“And the last long lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cassian is coughing again—a deep, hacking rasp that wracks through his thin frame and brings blood bubbling to his lips. It drips onto the cold durasteel floor, mixing with older stains. Her own body is aching in every bone, but she forces herself across the small cell to kneel at his side. He flinches at the touch of her hand to his face—like the brush of her fingers is a blow.
“It’s me,” she says through her dry throat and cracked lips. She can’t remember the last time they were given water. “It’s Jyn.”
He doesn’t look up—hair hanging in limp strands over his eyes, but he whispers, “Jyn,” and it sounds like a prayer.
“That’s right.” She shifts closer, pressing her side against his leg. “It’s just you and me here.”
For now,anyway. Until the interrogators come for them again, which could be hours or days. She’s lost track of the passage of time. They’ve been here weeks, years—perhaps it doesn’t matter. No one is coming for them; all that’s left for them to do is rot.
“Jyn,” Cassian whispers again, pushing himself up on one trembling arm.
She automatically reaches out to steady him, ignoring the insistent pull of her own wounds. “Easy. I’ve got you.”
A new coughing fit descends. More blood. She holds him through it, helpless. When it finally subsides, he sags against her, pressing his bruised face to her neck.
“This is taking too long,” he mumbles and a ragged laugh punches free from her mouth.
Only Cassian Andor would be frustrated about dying too slowly.
“If it’s any consolation,” she says, running her fingers through his hair, “I don’t think it’ll be much longer.”
There is only so much they can withstand, after all. She has to believe that.
He sighs—a heavy, exhausted sound—and moves into a sitting position, leaning back against the wall. His eyes are still closed, not that that matters anymore. “Where were we? Bedroom?”
“Garden,” she answers automatically, joining him. His shoulder is a warm, comforting pressure against her own.
“Right.” He fumbles for her hand and laces their fingers together. “It’s summer, right? What are we planting? I think … we discussed hydrangeas?”
“I like glorisoa lilies the best, even if they are poisonous. Peonies are always good, too. Maybe zinnias. Lots of color.”
He wheezes out a laugh. “I don’t know what half of those are, but it sounds beautiful. Color is good.”
There is something sharp lodged in her throat, but she keeps talking. “We should plant a tree, as well. Something that blooms.”
“Cherry?” He offers. “I’ve always liked those.”
“Sure. Cherry.” She squeezes his timorous hand and wishes he would die.
Hasn’t he earned it? Haven’t they both?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An elevator descends. They lean against the doors, faces framed in shadow. Both of them can barely stand.
She looks into his dark, tired eyes, and aches all the way down to her marrow.
The air is heavy and thick with unsaid things—the possibility of love manifested too late to matter. She wants to kiss him and knows that she never will and it hurts.
At least, she thinks with a mixture of despair and resignation, he feels the same.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Here,” she says, holding a cup of water to his lips, “you need to drink.”
He grasps the cup in clumsy fingers and takes a too-small gulp before pushing it back towards her. “You too.”
She doesn’t bother arguing, even though he’s hurt worse and his life is bleeding away faster. Maybe that’s the point. Once the cup is empty, she sets it near the door. Someone will be along to collect it, eventually, along with the remains of their meagre meal.
Once she’s done, she turns to assess him, trying to keep her gaze critical and tamp down on the rage and heartache tearing through her. He’s got blood one side of his face from a jagged cut on his forehead and his left eye is ringed in black; his wounds from the fall in the comm tower haven’t completely healed, including what she suspects is a broken ankle and a blaster shot to the side; fresh burns dot his chest, visible through a tear in his grimy shirt.
He probably has internal bleeding and his face is starting to flush with fever.
She doesn’t think about her own injuries.
He was taken for “questioning” for nearly six hours today—a new record. The Empire is clearly getting impatient with them.
A nudge to her leg jolts her out of her thoughts. “Stop that,” Cassian says, frowning at her. “It doesn’t help.”
“Yes it does,” she insists. This way, she can at least know what’s she up against—what injuries might be treatable with her severely limited resources. It’s a pointless delusion, she knows that. Thinking that she might be able to save him.
But she needs some thread of hope to cling to, no matter how miniscule.
“It’s your turn,” she says, changing the subject.
Cassian sighs, but mercifully doesn’t argue. “Fine. Uh … what’s your favorite color?”
It’s an innocent question—Cassian giving her something easy in this little game they’ve been playing—but she finds herself suddenly at a loss. It was blue once, followed by green, but now all she can think of is jungle and ocean and sickness churns in her stomach. Red is the color of the explosions that took her friends. Black is the cell around them, closing in more every day. White is stormtooper armor and Director Krennic’s cape, billowing in Lah’mu wind. Brown is her mother’s hair and Cassian’s exhausted eyes.
“Purple,” she settles on because it doesn’t remind her of anything at all.
Cassian arches an eyebrow, seeing straight through her as he always seems to, these days, and accepts her answer. “Fine. Your turn.”
She wracks her brain for an appropriately inane question. “Least favorite planet you’ve ever visited?”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There are stormtroopers waiting at the bottom of the elevator, blasters aimed at their heads. Even in the midst of all this chaos, it seems they still have time to take prisoners. They’re hustled towards a transport ship as the horizon catches on fire—the ocean shuddering and roiling like Jedha’s surface did.
Her and Cassian are the only captives loaded before the ship takes off, barreling for the fleet positioned overhead.
She doesn’t let herself despair. Maybe others survived and were taken earlier. Surely her and Cassian can’t be the only ones.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Their cell is narrow and small, with no windows and a slab jutting from the wall to serve as a bed. Modesty is quickly a forgotten concept, as their wounds make it nearly impossible to take care of their basic needs without helping each other. When their clothes become too bloodstained and filthy, their captors allow them a shower and shove them into white prison uniforms.
Force, but she hates white.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Do you think anyone survived?” Cassian asks her on what she thinks is the tenth day of their imprisonment.
She keeps waiting for someone else to be brought into the cells. Bodhi, Chirrut, Baze—anyone. But the rest of the bloc remains empty.
“No,” she admits through the curl of grief and rage and despair in her chest.
Cassian sighs. He looks too-pale and washed out. Like he’s slowly fading away into nothing. “Good.”
It’s a terrible thing to say and she wants to punch him for it, but he’s right. She wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone—least of all Bodhi, Chirrut, and Baze, who all burned so brightly. They died heroes and now she won’t have to see them break. The Empire can’t touch them, can’t stain them or strip them down to nothing.
That fate is hers and Cassian’s to bear.
She still wants to punch him, though, for the lack of inflection in his voice. Wants to shake him and scream, did they mean nothing to you? She settles for sitting on the opposite end of their cramped cell and letting the silence settle in, heavy and oppressive.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cassian tells them that he’s a captain in the Rebellion, a spy. The leader of this mission. He has all the information and she is just a soldier, a new recruit. She doesn’t know anything.
“He’s lying,” she counters immediately, nearly shaking with the strength of her fury. He’s doesn’t get to be a martyr for her. Enough people have died and she’s going to claim her responsibility for it. “I led this mission.”
She can feel the heat of Cassian’s glare against the side of her face, but doesn’t turn to look at him. The interrogators glance back and forth between them, unimpressed, and decide to take them both.
It’s pain unlike anything she’s ever felt. It burns like wildfire, searing every nerve in her body, and she screams until her voice gives out. When they throw her back in the cell, she’s shaking and struggling to draw air into her traumatized lungs. Cassian is curled up on the floor a few feet away, gaze unfocused and flooded with similar agony.
She crawls over to him, still angry, and fists his shirt in her twitching hand. “Don’t ever do that again. We’re … in this together.”
He doesn’t acknowledge her. She’s not even sure he hears.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An Imperial officer sweeps into their cell on day fifteen. Or is it twenty? She’s losing track.
He sneers at them, huddled together against the wall, and gestures for the stormtroopers to pull them to their feet. She automatically grips Cassian’s waist to steady him, dragging his arm across her shoulders.
They’re led limping through the twisting corridors of the ship to a large communications room. Outside the expansive windows, asteroids drift by, and she can make out other destroyers floating in the distance. Dread churns heavy and viscous in her gut.
The officer waves a hand and a lackey scrambles to pull up a recording on the center console. A hologram springs to life. Alderaan, she realizes after a moment. Next to her, Cassian sucks in a sharp breath.
“This was recorded two hours ago,” the officer says, his crisp accent making the words sharp. He gestures to the lackey, who fiddles with the controls, and the hologram starts to play.
A familiar green beam lances towards Alderaan.
No, she thinks, a roar picking up in the back of her mind. No, no, no…
The beam strikes the planet and Alderaan explodes in a brilliant burst of light. The entire planet. Gone in an instant, between one breath and the next.
Cassian lets out a shocked, horrified sound, but she can’t hear anything over the roar that has built to a crescendo—a desperate, manic scream of denial.
The entire planet. The entire planet.
The officer smiles at them and it cuts like a vibroblade.
“This is all that remains of the planet,” he says with a sweeping gesture at the windows.
The asteroids, she realizes. Bile climbs up her throat. She can’t look at Cassian.
“Your mission failed,” the officer continues. “It is pointless to keep resisting.”
Another wave of his hand and they’re being dragged away. Back in their cell, Cassian staggers to the wall and slides down—arm wrapped around his waist to cradle his broken ribs. His eyes are wet and devastated and empty. She wants to yell, fight, kill. Anger and grief and terror are barreling through her like a hurricane, battering the inside of her ribcage.
She thinks of Bodhi, K-2, Baze, and Chirrut—dead and forgotten on Scarif.
The entire planet…
“They were right,” Cassian says into the consuming stillness. His voice is as empty as his eyes. “It really is a planet killer.”
She opens her mouth, wanting to offer comfort of some kind, but nothing comes. Her words have died.
Cassian laughs—a black, sick sound that grates down her spine. He’s never laughed before. “It’s over. We failed.”
“No,” she argues, in spite of her own persistent doubts. “It isn’t over yet.”
Cassian shakes his head, blinking up at her. His dark gaze is an abyss. “That was Alderaan—Bail Organa’s world. If the Rebellion received the plans, they would have stopped it. We failed.” He laughs again, though it’s closer to a sob now. “We failed, Jyn.”
She kneels in front of him and reaches for his hand. His fingers are warm and calloused against her own. “It isn’t over yet,” she repeats. She’ll keep repeating it until she believes it. Until he does, too. “They may just need more time. We have to hope.”
“Hope,” he mutters, bleak. Years of fighting, of selling pieces of his soul for this cause, and she can see him breaking now—conviction crumbling to ash.
She squeezes his hand as hard as she can. “Yes. You said it first, remember? Rebellions are built on hope.”
He shakes his head again. “I didn’t factor planet killing weapons into that statement.”
“Well, I am.” She keeps her voice firm. “Don’t give up on me, Cassian.”
“We’re gonna die in here, Jyn,” Cassian replies. What’s the point? goes unsaid.
“I know, but not yet. Stay with me until then, okay?”
Cassian blows out an exhausted breath, but there is a wan smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Okay.”
She presses her forehead against his and they breathe together, sharing the weight of their grief.
In and out, in and out, in and out.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The coughing is going to be the thing that kills him, she’s sure. It’s almost nonstop now, echoing through their cell. She holds him, trying to soothe as much of the pain as she can in spite of the fact that she can barely stand, either.
“I’m sorry,” he murmurs during a brief lull. “I think … I’m going to leave you.”
Tears prick at her eyes. She wants to kiss him and knows she never will and it hurts. “It’s okay. I won’t be far behind.”
She’s looking forward to it, almost. They were supposed to die on Scarif with the others—heroes, sacrifices, comrades-in-arms—and this is just fate slowly correcting itself. She thinks of the beach and the horizon catching on fire and wonders if it would have been peaceful, sitting there watching the end roll in on the tide.
It would have been easier; she knows that much.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“If you could live anywhere in the Galaxy, where would it be?”
“Really?” Cassian asks. “That’s the question you’re gonna go with?”
She kicks his good leg gently. “It’s a perfectly legitimate question.”
He smiles and it warms her, even if the edges of it are jagged and bloody. “Fine. Naboo. I hear it’s beautiful. Lot of water and mountains.”
She closes her eyes in an attempt to picture it: thundering waterfalls and old buildings surrounded by vibrant green. “My mother went to Naboo once. She said Theed was the most breathtaking place she’s ever visited.”
Cassian hums in wordless agreement. On a bold, fanciful whim, she says, “We could get a house there.”
It’s the closest she’s ever come to acknowledging the well of feeling that still sits in her chest—the knowledge that someday, given time, she could have loved him. Would have loved him. Thankfully, he gives no reaction of disbelief or uncertainty.
“Yeah, on a quiet street. Near the water.”
“With a balcony to overlook the river and lots of windows. We can sit on it and watch the sun set in the evenings.”
“Or rise in the mornings.” Cassian shifts closer, resting his head against hers. She soaks up the steady weight of him—the only thing keeping her sane in this hell. Her throat still aches from screaming, but right now she feels almost peaceful.
“I plan on being in bed in the mornings.”
“Fine,” he huffs, but she can hear the ghost of laughter in the word. “Evenings, then. We can eat dinner out there.”
“And we should have a garden. A big one, with lots of flowers from all over the Galaxy.” Her mother used to keep a book of flowers, even though few of them would grow on rain-soaked Lah’mu. She can still remember most of the names.
“There used to be a market, near the palace. We could go shopping there.”
She tries to imagine walking through a bustling city market with Cassian—no empire in sight and Cassian’s fingers laced with hers. It seems absurd and lovely all at once and fills her with a melancholy longing she wasn’t expecting.
She rests her hand on top of Cassian’s now, feeling the rough edges of healing cuts against the pads of her fingers. “What color would we paint the rooms?”
“Purple?” Cassian suggests and sudden, stunned laughter floods her sore throat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She screams and screams and screams. Hot tears drip down her face. She’s burning, being consumed from the inside out.
Her voice collapses again. She hasn’t uttered a single word and it’s the only victory she has left.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She stops counting the days around thirty. Or is it fifty? No rescue is coming and she has no desire to know just how long it’s taking them to die.
The bed slab is too narrow to fit them both so they settle for curling up together on the floor. She knows the Empire is watching them—can see the camera positioned in the corner—so she tells herself it’s for warmth and nothing else.
It’s just another lie to add to all the others.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Commotion in the corridors. The guards are chattering loud enough to reach even their isolated cell. They drag themselves to the wall and press their ears against the cold durasteel, trying to piece together what’s happened from the scattered words they can make out.
“…did you hear…”
“…es unbelievable … Star gone.”
“…rebels … blew it…”
Cassian turns to her with wide eyes. “They did it?”
Pathetic tears blur her vision as she nods, something loosening in her chest, making it easier to breathe for the first time since Scarif. “Yeah. They did it.”
A bright, unfiltered grin breaks over Cassian’s face, stripping away the shadows and harsh lines, outshining even the bruises and the blood. It knocks her off balance and the air catches in her lungs.
Force, but he should smile more.
Chest tight, she reaches for him, pulling him into an embrace, and he goes easily. He’s trembling and she might be, too—the force of her relief making her bones weak.
Bodhi, Chirrut, Baze, K-2—they didn’t die for nothing, after all.
“They did it,” she repeats, burying her face in Cassian’s neck. “They did it.”
Cassian wraps his arms around her, drawing her closer as she starts to cry.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I think we should get to know each other better. We’re probably going to be stuck in here for quite some time.”
Cassian blinks up at her from his position on the floor, looking surprised, though she doesn’t see why. They’ve been brooding in silence for hours now and she desperately needs a distraction from the thoughts cycling restlessly through her head—what ifs and should haves and the faces of the dead.
And what better distraction than the enigma in front of her. A brilliant liar until he isn’t; walls and shadows built precariously around a soft, bleeding heart.
“Okay,” he says with a shrug, like he isn’t as desperate as she is. “What do you wanna know?”
She could ask for his past, but that story is written in his eyes, full of tragedy and death. She doesn’t need him to tell it. So she settles on, “what’s your favorite color?”
He frowns, surprised again. “You really care about that?”
I care about you, she can’t bring herself to say, so she nods instead and gestures for him to answer with an impatient wave of her hand.
“Yellow,” he says and now it’s her turn to be surprised.
He traces a random pattern on the smooth floor. “It doesn’t make me think of anything bad.”
Well that’s a good enough reason as any. “Your turn,” she declares, tucking the information away for further examination. “Ask me something.”
She half-expects him to throw the color question back at her, but he thinks for a long moment and says, “What’s your happiest childhood memory?”
“My father reading to me,” she answers through the sudden lump in her throat. She wants to elaborate—tell Cassian about the wide range of books her father always chose: science, and myths, and history; about the smooth cadence of his voice; about how safe she always felt, cradled in his arms, listening to him open new worlds for her—but the words won’t come. The lump is too large.
Cassian’s gaze is gentle with understanding. “Your turn.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It becomes a game after that: throwing random, stupid questions back and forth to each other.
“What’s your least favorite food?” Cassian asks her through chattering teeth, still soaking wet from being held underwater until the verge of drowning.
“What’s your favorite food?” She fires back as they lie side by side on the floor, staring up at their blank, oppressive ceiling.
“What’s the best book you’ve ever read?” He murmurs into her hair, rubbing her back as she tries to recover from a nightmare that woke her screaming.
“What skill are you most proud of?” She offers as she wipes blood out of his eyes.
Every answer he gives adds another piece to the puzzle that is Cassian Andor. He’s painted in fine details now, not broad strokes, and the love that could have been is slowly becoming the love that is. She tamps it down, though, shoving it into the back of her mind and telling herself to forget.
It will only hurt more when they finally take him away. Or when she has to leave him behind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The same day they hear about the Death Star’s destruction, the officer who showed them the remnants of Alderaan once again sweeps into their cell. This time, he only points to Cassian.
It’s an order she’s heard a hundred times by now, but it feels different today. A dread she can’t explain hisses a warning: something terrible is going to happen.
“Wait,” she blurts, trying to stand in spite of her broken ribs, hand outstretched to stop them.
The nearest Stormtrooper strikes her across the face with his rifle. She collapses back to the floor in a heap, gasping through the pain whiting out her vision.
“Stop!” Cassian yells from very far away. “Leave her alone.”
Another crack. Cassian cries out. She shifts, tries to get her arms under her body to push herself up, but her battered limbs won’t cooperate. She lies there, helpless, and listens to the clack of boots as they drag Cassian away.
Hours pass. She slowly and carefully manages to get herself upright and back to a sitting position against the wall, facing the door. She means to keep vigil until they bring Cassian back, but exhaustion presses against her like a lead weight, forcing her under.
The hiss of the door opening startles her awake. The guards throw Cassian inside and he lands on his stomach in the middle of the cell. He doesn’t move. Fear wraps vicious hands around her throat, propelling her from the wall to his side.
No response. They’ve tortured him unconscious before—her, too—but this still feels different, worse. The fear tightens its grip.
“Cassian?” She shakes him, frantic now. “Cassian, wake up!”
He coughs, moans, and she blows out a stuttering breath of relief. “Jyn?”
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m here.”
He shifts and she watches his dark eyes flutter open. Something is wrong, though. They’re milky, unfocused.
Like Chirrut’s were.
The fear spirals into horror. No…
He freezes, panic rapidly overtaking his face. “Jyn?”
She catches his flailing, searching hand and squeezes tight, trying to ground him. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
“I can’t see anything,” he rasps, eyes darting wildly. “Why is it so dark in here? Jyn—”
“It isn’t,” she forces herself to say. “It isn’t dark.”
She watches the realization dawn. Watches devastation overtake the panic. He tries to pull away from her, but she holds on. “Cassian…”
A muffled sob spills past his lips—the first she’s ever heard him utter—and he’s crying in earnest as she drags him into her arms.
“I’ve got you,” she murmurs for lack of anything else to offer. “I’ve got you.”
Black, seething hatred coils in her, consumes her. They took his eyes. They’re going to make him live out the remainder of his days, no matter how few, in absolute darkness. It’s a cruelty she wasn’t expecting, even though she should have.
She wants to rip them apart with her bare hands.
Cassian’s tears soak slowly into the collar of her shirt.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She dreams of Scarif, of running along the beach. The plans gripped tight in her hand. The world exploding around her. She sees Bodhi’s body, lying in red-stained water. His eyes are empty. Half of his face is missing. She keeps running, past Chirrut and Baze—only a few feet apart, littered with blaster wounds and half-covered with blackened sand.
The air burns in her lungs. Sand sprays from a nearby blast. The screams of the dying fill her ringing ears, but she keeps running.
She runs and runs and runs until something blocks her path. Sends her sprawling into the sand.
It’s Cassian. He’s blood-soaked and still, but she can’t look away from his face. His eyes are missing, torn straight from his head so that only two gaping sockets are left behind. A scream of horror builds in her throat, but when she opens her mouth no sound escapes.
White in the corner of her vision. She turns her head. Krennic strides across the sand, cape floating on the water. He has a blaster in his hand and a smile on his face. She tries to move, to lift her own blaster, but her body is frozen.
He aims at her head and fires.
She jolts upright in her cell, Cassian’s hands on her shoulders and screams pressing against the back of her teeth.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Days, weeks, too late the Rebellion comes for them.
At first she thinks it’s another fever dream—a rebellion soldier standing in the doorway of their cell, smoke and blaster fire in the corridor. They carry her and Cassian out, past the bodies of stormtroopers and officers, and load them in the back of a stolen Imperial cargo ship.
She looks for Bodhi’s face in the chaos, but she can’t find him.
“Easy,” a strange voice says, pushing her back down when she tries to get off the stretcher. “You’re safe now.”
She tries to argue, to get more information, but blackness swoops in like a shroud, wrenching her under between one breath and the next.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“We should have a library,” Cassian says. His head is in her lap, sightless eyes closed. She runs unsteady fingers through his hair. “Full of old books.”
She pictures herself there, reading by lamplight. The moon glints over Theed’s rivers, turning them to silver. Cassian’s face is framed in gold and there is a smile on his lips, free of blood and death. His gaze, when he looks over at her, is bright and whole.
If there is an afterlife, she would want it to be that.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Rebellion fled Yavin IV after the destruction of the Death Star. The new base is in a frozen wasteland on the planet of Hoth. She wakes up in the medbay, skin sticky with bacta, and Cassian nowhere in sight.
“Where is he?” She demands as soon as they remove the oxygen mask.
Panic crawls like ants beneath her skin. It’s been the two of them and no one else for what feels like years and she can’t bear the thought of losing him. What if he didn’t make it? What if she’s the only one who…?
“Captain Andor?” The medical droid asks and she tries hard not to think of K-2. “He’s over there.” The droid gestures to the other side of the medical bay. “They’ve just brought him out of the tank. I am afraid his injuries were slightly more severe than yours so it has taken longer to—”
“I want to see him,” she demands, cutting the droid off mid-sentence.
“I don’t think that is wise, sergeant. You are still recovering and I have strict instructions to make sure that you—”
The droid continues, but she isn’t listening—too focused on forcing her still-healing body to cooperate. This all still feels like a dream. Any minute she’s going to wake up back in their prison cell and she doesn’t want Cassian to be alone when that happens. He still struggles with orienting himself if he doesn’t have her to ground him.
The droid chases after her as she sets across the medbay, practically wringing its hands. She ignores it. Each step is a herculean effort and the distance to Cassian’s bed feels like an ocean. He looks small and fragile, dressed in hospital-white with his hair in his eyes and a mask over his nose and mouth. She collapses at the foot of his bed, reaching for his limp hand while the droid hovers.
“Miss Erso, I really must insist that you return to your own bed. You are still—”
“No,” Jyn insists without taking her eyes from Cassian—too focused on the steady rise and fall of his chest. The only reminder that he’s still alive.
She isn’t alone yet.
“I’m not leaving him.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She dreams of sand and sea. The horizon catching on fire, death rolling in on the tide. She dreams of Cassian’s arms around her and light filling her vision and wonders if that would have been a better ending.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cassian wakes up screaming. The droid panics but she cups his face.
“It’s me. It’s Jyn.”
His sightless eyes search for the source of her voice, landing somewhere on her cheek. “Jyn,” he whispers and it sounds like a prayer.
“That’s right,” she says, shifting closer. “It’s just you and me here. You’re safe.”
“Jyn,” he rasps again, trying to push himself up.
She automatically reaches out to steady him, ignoring the insistent pull of her own lingering wounds. “Easy. I’ve got you.”
Calmer now, Cassian tilts his head, listening. “Where are we?”
“Alliance Headquarters,” the droid interjects, making Cassian jump. “On the planet of Hoth.”
A frown twists Cassian’s mouth. “We … they rescued us?”
“Apparently,” Jyn replies, not entirely convinced herself. “I don’t think this is a dream.”
“It isn’t,” the droid chimes helpfully. “I assure you that according to my readings you are both fully conscious and aware.”
There is no relief on Cassian’s face. “They rescued us.”
She understands his trepidation. Suddenly, there is a future sprawled out in front of them, vast and unknown. Suddenly, they have to figure out how to live.
It’s a daunting prospect and she’s not sure she can summon the energy to face it. Not yet, at least.
So, she curls up on the bed with Cassian instead, pulling the covers up to their shoulders. They’ve both lost weight during their time—weeks? years?—in captivity, and it’s a sadly easy fit. Cassian curls around her as soon as she settles, breathing quiet and ragged against her skin.
“I … will inform the others that you have awakened,” the droid ventures hesitantly and wheels away.
The silence it leaves behind is too loud.
“We survived,” she says to Cassian.
“Yes,” Cassian murmurs, voice heavy with the same resignation she feels down to her bones. “We did.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They were prisoners of the Empire for two months, the Alliance says. During that time, they successfully used the stolen plans to destroy the Death Star, though they couldn’t mount an assault fast enough to save Alderaan. They’ve been on the base at Hoth for a few weeks.
They weren’t looking for Jyn and Cassian during the raid on the Imperial facility—literally stumbled across them by mistake. According to reports, no one survived Scarif. If they had known, of course they would have come sooner.
Jyn thinks they’re lying, but she doesn’t bother to point it out.
Cassian just laughs.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They’re given separate quarters when they’re released from the medbay, but Jyn doesn’t bother trying to settle in. Cassian looks up when his door opens, tense.
“It’s Jyn,” she announces and his shoulders sag in relief.
They climb into bed together without a word and huddle close in the middle of the too-soft mattress, waiting for the nightmares to strike.
She is the first to wake, face wet with tears, and his arms wrap around her like an anchor, pinning her to the earth, to their freezing room on Hoth.
“Easy,” he says. “I’ve got you.”
I love you, she thinks with something akin to grief and focuses on keeping the air cycling through her lungs.
In and out, in and out, in and out.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There is nothing they can do for Cassian’s eyes, the Alliance says. The injury is too old and there are only so many miracles that bacta can work. Unfortunately, he will never see again.
They are looking into rehabilitation methods, though, don’t worry. They are sure that there will be ways to get his life as close to normal as possible.
“I understand,” Cassian says, voice carefully measured.
Back in their quarters, he wraps his arms around himself and bows his head, shoulders shaking with repressed emotion. He’s too reserved to punch the wall like she knows he wants to, so she does it for him.
Her blood smears red across the cracked ice.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I feel like a ghost,” Cassian says into the darkness of their room. “An afterthought. Like I shouldn’t be here.”
“I know,” she says because she feels the same.
She drifts through the corridors of this strange base in a daze. She keeps looking for familiar faces, but all she finds are expressions of pity and uncertainty, as though no one knows what to make of her. Maybe they can see all the blood staining her—the wounds beneath her skin that still gape wide, impossible to heal.
Maybe she reminds them too much of death. The ghost of Scarif come to haunt them all.
“Why us?” Cassian continues and the words crack leaving his mouth. “We didn’t … it shouldn’t have been us.”
No. It should have been Bodhi, with his wide-eyed idealism; Chirrut with his unshakeable, unstoppable faith; Baze with his steady loyalty and grudging affection.
She has no answers for why they died while her and Cassian, who led them into that hell, didn’t. Chirrut would say that Force moves in mysterious ways, but she’s never had his conviction. She reaches for her mother’s necklace, but her fingers find empty air and she remembers.
It’s long gone. Just another thing the Empire has stolen.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There is a memorial wall in the hanger bay, a long list of names mounted on the ice.
“They’re all here,” she tells Cassian. “Even K-2.”
Above the individual names is “Rogue One” written in big, bold letters with date of the mission to Scarif. She guides Cassian’s hand over it, letting him trace out the names.
“Good,” he says and his eyes are wet. “That’s good.”
It isn’t enough, but nothing would be. Their deaths mattered, she clings to that knowledge.
They mattered. They saved the whole damn Galaxy.
Their loss still hurts so much she can barely breathe, as though they’ve taken all the air with them and left a void behind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Alliance wants to give them both medals.
“No,” Cassian snaps immediately.
“Captain,” Mon Mothma begins with a condescending patience that sets Jyn’s teeth on edge, “It is the least we can do to honor your actions on Scarif and the sacrifices that—”
“No,” Cassian cuts in. This might be the angriest Jyn has seen him. It crackles through him like fire, coiling him tighter than a tripwire.
“We don’t need recognition,” she says before Cassian completely loses his temper. “And I don’t think anyone needs a reminder of Scarif.”
Their presence on the base is bad enough, making everyone walk on eggshells.
Mon Mothma relents with a regal dip of her head. “Very well. We will respect your wishes, of course.”
After the door shuts behind her, Cassian barks out a bitter laugh. “Since when does the Rebellion give out medals?”
She shrugs. It seems like a ridiculous concept, but she’s rapidly starting to realize that this isn’t the same group they fought with on Scarif. It’s only been a few months, but everything has changed.
She just hopes it was for the better.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Luke Skywalker burns like the sun, almost too bright to look at. A real-life Jedi, back from the dead.
She thinks of Chirrut, of “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me,” and wants to cry.
There are shadows in Luke’s eyes—he’s born witness to death and loss just as they all have—but he still seems so young—innocent in a way she can never remember being. He earnestly conveys his condolences for everyone that was lost on Scarif and he shakes Cassian’s hand without flinching away from Cassian’s sightless eyes and he’s going to save them all.
A real-life Jedi. The Alliance has found its banner to rally around, its knight to lead the charge.
The revelation fills her with a strange mixture of hope and sorrow, and she thinks, for the first time, that this may not be her fight anymore.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She wakes with a jolt to an empty bed and feels a spike of fear lance down her spine. It takes half an hour of frantic searching to find Cassian in the hangar—feet on the threshold between the base and the endless snow outside.
It’s cold enough to make her teeth chatter and he’s only dressed in a loose jacket.
“Cassian?” She ventures as she stops beside him. “What are you doing out here?”
“Trying to feel,” Cassian mumbles absently. “Or maybe trying to stop.”
She shifts her weight, uncertain of what to say, and the silence stretches out.
“I can still see, you know,” Cassian continues after a few moments, “in my dreams. It’s such a cruel irony. I don’t know how Chirrut managed so easily.”
“He believed,” Jyn replies and for once the memory of Chirrut taking out an entire squad of stormtroopers with a smile on his face doesn’t ache. “The Force was with him.”
“I don’t think it’s with me,” Cassian replies darkly. “It took me almost an hour to get out here.”
“And now you’re freezing to death,” she remarks, dry.
He ignores the pointed comment. “I can’t fight anymore. I don’t know why I’m still here.”
Because the Rebellion feels guilty and doesn’t want to cut them loose, she suspects, but doesn’t say anything, sensing that Cassian isn’t done.
“It should have ended on Scarif. Better to die for something I believed in then suffer through this … this half-life,” he spits the last word, trembling fingers curling into fists. Beyond the hangar doors the night is waning—morning light starting to glint across the fields of white that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Force, but she hates white.
“I know,” she agrees, reaching for one of his hands. His skin is freezing to the touch. “But we’re alive.”
“And they aren’t.”
“Which means we live for them,” she decides, because they both need a purpose. They’re too broken to live for themselves, but for the dead? That’s much easier.
Cassian makes a disbelieving, broken sound in the back of his throat. “I’m useless like this, though. I don’t even know where to start.”
She doesn’t, either, and she’s not going to waste her time on pointless, empty reassurances. There is only one certainty she has. “Together. You have to stay with me, remember? We promised.”
“That was before this, though.” He waves his free hand at his face. “Now I’m just a burden. You can keep fighting, if you want to. I can’t.”
I love you, she doesn’t say. You’re all I have left.
“We stick with each other, even when things go bad. You’re not a burden. You’re … home.”
It’s a pathetic sentiment, not nearly enough, but a smile twitches in the corner of his mouth and he squeezes her hand.
The rising sun catches the horizon on fire, turning it brilliant gold. It’s the most beautiful thing Jyn has seen in years and she laces her fingers through Cassian’s, glancing up at his ruined eyes with a sharp ache in her chest.
“What is it?” Cassian asks, as if sensing her gaze on him.
“Sunrise,” she says.
“What does it look like?”
She looks back out at the colors spreading across the snow, turning it so bright it almost hurts her eyes. “Like a new day.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She dreams of a library in Theed and Scarif’s beaches. Cassian smiles by candlelight and dies in the sand. Baze’s hands engulf hers as he wishes her luck and Chirrut tells her to have faith. Bodhi’s jaw trembles with determination as he says he wants to fight.
Krennic aims a blaster at her head and Alderaan explodes to dust. Her father brushes her face in the rain and Luke Skywalker fires torpedoes into the Death Star’s reactor.
She walks through a city market. She holds Cassian at the edge of the water. She lives. She dies. She lives.
She wakes up screaming.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I can feel them,” Cassian says in the mess hall one morning. He’s mastered eating without his sight and she figures it’s only a matter of time before he does the same for everything else. “Everyone stares. No one knows what to say.”
“We were supposed to die,” she points out. “And now we don’t belong.”
“Twenty years of fighting,” Cassian mutters and spears a vegetable with more force than necessary, nearly sending it skittering off the plate. “And it ends like this.”
“It doesn’t have to end here,” she says, reaching out to move his drink out of the way of his elbow. “We’re alive. We have the whole Galaxy.”
He frowns. “Maybe. I don’t know how to do anything else, though.” He pauses, head tilted slightly in a way she’s learned means he’s trying to remember something. “Hey, it’s my turn, right?”
It takes her a moment. Their question game. They haven’t played in days, but. “Yes, I think so.”
“Okay.” He shifts to face her. “If you could go anywhere in the Galaxy right now, where would it be?”
She blows out a breath and watches it hang in the air. “Somewhere warm.”
He lets out a faint laugh. “Amen to that. Who decided on an ice planet?”
They’re healing, she realizes suddenly, piece by tiny piece. Here in this moment, watching him smile, she doesn’t feel so shattered anymore.
She hopes the others, wherever they are, would be pleased.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Time is something she never expected to have.
She still wants to kiss him, though she knows they aren’t ready yet—still too bloody and jagged-edged, riddled with healing wounds held together by fraying stitches. They will be, though. One day.
It’s enough to make hope bloom again in her chest, rising fragile from the ashes of Scarif and an Imperial prison.
Someday, someday, someday.
It’s the promise she holds on to through the nightmares and the cold and the shifting Galaxy around him. It drives her steps forward towards that vast, sprawling future.
Someday, someday, someday.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Empire has found them. Echo Base is a flurry of chaotic activity as Luke Skywalker and his squadron of fighters (named Rogue after Scarif, which Jyn has never known how to feel about) scramble to respond to the incoming attack.
On the loudspeakers, General Rieekan orders an evacuation of the base.
Jyn runs through the twisting corridors, dragging Cassian behind her.
“Did they say how big the fleet is?” He shouts over the blare of the sirens, ever the tactician.
“Big!” She shouts back. She heard something about Darth Vader’s flagship being present, but she doesn’t want to think about any of that. She’ll die before she lets herself be locked up in another Imperial prison cell.
She tugs Cassian left, dodging a group carrying supplies towards the hangar. Cassian goes with the direction easily, trusting her to lead him to a level that still awes her.
“We need to get to a ship!”
He nods and his tight expression reflects the fear pulsing in her chest. An explosion rocks the base, showering chunks of ice and snow onto their heads.
“Don’t we have a shield?” Cassian asks once they start moving again.
Someone shouts about AT-ATs, which she really didn’t need to hear, and the base shakes again, throwing them against the wall.
“Shit,” Cassian gasps, staggering.
She takes his hand again. “We’re almost there. Stay with me.”
He squeezes her hand. “All the way.”
They traverse the remaining corridors at a sprint, though she occasionally has to slow to guide Cassian through hectic clusters of soldiers, technicians, and medics. When they reach the hangar, numerous ships have already departed. Beyond the open doors, she can see rebel fighters engaged with lumbering AT-ATs and the shield shimmering overhead.
“Sergeant Erso!” someone yells and she turns to see a technician she doesn’t recognize waving at her frantically.
“Who is that?” Cassian asks.
“I don’t know,” she says and makes her way forward, still gripping Cassian’s hand tightly.
“Can you pilot one of the smaller ships?” The technician asks as soon as she approaches, consulting a datapad. “We’re a few men short.”
“Of course,” she says without thought, though she’s never been much of a pilot.
A few minutes later, she finds herself sitting in a small cargo ship, waiting for the signal to launch. Cassian is in the co-pilot’s chair, running his fingers quickly over the console to familiarize himself with the controls.
“Okay. As soon as we get close to the edge of the atmosphere, make the jump to hyperspace,” he says.
She nods, the tangle of nerves settling at the steady tone of his voice. A technician waves to her and she follows the other two cargo ships out into open air. The Imperial ground assault has almost reached the base and the snow is littered with the smoldering remains of rebel fighters and AT-AT’s.
She doesn’t think about Scarif, returning her gaze to the retracting shield overhead. She manages to stick close to the other ships as they leave Hoth behind for the expanse of space.
Right before she jumps, she catches a glimpse of the Imperial fleet hanging over the planet in all its menacing glory. Then the stars blur into the blue of hyperspace, leaving it all behind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“What would we hang on the walls?” Cassian asks. Nightmares have driven them from their bed and they roam the near empty halls of the base, arm in arm.
With all the white it feels like a ghost world, the only sign of life their breath fogging the air.
“I’ve always liked maps,” she replies. “Star charts, things like that.”
“My mother used to collect paintings,” Cassian says. “It would be nice to have a few of those again.”
She hums in wordless agreement. “And we can bring in flowers from the garden for the rooms.”
“Lots of color,” he echoes with a faint smile.
She can almost see them there, sitting in the parlor. A breeze coming in through the windows, make the gossamer curtains billow. Dust particles in sunbeams. Flowers on the table. His mother’s paintings and her father’s stars on the walls.
A beautiful, impossible dream.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The rebel fleet has scattered with instructions to rendezvous at coordinates beyond the Outer Rim.
They drop out of hyperspace somewhere in the Kathol Sector to recalculate their route. Jyn has almost finished entering the coordinates into the computer when she stops - a sudden reckless idea taking hold.
“Let’s go,” she says, leaning back in her chair.
Cassian frowns over at her, brow furrowed in bemusement. “I thought that was the plan? You have the coordinates entered in?”
“No, not to rendezvous with the fleet. Somewhere else.”
“Abandon the Rebellion?” Cassian asks dubiously.
“It isn’t our fight anymore,” she insists. “Luke Skywalker is going to lead them to victory. They don’t need us.”
“I’m useless, I know,” Cassian says. “But you can still fight, Jyn. I’m not gonna make you give that up because I can’t—”
“I fought my fight,” she says, cutting him off. “It’s over now. I don’t want to keep going. I want a future that I can build. With you.”
That dries up whatever argument Cassian had been preparing and he leans back, too, looking a little stunned. “Where would we even go?”
She shrugs. “Anywhere. Somewhere warm.”
He chews his lip, nervous, but she waits. The future sprawls out in front of them, vast and unknown and full of possibility. She’s ready to go live in it and she knows, deep down, that he is, too.
“Okay,” he says at last and there is fear and love and anticipation in his smile. “Somewhere warm.”
She enters a different string of coordinates into the computer, feeling strange, almost giddy elation briefly replace the usual ache between her ribs. “Ready?”
He nods, curling his fingers around the arms of his chair. “Yeah. Punch it.”
She pushes down on the lever.
The stars blur.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change much
The sun still rises
Even with the pain
I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change love
The sun still rises
Even through the rain