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a cunning disguise

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They arrive on Lothal for a week of exhaustive discussions with the various ministries, the Director there to ensure all supply channels to his project run smooth and at maximum efficiency. Jyn prepares herself for several days of silent guard in the Death Trooper armour, turning happily deaf to the droning reports and negotiations while she runs through katana stances in her mind. They’ve just come from a planet where she spent a week with warrior nuns up in the mountains, and she’s come away with so many holorecords and old scrolls transferred to datapads for ease. She loves this time of active evolution, so much new knowledge ahead for her to practise and internalise, a whole new school of thought and physical discipline to master.

So she’s standing behind the Director of the Imperial Army as he unhooks his cape and casts it without looking to some aide, taking a seat opposite the rather sweaty Planetary Governor. It’s a slightly shabby room with clear signs of its former Senate function, now inexpertly done over with Imperial insignia. Krennic pretends not to notice, adjusting his gloves as he gives the Governor a broad smile. The atmosphere in the room is one of controlled terror -- the ranged officials and bureaucrats know the Director isn’t pleased with the current state of supply and production.

But protocol has to be observed. And she knows Krennic enjoys the suspense too much to rush through the niceties. The low table between them is laid with all the accoutrements for high tea, an attempt at Coruscant society, porcelain teapot steaming a little, cups and saucers, and a gilt stand of little sandwiches and cakes. The Governor is burbling something along the usual lines of welcome and weather and the journey. Over Krennic’s shoulder, Jyn eyes the chocolate tart and wonders if it’s Trammistan. The Director replies with all affability, asking after family and children and the weather. Jyn stifles a groan in her helmet and tries to send Krennic thoughts about saving the chocolate tart for later.

But before the tea is poured and the delicacies portioned out, the Governor says he has a gift to offer. It’s nothing grand, he adds, sweating profusely, merely a token of his personal appreciation for the Director’s presence and efforts on behalf of Lothal. “How charming,” Krennic drawls, sounding almost genuine. The Governor nods, and a lackey scurries forward with a covered basket. There is a distinct mewling sound, and Jyn sees the moment Krennic realises what it is. His back stiffens, his mouth very nearly compresses, but charm ever asserts itself and he relaxes into a smile, accepting the basket with all twinkling eyes and warm thanks. In her helmet, Jyn shuts her eyes and laughs and laughs in silence, hoping her shoulders don’t shake.

Loth-kittens. A basket of tumbling mewling furballs, supposedly of unusual markings and a very high pedigree, from the Governor’s family pet collection.

There’s going to be hair all over his uniform when this meeting is done, all over the white jacket and dark trousers. He’s going to be utterly livid, and the basket of squirming things will be thrust at the nearest aide the moment they get back to the shuttle. The last time the Director of the Imperial Army had to meet with a species that shed, he complained bitterly for days and swore never to call on their help if only because of the mess.

“At least you’re not allergic,” she’d said, trying not to chuckle.

“Fucken hell,” he’d replied, aghast. “No, fuck, no, then we’d blow the planet up.”

In the end, no planets were blown up and they had found some other non-shedding species to swear fealty to the Empire. And now, as tea is poured and the Director accepts a plate of small cakes, the talks begin, apparently informal. Soon the datapads and reports will come out, and the Governor will probably start mopping his brow with a napkin. She should have bet Krennic a few credits as to how long that’d take.

As they talk and the Director begins his smooth barbed criticisms, Jyn tunes in and out, watching the people around, all their fidgeting and anxious body language, the bored ones and the resentful ones. She categorises who could be a threat, who looks like they’re carrying, who’s nervous about something private. And in her head, she shifts through stance after stance.

So it takes her a while to realise that the basket remains on the Director’s lap, shaking occasionally with some contained scuffle, its loose fabric cover dislodging every now and then with a curious head. And each time the Director steadies it with one hand, gently pushes the kitten back. He talks on, without missing a beat, his grey blue eyes keen and focused on the Governor. And when a kitten tries to clamber out, making a spirited bid for freedom, he keeps it at bay with a gloved hand. Jyn watches this, bemused and thoroughly entertained. He lets the kitten bat his hand around, lets it and the others chew and gnaw at the leather. Above them, he sips at his tea and grins as the Governor dabs at a shiny forehead.

Protocol must always be observed. Later, back on the shuttle, Jyn leaves the basket in the midst of a group of clamouring officers, picking hairs off her armour as she makes her way back to the Director’s residential quarters.

“Where’s the brush you used when we --”

She comes to such an abrupt halt she nearly falls over. Krennic pretends not to notice, as if he’s too busy feeding the tiny and utterly ferocious kitten cradled in one arm.

“Have you … lost … your mind?” Jyn asks faintly.

“Shush. Mr Tchek, if you -- thank you. Try this, my girl. Nuna flesh. Eat now.”

The droid whirrs back, its optics oscillating in a way that Jyn would swear seems just as bewildered. And the kitten takes a vicious swipe at Krennic’s face, making him dart his head back, silvered hair in disarray. “Fuck!”

“Serves you right,” Jyn says cheerfully and goes to change out of her armour. By the time she returns to the lounge area, she’s thinking about this new contradiction in this endlessly fascinating man she thought she knew so well.

“I thought you hated all furry things,” she remarks, making a careful attempt to stroke the kitten’s pointed ears.

He scoffs and then holds it up for her. “She’s a mutant, look. They’re not supposed to have eyes that colour or that size. Look how blue they are. She’s a special little thing, aren’t you, my girl?”

His new girl is a painfully small brown and gold speckled loth-cat who gives Jyn a very sinister look out of eyes that are indeed very big and disarmingly blue, equipped with ridiculously long lashes. She’s a charmer like her new owner, and Jyn trusts her a lot less. But she sits with them as Krennic tries to feed the kitten scraps of food. His jacket is undone and already covered with yellow hairs, and he doesn’t seem to have noticed at all. Jyn watches the way he holds the kitten close to his chest, a weird warmth moving through her. And when he nearly loses a finger to the sharp snapping teeth in the wide mouth, Jyn laughs and decides maybe she’s happy to share him with this new girl after all.

Because she does prove to be a vicious little thing, fond of nipping at their fingers, whacking her fluffy tail into their faces. Krennic adores her without question, lifts her up against his shoulder and murmurs to her, carries her within his jacket whenever he can get away with it. He calls her Geraldine, and Jyn calls her Gerry just to piss him off. Gerry has her own little bed at the foot of theirs, and more mornings than not Jyn wakes to a warm little weight curled up between them. She purrs on Krennic’s lap when he’s reading reports and stroking her, and scampers around with tail aloft when Jyn trains. The two of them find a whole new variety of ways to madden the Director -- it’s enormous fun, especially to test the boundaries of his ever expanding indulgence of them.

He is so very different with Gerry around, how he utterly melts at the sight of her, and even more so when he comes back to their rooms to find Jyn reading or training with her. There’s a softness about him that is completely irresistible, a tenderness that usually Jyn only sees post-coital when he’s all clingy and needy in the afterglow. All his coolness and arrogance falls away when it’s just the three of them, and Jyn loves him so much more for it, that he lets her see him that way.

Over the weeks and months, Gerry grows strong and large, a glossy beautiful creature with mesmerising eyes, as compelling as her master. And eventually he decides it’s time she deserves a better home than a ship. The new owner is selected with great care, and Jyn delivers Gerry in her special travel container, genuinely upset to say goodbye. But it’s for the best, they’re about to begin the final secret mission.

And that night in their bed, as they lie on their sides, face to face, Jyn curls her hand around his. “Maybe, maybe when all this is over?”

“Maybe,” he replies quietly. His eyes are closed, the lashes a little wet. Jyn leans forward and kisses the high curve of his cheekbone, her heart sore.

“She’ll wait for us. You’ll see.”

His eyes open, mouth tender as he gazes at her, fond and amused. “What’s this, hope?”

Jyn shrugs, a wicked grin. “Lots of things are built on hope.”