that stunt with the picture — and why I will never know — "
“Because you’re way more obvious about your crush than you think you are,” he cut her off airily, taking his card and scribbling a tip and what passed for his signature. She gaped at him. “So, you know,” he added, laying the pen over her own card, “you can thank me later.”
“I do not have — I would never — you — if anyone has a crush on him, it’s you,” she spluttered, with a finish that even she knew was painfully lame. He snorted.
“Yeah, that was convincing,” he said evenly. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he’s figured it out.”
It… kind of was, actually. “You’re completely ridiculous,” she hissed, but he waved her off, shoving his wallet into his back pocket and giving her a hug she didn’t return.
“See you Monday morning, dark and early.”
“I mean it, you’re — " she started, but gave up when he ignored her protests outright. “Prick,” she muttered under her breath.
“So,” her dad said, as they arrived at the airport, and Jyn had to physically stop herself from cringing, “Cassian. Is your name.”
“Yes, sir,” Cassian replied, sounding for all the world like he really was meeting his girlfriend’s dad and not like he was seriously regretting the life choices that had brought him to this point (which was what Jyn, personally, was doing). Her dad seemed to be thinking it over for a moment, before he glanced at Jyn and sighed.
“Well, I think they’ll buy it, at least,” he muttered. “When did I first meet you?”
“Let’s say two months ago?” Cassian suggested, rolling with the punches, and Galen smirked.
“Sounds good,” he sighed. “Lyra’s family can be a handful, I hope you’ve been warned.”
“I have been.”
“Good,” Galen replied, and glanced at Jyn. “Was this your idea?”
“No, it was Bodhi’s,” she answered, a bit weakly. “Everybody wins!” she said abruptly, when he gave her his trademarked you know I know you’re full of shit right? look. “Cassian gets to spend Christmas in England, and I don’t have to deal with the third degree from Gran!”
Cassian shrugged, shouldering his carry-on bag. “I don’t have any family in the area,” he said, and her dad glanced at him. “So it wasn’t out of my way.”
“Hmm,” Galen mused, looking between the two of them. “Well, your grandmother will be excited, that’s for sure.”
“Where is Bodhi?” Lyra asked, sounding harried, as she joined them with boarding passes and handed them out distractedly.
“He was just behind us,” Cassian replied, and Mum nodded, rearranging her overflowing carry-on with some anxiety — if Jyn was held up to superhuman standards, Lyra was held up to absolutely impossible ones, and would almost certainly spend the entire flight back ranting about how much she hated her mother (who she had taken to describing, since going on a Netflix binge several months ago, as "Literally Lucille Bluth") and demanding to know why she ever put up with them. Jyn had learned a long time ago not to ever mention it to her after the fact.
Finally, Lyra seemed to realize that she didn’t know Jyn’s companion; she paused, turned, looked him over with a total lack of emotion, and then glanced at Jyn. “This is your completely-serious-and-not-fake-at-all boyfriend, then?”
“Yes, this is Cassian,” she replied, voice strained, and Mum nodded.
“I hope she warned you about my mother,” she said, but before he could say anything, Bodhi arrived with arms full of bags and the scowl of one who could have happily slept for seven more hours. “There you are!”
“Jyn, you forgot your bloody passport again,” he grumbled, all-but throwing it at her; sleep deprivation tended to turn her normally-sweet brother into an absolute grouch. She caught it and shrugged.
“That’s why I leave it with you.”
“It is way too early in the morning to start this,” Mum said, heading off Bodhi’s retort.
“This is why I haven’t gone to sleep yet,” Jyn muttered, and Cassian made a noise of agreement.
“Hi, Cassian,” Bodhi said, a bit sullenly.
“By the way,” Galen cut in, placing a hand on Bodhi’s shoulder, “we’ll need to discuss why helping your sister deceive your grandparents isn’t a good idea.”
“I don’t know,” Lyra mused, ushering them toward security. “I’m kind of ashamed I never thought of it.”
“Lyra,” Galen sighed.
“Do you have any idea how many screaming matches she and I got into when I was Jyn’s age?” Lyra countered. “Good on you, love. You found a way to make her happy without anybody leaving in tears.”
“I’m really sorry,” she told Cassian, who just raised an eyebrow, typically unreadable, but maybe amused? She was never sure with him. “You can still back out.”
“And leave you without an excuse?” he challenged in a low voice. “You must think so little of me.”
She smiled, in spite of herself.
Jyn spent most of the nine-hour flight asleep on a pillow laid on the pull-out tray; or at least, a certain definition of sleeping, as close as was possible with a toddler in the next row and Bodhi’s increasingly-irritated mumbling over the same on her right. Cassian had taken the aisle seat, but for the short time that she was awake, he was engrossed in what appeared to be a grant proposal, although he seemed to spend most of the time staring at the screen with the vaguely-distasteful expression of stalled editing.
It made her feel better about the full hour she’d spent giving her thesis the exact same look.
They landed in Heathrow to everyone’s general relief with a minimum of fuss and fighting, and ended up in a two-car caravan to the house.
“I just wanna know what, specifically,” Bodhi was saying, “Gran did to make Mum call her that.”
Jyn glanced up from her bags, trying to ignore the creeping worry that she’d forgotten something. “Oh, I actually know this one,” she replied, and both Bodhi and Cassian looked at her. “Apparently, she’s refusing to acknowledge that she got her PhD, because “looking at rocks” was not the kind of doctor she was supposed to be.”
Both of them cringed. “Yeah, but,” Bodhi started, “Mum doesn’t usually go that hard against her.”
“Oh, this wasn’t to her face.”
“Oh,” he said, sounding a little disappointed. “I thought she actually said this, Dad made it sound like she actually said it to her this time.”
“No,” Jyn sighed, “Gran’s wised up, she always talks to Mum on speaker now.”
“I…” Cassian started, looking confused, “why does your mother even talk to her, if they hate each other so much?”
“Good question,” Bodhi muttered, but Jyn shook her head.
“You’ve never been guilt-tripped by Papa,” she said firmly. “Mum’s got nothing on him. I tried to get out of coming here a couple of years ago and Mum actually told them I wasn’t coming, but then he called me. I caved in less than a minute.”
“Wow,” Cassian said, looking surprised — he would be, considering that he was the group’s resident peacekeeper (whether he liked it or not) and knew first-hand how difficult it was to make Jyn budge when she’d made up her mind — and Bodhi whistled.
“What did he say?”
“He told me he had cancer.”
“He lied to you?” Bodhi exclaimed, then made a face. “I hope?”
“Yes and no,” she replied, rubbing her face. “It was a skin cancer he’d gotten removed. Apparently he’s used it on Mum before, but she didn’t warn me.”
“I like him already,” Cassian said, and she snorted.
“Papa’s easy to get along with. I guess after sixty years with Gran he’s just completely stopped caring.”
“Yeah, I usually spend, like, ninety percent of my time here with him,” Bodhi added.
“‘Cause you can get away with it,” Jyn said darkly, and Bodhi winced. Jyn, being female, was required to do certain “feminine” things at family gatherings, such as cook and clean and entertain. She’d tried several times to join in with the men — because her cooking was passable but not special, cleaning was basically okay but her least favorite thing to do, and entertaining was downright atrocious, and also because it rankled her on a deep and fundamental level that the men were allowed to watch TV and drink bourbon while the women did all the actual work of making a livable house — but although Papa and Dad and Bodhi and a couple of the uncles had made space for her, the disapproving glares and dark mutterings from two of her aunts and Gran had ultimately been too much to ignore.
“Oh,” Cassian said, nodding slowly. “It’s that kind of place.”
“Yep,” she and Bodhi both answered at the same time.
“I should bring my sister sometime,” he suggested. “Sylvia is the queen of passive-aggressive housework.”
“Pa — what?” she laughed, and he shook his head.
“Once, when I was thirteen, I told her that cleaning was her job,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. Jyn raised an eyebrow, and he held up both hands in supplication. “I was thirteen,” he added, with some guilt, and shrugged. “She cleaned the whole house but put all the trash in my room.”
Jyn laughed out loud. “Oh, that’s a good idea.”
“Like, the kitchen trash, too?” Bodhi said, aghast, and Cassian nodded.
“Yes, that she “stored” on my bed. After cleaning out the fridge.”
“I need your sister to move to New York,” Jyn said firmly. He gave her a half-smile.
“I keep telling her to,” he replied, shrugging. “She tells me I should move to Chicago.”
The thought left Jyn’s insides suddenly cold, but she tried to shrug it off. “Yeah, but then we’ll all have to follow you,” she said, making a face like it was all a joke, and he shook his head.
“I hate Chicago,” he said, and Jyn did not get hit with a wave of relief at that, because that would be stupid. “It’s so… artsy.”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Bodhi cut in. “Don’t ask Reid about how college is going, apparently it’s bad.” Jyn rolled her eyes; to Cassian, he explained: “Reid is on year five of a bachelor’s in Art History.”
“Six, actually,” Jyn added with false helpfulness, but Bodhi winced.
“Yeah, but he wasn’t majoring in Art History for the first one,” he said magnanimously. “It’s not really fair to count all his theatre courses.”
“He couldn’t do gen-ed until he made up his mind like the rest of the plebeians?” she muttered, and Bodhi made a face.
“Of course not.”
“What does he plan to do with his degree?” Cassian asked.
“Curator at a museum,” Bodhi replied. “I mean, in all fairness, it is interesting, and he knows a lot about how art shapes society and the historical background of… everything. It’s cool.”
Jyn fought the urge to sneer; Bodhi was just too damn nice for his own good. And — okay, fine, art history probably had been an interesting class to take, and Reid did make some good points about art and society, but all of it was, to Jyn, who had been raised on hard science and pursued a major and now advanced degree in physics, an elective. She knew it wasn’t really fair to look down on the liberal arts, but at the same time… she really looked down on the liberal arts.
It was just… it was just what rich kids did with their parents’ money when they didn’t want to do anything real.
“That doesn’t sound interesting to me,” she muttered, and Cassian glanced at her.
“It takes all kinds,” he replied simply. She wrinkled her nose, but didn’t comment.
“Yeah, Jyn,” Bodhi said, poking her in the shoulder, “just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s worthless.”
She mimed gagging.
“Okay, but you barely passed Comp II,” Cassian added, and she scowled at him.
“Because it was stupid,” she exclaimed, crossing her arms and clenching her jaw. “Why am I wasting my time writing papers on Hamlet when I’m a physics major?”
“Because it broadens your mind,” Bodhi said, as Cassian turned in his seat to look at her.
“You got drunk and told me all about how the Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet, and how cool that was,” he told her matter-of-factly. Bodhi cackled.
“When was this?”
“You traitor,” she hissed, but he didn’t look even remotely remorseful.
“I’m just pointing out,” he said, settling into his seat, “you cried when you watched the Lion King after studying Hamlet, because you thought it was so brilliant.”
“I had had like seven drinks! And also it’s the Lion King,” she added darkly. “You’re a robot if you don’t cry when Mufasa dies.”
“That was not the only time you cried.”
Bodhi was laughing so hard he could barely breathe now, and in fact, even the cab driver was snickering. She crossed her arms again and glared at Cassian, who simply raised an eyebrow.
“I can’t believe you would betray me like this,” she said.
“I’m calling attention to your hypocrisy, not betraying you. I’d never betray you.”
She was spared from having to come up with a reply by the fact that they had arrived at her grandparents’ house; it loomed up in the darkness like Dracula’s castle, in her mind.
Jyn joked a lot about it, for her mother’s and Bodhi’s sake, but she actually really dreaded coming here every time.
She just always spent the whole time feeling so alone. Everybody, from her friends to her family to movies and TV and books, all told her that Christmas was the time when you were supposed to feel less alone than the rest of the year, but… Jyn hated Christmas, for that reason.
She glanced aside, out the window, but caught Cassian’s eye; he looked like he was seeing straight through her, which wasn’t weird for him, usually, but considering that they were about to spend a week sharing a room and probably a bed, it still made her uncomfortable.
Cassian always seemed to know more about what she was thinking than she had exactly said; ironic, considering that she felt like she could barely read him at all on the best of days.
She shook her head a little, and either she’d imagined it or he decided not to push the issue, because he didn’t comment on it, and before she could really catch her breath, they were unloading and walking up to the house.
It was a rare clear night, stars twinkling with a nearly-full moon lighting up the walkway, and the Christmas lights were glowing in the darkness — it was, even Jyn had to admit, a picturesque scene. The house looked like a Robert Frost poem.
Mum breathed a heavy sigh and paused as if to steel herself, before opening the door.
“Lyra, darling!” Gran gushed as soon as they stepped in, coming over to hug them. Mum’s smile was painted on, and so was Jyn’s. Bodhi was the only one who looked genuinely happy to be there, which could either be sincere or just him being a better actor than them. It was a toss-up. “How was the flight, love?”
“Long,” Mum replied tightly. “But no trouble.”
“Well, that’s good,” Gran beamed, and Jyn felt kind of bad for all the things they said about her — she always did, when she actually acted like a grandmother rather than both Statler and Waldorf, but without the muppet charm. She made an effort at a sincere smile. “Bodhi,” she went on lovingly, giving him a hug, then to Dad, a warm, “Galen,” and (she cringed internally but managed not to let it show)… “Jyn! You must introduce me to the lucky man!”
“Gran, this is Cassian,” she replied, indicating to him. He set his bag down and held out a hand to shake, but Gran scoffed and pulled him into a hug instead. Bodhi managed to turn his laugh into a believable cough.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, finally,” he said, sounding sincere, if stiff. “I’ve heard a lot.”
“All good, I hope?” Gran joked, and he gave her a killer smile, which honestly shouldn’t be legal. He the world's best smile, and it was just impossible not to be taken in by it.
(Jyn had told him this before, and his response had basically been yeah, it’s gotten me out of trouble a few times.)
It was definitely working on Gran, who looked downright enchanted.
“Of course,” he answered. “I hear you’re the reason Jyn and her mother both are so accomplished in the States.”
It was such a beautifully back-handed statement that there was no possible way that he hadn’t come up with it ahead of time. Lyra glanced back at him, clearly trying not to laugh, Jyn grinned, Galen was looking straight ahead as though afraid to meet anyone’s eye, and Bodhi was about to have to fake a cold to explain his coughing fit.
“He’s got that right,” Jyn said brightly, as Gran preened before turning to Bodhi, concerned.
“Bodhi, dear, are you all right?” she asked, and he indicated to his throat.
“Yeah, just… the weather, you know how it is,” he answered hoarsely, and she patted him on the shoulder.
“I keep telling you, all that smog in the big city is not good for you,” Gran tsked, ushering them into the kitchen, where the rest of the family — consisting of Mum’s three sisters and one brother, their respective spouses, a grand total of twelve grandchildren plus Jyn and Bodhi, seven significant others to the grandchildren not including Cassian, five great-grandchildren, and three dogs — was milling around, eating snacks and chatting.
There was a general cacophony of greetings and introductions in the kitchen, as everyone wanted to meet Jyn’s “Mr. Right” as they all… insisted on repeating. Apparently that had been the way Gran had told everyone, and either they genuinely thought it was wonderful or they just loved taking the mickey out of Jyn — roughly fifty-fifty, in this group — but they had really taken up the nickname for Cassian.
She wanted to melt into the floor.
Cassian had definitely seen a lot of Jyn’s crap — he’d all-but carried her home a few times, he’d seen her crying over both truly sad things and cartoon lions, he’d seen her high, he’d even been puked on by her at one (unfortunately memorable) point — so she was pretty sure that her awkward and overbearing family wouldn’t be enough to make him decide that this friendship was officially more trouble than it was worth.
He didn’t seem freaked-out or overwhelmed, and in fact was playing the part of the devoted boyfriend disturbingly well, with an arm around her waist and an expression of genuine interest in meeting all of these random people on another continent that he would never have to deal with again. The man had missed his life’s calling as an actor, frankly.
She’d always known that he had a silver tongue — she would never forget the time some jackass had groped her at the bar and she’d retaliated, only to discover that said jackass was a cop who wasn’t above pressing charges for Assaulting an Officer, a shitstorm he’d single-handedly talked her out of — but this was a degree of method acting that deserved a bloody Oscar.
If anyone was going to screw this up and out them, it would definitely be Jyn.
So… no pressure.
On the other hand, the only thing worse than the introductions and “how’ve you been”s was —
“It was such a long flight,” Lyra yawned. “I know it’s still early, but we’ve had a very long day.”
She glanced at Jyn, who was usually 100% on-board with helping Mum avoid further interaction with her mother by feigning total exhaustion (which, of course, Lyra — ever-devoted to her children — would need to help with, for some reason), but this time was different. This time, “going on to bed early” would mean committing to sharing a room and a bed with Cassian, and honestly, she wasn’t completely emotionally-prepared for that just yet.
Not that she was any better-prepared for conversations with the family about when they met and how they fell in love, but of the two, she felt like that was safer.
“Oh, I understand,” Gran said. “You get on to bed, you all look exhausted!”
Nothing was said regarding where Cassian would sleep, which meant that it was assumed he would be staying with her. Gran would have said so if she felt that he should stay with Bodhi or one of her single cousins, but she probably wanted to come off as progressive and understanding to the total stranger in their midst, at least for the first impressions.
Okay, she thought. It’s fine, you’re fine. He’s your best friend, this will be fine.
Just… go to bed with him.
This is fine.
Cassian had not actually considered this aspect of the trip.
Jyn had slept in his bed before, when she’d been completely passed-out and he’d put her there to sleep the worst of it off where he could check to make sure she was breathing periodically, but there had always been a couch that he could sleep on while she was there. It somehow hadn’t occurred to him – it was her grandparents’ house, for heaven’s sake, surely they wouldn’t be okay with their single granddaughter sleeping in the same bed as her “boyfriend”, right? He’d sort of expected to room with Bodhi, if anything.
He was wrong.
He was… probably overreacting in his head. After all, it was a big bed, not some tiny little twin-sized thing, and so there wasn’t any reason why they couldn’t just sleep on opposite sides of the bed like the grown adults they were. And the jet lag was starting to set in, so it wasn’t like there would even be a whisper of anything except sleep. And… it wouldn’t be a problem. They were both adults. They could share a bed without things becoming awkward. Right?
“I can take the floor,” he said anyway, because he honestly wasn’t sure, and knew his own sleeping habits. She rolled her eyes.
“That’s stupid, it’s a big bed,” she replied, and he shrugged.
“If you’re sure.”
He was kind of proud of how confident and certain he sounded, and also kind of hating himself for it.
“It’s fine,” she said, waving it off and unzipping her suitcase, before pausing and sighing heavily, and grumbling, “Hairbrush.”
“I knew I forgot something.”
“Oh,” he replied lamely, rubbing the back of his neck. “I can’t really help you there.”
“Ugh,” she muttered, and began braiding her hair — presumably to keep it from getting too tangled in the night — with some force. “I hate this place.”
“It does seem… cold,” he answered, wincing. Honestly, it had seemed more fake than anything else, like he wasn’t the only person there playing a part; he could see how Jyn, who was a fundamentally pragmatic person with little patience for playing by pointless social rules, would hate being here. “I didn’t catch your cousins’ names, sorry,” he added, because, well… there had been a lot of them, and they all kind of looked the same. She laughed.
“Yeah, they’re all… very white.”
“You are white,” he countered, and she made a face.
“Yeah, but there’s white and then there’s white. Most of my family is the latter.”
“I gathered,” he replied, “from the fact that you have cousins named Chet and Piers.”
“Don’t forget Garrett and Ferguson and Reid.”
He shook his head, but honestly couldn’t remember who any of those people were. Usually had a good memory for faces and names, but they really all seemed to blend together. “So who of these should I bother interacting with?” he asked, and she wrinkled her nose. “And don’t say none of them.”
She sighed, and began ticking them off on her fingers. “Reid is kind of pretentious, but he’s nice and he’ll like you. Kent is my favorite cousin, he’s about six months older than me. Garrett is a huge asshole, avoid him at all costs. Chad is almost as big an asshole as Garrett. David is nice, but he’s got twin daughters, so he never goes anywhere with anybody. Evan is all right, but kind of weird. Fergie is a twit, don’t take offense when he says something offensive, he’s too dumb to mean anything by it. Chet is a jerk, but in a funny way, so everybody forgives him for all his shit. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Andy, he’s practically my mother’s age and spends most of his time with that generation or his kids. Piers is pretty cool, but he’s high about eighty percent of the time, so, you know. So…” She trailed off for a moment, thinking, then ticked off again, “Reid, Kent, Evan if you’re feeling brave, and Piers if you're drunk off your ass.”
“I’m sure I met them,” he said, with some trepidation, “but I have no idea what any of them look like.”
“It’s fine,” she replied, shrugging. “They won’t mind re-introducing themselves, they get it. I won’t let Garrett and Chad corner you.”
“What would happen if they did?” he asked, glancing sideways at her. She took a deep breath.
“Probably I’d end up punching them.”
“Have you ever…” he started, and she nodded with no shame.
“Yeah, I have,” she said. “I broke Garrett’s nose two years ago, he hates me.”
“Oh,” he replied. “Good to know. Which one was he?”
“Picture the worst Tinder profile imaginable.”
He paused and mulled that over. “The one in plaid?”
“Yep, that’s him,” she answered, with some amusement, pulling clothing out of her suitcase and gesturing to the door that he assumed led to a bathroom. “I’m gonna shower and change.”
“Right,” he said, potently aware of the awkwardness and trying to hide it by rummaging through his own suitcase.
The door shut behind her and he let out a long, slow breath.
They were friends. Jyn was probably his best friend, in fact, had introduced him to most of the group when they’d had a class together and she’d been paired with him in lab. She’d been sharing a dorm with Leia at the time, who had invited them both out with her brother and “his asshole roommate” (Han) after she found them studying (more like Cassian teaching Jyn the pre-reqs that she really should have taken before that class even though they weren't strictly required) on a Friday night. Neither he nor Jyn had been particularly interested in going out, but were both very interested in disabusing Leia of the notion that they were refusing so they could hook up, and so they’d gone. And… that had sort of been that.
He’d never been uncomfortable around Jyn before, never felt awkward, except for the thirty seconds between Leia saying “oh, I get it” in that tone and accepting her invitation to go out. It had always just… clicked with Jyn, worked out naturally. Nothing had ever really needed to be said.
Granted, even he could admit that he had been nastier to Jyn’s most recent ex than was strictly necessary, even before she’d walked in on him with some other girl; he’d insisted, to Bodhi’s repeated suspicious comments and looks, that the guy had always just rubbed him the wrong way, which was true, even if not entirely everything.
They were friends. It was normal to get angry at people who cheated on — or who you felt might cheat on — your friends.
He had almost had himself convinced of that, almost managed to believe that that was really all there was to it, and now Bodhi got the bright idea that he should be Jyn’s fake boyfriend for a week and conveniently neglected to mention the part where they’d be sharing not only a room but also a bed. Not that it would have stopped him from agreeing — Jyn always came back from this place depressed and kind of self-destructive, bitterly complaining about her awful family, and if he could take some of that pressure off her, then he’d put up with just about anything.
But still. It would have been nice to get, you know, a warning.
He’d already changed and gotten into the bed by the time that Jyn came back out of the bathroom, turned off the lamp, and crawled under the covers; he was acutely, painfully, agonizingly aware of how close she was laying to him, the heat from the shower radiating off of her, inches away.
In spite of the overwhelming exhaustion, he lay awake for at least an hour, staring at the ceiling.