Cassian surveys the land through his quadnocs and then looks down at the representation on the datapad in front of him. It looks accurate enough, and the fence should work—a combination of defense and aesthetic that will hopefully not annoy any of the people he's living with—but there's still something about it that's not quite right.
He sighs, allowing his quadnocs to dangle from their strap around his neck as he begins pacing the proposed path. Jyn will say that any defensive fortifications is him being paranoid, but she'll say it fondly. Bodhi will just look at him with those wide, guileless eyes of his, asking if there's some reason they should be concerned. Chirrut will make some witty and cutting remark about how the captain has never been able to remove himself from the battlefield—it never mattered what Cassian's actual rank was. Whether he had been demoted down to lieutenant or crawled his way up to colonel, for some reason the Guardian insists on calling him captain.
Baze will understand, at least. He might even offer some helpful comments, though more likely he'll look at the schematics and grunt before going back to work on some piece of the temple or other.
Cassian's eyes automatically move towards the structure. It stands out, great stone walls etched with symbols and murals that Cassian's still only half-familiar with.
It's the reason Cassian's thinking about building a wall—a fence. A bit of protection, because the Temple of the Kyber is starting to attract a lot of attention, and though Cassian is used to moving carefully through crowds he's not sure about crowds moving through his home.
This is what we wanted, Cassian. Even the Jyn in his mind is usually exasperated with him these days. To help the Guardians rebuild their temple—to see pilgrims coming to it again!
It's what Jyn wanted, at least. It was a goal for them to latch onto when all their others had been pulled away, and Cassian...
He can't even say that he let himself be pulled into it. He fought them, but when even K-2 sided with Jyn and said that maybe it was time for them to try something else... maybe it was time for Cassian to take a break...
K-2 makes a remarkably good farm droid. Perhaps it's because he gets to order lots of other droids around, as well as keep careful tabs on what the humans are doing. K-2 always did like to have a sense of control and coordination over events, and it's something he has in spades here.
Cassian's still not sure he makes a good farmer, but he hasn't had to be much of one. To be fair he's pretty sure Jyn is also a terrible farmer, but she at least seems to have made a go of it, keeping any of them from starving. And what Cassian lacks in farming skills he's so far been able to make up for in other areas—helping the Guardians thread through the New Republic bureaucracy and attain funding for their temple, doing what he could to help in the design and construction of the temple, running what security screens he can on the visitors who have started coming to the temple in massive numbers since it became known that Luke Skywalker occasionally drops by.
A slight smile twitches at the corner of Cassian's mouth. If all these Force-lovers could actually hear the conversations Luke and Chirrut have, he's pretty sure they wouldn't be quite so quick to worship.
Cassian's foot slides along a bit of loose scree, and he comes to a halt, looking down at the schematic and then at the surrounding bit of land. It doesn't look much different from the air, but there's a definite change in soil composition here that they'll have to take into account.
Jotting a few notes down, he tucks the pad away. He'll talk to Jyn and Bodhi about the proposed changes tonight; then he can take it to the monks tomorrow, and they can figure out how they want to apportion cost. Though none of them are poor—the New Republic has been as kind as possible to their veterans, and they've been able to do fairly well with regards to getting funds for the temple under the guise of reclaiming culture that the Empire had attempted to snuff out—none of them are exactly rich either, and any big new projects need to be approached carefully.
Cassian scowls at the collection of brightly-colored tents strewn around the front of the temple. Though guest quarters had been built into the original design at Chirrut's insistence, they're starting to prove inadequate to the flow of pilgrims. At this rate a whole little town will grow up around the damn temple, and then security is going to really be impossible.
You're not supposed to be working security, Cassian. K-2 can manage to be just as smug as Jyn, and Cassian isn't sure which one is better at getting under his skin.
That's the problem though, isn't it? Cassian's not sure exactly what he is supposed to be doing anymore. Finding a way to make a living. Keeping his team safe and alive and as happy as he can manage. Jyn has her farm and Bodhi seems content flying little supply and transport runs and Chirrut has his temple and Baze has Chirrut. Cassian has...
Stop being morbid, Andor. Cassian gives his head a little shake, glancing up at the sky. Lavender clouds are slowly spreading out to hide the setting suns. He always finds it harder to shake off thoughts like these when a storm comes in—one of this planet's little quirks, he supposes. Or the way the planet interacts with his body, just like how the cool, damp nights after a storm tend to make his old injuries ache and throb.
A figure it cutting across the field towards Cassian—no, not across. Good. They're walking in the designated lanes, so Cassian won't have to yell at them when they get here.
Cassian recognizes the young woman when she's about two-thirds of the way through her trip. She's one of the pilgrims to the temple. One of the more dedicated ones, too—she's been here for over a week and shows no signs of intending to leave. Cassian had run a quick background check on her, as he tries to do on everyone who stays for more than a day, but nothing interesting had come up. Her name was... it shouldn't be this hard to remember. Remembering people and places is his job. Was his job.
Running a hand over his neatly trimmed beard, Cassian manages to dredge up the information. Wynn Rider. Twenty-one. Joined the rebellion shortly before the battle of Endor, left about the same time he and Rogue One did, when Mon Mothma decided that the best way to hasten peace was to begin decommissioning the forces that won it in the first place.
The woman smiles as she comes up to Cassian, a bright, shy expression, and holds out a thermos. "From Master Chirrut. He also says that you should come in before the storm hits."
Cassian reaches out to take the offering, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He makes it a point not to show the divisions among the Rogue One crew to outsiders. "Tell him thank you and that I'll take his advice into consideration."
The woman nods, raising one hand to unsuccessfully hide a smile. "I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear it."
Sighing, Cassian flips open the thermos and takes a sip from it. The tea inside is tart, with a faintly bitter lingering effect, but it's better than some of the things he's had Chirrut try to foist on him. When the woman remains planted in front of him, Cassian holds out the thermos to her. "Did you need some?"
Waving a hand, Wynn smiles unapologetically and turns away. "No, sir. I wouldn't dream of it. I'll see you around the temple!"
Cassian makes a noncommittal noise in reply, taking another sip from the thermos and turning back towards the farm.
Towards Jyn and Bodhi.
Towards home, and just because it's different from every other home he's ever known...
Well, Jyn keeps telling him that his life has been anything but normal, and conversations with Bodhi make him tend to agree.
Maybe the fact that it doesn't seem to fit right means it actually is right.
Cassian's not sure the thought is comforting, and he sighs as he makes his way along the paths.
"Look, I understand what you're saying, I just..." Jyn looks at the schematics again. "It just seems a little extreme, you know?"
"She's right." Bodhi speaks quietly, his eyes studying Cassian for signs of distress as he sides with Jyn. "A little extra protection, given how things have changed... that seems sensible. But setting up and paying for all this, when there haven't been any incidents..."
"This is the best way to prevent incidents." Cassian doesn't reclaim his datapad, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He seems more sulky than angry, and Jyn's not sure if that's good or bad. "We have two Guardians who managed to convince Skywalker to get them actual Kyber crystals. If someone decides to come after them—"
"I really think they'd regret it." Jyn winces. "Baze may have started wearing the robes again, but I'm pretty sure that plasma cannon of his is never far."
Cassian stares at her as though she's grown a second head. "Baze? Is wearing the robes—the Guardian robes?"
"For the last two days." Bodhi's hand reaches towards Cassian, though he doesn't actually touch him. "When he's in the temple, at least."
Which explains why Cassian hasn't noticed. He sees the temple as a security risk, not a place of worship. Jyn wouldn't even be surprised if Baze had been intentionally hiding the fact from Cassian. It's clearly not something the big man is completely comfortable with yet, and since he and Cassian tend to see eye to eye on some things...
"I hadn't noticed." Cassian's arms are pressed tight to his chest now, more hugging himself than keeping their arguments at bay. A rumble of thunder shakes the ground beneath her boots, and Jyn glares daggers towards the window. Something about this world's storms and Cassian's biology doesn't mix well. He's going to be sore and irritable tonight even without this little argument between them. "It doesn't change the fact that there's only two of them there."
"There's only six of us total, Cassian." Bodhi looks down into his mug of hot tea. "If someone comes with a force... well, we'll be the ones playing defense. And we know how hard it is to have an impenetrable defense when someone really wants to get in, since our job for six years was to get in."
"So what? We just give up on protecting ourselves?" Cassian snaps at Bodhi, and sweat is starting to show on his brow. (Jyn had suggested that they try to find another planet to settle on when it became clear that Cassian and this one didn't always get along, but they had already been here for three months by then. The foundations for the new temple had been laid. Cassian had been adamant that he didn't need coddling, that he would adapt just fine. Sometimes Jyn wishes she had fought him harder on that.)
"We're careful about the impression we make." Bodhi doesn't respond to the anger. Though Cassian can still intimidate him if he tries, Bodhi has learned his own ways of handling the man over the years. "We're prepared to fight back if we need to, but we don't paint a target on ourselves. And... most of the people coming here? They would fight for the temple, I think, if it came to that. You just have to talk to them to know that."
"People will say a lot when there aren't blaster bolts flying about. Once the fighting starts in earnest... that's when you learn who your true allies are." Cassian stares blankly towards the schematics, though Jyn's pretty sure he's not actually seeing them.
Sliding the datapad towards Cassian, Jyn speaks carefully. "I don't think it would necessarily be a bad idea to have some kind of delineation between the temple's land and the farm and whatever... village or town wants to grow up around the temple. I don't think Bodhi has a problem with that, either."
Bodhi nods his agreement.
"We're just thinking... a little more aesthetic, a little less cannon." Jyn pries one of Cassian's hands away from his arms, holding it tight. "Would that be acceptable?"
Cassian blinks at her, and she sees something that looks frighteningly like exhaustion in his deep brown eyes. Did Cassian ever look like this during the rebellion? She saw him tired then, and hurt, but there's something almost... hopeless about the look he gives her now. "I was trying for more aesthetic than cannon."
"Well." Jyn glances over at Bodhi. "Maybe it just needs a little more help. Nothing the three of us together can't manage, right?"
Bodhi nods, his hand settling firmly against Cassian's arm. "Right. Look, if we just change things around here a little bit..."
They spend a little over an hour fiddling with plans for the proposed fence and defensive reinforcements. Cassian doesn't fight as much as Jyn expected him to, mainly just murmuring out agreements once she and Bodhi have come to an arrangement. Sweat continues to build up on his face despite the steadily falling temperature.
Maybe we made a mistake. It's not the first time Jyn's had the thought, but it's the first time she's really considered that it might be true. Maybe we should have let him stay with the Alliance.
Let them continue to use him despite the physical and psychological toll it's taken on him over the years. Let them send him back out on solo missions until he just didn't make it back. The war had been killing him, slowly but surely. Jyn's as convinced of that as she is of her own name. But it was also all he knew, and if taking him away from the military means burying the fire and hope that makes him Cassian...
"Cassian, are you all right?" Bodhi reaches up to touch Cassian's forehead, his expression showing the concern Jyn's feeling. "You don't seem to be running a fever, but you don't look good."
"I'm fine." Cassian's tone is clipped, brusque—he hates having to admit to weakness. "Nothing new or unusual."
"If you say so..." Bodhi's hand trails down Cassian's arm, his fingers lacing gently through Cassian's.
After a few hesitant seconds Cassian's shoulders relax, his hand holding tight to Bodhi's. "You both know how the storms affect me. That's all."
"If you're certain." Jyn puts her hand on Cassian's other arm, scooting her chair over so that she can lean her head against his shoulder.
"Everything was fine at my physical last month." Cassian's body relaxes, a slackening of muscles and welcoming of the physical contact that Jyn can feel even though she knows it wouldn't be visible.
No unexpected physical complications, Jyn corrects, but she knows better than to say that. They've all picked up scars over the years, and Cassian doesn't need any more reminders of what his life has been. "Perhaps we should leave this for tomorrow?"
After a brief hesitation Cassian nods. "I can go down to the temple tomorrow. See what Baze and Chirrut think."
"A good idea." Bodhi stands, the legs of his chair scraping against the floor. "To bed with us?"
Cassian doesn't fight them helping him up or helping him into bed. So long as something can be covered up as an act of tenderness, he doesn't mind, and Jyn likes having an excuse to undress him, to touch him, to give him the physical contact he so obviously craves.
She and Bodhi sandwich Cassian between them in the bed that night, hoping with their touch and warmth to keep the worst of the discomfort away.
It ends up being a fool's hope, but she's glad they tried anyway.
The ghosts come in his dreams, and just like the first time around, Cassian can't do anything to save them.
"Andor!" Tivik screams his name, clawing desperately at Cassian's chest. "What did you do, what did you—"
Cassian shoots him in the back. It's what he has to do. He's lived this moment time and time again, waking and sleeping, so that the horror has a kind of grayed-out, fog-seeped overlay to it. Now he turns and runs, before anyone comes to check on the bodies of the stormtroopers he killed, and—
Tivik's hands claw their way up Cassian's legs, one strong, one weak. Blood stains Tivik's teeth as he talks, spatters out to spray Cassian's shirt. "Andor, please, don't—"
Cassian shoots him again. There is a sense of fear to everything, now, an overlay of panic that makes his movements too sharp and fast. You overcorrect when you're nervous, K-2 told him any number of times, but he doesn't have to be completely accurate with these shots. Two blaster bolts lance out, and Cassian's silencer must have broken because they are loud, echoing in his ears—
Or perhaps that is just Tivik's voice, continuing to emit from a corpse that now only has half a head, begging Cassian to help him. Demanding Cassian help him, because Tivik's information saved the universe, and it wasn't his fault Cassian was late.
Cassian runs. It isn't the controlled ascent up the wall that his original escape had been. It's a panicked, desperate lunge away from the nightmare creature that keeps pawing at him. His hands and feet slip and slide, unable to keep purchase on the pipes that run alternately too hot and too cold, scalding and burning and freezing his exposed skin in equal measure.
Then he is over the wall, but he is not on the Ring of Kafrene anymore. He is on Scarif, white sand blowing hard against his face, and the person who has grabbed his hand and dragged him forward is Melshi.
"What are you doing, Andor?" Melshi smacks Cassian with the back of his hand, and though it isn't a hard strike it hurts, a thrumming pain that starts at his shoulder and seems to dive all the way to his heart. "We've done what you asked. Now get us out of here."
He would if he could. He's dreamed of so many different ways that Scarif could have gone. He could have died there with them, and that would have been right, maybe. That would have been enough to make up for everything. Or they could have saved more of them—could have had more insane U-wing pilots snatching survivors off the ground and making for hyperspace as quickly as they could.
The truth is that Cassian couldn't even save himself from Scarif. He managed to save Jyn—he kept himself going because she needed to succeed. But by the time Jyn led them down off the tower Cassian had barely been able to stand, let alone plan an extraction.
"You're useless, Andor." Melshi takes a step back, cradling his rifle close to his chest. There is something wrong with his skin. It is starting to melt, peeling off in little strips, and Cassian thinks he can see tiny flashes of planet-killer light as each small piece goes. "You know that, right? Maybe you did some good once. But you were compromised a long time ago, and now..."
Melshi's skin is gone, his muscles flaking away, but his expressions are still somehow readable, his voice completely unchanged. "What's your purpose, Andor? What's your point?"
Cassian takes a stumbling step back, shaking his head. Melshi was like him. Melshi should understand. They both chose to go to Scarif, for the same reasons, and if Cassian could have brought the others out alive—
"And if you don't have a purpose anymore..." The skeleton with his friend's voice and wearing the trappings of the rebellion steps forward, grinning jaw coming far too close to Cassian's face. "Then maybe it's time you started paying us back."
"What..." Cassian can't retreat anymore. There's nothing but open water at his back... or is that something else? It feels almost like the towering not-ice pillars of Chemvau, but he doesn't dare turn away to see. "What is it that you want?"
"What is it that you can give us, Cassian?" Melshi straightens up, and even his bones are flaking away now, his skull riddled with holes. "What have we always given? Life. Hope. Blood." Melshi's head tilts, and it looks like he's laughing but that could just be his jawbone falling off. "How much blood do you think it would take to pay off your debts?"
Something wraps around his ankle, spiny and sharp, and Cassian screams as he's jerked backwards. Saltwater fills his nostrils, his mouth, dips into injuries he wasn't aware of. Except he knows that's not right—Chemvau didn't have any salt in its water.
The saline taste fades away, though his skin doesn't stop stinging, and Cassian sets about trying to free his leg from the thorny tentacle wrapped around it. He has to get out of here. He has to report back to the Rebellion. He won't be able to save his team—he sacrificed one member of his team, trying to figure out how to survive.
Fingers latch onto his throat and Cassian chokes, his ankle jerking painfully as the thing in the water continues to tug at him. There aren't enough fingers on the hands wrapped around his throat. Only three digits to a hand. Janga. Trying to get back at him for leaving her to die here?
He can't breathe. He's being torn in half and he can't breathe and maybe he deserves this and—
Angry at him?
No. Not angry. Scared, and Cassian tries to draw a deep breath into his lungs. He can do this. He isn't underwater. He's in perfectly breathable air, and nothing is trying to tear him apart. Those are Bodhi's hands on his shoulder, Jyn's fingers against his wrist—checking a pulse?
"What..." Cassian coughs, sputtering as he tries to blink his eyes open and figure out what's going on.
"Cassian?" Bodhi's hands cup Cassian's cheeks, Bodhi's face suddenly far too close. "You're awake? Please tell me you're awake." Lips press hard against Cassian's forehead.
"If you give him a chance to answer hopefully he will." Jyn's voice is slightly calmer, but not by much.
"I'm..." It's hard to talk. Cassian's throat feels swollen, raw and chafed, as though he's been running or screaming. He can feel his hair plastered to his head with sweat, and his heart is pounding too-hard in his chest, as though this were a battlefield rather than their bedroom. "Fine."
Bodhi doesn't say anything, his eyes haunted, his hands stroking through Cassian's hair as though confirming that he's present.
Jyn slides her body to lie against Cassian's other side, one of her hands burying itself possessively in his hair, too. "You stopped breathing, Cassian. For almost two minutes."
"You've been having nightmares all night, but it would usually seem to get better if we nudged you." Bodhi's hand has trailed down Cassian's side to claim his fingers in a vice-grip. "But this last time... it looked like you were dying."
"Dreams don't... kill people." Breathing and talking shouldn't be so difficult.
"No, but..." Jyn's hand tightens in his hair, tugging almost painfully at his roots. "This wasn't normal."
Cassian forces himself to sit up, laying one hand on Jyn's knee as he does, keeping Bodhi's fingers locked tight with his. The world tilts alarmingly as he does, but by focusing on the sheet that's been kicked to the end of the bed he's able to get it to settle back down. (He's able to ignore the shapes moving at the corners of his vision. Melshi is dead. Tivik is dead. Janga is dead. (The list of the dead is so long, has been added to steadily year by year, and if they've decided he should join their ranks...))
"Cassian?" Jyn's hand releases his hair, sliding down to cup his face.
"Maybe we should call someone." Bodhi makes the suggestion to Jyn, his fingers white-knuckled where they grasp at Cassian. "I don't like this."
Cassian raises his eyes, smiling at Bodhi even as he shakes his head in negation. "I'm fine, really. Just... took a little to shake off the dream. Come on, now. This isn't the first time we've seen someone having night terrors."
Bodhi frowns. "You've never had night terrors before. Nightmares, yes, but this..."
Shrugging, Cassian gestures towards the window with his head, both hands occupied with his companions. "It was a bad storm. That's all."
"You scared us." Jyn's voice trembles slightly, a sign of anger or fear or, more commonly, both. Her fingers trail down to his chin, playing through his beard, turning his face so that he meets her eyes evenly. The trembling fades from her voice. "You scared yourself, didn't you?"
(He is seeing things that aren't there. It's normal with night terrors, he's heard—seeing monsters in the dark, waking covered in sweat, with a too-fast heartbeat. But it still takes all his strength not to scream as Janga leans in to sniff at Jyn's hair, her slit-pupiled eyes studying Cassian knowingly.)
"I'm fine." Cassian closes his eyes. If he can't see anything, he won't react to the things that he knows aren't real. "Just tired. I'm sorry to frighten you both. Come on, let's go back to sleep."
They don't argue with him. They trust him—though he can be stubborn, he knows better than to lie about his own capabilities or how badly he's hurt. They're taking him at his word.
He hopes he isn't betraying that trust.
(Should we kill them instead, Andor? The words are a sibilant hiss, belonging to a pilot who's been dead for sixteen years. You were always good at sacrificing others in your stead...)
Jyn and Bodhi curl up around him again, as they had when they first bedded down for the night. Jyn pets him, gentle strokes of her fingers through his hair, along her side of his face, down his chest—Jyn is almost as much of a glutton for physical contact as he is, and it shows more when she's upset. Bodhi moves less, but he presses himself tight against Cassian's side, and his breath forms a steady cadence against Cassian's chest.
Cassian keeps his breathing even, his body still, trying to ignore what's said by any whispers that aren't in Jyn or Bodhi's voices. Nothing else is real except those two. Jyn falls asleep after about ten minutes—she, like him, learned early to take her sleep where she can, when she can. Bodhi is awake for maybe twenty minutes, the occasional twitch and shift of his body and hitch to his breathing giving him away, but eventually he too sleeps.
Cassian doesn't. He's not sure if he wants to, and instead of giving into the dreams that claw at him he drifts in gray darkness, trying not to listen to the whispers that grate louder and louder against his ears.
It means he doesn't wake the others again, and that's enough of a victory for the night.
Bodhi makes breakfast for his lovers.
It's something he likes to do—taking care of the others. He'd been surprised to find that Cassian's actually a fairly talented cook, and Jyn can make most things at least edible. Bodhi's the one who seems to enjoy cooking the most, though, especially in the morning.
Cassian is out of bed shortly after he is. It's not that unusual, though Cassian is often a little slower the day after a storm has come through, all his old injuries aching again.
He's definitely slower today, as well as just... jumpier than normal. His eyes seem to flick again and again to things that Bodhi can't see, and he sits in a shoulders-hunched, defensive posture when he finally settles down at the table.
Something dark trickles down the line of Cassian's jaw, and Bodhi frowns, watching it, until a tiny crimson ball drips down onto the table. Abandoning the cakes he was making on an unlit part of the stove, Bodhi grabs a towel and moves to Cassian's side. "You're bleeding."
Cassian blinks at him as though he has two heads, then lifts a hand to gingerly touch the side of his face that's oozing. "Must have cut myself when I was trimming my beard."
Pressing the towel gently against the injury, Bodhi makes a sympathetic noise in the back of his throat. Cassian's hand rises a few seconds later, replacing Bodhi's, and Bodhi watches the way Cassian's fingers shake minutely. He's still sweating more than usual, too, and he has his blaster holster and utility knife both attached to his belt—sure signs that he feels vulnerable or ill. "This last storm was worse than usual, huh?"
Cassian shrugs, his gaze dropping down to the tabletop. "You should rescue breakfast."
Jyn's arms wrap around Cassian's shoulders from behind. "He will, but that's not going to stop us from fussing over you."
Smiling broadly, Bodhi returns to his cooking. "She's right. I think we've all gotten very good at multitasking, especially when it involves taking care of stubborn teammates."
Cassian actually smiles a bit at that. "I'm feeling better than last night. I'm sure in a few hours I'll be back to normal."
"And until then, we get to coddle you." Jyn plops down into a chair next to Cassian, scooting it closer so she can lean against him. "Or Bodhi gets to coddle both of us, because the two of you are far too fond of seeing the suns rise."
"It's an absolutely terrible thing to watch beauty being painted across the sky." The dry humor in Cassian's voice sounds more like him than most of what he's said in the last twenty-four hours, and Bodhi finds himself relaxing a little bit.
Maybe last night really was just a result of the storm.
Maybe, for once, everything truly is going to be all right.
The ghosts become less tangible the brighter and hotter the day gets.
Which means whatever's wrong inside his head is hopefully fixing itself, because Cassian doesn't want to have to go explain to a medic exactly what's going on.
I'm seeing the ghosts of people I helped kill during the rebellion. Cassian's lip twists as he imagines having to explain. No, sir, not stormtroopers and the like. Our people that I let die. I was an intelligence officer, you see, and sometimes the intelligence was more important than the officers.
Sometimes you did what you had to do, right? Tivik's ghost flickers on the path next to Cassian, the man seeming to gaze in wonder at the temple rising up before them. Because you would be much better suited to escaping and surviving torture than those you eliminated.
"I always tried to get everyone out." Cassian knows he shouldn't talk to the ghosts. Talking to them acknowledges that they're there. Talking to them raises the very real possibility that he's going insane. "And I would have killed myself before letting any Imperial get information out of me."
Tivik is already gone, though, the path next to Cassian as empty as it should be.
Cassian's hand falls to where his blaster should be, though he had enough sense to leave it at home before he came down to see Chirrut and Baze. With his mind playing tricks on him, he doesn't trust himself to carry a weapon like that into a place that's supposed to be peaceful. The weight of the holster on his hip and thigh is still comforting, though, and he had let himself keep the knife on the other side of his belt.
All he's going to do is talk to his old friends. To his teammates. To the people who have had his back for over six years. He shouldn't be this jumpy and nervous.
He shouldn't be this out of breath, and maybe Bodhi was right. Maybe he should go see a medic and see if there's something physically wrong with him.
After he sees the others, though. After he has a chance to talk to them about the perimeter fence. If there is something wrong with him, it'll be more imperative than ever that the others are able to protect themselves.
He hears someone laughing off to the right and turns to look, but the ghosts' images shred away in the bright light of the steadily-climbing suns.
Turning resolutely towards the temple entrance, Cassian wipes a hand across his brow. If the Force is real—and he's seen enough over the years of the war to start to accept that it probably is—then he prays it will give him the strength to complete this mission before anything else goes wrong.
There's a different cadence to Baze's steps for the last three days, a different pattern to his breathing, and Chirrut is determined to find out why.
Baze seems just as determined to keep him at arm's length during the day. Or, rather, more than arm's length, staying just far enough away to keep Chirrut from touching him. That gives Chirrut a good idea of what's going on, but he wants confirmation.
Which is why he's stalking his lover through the corridors of the temple, smiling pleasantly to those pilgrims who greet him. He knows Baze's patterns and routines, just as Baze knows his, and he's determined to get his answer today.
Trading out the candles in the prayer sanctuary and the Kyber's alcove is a tedious but important job. When they decide to take acolytes—and Chirrut thinks it will be time to have that discussion soon—it will almost certainly be passed on to them. For now, though, it is something that Baze likes to do. It's also a time when Baze can't just run away, not without looking like a fool or scattering bits of wax in his wake, and Chirrut is not above taking advantage of that.
The Kyber alcove isn't open to the public this early in the morning, but Chirrut is good at masking his footfalls, the stone of the temple floor already perfectly familiar to his feet.
The sigh that Baze gives when Chirrut wraps his arms around the bigger man makes it clear that he hadn't been stealthy enough, though. Apparently Baze has decided to allow himself to be caught.
Turning Baze so that they're face to face, Chirrut trails his hands from Baze's neck down his chest, across his arms, a smile breaking across his face and tears that may be a bit ridiculous starting to prick at his eyes as he confirms his suspicions. "This is what you've been skulking about for?"
"It's nothing." Baze's voice is rough, his body turning slightly away from Chirrut with his uneasiness. "Just... an easy way to set ourselves apart from the pilgrims. To make it clear who belongs here."
"They're our robes." Both Chirrut's hands move up, trailing over Baze's face so that he can feel the minute shifts and nuances in expression. "You're wearing our robes again, Baze."
For several seconds silence reigns between them, and then Baze closes his eyes, exhaling deeply again. "Yes. Yes, I am."
Chirrut steps forward, shifting so that his arms can wrap around Baze's upper body and hold him tight. "Thank you. For letting me see."
Baze's hand rises to stroke the back of Chirrut's hair, and Chirrut can hear the fond smile in his voice. "I knew you'd get overly excited about it. But I also can't keep away from you forever. So."
"Stubborn as always." Chirrut leans up to press a kiss to the side of Baze's face.
"You have no right, ever, to call anyone else stubborn." Baze returns the kiss with a brief brush of his lips against Chirrut's. "Also you should let me finish so we can both return to our proper duties."
"I'm not stopping you from finishing." Chirrut releases his hold on Baze, though he stays close to the large man, occasionally reaching out to trail his fingers along the edge of Baze's robes.
Whether Baze wants to admit it or not, his taking up the robes again is a sign of healing. All the steps of their journey have been healing ones, honestly, for them or for those close to them, though sometimes the healing can be painful by itself. But it was much better for Baze to be a soldier than to be a mercenary; much better for Bodhi to fight than to turn a blind eye; much better for Jyn to find herself and her light rather than squandering it down in the darkness; much better for Cassian to have a team than to be the solitary moral spy, sacrificing himself piece by piece for a cause that almost deserved it.
They all still have healing left to do—Chirrut included, if he's honest with himself. The Force will never let the galaxy truly fall into darkness, but there are still fears, angers, and old injuries to deal with. Baze isn't the only one who wakes in the night worried that this, too, will be wrenched away from them.
But maybe, if things keep on as they are... maybe everyone will have a chance to finish healing before the galaxy needs them again.
"You're being suspiciously quiet." Baze's rumbling voice cuts through the quiet hum of the Kyber as they sing to themselves.
"What more is there to say?" Chirrut leans against Baze's shoulder. "We've come home. And I am very glad of it."
Baze gives a soft little grunt, and his arms wrap around Chirrut, holding tight. Chirrut leans into the embrace, relaxing and giving a quiet sigh of his own. Of all the places in the universe, he couldn't think of anywhere he would rather be.
After a minute or two Baze pulls away, straightening Chirrut's robes as he does. "I'm done here, and we should really go back."
"If we must be reasonable and responsible." Chirrut smiles as he gestures for Baze to lead the way back to the temple proper.
It isn't a group of pilgrims who greets them when they emerge from the Kyber chamber, and Chirrut finds himself pausing, drawing in a sharp breath of astonishment.
Baze also freezes, a low growl emitting from his chest.
"Good to see you again, too." Cassian's voice is cheerful, but Chirrut thinks he hears strain beneath the man's usual accent.
There is something... off about Cassian's aura. As soon as Chirrut hears the strain in the man's voice he reaches out with all his senses, hoping to get a better idea of what's going on. There is no darkness flowing around him, no sense that Cassian has been asked to do something unpleasant again by those who should really know better by now. But there is something wrong with him. Usually Cassian registers in the Force as a tight ball of fierce energy, always confined deep within his skin, guarded from the outside world; now that energy is diffuse, patchy and roiling, wisping out beyond the confines of Cassian to blend into the background hum of life that forms the universe.
"My dear captain." Chirrut takes a step closer to Cassian, his concern overriding caution.
Cassian takes a step to the side, away from Chirrut's advance though without retreating. "Do the two of you have a moment to talk about something relevant to the Temple?"
Baze's hand falls on Chirrut's shoulder, holding him in place. "Our quarters acceptable?"
"Perfect." There's a brief eddy of the air currents that is probably Cassian gesturing for them to precede him.
Chirrut is silent until they've reached their quarters. Cassian won't appreciate any weaknesses being pointed out where others may hear. And if Baze is being quiet about it, perhaps—
"Cassian, you look like crap." Baze's words follow immediately on the sound of the door clicking closed.
"I'm fine. Just the storm." Annoyance tinges Cassian's voice—or perhaps that's fear? "I just want to talk to the two of you about a potential... fence. To separate the farm and the temple, make it clear where their boundaries are."
"Not everything needs clear boundaries." Chirrut speaks gently, trying to ease his way closer to Cassian, so that he can pick up more of the man's movement and general state of being. What could possibly have caused such a sudden and drastic shift in how Cassian's being interacts with the rest of the universe? Is it something physical, mental, spiritual—
"Some things need clear boundaries. Say things you want to protect." There's the sound of something being pulled from a pocket—a datapad, from the soft buzz of technology that follows. "Like Kyber crystals that have been entrusted to your care."
Chirrut frowns, feeling the increased tension from Baze immediately. Really, Captain, just because you're hurting doesn't mean you have to make others hurt.
Cassian takes a shuffling step backward. His voice is raspy and far too weak for Chirrut's liking when he speaks again. "I didn't mean... it's just an idea. I showed it to Jyn and Bodhi yesterday. But if no one likes it, it's fine."
Chirrut's heart is beating too quickly in his chest. Is this the first time he's felt fear since they came to this planet? No, that can't be right. It's the first time he's felt fear like this, though—the kind of visceral fear that tends to accompany the battlefield. This isn't like Cassian. Chirrut has come to know the man's quirks and tendencies over the years. Cassian doesn't just back down from a confrontation. He doesn't abandon ideas easily—not ones that he's worked to come up with himself.
"Let me see it." The scuff of robes against the floor, and Baze steps forward and then retreats back to Chirrut's side. He spends a few minutes studying the datapad, and Chirrut almost reaches up to touch Baze's face, to better read his reactions.
"It's not a bad idea." Another shuffle of fabric, and presumably the datapad is handed back. "I'll explain it to Chirrut later, but I imagine the two of us would support the project."
Chirrut frowns. He's really not sure he likes the idea of fencing off the temple, or of Baze giving permission for him before they've had a chance to talk. Though if this is a ruse to calm Cassian down, to get him to admit to whatever's troubling him...
"I'm glad you came to talk to us about it." Baze pauses. "Especially after the storm last night."
"It... wasn't a very pleasant night. But I am feeling better now than I did overnight." Some of the tension has faded from Cassian's voice. "I just got a little out of breath on the way over, that's all."
Both Chirrut's eyebrows rise. Cassian has kept himself in remarkable shape even after their discharge from the New Republic military proper. For him to be out of breath after just the walk from the farm to the temple speaks volumes for how poorly he must be feeling.
"If you like the idea, though, I can work more on it. See about getting a proper estimate, an idea of materials needed..." There's an almost cheerful note to Cassian's voice as he recounts the steps he'll need to take to enact his plan. The man always has needed a plan and a purpose, even if it's something as simple as building a fence, and Chirrut finds it much more pleasant than the uncertainty and hesitance that had been in the captain's voice before.
"Captain." Chirrut breaks into Cassian's litany of steps to be taken. "You know you can talk to us. About anything. Right?"
"Colonel." Cassian's tone is all crisp efficiency, and when Chirrut reaches out to try to sense his presence in the Force he finds that Cassian has started to collect himself, the wispy tendrils pulling back in to bank a more normal and proper fire. "I do know that I can trust you, though how well you'll listen to what I tell you is another matter."
"They gave you the rank of colonel because you deserved a better stipend for your service than what you would have gotten. But you are, at heart, a captain. You are one who does best leading a small group of people in the field, not directing squadrons from afar who must, for sheer practicality's sake, be reduced to simple numbers." Chirrut closes the distance between himself and Cassian before Baze can stop him, placing a hand on Cassian's shoulder. The man isn't feverish, and the cadence and depth of his breathing under Chirrut's fingertips is closer to normal than Chirrut had feared it would be. "And Rogue One still needs her captain."
There's a beat of silence, and then Cassian's hand covers Chirrut's. "I appreciate the sentiment. I really do. But I'm doing better. I promise. If things worsen again, I'll... go see a physician."
Chirrut allows his hand to fall to his side. "Acceptable. Go in peace and with the strength of the Force behind you, Cassian."
"You two try not to get mugged or murdered by your pilgrims." There's the dull thud of a fist against flesh, undoubtedly Cassian giving Baze's shoulder a light punch. "I'll see you later."
Baze's soft words of affirmation almost aren't audible, and Chirrut listens to Cassian's retreating footsteps.
"I'm thinking..." Baze's arms wrap around Chirrut, pulling him into a tight embrace. "We contact the others, make sure they keep an eye on him."
"I concur. Though I think perhaps we contact Kaytoo." Chirrut leans into the embrace. "He's had the longest acquaintance with Cassian. He might know more about what's going on." Though there is something almost familiar about the changes there had been in Cassian's aura, something dancing just at the edge of Chirrut's recollection... something he can't recall.
"I'll go do that, then." Baze's arms fall away.
"And then you'll explain to me this idea about fences?" Chirrut follows Baze out into the hallway.
Baze gives no sign of having heard him.
"Baze." Chirrut walks a bit faster to keep up with the longer-legged man.
"You'll try to say no, and I like the idea." There's something almost petulant in Baze's tone.
Chirrut sighs, suspecting that it's going to be a long day for everyone.
Cassian wends his way back through the temple corridors, glad to have just the barest flicker of ghost movement at the corners of his vision. He is getting better. This is just a worse-than-average reaction to the storms, nothing for everyone to get so upset about.
Cassian turns at the unexpected female voice. One of the pilgrims is approaching him—a young woman who looks vaguely familiar, but Cassian's head is still too fogged to allow him to pull up exactly why. He debates correcting his rank, but given Chirrut's hold on the temple it's usually a losing battle, and he decides it's not one he wants to engage in today. "Can I help you?"
The woman holds out the tray she's carrying, displaying a collection of small teacups. "Refreshment for the road?"
Cassian hesitates for just a moment before taking one of the little cups and sipping at it gingerly. It's actually quite good—some kind of sweet fruit taste predominates, though with a bitter aftertaste that suggests it may have been steeped a bit too long. "Thank you."
"Not at all." The woman smiles. "Feel free to indulge yourself. I hear the suns can get quite oppressive at certain times of day."
After another moment's thought Cassian takes a second glass, draining it in a few quick gulps. Is he usually this thirsty? Well, being ill does tend to have that effect, and as much as he might hate to admit it the storms do make him ill.
When he goes to put down his second cup, his fingers bump into a third, and before he really intends to he's downed that as well.
Too much hydration can be almost as bad as too little when one has to walk, so Cassian forces himself to stop there, inclining his head to the woman. "Thank you for your kindness and hospitality."
"I am only repaying you and yours for what you've done." The woman smiles again, and there's something achingly familiar about it.
He can't remember. He should be able to remember why that smile seems familiar—though maybe not quite right, not quite the right face—but he can't.
Muttering out another thanks, Cassian ducks away from the woman, heading as quickly as he can for the door and the fresh air outside. Hopefully the walk home will help clear the rest of the cobwebs from his thoughts.
The communication's console is in their room, so after ensuring Chirrut is once more comfortably mired in the flow of pilgrims Baze returns to send a quick message. He's not sure which of the farm's residents he'll reach, and relaxes a little bit when K-2SO is the one to answer the call. Everyone in Rogue One has become close over the years—multiple near-death experiences tend to have that effect, at least when everyone in the group is also a decent person—but Cassian and K-2 retain a special relationship.
"Baze Malbus." K-2's eyes are fixed on the display. "To what do I owe the pleasure? Is the temple on fire?"
"No, but your master looks like he has been." Baze frowns. "Have you noticed anything off about Cassian lately?"
K-2 straightens, the silence stretching out for just slightly longer than normal. "I last spoke with Cassian at lunch yesterday. Are you saying there's something bothering him other than his usual reaction to the storms?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's just a severe reaction to the storm." A shrug doesn't manage to dismiss the worry twining in Baze's chest. "But he was out of breath after walking from the farm to here. Sweating more than he should be. And he seemed... off. Wary and concerned about something, though he wouldn't say what, and... just not quite acting like Cassian."
"Is he on his way back home or staying there?" K-2 has straightened completely, leaving his head out of the image.
"He left about four minutes ago. Said he would be fine walking back, but it might not be a bad idea to make sure he gets there in one piece." Baze sighs. "Again, I hope we're blowing this all out of proportion. I hope he's fine. But Chirrut and I would rather be overly cautious in this case than have something happen."
"You concern is noted. I will pass it along to Cassian." Without further comment or question the droid cuts the transmission.
Baze supposes he can't blame K-2. The droid tends to be blunt and direct, and they'd exchanged the information they needed to exchange. Besides, K-2 is probably heading out now to meet Cassian on the road home, and that's really right where Baze wants him to be.
Exiting their quarters, Baze practically trips over one of the young pilgrims. The woman scrambles away, and the look on her face causes something to freeze cold in the center of Baze's chest. He's seen that look before. She's doing something that she knows could get her in trouble—is scared of what might happen, though also furious at being found out.
The expression disappears almost before Baze can ascertain he's seen what he thinks he has, and the young woman holds out a tray half-filled with small cups. "Refreshment for you, master?"
"We're not masters." Baze growls out the words. "Or at least I'm not."
"Ah, quite right." The young woman bows her head in contrition. "My apologies, brother."
Baze doesn't really like being called a brother, either, but it's at least better than master. He reaches out to touch one of the teacups, then shakes his head. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm fine. Could you remind me of your name, traveler?"
"Wynn. Sir." The young woman's gaze drops to the ground.
Baze probably should have remembered that. This woman has been staying at the temple for over a week now, if he's remembering correctly. "Well then. Thank you, Wynn."
Bowing low, Wynn takes her tray of drinks and retreats back toward the temple kitchen.
Baze watches her go, wondering exactly what's going on here and if there's a reason for the hackles-raised feeling that only seems to be increasing in intensity as the day goes on.
The first quarter of the journey home is actually quite pleasant. Cassian feels more aware, more present, than he thinks he has in a long time. The sky is beautiful, arcing up above him; the plants, green and blue and purple, seem to sparkle in the light of the suns. Edges seem sharper, clearer, more real, and he revels in the feeling of being connected to this world that his family has decided to call home.
Then his collar starts to feel too tight, though he knows it shouldn't. The colors that had seemed so pleasant seem too bright, hurting his eyes, causing pain to begin pulsing in each temple. It feels as though he could cut himself on every object that catches his eye, from a blade of grass to a stone on the path, but closing his eyes to walk is just asking for trouble.
Unbuttoning and opening his shirt collar doesn't make the tightness of his throat fade at all. Sweat is starting to pour down his face again, to slide along his back and sides, though he knows that it isn't really that warm yet.
He can't breathe.
It's a stupid thought. He's fine, on perfectly dry land, on his own land. He's walked this path a thousand times.
He can't breathe.
His chest aches with the need to breathe, his ribs protesting where he's broken them before, but nothing he does seems able to bring enough air into his lungs. Is he choking on something? Coughing requires an ability to breathe that he doesn't have, and—
(You owe me, Cassian Andor. He remembers the voice though he doesn't remember the name. How long has she been dead? A dozen years? Did he kill her, or did he just leave her behind? He can't remember, just like he can't breathe, but he recognizes the feel of fingers around his throat.)
Something is wrong. Something is really, horrifyingly wrong with him, and he needs help.
His vision, so clear and sharp a moment ago, is now blurred beyond the ability to recognize shapes. Red and black phantasms dance at the edge of his sight—real, or products of suffocation?
He has a portable comm unit on his wrist. He always carries it. It isn't strong, and it can only be tuned to one frequency at a time, but it doesn't have to be more than that. All it has to do is connect him to the temple or the farm.
There is something hard against his side. Has he fallen down?
He can't breathe.
He can't breathe, which means he can't speak, and—
He recognizes the droid's voice, though he can't make out K-2's features. All he sees is a vague impression of glowing eyes, a smear of golden light that is clearer than the suns.
The fingers wrapped around his throat grip tighter, and Cassian wheezes, a bare whistling sound as he scratches to remove an obstacle that isn't there.
"You appear to be in distress, Cassian. Your heart rate is approximately three times average and your respiration seems greatly impaired." The droid lifts him, a disorienting blur of colors across Cassian's vision, and sets him gently down somewhere. "Let me see if this will assist you."
K-2's cold fingers wrench Cassian's shirt further down, baring his right shoulder. There's the brief hiss of medicinal deployment, the familiar sharp stinging sensation of a field concoction for shock permeating his shoulder. Cassian allows his eyes to close, counting to ten—well, more or less ten. He's not sure he actually gets all the numbers in the right order, but by the time he's decided it's been about a ten count he finds that he can breathe again.
"Cassian?" K-2's hand pushes Cassian's hair back—holds Cassian's head up, Cassian realizes, his body having slouched down. "Cassian, can you hear me?"
"I... hear you... just fine." His chest still hurts, but if he didn't remember the terror that had gripped him a moment ago Cassian wouldn't believe it had been real. "Thank you, Kay. I owe you again."
"What happened?" K-2SO's optics scan up and down Cassian's body. "Your autonomic nervous system seems to be stabilizing, but what injury caused you to destabilize in the first place? This is supposed to be a safe place."
"It is. I'm..." Cassian stops himself from saying he's fine. His heart is fluttering butterfly-fast in his chest, the medications that opened his airway not doing anything to help slow that down. "Actually, I think... I need a medic."
"That's where I was taking you, whether you wanted to go or not." They are apparently sitting in a speeder, and K-2SO manages to cram himself down awkwardly into the driver's seat, starting it up. "I am deeply concerned for you, Cassian. I don't understand why you're having these malfunctions."
"Me either, Kaytoo." Cassian settles himself back a bit more comfortably in his seat, allowing his eyes to close. "Me either."
"Tell me again about these symptoms you've been having while the analyzer does its job." The doctor—a native male who goes by Cartan—smiles at Cassian as he inserts the little vial of Cassian's blood into the circular droid that's going to process it.
I'm going insane. The words stick in Cassian's throat as he watches the ghosts that prowl through the physician's office. They have grown in number and clarity in the hour and a half during which K-2SO drove them down here, they waited in the office, and Cassian was given a quick physical.
"It's all right, Cassian." Melshi pats him on the shoulder, and at least the other soldier's skin is staying on his body this time. "Tell him what's happening."
"Yeah, sure." Emola gives a bubbling snort, the hermaphrodite's tentacles waving. "Tell him you're crazy. Tell him the dead have come to claim you. That won't go over poorly."
"Dangerous. It's dangerous." Cassian doesn't remember the woman's name, but her rough, broken voice is terribly familiar, calls up images of an Imperial prison and a blaster in his hand. He did what he could—set her free in the only way he knew how, protecting Alliance secrets in the process. "Know too much. If you know too much they lock you up, make you disappear, drown you to keep the secrets in your head..."
He doesn't know anything like that. Sure, a great number of his missions have been classified, both before and during the war, but nothing that vital. Nothing that would require he be shut down before he give away state secrets. Nothing that would require them to take him away from Rogue One, even if he is broken.
"Because you're so much good to your team like this." Janga's fingers trail along his neck, and Cassian shivers. "Because they should get a chance to see you as the monster you are before we claim you."
"Colonel Andor?" Cartan's voice is concerned as he gently says Cassian's name, drawing Cassian's attention back to the living in the room.
"It..." Cassian forces himself to speak plainly, calmly, as he would when making a debriefing report. "Started yesterday. I assumed it was part of my usual reaction to the storms. I was sweating. Uncomfortable. Then last night I think I had a night terror."
Cartan flicks a finger along the datapad in his hand, looking through Cassian's chart. "I don't believe you've ever reported having night terrors before."
"I haven't. It was..." Cassian runs his tongue over dry lips. "I'm sorry, could I have a drink?"
"Of course." Hurrying to the other side of the room, Cartan fills a large thermos, coming over to Cassian's side and pressing it into his hands. "You're mildly dehydrated, so drink as much as you feel you can handle."
A few sips of the cool water help Cassian feel a bit more in control of the situation, though Janga mocks him mercilessly the entire time. "It was like a nightmare, but... it felt more real. Jyn was concerned that I was having difficulty breathing when they woke me up. And I... kept seeing some of the things from my dream for a little while after it ended."
"Hm." Again Cartan's hand flicks through Cassian's chart. "We still haven't determined what causes you to feel so ill following the storms. It has to be an allergy to something stirred up by the winds and rains. That's the only thing that fits the pattern, though I still haven't been able to determine what. Negative for reactions to any of the plants... perhaps a mold? I'll see if we've got enough of a sample to do some additional tests." Cartan lifts his eyes again, giving Cassian what's probably supposed to be an encouraging smile. "That sounds like a frightening evening, and does indeed fit the definition of a night terror. And afterward? Today?"
"Today... I seemed to be doing better. I walked down to the temple, and on the way back..." Cassian's right hand rises to his throat. "I felt like I couldn't breathe. I collapsed, and that's when K-2 found me and brought me here."
"Scans show signs of inflammation in your lungs and throat. A fairly classic asthmatic reaction." Cartan stands, moving to the little droid that had swallowed Cassian's blood. "Preliminaries on this look good. No signs of infection, organ function all looks good..." Cartan turns back to Cassian. "I'm going to prescribe you an inhaler as well as some less potent injections that should open your airways if you're having a crisis situation again. As for the night terrors... from what I've been able to access of your service record, Colonel Andor, you had a very long and distinguished career. Such a career, in an organization like the New Republic military..."
Like the rebellion, but Cassian isn't going to correct him. The more people think of the New Republic as the government—not the new government, but just the government—the faster it will gain followers and authority. It was a trick Palpatine used to help bolster and spread the Empire, but that doesn't mean it's a trick without meaning or merit.
"That can leave... let's say scars." Cartan glances back down at Cassian's file. "I see you've turned down referrals for counseling before."
"Things have been going well." Cassian shrugs. "Being out of the war shouldn't be stressful. I have a home, a family..."
"A wife and husband, yes?" Cartan nods, eyes once more on Cassian's chart. "As well as a close affiliation with the Temple and its Guardians. Have there been any recent... changes? Illnesses, fights... pregnancies?"
Janga bursts out laughing; Melshi slaps Cassian on the back, chuckling low in his throat; Tivik devolves into high-pitched little giggles. Several of the other ghosts react, too, but Cassian is too busy staring in shock at Cartan. He can still barely wrap his mind around the idea of them having a farm, let alone them having children. Does Jyn even want children?
"I'll take that as a no, then. Or at least nothing you're aware of."
Cassian can't keep the horror from his face at the idea of Jyn being pregnant and not telling him.
Cartan makes a palms-down gesture with his hands that is likely supposed to be comforting. "They're just suggestions of things that can exacerbate PTSD. Though certainly the simple fact of not being able to breathe, for someone who has been in multiple life and death situations, could be enough to explain the night terror."
"So you're saying..." Cassian very pointedly keeps his gaze from fanning out over the ghosts that cover the exam room. "I'm healthy?"
"I'm saying there's something on this planet that strongly disagrees with you, and I'm going to be devoting a good deal more time to figuring out exactly what it is, because this allergy seems to have given you a sudden and bad case of asthma." Cartan smiles. "But otherwise, yes. You are your usual healthy thirty-two-year-old self."
He needs to admit that he's still hallucinating. He needs to tell this man that it wasn't simply a night terror, that there is something fundamentally broken in his brain right now, that the living and the dead have become interchangeable.
"Tell him." Janga is kneeling in front of him, her mouth open in a vicious sneer. "I want to see them lock you away. I want to watch them strip the secrets from your mind and the life from your eyes."
That's not how the New Republic works. They take care of their veterans—especially their highly decorated ones, like Rogue One. They would never just try to make him disappear. Jyn and Bodhi and the others wouldn't let them.
"They'll be as gentle as they can afford to be." Melshi ruffles Cassian's hair, his expression melancholic. "But we always do what's best for the Alliance, right? What's needed to save the universe?"
Cassian bows his head, his fingers clenching on the edge of his seat. He has given most of his life to the rebellion. Is it necessary to give up his chance at happiness—no, not his, Jyn's? She's wanted this for years. Her hope since Scarif has been to finally do what Galen Erso wanted her to do—find somewhere safe, and happy, and have a family. She couldn't do it until the universe was safe, because if the Empire's flag flew anywhere then there was no permanence, no peace, no true safety, but he knows she yearned for it anyway.
"Tell him. Tell them all." The woman he was tasked to kill in the Imperial prison crawls towards him, her eyes crying blood. "Tell them and let them choose for you. No choice. No decision. Just a blaster to your head and—"
"I'm glad. It's a relief." Cassian lifts his head, smiling his spy's calm smile at Cartan. "To hear that I'm healthy. The others will be glad to hear it, too."
Maybe if he just ignores the ghosts, doesn't interact with them, they'll go away again. He's healthy, right? There's nothing wrong with him, and he's always been able to handle whatever the universe threw at him alone.
Or... maybe not alone for the last six years, but without the need of medical intervention.
"All right. I'll get you a bag of medication to go home. I'd recommend taking it easy for at least two or three days, giving your lungs a chance to heal. If anything changes, you give us a call right away." Cartan stands, smiling at Cassian. "Acceptable?"
Cassian nods, standing and holding out his hand. "Acceptable. Thank you."
He'll let K-2SO drive him home, so that there isn't any chance of his swerving due to ghosts and getting into a crash. Then he'll see how things change. If he's still seeing ghosts in a few hours... if things don't change for the better... then he can tell Jyn and Bodhi, and they can decide what to do together.
That's better than Cassian making decisions about what to do when he can't think straight.
K-2SO keeps the others updated on Cassian's condition as information becomes available. Both Jyn and Bodhi had volunteered to come down to the med center with them, but K-2 had told them it wasn't necessary. Cassian doesn't like having to show weakness, and since the doctor had assured him there was no immediate danger, K-2 felt it best if he continue to handle the situation.
"Asthma." K-2 gives his head a little shake. "Human biology is so fragile. To imagine that some microscopic particles in the air could cause you to malfunction so severely..."
Cassian isn't listening to him. Cassian's breathing is easier, at least, though K-2 can still hear an unusual raspiness when he stresses his auditory processors. The bag of medical equipment that the physician had provided is clutched tight to Cassian's chest, while his eyes seem determined to stay glued to the floor.
"Cassian." Setting a hand on Cassian's shoulder, K-2 tries to draw the man's attention. He's not used to seeing Cassian so distant or disconnected. The few times he can remember Cassian being like this were when he was under great physical and mental duress.
After far too many seconds Cassian gives his head a little shake and frowns up at K-2. "Would you drive me home, Kay?"
"Of course. I would not allow you to take control of a vehicle at the moment. I value my structural integrity and yours too much."
A tiny smile touches the corners of Cassian's mouth. "Good to hear it. Let's go home, then."
There's always a little skip before Cassian says home, as though the word still sits unfamiliar on his tongue. Or perhaps just as though the thought of himself having a home, a place to go back to that isn't their current rebel headquarters, is unthinkable.
K-2 considers taking the bag from Cassian, but given how Cassian's clutching it he decides the little bit of lessened effort Cassian will have walking won't be worth the fight. Instead he places a hand on Cassian's shoulder and guides him towards their speeder.
Cassian continues his quiet contemplation even once he's settled in his seat. Is that cause for alarm? The only other time K-2 can remember Cassian being quite this quiet was right before...
"You would tell me if you were experiencing enough distress to want..." K-2 blurts out the first half of the sentence and then finds himself unable to continue. They don't talk about what happened that day. K-2 had offered to have his memory erased; Cassian had said that it wasn't necessary; and they had both left it in the past. Except not too far in the past, because it had driven home to K-2 that no matter how strong his human creator was, Cassian had his breaking points. And it seemed there were very few people who noticed or cared when he was driven close to them.
That's not true now, of course. It hasn't been true for years. Jyn and Bodhi both take care of Cassian in their own way, and the Guardians seem to have adopted Rogue One as a stand-in for all the people they failed to guard in the past. But still... K-2 belongs to Cassian, and Cassian belongs to K-2.
For long, long seconds Cassian doesn't even seem to have noticed that K-2 said anything, which is somehow even more disturbing than his inward-drawn silence.
Then he blinks, gaze moving in a stuttering pattern to find K-2. "I would tell you if...?"
"If I am going to find you crying and staring into a blaster, I would like advanced notice." Sometimes K-2 wishes he had the same expression range as a human; at other times he's glad that most of his emotional communication has to be through his voice.
"Oh." Cassian should bristle. He should bite back that there's no reason for him to be that upset. He shouldn't hunch further down into himself, as though something K-2 said has hurt him. "I... don't think that's going to happen. It shouldn't, right? Things are going well. The farm's starting to produce in earnest. The Temple's gaining popularity by the day. Jyn and Bodhi..."
Cassian's eyes fix on something in the middle distance, and K-2 watches the human's breathing rate increase just the smallest fraction.
"K-2." When Cassian turns to face K-2SO, he is present in a way that K-2 doesn't think he has been since K-2 picked him up off the path. It should make K-2 feel better, but it doesn't. Cassian's accent is thick, his Basic just at the edge of comprehensibility—something K-2 has only seen before when Cassian is physically near death. "You would never let me be dangerous, right? You would stop me, if I were ever..."
The question is so unexpected that it takes K-2 three point four seconds to actually process it, trying to find if there are alternate interpretations to the words that make sense. When he finds none, he slowly answers the query that was posed. "You know seventy-two different ways to end humanoid life functions. The number is similar for almost all life-forms that we have encountered. You are inherently dangerous."
Cassian closes his eyes, both arms holding the medical bag as though it were a shield.
"But you are only dangerous when you have no other choice." K-2 drives just a little faster, wanting to get Cassian home and back with the people who seem to help ground him. Who know him, as K-2 knows him, and are sometimes better able than K-2 is to convince Cassian that he's a better man than he gives himself credit for. "You are dangerous in service to causes that deserve it. You kill to bring peace. You kill to bring justice. You do the difficult tasks so others don't have to."
A soft, hesitant sound is coming from Cassian, too high-pitched, K-2 thinks, for even Cassian to hear it. He stops after only three or four seconds, before K-2 has a chance to panic, and looks at K-2 once more. "I would never hurt them, right?"
"Jyn and Bodhi?" K-2 has never had this much trouble following a conversation with Cassian, and that disturbs him as much as the rest of it. "Sometimes I think the only thing that has kept you from placing their well-being above the well-being of the missions is that they, too, have a strong sense of duty."
The words were meant to be comforting, but Cassian doesn't look comforted. He looks like he's staring at something terrible, and K-2 is fairly certain he hears Cassian mutter out his native tongue's phrase for I'm sorry.
"Should I turn around, Cassian?" The physician had said that Cassian was suffering from asthma, mild dehydration, and exhaustion. K-2 has seen Cassian severely dehydrated, sleep deprived to the point of hallucinating, and attempting to function in climates that are inimical to human anatomy, and what he's seeing now doesn't seem to correlate with those experiences. "It's possible that the physician—"
"No. Please." Cassian reaches out to grip K-2's arm, holding tight. K-2 watches as his human carefully collects himself, drawing all his anguish and uncertainty down and away out of sight. "I want to go home, Kay. I want to see the others."
K-2 makes a considering sound. "Perhaps with sleep and—"
The movement is subtle, but Cassian definitely flinches at the word sleep.
"You need to sleep, Cassian. You said yourself that you weren't able to get much tonight, and it's part of the human recovery process."
"I know." Cassian nods. "I'll sleep. I promise. I just..."
K-2 accesses his memory banks. When he speaks he keeps his voice quiet. "Is it like Garibor?"
For the first time K-2 sees what might be actual signs of Cassian relaxing, his shoulders dipping down, his fingers loosening a bit on K-2's arm. "Yes. The nightmares... weren't pretty."
They never are, and K-2 is glad that he doesn't dream. "Sometimes I think it would be good if humans had an option to wipe their memories."
Both Cassian's eyebrows arch up. "You've never accepted a memory wipe."
"No. And I doubt you would, either. But to know that it's an option..." K-2 eases off the speed as they navigate a turn. "Perhaps it would make things easier."
"Some things shouldn't be easy." Cassian's accent is still thick, but he's leaning back into his seat cushion now, no longer seeming as though the world is weighing down on him.
"They aren't. But that doesn't mean you have to let them haunt you forever, either." K-2 is quiet, hoping the words will do some good. "How long have I been with you now, Cassian?"
"Over thirteen years." There's something like awe in Cassian's voice once he's done the math.
Thirteen years, two months, six days, and forty-nine minutes using standard galactic time, but Cassian is close enough. "How many of your missions have I been on?"
"If you still bear guilt for things we have done, then I bear guilt, as well. You never reprogrammed me after that first time or used a restraining bolt to force me to assist you." It's one of the reasons why K-2 loves Cassian... one of the reasons why when Jyn asked if K-2 wanted to muster out with them K-2 said yes. "You gave me choice. That means I bear as much burden of guilt as you do."
Shaking his head, Cassian offers K-2 a sad smile. "You didn't go on all my missions with me. You didn't—"
"You never ripped apart the programming of a fellow droid—someone who could very well be just like you—and then ensured he could never be reactivated again in order to gain information and hide your path."
Cassian frowns. "I ordered you to—"
"As you were ordered to complete unpleasant tasks." K-2 turns to look at Cassian, making sure the brightness on his optical output is at maximum. "We did so because the wrong we were doing was less than the horror that would arise if we did nothing. My hands are no cleaner than yours, Cassian, so if you're going to hate yourself or blame yourself, you have to blame me as well."
"It's..." Cassian's right hand rises, scrubbing across his face. "I'm trying, Kay. I just... something about these last two days has... thrown everything out of balance."
"You will find it again. I'll help you. The others will, too. At least as much as humans are able to obtain and share a sense of balance."
Cassian's smile is a little wider, a little more honest, and K-2 finally feels himself relaxing a little.
"I'll take you home, Cassian." K-2SO guns the speeder a little bit. "And we will continue to enjoy our retirement."
Cassian doesn't agree with him, but he doesn't argue either, and right now K-2 decides to take that as a victory.
"—we can come right by the house—"
"I'm doing all right, Jyn." Cassian smiles, studying Jyn's projection. She's beautiful even with her hair piled haphazardly on her head out of the way and dirt streaks down both cheeks. "And K-2 can keep me company until I'm asleep. Then when Bodhi's back from his run and you're done for the day we can all have dinner together."
It's not even a lie, really. He's doing... better at handling the ghosts now. They had been almost overwhelming for a few minutes when they were leaving the clinic and first getting into the speeder, but Cassian has found the more he focuses on K-2—on being right here, right now with the steady presence of his old friend—the less they bother him. Perhaps by the time Jyn and Bodhi are back he'll be perfectly normal and there won't even be anything to talk about.
"I'm sorry I'm not there." Bodhi is voice-only, the pilot making a supply run that Cassian had forgotten about. "I'll make sure to do something extra nice for you this evening, though. I knew a woman who had asthma once, and—"
"It's really not that big a deal. Cartan will figure out what caused it, we'll get it fixed up, and maybe I won't be made useless by every stupid storm that blows through." Cassian shares a smile with Jyn as he keeps Bodhi from wandering off on a nervous tangent.
"You're many things, Cassian Andor, but useless usually isn't one of them." The pilot who's currently pacing behind Cassian has half his skin burned away. "Arrogant, sanctimonious—"
K-2 places a glass of juice next to Cassian's arm, and Cassian drinks it gratefully.
The droid bends down so that he can be captured by the camera. "I will take good care of him, Jyn, Bodhi, and inform you immediately if there are any changes or updates."
"So that's all set." Cassian moves his hand towards the switch to disconnect the call. "I'll see you both for dinner. Stay safe until then."
"We're farming, Cassian. Unless the equipment turns into Stormtroopers all of a sudden, I think we're good."
Bodhi laughs along with Jyn, and Cassian flicks the switch, the sound of their mirth lingering in his ears.
K-2 is studying Cassian, and though Cassian knows it's silly he can't help but think there is something smug about K-2's expression. "What?"
K-2 straightens to his full height. "They care about you. It's endearing. Now, what else do you require before entering hibernation mode?"
"I don't..." Cassian knows better than to argue with K-2 when he's in this mood. "I'm good, thank you."
"Then lie down, and I will recite the newest bit of local history that I obtained while you rest."
Cassian pushes himself up from the comm station, eyeing the bed warily. "I'm not sure—"
K-2's hand propels him halfway across the room, and Cassian allows himself to be guided towards the bed. His body does need sleep. He can feel the grittiness in his eyes, the sluggishness in his physical responses that mean he's getting close to exhaustion. He shouldn't be this close to exhaustion, not after just one sleepless night, but a lack of oxygen probably doesn't help there.
It feels strange to curl up in bed during the day—to go to bed alone, after months of having Jyn and Bodhi with him.
He's not actually alone, though. K-2SO is already busy reciting his newest find. The droid seems to have made it a personal project of his to unearth the local history, which seems to be a combination of myth, legend, and absolutely ridiculous happenings. Cassian's not sure whether the stories are actually entertaining or whether it's just the way K-2 tells them, but he usually finds the tales soothing, and today is no exception.
With K-2 talking, it's harder to hear the ghosts. Cassian doesn't even need to focus on the words that K-2 is saying. Just the sound and shape, the familiarity of the droid's voice, help give him a life-line to hold on to.
K-2 can't stop the ghosts from touching Cassian, but as Cassian drifts closer to sleep the droid reaches out, trailing gentle fingers through Cassian's hair and across his shoulders. It's something that used to happen a fair amount when it was just K-2 and Cassian on missions, before Rogue One existed; it's not something that's happened nearly as often in the years since Scarif, but Cassian still finds his body relaxing at the familiar contact. It makes any other touches feel... less real. Less important.
"Sleep well, Cassian." K-2's voice drops to a deeper register as he whispers the words near Cassian's ear. "I'll watch over you while you do."
Cassian isn't quite conscious enough to answer in words, but he smiles and allows sleep to claim him, figuring that will tell K-2 all the droid needs to know.
Cassian's sleep is restless for the first two hours, but K-2 has experience dealing with that. He knows how to speak, keeping his voice serene, his inflections calm. It doesn't matter what he says, just that he says something, gives Cassian's mind something to focus on other than the memory loops that are attempting to overflow into something more dangerous. He knows how to touch Cassian—little brushes of his hands over Cassian's face, through his hair, against his shoulder. For a man who has had to be wary about getting close to others for most of his life, Cassian is a very tactile person. Thankfully even his subconscious mind seems to recognize certain touches—K-2SO's, Jyn's, Bodhi's, Chirrut's, Baze's—allowing them to be comforting rather than concerning even when he's sleeping.
It has been two years, four months, and twenty-eight days since K-2 stood vigil at Cassian's bedside while he attempted to recover. That had been the last mission that Cassian did solo—the last time he was called on to use his skills as spy and assassin to help stabilize the fledgling New Republic. Jyn hadn't been happy about him going, and instead of admitting to her how much the mission had cost him when he returned, Cassian had sequestered himself with K-2 for three days.
Things have changed so much for them. Repeatedly. There are several points that K-2 can isolate as trigger events—K-2's own creation, their first meeting with Jyn, the successful but at a terrible cost mission on Scarif, the battle of Endor, the battle of Jakku. The day they received authorization for retirement.
Some things won't ever change, though. K-2 won't let them change, not until he's irrevocably damaged. And given that Cassian managed to bring him back after Scarif, despite the damage Cassian's own body had taken, K-2 suspects it's going to be a long, long time before they're separated.
After the first two hours Cassian seems to settle into a calmer sleep. His breathing relaxes, the stridor and noise that had been a constant companion fading a bit. K-2SO continues to talk, not wanting the nightmares to find a new foothold, but he also finds himself casting about the small home for something else to occupy himself with.
Jyn calls four and a half hours after Cassian finally fell asleep. K-2 answers the call quickly, not wanting it to wake Cassian, but the human doesn't even stir.
"Jyn." There's a warning in K-2's voice.
"Kaytoo." Jyn lifts her chin, her eyes scanning over K-2's shoulder. "Is he... you actually got him to sleep?"
The surprise that's evident in Jyn's voice causes a certain smugness to rise up in K-2. "Of course I did. It was the recommended course of action from his physician."
"Yeah, but I didn't think..." Jyn's right eyebrow arches up. "You didn't drug him or hit him over the head, did you?"
"He is not the human I am most likely to use concussive force on."
A grin flashes across Jyn's face. "Fair point." The smile fades. "I need some help with the irrigation system. The AI and I seem to be at a bit of an impasse. I was going to ask you to come down, see if Cassian had gone stir-crazy enough from staring at the walls that the walk would do him some good, but if he's sleeping and you think it would be better for you to stay..."
K-2 considers the situation. "When is Bodhi likely to be home?"
"Given his usual ETA, ten or fifteen minutes." Jyn shrugs.
K-2 paces back to Cassian's side. The human hasn't moved at all, his breathing still steady and easy. Pacing back to the comm, he bends down to be captured properly by it again. "Given prior precedent, Cassian should continue to sleep at least that long. I will come assist you."
Jyn brushes at strands of hair that have come free to dangle around her face. "If you think it'll be all right..."
"I think if Cassian were awake he would be exasperated to hear me suggest he needs a guard at all times and tell me to go." K-2SO looks towards his sleeping human. "And he seems to have improved greatly with rest and an improved ability to exchange gasses. Really, humans are quite sensitive to so very many environmental disturbances—"
"I'll see you in a few minutes." Jyn is smiling as she cuts the comm link.
Pacing back to Cassian's side, K-2 ensures that Cassian is indeed still deeply asleep, resting comfortably in a nest of blankets and pillows.
Cassian will probably appreciate waking to Bodhi's arrival home more than he would K-2 disturbing him, so he just runs his fingers very gently through Cassian's hair once more and bids him to continue to have pleasant dreams.
A pleasant evening with Jyn and Bodhi later will hopefully help put to rest all of Cassian's remaining doubts and fears, which will in turn allow K-2 to relax.
Cassian wakes to someone's hand covering his nose and mouth.
He comes to swiftly, trying to lock his assailant's wrist and twist himself free, but his reaction times are slower than they should be. By the time he's managed to wrest his way to a decent handful of breaths, his vision is clouding out towards black and the Chagrian sitting on his chest is clearly delighted.
"Now, now." Other hands pull the Chagrian off him—Human hands, and Cassian pushes his back against the wall, giving himself a little protection as Melshi restrains his attacker. "Killing him like that isn't in the plan."
"Screw the plan." The Chagrian disentangles himself from Melshi's hold, straightening his clothes. "If I have a chance at revenge, I'm taking it."
Cassian's eyes scan over the house—their house, the place that is supposed to be safe, that belongs to him and Jyn and Bodhi and K-2 and by extension the rest of Rogue One. He can't see K-2 anywhere. He can't hear K-2 anywhere. All he can see and hear are ghosts... ghosts that are far too tangible, and Cassian lifts a hand to brush at where the Chagrian attempted to suffocate him.
"He owes us." Janga stands at the head of the bed, her arms crossed in front of her chest. "And we're going to get payment, one way or another."
"You do owe us, Cassian." Tivik is sitting calmly at the foot of the bed, studying Cassian with eyes that seem almost sympathetic.
"I didn't... I don't..." Cassian forces himself to just breathe evenly for a few seconds, trying to make his vision clear and his chest feel less tight. When he thinks he can control himself well enough, he focuses his eyes on Melshi. "You know why I did everything I've done."
Melshi gives a grave nod. "I do."
"We all do." Tivik reaches out to pat Cassian's knee. "But that still doesn't make it right, or fair."
The ghosts press in closer, a mass of bodies, some mutilated as they were after death, others looking perfectly normal, some switching between the two states. Cassian refuses to cower, straightening and staring out at them with the defiance he always showed when cornered. "So what is it that you want?"
Melshi shrugs. "It would have been all right, you know. If you went the way me and Tonc and the others did. Not necessarily at Scarif, but somewhere like it. People like us... we redeem ourselves by dying for the cause, just like the people that we killed for the cause."
"You dying like I did, scared, surrounded by the enemy... betrayed by either yourself or your contacts..." Tivik's eyes harden. "That would have been all right."
"But why should you get to live?" Janga jabs a finger towards Cassian's chest. "Why should you get to have a family? A home? A future? You don't get to do the things you've done and then walk away, Cassian Andor. It's not that simple."
One of the ghosts crawls up onto the bed, and Melshi doesn't stop her. Her face is familiar, though Cassian's not sure from where. Three holes in her chest and one on her leg drip blood down onto the bed, the familiar odor filling Cassian's nose. Her fingers trail over his wrist, her hand settling atop his.
At first Cassian doesn't understand what she's planning. If she's going to attack him, she's doing a terrible job of it.
Then her hand closes over his, tight and vice-grip strong. Despite his struggling to keep his hand from moving, she's able to lift it, turn it... guide it forward.
Bringing his other hand over, Cassian struggles for almost a minute to break her hold. When he finally succeeds, his wrist is bruised and bloody.
The woman settles back, smiling blandly, not even looking at Cassian.
"There are a couple camps here—a couple groups of thought." Melshi's tone is faintly apologetic. "Some want to just kill you. I get it, I guess. Some want to make you really hurt. Have you take a blaster or your knife and—"
"I understand." Cassian rubs at his still-throbbing wrist, imagining Jyn or Bodhi in the room while one of the ghosts controlled him. "You don't have to spell it out."
Melshi nods. "It's no one else we're bound to, though. Just you. So if someone's going to give payment for what happened... well, seems fair to me that it'll be just you. We're the third camp, and currently the biggest."
Cassian considers his options. Could he run from the ghosts? Is that even possible? And... does he want to? "What kind of payment did you have in mind?"
The fingers of Tivik's good hand toy with the blanket. "Lots of different options floated for that. But I think the one we decided on is best. We just want to be remembered. To have a little piece of life."
"Pick up your knife, Cassian." Melshi's tone is cold, authoritative, the voice of command. "If you're strong enough to do this right, no one else needs to die."
Moving to the edge of the bed, Cassian stands, trying to keep his feet steady beneath him. The ghosts part before him, forming a path first to where his weapons are and then to the kitchen table. When Cassian stumbles, they keep him upright, some more gently than others.
Unsheathing the blade, Cassian studies the way the light glints off it before turning back to the collection of dead surrounding him. "I give you what you want, you'll leave the rest of my team alone?"
"You're the one who owes us." Tivik is now towards the back of the crowd, not having forced his way through, but Cassian can hear him clearly. "We're not monsters."
"Once you've repaid your debt, you'll be free." The way Janga says the words and smiles makes it pretty clear she thinks he'll never repay his debt.
Fair. Cassian runs a hand through his hair—a little longer than he would keep it when they served, because Jyn likes stroking her fingers through it. He's sweating again, his breathing raspy in his throat. Is he thinking clearly? If he tried to wait, to fight them off, to get Jyn or Bodhi's opinion...
Except then the others might be in danger. Because of him. Because of who and what he is. Because he's a monster—a monster for good reasons, to save the universe, but still a monster.
Picking up the blade, Cassian turns expectantly to the first ghost, certain they'll tell him what exactly it is that they want.
Bodhi gets home about twenty minutes after he normally would.
Typically he wouldn't care. Typically a little bit of delay—a little bit of extra time in the air—would be something he would enjoy. The world that they've claimed as their home is beautiful, and Bodhi likes few things more than flying above it in a ship that doesn't contain weapons or other contraband.
One of the things he does like more than flying is currently waiting for him at home, though, so the wait grates. Still, better he be home safe in one piece, with the equipment and supplies they need. So though he rushes through checking his shuttle in and arranging transfer of the cargo, speaking faster and with less precision than he really should, he doesn't take his frustration out on any of the flight or docking attendants.
Then he's finally free and on his way home. A little smile flits across his face. Home. Not their bunk or their hangar or their unit, but home—the place that he and Jyn and Cassian are carving out as theirs. He's wanted this for years. More than Jyn, even. Jyn was used to a life of hiding and thievery and fighting; Bodhi had stumbled into it, just trying desperately to do what was right. For Jyn having a place to settle down is a dream, a way of honoring Galen and trying to show that neither the Empire or the Rebellion managed to break her; for Bodhi it's a return to how things are supposed to be. His six years as a soldier were something he will never regret or try to take back—when awful things are happening acting is responsibility, not a choice—but he's glad that they're over.
He's glad that he was able to take the best parts of those six years with him. Watching Jyn flail about attempting to be a civilian... watching the Temple rise up, a strange ghost of Jedha brought to life by the Guardians who still remember what his homeworld once was...
It's been hard on Cassian, Bodhi knows. Cassian never really knew a life other than fighting. The war had been hard on him, but sometimes Bodhi thinks peace is just as difficult, Cassian struggling to find his footing in a world that looks nothing like anything he's ever known. Those times Cassian had a sense of permanence and normalcy during the war were when he was on a mission deep into the heart of Imperial space. Is that why he's so jittery about it now, unable to settle down? Because all the times he's had a life somewhat like this it's been a lie, a shell to get in where he needed to be?
This time it's real, though. This time it's theirs, bought with years of service and blood. And Bodhi's going to help him settle into it no matter how long it takes.
Bodhi's going to enjoy helping him settle into it. It's not that civilian life doesn't have its own stresses. They're very different kinds of stresses, though. In the rebel army food was usually provided, though not always of the greatest quality; medical care was usually available and free. Now they've traded in the near-constant threat of death for worries about crop production, market prices, equipment longevity...
It's not so bad, though. Even if the farm fails to prosper, the Temple is doing fantastically, and Bodhi doubts that Chirrut and Baze would let them starve or go homeless. Coupled with the health care they get for being veterans... this might be the most stable and happy Bodhi's been in his life.
If they can just figure out what exactly it is about this planet that disagrees with Cassian so strongly, things will be just about perfect. At least it sounds like the doctors are making some forward progress on that finally.
Thoughts of Cassian cause Bodhi to jog the last half mile to their house. It's not really necessary. The last update from Jyn and K-2SO had said Cassian was sleeping soundly. Probably he'll still be sleeping when Bodhi gets home. Assuming he sleeps through Bodhi entering the house—which Bodhi gives a fifty-fifty chance to—Bodhi will be able to get started on cooking while he watches over his husband. Perhaps some kind of soup, to make it easier for Cassian to eat and digest...
The door creaks slightly as Bodhi eases it open, and he makes a mental note to have K-2SO make sure it doesn't need oiling or repair. Bodhi's eyes flick towards the bedroom, but a hint of movement at the table puts that hope to rest. Ah, well. It'll be good to have some time with Cassian, to talk and coddle him and—
The scent that had been registering in the back of Bodhi's mind as being wrong, as not belonging, finally snaps into focus as Bodhi takes a step closer to Cassian. Blood. Human blood. Freshly spilled, and it isn't a red shirt that Cassian's wearing. He's not wearing a shirt at all, and streaks of blood coat his entire upper body and both arms, more trickling down with every movement he makes.
Bodhi's eyes flick to the comm center, but he doesn't know how Cassian will react to him trying to reach it. He still has his wrist comm on, and he hastily activates that, holding his breath as it cycles through static to reach the frequency he needs. "Jyn. Kaytoo. I need—I need you at the house right now. There's something really, really wrong and I don't—I need you. Cassian needs you. Please. Teleporting would be wonderful, but if you can't manage that then—"
Cassian's head whips around, fever-bright eyes fixing on Bodhi. He says something in his native tongue, far too quickly for Bodhi to follow, though the urgency and fear in his words is obvious.
"I can't..." Bodhi allows his wrist to fall to his side, ignoring Jyn's frantic requests for more information. The top two centimeters of the knife in Cassian's hand is coated with blood. The more Bodhi studies Cassian's chest and stomach and arms, the clearer the wounds become. Words. Cassian has carved words into his own skin, covering virtually every available surface, and the words bleed red down his body. "I can't understand you. I'm sorry. I know you've been trying to teach me, and I have been trying to learn, but now's not the best time and—" Bodhi forces himself to breathe and return to what he really needs to say. "Can you... can you switch to Basic? Please?"
Cassian's eyes dart around the empty room, fixing hard on areas that seem perfectly normal to Bodhi. He gives his head a vicious shake, but when he speaks the words are at least in Basic, even if Cassian's accent is thick almost to the point of impenetrability. "Leave. You have to leave."
Bodhi shakes his head just as emphatically. "No. I'm not leaving you. You're hurt, Cassian." You've hurt yourself batters against Bodhi's teeth, but he knows better than to push someone who's clearly halfway over the edge already.
"I have to." Cassian pushes himself to his feet, and Bodhi can hear his breathing, a tight wheeze. For a moment Bodhi hopes he'll leave the knife at the table, but then Cassian's right hand claims it, the point hovering over Cassian's chest in a way that makes Bodhi's heart seem to flutter to a stop in his chest. "Have to pay them back. See? That way they'll leave you alone. Leave Jyn alone. Just me they should want."
They're names. Bodhi feels the world tilt alarmingly as he realizes that the words carved into Cassian's skin are names, and he recognizes some of them. There are Melshi and Tonc and the others from Scarif, a band starting at Cassian's left collar bone and continuing down to his bicep; there are the names of those lost at Hoth, when Cassian's disinformation mission went south; there—
Focus. Bodhi has to focus, to try to get the knife away from Cassian, to try to keep him from hurting himself more. "Who... wants you to pay them back? The..."
"The ghosts." Cassian gestures around the room with the knife. "I know. You can't see them. But they're here. Everywhere. Angry and sad and... I owe them. I owe them so much."
Cassian sways on his feet, and Bodhi takes a step forward. Will it be a good thing if Cassian passes out, because then he can't hurt himself anymore (because then Bodhi won't be afraid of the weapon in his lover's hand, worried that Cassian will turn it against more than himself)? Or will that be bad, an indication that Cassian is hurt worse than Bodhi thinks?
It's a moot point, anyway, because Cassian stabilizes after a few seconds and takes another step towards Bodhi. "Please leave. Let me finish."
Bodhi shakes his head, forcing his feet to take another step closer to Cassian. Yes, he's seen Cassian kill, brutally and efficiently, but he could say the same about Jyn and Baze and Chirrut and K-2SO. He's not going to be afraid of Cassian. Cassian isn't going to hurt him. Cassian never hurts people needlessly—when Baze was going to kill Bodhi simply for being an Imperial, it was Cassian who saved his life, who spoke patiently with him while Bodhi tried to piece together the shattered fragments of his identity. "I can't walk out and let you keep hurting yourself, Cassian. You know that. If it was you standing here and me there, would you be able to do it?"
Bodhi is close enough to see Cassian's eyes now, the pupils blown wider than any time Bodhi can remember, all but the faintest hint of brown eaten away by glittering black. Cassian's eyes flick around the room again and again, his left hand rising to cover his ear. "It's not... not the same. You have to... please, Bodhi, please, I don't want to hurt you."
Cassian's breath is a rough wheeze, his words starting to tangle together. He sways again... and then jerks a step closer to Bodhi, looking for all the world as though someone grabbed him by the wrist and pulled.
Bodhi forgets how to breathe for a moment. Cassian is close enough to hurt him now, and clearly holding onto coherency by a fraying thread. Does Bodhi back up? Does he wait for the others? Does he try to wrest the knife away from Cassian?
Everything happens at once. The door practically explodes inward, K-2SO's hulking frame blocking out the light of the evening suns.
Cassian's right wrist moves, the knife extending towards Bodhi. Cassian watches his own hand in horror, reaching out to grip his right wrist with his left... and plunges the blade down into his own thigh.
Even as Cassian falls K-2SO is closing the distance between himself and his creator, shoving Bodhi aside. Bodhi drops to his knees, trying to remind himself how to breathe, how to move. He should go to Cassian, too. It shouldn't just be K-2 holding the distraught man as—
"Cassian! Bodhi!" Jyn is out of breath, her arms streaked with a combination of dirt and sweat as she stumbles in through the shattered door and takes in the scene.
K-2SO is speaking, a quiet whisper that Bodhi suspects is meant only for Cassian's ears. "—said this wouldn't happen. You said you were all right. That you'd warn me if—"
Cassian tries to say something as K-2 gathers him up, but the syllables don't form any comprehensible words, and the sentence trails off in a gasping, grating noise. His eyes roll back in his head, and his hands and legs begin to twitch, the muscle spasms gaining strength as Bodhi looks on in horror.
Seizure. Cassian is having a seizure, smearing his blood over K-2's chassis, over the floor as K-2 very gently lays his body down.
"First aid kit, Bodhi." Jyn kneels down on the opposite side of Cassian's body from K-2, eyes fixed on Cassian. Her words are an order, clear and direct.
They help Bodhi gather himself, get over the shock and do what he should have done before. Their first-aid kit is probably a bit more akin to the bag a field medic would carry, one more hold-over from their time serving. Bodhi has never been more grateful for it in his life.
"Also the bag next to it." K-2SO's voice is devoid of emotion, the droid's optical receptors fixed on Cassian as he addresses Bodhi. "It has the medication to help his breathing."
Bodhi grabs both bags and drops them next to Jyn. While she rummages through the first he looks through the second. Inhalants are out of the question at the moment, but surely... he finds a small collection of injectables and sorts through them, finding the one that seems most appropriate.
Jyn has already found what she wants and is busy injecting something into Cassian's shoulder. A few seconds after she's done Cassian's body begins to relax, his eyes drifting half-closed. His breathing is still too rough and ragged, so Bodhi searches for a place to give his injection, eventually handing it over to K-2SO to use on Cassian's other shoulder.
Jyn's hand on his shoulder causes Bodhi to jump, and her fingers tighten. "Can you try to bandage his leg? Keep the knife from moving?"
Bodhi studies the injury, tongue flicking out to run over his lips as he nods. It's not the worst injury he's seen, not after six years with the rebel fleet, and he should be able to do a decent field dressing. "Don't move it, right?"
"Right. We don't want him to bleed to death." Jyn pushes herself to her feet, keeping her hand on Bodhi's shoulder as her gaze moves to K-2. "Can you get the speeder ready?"
"It should be prepared already." K-2SO's voice continues to be more robotic than Bodhi is used to. "We can leave as soon as he is stable for transport."
"I'm going to call ahead, let them know we're coming." From the set of Jyn's shoulders and the grim note to her voice, Bodhi suspects she's going to do a bit more than that.
It doesn't matter. What matters is getting Cassian help and figuring out what's going on. This... this isn't right. Sure, Cassian's been having some trouble adjusting to civilian life. Certainly he still carries guilt for some of the things he's done, as well as some of the things he's failed to do. He was a soldier for twenty-six years, though. If that was going to break him, why would it wait until now to do so?
There's something more going on. Something happened, most likely yesterday, when Cassian first started acting strangely.
"We'll figure out what it is." Bodhi begins pulling the necessary components for a field dressing out of the first aid bag, settling everything by Cassian's wounded leg. "We'll get you feeling like yourself again, Cassian. I promise."
Bodhi continues to talk as he works, though neither Cassian or K-2 responds to anything he says. Maybe something comforting will get through anyway, and even if it doesn't... well, it makes Bodhi feel better to fill the silence.
Jyn tries to keep her fury under control, recognizing that it's at least partly driven by fear. How did everything deteriorate so quickly? She was talking to Cassian, what, five hours ago? And he looked tired but fine, his breathing better than it had been since the storm started. How did he go from that to slicing the names of their dead into his skin—his dead, but some of them are hers, too, the last six years of their lives intertwined?
Especially after the doctor said that he was fine.
Her fingers are shaking as she uses the comm system to contact the medical center. It doesn't take her long to reach the doctor, and she's not sure if that's because of something they see in her face or because of who she is. They're heroes, after all. They're Rogue One. They saved the gods-forsaken galaxy, so why can't things just be simple for them for once?
She shouldn't have expected it to be simple. Life never is. It wasn't when she was with Saw; it wasn't when she was on her own; it wasn't once she threw in her lot with the Rebellion. She just thought, since farming was something people have done everywhere, for as long as there have been people... what?
That it would be easy?
That she could retroactively have the peace and joy that her father wanted her to have all those years ago?
That she could erase the scars of the past from herself and those she loves just by removing them from future harm?
Not that the past explains this. Cassian wouldn't do something like this. Not unless there's something wrong with him—something messing with his head. She could, during some of their darker times, imagine him killing himself. But he would do it quickly, cleanly, a blaster bolt through the skull. Torturing himself... and the seizure that followed...
"Captain Erso." Cartan smiles at her, and Jyn has to resist the urge to reach out and wrap her fingers around the hologram's throat. "I'm glad you called. I've made remarkable progress in pinning down exactly what's causing the inflammation in Colonel Andor's lungs. It seems one of the native fungi is binding to receptors on his bronchial and endothelial linings to create a hapten that—"
Jyn forces herself to draw a breath and just speak, not shout, into the auditory pick-up. "Cassian just carved the names of dead men into his chest, stabbed himself in the leg, and collapsed into a grand mal seizure. This seems odd for someone who was declared fine about six hours ago."
"He..." Cartan blinks. "I... I'm sorry, Captain. There was nothing on the scans, in the bloodwork, or in our conversation—you say he had a seizure? And he has a leg injury now?"
"Knife wound. Given the location we've bandaged the knife in. We're bringing him in for treatment now. I doubt it'll take us more than fifteen minutes to get there. I just thought a little preparation on your end might be in order." Attacking the medical staff that's going to help them—that's going to be the best care they can get unless Jyn gets them off-world—won't be helpful. If she keeps reminding herself of that, she'll eventually stop wanting to do it.
"We'll be prepared when you get here." Cartan stands at an attention that would do the military proud. "And we'll get to the bottom of this. I promise."
Jyn doesn't bother responding, just cutting the comm and turning to see that K-2SO has already gathered Cassian into a careful embrace. His right leg is bandaged, the knife handle sticking out like some terrible trophy or costume prop.
K-2SO gestures towards the door with his head. "Bodhi is turning on the speeder."
"Then let's go." Jyn marches towards the door, allowing herself to pass close enough to Cassian to touch his arm as she does. He's always liked being touched by the team... by her. Hopefully whatever's short-circuiting inside his head right now won't have changed that. "The faster we get there, the faster we get help and answers."
Baze does his best to stalk the woman who offered him tea.
It's probably nothing. He's probably just being paranoid. But the incident had set his hackles on edge, and he's learned over the years to trust his instincts. Sometimes they're the only thing standing between him—standing between Chirrut—and death.
It's harder than it would have been, once. During the war seeing people armed and in armor hadn't been all that odd, and despite his large size Baze had been very good at fading into the background. Now he doesn't have the armor but somehow he stands out more.
It's the robes. He looks like Chirrut—like he belongs here, like he's a leader here. Others notice the cut and the color and flock to him for information, stories, advice... everything he doesn't feel qualified to give them. They make it hard for him to move subtly, to keep an eye on his target without being noticed in return.
He still doesn't do a terrible job tracking her. He's able to have her in at least the corner of his vision for most of the day, only losing her for a few minutes in the late afternoon.
When he finds her again, she's once more holding a tea tray and smiling as she passes out glasses to those who request them.
Everyone who accepts a glass seems pleased with it. No one seems to be having an immediate bad reaction, though Force knows most poisons take time to act.
Why exactly would Wynn Rider want to poison anyone here?
Why does Baze suspect she's up to something in the first place?
I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.
The words could practically be spoken aloud, Chirrut's intonation and cadence ingrained deeply into Baze's subconscious. Chirrut is currently holding counsel at the entrance to the Kyber crystals' chamber, smiling and answering the pilgrims in little riddles that seem to please both himself and his audience. He hadn't actually said anything, but his blind eyes run over Baze anyway, one eyebrow lifting in subtle inquiry.
Since Baze isn't going to push through the crowd to tell Chirrut his worries, and he's certainly not going to shout out his suspicions so that Chirrut can hear, he ignores the question. He'll answer later.
Except... Wynn is making her way towards Chirrut. The crowd parts easily for her, people taking their refreshment with smiles or bows or other gestures of gratitude. Baze has used the same trick before, when trying to reach difficult targets. So long as you have an escape route, there's little better than acting as the invisible help to get where you need to go, especially if your target is someone prone to ignoring anyone beneath their station.
Stepping forward, drawing presence around himself again so that his height and bulk (and the robes that he shares with Chirrut once more) will make him imposing, Baze heads towards Wynn.
She turns to him with a smile, just a single layer of people separating her from Chirrut. "Master Baze. Could I interest you in a cup of tea?"
Baze hesitates, feeling the curious eyes of the crowd fixing on him. Then he nods, reaching out to take the nearest glass.
She turns the tray. It's a subtle motion, but Baze is watching for it. There is a specific set of glasses that she wants him to take from. Acting as though he hasn't noticed, he takes the proffered drink, lifting it to his lips.
He doesn't actually sip. He's careful not to let the liquid touch his skin at all. Though if it was a poison that strong... he's missing something. There are pieces of the puzzle he's not putting together properly.
Having finished handing out glasses to those in the front row, Wynn bows respectfully to Chirrut. "Would the master accept a glass from the servant?"
"If he wouldn't then he's a very silly master, because why hire servants if you're not going to allow them to do their work?" Chirrut smiles up at Wynn. "I don't consider you my servant, though. We're fellow travelers drawn along by the Force. Since the Force is unlikely to bring me a glass of tea, I'll happily accept one from you."
There's a spattering of nervous laughter. Most people don't know exactly what to make of Chirrut when they first come to the temple. They expect someone more somber, more reserved, without a sense of humor. Most come to accept Chirrut's method of interaction fairly quickly, and it definitely puts those who stay for longer at ease.
Wynn turns the tray in her arms again, offering Chirrut the cup that had been right next to Baze's.
Baze doesn't have long to decide what to do. He can tell Chirrut not to drink, and then have to come up with an explanation why; he can try to jostle Wynn into spilling the cup; or he can do the simplest thing, and see if he recognizes the taste of anything in the tea that shouldn't be there.
It won't be fast-acting. There will be time to get help if it's needed. And it will keep Chirrut safe without giving away Baze's suspicions if they're not founded on anything.
The tea tastes... normal. There's a faint taste of berries, enhanced by the smell. But underneath that... he's tasted something like this before. It's so familiar, just slightly bitter, and it makes him think of... of...
Throwing his glass down, Baze dashes forward, intent on knocking the tea out of Chirrut's hand before he takes more than a tiny sip.
Baze is upset.
Chirrut can sense it for most of the afternoon. At first he thinks it's just nerves about Cassian. They have been kept updated by Jyn and K-2 about what's happening, but it's always difficult when one of their own is sick and they don't have much that they can do to help.
There's something else going on, though. Baze is following one of their pilgrims about—one who's been here for a little over a week.
One who's planning something. The Force twists darkly around her, in a way that Chirrut hasn't seen since they retired. Guilt and grief he's seen, and those can certainly lean towards the dark side, but this... this is something darker. This is intent to cause harm, though it's hard for Chirrut to tell if she intends to kill or just hurt.
She offers him tea, and Chirrut takes it, turning the cup slowly around in his hands. She chose it carefully—he could hear the tray being turned, the scrape of the cup. Baze has moved up next to Wynn, is focused on her and Chirrut.
Chirrut turns the tea around once more in his hands, relishing the warmth against his skin as he waits to see if Baze will act. He inhales the scent, trying to sort it out. There's something... strange about the aroma. Something that makes him think of Jedha, and the Temple, and...
Lifting the cup to his lips, Chirrut takes a tiny sip. There, underneath the usual flavors, is something he knows. Something he hasn't tasted in two decades, and—
Baze's mug shatters against the floor. Chirrut automatically moves away from the sound and the possibility of shrapnel, his lips coming away from the mug. A moment later Baze's hand crashes against Chirrut's, creating another loud sound of impact, a splash of liquid, a skittering of pottery across the floor.
"Ghost root." Baze's words are a barely discernible growl. "High dose. No warning."
Of course. That's where Chirrut recognizes it from—where the scent and the taste are familiar from.
Where what he saw with Cassian this morning is familiar from, and Chirrut is on his feet between one thought and the next, reaching for his staff.
Wynn has already turned to run. The crowd is confused, a little bit scared.
Baze doesn't let the milling crowd slow him down. He is just behind Wynn, his steps heavy but confident, hers soft and panicky.
Chirrut follows in Baze's wake. He will let the hunter take down their prey, and then together they can decide where to go.
It doesn't take Baze more than half the length of the hallway to catch the woman. There's the skid of the woman's shoes against the floor, the thud of a body against the wall... the gasping choke of someone with a hand around their throat.
"What did you do?" The Force flows dark and thick around Baze, clinging tight to an aura that had finally begun to lighten and brighten with months of calm. "Why? We invited you into our home, and you attacked our family—"
"Baze." Chirrut rests a hand on Baze's shoulder, trying to impart calm. He can feel Baze trembling, rage and fear pulsing through him. "She can't answer you if she can't breathe."
A grating sound escapes Baze, a rough sound that seems like it should hurt his throat. "She just tried to poison us."
"Not..." Wynn gasps in a breath, so Baze has clearly let up a little bit on her throat. "Not... poison. Justice. I just... want justice."
Chirrut rests against his staff, tilting his head to better focus his sense of hearing on the woman. "You're familiar with what ghost root is?"
"We don't call it... that. We call it... spirit viewer. My people... used to use it... for our trials." Wynn does something stupid, trying to lash out at Baze, and there's the crack of bones crunching against the wall.
"Baze..." Chirrut tries to keep his voice light.
Baze settles down, and Chirrut gives Wynn a few moments to catch her breath before continuing with his questions. "And how do you feel this spirit viewer works?"
"It shows... what's in... a person's heart. If they're... guilty, they suffer. If they're... innocent, they don't." Wynn throws the words out with vehement defiance. "So if you're... afraid of it, then—"
"I'm not afraid." Chirrut steps forward, reaching out to touch the woman's cheek. "I've taken it before, several times. But with warning, and care with dosing, and allies there to call me back if need be. You have no idea what you've done."
Chirrut's heart beats too hard in his chest. He should have realized when he saw Cassian earlier. If he could have warned Cassian, had him settle down with them for a day or so, tried to guide him through whatever he was seeing—
It's all right. Chirrut forcefully reminds himself of that. When they spoke with K-2 last, Cassian was sleeping quietly, seemingly comfortable. Armed with the information they have now... which still isn't quite enough. "You gave this to Captain Andor as well, didn't you?"
"Of course... I did." The sneer is obvious in Wynn's voice. "He was... the main reason... I came here."
"How much?" Baze's voice goes along with a scraping sound as he apparently hauls the woman further up the wall. "How much?"
"Five... cups." Wynn's voice is a raspy whisper. "Two... yesterday, three... today. Fifty... micrograms... a cup..."
Chirrut closes his eyes, keeping a hold on his temper by carefully controlling his breathing. The fact that Cassian had still been standing this morning, and as coherent as he was... well, Cassian has always had a will stronger than the hulls of most starships.
He has also had scars carved so deep on his soul that Chirrut doubts they will ever fade entirely. To be suddenly thrust down into them, without warning, without preparation, without knowing what's happening...
"Restrain her." Chirrut knows that Baze will more-or-less happily follow his instructions. "I'm going to try calling the others, let them know what we've found out. We'll head over to explain and help, and get more of Wynn's story out of her."
"I don't care what her story is." Baze speaks quietly, and Chirrut suspects from the way the words sound that they're not directed at him. "You attacked someone who—"
"Baze, please." Chirrut turns to the milling crowd. "As you all have heard, there's a problem. Baze and I will deal with it. It unfortunately means I'm going to have to put the Kyber to bed a bit earlier than expected. My apologies for any inconvenience. I'll explain more at dinner or breakfast."
He'll explain when he knows more than the rough outline of events, and when he's certain that everything important has been dealt with.
But first, Rogue One has to take care of their own.
Bodhi settles gingerly on the edge of Cassian's bed, reaching out hesitantly to try to find an area to touch.
Most of Cassian's upper body is covered in bacta patches. The good news, Cartan had said hesitantly, is that there shouldn't be much scarring from the... on the upper body. The knife wound... I'm glad you left the blade in. The vein and the sciatic nerve were both badly damaged. We'll... see how well the damage heals.
Cassian's eyes are still half-closed, though Cartan insists that they've given him no sedative. They have restrained him, soft, gentle little restraints at ankles and wrists and elbows and knees. Bodhi's fingers run over the ones at his wrist, dipping both above and below to touch Cassian's skin. "Hi, Cassian."
No change in Cassian's breathing. That's been better, at least. Whatever the medical team did while they were working on Cassian's leg and chest, they've made it easier for him to breathe again.
"I... we... we're trying to figure out what's going on." Picking Cassian's hand up between his, Bodhi holds it tight. "There's some ideas, but nothing concrete right now. Something's tripping up your neurochemistry, interfering with brain waves... I didn't really understand it."
Bodhi's fairly certain the physicians don't understand it, and that frightens him. How could there be something affecting Cassian so badly that's not affecting the rest of them? Then again, it took them this long to figure out the weird allergic reaction happening in Cassian's lungs, so maybe it's just going to take a little bit of time...
"But you're safe here. You're safe, and we're going to stay right here with you. We're not going to let anything hurt you." Reaching up to carefully stroke his fingers through Cassian's hair, Bodhi tries to spot any sign of recognition. A twitch, a flick of Cassian's eyes, a change in his breathing... anything to indicate that Cassian is still here.
Just like it's been since the seizure, absolutely nothing.
What if Cassian never comes back? What if the last time Bodhi gets to see him, to talk to him, was when he was covered in blood and hallucinating? Bodhi told Cassian he loved him, this morning, but it doesn't feel like enough. It doesn't feel like there's been enough time, and it's not fair.
Bodhi should be fine with life not being fair by now. After seeing what the Empire was doing... after what happened with his defection and Saw Gerrera... after years as a soldier... Bodhi knows that life isn't fair.
It still hurts that after all they've been through, all they've sacrificed, something like this could still happen.
"I love you." Bodhi squeezes Cassian's hand tight. Cassian likes touch, so maybe, if anything can get through, that will. "I want you to know that. I love you, and Jyn loves you, and K-2... he's so upset, Cassian. You have to pull through this. To come back to us. We need you."
Is it all right to beg like that? Cassian responds to need, though. It's why he bled himself dry for the rebellion for so long—because they needed, and he could provide.
"We love you and we need you and you're going to get through this." Bodhi feathers kisses over the back of Cassian's knuckles, hating that he has to bend over to do so, the restraints keeping Cassian's hands bound tight to the medical cot.
"—you can't—that's a restricted—"
"Bodhi Rook." Chirrut's voice proceeds him by a very short distance. "Could you tell the gentlemen that it's fine for us to be here before Baze strangles him?"
"Chirrut!" Bodhi stumbles to his feet. "Um, it's fine for them to be here. They're part of our fa-te-..." Bodhi gives his head a little shake. "They're good. They're with us. Why are you—"
Chirrut holds up a hand. "Are Jyn and K-2 here? Probably easier to tell everyone at once. It concerns a way to help Cassian, though."
Bodhi is moving towards the door immediately, though he stops when his arm reaches the limit of its reach and he'll have to let go of Cassian. "I'll go get them. If you'll—"
Chirrut moves unerringly to Cassian's side. "I'll stay with him. Don't worry."
It's silly, but somehow Chirrut's reassurances are much more comforting to Bodhi than anything the medical staff has said so far.
K-2SO stares down at his clean chassis, trailing his fingers over some of the scores in the metal.
This body isn't the one that was originally his. His was too badly damaged at Scarif to be repaired. Only Cassian returning to salvage his memory banks and Rogue One banding together to ensure another Imperial enforcer droid was captured allowed K-2SO to "survive" his suicidal defense of Cassian, Jyn, and the rebellion's hope for the future.
K-2SO thought he had moved on years ago from any guilt or hesitancy about wearing someone else's body—about having stolen what rightfully could have belonged to another droid like him, if Cassian had decided to reprogram this body instead of installing K-2SO in it. He thought it didn't matter to him anymore that the dents and dings on this body are different than the ones that had been on his original one. He has had six years to meld memories onto this form, after all.
Somehow having to wash Cassian's blood off himself has brought it all back. It's silly, really. It's the type of thing an organic life form should suffer from. There should be no room in K-2SO's programming for doubts and self-recriminations like the ones that keep flashing through him, one every two to three seconds.
How did he misjudge things so badly?
How did he read Cassian so incorrectly?
What else could he have done to prevent this?
K-2SO cannot close his eyes, but he can stop processing input from his optical receptors, and he does so for a few seconds. Did you know what you were doing when you created and programmed me, Cassian? Or is all that I am and have been an accident?
K-2SO would have asked Cassian if he thought his human actually had any idea what the answer was.
Though now... now there might not be an opportunity. Because despite what Cassian said, about being all right, about things being better now, Cassian has caused himself grievous physical harm.
If K-2SO had stayed with him instead of going to help Jyn...
"Kaytoo?" Jyn's voice comes from the hallway.
K-2 straightens, moving out of the droid maintenance area that the physicians had allowed him access to. "Yes, Captain Erso?"
Jyn's body flinches back even as her face contorts in fury. Her mouth opens, but instead of snapping out a comeback she breathes deeply for several seconds. "Not helpful, Kay."
K-2SO says nothing. He doesn't want to be helpful right now. Attempting to be helpful led to this—to him cleaning Cassian's blood off himself, prying it out of nooks and crannies.
"Kay..." Jyn comes closer, reaching out tentatively to lay her right hand against his chassis. "It wasn't your fault. This whole thing... there's something physically wrong with Cassian. Something's screwing with his neural function. It's not... we didn't do anything. It's not something we failed to see, or... it's not our fault."
Two point six four seconds tick by as K-2SO decides whether he should respond or not. After examining several possible conversational outcomes, he decides that speaking is probably the best option. "We know Cassian, Jyn. We should have realized what was happening sooner. We shouldn't—I shouldn't—have left him alone."
"Cassian's good at hiding things when he needs to." Old grief roughens Jyn's voice, hardens her eyes, but she doesn't look away from K-2. "Or when he thinks he needs to. We tried to help him. And... I think he tried to help, too. He came here earlier. They just... didn't know what they were looking for, then. But it doesn't mean that we did something wrong, or that he did something wrong... this whole situation sucks, but the best way through it is to stick together."
K-2SO straightens just a little bit more, towering over the tiny, fierce human who means so much to Cassian... who means so much to K-2. "Cassian has been my responsibility for a long time. My... friend."
"I know." Jyn nods.
"I don't want to lose him." There has always been a good possibility K-2SO could outlive Cassian. Organic life-forms are so very fragile, and Cassian put himself in harm's way on a regular basis. But since they retired... since the war ended...
Jyn steps forward, and her arms wrap around K-2SO's chassis, hugging tight. "We aren't going to lose him."
K-2SO allows his fingers to thread through Jyn's hair, as he's done with Cassian many times. The feel is different, the strands of her hair thinner, but she seems to enjoy the contact like Cassian does. "You can't promise that."
"There've been lots of times I couldn't promise the result I wanted." Jyn lifts her face, looking up at K-2. "But we keep trying. We keep finding chances and holding tight to them. We don't give up. Ever."
"I don't think you're capable of giving up, Jyn Erso." Fondness leaks into K-2's voice, and he pats her gently on the shoulder.
Jyn smiles up at him, and it's an expression with fangs, ready to fight as well as comfort.
"-too! Jyn! Kaytoo!" Bodhi comes skidding up to them, the pilot's boots squeaking on the floor. "Chirrut and Baze are here."
K-2SO isn't surprised. The Guardians are still an integral part of Rogue One, even if the team doesn't technically exist anymore.
Jyn pulls away from K-2. "Have you explained what—"
Bodhi is already shaking his head. "They say they know what's going on with Cassian. They want all of us together before they explain it, but Chirrut seemed really certain, and—" Bodhi gulps in a breath, his eyes shining with hope. "And they say they know how to fix it."
Jyn doesn't need any more urging. She sprints back towards the medical rooms, running with her head down, as though they were on the battlefield. Bodhi follows her.
K-2SO takes up the rear, though he could easily outpace his human counterparts.
They're going to help Cassian, and he suspects it will be best for all of them to be together in order to accomplish whatever it is that they need to.
Chirrut listens to the sound of Bodhi's footsteps quickly retreating. The air of the medical center is clean and cool—too clean and cool, artificially filtered and monitored, and it tastes bitter to his tongue.
Trying to calm his breathing, Chirrut repeats the words of his mantra quietly, waiting for his heart rate to slow and the paradoxical gentle focus that he needs to read the Force's flow to come over him. It's harder than it normally would be. When they had called the farm and received no answer, arrived there in person to find only blood smeared across the table and the floor...
Everyone is alive, though, even if not unharmed. And though it's cold comfort for the moment, Chirrut knows it's a good thing Cassian only turned the blade on himself. If he had somehow injured Bodhi or Jyn... an involuntary shudder runs the length of Chirrut's frame. For Cassian, recovering from hurting himself will be easier than recovering from hurting others.
Baze's footsteps interrupt Chirrut's thoughts before he's managed to achieve the proper concentration, and he tilts his head to indicate he's noticed Baze's presence. Not that it's difficult—Baze is clearly not attempting stealth, his steps heavier than they need to be.
A small smile pulls at Chirrut's mouth. "You know you don't have to intimidate them anymore. We're here."
"Shouldn't have been so much work to get here. They should know that we're—" Baze stops short, letting out a string of rough curses in their native tongue. He moves swiftly and near-silently to the bed, brushing against Chirrut as he does. "And of course the idiots think it's smart to restrain a spy."
"They're scared." Chirrut feels his way along the edge of the bed, being careful to stay out of Baze's way. Settling one hip on the bed, he listens to the sound of restraints being undone, Baze still growling curses under his breath. "They don't understand what's happening. They don't want him to hurt himself or someone else."
"Too late for that, and putting someone who worked behind enemy lines for over a decade in restraints is a great way to convince him he's been captured. We don't need him falling farther away from us." There's a creak as Baze settles his weight at the head of the bed, the sound of fabric rustling, and Chirrut knows that Baze is pulling Cassian into a loose embrace. "I've got you, Andor. You're safe with your team."
Chirrut smiles again, though he ducks his head, not wanting Baze to see and feel self-conscious. Despite the gruff demeanor Baze puts on, he's remarkably good at reading people and finding out what their trigger points are, both for good and for bad. It had only taken him a few weeks after the creation of Rogue One to learn that Cassian loves touch, when he feels safe; to learn that Bodhi often needs to talk if there's something stressful happening, and learn to steer his babble to where it will actually do him and those listening good; to learn that Jyn usually responds well to a little push when she's feeling uncertain or overwhelmed, and an arm around the shoulders when she's too badly hurt for that.
What has Baze learned and categorized about Chirrut over the years? Probably more than Chirrut can imagine, and that thought, too, brings pleasure.
Focusing on the sound of Baze's breathing, ignoring the meaning of the words that Baze is speaking for Cassian but allowing the cadence to settle into his bones, Chirrut reaches once more for his sense of the Force. This time it comes, the radiant, tingling flow of life throughout the universe laid out for anyone to see (or taste or smell or hear, depending on one's sensory preferences).
Baze is his usual self, a blazing, tightly compact pillar of flame. He currently flickers with threads of anger and fear, but nothing too dangerous.
And held in his arms...
Chirrut almost stops breathing for a moment, the vision trying to slide away.
"What are you sensing?" Baze speaks softly, the question helping Chirrut to focus again.
"He's..." Chirrut hesitates, trying to find the words to describe what he sees. "He's still there. There's still a core of strength and determination... still him. But it's... battered. Frayed. There's no defining boundaries, and the Force that flows around him is dark." Full of guilt, of pain and death and despair, and Chirrut has to look away, to focus again on Baze in order to keep himself grounded.
The bed creaks again—Baze arranging Cassian closer to himself? Baze trying to move away from what's happened? "Do you think we can still reach him?"
"We have to try." Chirrut scoots further up the bed, walking his hand along the rumpled bedding until he finds the fingers of Cassian's left hand. "Though it may require more than I had anticipated."
"You're not thinking—" Baze's irate response is drowned out by a stampede of feet.
Chirrut turns towards the door that Jyn, Bodhi and K-2SO have all tumbled through.
Before he can say anything Jyn is practically sharing his breath, her face close to his, a crackling energy rolling off her. "You know what's happening to Cassian? You have a way to fix it?"
"He was poisoned." Baze stands, ceding his place to Bodhi, presumably, since Chirrut can still feel Jyn's breath on his face.
"Poison is a... strong word." Chirrut moves his staff across the floor, drawing a pattern that only Baze might recognize. "He was given hefty doses of a drug that we call ghost root."
"He was given about five times what a sane person would take, and no preparation for what was going to happen. It was poisoning, even if the intent wasn't to stop his heart outright." Baze's tone is sharp with anger again.
"But... why?" Bodhi's voice is quiet, bewildered. "Who? I don't... we haven't done anything to anyone! We're just trying to—and how did you find out about it?"
"The young woman tried to dose Baze and myself as well." Chirrut stands, yielding the bed to those who are more used to sharing it with Cassian. "She didn't anticipate that we would be familiar with it from certain religious experiences we've had. When we detected what was in the tea, we acted."
"But why?" Bodhi repeats the question, his voice dripping confusion and fear.
Even after all these years, after all he's seen, in some ways Bodhi is the most innocent of them. Despite having to betray the Empire because of what they did—what they created—there is a core of him that expects people to be decent. To be kind, or at least not cruel and vicious, and Chirrut is glad that he never had to watch that spark be wiped away.
"Because she could." The bitterness in Baze's voice stands in stark contrast. "Who knows and who cares?"
"I suspect she has history with our captain." Chirrut keeps his voice even, noncommittal, not wanting to scratch at Baze's old scars. "We can ask her once we've done what we can for Cassian."
"And what's that?" Jyn is pacing the space beside Cassian's bed, pausing every few steps, likely to reach out and touch him. Her motions have the cadence of a caged predator, trapped and helpless. "You told his doctors? Is there an antidote?"
"We gave a sample to the physicians. They're currently analyzing it to see what they can do to assist." Chirrut leans against his staff, choosing his words carefully. "There's no antidote or treatment that I'm aware of, though there are... methods to try to assist someone who's having trouble with the quest on their own."
"No." Baze's response is immediate, and his fingers close with vice-strength on Chirrut's arm. "We're not doing it. It's not worth the risk."
"Cassian's life isn't worth the possible discomfort?" Chirrut speaks softly, knowing that no matter how he says them the words will be a knife-wound over the souls of all present.
"It's not just possible discomfort, and you know it." Baze jerks them a step closer to the bed. "It's been years since we faced the trials, and we never administered them ourselves. We could just as easily wind up lost with him as wind up helping him."
"I don't... understand." Bodhi's voice is rough, half-tear-choked. "You've used this... poison before? You know a way it could help?"
Chirrut lays a hand over Baze's where it rests against his arm. "We've both experienced the effects of it, yes. At lower doses and in a more controlled environment, as part of our training to become Guardians."
"Every cult has its rituals." Baze's words are meant to hurt, and they do, a bit, but Chirrut knows him well enough to know it's fear that's making him lash out. "The ghost root was part of one of ours, which doesn't make it safe or what you're proposing reasonable."
"Why... what's it do?" Jyn's frustration is obvious.
Chirrut tries to keep his answer as simple as possible. "It makes those who aren't Force-sensitive by nature or birth more attuned to it. It can't make someone a Jedi, but it can show them, for a brief window of time, the flow of the Force through all living things. Show them their place in the Force, the way their life is connected with the universe."
"That doesn't... sound terrible. So why..." Bodhi's words trail off into muffled murmurs—burying his head against Cassian's hair or shoulder?
Chirrut steps closer to the bed, pulling free of Baze's grip. "The Force is created from life, and it is beautiful and glorious. It will take us all in, one day. But life can also be dark, full of death and grief and pain and hatred—the dark side of the Force, the Jedi called it. When one takes ghost root, one's looking for the light, but sometimes..."
"Or it's a psychoactive substance that sometimes sends people on bad trips." Baze's hand falls on Chirrut's shoulder again, holding tight. "And people like Cassian, who have seen more than their fair share of awful things, are more likely to experience that side of it."
"It's not just that, Baze, and you know it. If Luke were here..." Chirrut rubs at his bottom lip. Would he ask their Jedi to undertake this quest for them? Does Luke know Cassian well enough to reach him and help him—or would the difference in strength, Luke's innate ability to manipulate the Force, be enough to make the difference? "But Luke's not here, and wouldn't be able to get here quickly enough to make a difference. If someone's going to help Cassian, it's going to be us."
"If we take it, we're in just as much danger as he is." Baze's fingers tighten, but this time Chirrut suspects it's a need for comfort rather than control. "We could see anything. Anyone. We'd be hoping our connection to him is strong enough to let us find him, see what he's seeing... guide him back."
"Those of you who can participate, at least." K-2SO has been silent up until this point, and Chirrut hears bitterness in the droid's voice. "Droids are not sensitive to the Force or able to be affected by organic material in the way you're suggesting."
Chirrut turns to face K-2. "It doesn't mean you'd be helpless. You could be our ground—trying to call us back if it looks like things are going wrong. Protecting us from anyone who tried to interfere with the ritual."
The droid manages a sound that's suspiciously like a sniff, but he doesn't counter Chirrut's words.
Jyn has stopped pacing. "If we do this... what's the worst case scenario?"
"That depends on if you find death or madness more terrifying." Lifting his hand to cover Baze's, Chirrut shrugs. "I suspect the likelihood of either, given our purpose and the fact that we all know what we're getting into, is very slim."
"If there's a chance it'll help..." Bodhi is speaking to Jyn, Chirrut thinks, from the direction of his voice. "We have to take it. Any chance. And... like Chirrut says, we'll all be together. Working for a common cause. That's... that's got to count for something, right?"
Silence stretches out, and Chirrut listens to the quiet sounds of his team breathing, shifting—living, as he wants them to go on living for many, many years to come.
"All right." Jyn's footsteps stride purposefully towards the door. "Baze, Chirrut—you get everything we need for this ritual. I'm going to go make sure the doctors know what we're planning on doing. Bodhi, K-2—make sure Cassian doesn't hurt himself again."
Baze huffs out a frustrated breath, but when Chirrut begins making his way towards the door himself, intent on finding tea that they can use, Baze's steps are right behind him.
"Absolutely not." Cartan stares at Jyn as though she's suddenly sprouted feathers. "I am not letting the rest of you poison yourselves with the same thing that's made Colonel Andor so ill."
Jyn narrows her eyes, keeping a hold on her temper by the skin of her teeth. She can do diplomacy, when she needs to. She managed to stay halfway diplomatic when the rebel alliance was deciding not to do anything about the Death Star all those years ago.
Just because she starts out diplomatic doesn't mean she can't do what needs to be done afterwards, no matter what people think.
"I understand that you're upset and willing to grasp at any hope, Captain Erso." Cartan moves closer to her, his voice dropping to a more conciliatory volume when Jyn doesn't immediately scream at him. "And I promise we're doing everything we can to help him. Putting yourself in danger isn't going to help anything, though."
"And have you come up with anything that can actually help Cassian?" Jyn meets the physician's eyes without blinking. "Any way to rouse him from his coma? To keep him from..." Jyn swallows. "To fix what's wrong in his head?"
"We're working on it. We've only had the toxin for a half hour now, asking us to have anything worked out let alone ready to test—"
"Chirrut has an answer for me now. A way for me to help now." Jyn lifts her chin. "And you may not want to trust him, but I do. He's saved all of our lives multiple times over the last few years. He wouldn't needlessly endanger us."
"I'm not saying he's trying to endanger you, just that..." Cartan waves both hands in a complicated gesture that Jyn suspects is supposed to be both reassuring and a synopsis of cultists, yeah?
"We're going to do this." Jyn steps towards Cartan, invading the man's personal space. "And if you try to stop us, I'm going to bring up every religious freedom law our lovely new Republic created and drop it on your head."
"Religious freedom doesn't include you being able to do things with those who can't consent." Cartan's jaw clenches tight.
"We're not going to do anything to Cassian. Force knows he doesn't need more of that fucking drug in him." Jyn rubs at her forehead. "Just us. And it will be easier if we're close to Cassian, and I think better for him. You said he's a little more stable since Baze removed the restraints."
"Which doesn't mean there's a correlation between the restraints being off and his improvement. It could have been any number of things." Cartan's hands both bury themselves in his hair. "And my staff would still feel safer if—"
"If K-2SO can't restrain Cassian, then those little straps weren't going to do anything." Jyn forces herself to draw a deep breath, to relax her shoulders and look more pleading and less threatening. "Please, Cartan. If something does go wrong, wouldn't it best we were here?"
"I don't want anything to go wrong. I..." Cartan collects himself, straightening to his full height. "The community has become rather fond of the six of you, you know. You're heroes, and you're ours. You chose to make our home yours, and other than the creation of the Temple you've fit yourselves into our world. I don't want to watch all of you die."
"We're not going to die." Jyn smiles, reaching out to give Cartan's shoulder a little punch. "We're going to be just fine. All of us. So you keep doing your thing, and we're going to do ours. All right?"
After a few seconds Cartan gives a reluctant nod. "If I can't stop you, then I'll certainly do what I can to help. Though if it looks like anything's going wrong..."
"You do what you need to." Jyn shrugs. "When that's what we're doing, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to tell you not to."
Chirrut arranges them around the edge of Cassian's room, out of the way of the medical professionals in case something should happen. Jyn is on the left hand side of Cassian's bed, Bodhi on the right; Baze and Chirrut are against the far wall.
Bodhi tries to keep his breathing even, to focus on what they're doing rather than panicking about what might happen. They're going to help Cassian. They're going to wrest him free of whatever nightmares the woman's attack left him trapped in.
Baze moves around the circle. His eyes are dark, hooded, and Bodhi can read the tension in his arms and the way he holds his back. He holds out a glass of dark red tea to each of them.
Taking his, Bodhi turns the warm cup around and around in his hands, staring down into the liquid.
When Baze is back at his place in the circle, Chirrut speaks. "Now. All of us need to stay focused on our purpose. Each of has a relationship with Cassian. After drinking, set your cup aside and focus on what that relationship is to you. Whether that's memories, emotions, hopes, dreams—hold it close to you and let it guide you as I chant. Let it guide the Force, bringing you to where you need to be."
There's a few moments of silence, and Bodhi holds his breath.
"Now." Chirrut's voice is low, not commanding but arresting, holding attention. "Everyone drink."
The tea is bitter, and Bodhi shudders, a sliver of fear running cold through his chest in contrast to the warmth of the liquid. He drains it all, though. If they're going to do this, he's going to do it right.
"We are one in the Force and the Force is with us." Chirrut's familiar mantra helps Bodhi to focus, and he times his breathing to the words. It's a trick Chirrut taught him years ago, to help Bodhi with the nervousness that often reared up before, during, and after tricky missions. "We are one in the Force and the Force is with us."
The Force that connects him to Cassian, to Jyn, to Chirrut and Baze. The Force that connects them to everyone, to the people they saved and those they couldn't.
The Force that is being used to torture Cassian, and Bodhi has to fight through a spike of blinding anger. He may not be a Guardian like Baze and Chirrut or a Jedi like Skywalker, but he thinks he's come to his own understanding of what the Force is and what it does. It should be used to help—to heal, to bring understanding, to facilitate the connections between people and cultures and places. Just as the Kyber that Galen loved so much were never meant to be a weapon, the Force that Chirrut and Luke use for so much good isn't meant to be twisted into a weapon of torture.
And Bodhi can help stop it.
We are one with the Force and the Force is with us.
The words no longer seem to be spoken. They seem to just be a part of him, a beat that plays in harmony with his heart.
We're coming, Cassian. Bodhi holds tight to his memories of Cassian, from the first confused minutes when Cassian helped him piece together his identity through the years of the war and into this strange, beautiful, tentative year when they've shared a bed and a home and a wife and a life. We're coming, so don't give up.
Cassian huddles in the half-collapsed building, his back to one of the intact walls.
He doesn't remember how he got here. Was he captured by the Empire? He thinks he must have been. He has vague memories of restraints, questions, demands that he couldn't answer. They don't make any sense, though.
He aches, head to toe, though his right thigh and his chest seem to have been the most badly damaged. He's able to breathe all right, though—able to move, and that's what's important.
Did he give anything important away? He doesn't think he did. He wouldn't have let himself, right? He would have eliminated himself as a threat to the rebellion if he needed to.
He can't remember. Did they drug him? Does he have a concussion? A combination of the two?
What planet is he even on?
And where are the others?
Solo mission. This had been a solo mission, one of his spy missions. The others aren't here. That means the others are safe, at least.
There's the sound of fighting off in the distance, of buildings exploding and blaster fire tearing into people. Should he try to join the fighting? Should he see if he can help—or get assistance, get an extraction and an explanation?
There's the ghostly feeling of fingers through his hair—cold fingers, the metal that forms them snagging slightly on every other stroke. The others are coming, Cassian. Just stay safe until they get there.
A hallucination? K-2SO isn't here. Or a memory? Since Cassian can't remember the details of this mission...
He's hurt, and he's currently safe. For the moment he can afford to rest, and see if he can discern if K-2's message is a pleasant dream or a recollection of what he's supposed to do.
Jyn doesn't know what she was expecting when she closed her eyes, allowing Chirrut's mantra and the drug in her veins to guide her... somewhere else. Given that it's Cassian's thread she's chasing, she supposes she expected to end up either in some Imperial stronghold, on a battlefield, or, if fate were being kind, at one of the rebel bases.
Instead she's back on the farm. Not their farm—her father's farm.
For an instant she just stands frozen, not even daring to turn and survey their surroundings. Baze had said that they might face their own darkness, their own fears, but this isn't what she had been expecting. She doesn't fear this anymore. She doesn't run from it. She's come to accept, over the years, who she is and who her father was.
Or perhaps she just thought she had come to terms with it, because the sound of her father's voice from behind her has about the same effect on her physiology as an electric shock.
"Stardust." Her father's voice is weak, choked, just as it had been the last time she heard him, when he died in her arms.
"Papa..." Jyn forces herself to turn.
Galen's form matches his voice, burned and broken and twisted by the X-wing fire that had ruined their chances of starting again. He smiles at her, blood and water trailing from his mouth. "My little stardust. What do you think you're doing?"
There's so much anguish in the question, and Jyn wants to scream, to retreat, to attack, but she doesn't know what to target. "I'm doing what you said. I'm making a home for myself. I'm trying to make myself happy."
"You have so much blood on your hands, Jyn." Galen's eyes drop down to Jyn's hands, and the expression on his face is infinitely sad. "If I had known what this was going to do to you..."
Jyn looks down, horrified to feel something wet and sticky coating her arms from the elbows down. Blood. So many different kinds of blood, and some of it burns, and she doesn't know where it came from.
"Don't you?" The male voice is familiar, and Jyn is sudden thirteen years old again, sitting in one of Saw's camps. A fire burns cheerfully, and a tired man with feline features watches her over it, his eyes glinting in the light. "The number of options for the dead are really rather astronomical. The bigger question is, are they the dead who deserved it, or the ones who died because you couldn't decide what you wanted? What side you were going to fight on?"
Garri—that's not his true name, but he always let her call him that because she couldn't get her child's tongue around his real one—is dead. Jyn knows that he's dead. She was there when he failed to move quickly enough, felt the heat of the explosion that killed him baking his blood into the skin of her face.
Garri smiles, a show of sharp fangs. "Seems lots of people have their dead to lay to rest."
Jyn forces herself to breathe. Garri's words have reminded her why she's here, at least, helping her find solid footing in the twisting morass that the world has become. "I'm not here to argue with you or any other ghosts. I'm here for Cassian."
Both Garri's eyes lift a bit, his mouth opening in a quizzical frown. "And what has this Cassian done that makes it so you get to ignore your own past?"
"He's helped me make a future." Jyn finds a surprising amount of calm come over her as she says the words. "He's helping me have what my father wanted—what Saw and the rest of you supposedly wanted. A chance to be safe, to not fight because it's not needed. And he needs my help."
You never disappoint me, Jyn Erso. K-2SO's voice is the faintest whisper in her ear. So bring him home.
"It's awfully smug of you, don't you think?" Saw's voice—weak, distorted, as he had been before he died—comes from behind Jyn. "To decide that we were fighting for you?"
Jyn can feel her pulse beating in her temples, in her wrists, in her gut, and she can't tear her eyes away from the broken wreckage of the man who raised her. Why is this harder for her than seeing her father? Than seeing her dead friends?
Because the words he's saying are ones she's imagined a thousand times before, whether she would acknowledge the whispers or not. Galen made it clear that Jyn mattered to him, no matter what; but Saw... even at the end, as he watched her break under the knowledge of what her father had done and what he believed, Saw's first thought had been for the rebellion. Of course he wouldn't see Jyn's happiness as a goal to strive towards. Jyn is one more soldier, one more cog, and no matter how much Saw loves his soldiers they are all expendable.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
The crystal on Jyn's chest flares into life, a surge of warmth that drives away the chills causing her to shake. A hand falls on Jyn's shoulder—small, female, but full of strength.
"Don't give in to the darkness, Jyn." Lyra Erso's voice is just like Jyn remembers it—strong, certain, filled with determination. "Is this really how you think your friends would act? How you think Saw would act? No matter how they broke him over the years, the man I entrusted you to would never say that your life and your joy has no value or meaning."
Jyn raises her right hand to rest atop her mother's. The crystal on her chest seems to pulse in time to something that's almost audible—to Chirrut chanting? "I have to find Cassian. I have to bring him home. Because we did protect the dream, Saw. We protected it with blood and breath and broken hearts, and now it's time for us to live that dream."
For one terrifying minute Jyn thinks he's going to attack her—that she's going to have to fight this man who taught her combat in the first place. She could take him, probably, given how weak he is now, but she doesn't want to.
Then Saw's expression changes, and Jyn sees the fleeting, tired smile that she loved so much as a child. "You protected the dream?"
"I protected the dream." Jyn can feel her lips trembling, tears threatening to spill over, but she keeps her gaze steady on Saw as she walks forward. "We protected the dream. The Emperor is dead, the Empire gone. The New Republic is trying very hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past."
Saw reaches out when she's close enough, the back of his fingers trailing from her hair down the side of her face. "Then go in peace, child. And know that you are loved and watched over by all those who have gone before."
It's a shift in the light around her, a tilting in the ground she's walking on. A change, fundamentally, in this dream-world that is holding her. Where before there had been darkness and a thousand painful memories, now there is light, and the joy and camaraderie and hope that made those memories of death and loss so potent and painful.
"This way, stardust!"
Jyn can't see her father, but Galen's voice calls her forward, and she moves towards it. The crystal continues to pulse on her chest. Her mother's hand continues to rest lightly, protectively, on her shoulder.
I'm coming, Cassian. So just hold on until I get there.
Chirrut falls into darkness, though he refuses to let it frighten him.
He has spent a long time now learning not to fear the darkness. Just because he can't see doesn't mean he is helpless or lost, and he will not allow the dark flickers of agony and grief that eddy in the Force around Cassian to make him forget that.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
He continues the mantra, not having to think much to keep it steady. That is the point of the mantra, after all—to keep him cognizant of what he believes and what he strives to embody but without requiring direct and sometimes flawed thought.
Besides, he is using the mantra as a guide for the others, and he will not break that thread for them without good reason.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
Eventually there is steady ground beneath his feet and hands, and Chirrut levers himself up with his staff. He strains his ears, trying to get a sense of where he might be. On Jedha, probably—Baze is not the only one whose deepest scars lie buried beneath the sand there. In the temple? In the marketplace but when it's deserted?
There is no sound, nothing that he can use to guide himself or find his path. A sweep of his hand and of the staff gives him little else to work with. The ground he stands on is firm stone, but that could be true of a thousand places.
Normally he would have Baze here, to help give him a feel for their new environment. He can hear and sense no sign of his partner, though. For the moment, at least, they face their trials alone.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
Except Chirrut knows they are not alone—are never alone. They are asking the Force for guidance and assistance, putting themselves at the mercy of the life of the universe. They are acting together, for one of their own.
And the best that it can throw at him so far as nightmares is the thought of being alone?
"I am never alone." Chirrut strides forward, checking each step with his staff but moving with the confidence that time has brought to him. His body, somewhere, continues to chant, the words giving him a beat to march along to. "And if this is the best that you can throw at me, then the Dark Side of the Force has been vastly exaggerated in retellings."
"What is there to tell you that you don't know?" A hand comes out of nowhere, shoves hard at Chirrut's left shoulder so that he stumbles. By the time Chirrut is reaching for the arm, to throw the man—the head priest of the Temple of the Kyber, all those years ago—there is no one there.
"You know all, right, Chirrut Imwe?" The woman's voice drips mockery, and Chirrut's breath catches, the mantra faltering just slightly before he wills himself to continue forward. Hisha died the day the Temple fell, refusing to retreat even when it became clear all was lost. This ghost using her voice is not something he should listen to.
"You always knew what was best." Genderless Iru died three days after the Temple fell, when one of his wounds festered and the Empire ensured all physicians turned them away. "As we died you clung to the precepts that killed us. As Jedha itself died, all you could offer as consolation was to have faith."
That's hardly all he did. He struck out with those the Force had offered to him and ensured that what happened to Jedha could happen nowhere else.
"Nowhere?" Bail Organa's voice is unexpected, and Chirrut actually flinches. He only had one conversation with the man, but it had left an impression. "Alderaan was nowhere, now?"
Alderaan was a bitter pill for all of them to swallow when they heard about it. After all they sacrificed—after all the good people who died on Scarif, all the scars their little crew had acquired—to know that they failed... except it wasn't failure. Because the Force provides, and Luke Skywalker did what was necessary, ensuring Alderaan would be the last place the Death Star ever touched.
"We are one in the Force and the Force is with us." Chirrut matches his inner mantra to what his body is saying, focusing, trying to block out the darkness that wants to claim him.
Cassian. All he should do is focus on Cassian—on wading through the swirling dark to find that still-bright core of life and hope and determination that defines his friend.
"You're putting them all at risk."
Baze's voice brings Chirrut's steps to an abrupt halt.
"We don't know what we're doing." The words are a gruff whisper in Chirrut's ear. "They could be lost forever, or damaged beyond repair. Why would you do this? Why would you risk those who trust you? Haven't we buried enough dead already?"
The smell of rot and refuse is suddenly thick in the air, and Chirrut's staff bumps up against something large and yielding.
He's felt this before. There is a body in front of him... and to the side... and to the other side... bodies two and three and four thick... a mountain of corpses to walk through if he wants to proceed.
"Go back." Baze's words are a barked command. "Save who we can."
Chirrut draws a deep breath, closing his eyes and lifting his staff off the ground. Though the Guardians had never believed that a lack of knowledge was necessary for true faith, sometimes less input—especially when your senses are being used to deceive you—is better. "We are one with the Force and the Force is with us. And for the record, Baze wouldn't be so calm and reasonable about the whole thing if he really thought I was making a mistake. More profanity, more frustration, less guilt tripping."
Stepping forward, Chirrut tries to keep his balance on the warm, bloated corpses that surround him. Liquid seeps into his shoes and the cuffs of his robes, but he ignores it.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
He is going to do what he set out to do. The others will, too—if there were universal awards given out for sheer stubborn determination, Chirrut thinks Rogue One would win most of them.
You are one in the Force and the Force is with you.
The whisper is barely audible, formed by inhuman processes that don't involve a throat, and Chirrut lifts his head. He has promises to keep, and he will not allow the wounds of the past to stop him from completing them.
After what seems an endless eternity the corpses are gone, the ground he is walking on becoming the familiar sand-slicked stones of Jedha's main thoroughfare.
The sound of a plasma cannon comes from off to the left, and Chirrut pauses. This place has already shown that it can mimic Baze, but that sussurration in the Force...
Cassian is ahead. Chirrut doesn't know how he knows, but he's certain of it.
And Baze is very close.
Turning towards the sound, Chirrut hopes that Cassian can hold on by himself for a little bit longer. There are others who may need assistance to survive these trials, and Chirrut isn't going to abandon them.
Bodhi hides in the shuttle bay of an Imperial base, his hand over his mouth, trying to muffle the sound of his hyperventilation.
"Traitor!" There is more pain and betrayal than hatred in the word, and Bodhi barely swallows back a whimper. Rexi had been a good friend, before Bodhi defected. Someone Bodhi could go to and talk about anything with... well, about most things.
He wouldn't accept what the Empire was. Bad things happen sometimes. Rexi had clapped Bodhi on the shoulder, pouring him another drink. Doesn't matter who's in charge. People like us, little guys? We just keep our heads down and do our jobs and it won't matter. It's only those trying to rock the boat who get in trouble.
It wasn't true. The Empire's cruelty had spread everywhere, tainting all that it touched. They wanted to burn planets, Rexi. I watched them destroy a city a thousand times older than us. My city, the city that used to be home.
Rexi died after Bodhi defected. Bodhi was never able to figure out if the Empire killed him outright when they were through with their interrogation or if it had been the loss of his job and savings that did him in. It didn't really matter, in the end. It was one more little act of cruelty that Bodhi couldn't do anything about—one more death that drove him deeper into the ranks of the rebels.
No. Oh no no no this isn't fair. Bodhi isn't quite able to muffle his whimper as his mother's voice continues to call his name, trembling more than he ever heard her voice tremble in real life.
He wasn't able to find her after the war. Did she pass away on Jedha, having come to find him? Did the Empire track her down and demand answers from her as they had Bodhi's friends? He doubts that last one. If they had, he suspects they would have made it obvious, to try to drive him out of hiding.
Did she stay with the Empire, retreating to one of the worlds they controlled, horrified at what he had done?
Bodhi doesn't know. He knows what he hopes—that she died quickly, cleanly, or that something happened so that she just doesn't remember, is living happily under a different name.
"Bodhi, my child, my little bird..."
It sounds like she's crying, though it's hard to tell as other voices rise to call his name.
What's he supposed to do? He has to move on. He has to press forward, to overcome his fears. He has to ignore his own ghosts and find Cassian.
He's afraid. What are they going to do to him if they find him? (What does he want them to do to him? He had every reason to defect, and he knows that the pain the Empire caused searching for him was not his fault, but Jedha burned and his friends died and—)
We are one with the Force and the Force is with us.
Bodhi isn't a coward. He thought he was, once. He's afraid so often he must be a coward, right? Except Cassian told him no. Cowards are the ones who bend their morals to protect themselves. Cowards are the ones who stop when it gets difficult or painful. Just being afraid doesn't make one a coward, and it takes more courage to act when one is afraid or powerless than it does when one has nothing to lose.
You're the ride home, Bodhi. K-2SO's voice somehow manages to be both grim and encouraging. Always. So please...
Bodhi shifts into a crouched position, trying to pinpoint where the door is. If he just stays here, afraid and scared, he won't be able to do anything. He won't be able to change anything.
He won't be able to help Cassian.
Drawing a deep breath, Bodhi bursts out of his cover. He keeps his body low, as he did on Scarif—the first time Cassian asked him to risk his life, to do something necessary even if it was absolutely terrifying. Bodhi survived that, and he'll survive this.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
Chirrut had said to focus on his bond to Cassian, and Bodhi tries to do just that. Not the war, though. It's clear that they both can't leave the war behind—Cassian carved it into himself, Bodhi finds himself back in it as soon as the ghost root starts taking effect. But there is more to their bond than just the war.
There are the quiet moments even during the war, sharing the cockpit, Cassian a more than capable co-pilot.
There are the meals that the six of them would share, and Bodhi remembers the first time he saw Cassian really laugh. He had known Cassian was gorgeous, but in those few moments, when he smiled at Bodhi and there wasn't any weight in his eyes or on his shoulders, Cassian had looked radiant.
There are the planning sessions for the Temple, and Bodhi remembers a dozen long nights. Remembers falling asleep on Cassian's shoulder more than once, and the quiet eager hunger in Cassian's expression as they started building something rather than destroying.
There are nights together, some quiet, some not so much, the three of them learning each other's bodies in new ways.
There are all the dreams they have for the future, and Bodhi isn't going to let them go without a fight.
Hands grasp at him from behind, and he stumbles but refuses to look back. He will not engage with the ghosts. He's grieved for them. He's seen justice done for them, as best as he can. He will not let their memories be used to hurt him any more.
We are one in the Force and the Force is with us.
A hail of blaster fire erupts around him, and Bodhi screams, dropping into a forward roll with his arms up to protect his head. Perhaps all the determination in the world can only—
Someone is helping him up, their hold gentle but insistent, and Bodhi blinks blurred vision into focus.
"Come on, flyboy. Have to keep going." Tonc grins down at him—the soldier who adopted Bodhi at Scarif, who died protecting him, offering aid once more. "The captain needs you, right?"
There is a different feel to Tonc than there had been to the other ghosts. Something more... honest, more complete and real, and Bodhi clasps the man's hand for a few brief seconds before nodding and running in the direction that Tonc points.
Cassian. He needs to focus on Cassian, to offer the same aid to Cassian that's been offered to him. But which way does he go? Does he just keep running blindly ahead, or—
"You know where to go." Galen's voice is gentle, and the smile that he gives Bodhi as he grabs Bodhi's elbow and corrects his path by about eighteen degrees is something Bodhi wishes he had gotten to see in real life. Had he ever seen Galen smile in a way that didn't involve sadness or grief or guilt or some combination of all three? Galen's hand reaches out, patting Bodhi's chest above where his heart is beating bird-fast. "You have a good heart, Bodhi. Trust it. Follow it. Give yourself and my daughter and all the rest of your team the peace you deserve."
Bodhi almost stops. To have a chance to talk with Galen again, to ask what he thinks of all that's happened... but now isn't the time. Perhaps later, when they don't have a mission... if Bodhi thinks he could face the darkness again to find the light...
But right now there's someone else he needs to find first, and he runs towards Cassian, his husband's name forming a counter-rhythm to the mantra that Bodhi can still almost hear hanging over everything else.
Baze shouldn't have come.
He should have stayed with K-2SO, watching over the others physically. He knows himself. He knows his own scars and limitations. Facing the Trial again, even if it wasn't for himself... he should have stayed behind.
Now he's a liability. Now he's going to need rescuing, which really defeats the point.
Assuming any of the others notice what's happened quickly enough.
Assuming Baze keeps his sanity for long enough.
"Coward." Tentacles reach towards him, and Baze hesitates for just a moment. He liked this woman. When he was an initiate full of questions and eagerness, she always had patience for him. "Traitor and coward. That's what they'll remember Baze Malbus as."
He didn't like her enough to allow her to hurt him. His plasma cannon fires, the shots tearing into her body, driving her away from him.
There are a lot of bodies on the ground now.
"It was so easy for you." Ithor already looks dead, his body chewed apart by blaster fire. "Not that we were expected to be pacifists, but how long did it take you to decide that life isn't sacred? That it's just one more currency, and you don't mind paying in others' blood? Were we in the ground for a week before you were the faithless assassin dealing out death like water?"
The fact that Ithor already looks dead makes it easier to lash out with the cannon, tearing his body the rest of the way apart.
Baze tries to think back to his first Trial, to remember what he had faced. Did he know true darkness then? He knew frustration, certainly. His temper has always run high and hot, and though Guardians aren't expected to keep the same level of control of their emotions that the Jedi are it's something he worked on repeatedly. Had the Trial been about facing himself—mastering himself? He can't remember clearly, the joy and wholeness that had come with finding his way into the flow of the Force overwhelming everything that had come before.
"That's never going to happen again, you know." The sneering man in the battle-scarred armor who steps into the square is Baze's twin. He kicks at the corpses littering the ground as he strides towards Baze, the plasma cannon in his hands held in a loose but competent grip. "You're never going to find that, if it even existed in the first place. Maybe the Force is something like that for Chirrut and the Skywalker brat, but for us?"
Baze keeps his back protected, against shelter, watching his doppelganger with wary caution. Does he attack? Violence belongs to the dark side of the Force, and violence against yourself usually doesn't end well. On the other hand... what?
Does Baze really intend to press forward? He has no sense of where he's going, no way to reach Cassian. What does he intend to build a guiding thread on? The fact that they're both soldiers steeped to the necks in blood, damaged irreparably by what they've seen and what they've done?
"We're not saviors. We're killers. It's what we've always been, though it took the fall of Jedha to let us really see it." The muzzle of the plasma cannon tracks towards Baze's chest. "It's what we'll always be. There's no use fighting it, and if you try—"
A familiar staff comes down on Baze's double's head with crushing force. Before the stunned man can react the staff has swept his legs out from under him before coming down with a deadly crunch on the back of the man's neck.
Chirrut maneuvers his way carefully through the corpses, heading unerringly for Baze's position.
Baze lifts his cannon and then hesitates. He can't trust this place or anything he sees, but could he really hurt Chirrut?
Chirrut stops dead in his tracks, as though he can see the cannon. Or perhaps he just heard the movement—Chirrut knows all of Baze's movements. "It's me, Baze."
Baze's hands are shaking, and he tries to think of an answer, a question, anything to say to test the veracity of that statement. There is nothing that his own mind couldn't supply the answer to, though, so he instead says silent.
"Oh, love..." Chirrut lowers his head. "I'm sorry. I knew this would be hard on you. But try, just for a moment, to see as you have in the past. Try to reach for me—to see me."
It could be a trick. It could be a method for this place to get him to lower his guard, to make himself vulnerable.
Lifting his head, Chirrut smiles slightly. "If I just wanted to see you hurt, I could have left your evil twin to his work. Have faith, Baze. Just for a little bit."
Having faith is hard. Having faith means risking being hurt—being left disappointed, desolate, gutted, empty and lost.
We are one with the Force and the Force is with us.
How has Chirrut held onto his faith so doggedly over the years—not just held onto it but drawn strength from it? Baze doesn't understand it. Baze has managed to hold tight to some beliefs—to beliefs in certain people, really—but that's been all. And yet... the two of them have stayed together. Through war and into peace... through the darkest possibilities sentient life could imagine and into a vast area full of new hope...
Baze matches his breathing to the cadence of Chirrut's mantra, the words as much a part of him as his bones and blood. He allows his eyes to unfocus slightly, though he doesn't dare close them. How long has it been since he tried to reach out and grasp that other-vision, the lines of connection stringing all the universe together? Threads of potential even across the deepest interstellar gulfs, and it doesn't belong to him. He turned his back on it. He—
"We are one with the Force and the Force is with us." Chirrut chants the words, his sightless gaze steady on Baze.
You have more strength and faith than you realize, Baze Malbus. K-2SO sounds almost exasperated, which Baze finds rather unfair. Use it to bring Cassian home.
"You can do this, Baze." Chirrut doesn't move towards Baze, his voice strong, expression certain. "You can move through the darkness. You can see the light. Come see it with me."
Chirrut holds out a hand, and Baze takes a step forward before he stops himself.
"You know me. You know how I feel, how I look, just as I know you. Always. Forever." Chirrut's fingers stretch towards Baze. "So come with me to rescue our friend."
Just for a moment, for one flickering, beautiful moment, Baze thinks he can see it again. Can hear it, a symphony made up of too many harmonics to count, and it takes his breath away.
And blazing at the center of it, calling for him... oh, yes, he will always know Chirrut's light. How could he not?
His hand settles in Chirrut's, and the moment fades away. The two of them are alone on an empty road, grassland stretching out to either side of them.
Chirrut smiles, and there is only pleasure in the expression, nothing smug or condescending. "Shall we go onward, then?"
Baze grips Chirrut's hand tight, looking out at the vast, empty world. It seems... bright, somehow. Kinder than the place they had been. "Let's go bring Cassian home."
They set off together, hand in hand, and Baze thinks that maybe they actually have a chance.
The battle comes to Cassian before he's ready.
Not that anyone can ever be completely prepared for battle. The best they probably ever did was Scarif, with Endor a close second. Taking the enemy by surprise, while actually well-armed... it's a good feeling, but one that the Rebellion hadn't been able to experience terribly often.
He still can't remember where he is or what he's supposed to be doing. He doesn't have any weapons, and his right leg doesn't seem to want to work properly.
It doesn't matter. There's fighting right outside his little broken-down shelter, and his chances of survival are greater if he arms himself and picks a side than if he attempts to hide and waits for someone to flush him out.
Getting a weapon isn't too hard. He just has to wait for someone to get themselves mowed down near his hiding place, stay patient while there's a break in the firing, and then dash out to retrieve it.
Taking the weapon... that proves harder, because he recognizes the face of the man he's stealing from. Which can't be right, because Melshi died on Scarif, and Scarif was... Scarif was...
Melshi's glazed eyes snap into focus, and he smiles at Cassian, laughing until blood bubbles up out of his mouth.
Cassian jerks back, the weapon left forgotten. What's happening? Where is he?
"Someplace you can pay for everything you've done." Janga's kick connects with the most tender area on his right thigh, and Cassian lets out an involuntary howl of agony as he tries to move away from her. "Forever. Over and over again. Because you're ours, Cassian Andor. You belong to the dead, and we claim you."
A skeleton wearing the tattered remnants of a rebel pilot's flight suit crawls out of the rubble behind Cassian, its fingers catching in Cassian's hair as it attempts to go for his neck. Cassian lunges forward, trying to put distance between himself and his attackers—
And comes face to face with another dead woman. Her eyes are glazed and distant, but Cassian finally realizes where they're familiar from. He's seen eyes like hers in a younger woman's face, though that shouldn't be possible. "Addis..."
Unseeing eyes turn to him, her chest a mass of blood and burned flesh. "Cas... sian..."
He remembers, and he wishes he didn't, wishes he didn't have to. She was the first contact he lost, when he was still establishing himself as one of the more talented spies of his generation. She had been clever and funny and as dedicated to the cause as he was—or so he thought, until two dozen stormtroopers showed up at one of their meetings.
"Cassian..." Her hand reaches up to touch his face. "Pretty man..." Her fingers slide down his cheek to his chin. "Nice man..." Further down, and he should act, he should defend himself, but before he can manage to convince his body to move cold digits are pressing hard against his windpipe. "Killer."
He didn't want to abandon her. He had been furious and scared, but if one of the stormtroopers hadn't clipped her with a shot he would have let her come with him. Then he could have figured out exactly what happened.
She fell, though, and K-2 was too far away to help Cassian carry her. If he left her... it was better than Imperial torture, if she wasn't responsible. And if she was, it meant she couldn't give away more information.
He hadn't stopped shaking for almost twenty-four hours after K-2 extracted them.
He can't seem to stop shaking now, to make his hands actually work and pull her away from him. Is he just going to sit here and let her kill him? Is this how he's finally going to die—not bravely, not fighting for the cause, but lost and hallucinating that the dead are after him?
A familiar baton lashes out, whistling past Cassian's ear to connect with Addis' face with devastating force. The hands around his throat release, and Cassian collapses into a coughing fit, his lungs trying desperately to fill themselves.
"Cassian!" Jyn is kneeling beside him, hugging him, when she knows better. They're in a war zone, and during a battle what matters is completing the mission. "It's all right. You're all right."
"Run." Cassian's voice is hoarse, and he seems to be shaking uncontrollably again. "You have to... get to extraction point. You have to—"
Jyn pulls back, holding onto both Cassian's upper arms with fierce strength. "This isn't real. None of this, no matter how it looks or feels."
Cassian frowns, assessing the situation surrounding them again. It feels real, the grit of broken buildings in the air, the smell of blaster fire and scorched air and devastated bodies assaulting his nose, the sounds of heavy weaponry and smaller blasters and creaking city. But reality doesn't include ghosts choking him to death.
He shifts backwards, pulling carefully free of Jyn's grip. If none of this is real and he's seeing Jyn... who's trying to get something out of him? Who's learned enough about him to pick so expertly at his heart? "None of this is real?"
Jyn reaches for him, expression puzzled. After just the right amount of seconds the puzzlement gives way to exasperation. "I'm real. It's complicated, all right? And Chirrut would probably explain it better. But someone with a grudge against you had you overdose on this drug that's supposed to make you Force sensitive and we..." Jyn throws both hands up. "We just want to bring you home, Cassian. So—"
Someone grabs him by the elbow, and Cassian stumbles, barely managing to get his feet under him as his right leg refuses to function like it's supposed to.
"Come on, Andor!" Melshi is shoving a blaster into his hand. "Don't let us down. Not again."
"You owe us." Tonc is on his other side, the rest of the Scarif division spreading out to fill Cassian's peripheral vision. Their forms seem to shift, sometimes normal, sometimes skeletal, sometimes pillars of flame.
"No, he doesn't." Bodhi steps out of nowhere to face down the soldiers. His hands are shaking, but his eyes practically burn with fury and certainty. "And the people you're pretending to be wouldn't say things like that."
Jyn's arm wraps around Cassian's waist, pulling him away from the line of fighters and into a loose embrace. "You were Cassian's friends. You all chose to go to Scarif with us. Just like everyone else who fought and died for the rebellion chose it."
Bodhi steps forward, into the space that Cassian occupied a moment before. He reaches out to touch Tonc's arm. "If you are out there, if you're a part of the Force... don't let your memory be twisted like this."
Jyn is whispering something under her breath—something that sounds suspiciously like Chirrut's mantra. We are one in the Force and the Force is with us. Her fingers fumble with her neckline, and the Kyber crystal that she always wears tumbles out into the light.
No... the Kyber crystal is the light, a steady, pulsing brightness. It washes over the soldiers standing in front of them, and something seems to change. Something becomes more real, more right about their postures and expressions.
"Damn, Andor." Melshi makes a soft clicking sound in the back of his throat. "Someone's put you through the wringer, huh?"
"You've got to take better care of yourself." Tonc steps forward, reaching out to give Cassian's shoulder a light punch. "You've got a lot of us rooting for you, you know."
Cassian clings tight to Jyn's arm, to Bodhi's arm when Bodhi slips in against his other side. He can't seem to stop shivering, which is silly.
"Well." Chirrut's warm voice comes from behind them, but Cassian can't tear his eyes away from the smiles and camaraderie on his old allies' faces. "It seems our coming may have been a little bit of overkill, Baze."
Jyn and Bodhi turn, and Cassian is turned with them, the two holding him close. The two Guardians stand hand in hand, Baze's eyes focused on their group, Chirrut's blind gaze staring in their vague direction as he smiles.
Behind the Guardians another group is massing, and Cassian tries instinctively to shift away from them.
Tivik steps forward, his bad arm held close to his chest. "That's it? Just like that you get to turn away? Pretend you never did what you did?"
Cassian can never forget. Even when he forgets names, even when the individual incidents blur together, the events are always there. They all carve a little piece off his soul, and he doesn't think he ever gets those pieces back.
These ghosts aren't as patient as the soldiers. They press closer, and first Chirrut, then Jyn, then Bodhi take up defensive positions around Cassian, fending off attacks.
Cassian should help them. He should defend himself. Except... he's already made these people pay to keep him safe. To keep the Rebellion safe. Does he have the right to ask it again?
Baze's hand closes around Cassian's chin, raising his head so that Cassian meets Baze's eyes. Baze's other hand holds tight to Cassian's shoulder, keeping him stable as the world seems to lurch and shift around them.
No... as the world does lurch and shift around them, an earthquake adding itself to the battle sounds.
"We did what we had to do." Baze's words aren't shouted, but Cassian can still hear them clearly despite the chaos surrounding them. "You were even better than me about it. Sometimes I killed for revenge, for fury, or for sheer survival—to make sure Chirrut and I would have food. You killed because the alternative was allowing evil to flourish. Not all those who use the darkness have to fall into it... and the price we pay doesn't have to be our lives or our happiness."
"You can have a future that's different from the past, captain." Chirrut uses his staff to drive back the ghosts. "All prisons are supposed to have a time for parole, right?"
"You gave me hope." Jyn is just as brutal with the ghosts as she is with stormtroopers, using her batons to maximum effect. "Don't let someone else's need for revenge take it away from you."
"You belong with us." Bodhi retreats back to Cassian's side, wrapping his arms around Cassian's chest. "You've given more than anyone could ever ask for the Republic, and now it's time to go home."
"Home..." Cassian holds tight to Bodhi. He wants to go home. He wants to be with Jyn, with Bodhi, defending and protecting the Guardians' new Temple. He wants it so badly it feels wrong.
Jyn clears a space for herself and retreats to Cassian's side, burying her hands in his hair and staring into his eyes. "Then come home. Come with us. Deny all this. It's not who you are or what you deserve. It's not what the Force is supposed to be. Look me in the eye and say you want to come home. Believe it."
"I want..." Cassian has to stop, to run his dry tongue over suddenly parched lips. How often has he been able to voice what he wants? Not what he needs—and even that can be chipped away at, to give what's needed for the rebellion—but what he just wants. "I want to go home."
The crystal on Jyn's chest flares again, white light spilling over everything. Where it touches the ghosts they vanish; the signs of battle fade away, leaving a beautiful, ancient city all in shades of gold and pale white.
Addis stands in front of him, smiling, looking alive. "Then go home, Cassian. Remember us and mourn us, but don't be bound by us or let others use us against you. Know yourself, as you always knew your targets."
Cassian holds tight to Bodhi and Jyn, not sure if he's using them to stay upright or just wants the contact. "How do I get there?"
Tilting her head, Addis smiles coyly. "How do the pretty ones ever get woken from the evil spell?"
It takes Cassian longer than it should to figure out what Addis means.
Bodhi is the fastest to react, his lips pressing against Cassian's cheek, his smile evident in the shape. Jyn's lips press against Cassian's mouth a moment later, firm, demanding. Both of them hug him tight, their arms claiming him, scars and past and hopes and future.
The words dissolves into white as for the first time in a long time Cassian feels like he's right where he needs to be.
K-2SO turns at the sound of movement, though he keeps his body in the doorway, slowing the techs who are trying to push past him. If it becomes necessary, if Cassian's vitals fluctuate outside of the range that K-2 knows means scared or angry and enter a dangerous zone, K-2 will be out of their way in a heartbeat. But something seems to be happening with the others, and if maybe, just maybe, they're able to do what they hope...
Jyn is the first on her feet, though she stumbles, going down onto her hands and knees as she clambers towards Cassian's bed. Bodhi is shortly behind her, moving a little more carefully but fixated on reaching Cassian with the same temerity. The Guardians stretch slowly, acclimating themselves to their limbs and movement in a way that reminds K-2 of a droid suddenly transplanted into a new body.
Taking a step towards the bed allows one of the technicians to slip past him, but it's an easy matter for K-2 to snag the woman by the back of her shirt and bring her to an abrupt halt.
As Jyn half-collapses onto the bed Cassian stirs, a slow, uncoordinated motion of his right arm and his head. His eyes blink, blink again, and then open wide before squinting in confusion towards Jyn. "J-Jyn?"
Cassian's voice is hoarse, his speech slurred, but it's clearly Jyn's name.
Bodhi makes a small noise, a little whimpering sound that is pure pleasure. He clambers up on the other side of Cassian's bed, grabbing Cassian's hand and holding it tight.
"Bodhi..." Cassian's eyes close after he says the name, but his breathing is slow and even, his heart rate steady. "I'm home."
A strangled sob comes from Jyn, and K-2 doesn't need to see her face to know that she's crying.
If he were an organic life form, one capable of tears...
Cassian is home, alive and coherent. For the first time since he saw Cassian's skin covered in blood, K-2 feels like maybe things will turn out all right after all.
Cassian limps his way towards the holding cell where Wynn is being kept. There's been a lot of discussion over the last few days about where her trial should take place, and what she should be charged with. Cassian doesn't really care that much. So long as she's no longer a danger to his family, then he's satisfied with the outcome.
He'd thought he would probably just leave it at that—ignore her altogether, letting the simple fact of his continued existence speak for itself. When he heard that the decision to deport her or not would probably come down later today, though... well, there's a right for the accused to face their accuser, and he figures in this case it applies both ways.
He has to pause and rest for a few minutes in the waiting room of the detention center. The cybernetic nerve graft in his right leg is taking well, and he's been assured that he should have full and proper use of the limb within a week. For the moment, though, he still has times when his foot becomes tingly, or his muscles don't quite seem to respond the way they're supposed to.
Compared to what came before, though...
He spent the forty-eight hours after waking from his coma sliding in and out of hallucinations. None had been as terrible as the ones that came before, though some were disconcerting. (Others... others were things that Cassian hadn't even known he wanted. How long had it been since he saw his parents? Since he really thought about them? To have them come to him, tell him they were proud of all he did... to get to introduce them to Jyn and Bodhi... It wasn't real. He knows it wasn't real, but the memory is still pleasant.)
Rogue One hadn't left him alone until three days after the last hallucination faded away. Usually it had been Jyn and Bodhi with him, but sometimes it was Baze or Chirrut—presumably because someone convinced the other two that eating and sleeping are necessary life functions.
The only one who hadn't hovered at his bedside was K-2, and Cassian knows he's going to have to deal with that. Not right now, though. Right now, he needs to get at least a brief explanation as to why.
Wynn's cell is small but clean, following all the New Republic protocols for proper treatment of prisoners. Wynn is wearing a loose, pocketless shirt and trousers, and she turns to glare at Cassian as soon as his footsteps are audible.
For several seconds they just study each other. She's definitely related to Addis—now that he's made the connection, the family resemblance is obvious. "You did this because of Addis."
Wynn's eyes widen, her lips pulling away from her teeth. "She was my sister."
Cassian nods, and silence stretches between them. What was it he wanted to achieve by coming here? What did he hope to learn from this woman?
"She was my sister. She was all I had. And you shot her and left her body in the street like she was some scavenging rat." Wynn's hands clench into fists, her eyes shining with tears.
"Someone betrayed us." Cassian speaks quietly, not wanting to anger the woman more. "We were attacked at our meeting. I didn't..."
"You what?" Wynn stands, her whole body trembling. "You didn't have a choice?"
"No." Shaking his head, Cassian looks down at his hands. "There's always a choice. I could have left her when she couldn't run. I could have allowed her to be captured. I could have allowed us both to be captured. I could have killed us both." Cassian raises his eyes to meet Wynn's again. "I didn't know who betrayed us. And if she wasn't the leak... I didn't want to leave her to be tortured, to give away information that could be important."
"So you killed her." Wynn sits back down abruptly. "And you're perfectly all right with that."
Cassian's left hand trails across his chest. The medics did a good job. There's very little scarring—nothing that will be legible as words. But there is the occasional ridge or dip or discoloration of skin, and he and Bodhi and Jyn will always know where these new scars came from. "You'd prefer I wasn't? You'd prefer I was a useless wreck?"
Wynn looks away, her breathing fast and shallow. "I wanted you to be found guilty."
Tilting his head, Cassian studies the woman. "What was it you expected to have happen with the ghost root?"
"It should have killed you, or at the very least driven you insane." Wynn's eyes flick back to him, and the tears are standing out brighter. "The ghosts would ensure it. They would find you guilty. Addis would remind you of what you did, and..."
"And my wife, my husband, my team would be left in mourning." Cassian steps closer to the clear barrier, and a spark of anger kindles deep in his chest. "Except you wanted them to be guilty, too. Why—"
"They were protecting you! Not just your team, but the damn government—you're a hero. You and the rest of them." Wynn is standing again, just on the other side of the barrier from Cassian. Some of the tears overflow her eyes. "You're a murderer and they hold you up as a hero. Do you blame me for assuming the rest are just as bad as you?"
"You have no idea what we've been through. What they've sacrificed—what they've lost—" Cassian cuts his rant off, not wanting to give Wynn the personal stories of the people he loves. "Did you know they took the ghost root themselves? To help me?"
Wynn's skin pales, her shoulders starting to shake as she cries harder.
"The funny thing is, depending on when you approached me... I might have agreed with you. That I don't deserve this peace. That the only way for me to redeem myself would be to die for the cause. And I will, still, if it ever becomes necessary. I will die if that's the price needed for a free and just universe." Cassian takes a step away from the barrier. "But for all the people who didn't make it this far... for the people who came this far by my side... I want to live. I will live. And I'll be happy, with my family."
It's a bit of cruelty, probably, rubbing his family in the face of this woman who hasn't recovered from the loss of hers. But she was cruel, and sometimes Cassian isn't a very good man.
Wynn collapses to the ground, her hands over her face, her sobs increasing in intensity.
Kneeling down on his side of the glass, Cassian studies the woman, the anger fading away and leaving only aching tiredness in its wake. "I did see her, you know. Addis."
Wynn doesn't respond.
"She was kind. Just like I remember your sister being kind." Cassian is silent for a few seconds, listening to the sounds of grief. "I'm sorry that she died. I truly am. And I'm sorry that it still hurts you."
Wynn lifts her head, sniffling. "Then prove it."
Cassian's eyebrows arch up. "How?"
"Like I said, you're a hero. You know that they're going to make an example of me. That they're going to—"
Wynn blinks at him. "I... what?"
"You want me to tell them to be lenient, be kind... I'll do it." Cassian stands up. "In return, you stay away from me and my family. You get your life back together. Mourn your sister, and then do what she'd want. Make your own life, and live it."
Wynn just continues to stare at him, tears and snot drying on her face.
Cassian turns and walks away, his limp increasing as his thigh protests the work out he's put it through by getting up and down.
Maybe it's a stupid thing to do. Maybe it's going to come back and bite him. But he's been reasonable and logical for years, doing what seemed necessary to further the cause. In this new world, in this time of peace and hope...
He doesn't think the rest of the team will begrudge him the compassion he's finally had a chance to show, and that's what really matters.
K-2SO stays close to Cassian when the others start returning to their work.
He understands that Cassian is supposedly recovered. He understands that Cassian had asked the others to stop hovering quite so much. But K-2 had kept the farm working while the others stayed with Cassian at the medical center, and he figures they'll do fine without him for a few hours.
Cassian has stopped, leaning against a wall and resting his leg. He's not far from where he left his speeder, but apparently he's decided that this is a good place to have a conversation.
K-2SO slinks out of hiding. He should have known he wouldn't be able to keep himself hidden from Cassian. Not when Cassian is used to studying his surroundings, and this planet has little by way of large droids like K-2.
Cassian smiles as K-2 comes closer. "Hello. Decided to go for a walk?"
K-2SO considers lying, but he's terrible at lying, and he suspects Cassian already knows the truth. "I wanted to ensure you were all right."
"And?" Cassian's voice is quiet, and one eyebrow goes up as he asks the query.
"And..." K-2SO lifts one hand. "I don't know."
That's the problem, really. K-2SO doesn't trust his judgment anymore with regards to Cassian. He thinks Cassian is making a strong recovery, but if he's wrong... if they leave him alone for a few hours and come back to find...
Cassian's hand presses against K-2's chassis, and K-2SO shifts his gaze to meet his human's.
"I'm sorry." The words are simple but heartfelt, repeated in Cassian's native tongue. "I swear I didn't lie to you. I didn't expect things to escalate like they did."
"You were hallucinating and weren't comfortable enough to tell us." K-2 tries to sound calm, as though it doesn't matter.
"The ghosts kept telling me that if I said what was happening..." Cassian closes his eyes. "This all feels so fragile still, Kay. So... unreal."
"Yes." K-2 covers Cassian's hand with his own. "I know what you mean."
"Of course you do." Cassian smiles as he opens his eyes and looks up at K-2 again. "I don't want to lose it. And by the time I realized how dangerous things were... I wasn't thinking well to begin with, and it got steadily worse. I didn't know that I was going to hurt myself, though. Certainly not that badly."
"And..." K-2 hesitates.
"If anything like this ever happens in the future... if I ever start seeing things, or if I'm ever just..." Cassian shrugs. "I'll talk with you about it. I won't ever do anything without talking to you about it. I swear."
K-2 presses Cassian's hand close to himself, registering the warmth of his human's skin. "And I won't allow harm to come to you if I can stop it."
"I know." Cassian's other hand comes up to rap against K-2's chassis. "So let's go home, shall we?"
K-2SO follows Cassian back to the speeder. There had been something... different about the way Cassian said home this time. There is usually a brief pause or hesitance at the start of the word home, but this time... this time it rolled off Cassian's tongue as though it belonged.
Which maybe means that the two of them have finally found a home, after all.
Jyn listens for the sound of the speeder returning. Cassian had asked to see Wynn alone, and after some consideration Jyn had agreed. She doesn't need to see the woman, and her being furious the whole time probably won't help whatever negotiations Cassian wants to hold.
He wasn't gone for long. Just long enough to go, have his meeting, and return. It helps Jyn relax a little bit.
K-2SO is in the speeder with Cassian as it settles down in the yard. Jyn supposes that shouldn't surprise her, though K-2 hadn't left with Cassian. Maybe it means that K-2 and Cassian have finally had a chance to talk and patch things up. That would probably be good for everyone.
Cassian is careful getting out of the speeder, favoring his right leg still. He smiles first at her and then at Bodhi, who has emerged from the house, flour on his hands and face.
Bodhi smiles back, the tension that had been holding his body taut disappearing. "Welcome home, Cassian."
Cassian waits for Jyn to reach his side, puts an arm around her shoulders, and leads her towards the house. "It's good to be home."
Jyn rests her head against his shoulder, feeling the steady, easy rise and fall of his breathing.
There was nothing good about what happened. Jyn will never be glad that they had to go through this. But perhaps, if it had to happen...
They're home. All six of them are home, and able to say it without doubt or hesitance or disbelief now. It doesn't mean everything's going to be easy—life is never too easy—but for now...
Jyn is happy to be right where she is, and she's pretty sure the three people surrounding her feel the same.