Jyn Erso had always considered herself an animal lover, but her first outing on a tauntaun seriously tested that notion to the limit. Her back and hips ached and her feet were numb from the position as much as the cold. The leather saddle did nothing to make her first hour long patrol anything less than painful, and from the way Kes groaned as he hopped down from his own saddle when they entered the hangar she could tell he felt the same. Jyn pulled her scarf down from her face and tugged her goggles off overhead as someone tied the restless and tired creature to it’s stable. The air inside the hangar wasn’t that much warmer, but without the blasting chill of the wind it was still enough to make her cheeks sting as feeling returned.
“How was it?” A familiar voice asked, and Jyn looked down to see Cassian looking up at her, his face haloed by the fur lining of his parka’s hood. She had to chew the inside of her lip for fear that the smile that threatened to burst out would split her frozen face.
She had smiled more in the two months since Scarif than in the last 16 years of her life.
“I think you’re lucky you're still on sick leave.” She grumbled, and he chuckled and reached his hand up to help her. Jyn raised an eyebrow at it, felt that old urge to snap and refuse help rise up in her throat like shards of broken glass. But Cassian was smiling up at her, that blasted half-smirk that gave him dimples and made her gut tighten, and his eyes shone with something soft that she hadn’t seen nearly enough of during the last two months of his painful recovery. She took his hand, their thick gloves making it awkward and bulky, and her stiff, numb legs refused to cooperate as she dismounted. Her foot caught in the stirrup and she stumbled straight from the tauntaun into Cassian’s arms.
He was warm and solid, and he laughed as he caught her and held her flush against him. If his smirk made her dizzy then his laugh rendered her senseless, and Jyn clutched at the front of his coat to steady herself as she found her feet. Time stopped as she looked up into his face, his eyes bright and wet in the cold air. His expression soft and open just like in the elevator on Scarif again. This time, life waited ahead of them instead of death.
“Erso!” Kes called, shattering the tension in the air. “We gotta go report in.”
Jyn blinked and Cassian stepped back, looking at the ground as if shy. The spell was broken and her cheeks were burning, and not from the frost.
“Coming, Kes.” She shrugged at Cassian, and felt awkward as they let go of each other - awkward with the person in whose arms she had been prepared to die - and muttered her thanks.
“Jyn!” Cassian called out when she had started to walk away. She turned to him and caught him taking a deep breath and closing his eyes before speaking again. “Are you free tonight?”
Her heart beat a deafening rhythm in her ears, and she could feel their relationship dancing on an invisible line they had been moving towards since they met. They had spent some time together in the chaos of the last two months, always interrupted or fleeting, but never pre-arranged. “What did you have in mind?”
“Just... you and me,” he shrugged, the action almost lost in his bulky coat. “A drink, in my quarters, I mean it’s warmer than the mess hall, but if you're not comfortable- ”
“I’d like that,” Jyn’s face was so hot she thought the walls would melt around her and energy sang down her spine. “I’ll be there.”
The memory of Cassian’s delighted smile and relieved sigh made her heart skip for hours afterwards.
As she stood outside Cassian’s room, Jyn wondered what the hell she was doing. The old thoughts that she was used to, the ones that had kept her alone and angry at the galaxy for so long, had resurfaced as the clock ticked down. She had showered and dressed, and had spent far too long in front of the tiny mirror in the communal ‘fresher wondering if she should do something different, wondering why she cared and feeling the stares of her fellow soldiers at her back, before she huffed out a massive breath and tugged her hair back into it’s normal bun. After all, what if she was misreading the whole thing - what if she showed up at Cassian's door and he just wanted to talk about what they had been through? Jyn had no experience of romance or seduction but she did know that she wanted him, and maybe that was warping her interpretation.
But this is Cassian, she countered in her mind - Cassian who had always come back for her even as planets crumbled around them, Cassian who had held her as they waited for death, Cassian whose hand she had held when they woke up in medbay shaking and scarred. The man who said “Welcome home” with affection in his gaze.
Kriff you, she told the old voice as she reached out to knock on the door. When she had chosen to stay with the Alliance, she had committed to a new life, and opening her heart was part of that.
Cassian opened the door to her almost instantly, and he smiled at her and gestured for her to come in. His rank and his injuries had earned him a private room, unlike her own bunk in the barracks. On the small table beside his bed sat a bottle of clear liquid and two cups. The bed was made neatly, and the sight of it made Jyn’s stomach flip because oh, what if that was were they ended up? Was that what he was expecting? Not that she would have complained, but the thought made her nerves tingle and she was a little blunter than she probably intended when she nodded at the bottle and asked, “Why did you ask me here?”
“We never celebrated. Properly, I mean, I know there was the ceremony but you didn’t go and I couldn’t and I thought it was time to just...” He chewed his lip and ran his hand through his hair - Cassian Andor was nervous, and that made her feel a little better. This wasn't just a chat, it was... a date? Wasn't that what normal people did?
“So, you want to celebrate... just with me?” She stepped towards him, feeling a touch more powerful as he blushed. I told you, she said to the old suspicious voice in her mind, that this is something worthwhile.
“Yeah, we started this whole thing together and we made it to the end, and the last two months have been... I haven’t seen you much. Not as much as I would have liked, I know you’ve been busy getting settled in and trained up.” He was almost babbling, and Jyn thought it was adorable even as her own heart pounded. “And... you’re still here.” He said softly, stepping into her space.
“I’m still here.” She smiled, and he returned it.
“And I’m going to be sent back out into the field soon, and so will you, we might not be together, so it seemed like the right time to -“
Jyn closed the distance between them, pulled him down to her by the collar of his coat and kissed him. He was stiff and made a soft noise of surprise, but then he melted against her, pulled her close by wrapping his arms around her as if she had just fallen off the tauntaun again. She wanted him closer, wanted to really feel his embrace, but Hoth and it’s cursed climate meant they were both wrapped in too many layers. When they broke apart, Cassian’s eyes were dazed and Jyn knew instantly that she wanted to see that look on his face again and again. Jyn trembled right down to her toes, and wasn't half as confident as she tried to sound when she said “I thought if I got that out of the way I'd be less nervous.”
“Did it work?” He asked in a low voice, forehead pressed against hers and arms still holding her.
"I wasn't even sure it was what you wanted," she whispered.
"It was more than I could have hoped for, Jyn. I just wanted to spend some time alone with you. I never-" he sighed and scrunched his eyes closed and his forehead pressed a little harder against hers. "I never let myself believe that I could deserve this, or you."
Jyn's fingers curled a little tighter in his jacket. The words caught like thorns in her throat, stuck and stinging, until she plucked them out one by one. "I never thought I'd have the chance for a life like this, for someone like you." She wanted to say more, to tell him he deserved better than he thought because he had such a good, brave heart, to tell him that she trusted him even though she was terrified. All that came out, though, was a quiet huff of laughter. “I'm still nervous, maybe we should try again?” She asked, and his lips were on hers as soon as the last word was out.
A loud bang jolted them from their kiss as the room was plunged into darkness. Jyn’s muscles tensed in fear at the sudden darkness, but her senses were filled with Cassian: his chest beneath her hands, his fast breath, and the smell of soap and blaster oil that was him. His arms tightened around her, and she felt his chuckle rumble through her. Jyn marvelled at the feeling of safety, the first time in her life that the dark didn’t terrify her.
“It’s going to get a lot colder now,” he murmured, his voice vibrating through his chest under her palms and his lips on her forehead.
“We can keep each other warm,” Jyn responded through a wide smile and she wished she could see if he was blushing as much as she felt like she was. He exhaled shakily, and Jyn wondered if either of them could be brave enough to follow through on that suggestion. She suddenly very much wanted a strong drink to settle the fluttering in her stomach.
Cassian stepped away, and Jyn heard rustling as he pulled something from under his bunk. After a moment of listening in the darkness, Jyn laughed as a blue glow suddenly appeared because of course Cassian would have an emergency lamp on hand, and she could just imagine what other supplies were hidden in the backpack he had secreted under his bed. He held the small lantern out to her as he rose, and she heard the hitch in his breath that told her he was hiding the pain of his injuries from her. As they stood there with the lamp glowing between them - not enough to reach the corners of the room, but enough to make his dark eyes sparkle - Jyn felt overwhelmed by affection, by hope.
Though the sweet, spicy alcohol sent warmth through her chest, she could already feel the increasing coldness of the room to start to seep into her bones even through her coat and thermal layers. When Cassian shivered and tried to hide a grimace, Jyn tugged him to the head of his bunk, and he smiled shyly and let her pull him along. They wrapped themselves in his bedding and took off their parkas - his to protect them from the cold wall at their backs, hers to use as an extra blanket. As terrifying as it was, she wasn't about to let them both freeze because they were too shy to share body heat.
Jyn curled her legs under her and leaned into him. They found their usual familiarity and easy conversation and laughed about how awful the tauntauns smelled and how K-2SO was the grumpiest being on base because his joints kept freezing and how he kept threatening to lock C-3PO out in the snow. It wasn't long before Jyn glanced up at Cassian and found him looking right back, his eyes heavy-lidded and his lips tempting. Wrapped up in their cocoon, it felt as if the whole galaxy past and present no longer existed.
Kissing had never been something Jyn had enjoyed in the past. It was too personal, asked for too much trust - to close your eyes and let someone get so close, put their hands on you, steal from you - anything could happen in those moments, and the thought had always been enough to wither any romantic notions she had ever had on the subject.
But Jyn thought she could kiss Cassian for hours. He tasted of the sweetness of the alcohol, warm honey on her tongue where it pressed against his, and his stubble scratched at her face. Before long she was practically in his lap to chase his mouth and keep him close. Without their parkas she could feel the shape of him, even if she only let her hands wander over his chest and arms. His hands rested at her hips and he traced lightly up and down her sides. She wondered if he could tell she was burning up on the inside from how her toes curled and her legs squeezed tighter together.
When her lips made contact with his neck, her tongue seeking to taste the corner of his jaw, he shivered beneath her.
"Still cold?" she whispered as she nuzzled into him, drunk on the smell and taste of him more than the alcohol and surprised at her own boldness.
"No, you're definitely warming me up," he said, his breath hot against her hair. His hands slid from her hips up to her face and his fingers were warm from holding her.
“I’ve never done this, never just...kissed.” Jyn whispered into his shoulder, safe in the near-dark. “I’ve never...I’ve never trusted anyone enough.” She closed her eyes as his hand carded through her hair. She felt like a different person just by letting herself have and enjoy this moment. The bright light of the Death Star on Scarif had burned away her old shell.
He tilted her head up to look at him. In the blue light the lines around his eyes were wiped out and his dark eyes and the shadows of his cheekbones and beard stood out and he looked so young, so sweet. He gaze was so intent, the same focus she had seen him give to the mission on Scarif. It made Jyn feel like a beautiful young woman untouched by war and death. She supposed that if she could look at him as a man with no ghosts, he could see past her sins too. He leaned in and kissed her softly as if thanking her for the gift of her trust. “Stay,” he whispered against her lips. “Stay here tonight. Let’s stay just like this as long as we can.”
Jyn's heart pounded. Twice today Cassian had been brave enough to ask for what he wanted, and she needed to be brave enough to take what she wanted. And what she wanted was to stay there with him, and not got back to her cold, lonely bunk in the barracks, with strangers in all of her blind spots, and shiver with only the memory of him. She wanted to kiss him some more, and feel his heart beat under her hand, and let him wrap his arms around her, and put the ghosts of the past to rest.
“Alright,” she smiled as she nuzzled his nose with hers and teased him with a brief kiss. “Only so you don’t freeze.”
In the morning, Jyn was so warm and comfortable when she woke up that she didn’t know where she was at first because it felt nothing like any of her previous mornings on Hoth. Their breaths and body heat in their nest of coats and blankets was almost enough to make her sweat beneath all her layers. Her face was buried in the crook of Cassian’s neck and she breathed him in as his arms tightened around her. She was suddenly filled with a memory of her parents - quietly opening the door to their bedroom on cold winter mornings in their home on Lahmu, finding them huddled together in sleep and the warmth and safety she would feel crawling in between them. How they would still be wrapped around each other even with her in between as if they would die without the other’s touch. She thought, in that moment, that she understood her mother a little better.
Cassian stirred against her with a soft groan that melted her insides because he had made similar noises the night before. There had been a lot of kissing, and some talking, and hands had wandered as far as they had dared under the blankets. It had been too cold to go any further. "We have time," he had whispered as his lips trailed up her neck, pausing at her pulse point. "We have much more than just tonight." She smiled wide at the memory and her cheeks stung from his stubble. Just as she was about to lift her head to look at him, her chrono beeped and she sat up sharply and was immediately struck by the coldness of the room. The background hum and flickering white light above her told her that the power had returned, but compared to the nest it felt colder than ever and she cursed as she shivered.
“Jyn?” Cassian’s hand came to rest on her back.
“I have to meet Leia for a strategy session,” she sighed, and leaned her weight on one hand to look down over him, let the fingers of her other hand trace circles on his skin where his shirt was open. His hair was adorably messy, his clothes were creased, and his lips were pink. The urge to just lie down and melt into him and kiss him senseless was overwhelming, like she was drowning and only he could save her. She had never been one for wasting a day with laziness, it had been knocked out of her long ago by Saw, but she didn't feel that a day in bed with Cassian would be a waste. She shook her head, and chased away that dream. "You know how she is, if I'm late she'll come looking for me and there'll be hell to pay." She could just imagine Leia stomping down the icy hallways, shooting daggers at anyone who got in her way, and the snarky remarks she would have especially for Jyn to show up late to an early morning meeting with crumpled clothes and stubble burn.
He nodded. "I have to go to physiotherapy soon." He brought his hand to her face and ran his thumb over her cheek. "Last night was-" he stumbled, and huffed what could have been a laugh and looked away. Now that there was proper light again, she could see that he was blushing and she felt her own cheeks heat up. How ridiculous to be shy now, in the light, because they had kissed and touched and slept side by side when only weeks before they had held each other and waited for death. Like being afraid of petting a loth cat when you had already taken down a rancor.
"It was perfect," she spoke around her smile and he was able to look at her again. "Can I come back tonight?" the words tumbled from her tongue before she realised what she was saying and her heart was in her mouth along with them.
Cassian sat up, and threaded his fingers through her hair. "Jyn, yes, please," he murmured against her lips, their smiles making a kiss nearly impossible. "I'll see you at dinner?"
She nodded, and stole one last kiss from him. Something hot was carving itself into her heart. There was so much they would have to talk about and learn about each other. For now though, just to kiss him and share his bed and keep each other warm seemed so right that Jyn felt a little drunk on love. How good it felt to do something purely for the joy of it and ignore that voice that whispered cruel words to her. Something broken felt as if it was finally starting to heal.
As she stepped out of his quarters, Jyn looked back and saw Cassian smile and touch his lips. Even out in the biting cold of the corridors and briefing rooms, Jyn felt warm all day.