In the day, she dreams of stars.
At night she comes awake, brilliant-eyed and screaming. Her gaolers waste the time they should be sleeping with their hands clamped over their ears and their minds shivering with the urge to set her free.
They say she stole the life of a star. They say she thieved from the emperor himself. They say it was him that dragged her down here, pulled her by her hair into this dungeon.
The day she gets rescued is two weeks after the Death Star goes up in flames.
Later, a galaxy away, Jyn Erso walks to the emptiest field she can find and feels the stars singing on her skin.
The Rebellion comes for Cassian Andor first and for her after, and it’s something she won’t forget.
“You’re safe,” says a panicked droid, the first time she wakes up screaming on Yavin 4. “We got you out, you’re safe. Please stop screaming. You’re safe.”
The nightmares always make her wish she’d died there on the beach with Cassian, their heartbeats fast and helpless—at least we did it, at least we’re here, at least we have this, at least at least at least—both of them burning and bright and terrible.
But she didn’t die, and the Rebellion came for her a full nine days after they recovered Cassian. Even though his was the harder prison to crack. Even though she was closer. Even though they could have come for her the very next day.
They went for him first, and her nine days after.
And it hurts, that he didn’t try to make them come sooner.
They’re called a Republic now but Jyn won’t play along with that.
“You want me to keep up with names, you shoulda got me out that pit sooner,” she points out to Mon Mothma. She doesn’t say anything else. Not any of the things she would have once.
“Cassian’s in the med bay,” is all the answer she gets. “If you were wondering.”
She wasn’t, but she goes anyway.
He’s beautiful on the bed there, holo-fragile and pale enough to wash away. Jyn can still feel his waist inside her arms. She can still feel his mouth against her shoulder. She can still hear the noise he made when Vader picked them up like feathers and blew them into his ship.
They saved him first and she can’t bear it but she sits by his bed every day all the same.
He wakes up on the eighth day. His eyes are awful things to look at. But Jyn Erso is an awful thing herself, so she goes right on looking.
“I guess we made it.” His voice is a sigh, is a sandpaper breath.
“I guess,” she says, and kicks her feet onto his sheets. He hasn’t got the strength to bat them down but he tries anyway.
“They did it.” That’s what he whispers to her later, when she’s folded forwards onto his bed and he’s got his hands in her hair, just resting there. Just feeling. “They got the Republic back.”
Jyn curls her hand around his knee and says, “Seems just the same as a rebellion to me.”
Luke Skywalker hurts to look at. He’s burnished gold, all eyes and heart and unsure hands.
Jyn wants to kill him. Jyn wants to kiss him.
Instead Jyn hides from him, curls up in the shadowy corner of the med-bay where Cassian is recuperating.
Really, Jyn hides from everyone.
Everyone but Cassian, who doesn’t have to do anything but meet her gaze for her to know that they did to him what they did to her, in their separate cells half a galaxy apart.
Jyn’s kind of getting to like being this way. She’d thought she was wrecked before, after Saw left her with a blaster and a broken promise. After her father, and all the things he never got to tell her.
This is different. This goes deeper and not as deep all at once. This lives in her skin, now, vicious-clawed and restless.
When Cassian curls his hand around hers she feels it in his fingers too.
“Do you think about them?”
Her own voice sounds weird in the warm quiet dark of the med-bay.
Cassian doesn’t ask who. In fact he doesn’t say anything for a good long while.
And then he says, “All the time. Every second.”
His voice catches and Jyn slips from her uncomfortable cot and into his bed without making the decision to.
He moves away, makes space for her.
They lie like that, almost touching but not quite, until her nightmares wake them both up screaming.
“We’ve billeted you near the weaponry,” says Leia Organa, who should be at the Senate and not on Yavin 4 organising what’s left of the Rebellion. “Mon Mothma thought you’d be comfortable there. You’ve got your own room. Han thought you deserved something a bit fancier, but—”
“No,” interrupts Jyn, for whom fancy means straight sleek lines and bright hard white and all the things she never wants to see again. “Not fancy.”
Leia looks her up and down, and Jyn looks right back.
Then they smile at each other, matter-of-fact and understanding.
Jyn gets it, with Leia. Gets what it’s like to feel carried along by fate. The Force, whatever. Gets what it’s like to wonder what you’d have been if the Force had never developed an interest in you.
Jyn’s only barely Force sensitive and it’s too much. She doesn’t think she could bear being Leia, with the Force a living thing around her.
“My mother bore it like—like grace,” says Leia, even though Jyn didn’t ask. “Both my mothers did. I think I owe them my determination to make it work for me.”
Jyn likes the way Leia’s jaw juts out. She likes the way her teeth clench. She likes how young and fearless she is, how proud and strong and true.
All she says is, “The Force can go bloody fuck itself,” and stomps off to find her new quarters.
Cassian comes the second night.
He doesn’t say anything when the door slides open and she finds him on the other side of it. He just shifts forwards, moves his weight to the front of his feet, and waits for her to decide.
Jyn steps aside before she knows she’s done it.
She didn’t sleep last night either.
It’s—well, everyone assumes they know what it is.
They’re imagining sex and romance; all the usual shit heroes get with the happy ending.
What they’ve actually got is this: Jyn shivering herself awake to find Cassian taut in nightmares beside her. Jyn curling herself around him until he relaxes back, turns over and draws her into him like he did on the beach.
What they’ve actually got is this: Jyn’s vocal chords torn from screaming and Cassian clutching her tight enough to drown in, kissing her just to stop the terrible wretched noises coming out of her.
What they’ve actually got is this: survival.
Most days, it feels like a lot to deal with.
When she can breathe again Jyn tucks herself tight into Cassian, her head rammed under his chin and his fists too hard in her shirt.
“It’s not fair,” she growls, her nails digging into his back, “We won this war just as much as they did. Why do they get to be so happy?”
He never answers.
She can feel his breath against the top of her head, hot and slow and thoughtful. She kisses the skin that shows above his shirt, because she’s afraid she’ll bite it if she doesn’t. She’s trying to learn a tenderness she hasn’t experienced since she was a child on her parents’ farm.
Tenderness is not a thing she was built for.
Cassian gives her an answer twenty one months after the Archives.
“I think we get to be happy too,” he tells her. They are standing on top of one of the pyramids, because Jyn was itchy under her skin again and Cassian spends every night in his dreams climbing (and falling, and climbing again), so this seemed the right thing to do.
“Bullshit,” says Jyn, leaning into his side. He is all muscle, all corded fibre. She wants to climb inside him.
“No,” he insists, leaning right back. “We do. Not now. Not easily like the others. But happy, in some way, eventually.”
Jyn mulls it over.
Before she can reply Cassian says, “And I think I have an idea how.”
“I think we need to find another fight. You and me, we got built for war. That’s what we’re wired for. This is all…quiet. It makes our heads too noisy.”
Jyn lets that sit for a moment. And then she slides a glance at him, sly and with a smile too wide.
“There’s talk some Imperial nuts are causing trouble in the Outer Rim,” she says, and watches it spring to life in him, “Calling themselves the First Order. They’re not much, but—they’re a problem. They’re something.”
“They’re something,” he echoes, and the darkest part of his eyes sparks bright.