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In the beginning Jyn Erso perceives Luke Skywalker as girl's gossip, a tidbit barely grasped in a painkiller induced miasma. Nurses talk about eyes that sparkle when he smiles, skin kissed by the sun, she lets them speak: a crush is a sign of humanity and she's had all too little of it in her life. When she hears he blew up the Death Star Jyn smiles and says she'd like to kiss him, the nurses mutter "poor dear" and leave her baffled. Why would they pity her for wanting the same thing they did? Medical droids praise a considerate young man who fixes loose wiring and polishes them, who speaks to them as equals instead of programmed bolts. The drugs withhold any further information as the hours run dry.

Sometimes she feels Bodhi's rough hands softly rubbing her knuckles, usually followed by Chirrut's mantras and Baze's dark humor. Occasionally she hears a voice, singing to her in a language she's never heard. The voice appears to be male, gentle and comes only in the dark of night. When her fever spikes and Baze has to shake the sense into poor Bodhi the voice gains a face. Well half a face and a blurry one to boot, since her right eye has been rendered useless and the drugs haven't fully worn out yet.

She blames the meds for the light that won't stop glowing around him, making it even harder to catch a proper glimpse at her mystery bard. The voice has working hands, blond? hair and smells like the spices Saw would smuggle out of Hutt space to fund his Partisans. He leaves her a large flower pressed in a embroidery hoop. His flower is mostly white, with a deep purple throat and a purple lining around the edges, held in a whorled fashion. She has never seen its equal or inhaled a similar aroma, Jyn keeps it under her pillow and strokes the petals before going to sleep every night. Later when the nurses show her the mottled mess she has become, Jyn tells herself she is like the flower: changed by someone else's design but still relevant. She holds it close to her heart the day she finds out Cassian can't bear to look at her.

Chirrut is the first of her friends to meet Luke Skywalker. Draven doubts the veracity of "General Skywalker's son" due to the Jedi Order's vows of chastity, Mon Mothma claims Luke has his father's eyes and piloting skills. The rebel leaders compromise with having their "hero" tested by an expert and since the man Luke claims was General Obi-Wan Kenobi died on the Death Star, Chirrut is the closest thing they have to a specialist regarding the Force.

The monk had met Master Kenobi and his then apprentice Anakin only once but Force signatures are never truly forgotten. Her friend was accompanied by Captain Rex of the 501st, who arranges a blood test for personal matters that happen to fit with Draven's agenda for now. Chirrut confirms that Mon Mothma is right in less than five minutes.

Draven's irate expression is the best thing Jyn's seen in years.

The clone Captain hugs "the General's boy" when the test comes back positive and proclaims him cuun munit lost Vod'ika*, it spreads through the barracks like flames on dry grass. Once Luke's identity is confirmed the Alliance is quick to use him as propaganda.

The story practically writes itself after the boy states Vader killed his father and he was born on Empire day: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, the last bastions of their once mighty Order engaged in a duel against Darth Vader. One last effort of the Republic's champions to triumph in the face of an all-consuming darkness. Anakin Skywalker, the hero with no fear pierced by a sickly red blade. Obi-Wan's grief as he promised to protect his brother's son whilst Master Skywalker lay dying in the arms of his mentor, the forbidden child whom the last Jedi Master would live and die for. It is no surprise that people flock to him, swear themselves to this nineteen old farmer who now embodies the legends of old.

Her suspicions are proven once preparations begin for his ceremony: Rogue One will be old news because of this boy who took down her father's unholy creation at the very last moment, cast aside to favor Alderaan's swift angel of justice.

She hates him more than anyone except Krennic in that moment. Perhaps more because he might carry a kind heart, unblemished in a galaxy tainted long before any of them were born. The golden boy with Alderaan's last medal of valor around his neck, shrouded in tale and glory. Bodhi, Baze and Chirrut had declined their medals for reasons unbeknownst to her. Mon Mothma had offered her a place beside Skywalker, his smuggler friend and the wookie but she'd turned it down and taken her pyrrhic award in silence.

She had no desire to make a spectacle of herself in a moment of celebration. They would have compared her to him, just as they compared him to Captain Solo. The difference is that unlike the rogue Corellian, Jyn's visage would win no favors. She attends the ceremony and takes in the measure of the boy (Yes I know he's not much younger than us Bodhi, I'm only half-blind!!!) Beautiful where she is scarred, golden where she is dark, possessing a child's purity where is she an old woman wearing a youth's body. Her opposite in every way that counts.

One need only look at their fathers to glimpse how far apart they are: Anakin Skywalker is a martyr, a hero who left them too soon yet still managed to aid them from the grave through his son. Galen Erso is a villain who grew a conscience, the architect of Alderaan's destruction. Princess Leia's icy stares in the after-party are a jarring reminder that in the eyes of Alderaan's survivors she is the spawn of death. Jyn leaves the celebration early and avoids meeting any of the Rebellion's saviors. No doubt she will seem monstrous to them should their paths cross.

Meanwhile K-2SO finds a pressed flower underneath Jyn's pillow, his first impulse is to take it to research but then he remembers Cassian's lessons regarding organics and their sense of property. Intrigued nonetheless the droid takes a photo and shows it to one of the Alliance's botanists in hopes of uncovering its origins. Hallem Celaar identifies the specimen as Datura, a desert flower that only grows on Tatooine.

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When she does meet Luke Skywalker, it's entirely her fault. Well, mayhap the blame lies somewhat with Cassian. If he hadn't offered her that fucking undercover job where they'd "fix" her then she wouldn't have been so desperate to leave. The nerve of him!!! He ignores her for months, makes her feel like shit and then thinks that scaring green boys who mock her, repairing her skin will mend everything.

They'd fought, they've always fought: Peace is an illusion to them both, a fairytale and most fairytales are just beautiful lies parents create for their children to live in. War orphans see life as it is early on. Ever since Lah'Mu she has gone back and forth between illusions and the bitter truth, all the while yearning for a day in which love became an indisputable part of reality.

Part of her wishes she were weak enough to pretend, to lie and tell him no lasting harm was done when he turned away but it's not in her nature. She hurt him, he hurt her back, in the end that's what they're best at: hitting hard where it hurts with minimum restraint, such is the art of the war-poisoned youth. Who is she to change that? Who's to say she might have done differently if the roles were switched?

Bodhi says she did the right thing, that by refusing him she opened the door for a man who'd love her as she deserved. His gaze drifted to her pressed flower when he said that, as if it validated his claim. Two seconds later Kes Dameron had barged into her room saying Chirrut was smacking Cassian with his stick, inviting them to see it. Chirrut is unapologetic regarding the "incident" and gets grounded for a month by General Draven. Grounding Chirrut has the obvious effect of grounding Baze as well, Jyn finds it all tediously embarrassing and chivalrous.

Afterwards she begs Mon Mothma for a new mission, the details of said job being irrelevant so long as it was far away from the Rebellion's current base of operations. The former senator had been surprisingly relieved that she hadn't accepted Cassian's offer, if Jyn didn't know any better she would have thought Mon cares about her well-being. Of course a few minutes later the conspiratorial gleam in Mothma's eyes proved that wrong but Jyn was too exhausted to care about how this politician playing liberator would use her.

Four days later she's fastening her seatbelt on a YT-1300 light freighter heading to Tatooine. Or at least trying to fasten her seatbelt since the damned thing won't clip on. It's times like this she admires Chirrut for overcoming his blindness. Just when she's about to change seats Captain Solo halts at the sight of her.

"Chewie, what did I say about busting kids out of hospitals?!?"And this is the man half the Rebellion wants to marry and reproduce with. How charming.

"Captain Solo my name is Agent Jyn Erso and I've been assigned to your ship for transportation by Mon Mothma herself."

"You're Erso? Hard to see what all the pitying looks are about, I've had great sex with women ten times uglier." Your mannerisms indicate you're telling the truth, oddly enough your blunt dialogue is somewhat comforting. But if I say that you'll get an even larger ego.

"Where's your co-pilot?? I'd like to address an adult, species won't be an problem unless it's your long-lost twin brother." 

"Yeesh is there a school for ice ladies that nobody's mentioned or something?? Hey kid scarecrow lady put us in charge of your girlfriend!!!!"

Twin cerulean eyes meet hazel set beside purblind white as Luke fucking Skywalker walks into the ship. He has the gall to blush at Captain Solo's brash declaration. The boy's smile is so bright it's almost nauseating.

No wonder the damned Chandrillan was incandescent with happiness, Jyn practically gave her permission to set this up. Mothma, you conniving, opportunistic sithspawn I hope you die from the festering plague or-or some other disease that's equally hellish!!!!

Mon had openly sought to pair her with Skywalker in numerous occasions but Jyn had managed to outmaneuver her until now. Avoiding Skywalker was a stroll through Varykino compared to hiding from Reece Tallent or Imperial forces. His presence was always heralded by her mother's kyber crystal humming, a dulcet song only she and Chirrut seemed capable of hearing.

She'd left Lyra Erso's last token with him and Baze as a promise, a way to prove them she would return. If not for the soft, tiny smile that crossed Baze's lips upon receiving her good luck charm she'd be seriously regretting that decision. To his credit Skywalker makes no efforts at polite conversation after she shuts down his brief attempt at pleasantries. He's shrewd enough to recognize when someone's 100% pissed.

Jyn inspects his uniform with her good eye and is shocked to find a Captain's seal in his jacket. How dare they!!! Good men and women have died after years of battle without achieving that rank and the Alliance just hands it over to this inexperienced farmhand. Saw was right: politicians are all slime-ridden beasts regardless of which side they're on.

When they reach Tatooine Jyn expects a horde of adoring fans, throes of people anxious to greet their planet's icon. What they get is a hooded old-before-his-time man who performs a series of coded gestures neither she or Captain Solo comprehend. When Captain Solo asks the stranger to speak Basic the elder man's brow rise in mortifying fear until Skywalker (who apparently decided to don a cloak for this exchange because of reasons he didn't bother to explain to anyone) steps forward and executes several movements with his hands. They extend their arms and touch each other's wrists, moving in a circular motion.

It's some form of sign language, Jyn realizes but not one registered under any branch of the Galactic Hierarchy. A secret tongue then, a tongue for the occult? the patient? From the looks of it this cryptic wordplay is deeply familiar to Captain Skywalker. What exactly do they teach on Tatooine?? When this baffling exchange is done the old man pulls down Skywalker's hood, he does the same to the elder.

" Bagrism heym plimenik. Tatooine enderungen vayt aoykh slouli far meyn leyking on skivalker kozing meykhem *"

"Uncle Kitster, you're exaggerating. I do my best to stay out of trouble."

"di outlanders ir gebrakht, kenen zayn zey trastid mit aundzer zikher hoyz?*?"

"I'd trust them with my life uncle." You trusting Captain Solo is logical but what in Sith Hell compels you to trust a half-blind, deformed girl that spent half the journey scowling at you? Drop the act Skywalker, nobody's that good (I don't want you to be that good. It contradicts every rule I've learned about people. Life's taught me that kindness isn't our nature, pain is.) People hurt you, they leave you and if by some miracle they don't abandon you or try to come back they die or suffer needlessly-

Her train of thought is interrupted by Skywalker placing a blaster in her hands. The childlike expression she's come to associate him with is gone, replaced with a seriousness Jyn didn't know he was capable of as he continues to speak in that Force-begotten language. Jyn is fluent in eight languages and passable in six, she still can't get a word out of Luke's conversation with Kitster though the pronunciation is familiar somehow.

Her sole consolation in all this is that Captain Solo is equally confused.

They reach a homestead of some sort where Kitster removes a rug from the floor, revealing a hidden door. People come out of the compartment, a ragged crowd in moth-eaten clothes with forlorn eyes that barely dare to look above the earth. They vary from human to Twi'lek to Rodian with a few Togrutas in between. Some of these battered souls grow calmer at the sight of her imperfection barely covered by an orange headscarf coated in sweat and sand, they call Jyn Depuskalta* as if it proclaimed her a hero.

Skywalker orders Captain Solo to stand watch, to her surprise the Corellian obeys without a fuss. Once Captain Solo sets the perimeter Luke takes out a brand new surgery kit (So that's where the missing medical tools went) and activates a small, portable scanner. It's subsequent beeping brings her back to Scarif. The walls feel like a prison, pressing against her, caging her in. She can't breathe-

"Are you a decent singer?"

Jyn swings back into the world, heart beating too quickly. She blinks and has to go over the words several times before she understands enough to drawl, "I can carry a tune well enough, just tell me what language to croon."

"Basic would be fine, Twi'leki, Bocce or Togruti would be wonderful but unless you want to see people writhing in painful memories Huttese is out of the question."


And that's how Jyn Erso learns that in Tatooine the term "singer" has more to do with medicine than actual music. She sings her father's repertory of lullabies as Kitster places leather strips on people's mouths (Everyone seemed horrified at the mere mention of anesthetics, a little girl even cried). Jyn prides herself in being a knowledgeable person, a woman who's seen the worst the galaxy has to offer. She has seen homes ransacked, lands scorched by the Death Star, killed countless bucket heads. It didn't prepare her for when Luke laboriously cut into a Twi'lek toddler's skin with a scalpel and removed a transmitter embedded to his neck which was immediately crushed. Captain Skywalker proceeds to do the same with the rest of these weary folks.

He kisses their scars (and really some of these poor individuals make her look like Queen Amidala once their many layers of clothing are loose) with a tenderness she hasn't witnessed since the last time her mother tucked her in bed. If Captain Skywalker notices the treacherous tears she fails to suppress he's too polite to say anything.

Every one of these people has a explosive implanted, even the babes still sucking their mother's milk. Typical: just when you think the Empire can't get any more evil they raise the bar. She wonders what part of the Rebellion this is and why no one is hysterical at the fact children have been turned into living bombs. Perhaps High Command is keeping the affair under wraps to prevent mass panic all over the Alliance. If so Princess Leia must not know about it, the would-be-queen of Alderaan is famous for her lightning-quick anger upon innocents suffering.

When everyone's bombs are removed Han boards them in his ship (Force, Bodhi is NEVER going to let her live down not recognizing the Millennium Falcon) and leaves her alone with Luke who offers her water, the best hospitality on a desert planet and notices he brought her refreshment yet had none for himself.

"I don't understand you."

"What is it you don't understand??"

"Kriff I didn't mean to say that out loud!!!"

"It's fine, no harm done. But it's any comfort I don't understand you Core-Worlders much either."

Well that was unexpected "Oh and what confuses Luke Skywalker, hero of the Rebellion?"

"Your artificial lakes filled with purposely poisoned water make no sense to me. It sets a new definition on wasteful."

"What poisoned water? We don't have any poisoned water wells on The Inner Rim."

"Sure you do. Han told me all about them. They're called pools and you have enough drinking water to quench half of Mos Espa in them but Core-Worlders put chlorine in the water, making it virtually undrinkable." 

Jyn laughs loudly at that because really she'd never thought of swimming pools that way. Oh her father would have loved such a practical point of view. That has the instant effect of ruining her good mood: Luke will never meet her father, or her mother. Her parents will never meet Cassian, Chirrut or Baze or even Kaytoo. Galen and Lyra Erso are dead, in a way she's little more than a rotting corpse herself.

The little girl who knew nothing of hardship died with Lyra, the loyal soldier who valued the cause died when Saw left her, the lovesick young girl who wanted nothing more than settle down and grow old peacefully died with Hadder Ponta* (She wonders what that boy would think of her now). Jyn Erso's been dying longer than she has lived and it's depressing. Luke's palm upon the ruined half of her face brings her back to the present, his desert-sky blue gazing with concern. Honestly, a mere touch shouldn't fill her with joy, physical contact applied in a sweet manner shouldn't be so important. When did she become so blatantly pathetic? Tentatively she reaches out and mirrors his action, he responds by loosening her headscarf and playing with a stray lock of hair. Not for the first time she wishes both of her eyes worked or at least looked normal.

"Your eyes are perfect just the way they are."

"I'm pretty sure I didn't speak this time."

"Sorry, it's a weird 'gift' of mine. I can't really control it, Uncle Owen used to joke it made me the perfect Sabacc player."

"I'm curious:Have you picked up on anything the higher-ups think of me?"

"Mon Mothma thinks you put too much pressure on yourself, Dodonna gets reminded of someone called Jun Sato when he sees you and Draven hates you with a fiery passion."

"I could have told you that last one, it's an open secret. Overhear anyone spouting mental proclamations of love to me?"

"The guy with the moustache gets pretty romantic from time to time. He loves your eyes, he compares them to a moon overlooking a forest. Most of his nightmares are about losing you."

"Sounds promising but facial hair is a staple here in the Rebellion, you'll have to be more specific if I'm to meet him."

"He's usually accompanied by a reprogrammed Imperial droid with no manners. It drives poor Threepio insane. Chirrut hit him with his staff pretty hard--Are you all right Jyn? Jyn?"

Cassian cares about me, he's an idiot with no idea how to manage psychological issues properly but he cares. The problem is getting him to admit it. Think Erso what makes men more open to their emotions? Shouting will just start another bloodbath. Faking my death won't work, he'd never forgive me for it. Maybe if I make him jealous somehow? Well, here goes nothing. "Luke: would you be willing to help me with something?"

"Depends: what do you need help with?"

"Pretend that you and I are in a relationship to make Cassian jealous enough to admit his feelings for me." I've never made anyone's cheeks turn red before, it's a nice sensation.

He ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck. "I'd be happy to help you with that but I should warn you that I don't have any experience with courtships or girls as a whole."

"I don't believe you, there's no way someone with your looks is an 18-year old virgin."

"Actually I'm a 19-year old virgin. Look around how many girls do you see in this planet?"

"Well then this will be an educational experience for you."

Luke glances her way again, still shy and bashful. "Sure you don't want someone who's more well-versed in that sort of thing?"

"Depends on how you answer this question: why did you kiss all those people? I know many who would shrink away from scars and Imperial prisoners in general."

"Those weren't prisoners of the Empire, they were slaves of the Hutts."

"What rebel cell deals with slavery against the Hutts?"

"To my knowledge, none of them. This mission wasn't sanctioned by the Alliance. I'm supposed to be recovering in my home planet from a wound. Mon Mothma thought you, Han and I would have 'a well-deserved rest'. Politicians are weird."

"You're surprisingly calm for someone who committed grand theft."

"I've been working on the freedom trail since I was a kid, so it's not a big deal. As for the kissing, my culture sees scarred individuals as symbols of endurance. We don't cover our scars because we're ashamed of them, we feel that our sacrifice is holy and the world has no right to witness our toil freely. Physical contact to a scar given under consent represents our unity as a people, keeping us bonded even after our chains have been broken."  

Jyn's throat tightens. She wets her lips against the dry air, and all she can feel is the knotted, twisted scar tissue that mars the slant of her mouth."So in your culture I wouldn't be repulsive?"

"A woman who wears her courage everyday? You'd be idolized from Anchorhead to Mos Eisley." 

 Luke Skywalker I may not understand how you can stay pure in our galaxy but I know I'm going to protect you as best as I can.



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"Hey Andor did you hear? Skywalker stole your girlfriend."

The news Kes Dameron offhandedly mentions is surprising to say the least. Skywalker's made no attempt to woo any sentient being, the man openly rejected every chance for congratulatory sex in the aftermath of Yavin 4. Cassian thought it would make people think the boy was a prude cause he turned down some really beautiful men and women, instead it added a sense of integrity to his character.

The honorable Luke Skywalker who knows not a beloved's kiss, the boy who makes love to the stars and caresses the dream of a radiant future come nightfall. Somehow the prior farmhand has a capacity to draw individuals to him, he gives a strange look that feels like he's hugging your soul.

Cassian's seen how the boy softens even the coldest of soldiers. General Syndulla smiles when she's around him and that woman's barely twitched her lips in anything other than a frown since her Jedi "friend" whom Cassian firmly believes she was shagging, was killed in battle. How he volunteers at the med-center and operates or performs amputations when the nurses and medical droids have their hands full.

When Nurse Kalonia asked how a farmer acquired such dexterity on the surgical arts the boy replied that his aunt taught him to sing as if it explained everything. Is no Force-Practitioner capable of giving a straight answer?!?! 

He hums whilst performing maintenance on that annoying protocol droid of his in lunch hours with a smile so bright someone could light a fire underneath an iceberg with it's glow. (We're not spying Kaytoo, we're simply assessing his behavior. You and I both know there's something odd about him so be quiet and let me categorize him!!!)

And the worst part is the fool is completely unaware of how much impact he has on them. Captain Skywalker shrugs off his influence over people with an innocence Cassian lost before he was half the boy's age.

It's safe to assume that Skywalker's finally caught Princess Leia, the boy was star-struck at the tiny brunette ever since he rescued her from the Death Star. Captain Solo's had his eye on her as well yet both men's friendship seemed too strong to break over whoever the Alderaanian royal chose. Those two are an odd pair if he ever saw one. As different as night and day but closer than the binary suns of Skywalker's home planet.

Truth be told, Cassian thinks the Corellian smuggler would have been the better choice from an objective point of view. Skywalker's puppy love will wear off in time but Solo stares at the Princess with an unbridled passion strong enough to raze cities to the ground. Mothma must have given the two men leave on Tatooine (Cause obviously there's no spa planet under neutral grounds) so both of them could make their peace at the situation. No military or political leader in their right mind would want to lose such an effective team over something so trivial.

It doesn't change the fact that Dameron's taunt makes no sense. Personally, he doesn't see the appeal in Leia Organa. If anything, he's more inclined to hate the princess than join her league of admirers. He hates her pietistic outfits and elaborate hairstyles that have no place in the battlefield. (What kind of spoiled brat spends time on a pompadour under a warzone!?!?)

Organa's worse than Skywalker cause she purposely transmits the image of a virtuous maiden warrior, giving new recruits a false idea of warfare.

Captain Skywalker at least has the decency to admit the harsher side of this conflict and forgo physical appearances, even if he is a bit naïve. The boy has working hands, hands that had to earn their bread and water. Princess Leia has skin like Nabooian cream, living proof she was waited upon hand and foot all her life.

You don't survive by clinging to "nice things", war is won with blood and guts the likes of which never touch her pristine white dress. (Even now Jyn is far more beautiful than her royal highness will ever be.)

Cassian expects Skywalker to enter the Mess Hall with Organa, confident he would win the bet running through the barracks. His heart pangs a little when he sees Bodhi within the crowd of pilots standing by for Skywalker to arrive in the hangars, chatting with Tycho Celchu and Wedge Antilles.

If the rumors are true, the young man is going to be assigned to a squadron in the near future. Apparently he'll be third in command which is impressive, especially for former Imperials that held no rank prior to defection. Good for him, if anyone deserves recognition it's Bodhi.

Kaytoo replies that there is only a 25% chance the boy will arrive soon since the "overly enthusiastic for no reason" crowd arrived an hour early. Wes Janson asks if he's particularly attached to the reprogrammed droid cause the pilot's itching to use K2SO for target practice. Dameron stops him from wringing his hands around Wes's throat in anger, explaining that Janson is a clown at heart.

The aforementioned man responds by gasping dramatically and pretending he's had a heart attack due to Kes's "unforgivable insult". Seems they'll let just about anybody enlist these days after Scarif dwarfed the Alliance's numbers so drastically.

Baze walks into the landing strip and gruffly asks what the kriff they're waiting for. The warrior's stern gaze hurts just as much as Chirrut's walking staff, perhaps more due to the flash of disappointment coupled with his sullen eyes.

No one notices Andor's tired expression after Malbus informs the crowd that they waited in the wrong place, the Millennium Falcon docked on the opposite docking bay half an hour ago. Janson laughs at his prank and runs when he realizes the consequences of pissing off a group of armed killers. The kriffing idiot thought it was worth being chased by half the Rebellion if the look on his face was anything to go by.

Cassian doesn't join the run, he wasn't allowed to be a child long enough to grasp such juvenile antics. Before Scarif no-nonsense people like him were the majority, sure every once in a while there was a Biggs Darklighter or a Ezra Bridger: compassionate young daredevils who acknowledged the Republic hadn't been perfect but recognized that Palpatine's regime enslaved the galaxy.

Men like that didn't last long, they died in some tragically valiant form and left the survivors telling themselves they were too bright a flame to withstand the years.

The old Rebellion consisted of child soldiers, hardened grown ups that were previously child soldiers, former Imperials, politicians who mostly watched from the sidelines and vengeful old bastards (and relatives or friends/godchildren/protégées of said bastards) who lost everything in the Clone Wars coming from Separatist and Republic loyalties alike.

Yavin changed that, it inspired poets and dreamers and lovable scoundrels looking for a shot at redemption to join the Alliance. If not for his Intelligence training Cassian would be famous among the troops for staring confusedly because this isn't his Rebellion.

The Rebellion doesn't have pranks or wagers on whether or not a princesses' hairstyle determines the outcome of a battle. It isn't lighthearted quips spoken by friendly faces at C-3PO while the fussy protocol apologizes for Captain Solo's loudmouthed attitude. (Why didn't Organa give Chewbacca a medal: the Wookie has a claim for ten medals just for putting up with that man on a regular basis.) The Rebellion is facing the heathen giant with a slingshot and focusing on the cracks their efforts created in the armor.

It's killing a man who considers you his friend to keep your cover intact because there are no "friendly" relations in war, only pacts forged by necessity that may or may not break once the Emperor's six feet under. It's hardship and sorrow and climbing onwards with broken ribs for the faint guarantee that somebody will listen. (He's worried that his inability to connect this side of the conflict with his lifelong struggle means he'll have no place in the new world he's sacrificed so much to build.)

A full week later Kes Dameron's well-aimed jibe becomes agonizingly obvious at the sight of Luke Skywalker walking hand in hand with Jyn. When she grows aware of him their eyes lock and he wants to rush over, sweep the combatant goddess off her feet and kneel whilst beseeching a forgiveness he might not deserve. But he doesn't, loath as Cassian Andor is to admit it nothing he's ever learned extends to this situation or anything remotely affiliated with romantic love.

Captain Andor was taught to love the Rebellion and the Rebellion alone. You had to love it more than comfort, more than food, more than any lover's passionate embrace they said. By that definition he shouldn't feel so deeply about her. Shouldn't call forth his inner poet whenever she spars or winks or rearranges her ever-changing colored headdress. He shouldn't have to suppress the urge to protect her and shield her from the harshness of this sordid galaxy but he does.

He's drawn to her like a beggar freezing in the snow is drawn to fire but knows far too little of warmth and was only trained to remember how thoroughly flames burn. Neither of them speak, it's not necessary. Silence conveys all the words they can't bear to say or don't wish to hear. He's not sure how long their shared gaze lasts, it could have been an hour, a minute, a second bleeding out in thickened clots.

What he does know is how it ends: with Skywalker pressing a soft, gentlemanly kiss upon her palm that places Jyn back to reality. The boy smiles at her, that in itself isn't surprising. His analysis of Luke Skywalker confirms that he is prone to smiling, a sign of his ever present optimism.

What nearly gives Cassian Andor a heart attack is Jyn's response to the boy's sickeningly chivalric gesture: she smiles back at Skywalker and kisses him on the lips. Erso's eyes shine with an amused smirk that's probably a result of watching Cassian's flabbergasted expression. She whispers something into Skywalker's ear and the boy play-acts to take her by the arm in a way that's far too affectionate for a game as they leave.

How did that happen?!? Jyn's never met Luke right??? When Cassian informs Mon Mothma of the possible relationship the politician turned rebel is pleased. The Chandrillan leader holds back a laugh at his suggestion that Skywalker might be taking advantage of Jyn's solitude. Since when do politicians laugh?? She assures him that Captain Skywalker is incapable of such harmful manipulations and claims that even if he were agent Erso is not touch-starved so drastically that she'd consent to an abusive partner for "pleasures of the flesh".

He asks around for any details on the "recent development between Erso and Skywalker" but nobody has a clue as to when it started. Jyn's a private person and from the looks of it Skywalker either respects that or doesn't want to get killed by Rogue One over that. Kes replies that he found out cause he saw them dancing by accident or at least it looked they were dancing, Dameron states that it was unlike any dance he'd ever seen and claims they were oddly dressed.*

Captain Solo is extremely unhelpful in providing answers and Princess Leia actually finds out Skywalker is dating someone because of him.

The Alderaanian royal's face turns stoic and he ends up running when she inquires about his psychological state of mind cause he doesn't want some random shrink digging in his head. When every resource is exhausted he knows there's only one person alive who'll solve this mystery for him without killing him first. One person whom Jyn trusts wholeheartedly and is too kind to lash back in a permanent manner. Hopefully this marks the beginning of Rogue One mending the bridge Scarif's aftermath tore apart.

I need to talk with Bodhi...

Chapter Text

It's just pretend becomes her mantra the moment Luke hugs her to seal their agreement. She should have expected it really, the boy's attitude screams 'lovable hugger' but even those prone to surprise embracing shy away from her, recoiling as if she were nothing more than a ugly shadow. Bodhi, bless his golden heart is still unsettled by physical contact below the chest thanks to Bor Gullet, Baze prefers not to expose himself under such blatant displays of emotion and Chirrut is far too smart for his own good; he'll notice just how lonely she is if Jyn's hand so much as brushes him so she represses the want to hug him on a regular basis. This makes Luke the first person to hug Jyn in her 'Post-Scarif' mode as her psychologist insists her horrid transfiguration be called. His embrace is soft though bursting with life, his body careful not to cause her unwanted pressure and easy to break out of if she wants. It makes Jyn wonder if Skywalker's treating her in accordance with his experience on the freedom trail. Is that what I am to you: one among countless serfs for you to rescue? And if so whom or what does your mind call my jailer? Not surprisingly, the answer eludes her on the way back just as many questions preceding it have and will probably continue to do so.

She hears the song once more when they've reached the base, a warm and gentle hum tingling in the back of her mind. How is that possible? She'd never heard the song without her necklace before. Perhaps there's some hidden meaning to it she's yet to uncover. (Mother would know, she and Papa knew so much more than I do.) The melody's altered somewhat, like a concerto missing an instrument in the orchestra. When Baze and Chirrut return Mother's Kyber Crystal to its rightful owner she tests it by holding the necklace up high as she walks everywhere the song was even remotely audible on witch's hours. The artifact remains quiet all through her trek, by the time she's reached the Hangar Jyn's tempted to think the blasted jewel's spiting her. Wait, I could have sworn it was shining.... I hear footsteps. Please don't be Draven, I've had enough detentions.

"What are you doing out this late?"

"I could ask you the same thing Captain Skywalker."

"Couldn't sleep so I went for a walk. You?"

"I'm trying to figure out if I'm crazy or not."

"You're not crazy Jyn"

"Well how do you know?"

"If you were the Rebellion wouldn't let you train people."

Oh how refreshing you are: I had no idea such innocence still existed in life. Luke extends his arm to her like the gentlemen in old-fashioned holo films and she's unsure whether this action merits an ugly grin or a bash in the head to knock some sense into him. Both of these options are cast aside when Mon Mothma enters the scene. For reasons neither Jyn or Luke can guess at the moment Mon's eyes dance when she sees them together, not bothering to pretend she's not pleased with herself for shanghaiing Jyn into a 'vacation' with Skywalker and Solo. Jyn counts the incident as an unforeseen step forward in their make-believe courtship and starts mentally counting down the days to when Cassian hears about it, Luke's counters Mothma is an honorable woman and thus incapable of betraying their confidence that way. His belief is proven right he Chandrillan smiles when Captain Solo refers to them as 'lovebirds' and informs them in complete privacy this is one relationship she won't disapprove of. Jyn replies they're just friends and the damn woman gives her the same look Papa did when he asked if she'd stolen cookies before dinner once Mother caught her red-handed.That woman's far more self-absorbed than rumors say if she genuinely believes my love life revolves around her approval. Luke kisses her calloused, mutilated hand to stop her ranting about politicians's narcissistic tendencies, laughs when she sticks out her tongue at him. 

Regardless of whether people believe she and Luke are romantically involved Jyn notices how those around her begin to treat her with a strange sort of deference once they start spending time together when returning from their respective missions. Men who left the mess hall when she entered now force themselves to stay, some of them even attempt to apologize for their previous behavior. A pilot Luke introduces as Wes Janson afterwards beats her into saying 'apology not accepted'. She likes the man's pranking habits immensely but what really wins Jyn over is how Wes looks her in the eyes without thinking. A trait shared by other men Luke presents her to: Tycho Celchu, 'Hobbie' Klivian, Ten Numb, Dak Ralter who makes Skywalker look old and a man named Gavin Darklighter* who divulges his Tatooine heritage by whispering 'I will assist you in anything Depuskalta' to her ear when they meet. These mismatched daredevils with nearly no sense of protocol worship Baze and Chirrut, proclaiming both men 'the gods of bad=assery' whilst asking them to pass on their 'awesomeness' by teaching what they know. Baze pretends to hate the pilots vehemently but the amusement in his eyes betrays the former Guardian of the Whills. Chirrut somehow convinces these rag-tag daredevils with a non-existent sense of protocol to learn meditation, never divulging what sorcery or blackmail he used on them. Bodhi is the one who benefits most from this group's friendship, they all take him under wing and teach the defected imperial varied forms to help with the shakes he gets from time to time as if they were all his reckless yet lovable older siblings. She is unable to suppress tears when Wedge Antilles answers her question of why all these men are so kind to her team with Rogue Squadron will always protect Rogue One. Even if Luke turns into a complete jack-ass someday she'll always be grateful for presenting Bodhi to these exceptional beings who bring her targets with Krennic or Emperor Palpatine's face to shoot when she needs an anger outlet. She tells him so on what was supposed to be their third week of faking a relationship but has instead turned into a cautious friendship. (Cautious on her part, Luke trusts too easily for his own good but that's fine so long as Captain Solo keeps an eye on him.)

"You never told me what unit the Rogues belonged to before the re-assessment. I know Tycho joined the Rebellion cause he's from Alderaan and Wedge was on Scarif but that's as far as my knowledge of them extends."

"Janson's a Yellow Ace* and Hobbie's Red Squadron, Red Five to be specific. He and Wes contracted Hesken Fever just before the Death Star came to Yavin, that's why they didn't fight. Dak joined after escaping the imperial Labor Colony on Kalist IV. He was born and raised there."

"Ralter and I share a similar past then. I was born in a separatist prison, my mother and I were forced to endure six months of that hell-hole all because of those stupid Kyber crystals. If he's put under your command order him to protect his face better than I did mine."

"Easier said than done, he's overly-enthusiastic with a longing for excitement and a chance to take on the Empire. Dak seeks danger like a moth chases a flame."

"Hmm. A sweet young man laughing at danger, challenging injustice and craving adventure. Who does that sound like? Perhaps the next Rogue One?" 

"Rogue Leader, not Rogue One. It didn't feel right taking away your title."

"I know it's hard for you but don't be so dramatic. It's just a hastily picked name for a day which half the time I want to forget happened. What would it take for you to consider being Rogue One?"

"Share a dance with me."

"Out of the question."

"Don't tell you hate dancing."

"No, I just can't dance. Saw didn't know how and father never got to teach me-"

Luke takes her by the hand as he stands. His manner thoughtful yet relaxed, starkly contrasting to the growing nervousness which causes her body to tense like a marble statue. Barring Cassian's embrace on Scarif and his later disastrous attempt at convincing her to play-act the poor, unfortunate damsel this is easily the most intimate physical gesture Jyn's allowed a man in years. She'd taken no lovers since the Ponta family died, one night stands were the extent of her romantic liaisons. Rapid tumbles followed by awkward farewells on the rare occasions she or her chosen bed-warmer failed to creep 'home' before daybreak. Genuine affection had no place near survival, that was Lyra Erso's final lesson, not the bantha fodder 'trust in the Force' she had told her subsequently-orphaned daughter. A half-buried instinct from her bygone days with Hadder urges Jyn to bat her no longer perfect eyelashes against Luke's neckline, snuggle her head on his chest. Thankfully self-preservation beats unsolved sexual tension and/or touch deprivation as her legs move to his direction. Gently he places one of his calloused palms on her waist and the other intertwines their fingers after tracing the malformed blisters of her skin as if he were a curator inspecting some lost masterpiece. They fit perfectly together, like they were always meant to be there. Wait a minute, he can't be serious...

"Stop, this is ridiculous."

"Relax your shoulders and separate your feet a little. You're off balance." Off balance, yes she's off balance. That must be why she wishes he would touch her hair again. That must be why her chest feels tight.

"Luke, you're not teaching me how to dance."

"Why not?"

Because this wasn't part of the deal. Because merely touching you is similar to bathing in starlight and I'm a black hole to anything that hints at brightness. Because it is a universally accepted truth that fallen angels have no right to even clasp the hem of a seraphim's cloak.

"I don't see the use of it. If there was a dance that served a deeper purpose than fecal pleasantries masquerading as social interaction then I'd gladly learn that but swaying back and forth with no reason is impractical to me."

It is a bold-faced lie and her vocal cords ought to burn for the callous rebuff to someone who's been nothing but kind to her. Yet it is Luke's easy-going gentility that reminds her not to give Skywalker any indications that she is fond of him, much less attracted to him. Everyone knows it wouldn't work out between them: Jyn is the cautionary tale Draven tells the new recruits, Luke is the poster boy for the Rebellion. Not to say he's perfect, far from it. He hoards water bottles underneath his bed as if drought was imminent, he has to choose his words carefully instead of lying because he's disastrous at telling anything but that which he believes to be the truth. And his recklessness.... Saw used to say Jyn was the person with the tiniest sense of self-preservation he'd ever met, the Partisan would probably change his mind after meeting Luke. Or Captain Solo for that matter, Jyn at least wouldn't run to an entire garrison of storm-troopers without a back up plan. The man ( Stars she's no longer referring to him as a boy...) confuses her to no end. She can understand Cassian eventually finding the road back to her arms, they are bound together by death and fire and trauma. But it will take time and effort and even if they manage to stay together sometimes she'll have to play the role of partner, comrade in arms and private confessor all at once. And she's fine with that, because that moment he gifted her on the beach was more than she'd ever dared for, more than she'd ever let herself dream of since Jyn was 8 and blisfully ignorant of what was to come. ( Is that really enough her traitorous mind whispers. Is one memory sufficient in the face of what could be a lifetime waiting?......) But Luke doesn't owe her anything, the only memories they share are made without the veil of death looming over them, being with Luke isn't hard, it's warm and bright like the twin suns of his home planet yet the heat does not scorch her. It's too easy, that someone like Luke could even consider caring about me is too good to be true. She is Jyn Erso and she is caustic enough to sear the galaxy because while there might be good things in this world, none ever come this easily. She closes both eyes, refusing to scan his face for the barest sign of disappointment. For the inevitable twist of his face into a negative emotion she's not yet glanced on his body or within the contours of his self. Tries not to picture the indelible scorn or agony she will undoubtedly brand unto him if they go any deeper, because there is no way the end result can differ from pain.

"Do you mind waiting here some thirty-ish minutes?"


"It's fine if you don't. You're probably busy and-" 

"My class is two hours away. I can wait."

Her chest continues to feel tight as she waits his arrival. True to his words he comes exactly thirty-two minutes after his departure, Gavin Darklighter not far behind as he carries a strange bundle on his hands. Both men carefully unwrap the bundle, uttering what may or not be a prayer in the same language Luke spoke to the elder on Tatooine. (Jyn's looked through several dictionaries and consulted a linguist on her spare time. She still can't find the Force-begotten tongue all these damn Tatooinians speak.) A woolen pale yellow dress with purple trim at the skirt and neckline is revealed, cheap in fabric but exquisitely intricate in its design. A black ribbon sewn in the waistline. Made by hand over three generations ago if the fabric's feel rings well and true.

"Jyn put it on please."

She refrains from rolling her eyes at them because they looked at the damn thing so gently it must have some sort of sentimental value to their people. "I'm assuming the dress has some hidden symbolism none of you are telling me." 

Gavin leaves after handing Luke a black tunic of some sort, he puts it over his clothes without making a sound. "Purple stands for outsiders, to represent you entering a fragment of a foreign world. Yellow for determination, for subtlety. The color of the wind, the fierce lady who walks faster than any slave-master can run. Black for freedom, the ribbon below the waist accentuating how you came into this world unchained and will thus proceed to break the chains of others."*

A dress to mark a warrior sharpening her blades in the shadows for a world not her own. "And the design?"

"I don't have permission to tell you what it means. Of course you could always marry me or Gavin then we could tell you everything."

She laughs, the ugly slant of her mouth stretching upwards in a way she usually hates but can't be bothered to think of right now. Does he know how rare that is for her?  How scarce a genuine laugh became throughout the galaxy? Luke smiles so often to her, to everyone really. But everyone in this sorry Alliance needs that smile, more than they'll ever admit. They'd latched unto the smile he gifted them on the Yavin 4 ceremony, wearing his yellow jacket and black shirt that made his hair look acidic. (Yellow for determination and subtlety, black for emancipation. The black belt that spoke of luck at birth as well as duty. A promise towards his people, one he reaffirmed to himself that day as the whole galaxy bore witness. The promise his oh-so saintly father forgot when he went off to play the hero.) Jyn realizes in that moment that Luke does understand in a way most can scantly begin to imagine just how dark a place the universe is. That he smiles not because he is bereft of darkness, he smiles because he believes the night is blackest just before the dawn and wants the rest of us to hope for the sunrise. She hears the song again as he tucks in the back of her headdress, Jyn hums to her crystal's melody as she relaxes under the feel of his hands.

"You hear it too?"

Without a thought she kisses him, dares to mar the being who is supposedly an idyllic cross between a star-gazing child and a knight errant whose foremost loyalty is to the cause. She knows the truth: they are both human and real and longing for someone who will see beyond the myths others constructed for them. It wasn't some cliche, overdone smooch like on the holo-films. Really, it was barely more than a shy little peck and an sloppy one at that. (I'm out of practice and he has no practice. I'd like to re-learn this with him if he gives me the chance.) I want more than one fleeting yet perennial moment, I want a lifetime of good moments mingled with the bad. The brief touch to one another's lips is brashness manifested on her part but it is also glee and surprise wrapped in one. When her lips part from his she thirsts for the rush it provided, longs for the sunshine sent coursing through her veins.

"Luke? Please say something?" Oh stars this was a mistake. A Death-Star sized mistake. What was I thinking? 

She is one step away from uttering a quick apology when Luke breaks into a smile, and it’s like watching the sun peek out from behind the clouds. He asks permission with his desert sky to touch her brunette locks again. She gives it willingly, with a glimmer of hope seeping into her crackled skin as he leans into her ear and whispers five separately meaningless words that change her life forever.  

"Could you please do that again?'

 As they finally perform "How Ekkreth stole the Moon" Jyn gives up on understanding how Luke's mind works: the way in which he loves is a mystery she has no answers for, like all the best mysteries have no end. She cares not how the puzzle is solved so long as the pieces are hers to cherish.