They are going to find her father. Eventually.
“We need to find Gerrera first,” Cassian explains, “and we don’t know where he is.” He nudges a cup of something black and sludge-like across the table towards her. They’re in the mess, a cramped, white-walled room squirreled away in the depths of the rebel base. It smells better than the imperial prison, but not by much.
“How long will that take?” Jyn asks.
“That depends. He might not want to be found.”
Jyn leans back in her chair, folds her arms across her chest. “Well, I said I’d talk to him, once you find him.”
“Once we find him.”
Jyn frowns. “That’s not my job.”
“Your job,” Cassian corrects, gripping the handle of his own drink, “is to follow the orders you’re given.”
“No,” Jyn says. “That’s your job.”
Cassian steels his jaw and takes a long swig of his drink (to mask his frustration, Jyn thinks). He wipes his lip when he’s done, turning back to her. “We’re partners now,” he says, tight, like he’s talking to a child. “My job is your job.”
“Oh,” Jyn sneers, knowing this is a fight she’s already lost. “Is that how this is going to work?”
“Yes,” Cassian says, steady. “And it is going to work.”
He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself as much as he’s trying to convince her.
Cassian turns away from the control panel to look at her, surprise plain on his face. They’re leaving tomorrow at first light, following a paper-thin tip from a former member of Saw’s army. They have a small list of places Saw could be and no choice but to start from the top.
It’s strange that the rebels think Jyn’s mere presence will somehow lure Saw out of hiding; if she’s the one who knows Saw best, then the alliance should believe her when she says that she’s not enough to impact him. He sent a pretty clear message about that when he abandoned her.
But as much as the alliance seems to need her, they still won’t listen to her. Jyn steels her jaw.
“I’m not asking after your feelings,” she clarifies to Cassian. “I want to know why you seem so reluctant to take on this mission. To find my father.”
He is quiet for a long beat. He looks at Jyn like he’s calculating something.
“Who says I’m reluctant?”
“I never said that.”
“Not out loud.”
The corner of his jaw ticks, a flash of a smile. “Jyn, I don’t think you know me well enough to read my nonverbal cues.”
He’s lying. He knows that she can read him. It unsettles him; she can see the line of tension in his shoulders.
She doesn’t want him unsettled. Not if he’s going to help get her to her father. But she also can’t stop herself from barreling forward, all kinetic energy that must be released.
“If you don’t want to do this,” she starts.
“ If you don’t want to do this,” she repeats, louder, “then why are you doing it?”
“I have orders,” Cassian says, low. Like that should be the end of the discussion, when it’s not even close to the beginning of one.
“That’s comforting,” Jyn snaps, and Cassian’s lip curls.
“I wasn’t aware you needed comfort.” He’s almost snarling, but there’s something in the way his pitch rises, in the furrow of his eyebrow, that makes her think it’s not just sarcasm. That maybe, a piece of him is asking her: is that what you need? Is comfort what you’re looking for?
She shakes her head, standing straighter. (She hates that she has to crane her neck just to look him in the eye.) “I don’t need anything from you except for a path to my father.”
He laughs, a sharp exhale. “Okay then.”
She nods, turning on her heels. But she has nowhere to go; the ship is small, and still being outfitted for flight, and if she wanders out of his sight, she knows he will follow her. She’s noticed the way his eyes track her from across the room, like he thinks she’s going to bolt at the slightest provocation.
It’s not a bad instinct on his part, honestly. But that doesn’t mean she’s not resentful.
“You can’t read me that well, either,” she says, sitting by the doorway.
Cassian has turned back to the control panel. He doesn’t look her way. “Oh?”
“You think I’m going to run. Or make a mess, or do something stupid. I’m not.”
“Then I guess,” Cassian says, slamming a switch down with surprising force, “you’ll just have to prove me wrong.”
The first planet is a false lead.
They spend two weeks on a sweltering, muddy moon in the heart of its winter, with the sun visible for barely an hour each day. (Jyn’s skin crawls just thinking what this place might feel like in the summer.)
K2SO minds the ship, all the while assuring them the job is far beneath him, while Jyn and Cassian make round after round through the winding streets of the capital city. Jyn suggests more than once that they split up—they’ll cover more ground that way—but Cassian shuts each offer down with flat finality.
“I can take care of myself,” Jyn insists, crowded into the corner of a crowded bazaar. “You let me have a blaster. You don’t trust that I know how to use it?”
Cassian shakes his head, his eyes still trained on the temple doors across the square. “I believe you can use it.”
“Then you don’t trust I’ll use it appropriately.”
“There is no appropriate situation here. You start shooting, and everyone will know rebel forces are here. Someone will alert the Empire, and we’ll be shot down trying to leave the planet.”
“So you’re keeping tabs on me,” Jyn says. “Because you think I’m stupid enough to fire my weapon when it’s not absolutely necessary.”
Cassian looks at her, just for a moment, before re-focusing on the door. “Stop picking fights. If you’re in a situation where you need to fire your weapon, I’m going to be there, too. That’s it.”
Jyn wrinkles her nose. Her chest feels warm in a way she’s not used to. She’s not sure she likes it.
“You’re not just worried I’m going to ditch you in this dump?”
His mouth barely moves, but Jyn can see the skin crinkle around his eyes as he fights down a smile. “Well, that too.”
He practically welds himself to her side, barely more than an inch or two away from her at all times, and she finds that after a while, she stops prickling at the brush of his sleeve against hers. She’s not used to people being so physically close to her, not since she was last with her parents.
But Cassian is so tactile—his arm flush to hers or his hand firm on the small of her back as he guides her through the crowded streets—and Jyn lets him stick to her like a glowering shadow. She doubts he even notices, and she doesn’t have the energy to fight about it.
So when she turns a corner one night and doesn’t feel the scuff of Cassian’s boots against hers, the solid warmth of his chest at her back, she grips her blaster on instinct. She finds him in a nearby corridor, pushed up against the brick, a hulking man’s forearm pressing at his throat. She could kill this man easily—she has the opening—but Cassian is murmuring something dark under his breath at his attacker, a snarl on his lips, and Jyn remembers: they have to be quiet.
In three strides, she’s pressing her blaster against the giant man’s neck. “Move aside.”
Cassian gapes at her.
The attacker smiles, teeth purple-black in the lamplight. “You wouldn’t.”
Three well-placed kicks and a blaster-punch to the temple is all it takes before Jyn is standing in front of Cassian, her blaster now pointed directly between the assailant’s eyes. “Try me.”
Mercifully, he retreats. And then Cassian’s hands are tight on her arms, spinning her. “He was just a petty thief, not even with the Empire. Why did you take out your blaster?”
“I didn’t use it.”
“He knows you have it. That’s enough.”
“So we’ll leave,” Jyn says. Cassian’s face is close, his breath heavy. “He’s not here, Cassian. There are other places we can look.”
“That was reckless,” he growls, his figgers digging into her skin.
“It wasn’t. I fixed things, didn’t I? Or you’re allowed to back me up, but not the other way around? Is that one of your orders, too?”
“You’re more important than I am,” Cassian insists, eyes wide. “Gerrera isn’t going to talk to me.”
He might not talk to me either, Jyn thinks. She juts her chin at Cassian, raising her voice.
“If we’re to be partners, let’s be partners ,” she says. “Or what, you’re going to keep looking out for me and I don’t get to do the same? Not a chance.”
She surprises herself with the force of the want in her. She’s only known him a few weeks—and he’s gruff, and secretive, and single-minded to a dangerous degree—but he’s the first person in a long time she’s had any real ties to. And yes, his loyalty is not to her so much as it is to the cause she’s now a part of. But for now, he’s just a little bit hers in a way that no one else has been for a very, very long time.
“Jyn.” He leans even closer, expression dark, but she doesn’t want to hear whatever it is he’s about to say.
“We need to go.” She wrenches out of his grip and re-sheaths her blaster. “Radio K2, tell him we’re on our way.” She strides off, and barely a second passes before she can feel the weight of him at her back, his feet in step with hers.
Later, when they’ve cleared the moon and made the jump to hyperspace, Cassian comes to sit beside her in the lower deck of the ship. He’s quiet for a long time, and she thinks maybe he didn’t come to talk with her at all; there’s really no space on this vessel to be alone.
But then he sighs, leaning his head back against the wall. “Thank you, for before.”
She smiles. “Do partners do thanks? I thought helping each other out comes with the territory.”
He turns to her, eyebrows raised. “Don’t they?”
“I wouldn’t know,” she admits. “First time.”
She’d meant it as a joke, but it feels more than that, and the words sit heavy between them. When she looks at Cassian, he’s smiling, softer than she’s ever seen him.
She has to look away before she smiles back.
The next planet is a frigid wasteland, and Jyn knows right away that this will be a dead end. Saw’s never been one for snow.
But Cassian is insistent. “We can’t rule it out based on a hunch, Jyn.”
“Why not?” K2SO asks petulantly from the front seat. “We make decisions based on your hunches at least 63 percent of the time.”
Cassian glares at him. Jyn will never admit to it, but she’s starting to like K2 more and more.
When they first land, Jyn doesn’t last two minutes outside the ship before Cassian’s grabbing her by the back of her shirt and stuffing her back inside.
“You’ll freeze,” he says over her protests. “You’re not dressed for this.”
He’s not wrong—it’s very, very cold, and the warmest layer she’s got has about three holes in it—but it feels like such a stupid reason to be held back. She opens her mouth to tell him as much.
“Quiet,” he snaps, anticipating her. “Just wait here with K2 and stay warm.”
“I don’t need to stay warm,” K2 notes as Cassian stalks off. “I don’t feel cold.”
“Good for you,” Jyn grouses.
Cassian returns later in the day with what Jyn thinks is some sort of dead creature, but turns out to be an enormous coat that he drops in her lap unceremoniously.
“This weighs more than I do,” Jyn notes, and Cassian’s face twitches. Jyn thinks he’s trying for a scowl, but his face is too frozen to commit to it fully.
“You didn’t buy one for yourself?” she asks.
“I have a coat.”
“Must not be a very good one. You’re still shivering.”
“It’s fine,” he says, undercut by the chattering of his teeth.
The next day, Jyn makes him buy a second coat. “We look like locals,” she says, as they trudge down the street. “We’ll blend in this way. You can only see our eyes in these things.”
“We can’t move in these things,” he grumbles, bumping up against her. He’s usually about two inches away from her at all times, but the coat adds so much bulk that he keeps miscalculating how far away to stand.
“I’m telling you, he isn’t here.” And then, because she can just tell he’s getting ready to fire back, she says, “I know, I know, it doesn’t matter. We’re not leaving until we check with the source.”
“Right,” he says. And then, a few beats later, “I hate the cold.”
Jyn blinks. Cassian’s behind her, so she can’t see his face—she would only be able to see his eyes even if he were facing her. “Yeah?”
“Fest was basically a sheet of ice. I left when I was young.”
It’s such a simple statement, but it feels like an offering, somehow.
“I kind of like it,” she says. “The cold. I like warming up.” She pauses. “Although this is something else. How does anyone live here?”
After a few days, they’re zeroing in on making contact with one of Saw’s allies. But then a storm hits, and the temperature plummets, and they’re stuck to the ship and forced to watch the blizzard surge outside. To save fuel, they turn off the power—and with it, the heat—even though K2SO informs them several times that doing so will increase their chance of catching hypothermia by 89 percent.
Tired of listening to Cassian and K2 argue, Jyn climbs down into the lower chamber and curls herself into a ball in the corner, hoping to sleep out the worst of the storm. But then a few minutes later Cassian is there, shaking her shoulder.
She hugs her knees tighter. “No.”
“I said get up ,” he repeats, gripping her arm like he wants to haul her to her feet. But he doesn’t so much as tug, and so Jyn rolls her eyes and forces herself to stand.
Once she has, Cassian turns away from her and starts unzipping his coat. “Take off as many layers as you’re comfortable with, and give me your coat. And,” he adds, sensing she’s about to protest, “don’t be difficult. This is how you wait out a storm if you have no heat, okay?”
She wants to argue, not because she doesn’t believe him, but because she’s pretty sure her coat is the only thing keeping her lungs from freezing solid. “You’re going to give me my coat back, though, right?”
“Just do it.”
For a blindingly painful moment, she’s standing in just a shirt and underwear, listening to the snaps and zips of Cassian fiddling with their clothes. And then he’s in front of her, his chest warm and bare, sliding her coat back around her shoulders and guiding them both to their knees. Jyn’s not sure how he can possibly move so fast in the cold, but he quickly pools blankets around their feet and then presses Jyn’s shoulders until she’s lying down. He has attached his coat to hers, and when he rolls towards her, his coat comes with him so that they’re both swallowed by the warmth of fur.
He closes his makeshift fastenings and then turns to Jyn, grasping her cheeks. His hands are tinged blue from the chill, but they feel warm against her skin, which makes her wonder just how cold she really is.
“Alright?” he asks, hoarse.
“I think so.”
His eyes dart across her face, seeming unsure, but he nods. His thumb draws a fleeting line across her cheekbone before he shifts, wrapping his arms around her waist. She splutters in surprise, at the way her skin burns white-hot where it touches his.
“Just trust me,” he says against her forehead. “Stay close, stay warm.”
“Just like back home, huh?” she says.
“I hate the cold,” he mutters, pulling her in tighter.
They stay that way for hours. And even though she’s frigid, and uncomfortable—Cassian’s arm is wedged awkwardly beneath her ribcage—this is the closest she’s been to another human being in years. His calloused palm splays along her side, and the skin of his neck is warm against her cheek, and she feels strangely at ease like this, tangled up with him.
They wake to the floor beneath them rumbling, and Cassian’s hands tighten against her until he realizes it’s the engine.
“K2 turned the ship on,” he says, voice thick from sleep.
“Storm must be over,” she says. But he remains warmer than the slightly-less-bitter air, so she doesn’t move.
For an impossibly long moment, neither does he.
When he does draw back, it’s only barely; his forehead rests mere centimeters from hers. His eyes are warm and tired; this close, she can see the worry lines that cross his forehead. She thinks about running her finger across the hollow of his cheek. He looks at her in weighted silence, somehow both hard and soft at once, and she looks right back.
Eventually he shuts his eyes, squeezing them tight. His hand slides away from her waist.
“I’ll get up first.”
He sits up, reaching for his clothes, and Jyn watches the movement of his bare back with something like fascination. The air around her is bitingly cold in his absence. He hands her her pants, and when she sits up to take them, he turns away, sharp, a flash of red at the tips of his ears.
“I’ll check on K2,” he says, already moving for the stairs without his coat. She has to bring his coat up to him in the cockpit; he takes it with a quick nod, not meeting her eye.
They stay on the planet for another ten days, until they finally hunt down their source and confirm that Saw is hiding elsewhere. The temperature never drops as low again, and neither Jyn nor Cassian speak about the night they slept with their limbs entwined, buried in a cocoon of coats and blankets.
But each night, instead of rolling out her mat in the opposite corner of the ship, she lays it out beside his, just far enough away that she could reach out and grab his arm if she wanted to. Each night, she listens to the even kilter of his breath as she falls asleep.
She doesn’t actively try to learn more about him, but somehow she still does.
She learns he’ll eat anything—any texture, temperature, anything —so long as it’s edible. When she asks the last time he had a home-cooked meal, he can’t remember the date. (She remembers hers: it was breakfast, the morning her mother was killed and father was taken. Any meal made for her after that didn’t count as made at home.)
She learns he’s known K2SO for years, that K2 might be the closest thing he has to a friend. He doesn’t say as much, of course, but there’s no one else he mentions, no photos wedged into the crevices of his control panel like so many others have. He cares about this cause just as fiercely as Saw, and she wonders how many times, like Saw, Cassian has pushed others away to fight for it.
She learns his left leg aches sometimes, remnants of a bounty hunter’s knife plunged so deep beneath his skin that it cracked his tibia. Without thinking, she lifts the corner of her shirt to show him the puckered white ridge that runs along her side.
“That must have hurt,” he murmurs. “How did it happen?”
“Imperial prisons are just as pleasant as you’d imagine,” she says, to spare him the full story. A muscle ticks in his jaw as he stares at her skin, and she remembers to lower her shirt again.
On the fifth planet they try, they are separated.
A power-hungry crime lord and his gang have taken over this grimy city, no doubt with the support of the Empire, and someone recognizes Cassian from a previous rendez-vous with the rebel forces. They’re in a deserted alleyway when figures emerge as if from nowhere and wrestle Cassian to the ground.
One of them pulls a blaster, so Jyn pulls hers.
“Jyn—” Cassian starts, a warning. But one of the men cracks the barrel of his blaster against Cassian’s head, and Jyn starts shooting. She’s gunned down five men before the blaster is knocked out of her hands. She hadn’t seen the man approach her from behind, but now his knife is pressed up against her throat.
“Come with me,” the man growls, and Jyn has no choice. She catches one glimpse of Cassian before she’s lead away; he’s slumped forward on the ground, motionless, and Jyn’s heart seizes in her chest.
The man locks her in a bunker after informing her that as a member of the rebels, her ransom will fetch a hefty sum. She tries to explain she’s not a member of the rebels, not really, and that no one will be coming for her so he might as well not waste his time. The man doesn’t listen, not that she expected he would.
Jyn’s got some experience escaping from tight quarters, but she needs to wait for the right moment. She spends the night in the bunker, trying not to think about Cassian’s blood dripping crimson against the dirt.
It’s almost a full day before she gets her chance. She’s blaster-less, but plenty capable without it, and she’s racing through the hallways of the bunker when she hears blaster fire.
She rounds a corner, and there’s Cassian (and K2SO), exchanging fire with a gang of guards. He looks at her, eyes wide and thunderous, and she barely has time to register her relief before she feels the sting of a blaster beam as it singes the edge of her jacket.
She could retreat, but she knows there were guards following her, so she has no other choice but to surge forward into the oncoming fire. She dashes for K2, who is already crouching in anticipation of shielding her, and she can hear the blasts roaring in her ears as Cassian screams her name again and again.
They make it out by the skin of their teeth. K2 takes a hit that gouges a small (and, quite frankly, unnoticable) hole in his torso, which he complains about even as they’re dashing back to the ship. Jyn lets him. She thinks he’d prefer that to her hugging him.
Once they’ve made they’ve made the jump to hyperspace, Cassian storms down to the lower deck. Jyn follows, and as soon as her feet hit the floor, he is pressing her against the wall, hands tight on her waist.
“Why,” he growls, nearly shaking with fury, “would you do something like that?”
“Not just pull your blaster,” he continues, over her, “but try to escape on your own. You should know better than that!”
“It’s not like I had a choice!”
“You had any number of choices.” He’s snarling down at her; his nose bumps against hers. “You didn’t have to start shooting. You didn’t have to...I woke up and you were gone , Jyn.”
“What do you want from me?” she shouts back. “You want me to apologize? For saving your life? For saving my life?”
“You should have waited! You should have stayed low, and—”
“I didn’t know if you were coming for me!”
“Of course I was coming for you!” He’s shouting, too, his eyes darting across her face with unrestrained panic. “Do you understand the risk you took?”
“What do you want from me, Cassian?” she yells, curling her fists into his coat.
She’s not sure whether she pulls or he pushes, but suddenly he is kissing her, rough and unyielding, pressing her back against the wall. His stubble scrapes at her skin and she tugs him closer, closer, opening her mouth beneath his as his fingers wind through her hair.
All too soon he pulls back, breath ragged. He looks at her, furious and frightened, and he wants to kiss her again, she knows it. When she runs her tongue quickly across her bottom lip, his eyes track the movement.
She meets his eye and steels herself. She refuses to say anything. She refuses to kiss him again.
(Even if she wants to.)
His hand is still warm against her cheek, his eyes narrowed. Then he sighs, closing his eyes altogether, and leans forward to press his lips gently against Jyn’s forehead.
All too soon he’s pulling away, moving for the ladder. Jyn lets him go.
She knows this will become another moment they don’t talk about, and that’s fine. All she can see on the horizon is war, and she knows that’s all Cassian sees, too. Their world is too small and too dangerous for anything else.
Later that night, she asks K2 if he can help her record a message.
“It’s for Saw,” she explains. “So that if something happens to me, you still have a way to talk to him.”
K2 thinks this is a “very smart idea” because “the chances of something happening to you get higher every day.” Cassian just frowns at her from the shadows of the cockpit.
She’s about to stand to follow K2, but Cassian’s hand settles on her shoulder. He looks more tired than angry, now.
“The message is a good idea,” he says, low. “But Jyn, you’re going to tell him yourself. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“You can’t promise that,” she says, and when she covers his hand with hers, he grips back, tight. “Because I’m trying not to let anything happen to you, either.”
Neither have any right to make such promises, and they both know it. The fate of the galaxy looms larger than either of them.
“Partners,” he breathes.
She smiles. “Exactly.”
Their next lead takes them to Jeddah, and everything changes.
They find (and lose) Saw, pick up Chirrut, Baze, and Bodhi, and race off to find her father only to lose him, too. She screams at Cassian afterwards, because screaming about it is easier than crying about it. He screams back, and she’s almost grateful.
And all of a sudden she’s the one pressing forward, urging people she barely knows to fight for a cause she’s only just started to believe in again.
It’s too much, her head is spinning, and then there’s Cassian, pledging to fight with her, and it’s like the whole galaxy realigns.
“I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad,” she tells him, unable to keep the smile from her face. Because things have gone bad so many times now, and he’s still here: solid and hopeful and here .
“Welcome home,” he says, like he wants to paint the words on her skin: This is home, now. You belong here .
Later—much later—she will sling his arm across her shoulders and drag him, limping, to the elevator.
She will brush the sweat from his forehead, and wrap her arms around his neck, and kiss him softly, gently, the way she never had a chance to before.
She will pull away, and her eyes will fill with tears, and he will look at her like she is as bright as the stars themselves.