“Your father would have been proud of you, Jyn.”
Jyn’s eyes gleamed in the light of their oncoming destruction. Her shaking hand reached out to his and he took it, squeezing it gently to comfort her as they stared out into the colorless horizon, but it wasn’t enough. He closed his eyes as he gripped the back of her vest and she curled her arms around his neck. He rocked her gently as the tremors ran through her body. She sniffled and retightened her grip over his shoulders, then gasped just as he felt the intense heat singe the back of his head. His eyes flew open and only saw white and heard Jyn’s racing heartbeat banging against his ear drum over the roar
Cassian Andor should be dead.
But he isn’t. He’s vaguely aware of the cold sand under him before he loses time and regains it in some place sterile when something cool and slimy is stuck in his ears. It’s only when he dreams that he begins to accept the possibility that he’s alive. His back aches, even in the brackish waters of reality he inhabits, but his heart burns with the hope that if he managed to survive, then Jyn must have survived too.
Could have. Might have. Possibly.
Cassian stirs in his bed, one of the precious few private rooms in the medbay, saved for officers far above his pay grade. Now suspicious, he asks the male human nurse trying to force him to drink where Jyn is. He’s ignored until he sips his water, consumes a watery oatmeal, and answers an endless list of questions to determine if he’s suffering from a concussion.
“Where’s Jyn?” Cassian repeats, his fists clenched around the railings as he struggles to sit up.
The nurse presses a hand against his shoulder, but doesn’t force him to lay down. Instead the hand curls around the thick bandage and squeezes gently enough to be an intended comfort but only achieves to strangle his hope.
“I’m sorry, but she died two days ago. We did what we could, but her wounds were too grave.”
He doesn’t feel the words. He files the fact away, not with the other list of deaths he was responsible for, but where he hid away all the facts he knew about Jyn Erso, from her birthdate to her criminal record to her pseudonyms to her last words. He swallows down the dust in his throat.
“Rogue One…who else survived?”
The nurse squeezes his shoulder again. “Only you. It was touch and go for a bit, but you managed to pull through.”
The nurse offers a small smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, because isn’t it an ironic miracle that the man who organized the suicide mission managed to be the only one who survived? K-2SO, Melshi, Chirrut, Baze, Bodhi, Jyn--
The question tumbles out of his mouth. “Is she--is Jyn still here?”
He inhales as deeply as his mending ribs would let him, holds it, then leaks the warmed air out slowly. He needs to remain calm. Calm and cooperative. That was the only way he’d get out of medbay faster, get back on duty, and get to see Jyn one last time. He inhaled deeply once more, held it, and let out the breath that soothes the jitters in his hands.
“I would like to see her.”
The nurse removes his hand, his smile straightening into a hard line. “I’ll go and request clearance.”
Cassian at last lays back down on his bed and closes his eyes to shut out the world so he can think of the next steps he has to take, but all he sees is Jyn gazing up at him in the turbo lift, and how it took everything in him to keep his focus on her, because he knew he was dying, and if she was the last thing he saw in his life, that was okay. He forces his eyes open and stares up at the blank, gray ceiling. He squirrels the memory away by his temple, where a slow ache thuds along regardless of the amount of pain killers he’s on.
Jyn had died from a type of bacterial infection in her wounds that the doctors had rarely encountered before, and by the time they had realized what they were up against, she was already dead. At least, that is the information his nurse gives Cassian away freely before they leave his room. Cassian says nothing, because there's nothing he can do with that information now.
By the time he’s wheeled to the morgue in one of the lowest levels of Base One, his headache webs over every corner of his scalp and stabs him just above his right eye. He doesn’t inform medical. They only know about his more visible injuries, such as the replaced vertebrae, the patched ribs, and the multiple grafts of synthflesh on his back, legs, and neck. Goosebumps ripple on his arms as he approaches one of the few refrigerated rooms in the ancient temple, sealed shut with a seamless durasteel door.
“Are you ready to head in?” his nurse asks, a pale finger hovering over the silver door button built into the doorframe.
“Yes,” Cassian grumbles, his voice clinging to the sticky sides of his throat.
Only one metal table out of a half dozen is occupied, a clean white shroud obscuring her identity, but he knows it’s Jyn. It can only be Jyn. He remains still as his nurse pushes him to the foot of Jyn’s table, but Cassian demands that he by her side. Reluctantly, the nurse pushes him closer to her, then walks to the opposite side of the table to pull back the shroud off her face.
Her hair is gone, revealing the map of scorched trails left behind by a laser scalpel. Patches of synthskin look unnaturally healthy scattered across her green-tinged face. His eyes follow the broken path of her bare shoulder to the hand hiding underneath the shroud. He slides his fingers under the cloth and clasps her cold, still hand, but flinches away when he feels the stiff flesh of her thigh.
The nurse gingerly begins to fold the cloth over her face again until Cassian hisses at him, “Don’t.”
His nurse swallows, hands still hovering in the air. “How long--”
“When I’m ready. Put the cloth back and leave.”
While folding the cloth back, the nurse says, “I can’t leave you here unsupervised.”
Finally, Cassian glares up at him, and it strikes him that he’s looking at the long, pimply face of his nurse for the first time, a handful of years younger than he is, or young enough that the stress hasn’t been permanently etched under his eyes yet. Young enough to scare off if Cassian growled at him, but then he would run for someone older and less malleable. Exhaling slowing through his nose, Cassian pivots into a careworn, pleading voice he hates.
“If you could go towards the wall and turn around for two minutes…that would still count as supervising me,” he says as he grips the arms of his wheelchair with trembling hands. “Please, I just need a few private minutes. She was our leader, and it’s my fault that she’s--”
He chokes on his last word, his vision blurred from a thick film of tears that convince the boy to walk to the farthest wall, but then they fall down his face in streams that soak in the overgrowth of his beard. He reaches for her hand and takes it again, careful not to touch anything else. They didn’t really know each other, after all. He only knew her grip on his arm so they wouldn’t get separated in Jedha, the fire in her eyes that was nearly extinguished when she learned the truth about her father (that same fire rekindled when she learned the truth about Cassian’s mission), the pride in her face when he shot Krennic, the strong hope in her words as they staggered towards the turbolift--
Without thinking, he reaches to peel her eyelids back and look at her eyes one last time, but his finger tip sinks in the skin because she is dead, and has been dead for some time now as he jerks his hand away, but he’s left two dents behind in her flesh.
“I’m sorry,” he manages to say in between gasps, his hand hovering over her face but not wanting to make matters worse. “I’m sorry, I didn’t…Jyn.”
His hand grapples the edge of her bed so he doesn’t put his full weight on her shoulder as he sobs over her, this person that knocked his world askew. There was only the Rebellion, the cause, the needs of others beyond himself, but then her path tangled with his. He didn’t realize it (or, more accurately, didn’t want to acknowledge) that he treated Jyn differently than he would have any asset of the Rebellion because her existence sparked something in him to want something for himself, and it wasn’t until the end that he acknowledged that he wanted her. Wherever she went, he would follow.
I’m glad you came, she had told him on the beach.
His cries splinters into a moan that echoes in this sparse, frigid hell. He saw in her eyes as the sunset came for them that she was afraid, but he felt her terror when he held her in those last few moments. He squeezes her unresponsive hand, mangled words falling out of his mouth that try to apologize that he couldn’t be with her all the way, not this time, but then he gives up on talking.
Words are useless to the dead.
Something blinks in the corner of his eye. He turns his head towards the bright spot, and notices for the first time a small tray of charred items next to her head. Only one item stands out among the rest: her kyber crystal. Miraculously, it is still tied to its original cording that isn’t even singed. Another sob racks through him when he touches the crystal, but it doesn’t stop him from snatching and hiding it in the folds of his robe. Selfish. He’s so fucking selfish, but he needs this piece of her to carry with him into a future he didn’t expect to have.
Eventually, the nurse touches his shoulder. Cassian squeezes her hand once more before forcing himself to reach over to pull the cloth over her face. He places a hand on her covered forehead, breathes in and out and in and out until his gauzy vision clears.
“Let’s go,” he mumbles.
His nurse is quick to wheel him away and leave Jyn behind.
When Cassian returns to medbay, he puts on the pendant and tucks it under the front of his robe. The crystal is heavy on his sternum, and Cassian wonders how Jyn was able to breathe with it weighing down on her. But he's exhausted and he sleeps until his nurse wakes him with a tray of food.
He sighs and pokes at his watery oatmeal served with a cup of rehydrated orange juice. Despite what he just had to endure a few hours ago, his nurse was still insistent that he try to eat. Suddenly his nurse is called away for some emergency, leaving Cassian behind with his cold, dreary breakfast.
The door clicks open, and Cassian grumbles, “I said I’m not hungry.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to be,” Draven replies.
His spoon plops in the tin bowl as the general saunters up to his bedside, arms folded neatly behind his back and shoulders square. Cassian stares down at his porridge, suddenly overcome with an urge to drown himself in it rather than talk to this man who he no doubt was against the mission in Scarif, and if he had his way maybe Jyn would still be alive and trapped here with him as the Death Star loomed over them.
The Death Star. The plans. The cause Jyn fought and died for, that he followed her into and volunteered his best men to go with her. He had never forgotten it, but his grief was gluttonous, and now his stomach churns over the potential that everything they sacrificed had been in vain.
Draven starts, “Have you’ve been receiving any recent news, or was your condition deemed too delicate?”
“I haven’t been told anything, sir, except that I was the only one that survived Scarif.”
“Princess Leia was able to receive those plans that your team extracted, but then they were lost when Darth Vader boarded her ship and abducted her.”
His hands tremble underneath his tray. A new veil of tears drapes over his vision, but he squeezes his eyes shut and forces the shock of grief inwards.
“Alderaan was obliterated shortly afterwards.”
He draws in a sharp breath and exhales a whimper he regrets. Of course the Empire would retaliate against the Alliance, but he had hoped that the destruction of Scarif would buy them all a little time to fight back. He shouldn’t have hoped--
“However, Leia and the plans were rescued by a farm boy and a smuggler, if you can believe it. They are also responsible for the Death Star’s destruction three days ago.”
Cassian’s eyes pop open as he gapes at Draven, not sure if his ears twisted the words that just came out of the grim-faced general’s mouth into something he wants to hear, but then Draven takes another step closer and holds out his hand.
“Congratulations, Captain Andor, your efforts helped bring down the Empire’s planet killer, and you’re being promoted.”
Cassian’s eyes close, and when he opens them he’s staring up at the ceiling, his head deep in his pillow, his meal tray gone. Draven sits in a chair next to him, flipping through his datapad.
“How long--” Cassian croaks.
“You were out for a few minutes,” Draven says, not looking up from the data pad. “You are not going to be court-martialed. Nor am I going to discharge you. You will instead be on medical leave until you received proper psychological treatment and pass the mental fitness test, and once you do that you’ll be promoted to major.”
“How long is my leave?”
“After three months you’ll be tested, and your results will determine the next steps needed.”
Had this been before Scarif, before Rogue One, before Jyn, he would have argued that they needed him, especially after all the good men he sent to their deaths. But this was after all that, and Cassian breaks down into tears again.
“I should be dead,” he whimpers, hand clasped around Jyn’s pendant.
Draven finally looks up at him with a cool, guarded gaze.
“After everything you’ve fought and sacrificed for the Rebellion, you’re just going to give up?” Draven asks in a strained voice that barely hides his disappointment.
“I don’t know.”
Cassian never expected that there would be a future for him, and now it yawns over his head like a black hole. The last hold out of his sanity reminded him that he still had a place in the Rebellion, and if he could just follow orders…and that was the problem. He couldn’t just follow orders after disobeying so many for a person he barely knew. No, it was because she was willing to risk it all for the Cause, the Cause that he had been fighting for for decades that threatened to crumble due to cowardice after everything he and his comrades sacrificed. But it was for her too, for that warmth in her eyes when she looked up at him in the hangar after he gave his shaking, stumbling speech to try and show how sorry he was, how much he believed in her--
Draven suddenly stands, cutting through Cassian’s warring thoughts. “Well, consider that question during your treatment. You will attend the memorial service tomorrow morning, but it’s up to you if you want to join the medal ceremony in the afternoon.”
Cassian releases the necklace and lets his hand flop in his lap.
“I’m not going.”
“I’ll have your medal delivered,” Draven says, approaching the door.
The old general stops dead in his tracks, and squeezes his hands that are folded behind his back, but he doesn’t turn to look at Cassian.
“Don’t what, Andor? Don’t want it, or don’t deserve it? I believe the former, but not the latter. You and your team earned that medal.”
“Would you have wasted the resources if I had been incinerated?”
Draven shakes his head.
“Get some rest, Andor. You have a long day tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” Cassian mumbles.
The door slides shut, sealing Cassian in with the silence until his nurse returns with the plate of food that he refuses to eat. There’s a threat of a feeding tube if he doesn’t eat in the morning, but he shrugs it off in favor of rubbing his thumb over the Aurebesh engraved in the crystal pendant. Trust in the Force, it read. He can practically hear Chirrut’s mantra now, but when he closes his eyes he doesn’t see the blind monk, but Jyn holding her pendant tight in prayer as they all held their breath over Scarif, and when they’re clear he smiles at Jyn and the elated grin she gives him makes him cry over her again.
He doesn’t sleep that night.
In the morning he refuses his breakfast, and he’s too weak to resist as they shove a tube down his throat and force nutrients in him anyway. A team of nurses scrub him down and give him a decent shave before dressing him in his dress uniform and strapping him in his wheel chair. He drops into sleep just before they leave his room, and his nurse wakes him up when they arrive at the double doors of the temple’s ceremonial room.
Cassian tries to sit up straighter in his chair, but winces as he scarred skin pulls on his vertebrae. He forces his eyes open, though the bags underneath are heavy with sleeplessness. There’s no possibility of dozing off again, not with so many eyes glaring down at him with pity. But a pathway is made for Cassian and his nurse to push through to the end of the cavernous room, the highest ranking officers that he recognizes and a pair of men and a Wookie that he doesn’t are clumped up on the stone platform. Mon Mothma and Princess Leia, both wearing bone-white gowns, introduce him to these strangers as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, responsible for not only saving Princess Leia and the stolen Death Star plans, but for destroying the planet killer.
Han and Chewbacca regard Cassian with the grim, stoic look of men who had seen too much death, but the former farmboy Luke clasps hands with him and says, “It’s an honor to meet you--is that a kyber crystal?”
Cassian rips his hand out from Luke’s and stuffs down the pendant that hangs over his collar. Damn careless nurse.
“It was Jyn’s,” he grumbles.
“Was she a Jedi, or some other sort of Force user?” Luke asks, his bright blue eyes wide and curious.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you a Force user then?”
“But then why--”
Han grabs Luke’s shoulder and says, “Don’t badger him, kid.”
Luke gapes at Han as if he had been smacked in the face, but then his face softens into something more somber as he turns back to Cassian.
“I’m sorry, Captain Andor. After my master Obi Wan died, I thought that I was the only Force user left in this galaxy, but then I saw your kyber crystal and I hoped--”
“That I was a user,” Cassian finishes for him, the edge in his voice withering. “I’m not.”
Thankfully Luke is taken away by the princess, but Mon Mothma takes their place. Like always, she bears a serene, almost ethereal presence wherever she went, but her presence brings little comfort to him.
“I’m glad you’re here, Cassian,” she says.
“Draven was adamant that I came,” Cassian mutters under his breath.
“Yes, well…” She drifts off a moment as she glances over at Draven speaking in hushed tones with the other generals. “Did he tell you that you have the opportunity to say a few words as well?”
His blood runs cold and he stammers, “He didn’t, but even if he did I wouldn’t. I had my last moments with her, and for the rest of Rogue One I…I just can’t--”
He throws his hands in his lap, questioning again what the point was in being alive if he was so fucking useless.
Her voice drifts over him. “There’s no need to explain, captain. But if you change your mind during the ceremony, just let someone know and we’ll make sure you’ll be able to speak your piece.”
As if on cue, a single horn lets out a mournful call, shushing the chattering soldiers and officers. Cassian is wheeled along the long line of generals, senators, war heroes. The crowd below him parts in the middle, and Cassian is confused until he sees the head of a small, polished casket.
He grips his knees, the shock of pain the only thing keeping him from fainting in his chair. Inside him war his grief and his newfound anger at the Rebellion that refused her the manpower she needed, the Rebellion that she was never officially apart of, the Rebellion that draped its banner over her casket like she was their personal martyr. He tries to swallow the surge of bile that burns up his throat, but it scorches the back of his tongue.
But then she is put down at the center of the platform, just a few feet away from him. Cold tears prick his eyes, tempering his rage. She wasn’t a martyr, but a symbol for those who died: Bodhi, Baze, Chirrut, Melshi…he hears their names at the same moment he remembers them, and he pinches his nose to hide his face. He glances to his left when he feels the eyes of Princess Leia on him, brimming with wide-eyed sympathy that he doesn’t deserve.
“And of course, we must remember K-2SO, whose loyalty bought Captain Andor and Sergeant Erso time to secure the plans…”
A smile flickers on his face, feeling a spot of warmth in his heart that K-2SO was acknowledged and respected, but guilt snuffs it out. Ever since he woke up, he had been so fixated Jyn but barely spared a thought for the friend who had been with him for years, having his back, offering to wipe his memory of Cassian crying over his blaster, sacrificing himself for him.
“Goodbye,” K-2 said, and the comm cut out as Cassian screamed his name.
He closes his eyes to tune out the ceremony. It’s too much. It’s all too much, but he opens his eyes again when he feels a big hand squeeze his shoulder. He looks up and, to his shock, sees Draven looking down at him, his frown sagging down his chin, his eyes soft and sad. Immediately Cassian thinks that Draven is silently telling him to pay attention, but there’s something unnerving about Draven’s face to suggest he’s being sincere. Perhaps the old general also knows what it feels like to be responsible for the death of his entire crew.
Cassian sighs, straightens up, and blinks until his vision clears. Jyn and K-2SO already had witnessed his tears, and he refused to share them with anyone else.
Thankfully, the ceremony ends soon enough, and Cassian is sent straight back to the medbay. He snatches gossip from one doctor to another that evacuations would be underway soon. Jyn would be buried at Yavin 4, he assumes, in an unmarked grave so that when the Empire came she would be left alone to rest. He’s exhausted as he’s propped up in his bed again, and he slips in and out of consciousness, unsatisfied with both.
He’s awake, staring at the folds of cloth between his knees when the door opens. The lights to his room had been dimmed, so he only sees the silhouette of a woman in white drift over the threshold. At first he thinks it’s Mon, but she doesn’t have long, dark hair braided in a tall knot on her head. He breathes deeply and sits up straighter. His eyes catch her gaze, and she knows he’s awake, but then he looks down and sees the gold in her hand.
Princess Leia clears her throat. “It's nothing compared to all that you sacrificed--”
“Did you also get a medal as a reminder of what you've lost?”
Her mouth snaps shut and her glare cuts into him. He returns her fire, but the braids--a custom of Alderaan--reminds him of her loss. He breaks away from her, having trouble breathing as he chokes on his shame.
“I’m sorry,” he says hoarsely, gripping Jyn’s necklace from under his shirt.
“I know. A lot of people are sorry.” She looks down at the medal, her face hidden in shadow. “But we haven’t lost everything, captain. Not yet.”
And with that, she goes to his bedside table and gently places the medal on his side table, metal clacking against metal, and walks away without another word. He’s surprised she shared as many words as she did with him.
He grabs the medal, weighs the thin slip of metal in his hands. The light is too dim to read the inscription on the back. He slips the blue ribbon over his head and smoothes it out over his chest, the medal laying under Jyn’s crystal. The new weight is strange to carry, but he’s certain that, like the crystal, he would grow accustom to it.
But for now, he closes his eyes and sinks into his exhaustion.
When Cassian Andor died, he’d be ready, and he’d be content.
He leaned into Jyn as they rode down the turbolift in silence. He had packed his rambling thoughts away of how his faith was renewed by hers, packed away the blooming dreams of a possible future with her. It’s not that he didn’t want it, but he wanted to focus on her now, not waste time wishing for something he couldn’t have.
She blinked, her eyes glittering with tears. “I wanted a future with you too.”
He knitted his eyebrows, because this wasn’t how--ah, it was a dream. A terrible, tortuous dream that had begun the destruction of his few, precious memories of Jyn. Already he mind was filling the blanks about Jyn, sculpting her into the woman he wanted instead of the true woman she was.
When her hand cupped his cheek, wet with his own tears, she felt so warm, so real that it was hard to believe she was only an illusion in his memories.