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burnin' all those candles

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They argued out it, right there in the middle of the hangar, Cassian’s hand clamped over the blood still leaking from his arm. It had been public, more public than Jyn would’ve preferred. Moments like this – even arguments, even moments of conflict – she wanted to tuck close to her chest and keep it between them, keep it private. Keep it theirs, especially in the gossip mill of the rebellion. The argument at least seemed to have gone unnoticed, because it was a complete reversal of their first fight. Then, Jyn’s grief and sense of betrayal had been so overwhelming that she’d spit all of it out onto Cassian, and he’d returned just as furiously. This time, the argument had been fuelled by something else, far from the poison they’d found out on Eadu. Maybe it showed growth, in that their argument wasn’t a screaming match, or even a fight. They’d been silent throughout, communicating in their own language as Cassian raised his eyebrow and Jyn clenched her jaw into a hard line.

Fine,” Cassian had finally said, not even able to snap. Not for a disagreement over this. He turned on his heel and stomped (as much as someone as controlled as Cassian could stomp) to the medbay. Jyn followed like his shadow, drawing up to his left, rather than her usual spot on his right, because that side was covered in his blood.

Jyn was no stranger to blood. Her life had been written in red, a collection of stories on pain and sacrifice. She’d never been squeamish, even before Saw. Jyn had returned home multiple times after slipping in the sharp black sands of Lah’mu, knees dripping red and smile glittering white, not understanding the pallor her mother’s face took, or why her father kept reassuring her that she was okay. Jyn was no stranger to blood, but something about the sight of Cassian’s made her stomach turn, knotting up like a ball of Baze’s yarn when one of the base loth cats got at it.

Jyn followed Cassian into the medbay and hovered watchfully as Cassian told the administration nurse about the wound, downplaying the slash in his inner bicep. He insisted it was fine, almost convincing in that honeyed voice of his, even with his hand clamped so firmly over it. But either the nurse was more experienced than that, or she caught Jyn’s nervous hovering, because she just nodded along to Cassian’s explanation before pointing him to one of the curtained beds.

“You can wait here,” the nurse said, pointing to a line of chairs. Jyn paused, looking at the nurse, but Cassian shook his head.

“She’s fine,” he said, waving with his good arm. He had carelessly let go of the wound on his arm to do so, and Jyn caught sight of a fresh wave of red that her heart got caught up in, riding the swell and getting tossed out of her chest. Jyn ground her teeth as Cassian quickly shut his hand back over the wound. “I’d like her there, please,” he said, and Jyn felt herself draw a little closer.

Cassian did not like medbays. She learned that well after Scarif, when they’d spent weeks together recovering; he felt too exposed, too vulnerable in the hands of medicine. Medicine and medbays were things he hadn’t had the chance to delve into and analyse, like he did with so much else in his life.  He knew that Jyn would watch his back, no matter how nonsensical the fear was.

The nurse didn’t argue, having caught sight of the wound. She took off without a word and only a jerky gesture to follow, bringing them to a curtained bed.

Jyn stopped on the threshold between the curtains, watching Cassian lean on the edge of the bed, rather than sit on it, the most rebellion he was willing to enact. The nurse bustled past her, darting away, and Cassian looked up at Jyn. Something on her face had him standing to sit properly on the bed.

“I’m okay, Jyn.”

Jyn nodded, holding her arms around herself. She inched inside the curtains. “Does it hurt?”

“It’s not bad,” he replied, but Jyn had a feeling it was more a reassurance to her, than an honest answer. Before she could pick it apart, the nurse returned, accompanied by another woman in scrubs.

Jyn stood on the balls of her feet like she was in the ring, waiting for an opponent to strike. Cassian tried to protest when the second nurse produced a pair of shiny scissors, but she wasn’t swayed, ignoring him as his cut the sleeve of his parka open, reminding him about protocol. The reminder had him still. Protocol was something Cassian was only just learning to shrug off, and denying the nurse was outside his current limits.

Jyn watched the beloved garment, now hacked, slide pathetically to the floor. Something about the sight of that parka on the floor – the one Cassian wore to their first mission together on Jedha, the one he used to sleep in before she began to provide that warmth instead, the one that had become his trademark since they moved to Hoth – had her heart twisting. Jyn was never one for material things, but she found herself taking two quick steps to pick it up, folding it carefully so the blood wouldn’t smear onto her clothes when she tucked it into her chest.

Jyn was so wrapped up in rescuing the coat that she was caught off guard by the sight of Cassian, his shirt gone now too, revealing the large gash on the inside of his forearm. Her eyes widened, getting her first good look at the knife wound he took. Cassian normally wasn’t so careless; she’d seen him in a knife fight before, and he was no slouch. It’d been her fault that he took the hint.

She’d been so stupid, too slow. Cassian had flung his arm in front of her throat just in time, literally saving her neck. Since when did troopers carry vibroblades anyways? The annoyance she’d carried for Cassian as he fought her on the medbay was nothing compared to the anger she directed at herself, feeling like a durasteel slab had encased her entire stomach.

The nurses had to pinch the wound shut to apply butterfly bandages to help the bacta. It didn’t look fun, and the nurses weren’t particularly gentle, but Cassian didn’t complain. Jyn watched as the nurses applied bacta, catching the tick in Cassian’s jaw as he bit back the sting. After the mutilation of his jacket, he didn’t argue any further, letting the nurses do their jobs in silence. Jyn probably hindered their job more than he did, standing at their shoulders with wide eyes, but she couldn’t pull herself away, the concern cementing her feet to the ground. Cassian had kept the wound well-hidden, and it was a shock to see its extent. But at least it was more ugly than deep.

The nurses finished, one of them purposefully bumping into her in a hint Jyn didn’t take. She  hardly noticed it at all, stepping lightly to Cassian’s side, like she’d spook him into remembering that he didn’t want her there if she was too loud. The nurses disappeared, one swarming back to the administration desk and the other off in search of a shirt for Cassian to wear.

Jyn looked at the bacta patch, but all she saw was his arm flinging out in front of her, only for a vibroblade to sink into his flesh as he bit back a cry. She’d never forget the way his arm had jerked, yanking back and down suddenly, his other hand coming up and pulling the blade out with a sound that wouldn’t leave her head for a long time.

“Is it a lost cause?” Cassian asked, snapping her back into the present. Cassian was gesturing to the coat in her arms. She was kind of hugging it. Jyn loosened her arms a little self-consciously.   

“I’m sorry,” she blurted, wringing her hands under the jacket. All that concern in her stomach bubbled out of her mouth, “I should’ve been faster – “

Cassian shook his head, quick and short, enough for her to stop. He reached out his hand, codeswitching as it landed on the side of her neck. Carefully, he ran his thumb over her throat, soft as a kiss. He touched the spot the blade would’ve killed her, if not for him. Cassian watched his thumb, then looked up at her with his sincere eyes, and knew she was more than forgiven.

///

She had carried his coat all the way back to his quarters, navigating around his arm carefully. Cassian had only noticed it later, when he was shucking all the layers he’d piled on in its place.

“You can just throw it out,” he said, “There’s no salvaging it.”

Jyn had gone to do so the next day, but her feet carried her instead to her assigned quarters, shared with four other women. Growing up with Saw meant that she’d picked up more than a few tricks for getting blood out of clothing, and she was able to wash it away in the narrow sink of their bathroom. Afterwards, she tucked it into her clothing crate, not sure how to justify the work to herself, but doing it anyways. She didn’t exactly have a plan but she knew that throwing it out felt wrong. So instead, she stowed it away, ignoring the looks of the roommates she hadn’t seen in over a month, probably dually confused at the ruined jacket and her sudden reappearance. They didn’t say anything, however, probably just grateful to be free of her night terrors.

Over a month ago, Cassian had found her sleeping in the U-Wing – or, sleeping as well as she could, without turning on the engine in the frigid Hoth hangar, and without sleeping too deeply to avoid night terrors. She’d had one anyways, and woke screaming and teary, Cassian’s hands catching her flying fights.

He hadn’t said anything. He’d used their language, and touched her instead. He scooped her up, sat her up, and kneeled in front of her, still holding her hands, but tangling her fingers free of her fists for her. He set her hands on his chest and exaggerated his breathing until Jyn matched it, breathing deeply in time with him. She didn’t know how long he kneeled there, probably murdering his knees against the frozen metal floor of the U-Wing, but he did eventually help her to her feet and lead her to his quarters, which felt like a sauna after the ice-water hangar. He had sat next to her, hands still in his, and finally spoke his first words.

How long?”

She was honest. Since Scarif, but also before since Scarif. Since Wobani, but also since before Wobani. Since Tamsye Prime, but also since before Tamsye Prime. Since the man in white.

He was honest, too. Since Scarif. Since his recruitment. Since he was six years old.

Now he left his door unlocked every night, now he left a space carved out for her in his bed. Now she slotted her boots next to his, now she slid silently into that space. It took her a while to make it a habit. Initially, she promised herself, it wouldn’t happen more than once. Then, the promise was that it wouldn’t happen more than once a week. Then it was not more than twice a week. She gave up entirely after that, accepting the space he offered her without any more conditions.

It didn’t stop the nightmares. Jyn had tried all her life to stop the nightmares, and the only solution she’d found so far was not sleeping at all. But Cassian’s bed was warmer than the one in her bunk, and when she woke screaming, there were warm hands to hold her. She didn’t feel guilty about jolting her roommate awake, either, because sometimes Cassian’s body went unnaturally still, and sometimes his body would start to shake, and sometimes his eyes would drop tears onto their pillow. When his warm hands started to shake, Jyn was there to hold them until they stopped.

Cassian gave her a lot. Jyn tucked the jacket away with a purpose. She wanted to give him something in return.

///

Jyn had nothing more than a vague idea to do something until she saw Baze a week later, parked in the mess with a pair of long grey needles in his hands. She sipped her caf slowly, soaking up its warmth as she tried to wake up, mesmerized as she watched Baze’s needles weave the ball of yarn into a plush grey scarf.

“Who’s that for?” Jyn asked, watching Baze pause to look up at her. They shared a rule; no one was allowed to talk to them until after their first cups of caf. Jyn was about halfway into hers, and Baze’s was hardly touched. She never been good at following rules so Jyn soldered on, “I just know that Cassian has been cold, lately.”

The quartermaster was strapped, completely out of cold weather gear since the move to Hoth, and every one of Cassian’s requests over the last three days had been denied. He’d spent the days bundled in just about every layer he owned, tight-lipped on the way he was violently shivering, his face was serious as ever, but tucked between his shoulders. The night before had been somewhat of a breaking point for Jyn; he was late coming to bed, and Jyn beat him to it for the first time. He was late because he had spent every second allotted to him in the sonic, trying to soak up its heat, but still came to bed cold. Over the last few weeks, he’d grown less and less tentative to hold her, but that progress seemed like moving inches compared to the bounds he’d taken in the last few days. He took the last step last night, laying his chest flush against her back, letting her take his arm and wrap it tightly around her. He had finally stopped shivering, but it took nearly an hour.

The quartermaster had promised another shipment of coats in a week, but Cassian checked his datapad for off-planet requests so often that it was clear that week was inching by. He’d even skipped breakfast, selling her a poor excuse that he had to get to a meeting, which probably had more to do with the fact that the command rooms were always warmer than the mess, than actually needing to be there early. There were two extra dewberry muffins on her tray, snatched from under the watchful eye of the cook.

“It’s for Cassian,” Baze told her, and Jyn nodded gratefully. She watched him for a while longer and thought about the coat tucked away in her quarters.

“Ask your question,” Baze said, and Jyn looked up from the scarf.

She considered contradicting him but changed her mind. “You spend too much time with Chirrut,” she told him.

“I know,” Baze said, continuing to knit. He repeated himself, “Ask your question.”

She didn’t know how to put it into words, fiddling with them for so long that she asked to show him instead. Baze grumbled, but followed her anyways, all the way back to her quarters. She spread the ruined jacket out on her bed and stepped back to stand beside Baze. They sized it up together, arms crossed.

“If you showed me how to do that,” she jerked her chin at the yarn, “I could fix it.”

Baze shook his head, “No. This is knitting. You need to learn how to sew to fix this.”

Jyn looked up at him, “It’s all mending.”

“No,” Baze said, looking a little offended. “It isn’t.”

They both stared hard at the jacket, like if they glared hard enough, it would spontaneously fix itself. Jyn chewed the inside of her cheek, then blurted, “I just don’t want him to be cold anymore.”

Baze sighed and dropped his huge hand to her shoulder, squeezing it. “Come to our quarters after dinner. Bring this. I will show you what to do.”

///

Kark,” Jyn swore, sticking her finger again. She stuck it in her mouth, glaring down at the jacket as she tasted blood.

“You must watch the needle on both sides,” Baze reminded her patiently, “You are trying to rush it.”

Jyn turned her glare on him, popping her finger from her mouth. She’d thought this would be easier, but she’d barely made it to the elbow, and she’d stuck every one of her fingers. They were all throbbing, her trigger finger in particular, which would take twice as long to heal, probably re-opening and bruising every time she used it.

She glared jealously at the robes Baze was mending for Chirrut. His stitches were far neater than hers, short, straight, and evenly spaced. Jyn’s, on the other hand, were long and messy, tangled as she double-backed in places where the stitches were too far apart. She kept measuring out the wrong amount of thread, forced to constantly tie it into nail-sized knots that dotted up and down the sleeve,  and would catch on the first thing Cassian walked past when he wore it.

Where Baze’s mending was near-invisible, tucked under the fabric, Cassian’s sleeve now had a crevice, a low dip where Jyn had drawn the puffy jacket in to be sewn shut. Baze had warned her that would happen if she didn’t sew each side separately, but she couldn’t work out how to do it. She ended up stitching all three layers together, which was bad according to the looks Baze kept sending her, and the weird crevice she had sewn into the sleeve.

Jyn looked down at her handy work, turning it over to look at the hole on the inside of the sleeve, where the knife had completely ripped out a circle of fabric. There were two flaps of fabric she could sew shut, but a finger-sized amount had been ripped away entirely.

“You will need some fabric to patch that hole,” Baze told her. Jyn nodded, staring at the hole, wondering where the hell she’d find fabric for it. Her scarf caught her eye. Jyn lifted the end, measuring it over the hole and chewing the inside of her cheek.

///

She had ruined it. She had poured hours of hard work into the jacket, spending her every second of free time painstakingly stitching her way up the arm, ripping out stitches and starting again when they got particularly brutal. And all she had to show for that work was a mess of crooked, varyingly sized and coloured stitches weaving disastrously up the arm.

It looked awful. Now it was really unsalvageable.

“I ruined it,” she said, disrupting the quiet of Baze and Chirrut’s quarters. Baze was just working on Cassian’s scarf again, but Chirrut was meditating, and she’d told herself she’d remember that and keep quiet. But she’d ruined that too, by swearing every time she pricked herself, her frustration stepping on her memory.

“You haven’t ruined it,” Baze said without looking up from his scarf.

Jyn’s insecurities reared their ugly head, and her voice was harsher than she’d meant, “Then why doesn’t it look like anything you’ve done.”

Baze looked unaffected by her tone, rolling her anger easily off his back. He didn’t even look up, focused on finishing the last stitches of Cassian’s scarf. “I’ve been mending for two for twenty years. I’ve had more practice.”

“Baze was worse when he started out,” Chirrut told her, smiling. “The stitching was so poor that my fingers caught into them anytime I tried to wear something he had mended.”

Baze paused, sending Chirrut a look. “Maybe your fingers are just clumsy,” Baze responded, “You blind fool.” It seemed that in those twenty years, Baze had mastered both mending and making insults sound like endearments.

Chirrut smiled wider, turning his chin towards Jyn’s voice. “More than any sewing skill, Cassian will appreciate the gesture.

Jyn glared at the mess she’d made, those insecurities rearing their ugly heads again, “What the hell does Cassian get from a gesture?”

Baze and Chirrut fell into a kind of silence that Jyn had come to recognize from them. Baze wasn’t looking at her and Chirrut’s smile had fallen, in a way that meant she hadn’t done anything wrong, but that she’d said something that betrayed her upbringing. They had expressions on their faces that meant she’d said something heartbreaking.

Baze’s gruff voice was softened when he spoke, “The gift is in the gesture, Jyn.”

Chirrut’s words were softer too, and he smiled a little, “Cassian will appreciate the time and patience you poured into this. He will find a gift in that, more than any mending you have done.”

Her frustration dissipated, Jyn held the coat a little tighter. Jyn looked down at her handiwork and tried to see what they did. She hoped Cassian would too.

///

As much as Kay complained about their mating rituals, and as much as Bodhi liked to smile knowingly anytime they so much as touched each other, the idea of handing over the coat – which was not a mating ritual, or something to smile knowingly at, or whatever – made a parade of butterflies erupt into her stomach. What would she do? Give it to him in the middle of the mess? Corner him in the U-Wing? It was a damn jacket, but all of that felt far too public. Chirrut and Baze had gotten into her head. This gesture felt far too intimate for any public space on base. Her option, then, was his quarters and that felt dangerous for a whole other reason.

Let alone where she did it – what would she say? “Sorry for ruining this even more, but at least I tried”?

Jyn decided to bypass that alarming sludge of emotion by slipping into his quarters and hanging it back in the closet without a word. He’d probably figure it was her sooner or later, but at least this way, she didn’t have to make a big show of it. As much as Chirrut and Baze talked about a gesture, Jyn couldn’t find a way to make one that went beyond chucking the thing in the back of his closet and hoping he’d never bring it up.

In sum, her plan was to do what she’d always done: run.

It didn’t play out like that. She should’ve known it wouldn’t, because Cassian had a talent for defying her expectations.

He told her that morning that he was supposed to be in a meeting until late; she wanted to scold him for missing another meal, but also knew it was her best chance to slip the coat in undetected.

Jyn dropped the extra sandwiches she’d swiped on the desk, wrapped in plastic that Bodhi had been able to charm out of the cook, and made a beeline for the closet. But she’d only palmed open the door when the room door slid open, admitting Cassian. He paused when he saw her, hands poised near his mouth, like he’d been blowing on them. He was looking at her strangely, and she didn’t blame him. She’d frozen in the half-crouch she’d assumed to look for hangars.

“Jyn?” He said, confused. “I thought you’d be at dinner?”

“I thought you’d be in your meeting,” Jyn returned, sounding just as guilty as she looked.

“Rescheduled,” he said, holding up his datapad. “I wanted to drop this off before joining you. Is that my jacket?”

Jyn looked guiltily down at the coat in her hand, nodding nervously as she straightened. Cassian stepped towards her, eyes on his jacket. He held his hands out and she gave it to him. Cassian handled it in the way she’d seen him handle bombs, looking at the stitching down the sleeve.

“I,” Jyn started, staring at the stitching too. It looked a dozen times worse in his hands. “I made it worse.”

Cassian didn’t say anything, turning the sleeve over and finding the patch she’d made, filling in the hole left by the knife. He ran a thumb over it, like he was trying to place the fabric in his memory.

“That’s from my scarf,” she said, looking down at it. She’d reasoned, at the time, that they were both blue, and that meant the patch wouldn’t be noticeable. But now she realized she was wrong, the cool colour of the scarf clashing with the coat’s vibrance. “I cut off the end,” her fingers trailed to the spot on the scarf, holding up where she’d clumsily sewn the hem. “Baze helped me. I didn’t know where else to find fabric, and, um.”

Cassian finally looked up at her, finger on the piece of her scarf. He smiled a little, and Jyn felt some of the tension drip from her shoulders. Carefully, he set it down, shedding his outermost layer and then pulling the coat over top, the huge hood settling familiarly around his shoulders. He bent his elbow carefully and Jyn held her breath, but the stitches held. They were messy, but Jyn had made them strong, at least.

“This is where you’ve been all week?” He asked. Jyn nodded, a silly sliver of her preening at his noticing her absence.

“It’s not very good,” she said, but it was weaker than before, the sharp insecurity dulled by Cassian’s smile. He was shaking his head, eyes drifting from the careful, if clumsy, stitches to her face.

“Thank you, Jyn,” he said, and every prick in her finger was worth it, if just to hear that sincerity in his voice. “I really appreciate it.”

Jyn tilted forward on the balls of her feet, emboldened by him. “I didn’t want you to be cold anymore.”

Cassian smiled wider, ducking his chin, like he thought he didn’t deserve it. He pulled the coat closed, zipping it up to his chin, then looked back up at her, “Dinner?”

He stuck even closer to her than normal, elbows bumping, thighs brushing, all the way to the mess. He didn’t let up, not at Kay’s obnoxious voice inquiring about mating rituals, or Bodhi’s knowing look, or Baze and Chirrut’s smiles, proud and directed at Jyn, like she’d learned something they were trying to teach her. Cassian stuck next to her through all that, until their friends ran out of comments. Then he pressed a little closer, and Jyn could feel his arm steady against her, warm and still.

///

The more Jyn saw him in the coat, the less she hated her work. The stitching was uneven, sure, but it was tightly packed. Obviously done with care. And Cassian seemed to notice.

Cassian received a message from the quartermaster a week later, while they were still in bed in the morning. Jyn saw him type his reply. He was no longer in need of one.

In the hangar, Jyn paused her work on repairing the ramp of the U-Wing to watch him work on the wing, reaching overhead. She caught a flash of her scarf, tucked inside, close to his chest. Like a secret that belonged to them. Cassian caught her looking, and the way he smiled felt the same way: something private, that belonged to them.