The Rogue One squad- or rather, what was left of the team after Scarif- chose not to attend the medal ceremony when the Death Star was destroyed.
Words and whispers of their role in obtaining the Death Star plans spread throughout the Rebellion, certainly, but as they sat around in another room, listening to the whoops and cheers as two other humans and a Wookiee got the credit for taking one huge step to destroying the Empire, their achievements and bravery were all but a faint memory in the back of everyone else’s minds.
“They didn’t even believe us the first time,” Bodhi mumbled, sighing as he rested his chin on his knees whilst curled up on a chair.
“In fairness, the mission was unapproved,” K2 pointed out.
“If it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t have even known there was a weakness to begin with, much less that a weapon that size existed,” Jyn countered. The nonchalance in her voice was betrayed by the hint of frustration of being unheard, unrecognized. But rather than glare at the holo broadcast, she kept herself busy by manipulating her balisong, and the constant click-clack as she spun it around her hand and between her fingers was the only other sound in the room as the others looked on.
“At least we got our revenge,” a cross-armed Baze replied gruffly, though it was easy to tell that even he was displeased at being overlooked.
A gentle (if scarred) hand gripped Baze’s forearm and gave it a comforting squeeze. “All is as the Force wills it,” Chirrut reminded him. “It guided Skywalker to join the Alliance and hand another victory to the Rebellion.”
“We helped give the Rebellion that victory,” Melshi muttered before taking a swig of something from his flask.
“What matters more is that the victory happened; it doesn’t matter if we get recognized or not,” Cassian finally chimed in as he leaned against the wall opposite everyone else. His arms were crossed, his face neutral, and Jyn paused briefly to stare at him with a hint of incredulity. The frown on his face seemed normal, if a bit disappointed, and his eyebrows scrunched slightly. But there was a sinking feeling in her gut that seemed to tell her that Cassian wasn’t actually upset at their situation, but rather at them, for all the snide reactions. “The point is that everything we do here is for a cause we believe in, even if it means getting overlooked because we weren’t the one to put the nail in the coffin. If the rebellion chooses someone younger and bright-eyed than the rest of us to be praised, then so be it.”
“Even if one of them is an actual smuggler that never follows the rules?”
Cassian’s eyes darkened. “Don’t forget we broke an Imperial-jailed person out of prison to retrieve these plans based on the message delivered by an Imperial defector, and we went rogue on the entire Alliance to get those plans.”
Melshi scoffed and took another drink. “If you’re going to lump us in with that lot on the basis of unexpected heroes then we all should be standing up there with them,” he shot back knowingly, and Jyn could see a twitch in Cassian’s cheek where his jaw tightened slightly.
Jyn went back to flicking her wrist this way and that, the clacking noises quietly resuming from her balisong. She filtered out the rest of the noise, now a dull hum in her mind, until her ears randomly tuned in and heard:
“We were all only in the medbay for one week!” Melshi yelled.
She sensed a loudness that had quieted down now that she became aware of what just transpired. Melshi had stood up to Cassian, his fingers curling and squeezing into fists in an attempt to calm his nerves. Clearly, it wasn’t working too well, and Melshi’s face was turning red with rage.
Cassian merely looked him dead in the eye. His arms were still crossed, but now that the two were standing face to face, their limps were far more apparent.
“They gave us bacta,” Cassian countered. “That’s already more than what operatives normally get when they’re injured. This next group, coming back from their injuries battling the Death Star, they won’t be so lucky. They’ll take longer for recovery. We’ll live.”
“And the rest? The ones that didn’t make it off that beach? Are we going to let everyone else forget who died trying to help us when no one else wanted to?”
That gave Cassian another reason to twitch, and the corner of his mouth pursed slightly before resuming a neutral position. He took a deep breath and said, “You and I both know that an operative’s survival rate-“
“-is less than 25%,” K2 finished.
Melshi glared daggers at the droid, who was wise enough to cease any further attempts at speech after his reaction.
“There isn’t anything we can do about it. They don’t want to glorify our brand of rebellion, and resources are low. Of course they’ll treat us the way they did- they didn’t even have to patch us up with how badly we defied them.” No longer feeling interested in watching the festivities from afar, much less arguing with Melshi to talk him through his anger, he walked away, roughly bumping shoulders with Melshi as he passed him.
That caused Melshi to snap, and he fisted Cassian’s jacket sleeve to yank him back and get even closer as he snarled, “Rebellions are built on hope. You said so yourself. Where did that hope go, Captain?”
Ever the professional, Cassian’s face remained expressionless, but his voice was clear with conviction as he shot back, “I hoped for us to make it out alive, and we did. We did our job. For me, that’s all that matters. If you’re in this for the glory, you’ve come to the wrong movement.”
Despite the heat and humidity of Yavin IV, the room settled into an unnerving chill, and Bodhi curled up even tighter as Cassian left the room, rubbing his arms in a shiver. K2 started to walk after Cassian, determining that the captain would need the company, but even he couldn’t take two clunking steps before Cassian shouted, “Don’t follow me, Kay!”
The doors of the room slammed shut, and Melshi’s shoulders slumped. Jyn decided it was best for her to go after Cassian instead of the droid, so she hopped up off the table and on her feet- left foot first, then gently on her right, where the bruising still remained. She, too, passed Melshi, and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. With sad eyes, Melshi turned his head and looked at Jyn as if he were asking for forgiveness. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, and she could hear the defeat in his voice rip his vitality into small shreds. “We all deserve better.”
The words pricked her heart and she gave a sad smile. “You guys do; I don’t.” She patted his shoulder twice and headed out.
It didn’t take long for Jyn to find Cassian in the maze of halls, somewhere in an area frequented only by technical staff. Given the post-battle celebration and awards ceremony, it was only natural he’d be alone until Jyn approached him. Her steps were quiet and cautious, like approaching a tooka cat with its hairs on end, ready to bolt at the slightest hint of confrontation. Cassian didn’t need to look up from the wall he leaned on to know that he sensed her presence, and Jyn eventually gave up trying to be sneaky and resumed her natural pace as she closed the gap between them a bit more.
“You shouldn’t have talked down on Melshi like that, not when you of all people convinced him to join us at Scarif,” she told him. “If it weren’t for Bodhi’s message, none of you would’ve found out about the weapon. The Rebellion has him to thank, and what little is left of the crew for being successful in getting the plans out. You have no right to be mad at the rest of us for wanting to recognition, because we were right, and they refused to sanction the mission.”
Getting the words out in one go lifted the weight from her shoulders, and she suddenly felt lighter for it. It was a relief.
She looked at him in hopes that he at least understood her frustration with the whole debacle, and with the Alliance in general, but while Cassian didn’t respond outright, his jaw tightened. She glanced at how his fingers thrummed against his crossed arms, and decided that his display of annoyance and impatience was a clear sign that he wasn’t up for hearing her out. But there was no way she was going to stick around like this after giving her two credits on the matter without a response in return, so she turned on her heels and started to walk away.
“You could’ve died,” she heard him say.
Jyn paused in her tracks but refused to turn back and look at him. “I was convinced you were dead,” she countered. Her weight still shifted forward, ready to keep walking.
“If I missed my shot, even by just a little, you would’ve died at an Imperial’s hands.”
“All they gave you was a week in the medbay and a quick dip in bacta.”
She wasn’t sure where he was going with this.
Jyn felt a slight rustle from her shirt at the small of her back. “For once, I was angry at them all,” he admitted quietly.
He didn’t need to say who he was referring to- the faces of those that doubted her flashed in her mind. Draven’s in particular burned the brightest in her memory with the way he looked at her when he ultimately decided not to trust her; it didn’t matter anymore that they needed her to even move forward with finding Bodhi through Saw.
Jyn tensed slightly. “Why?”
His voice was closer now, his breath blowing against her hair slightly and tickling her ears. “You deserved far more than that for what you did for a cause that doubted you.”
She tried to shrug it off. “A deal’s a deal, though- you get me out of that hellhole, I get you to Saw. The rest was just…” she tried to search for the words, but the sound of his controlled breathing was starting to distract her now that she was aware of just how close he was to her. “…a bonus.”
The back of his hand brushed tentatively against hers, and she finally turned around to look at him. Jyn was surprised to see the look of hurt scrawled clearly all over his face, the emotions surfacing from the cracks and crinkles of the edges his eyes, the lines on the corners of his lips, and the no-longer empty space between his eyebrows. It was such a disarming look that she almost lost her footing and was taken aback by it. Putting more weight on her better leg, she straightened up as much as her aching body would let her.
“Because of it, you almost died,” he said, his sad eyes now searching hers.
She stared back defiantly. “It’s like you said- we all still made it out alive.”
“I know!” he burst out, but he extinguished the fire in him just as quickly as the words left his lips.
It dawned on Jyn that when he dismissed Melshi with a “We’re alive, and that’s all that matters”, it wasn’t because he felt that the others were ungrateful after what happened in Scarif; he was trying to tell himself that. His flash of anger carried the shame of feeling selfish, suppressing a desire he felt he shouldn’t have because he spent so many years of his life trying to live and fight for the benefit of others.
For once, she could see him fighting with himself, torn between the happiness and satisfcation of others and that of his own.
As he found his calm again, she suddenly found it harder to breathe. The hallway they stood in became even stuffier than it already was- or, perhaps it was thickened by Cassian breathing on her, and she could feel the ebb and flow of his own breath on her lower lip as she looked up at him.
Though, come to think of it, when did Cassian get this close to her?
Jyn could feel her heart starting to race, and she thought back to the last time she felt like this, but her head was starting to spin to the point where she had a hard time remembering exactly when she felt this way. Perhaps she hadn’t felt this way, ever.
Cassian closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose before staring again with an intensity that gently reminded her that this feeling, this heart-racing closeness, this blatant (but welcome) disregard for personal space, occurred just over a week ago, when the lights of the elevator on Scarif scanned rhythmically past them. She remembered how their faces were so, so close that their lips could brush against each other’s. She lamented not kissing him when she had the chance back then, however, but perhaps, maybe this time, with how much close they were becoming now, she could try and-
“Why do you care so much?” she barely managed to get out, but a part of her already knew the answer, and she was no longer sure if it was getting harder to breathe because of the humid Yavin air or the tension choking her.
“Because it’s you,” he said, and for once his voice wasn’t neutral, as Jyn had grown accustomed to since they first met, but caring, if a bit frustrated.
Cassian didn’t just care about their situation, he cared. About her. It definitely wasn’t the heat anymore, but the blush spreading throughout her face that made her warm enough to sweat. Her eyes fluttered nervously as she saw his hands appear within the corners of her vision to brush aside the bangs on both sides of her face before caressing her cheeks. Still shocked at his confession and unable to come up with a coherent response, she cupped her hands over his and squeezed gently as she continued to look up at him.
How did it come to this? Why does he feel this way? Since when…?
Jyn wanted so badly to ask him these questions, but she still couldn’t calm down enough to do so. He seemed to understand her confusion, however, because in the midst of her head clouding up and going fuzzy she heard his voice echo vaguely in a tone so soft it was barely above a whisper, “Top of the tower.”
She doesn’t recall her lips parting slightly, but as she felt Cassian’s lower lip fit neatly between them, she found it hard to keep berating herself for being so easily stunned into frozen silence, so she simply gave up and closed her eyes to indulge in the full force of his kiss.