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Of Stormy Seas and Galaxies

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We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brains.
93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames,
We are all just stars that have people names.
—Nikita Gill

 ---

The first time he went out into the field with her, she was an annoyance. A liability. He told himself immediately not to get too attached. The Rebellion wanted her father dead, she could be dispatched as well if they needed it.

He told himself not to get too attached.

On his ship when she held onto a blaster like it was a lifeline and asked him to trust her. It took a lot for him to turn his back on an armed stranger, but he managed it. And he managed to tune out K-2SO beside him spouting variables of his demise. All he could focus on was the girl behind him, still holding the blaster like it was something friendly and familiar in a cruel world. Part of him thinks he couldn't possibly deprive anyone of their lifeline, but he still feels himself twitch a little as he's forced into this strange endurance test. A mix of nerves and patience as he waits for something to happen. By the time they land on Jedha, she hasn't shot him. In a world of spies and liars that means almost nothing, and yet...it eases the tension in his shoulders...just a little

In the city, when the storm troopers start firing, he watches her run into the fray with a mix of frustration and horror. It's good to know she can handle herself, but she's useless to him dead. He imagines he knows what a heart attack feels like when she races through laser gun fire to retrieve a child she doesn't even know.

'Damn it Jyn,' he mutters under his breath as he tries to provide some cover fire. Of course, everything is utter chaos, the situation has gone to absolute shit. He still watches as she rescues the sobbing child and hands her off to her mother.

So...the girl's soft. It could get them all killed. But, she also thinks to throw her arm over his shoulder and slam him to the ground when a bomb goes off behind him. It's all a mess and pure reflex, without thought, as they nearly die a hundred times over. Whatever the reason, he puts himself in the worse position of having shot one of Saw Gerrera's men when it means stopping a bomb being thrown her way.

He tells himself he would have been caught in the blast as well. He tells himself several things as he watches her speak to Gerrera's men. She's a small thing. Delicately built, but he watches the steel in her spine as she looks the leader in the eye and proclaims herself as the daughter of Galen Erso.

Then he ends up in a cell with these strange friends Jyn seemed to make in a matter of minutes. The blind man seems insane, but Cassian saw the man fight so he sits quietly and waits for his chance. It comes when he discovers Bodhi Rook, the Empire pilot in the cell beside theirs. His chance comes again when an explosion rocks the ground beneath them and he manages to escape their cell. It's tempting to run straight for the ship, but he needs to find Jyn. She might have learned something vital to the mission from speaking with Gerrera.

And even if she hadn't…

He finds her huddled in front of a holo-projector. She doesn't even seem to register the noise around them as the structure there in falls apart from the blast of the explosion. Tears stream silently down her cheeks as she closes her eyes to the world around them. At least she doesn't fight him when he pulls her out of there. Not until Gerrera insists on staying behind does she attempt to pull away. He can barely hear the man's words over the onslaught around them, but there's no time. He tugs Jyn away and practically drags her as she keeps staring behind them at the figure of Saw Gerrera in the doorway. In front of them the sky is gone beneath a wave of destruction, like the ground going to meet the sky. As K-2 said, 'there is no horizon.'

Once the ship is safely beyond the blast radius they all silently watch a city razed to the ground. Cassian recalls the little girl Jyn tried to save and feels a pang of futility in that it was for nothing. Once the ship is back in orbit, he has a chance to observe her. She's gone still and silent as a statue. Like she's still recovering from shockwaves he can't see. Like she's preparing to combust or go supernova. What had this man Saw Gerrera been to her that would make her sit so still? No tears, no words, nothing. When she finally speaks, her eyes shine as she tells them all about the holo her father recorded. The flaw in the Death Star, the plans, there's hope in her eyes, but he can't tell if it's hope for her father or the rebellion. Then he watches that hope die as he asks the question that he knows he has to ask. Where's the recording?

She left it behind.

It's at that moment that he knows for certain. The Rebellion will never trust her word as sole proof. They will not send troops to find the plans. They will do nothing. She is the messenger nobody will hear, but a messenger nonetheless. He will deliver her to the Rebellion and let them decide what to do with the information.

And he has his orders like a new weight to carry. He has to kill Galen Erso. If she gets in his way, he'll have to kill her too.

---

It's always ugly now. Cassian stopped seeing beauty a long time ago. The galaxy is an ugly place and at some point he let that ugliness inside of him. He did what he had to and he did it for a cause he believes in. It never helped him sleep at night or forget the faces of those he killed. But it is something he holds onto. He clings to his missions, his orders, his cause.

Right now in the rain, he clings to his long range laser blaster. He has Galen Erso in his sights. He could have pulled the trigger at any time over the last five minutes, but instead he watches the man in the dark coat stand in front of a line of men in white coats. He watches Galen as he is forced to his knees and the men behind him are shot down. He watches the man, a defeated figure and his traitor hand won't pull the trigger.

That's when he sees Jyn sneaking around the edges of the camp and he watches her feeling his breath leave his lungs. She's going to get herself killed. He keeps his gun up just in case. He tells the rebel forces to call off their air strike because Jyn is on the platform. Galen is still kneeling, blasters are being aimed at him.

Then he watches her stand up. A fragile figure nearly lost in the dark and the rain. Distantly he can hear her voice raised, but he can't make out the words.

Suddenly everyone is looking at her. Commander Krennic is looking at her.

That's when his people show up and rain fire down on all of them.

He watches long enough to see the explosion. He loses sight of Jyn and he packs up his blaster without a thought before he's running towards the trouble instead of away.

Once he reaches the remains of the platform he finds her almost instantly. A shaking figure huddled over a body. For the second time in as many days he's trying to pull her away from a lost cause and someone she cares for.

“Come on Jyn, we have to leave.”

She doesn't respond, she simply clings to the body. He can feel her trembling and still he pulls at her again. The words sound a little desperate in his ears as he tries to coax her away from the wreckage around them. The Rebel squadron could do a second attack run, he's not sure if they'll stop at one.

“Come on Jyn, come on.”

Finally, he manages to pull her away from the body of Galen Erso and she lets out a sound so small he almost misses it over the din of the fire and rain. A sound like quiet agony. The softest keening. The sound of a lost child. Something inside him breaks a little hearing it.

Finally, she lets herself get pulled off the platform and back into the mountains. They slip away from the fire and the lasers. Lost to the noise and the war. Just two small figures moving through the dark and the rain.

For a long time, neither of them speak. The world around them is only silence except for the continued water falling in small drops around them.

When Cassian can once again see the lights of a ship (the one Bodhi must have found for them) when Jyn abruptly halts beside him.

“Jyn, come on,” he murmurs, but she shakes her head.

“I'm not coming with you.” she says and he stares at her.

“What are you talking about?”

“I will not get on that ship with you,” she says and in the dark he can only see what might be rain or tears glinting in her eyes and on her cheeks.

“What? Why?” he can do nothing but ask and she finally looks at him. He once thought of a supernova and steel when he looked at her, but this is worse. This is after the supernova. After the fractured shrapnel and stardust flew far out into space. This is after the spark became fire burning everything in its path to ash. This is oceans overflowing after a storm.

“You killed him,” she said. Three words awash with venom. They hit him like punches, but he pretends they didn't. He sighs and tries to diffuse her like a bomb.

“You don't know what you're talking about,” he says

“The Rebellion wanted you to kill him.”

“Jyn, you're in shock. Come inside.”

“The Rebellion wanted my father dead and you killed him.

“Jyn you're upset, let's get inside.”

“Don't talk to me like a child, those were Rebel ships Cassian.”

“Jyn, you don't understand, I had my orders,” he began, but her words lashed out, cutting him off

“What don't I understand? You following orders? So were they,” she throws a hand out, pointing back the way they came.

“My father was just following orders and he tried to save the galaxy while he was at it,” Cassian thinks she truly doesn't understand or maybe she is this deluded. But he's reached his own boiling point and it takes all his self control not to shout the words in her face.

“I did not kill your father. I had my hand on the trigger, but I did not kill him. I called off the Rebel ships, but they didn't listen.”

For a moment neither of them speak as the rain continues to soak them to the bone.

“Well, I guess they were just following their orders,” she whispers, “You're all no better than storm troopers," and her voice cracks a little. The words sting more than he would have expected. She takes a step back and he moves forward, still hurt, still angry.

“Listen to me Jyn, you're not the only one whose lost here. I've been fighting for the Rebellion since I was 6 years old. I--” he abruptly cut himself off.

“You're not the only one who has lost things,” he says again and storms back towards the ship.

---

Neither of them speak during the flight to Yavin IV. He sits up front beside K-2SO who, after making a comment about percentages and increased aggression, has been remarkably quiet beyond the necessary communication. Sometimes Cassian thinks K-2SO can choose his words carefully he just likes saying whatever crosses his circuits.

In the back of the ship he can hear Jyn. She talks softly with the others. He saw her talk to Bodhi for a minute before settling beside Chirrut. He is doing most of the talking, but she's sitting beside him, listening. Her eyes still glisten and he rests a hand on her knee. By the time they landed, she had found a corner to curl up in and she says nothing to him as they exit the ship. But, he can feel her eyes on him.

He's not angry anymore.

Not really.

His loss came years ago and hers is still raw. He knows the difference intimately and he remembers the sound she made as he pulled her away from her father.

He thinks about saying something. Maybe an apology, but she's already moved past him, out the hangar door with that determined stride.

The Rebellion has been his family and his life for as long as he could recall. He knows them far too well. Their flaws and their strengths. He knows they will not take the word of Galen Erso's daughter, the criminal, the coward... In their eyes at least. They will not listen. And the few who do, will be silenced by the majority against her.

Antoc Merrick leads a small squadron. They've lost more than a few in the last few skirmishes. Merrick's been unhappy with the way The Rebellion's made choices of late. The choice to run and hide instead of strike doesn't sit well with him along with so many others. Plus, he's well liked. Others will listen if he can convince him.

He runs from hangar to hangar until he spot's Merrick's X-Wing.

“Hey Merrick!” he calls as he races over. The other man turns to face him with a sardonic eyebrow raised high.

“Cassian, back from that mission of yours I see? Do you mind my asking why you look like you're being chased by an AT-AT?” Cassian takes a moment to catch his breath and can't help his lips quirking a little as he rests a hand on Merrick's shoulder.

“I have some news that I think will interest you.”

---

He did end up stepping into that meeting long enough to watch Jyn argue. A new light in her eyes and a new fire fueling her. Something happened when he wasn't looking and now she is here and full of fire. When he wasn't looking her pain turned to elemental passion. Like the tides or the eternal spin of this planet around its sun. He can see it in the faces of those around them, they won't listen.

He leaves after a few minutes to go find Merrick. In that time Merrick has his squadron plus a few more ready to join them.

It will never be enough, but it will have to be for them.

“Thank you everyone,” Cassian says,

“Now let me introduce you to Jyn Erso.”

---

He hears the conversation as they approach. Jyn stands dejected and frustrated while the others talk softly.

“She wants to fight,” Chirrut says. The blind man being somehow the most observant of them all.

“We all want to,” Bodhi says

“How many do we need?” Baze asks and that's when Cassian has to smile a little. Their group is still a small one... But they are a little bigger now. He makes the introductions and he sees it in her face, like pieces falling into place as she looks out at them. Decision and determination settle as she thanks them all and he sends them off to make preparations. As everyone leaves, she approaches him with a shy smile like sunlight. It dims a little when she tells him softly,

“I'm not used to people sticking around when things go bad.” It's little things like that which make him ache for the life she should have had. The one she deserved and not the one she must have been given. In her he recognizes a fellow soul that's gotten the short end of every stick for the whole of her life. Of course, nobody here has gotten the life they should have. But the way she says it, like it's a simple fact of her existence makes him lean over and murmur,

“Welcome home.”

---

An hour into the flight to Scarif, Cassian lets Bodhi take the reigns. He goes into the back of the ship where he finds Jyn sitting beside Chirrut talking softly. Chirrut has that smooth easy smile and that air of calm around him. Maybe that's what drew Jyn to him on Jedha. He meant to ask her about that, but there was never time.

It seems like there's never been enough time.

He's resting a hand on her knee like before and she's smiling, a little nervous, a little uncertain. Maybe Chirrut can sense the tremor in her hands because something in the way he smiles at her speaks of comfort. Cassian watches and after several minutes the tremors in her hands seem to calm and she tucks her hands in the pocket of her jacket. It's at that moment that Chirrut seems to look at him without actually looking at him and says,

“Cassian, why don't you come join us.” She looks up, almost startled and he let's an easy smile form as he replies,

“Of course,” Nothing in his tone or body language belies the tension he's carrying. Unlike Jyn, he has no hand tremors to give him away as they near their destination and some of the longest odds he's faced. Of course he's nervous, he's just had years of practice hiding his nerves.

He settles on Jyn's other side and Chirrut cocks his head to the left with a small frown.

“I think I ought to check on Baze, if you'll excuse me,” he says with that same unflappable smile for both of them. Cassian wonders if Chirrut's calm is as practiced as his own or if the monk is such a true believer that his faith is a true sense of peace, that he will never know.

They both watch Chirrut's measured stride towards the other end of the ship where Baze sits checking his weapons for what has to be the fifth time since they left Yavin IV.

Neither of them speak for a long moment, simply watching as Chirrut stands beside Baze and says something they can't hear. Baze seems to chuckle over whatever it is as he continues in his work.

They both seem almost content.

Finally, it's Jyn who speaks.

“Thank you... For helping me do this,” she says it softly, without looking at him. He glances at her before saying,

“Jyn, what we're doing... It could save the Rebellion.”

“Nobody else seemed to think so,” her eyes are downcast and she lifts her hands from her pockets to toy with some frayed threads on the sleeves.

“They just weren't paying enough attention,” he flaps a hand aiming for lightness. Only then does she look at him.

“Thank you for believing me.”

He can't look away. There's a raw edge to her words that he's only just beginning to understand. The depths of what her life has been before he knew her. The experiences he does not know, but can imagine. He has only one response and he means it.

“Your welcome.”

That's when she smiles at him again reminding him of stars and celestial bodies. A galaxy contained within her frame. He smiles back because light begets light and after a moment they look away. But, neither of them leave. They simply sit beside each other for the rest of this ride, shoulder to shoulder, enjoying the feel and comfort of human contact. Cassian knows she's scared, knows he's terrified. He's a spy not a soldier and with maybe 30 men against the one of Empire's most fortified bases there's no way they will have a clean exit. It's going to get messy and he's trying not to run estimates of casualties because the numbers in his head are too unpleasant to contemplate.

After another hour of sitting quietly Jyn seems to have fallen asleep, listing sideways to rest on her head on his shoulder. For a long moment he doesn't move, afraid he'll wake her. But, after several minutes he can tell this is a much needed respite, possibly the first since they went after Galen. So, he simply leans in and tries to let her rest more comfortably against him. A brief glance up shows Chirrut and Baze have settled across the room and somehow Chirrut seems to be smiling at him.

---

For a moment, Cassian thought they all might just make it.

The moment when Jyn murmurs,

Stardust...K-2 look up Stardust!”

“Why Stardust,” he asks and she looks up at him with bright eyes.

“Stardust is me,” she says and for a moment Cassian's breathless with the thought that they might actually do this. That's when they hear gunfire ring through the comms.

“You're going to have to climb,” K-2 tells them and Cassian's stuck. He wants to fight this. He wants to run out there and defend the being that has been his sole companion for over three years. Something in him breaks a little more when he can hear the droid's voice getting muddled from melting circuits.

Cassian is still stuck between fear and loyalty when K-2 says a gentle 'goodbye' as heartfelt as a droid ever could and the door bolts shut. The sound of it knocks him out of his paralysis and the only thing he can yell is,

K!” Jyn is beside him with sad eyes and a hand on his arm and Cassian wants to cry. He wants a moment to stop and scream at the world and mourn his friend. But of course, there's no time.

There's never enough time.

Bodhi stopped answering on the comms. There's no time to contemplate his fate, they have to keep moving.

They strip off their Imperial uniforms, down to their own clothes beneath. They need the freedom of movement that these uniforms wouldn't provide and so they leave them behind, like piles of former selves they shed to get here.

Jyn shoots out the transparisteel and climbs up to the edge of the window. The two of them share a glance, it's fear and resignation, this is the mission now and they must complete it.

She jumps first and he winces at how hard she smacks against the data tower, but she gets a hand hold and starts climbing to give him the space to land. He jumps and digs his hands in ignoring the little cuts and bruises he makes along the way.

The climb feels long and there is no sound beyond their small huffs of exertion echoing down as they lift themselves up one data shelf at a time. Finally Jyn calls out,

“I've got it!” and wraps her hands around the illuminated disk. She tugs and almost loses her grip, swinging out from the tower. His hands reach out in a reflex attempt to catch her. Luckily, she maintains a strong grip on the struts of the tower and is able to haul herself back without any help from him. She clips the disc onto her belt and grins down at him.

That's the moment when a door neither of them saw lifts open.

“Jyn, look out!” he calls as he rips his blaster from its holster and starts shooting. The laser fire creates enough smoke that he's able to distract them while Jyn climbs. He keeps shooting until she's completely behind the tower providing her cover and safety from their gunfire. He manages to take down a death trooper in the racket and its in that small moment of triumph that he gets hit.

It feels like less than a second and a millennia as the laser fire burns through his shoulder and knocks him loose from the tower. He lands hard on a beam, feeling his body crack with the impact, but he can't get a grip on it. He keeps falling until his head hits something hard and blackness swallows him with an echo of someone calling his name,

Cassian!

---

When he wakes, alone on the small platform, there's only silence and the far, far away sound of battles he's no longer privy to.

He needs a moment to take stock. His head aches, probable concussion and a poke at his ribs suggests he at least cracked one or two on that beam. His shoulder is bleeding sluggishly around the cauterized flesh burned by the laser fire.

He gets to his feet carefully, testing if his legs can hold his weight. The right one aches where he landed on it, but it feels like a simple muscle tear rather than bone damage and he can deal with that.

Her voice echoes in his head, the way she called his name. She's on her own right now, but she doesn't have to be. He stares up at the tower and what feels like an endless climb and he gets moving.

It hurts like he expected. His head spins and every lungful of air brings a new kind of pain. Every so often he has to pause and catch his breath, but he just reminds himself of her face, the briefest glance he got of fear filled eyes as he fell. The sound of her calling his name. That's enough to get him climbing again.

---

When he nears the top he can hear them both. He can hear Jyn proudly tell Commander Krennic that she's the daughter of Galen Erso exacting his revenge. He can hear the man say that it's useless, that what they did has been for nothing. He's sweaty and breathless as he climbs out of the hatch for the roof exit. Around the pillar he can see the Commander with his gun aimed at Jyn as he tells her how she will die. It only takes one shot to cut him off before he can complete the thought.

She lights up at the sight of him,

Cassian!” She says again, this time with joy instead of fear. He can't help but grin back as he leans against the pillar. Then her gaze drifts back to Commander Krennic. She makes a move towards him, but he grabs her arm and manages not to wince while doing it.

“Leave him,” he tells her. She looks at him and maybe she sees the words he isn't saying.

There isn't enough time.

Whatever she sees in his face is enough. She runs back to the control panel and presses a few buttons. He would go over to watch but he's exhausted. That climb was endless and he's running on fumes, he can barely even see the screen as she works but he can see it in her eyes when the plans have been sent.

She looks at him and he looks at her and there's a moment of pure joy.

They did it.

Without a word she steps in, taking his arm over her shoulder to help support him. He doesn't say anything but a small sigh escapes him as he lists a little and she's able to carry the weight for a moment. He glances down to see her watching the sky, her eyes looking all the brighter for the bruises surrounding them.

“Do you think anybody's listening?” He asks and she nods. Somebody must be. They both pause to look at the Commander still lying prone on the platform. She turns away first with a quiet,

“Come on,” and he does. She holds him up as they find their way out.

They take the elevator down to the ground floor and there's no light beyond what slips in between the grating. They only see brief flashes of each other as the light slides by.

“Do you think any of the others made it?” She asks and for a moment he considers lying. But she's too smart for that and they're standing too close as she helps him keep his feet, surely she would see the lie in his eyes.

“Bodhi stopped answering his comms before we lost them. I don't know about Chirrut and Baze.” She nods and looks away. Neither of them speak after that. They just breathe.

When they reach the ground floor and the outdoors that when they see it. What almost looks like another planet approaching in the sky. They trade glances. An unspoken agreement to keep going.

They walk past where their ship was. There's nothing but rubble and bodies. Both of them pause to stare at the destruction. There's no more movement, no more fighting, none left standing. It's then that Jyn looks up at him with tears in her eyes, yet to be shed. Cassian swallows past the lump in his throat. He could lie down here with them if he wanted. They deserved better and he brought them here.

Bodhi must be in the ruins of their ship, wherever it is. He thinks the burned body staring up at the sky could be Chirrut. He can't see Baze. 

He looks back at Jyn, she brought them here too, and that's a pain she's never had to carry before and one he knows too well. For that alone, he can't leave her yet even though he's so tired. Even though he can feel the dampness of blood still flowing out of him. Even though his head is spinning and each breath hurts a little more. Right now he should say something to ease that look on her face.

“They didn't die for nothing. You sent the plans, you completed the mission. Millions of people will live because of what they did...what we did.”

“Because of my father,” she adds still staring out at all that death before she looks up at him with something new in her eyes. Something between joy and tragedy.

---

The ship is gone, and so are their comms. They have no way to contact the Rebel ships in orbit. The planet has now grown to eclipse the whole horizon. They're heading towards the beach as it fires off a green blast. In the distance they can see the tower they left behind vanish in a plume of blinding light. Both of them have to shut their eyes to the sight of it.

As the light becomes its own sun and smoke begins to cloud out the sky bathing everything in golden glow of its destruction, they finally reach the beach.

She lets him down as gently as she can and he flashes her something of a smile as she sits beside him.

They can see far out in the ocean where the blast grows and shifts. This is what it must be like to see a star get born. To see planets get made.

A supernova matching the likes of the girl beside him. He thinks of her like something elemental or maybe celestial, some pure force guiding him on a path he never would have taken or could have ever imagined.

It started in a dark room on Yavin IV and this must be how it ends. On a beach on Scarif drenched in the gold of a galaxy being born out of smoke and light as the sea laps at their feet. He looks at Jyn, the girl that's become so much to him in such a short time. Maybe she could have been more in time.

There's never enough time.

“Your father would have been proud,” he tells her and she smiles past the tears in her eyes as she looks away from it to see him. The chaos around them is beautiful, but there's something more beautiful in her. He takes her hand and she clutches it like a lifeline as the cloud grows. The warmth turns hotter to burning as the wave comes closer. She's shaking as she reaches out and he draws her into an embrace. Each wrapping strong arms around the other. They hold on tight like they'll never let go.

They never had enough time, but it has to be enough. They saved the Rebellion, they saved millions of lives, maybe in some other life they could have lived to see peace but this will have to do. The feel of her small hands on his back. Her hair on his cheek as the fire and light and smoke come closer to surround them. For a moment they are seared like the heart of a new star and then nothing.