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Of Starlight and Stardust

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We rest; A dream has power to poison sleep.
We rise; One wandering thought pollutes the day.
We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away;
It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of departure still is free.
Man’s yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but mutability.


—Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

---

It is said that the universe is always growing, its outer reaches ever expanding. Her father used to teach her about such things, the orbits of one body around another, gravity, the shifting of tectonic plates.

Her father is dead now and as time passes, that becomes easier to take in a way that feels like a betrayal.

Jyn used to pride herself on being able to survive alone. It was something to be traded on, something for which she might quietly scorn others who were too weak to manage it.

Sometimes she thinks she is weak now, an object of scorn to herself. At the same time she understands now, while she could still survive alone, it would be only her body that survives.

Her soul would wither and die.

There are times when it plagues her to know how dependent she’s become and there are moments when she’s actually happy and doesn’t care.

That’s the strangest part of joining the Rebellion. She has joy in her life now, she feels almost content sometimes. Not all the time, she has far too many bad days to walk around feeling full. But she’s probably smiled more in the last year than she has over the previous 22 years of her life.

---

There is a medal ceremony.

Leia approached her a few days after they arrived on Hoth to let her know. Luke and Han were going to receive commendations from the Alliance.

“If it matters to you, I could kick up a fuss,” Leia had murmured, leaning in close to be heard. They were just standing in one of the new base’s many halls. This one still had some ice that needed to be chipped away. Half of the base had to be practically excavated from the ice. There were halls where the base's heating couldn't seem to touch. Jyn had acquired Cassian’s parka while he was away and she pulled it's warm furry hood tighter. Leia was doing the same with her white coat and they were still shivering.

Meanwhile Jyn considered whether she cared about being recognized . The thought of standing at the front of the room for such a presentation made her wince. Leia nodded at her expression.

“Cassian and Bodhi seemed to feel the same,” she said.

And that's how Jyn ended up standing off to the side of a ceremony with Bodhi next to her as Luke and Han were awarded for their efforts. If everyone there knew it was more than Luke and Han, who were responsible, they said nothing.
Luke received his medal with a wide-eyed awe while Han smirked up at Leia. Something about their expressions even made the princess smile. When they both faced forward, she saw Luke's eyes immediately found Bodhi where he stood beside Jyn. It was almost cute enough that Jyn could ignore the sour taste in her mouth at the whole affair

---

Jyn isn’t sure if life in the Rebellion is necessarily easier than any of the other lives she’s led.

(And if you count the number of false names she’s carried over the years, she’s lived quite a few lives.)

She’s not sure the Rebellion is easier, but there are perks. Namely, the company. Sometimes she forgets she has people. She thinks like a loner, stealing food from the mess hall and hiding it in her quarters, or getting into fights that could be easily ended with a little backup.

Sometimes it slips her mind that there are quite a number of people who, for inexplicable reasons, seem to genuinely care about her continued existence and general well being. Even months after everything is settled, sometimes Chirrut says something particularly kind or Cassian brings her back a small gift from one of his missions, and suddenly she’s a mess.

The work is easy enough. She is placed with a supervisor who doesn’t seem at all bothered by her almost complete lack of experience with being a mechanic. Every day she comes and learns something new about the innards of a droid or a Y-Wing’s engine.

She likes the work.

Her supervisor is Captain Jacqen Wolmic and he reminds her of what Saw might have been in another life. A humanoid male with dark copper skin and a multitude of scars. He is a no-nonsense, gruff sort of man, and even more so as a teacher, helping her to learn the inner workings of every mechanical thing on base. But he is kind too in the sorts of little ways she can appreciate, like bringing her something from the mess hall when she forgets about lunch.

Every day she comes back to her quarters smelling of grease, but she likes it.

---

She wasn’t ever so skittish before, but she is now. Sometimes an engine might backfire or the sounds of people sparring in the gym might bring her right back to Scarif, blaster bolts flying by her ears and Cassian falling, falling, falling. Sometimes she thinks she can smell blood and she’s back on the Death Star with needles being driven into her neck. It doesn’t even make sense what sets her off sometimes, especially when it’s nothing at all.

One time she was picking apart the targeting computer of an X-Wing in a quiet hangar. Somebody dropped something, a wrench maybe.

It startled her so bad, she forgot where she was.

Wolmic found her huddled and hyperventilating in the cockpit of the X-Wing and she knew he was kind when he just sat at the top of the ladder that reached up towards the cockpit and rested a hand on her shoulder until her breathing steadied.

By the time she was calm, she was embarrassed and trying not to meet his eyes.

“Sorry,” she mumbled and the man actually chuckled.

“Corporal, if I had a credit for every time somebody had a panic attack in here I would be a rich man.”

Jyn gaped at him and he just shook his head.

“You think I got all these scars from fixing engines? Half our mechanics are former soldiers and pilots,” he tells her and she keeps staring.

“You think we get a lot of fresh young kids wanting to be mechanics? Most of them are in it for the glory until they lose a taste for it,” he says and it feels like an obvious notion and one that upends everything she thought she knew about the people she worked with. It’s around then that Wolmic seems ready to escape this heart to heart.

“Now stop gawping and get back to work,” he tells her with a gruff wave of his hand before climbing back down the ladder.

It will not be the last time she fragments while she’s on the job, something about all the peace and quiet keeps the demons close.

He is kind to her every time.

---

The fights are annoying, but they are mostly just an annoyance.

She gets a few bruises most of the time, but big guys always assume she’s weak based on her size.

They are usually bitter about Scarif, some of them say they lost a friend there.

Some of them are just shavit though. Assholes out to prove something by starting a fight with one of the members of Rogue One.

Cassian doesn’t get this as much because he’s away on missions half the time and because he’s been in the Rebellion too long for his loyalty to be doubted.

Some think Jyn turned his head somehow, she’s even been accused of brainwashing.

She gives as good as she gets and for the first few months she tends to be a little bit bruised almost constantly, but so are they. Jyn still has her vicious streak and seeing her attackers limping around the base makes her smile with grim satisfaction.

Leia has a talk with her at one point.

“You can’t go around beating people up all the time,” she says, sounding deeply tired and more than a little irritable. Jyn wants to argue that in fact, she can. But she understands that with the power structures of the Rebellion, eventually she could get in real trouble and there is that ‘probation’ to think about.

After that she always makes sure that they throw the first punch.

Then it’s called self defense.

(The Rebellion is weird)

Of course, no one dares to bother Chirrut or Baze. She thinks maybe one or two tried initially and were very quickly taught why they shouldn’t. Bodhi is the only other one who gets it bad like she does.

It doesn’t matter that he was there for the Death Star attack, he worked for the Empire and that ruffles some feathers. It’s made all the worse by the fact that Bodhi is still terrible at hand to hand combat, despite her and Cassian’s attempts to teach him.

The whole thing comes to a head when Bodhi is visiting her in the hangar one day. She’s underneath a Y-Wing, fiddling with the connectors on the ship’s systems and Bodhi leans against it, his arm hangs low enough that she can see it from under the ship, the cast came off, maybe a month ago and the only sign of his former injury is a discolored starburst scar on his forearm.

They trade barbs and random anecdotes just to pass the time. (She is learning that Bodhi can be funny when he wants to be, and she’s still pumping him for stories about the time he spent with her father on Eadu). On this day they are talking about nothing in particular until Jyn can’t find the right hydrospanner.

“Wait here,” she tells Bodhi before running off to a nearby storeroom to dig through some toolboxes until she finds the right one. It’s heavy to lift and when she comes back, spanner in hand, she’s finds Bodhi surrounded by three big guys. She doesn’t catch the words exchange, she only sees the first blow land, and Bodhi hit the ground.

For a moment she’s somewhere else that’s cold and chrome. The worst part is they got a few more hits in before she could shake herself out of it.

At this point she doesn’t think, she moves

With a feral cry, she races up to those men, swinging the spanner like it’s her baton. It hits the first guy in the arm with a crack that is disturbingly satisfying before she whips it around, thwacking the second man hard in the chest, leaving him winded. The third manages to clip her hard enough in the jaw that she reels backwards and nearly trips over Bodhi, who looks like he’s out cold.

She deals out several more blows, receiving a few in return. One of them manages to punch her right in her bad leg and she snarls as she kicks out with her better leg, catching him in the groin. Eventually she’s standing over Bodhi with a bloody nose and the men finally have the good sense to run.

Apparently somebody else came into the hangar during the fight and was quick to report it. Luckily, their report seems to acknowledge that Jyn was protecting Bodhi and not just starting conflicts left and right.

Bodhi has to go to the med bay afterwards and Jyn is furious.

After that there is a meeting with all members of the base that does not specifically mention their names, but it is made clear that the Rebellion is being asked to move on from their bitter hang ups.

---

It’s 5 months into her stay on Hoth when she’s approached by a half Arkanian woman with her long white hair tied back in a tight bun.

“Nyahar,” she says sticking out her hand, “I saw you in that fight earlier.”

The fight she is referring to is the one where two burly guys decided they were still bitter about Scarif and wanted to teach the ‘Imp’ a lesson.

They are always bolder while Cassian is away.

She shrugs at the Arkanian and asks, “Am I in trouble or something?”

The woman shakes her head, letting her hand drop back to her side, “Far from it, you handled yourself well, I asked around and you're working as a mechanic?”

Jyn shrugs again, already uncomfortable with this situation.

Nyahar says, “That is a waste, you should be a trainer. I know some new recruits who would benefit from a good sparring match with you.”

And Jyn stares at the Lieutenant.

“I might hurt them,” she says flatly and the woman grins like a rogue,

“Better to hurt them here and now so they can learn from it.”

Jyn stares at her, for a moment actually thinking about it. She goes to the gym on base sometimes and goes at a punching bag until her knuckles are almost raw, but that can be a little dull.

She then thinks about getting to know new recruits. About half of them will probably die on their first mission because they're young and inexperienced. No amount of training can compensate for what it’s really like and she doesn’t particularly want to get to know kids before they go off to die.

“No thanks,” she says.

Nyahar smiles and steps back, “It’ll be their loss,” she says and leaves Jyn to herself.

After another month, and one particularly frustrating day, she finds Nyahar leaving the gym.

“You still want me to spar with your trainees?” she asks and the woman grins at her.

“Well, I don’t want to stick around enough to know their names, but I’ll show up sometimes and spar with some recruits, how does that sound?”

“I’ll take it,” she says and that’s how a few nights a week Jyn ends up in the trainee’s gym blocking weak punches and returning them with real ones. She pulls back most of the time, but it’s a better working out with a living being than with a bag and she comes home to her quarters on those nights with her muscles burning and loose.

She is surprised when she actually enjoys the training too. Sometimes she’ll stop in the middle of a sparring match to fix some kids form when they throw a punch.

She refuses to learn their names.

---

When Cassian isn’t around, she misses him like one might miss a lung. Sometimes he is only away for a day or two, sometimes he’s away for months. Every time he goes, she has to adjust to life without him again. She has to try not to dwell on the possibility of him dying out there and she has to do something other than wait for him to return.

The first time he left, she stole his jacket (the thick one with the fur in the hood). It was warmer than what she had before to handle the frigid air on Hoth.

Also, it smelled like him.

The smell faded after a month or so, but it still feels like there’s an essence of Cassian captured in the folds of the fabric. Sometimes she sleeps with it on. Hugging it to herself like a blanket.

When Cassian returns from that first mission, she’s wearing the jacket. He doesn’t say anything at first, but his eyes seem to smile as he brushes a hand over the sleeve.

“Nice jacket,” he murmurs and she shrugs. They say nothing more of it.

When he’s home, she still wears the jacket because Hoth is kriffing cold, but nights are spent in each other's quarters and she doesn’t need it then.

---

It is unbearable when he’s gone. She worries constantly and it puts her on edge. Chirrut and Baze will say reassuring things, but she knows that words can be empty even if they mean well. Cassian used to try to tell her, “It’ll only be a few days,” “No more than a month.”

The estimates are more often wrong than right and now she just asks if it’ll be a long mission or not. He always looks pained to say it and sometimes a short mission still becomes a long one.

When he’s away, she is asking Draven once every few days for an update. She knows he can’t tell her much, but he will tell her that Cassian’s alive and if he’ll be back soon or not. She hates having to ask Draven, she hates the fact that he seems to be somewhat sympathetic to her (Although it’s probably the reason he tells her anything at all)

Chirrut would know if Cassian’s dead, or so he says. What he specifically said was, “I can feel his life in The Force,” and Jyn didn’t know how to respond to that, but it’s nice to know Chirrut will tell her if he senses something wrong. She still demands updates from Draven when he’s away.

Bodhi goes away sometimes too, but he goes with a squadron and Luke. The two are still attached at the hip and she is confident they are looking out for each other.

Of course, she still worries when Bodhi goes, but his missions rarely last longer than a week or two. Sometimes Jyn can even contact him and Leia will freely give her status updates on their progress (somewhat vague updates that omit any specifics, but still).

When Cassian is away everyone around her seems to take it upon themselves to mind her. Han Solo is perhaps the biggest surprise. He and Chewie seem to always be finding excuses to check on her when they aren’t away on a run smuggling for the Alliance. Or perhaps they are tag teaming with Chirrut and Baze, who also seem around a lot more when Cassian is away. Between the four of them she gets dragged to the mess for meals she would have skipped and is constantly being drawn into games of Sabacc or being recommended holos, (when it’s Han there is often drinking involved). She recognizes the attempts to distract her and she usually takes them with a certain amount of relief. Even if it doesn’t quite reach the constant ache in her chest that comes with his absence, she prefers the company. It’s a weakness, but one she mostly allows herself for lack of a better option. There is still a warm sort of comfort that comes with being around her people.

Bodhi is very bad at being comforting and they both know it. He worries too much and when he worries, all his fears seem to spill out of his mouth with very little filter. Still, when he’s on base, he always seems to be finding reasons to come visit her in the hangar or in her quarters. Sometimes he’s just read a holonovel and he wants to eagerly recommend it, other times he just has to tell her about the funniest thing Luke said that day.

Shara Bey and her husband Kes are another surprise. They seem to truly understand the anxiety that comes with separation since they are often apart as well. Kes has some quietly solid advice and Shara has a wicked sense of humor to brighten the moment.

She is very grateful to have so many people in her life now who care. At the same time, the sensation can still feel alien and sometimes she just wants to hide in her quarters and not look at anyone.

---

Sometimes having him come back hurts as much as him leaving.

Sometimes he comes back after a few days with a smile in his eyes and she knows that all went well.

Other times he comes back after a few months haunted. There’s a shadow that lingers over him and those are the nights he tremors like she does and tries to hide the hitch in his breath that could mean tears.

It’s not something they talk about.

There are a lot of things they don’t talk about.

Like she never mentions the way it makes her ache to see him come home looking almost starved. Scraped thin by time and exhaustion and whatever he had to do to meet his objectives.

He almost never tells her about his missions and she knows that comes with working in secrets, but she also thinks that it pains him to recount them. On rare occasions he might tell her a few vague details.

She has learned that this means keeping it in hurts more than telling, but she still only has fragments of what his life is like when he’s gone.

She never asks him about trying to do something else for the Rebellion instead, even though she wants to. Even though, when he comes home looking like he hasn’t eaten a decent meal in over a month, she just wants to hold him and never let him leave again. She knows too well that this work is in his bones and he’s lived for the Rebellion for too many years to stop doing it now.

Usually he shakes off that shadow after a few days back on base, or he’s hiding it well. Another thing they don’t talk about.

The same way they don’t talk about her nightmares or her bruises from fights or the panic attacks that people keep telling her are perfectly normal.

They don’t talk about the fact that she knows Cassian has purposefully tracked down some of the people harassing her and Bodhi (she finds it sweet albeit a little ineffective).

She knows what it’s like to want to protect everyone and she sees the way he tightens when he comes home to find her with bruises.

They don’t talk about what life is like when he’s away.

---

Nights are hard for both of them, which is why when he’s on base, they don’t sleep alone and when he’s away she barely sleeps at all. They don’t talk about that either.

There is a lot they don’t talk about.

---

Of course, it’s not all bad. Some nights they fall asleep curled around each other, warm and content. Sometimes they get to sit with everyone in the mess hall and hold hands under the table, enjoying everyone’s company. Sometimes they laugh together over nothing and sometimes he sits with her in the hangar and watches her work with that softness in his eyes that makes her want to touch him. Of course, she can touch him whenever she wants to now and she does. Although she’s still uncomfortable with public displays of affection, she can’t help herself sometimes when he’s beside her all warm and looking at her in a way that makes her feel liquid.

There are times where he comes home and runs to find her working in the hangar. Wolmic seems to find a convenient reason to be elsewhere for a few minutes, giving them a small measure of privacy. It’s funny every time watching the big man go stiff and uncomfortable before beating a hasty retreat as Cassian wraps his arms around her.

---

Jyn does not like using the word love. It’s a dangerous word, but in the confines of her own mind, she thinks it sometimes when he takes her hand in one of his. All calloused palms and rough knuckles. She loves his hands. She loves the way he leans over her and smiles with his eyes. She loves the way his arms feel around her in the middle of the night and she loves to listen to him speak. He’s quiet by nature, a listener by default, but she loves to hear him speak. The accent is a relic of his homeworld and in a base that’s a melting pot, nobody sounds quite like him. Sometimes he speaks softly and tells her stories of his family, teaches her what little he remembers of the language of Fest. Sometimes he tells her stories about K-2 and he did make her a copy of the drive like she asked. She wears it on a new chain around her neck, the drive is about the size of her kyber crystal and they sit like neighbors on her chest.

She loves to listen to him, to be around him, to just soak up his presence and his touch like a plant soaks up the sun.

She thinks she should tell him that, speak the words aloud just in case.

She thinks it will kill her if one day he doesn’t come back and she never was brave enough to say it.