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in the aeroplane over the sea

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Captain Andor’s fingers dig into the panicked man’s shoulder, a brief squeeze meant to offer comfort.

And then there’s his finger pressing firmly on the trigger, the blaster kicking in his hands, the bright flash of blood-red light, and the dead weight in his arms.

Jyn’s arm is linked in his as if they’re tourists, wandering the dusty streets of Jedha. But he can tell that she walks lightly on the balls of her feet, a wariness honed through a lifetime of checking over her shoulder, watching her back, eyeing the exits as the extremists taught her.

He doesn’t wonder what made her that way. He’s read her file, after all; Mon Mothma handed over the holocron with the world-weary expression of a woman too accustomed to the empire’s casualties.

“We need to go. We need to go.” He’s physically yanking her back to her feet, the young woman stumbling with a leaden step. The temple’s ground and walls rumble disconcertingly around them, vibrations thrumming in their teeth, chunks of rock dropping from the ceiling.

But Saw still stands at the window, proud and unmoving, though his lungs rattle with an unhealthy, reedy sound. He’s staring off at the horizon as it collapses, as his base falls into tatters, as he welcomes the end.

Home is not a place; it’s the people.

Cassian finds himself remembering this as he sinks into a seat at the Yavin IV mess hall, relaxing into the noisy chaos of hundreds of rebels talking, chattering, eating, laughing. Blue Squadron have cleared off one of the tables for a raucous game of Dejarik. It’s one of the few places where he’s at ease, amongst these fighters, this make-shift family.

The captain is still absorbed in conversation with another saboteur until he glances off to the side, catching sight of his passenger.

Jyn is picking away at her food, barely touching the plate.

“I know Gerrera was like a father to you,” he starts, tentatively.

Her expression shutters. She doesn’t exactly get up and storm off (Jyn isn’t the type; when she’s angry she’s all quiet tight-jawed menace instead, like a manka cat waiting to pounce), but she does drop her fork and shove the plate away from her.

Cassian bites down on the inside of his cheek. He’s always been terrible at this. He hasn’t known family since he was six years old, orphaned and raised by the Rebellion.

But they do have that in common.

The flight into Eadu is rough, to say the least.

The U-wing seesaws wildly, piercing winds buffeting its wings as it plummets between the planet’s rocky outcrops. The slight widening of K-2SO’s optical lenses is the only sign that the droid is perturbed by their descent, but Bodhi is a wound-up spring of anxiety, both his hands clenching the cockpit seatbacks. His dark eyes dart back and forth between all the items on the console: primary flight display, navigational display, attitude indicator, altitude tape, rate-of-climb indicator.

And despite their best efforts, they crash into an explosion of screeching metal and flame, jumbled about like coins in a jar.

The crew slowly pick themselves back up. Baze is first to Chirrut’s side, but the blind man waves him off, instantly grasping for his cane. (But Baze’s hand rests on the other man’s temple for a moment, then slips to his neck, a momentary reassurance.)

Cassian pulls himself out of the cockpit, almost trips over Jyn’s legs, where she’s wedged herself in the doorway. “You okay?” he asks, offering a hand to tug her back to her feet. She seems to consider turning down the offer, but then accepts.

The captain jumps into restless motion then, hopping out of the wreckage with his macrobinoculars. This mission is a heavy weight on his conscience and he can’t stop moving, can’t stop talking, rattling off orders to the team.

They just have to reach the end.

Despite Cassian’s waterproof jacket being zipped up to the throat, this pouring, driving rain is dripping down his neck and seeping into his boots. He’s cold, right down to his toes, and he wonders how much of it is the planet and how much is the mission.

Squinting into the sniper rifle’s scope, his hair slicked to his forehead and curling into his eyes, he tracks the movement on the landing pad for what feels like an eternity before he finally takes a deep breath, exhales, and slides his finger off the trigger.

Jyn is up in his face despite her lack of height (which should seem diminutive but somehow isn’t), palm slamming against his chest, her jaw set at a stubborn angle. “You lied,” she says, her voice flat and stiff as if she’s stopping herself from shouting. Probably she is. She’s in shock, Cassian tells himself. He recognises the signs. They’ve seen it often enough during this war, after all.

The others are tactfully silent, although he can see Bodhi fidgeting and Chirrut’s hands white-knuckled around his cane.

Cassian doesn’t give a damn about what they think; or at least tries to tell himself that he doesn’t.

Mon Mothma probably knew that they were bound to rebel and go off-books. She can’t do anything without the official sanction of all the council, but she knows the sorts of men and women that they’ve recruited for this rebellion: they do not say no, they do not surrender, and they do not roll over and admit defeat whenever the Empire snaps its teeth.

“Rogue One,” Bodhi says, and with those two simple words, he seals their fate into history.

They can’t hyperjump the whole way to Scarif, and the last leg of the flight entails some wait-time. The crew whiles away the hours with card games, betting and wagering their small store of credits.

K-2SO pipes up, as he always does after his circuits have ground along a problem, announcing his conclusion unprompted: “Cassian, you’re blinking 0.6ms more often than usual. This indicates nervousness; the odds of you possessing a good hand are very low indeed.”

Baze lets loose a braying laugh. Bodhi is wielding a tight-lipped smile over the edge of his cards, and Cassian throws his hand down on on the table with an exasperated chuckle, taking another swig of his drink. Jyn hasn’t officially joined their game; instead she’s hovering on the edges, simply watching. But she quirks a small smile when the captain gives up, and he settles down beside her as spectator, shoulder-to-shoulder, thigh-to-thigh.

“You’re not joining in?” he asks. “I think Baze is happy to take your money.”

“Not a team player,” she says lightly, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary.

Cassian finds himself watching Chirrut and Baze. Trapped in such close confines on the ship, it’s become readily apparent that the priest and his bodyguard walk effortlessly around each other; there’s no fumbling around Chirrut’s blindness and they’re comfortable in each others’ presence, sometimes communicating through a wordless touch here, a tap of the table there.

Clearly Bodhi is thinking the same thing, because after a moment, he pipes up in curiosity: “How long have you two been together?”

“Long enough to understand each other,” Chirrut responds, cryptic as always. Baze simply grunts.

But they’re a nice sight. This sort of casual intimacy, almost domestic.

In contrast, there’s a loneliness to being a spy. The rebel pilot squadrons have their rough and rollicking group dynamic, but Cassian’s long days and nights and weeks are usually spent alone or with K-2SO, who by his own admission isn’t the best of company. He talks to metal and rivets and processing chips, and they talk back.

Jyn Erso dozes with her blaster across her knees, arms crossed and tucked in at her sides, head tipped back against the cold metal of the shuttle. Cassian lets K-2SO run the ship on autopilot for a while, and he paces the crew dormitory instead, restless in this small space. He was never like this before.

“Your heart rate is elevated beyond your usual range,” K points out.

“I don’t need the commentary,” Cassian replies dryly.

They’re finally on the ground in Scarif, feeling time ticking mercilessly away, and getting dressed quickly. He helps Jyn with the bulky helmet of an imperial maintenance worker, readjusting it low over her head until the visor lines up. He raps his knuckles gently against the side, a questioning look in his eyes.

She gives a thumbs up.

There’s a fire digging its way into his belly and his hand is on her shoulder, leaning on her for support. Jyn is dragging him and his gut wound across the platform, his lungs heaving in time with hers. Their heads rest too close together as the lights in the elevator keep flickering, dying out.

They’re plunged into darkness for a moment, and beyond the distant explosions and phaser fire, Cassian mainly focuses on the sound of Jyn’s ragged breath. Her arm is tight around his chest, her fingers knotted into the fabric of his shirt; the knowledge that she’s there in this pitch-black elevator, a source of warmth beside him, is comforting somehow. And for a brief fleeting moment, he wonders: if only.

His hand finds hers and gives a tightening of the fingers, meant for comfort.

And the sun rises.