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floating, sinking

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It’s thanks to Bodhi that they survive.

Her memory is in fragments. She remembers the softness of Cassian’s shirt under her hands, the way his heart had felt against her chest. She remembers the brightness of oncoming death. She remembers not being frightened. The rest of it is all a jumble. When she tells Bodhi this, he laughs, in the awkward, nervous way that means he’s trying to forget something, and knocks his knuckles to his temple. The bacta patches haven’t done much at all for the burns lacing all the way up his arms. The skin is shiny and red on the backs of his hands. “Brain’s all messy,” he says. “Still. Not—not sure what’s me and what’s not. Didn’t—use to be that way.”

Saw, she thinks, had been her father as much as Galen ever was. She wants to hit him with a stick, for the sharp edges he’s left in Bodhi. There’s a fierce kind of protectiveness in her, with Bodhi, not because he’s broken but because he’s saved them. Because he’s better than she is. He, at least, deserves to be safe. Jyn reaches out, and takes his hand before he can go back to picking at the scabs. “We all have messy brains,” she says, and she’s not good at comfort, but Bodhi’s smile goes wobbly and real when he squeezes her fingers. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Bodhi lets go very fast, and hides his scars away.

He’s not the one who tells her what happened. Baze does that, when she wakes up at midnight and can’t go back to sleep. “Found us,” he says, and folds his hands together around Chirrut’s staff. “On the edge of the killzone. Brave little bastard. Said someone chucked a grenade into the shuttle, and he caught it and threw it out again.”

“He caught it?”

“Said it was on instinct.”

Jyn realizes she has her hand knotted around the kyber crystal. She starts to let go, and then stops.

“Boy wanted to go to the top of the comm tower,” says Baze. “I—we looked at the beach. Found you. Miracle we managed.”

She remembers scraps of that. Scrambling into the shuttle. Chirrut’s body in the corner. Chirrut. Chirrut. The strongest stars have hearts of kyber, and his face turned towards the sky even with his eyes shut tight. Chirrut. He’s still in the bacta tanks. Draven didn’t want to use bacta on him, she gets the feeling. Not on a man with no stake in the Rebellion, not their most precious resource. She’s not sure who overruled him, but she might want to kiss them a little.

“They want to ship out in a week,” says Baze. “Say they need a new base. Say the Empire’s going to come hunting for them here. What’s the plan?”

Jyn looks at the bedspread. She’s still confined to the sickbay, even though she could walk. There are guards on the door, Rebels in helmets. She can’t make out their faces, but they stop her when she tries to leave. If she wanted she could take them both out and vanish, but Cassian is in the next bed over, still kept sedated, and Bodhi wanders in and out when he needs quiet in this noxious jungle prison, and Baze is—untethered, is the word she wants. Baze is untethered. Chirrut is still hovering somewhere between life and death, and Baze is lost in space for as long as the question remains.  She cannot be their fixed point, not the way they want—she isn’t a leader, for all she dragged them into hell—but she sees no point in leaving when they cannot come with her yet.

“I don’t have one yet,” she says. “I’m working on it.”

Baze grunts.

How did we survive when they didn’t, she wants to say. Why did we live when all those brave men and women who came with us did not? All she says is, “Don’t rush me.”

Baze grunts again. He ruffles her hair as he leaves, Chirrut’s staff propped up against his shoulder. She knows so little about these men, Jyn thinks. The Guardians from the Holy City, and Bodhi and his rush to good. Cassian. She knows so little about any of them. They followed her, they nearly died for her, and she knows nothing about them at all.

Jyn slips out of bed, and limps the few cots down to Cassian’s, perches on the edge and looks at him. Someone better at people than her, she thinks, would probably reach out and hold his hand. Pet at his hair. Talk to him. Ask him to wake up. She can’t think of the words. She fists her hand in the bedspread, and watches him breathe for a bit.

“His recovery is stable,” says the medical droid. She thinks this one goes by T12. “He is projected to regain consciousness tomorrow afternoon.”

“Solid,” says Jyn, and because T12 is a medical droid, it doesn’t understand the sarcasm. She thinks K-2 would have. “When can I leave sickbay?”

“Your release from sickbay is yet to be determined, Sergeant Erso,” says the droid, in its steady get well soon kind of way. “You will require at least one more bacta session before it can be discussed.”

“Brilliant.” Jyn licks her lips. “What’s happened with the plans?”

“I’m afraid I am not authorized to access that information, Sergeant Erso.”

“Who is then?”

The droid rolls off. Jyn sits on Cassian’s bed for a little while longer, and then returns to her own. When she settles to sleep, she does it on her side. She tells herself it’s because this is her good side, because it keeps her foot from shifting uncomfortably back and forth. The fact that she can see Cassian if she lies on her side has little if nothing to do with the matter.

.

.

.

She dreams that she dies on that beach. She dreams that her father dies there too, curled next to them like a hollow shell, like an empty cocoon. Something else breaking out of him to be free. The truth. The plan that had eaten him up inside. Destroy it. You must destroy it. It must be destroyed. Turned to stardust. Bodhi’s swallowed in it. Baze and Chirrut. Her father. Her mother. Cassian. Worlds. The swollen monstrous station on the horizon. It must be destroyed. She falls from the sand back into the hole, back into the cave, and there are no lights, anymore. There is no sky. There’s simply the broken door, and the sputtering lantern, and her family gone, shattered. Her mother dead. Cassian dead. Her own body stretched out in sand, in mud.

She wakes up sweaty and screaming, a medical droid driving a sedative into her arm.

It must be destroyed.

.

.

.

When she wakes, she has to blink a few times to process what it means, to have Cassian Andor watching her.

“You’re awake,” she says, through peeling lips. Her tongue is a root, shriveled and dusty. “You’re awake.”

“I should be saying that to you,” he says. His voice cracks. He’s sitting up, and his color is better, even with the bruising that still hasn’t faded, the tint to his lips like realspace. He’s fitted his careful face on, the spy look that’s never quite been good enough to fool her. “You look terrible.”

“You look worse,” says Jyn, and Cassian’s lips quirk. She has to grit her teeth and press her tongue hard to the roof of her sour mouth to get the covers off. The droid at the other end of the ward buzzes an alert, to let the whole place know she’s out of bed, but none of them come to stop her. Nausea curdles her guts up. Cassian’s watching her when she pads two beds down and settles on the edge of the thin mattress, still looking at him.

“What happened?” His eyelashes are stupidly long, and they’re bothering her. Jyn fists her hands on her knees rather than touch him. “I don’t—remember.”

“Plans were transmitted,” she says. “Bodhi picked us up. We barely made it clear of the blast zone.”

Cassian drops his eyes to his lap. He picks at the base of his thumbnail. In the dark—because it is dark; the chrono on the wall reads 0247, and of course he would wake up hours ahead of schedule, of course—the fading scabs on his hands look like scraps of shadow.

“The others?”

“Chirrut’s still in bacta,” she says. “Baze shows up sometimes. Bodhi’s working when they let him.” She wets her lips. "K-2 didn't—didn't." 

Cassian’s gaze dart to the guards on the door.

“They won’t let me leave.” Jyn drops her voice to a whisper. “I think they want to make sure we’re still around to serve as their flagship.”

“Kind of them,” says Cassian. He searches her face. Then he shifts his weight, leans forward, Jyn finds his hands in the same moment his head touches hers, and she closes her eyes. Cassian’s the one to loop their fingers together. She can feel the bones through his skin, but he’s warm, and his hands aren’t shaking the way they were on the beach. Warm breath on her mouth. Nothing more.

I hated you, she thinks, looking at their tangled fingers. For a while, I hated you. Her father is dead because of the Alliance. His finger could have been the one on the trigger.

She watches his hands.

“I thought we were dead,” says Cassian, and Jyn finds a scab on the second knuckle of his right index. Trigger finger, she thinks. “Didn’t think we’d survive.”

“Neither did I,” she says, and then they’re quiet again. They sit, heads together, hands together, and breathe.

Even when she’d told herself otherwise, she’d never quite bargained on coming out of it alive.

.

.

.

It becomes quite clear the next day that the guards are meant for precisely what she thought they were meant for—not to keep others out, but to keep her and Cassian in.

“Captain,” says the general. Draven, this one. This one is General Draven. She would have known that from how Cassian shifts and sits up straighter in bed when he shouldn’t, even if she hadn’t met the man before, in the briefing room, lying flat on her back in a hospital bed with him looming over her. Mon Mothma had been there, too, sitting, not standing. They’d given her an officer’s jacket, and some nonsense with it about how it would be her choice, to take the position or no, but all the droids and all the guards have been calling her Sergeant Erso since then, and she’s not sure there’s any real choice at all. “Awake early. As expected.”

“General,” says Cassian, in a voice she remembers from Jedha. Indistinct and unmemorable. Jyn sits beside him on the bed, and she thinks—she knows—he has two fingers hooked into the back of her pants, underneath her hospital gown. “I’ll be on my feet soon.”

Draven looks at Jyn. “Sergeant.”

“General Draven,” says Jyn. Cassian’s thumb pushes hard into her sore spine. She keeps her face straight. “What happened to the plans?”

Draven does not look away from Jyn as he says, “They are—in transit.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cassian says, sharp. “Do you have them or no?”

“The plans were received,” says Draven. “The princess escaped with them. She has not—yet reported in.”

Something cold and dead lingers in the back of Jyn’s throat.

“Was she captured?” says Cassian.

“Unknown.”

Cassian bares his teeth. For a second she doesn’t recognize him. Or, Jyn thinks, she shouldn’t recognize him. She knows that face, though. She’s worn that face. She turns on the bed, and leaves her hand on his wrist. She’s not a spy, and she knows she’s probably giving things away that she shouldn’t, not to Draven, but she knows that face, and what it means, and the last thing Cassian needs to do to himself is to get into a fight when he can’t even stand. “Bullshit, sir.”

Draven’s lips thin out. “She was captured. The plans, however, were not. We are making attempts to recover them.”

“Sir—”

“People died for those plans,” Jyn says. Her voice should wobble, but it comes out steady, needle sharp. This time it’s Cassian’s hand on her wrist, not the other way around. “We nearly died for those plans, and you lost them? How could you have—”

“Jyn.”

“You—”

“Jyn,” says Cassian again, softer this time, and there’s his thumb on her pulse, careful and circling. Jyn bites her lip hard enough that it ought to bleed. Scabs sting at her tongue. “What is being done to retrieve them?”

“We are making inquiries,” says Draven. Another door, closed in their faces. “Which are none of your concern, not when you can’t even stand. Perhaps you might take this time, Captain, to ensure that Sergeant Erso fully understands how her new circumstances will affect her lifestyle. If she is to stay with the Alliance, she cannot and will not continue to go rogue. The pair of you have only evaded a court martial this time due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence you brought back. Alliance Command will not be so lenient again.”

She wants to sink her nails into his cheeks and tear at him. “I won’t go rogue,” says Jyn, “if you do your job. Sir.

Draven’s mask doesn’t falter. “Your recovery is paramount,” he says. “Both of you will remain in sickbay for the time being. Your—” His lips curl. “Your friends ought to stay here as well, but as there is much work to be done, their assistance has been required by other parties.”

“What other parties?”

“Senator Organa has commandeered your pilot to do work on stolen Imperial shuttles,” says Draven. “As for the Guardian of the Whills, he will be permitted to remain near the bacta tanks so long as he does not do any more damage than he already has.”

“What did he do?”

“Broke a man’s arm,” says Draven. “We have come to an accord.”

Jyn lets her hair spill forward in front of her face to hide a small, vicious smile.

“Get well soon,” says Draven, in his dull voice. "There's work to be done."

"Yes, sir," says Cassian.

Draven watches them for a moment longer. Then he turns on his heel and sweeps out the door. Cassian seems to realize his hand is still on her wrist only after the doors have slid closed; he sweeps his thumb over the knobby bone there, once and then twice, and then he lets his fingers rest on the blanket instead. There’s sweat beading on his temples that has nothing to do with the Yavin IV air.

Jyn swallows. The cold slimy thing in her throat doesn’t budge. “The plans—”   

“I know.” Cassian’s eyebrows draw together. He rubs a hand over his face. “Help me up.”

“Cassian—”

“I can’t make a break for it yet,” he says, and there’s a hint of a wry smile on his mouth that makes something in her chest squeeze tight. “Just—help me, Jyn.”

She helps. She can’t not help when he asks like that. The sweep of his arm over her shoulder and hers around his waist is awkward and not, terrifying and not. They could be on the beach again, for how they’re standing. He’s not very tall, not compared to some of the others, pilot-compact, but he’s much taller than her, and Jyn has to rock hard into his side to keep him upright when he tries to put weight on his legs and realizes how fucked they are. “Just there,” he says, and lifts his chin towards a console on the other side of the room. “Just over there,” and they stagger their way across together. The bed’s empty. There had been a rebel in it the night before, but she thinks the woman must have died, because when Jyn had woken, there’d been no sign of her at all. The droids hum and buzz at the far end of the ward, but since they’re not leaving, and the guards have their backs to them, nobody actually stops Cassian from tapping at the console, and keying in a code. Jyn memorizes it without thinking much about it, A24d8jlK7, and abruptly feels guilty about it. Habit, from Saw, from living alone. If he notices, Cassian doesn’t comment. “If they have any files,” he says, out of the corner of his mouth, “about any of it, then they’ll have—”

There’s a beep from the console. He sweeps a screen away, and goes back into the code. Jyn watches his hands, for a bit, and then his face. She likes his face, she realizes, suddenly. An ordinary face that’s extraordinary in its ordinariness. Or, rather, a face that he’s made ordinary. She’s not sure how to qualify it, other than Cassian Andor. She drops down next to him on the bed, and watches, looking over her shoulder every once in a while at the guards. They’ve noticed, but they haven’t moved, which says to Jyn that they’re not trying to stop anyone from learning things—they’re just trying to keep her and Cassian from going anywhere.

“—locked them,” says Cassian finally, and hits the console hard with his good palm. He clenches his jaw, shuts his eyes and rubs at the bridge of his nose. Jyn curls her hands in the smooth bedspread of the dead woman’s bunk, and then she shuffles forward, awkwardly, to press against his back, hook her chin over his dipped shoulder and close her eyes. It’s instinctive. She doesn’t know how to comfort people, not really, she just—doesn’t want him to make that face anymore. Cassian gusts air, and his hand finds hers on his chest, bracing their fingers. When he tips his head, his hair tickles at her scalp. “If Draven knows anything of importance, he’ll have kept it in his head.”

“Like a good spy,” says Jyn, and for some reason Cassian scoffs out a laugh. He winces right after.

“Like a good spy, yes.” He looks down at his feet. “If Princess Organa took the plans, she’ll have made for Alderaan. From Scarif, there are only a few possible routes.”

It must be destroyed. Her father’s voice is a drumbeat. Her mother’s body lies out in the mud of her mind. Jyn twists her fingers into the fabric of his hospital tunic, and Cassian doesn’t flinch.

“They lost the plans,” says Cassian, very, very softly, and Jyn pushes her chin hard into the still-raw muscle of his shoulder. He doesn’t flinch at that, either. “They lost them.”

“We’ll get them back,” she says, and Cassian’s fingers wind through hers. She should yank away from it. She doesn’t. You came back for me, she thinks. I thought you died and you didn’t and you came back for me. “Once you can stand, we’ll go get them back.”

If this were the Cassian from Jedha, he'd have argued with her. Now, all he says is, “They’ll be on high alert, you realize.”

“A challenge, then,” says Jyn, and he scoffs another laugh.

“Help me back to bed,” he says. Jyn swings her legs off the cot, and heaves him up. This time when he lies down, she has to keep herself from nestling in beside him. She doesn't—she's strong enough for that, at least—but she does sit, and watch him for a while. There are words swelling like balloons in her chest, and none of them are quite ready to burst free of her yet. 

"Sergeant Erso," he says, half-asleep, husky and hoarse. "That's new."

"They had to come up with some reason for me to stay," she says, and he's asleep before she gets it all out. Jyn rests one finger to the space between his eyebrows, crumpled and sore-looking, and then returns to her own bed. 

What's the plan, little sister?

The kyber crystal is warm against her collarbone.